As a writer for Bloody Disgusting, I am often asked to write lists: the top 10 this, bottom 5 that, and I’ve never really been a big fan of the concept. Besides the fact that an alarming number of Bloody’s readers are ignorant brats who cannot possibly fathom for a second that you have a different opinion than they do and that you in must in turn be a “fucking idiot” for not including whatever film, I also find it incredibly difficult to quantify what makes a movie “great”. Entertainment value? Originality? Scare factor? Gore? Importance to the genre as a whole? All of these things have to be considered, and then ranked, which further complicates matters. My #1 is usually pretty easy, but how do I compare my surprising enjoyment with the newest Saw sequel next to a completely original and inventive indie like Paranormal Activity? The bottom ten is just as difficult - do I come down harder on big studio filmmaking by committee garbage like Stepfather or wholly inept DTV bullshit like Wrong Turn 3?
And that is why I am presenting this, the final “HMAD Presents” list of 2009 (and the only one that’s not a complete mockery of list-making in the first place). The films below range from terrible to great in the critical sense, but they all share one common factor (in my eyes): AWESOMENESS.
What makes a movie awesome? For me, it’s pretty simple - a movie where you are inspired to cheer at something gruesome or violent at least once per reel. If a child or elder person is killed for laughs, it’s awesome. If the plot is intentionally ridiculous - it’s awesome. If it stars Nicolas Cage - it’s FUCKING awesome. In short, if I was to sit down with a movie and start drinking, these movies would entertain me just as much at the beginning (when I was sober) as they would at the end (when I had passed out). The following movies entertained the shit out of me start to finish, whether as intended or not, and therefore I aim to give them their due recognition.
NOTE - the list is presented alphabetically. Again, I find ranking to be largely pointless, especially when you are considering TEN FUCKING YEARS’ worth of movies. They made the list when others didn’t, and how the hell can one compare awesomeness? In a nutshell, this is why I don’t grade movies in the first place - some of these movies could just as easily get an F as an A. To further this point, I didn’t try to fit a traditional number (i.e. 10, 25) and the list consists solely of the ones I thought off the top of my head without doing any further investigation or brain-searching. Thus, there are only 18 films (and one whole series) and probably some missing movies of equal awesomeness. Any omissions should be treated not as a mark of insufficient awesomeness, but the fact that I'm lazy.
And without any further adieu...
HORROR MOVIE A DAY PRESENTS:
THE MOST A BUNCH OF AWESOME HORROR MOVIES OF FROM THE DECADE
Black Xmas (2006). Going to the movies on Christmas night is a tradition for me dating back to 1994 (Street Fighter!), but Black Xmas is the first film that actually had a holiday theme (though 2000’s Cast Away began on Christmas day). There’s something pretty ballsy of Dimension to release such a viciously mean-spirited Christmas movie ON Christmas Day (even Bad Santa came out in November). On the day we are technically supposed to be celebrating the birth of Christ and enjoying the company of our loved ones, they were asking folks to sit down and watch their film that included death by candy cane, mothers forcing themselves on their sons, Christmas cookies made out of human flesh, and a group of wretched sorority girls who fuck one another’s boyfriends (and put it on the internet no less) and puke on each other. Oh, and it was a remake of a revered classic, something that never goes over well with anyone. Well played, Dimension.
Born (2008). If there was a female equivalent to Nic Cage in Wicker Man, it would be Alison Brie’s delightfully gonzo turn in this odd little DTV flick. Those of you who only know her from her reserved character on Community (where she can’t even say the word “penis”) would probably have their mind blown at the scene where the monster in her belly suddenly bites off a man’s penis and tosses the part it doesn’t eat on the floor. That or the one where it eats the head off a woman Brie was just making out with in an alley. The movie also has the balls to cast Kane Hodder as a goddamn priest! He’s also a demon who fucks his sister and threatens his shrink, who turns out to be Satan. Or something. Look, no matter - it’s a fucking batshit movie from start to finish, and a delightful one at that.
Cabin Fever (2003). PANCAKES! alone would put this on the awesome list (seriously, was there any moment more hilariously “what the fuck?”ish in the entire decade?), but Eli Roth’s splatter masterpiece had plenty of other highlights, not the least of which was James DeBello’s clueless burnout, who steals Snickers “for the nougat” and shoots at squirrels for their blatantly homosexual demeanor. Plus, a guy fingers a girl and comes away with a handful of blood, and it wasn’t from her period. Then she practically shaves her legs off. Holy awesome. Come on Roth, find your sense of humor again and make another horror comedy. Quentin will still be there to hang out with when you’re done.
Dawn of the Dead (2004). A commercial director and the writer of Scooby-Doo remaking one of the greatest horror films of all time for a big studio? Good lord! But this Dawn was a great fucking ride, with a frenetic, body count heavy opening set in the suburbs (I still laugh like a nut when the guy chasing Sarah Polley’s car suddenly gives up and eats a nearby pedestrian instead) leading to an equally fast paced romp in the mall. A great cast (Jake Weber needs more everyman action roles), some truly inspired setpieces (“Celebrity” Zombie Shooting!), and a downer ending all combine to make the rare remake that is too damn fun to get mad at for “copying” a classic.
The Devil’s Rejects (2005). Rob Zombie’s followup to the entertaining but flawed House Of 1000 Corpses improves on it in every way. More Spaulding, more killing, more filthy rednecks! Add in William Forsythe as a guy who doesn’t know shit about the Marx Brothers and the all-time best use of “Freebird”, and you have a Grindhouse homage that came along prior to when it was in vogue (ironic that Zombie’s trailer in Grindhouse was the worst).
Drag Me To Hell (2009). Sam Raimi returns! And just to prove that working on the mega-budget Spider-Man films hasn’t softened his twisted sense of humor, he kills a little kitten for laughs. And then cuts to an inspirational poster of a kitten saying “Hang in there!”, which even a PETA member would have to giggle at. One of the rare films in 2009 that I went back to see a 2nd time, and more than made up for his last Universal movie (For Love Of The Game). Only sore spot - Bruce Campbell was MIA (he should have played David Paymer’s role).
Dreamcatcher (2003). Two words - POOP MONSTERS. Sure, Dogma had one too (what the hell is up with Jason Lee?), but the one in Kevin Smith’s film didn’t eat anyone. Nor did it have Morgan Freeman seemingly dressed as Professor Coldheart, Tom Jane talking to a gun, or Tim Olyphant getting his goddamn head punched off by a possessed (and inexplicably British) Damian Lewis. Stephen King wrote the novel while high on painkillers after he was hit by a car, and it shows throughout the narrative. And God bless him, Lawrence Kasdan opted not to drop the wackiness despite spending 60 million of Warner Bros’ money adapting it. Also, I should note that this is the only film on the list that I can be certain has nothing to do with my attraction to one of the female stars, because there aren’t any. Case in point:
The Hitcher (2007). Fuck you, it’s a fucking insane movie and I don’t care that you hate it. Go watch the moody and atmospheric (and far more of an actual horror movie) original. I’ll be over here, watching Sophia Bush jump out of a truck that just exploded and shotgunning Sean Bean in the face. Christ, the heroes in the movie are almost killed by a goddamn TRUCK that falls out of the sky from somewhere! Of all the Platinum Dunes movies, it feels the most like a Michael Bay movie (car chases, helicopters, guns, hot women, lot of orange filters), and as we all know, nothing personifies awesome like Bay.
My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009). 3D BOOBS. Also 3D male ass, but since that ass is none other than the film’s writer, it qualifies as awesome. Tarantino always writes roles for himself too, but he doesn’t have the cojones to write himself a sex scene. Plus it has Tom Atkins in his first genre role in 20 years, which kicks off when he looks through a heart drawn with blood on a pane of glass and says “Happy fuckin’ Valentine’s Day!”. Oh Atkins, how we’ve missed you. Oh and a midget gets impaled. Bonus awesome points - in the time honored tradition of re-releasing the original film to tie into the remake, we finally got (most of) the gore that was cut from the 1981 film as a result of this film’s existence.
Mother of Tears (2007). A crazy woman throws her baby into the river. A bunch of goth witches cackle and shriek their way around a train station. A woman’s head is squished in a door. A final scene revolving around our heroes laughing as the city crumbles around them. Udo Kier. This movie has no shortage of wonderfully nutty moments, and that it’s Argento’s return to batshit crazy horror (after the dull “thriller” years of stuff like Card Player and Do You Like Hitchcock?) makes it all the more worthwhile. And as a fan of horror theme songs, Cradle of Filth’s end credits title song warmed my heart, and to this day whenever someone mentions the title I instantly begin singing the song.
Planet Terror (2007). Robert Rodriguez’ half of Grindhouse wasn’t really a “grindhouse” movie, what with all of the digital effects, big name stars, and fast pace. BUT, it was still a kickass zombie movie, with GOOD digital effects, AWESOME big name stars (Bruce Willis shows up as a guy who killed Osama Bin Laden!), and, well, a fast pace! Death Proof may have its merits, but it’s painfully slow at times (hello there, 20 minute diner scene). Planet Terror eschews slow pace and focuses on things that matter, like a guy who literally cuts off the balls of those who piss him off. And while I usually can’t stand her, even I can’t deny the awesomeness of Rose McGowan’s machine gun leg.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004). What makes this movie awesome? A BIG FUCKING MUTANT YELLING “STARS!” EVERY TIME HE APPEARS ON SCREEN, THAT’S WHAT! And the action is pretty close to nonstop, which means that you’re never too far from Milla Jovavich diving through the air and shooting stuff (or being shot at, or both) or running down the side of an entire goddamn skyscraper. Plus it’s the only one of the three films in the series that actually uses the source material properly (i.e. Jill Valentine, who even grabs her side and limps when injured). Of all the movies on this list, this is the one that I would least likely defend as a good movie, but goddamn if it isn’t the first one I would want to watch the next time I was drunk out of my mind.
Satan’s Little Helper (2004). Few films on this list have a scene as gleefully violent as the one where Satan wheels the possibly brain-damaged Dougie around a parking lot, running people over at random for “points” as Dougie laughs and cheers. And I love that the film delivers exactly what it says it’s going to - the little moron really does help Satan kill people. And he harbors an unhealthy crush on his sister, something their mom doesn’t really seem to mind. Weird AND awesome? Sign me up.
See No Evil (2006). A vegetarian character is eaten by a pack of dogs and our killer has flies in his head. Nuff said.
Valentine (2001). You must be sick of Katherine Heigl, right? What if I were to tell you that there is a movie where her character is stabbed to death in the first ten minutes? Wouldn’t you want to see that movie? I give you Valentine. Bonus points - Denise Richards is also killed. Back in 2001 this wasn’t as laudable, but nowadays... well, this movie is the very definition of “ahead of its time”.
Wicker Man (2006). You’ve all seen those clips out of context on Youtube, and that is fine, but let me tell you - IN context they are even funnier. The whole fucking MOVIE is like that. Christ, this one’s off-the-charts gonzo even BEFORE the bear suit comes into play. And you gotta love that they got the classy Ellen Burstyn to don Braveheart makeup for no discernible reason.
Wrong Turn 2 (2007). Wisely eschewing the gritty 70s tone of the original, Joe Lynch’s superior followup serves up lots of splatter, inspired kills, and Henry Rollins doing his Henry Rollins thing (at one point he sports a visible hardon as he grabs a knife prior to battle). Also, one of the mutants rips off the face of a girl and puts it on for the sexual enjoyment of her mutant brother (it’s the mutant version of “hey honey can you put on this wig?”). I also love that the film’s would-be heroine gets a goddamn axe to her head halfway through the film (and the black guy lives!).
Zombieland (2009). Woody Harrelson got so into this movie that he attacked a paparazzo because he thought the guy was a zombie. So not only is the movie itself awesome, but it has the finest anecdote of all time attached to it. I hate generic phrases like “Fun from start to finish”, but that’s exactly what Zombieland is. Christ, I applauded the movie’s opening credit sequence!
AWESOME LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD:
The Final Destination series (2000-2009 (and beyond?)). Over the course of these four films, we have seen some of the most ridiculous and splatter-y death scenes committed to celluloid (the fourth of which in 3D to boot!), and each film makes more money than the one before it, which means we are likely to enjoy more in our lifetime. And each subsequent film has more and more deaths (with less and less troublesome “plot”), which means it’s possible that one of the next sequels might literally be a series of unconnected death scenes. And to bring this article full circle, a particularly dim Bloody Disgusting reader chastised me for “spoiling” that someone died in the film, which I consider to be the all time dumbest (and thus hilarious) reaction anyone has ever had about anything, ever.
INADVERTENT AWESOME ACTRESS AWARD:
As I began double checking the IMDb for dates and such, I realized that actress Crystal Lowe appears in THREE of the films on this list (Wrong Turn 2, Black Xmas, and the 3rd Final Destination film). Grats to the lass! As for actors, I can't think of any who appear in even two.
MOST UN-AWESOME MOVIE OF THE DECADE:
The Ring Two (2005). Following up one of the decade’s best horror films couldn’t have been an easy task, but this movie is so goddamn dull and terrible, that even what would otherwise qualify as the most awesome moment in horror history (a herd of CGI elk rushing and destroying a moving car) couldn’t save it. Fuck you, Ring Two, for sucking AND for wasting the idea of CGI elk destroying a car on your shitty movie.