In a previous post, I discussed the sad state of mainstream horror. Actually, that was my original intention. However, even writing about the pathetic retreads and overall lack of imagination that has stricken Hollywood left me exhausted. Instead, I picked on Dennis Quaid for a few paragraphs and went to sleep.
I’d much rather expend my energy writing about the movies that made a real impression on me. The following movies made me jump laugh, and squirm respectively. Most importantly, after I watched them I didn’t feel like my time had been wasted.
In my opinion (obviously), these are the best independent horror movies of 2011, which makes them the best horror movies of 2011. Classifying them as independent might be a misnomer. I’m merely basing my classifications on the fact that two of them were not released widely and Insidious was made outside of the studio system for less than $1 million.
Regardless, these movies prove that there is life still in the horror genre and that there are still some writers and directors with clever, inventive, and audacious ideas.
From the writer/director of the first Saw, Leigh Whannell and James Wan, Insidious is a clever take on the haunted house/haunted kid movie. Whannell and Wan pay homage to a number of genre classics, while creating something original and scary as hell. The movie has a definite sense of pacing. Seemingly mundane details in the first act become important as the movie progresses. The first half of the movie has some scariest moments that I have seen in a long time and a sense of unease pervades the entire movie. In addition, Insidious doesn’t show a drop of blood, which proves that PG-13 doesn’t have to mean a movie is toothless and tame.
Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil
One of my favorite directors is Sam Raimi. Although Raimi became famous for his Spiderman movies, he made his bones writing and directing the Evil Dead franchise. Mixing grim humor and gore, the Evil Dead series brilliantly intermingled horror and comedy and created something original and vibrant. With the exception of Raimi’s masterful Drag Me To Hell, I haven’t enjoyed a horror/comedy as much as T&D in many moons.
Riffing on movies as austere as Deliverance and as low-brow as Wrong Turn, T&D is horror/comedy of errors. Tucker and Dale are two best friends vacationing at a run-down West Virginia mountain house. They are mistaken for murderous, cannibal rednecks by asshole college kids recruited from teen slasher flick central casting. Hilarity and gore (lots and lots of gore) ensue. The movie works by turning stereotypes on their head and having a very sweet and believable friendship between Tucker and Dale. Though gory, the kills are played for laughs (although there are some awesome ones to be found here…incorporating tree branches and a wood chipper!).
I highly recommend that you spend a lazy evening with Tucker and Dale
I Saw The Devil
Forget demonic possession. I have seen the face of true evil and it is human, all too human. Although I am a fan of Asian horror in general and Japanese horror/gore movies in particular (special shout-out to Takashi Miike), the South Korean film industry is creating some the best films dedicated to exploring the darker side of humanity and nature. The Vengeance Trilogy (including Oldboy), The Man From Nowhere…and now I Saw The Devil…which might be the best of the lot. It’s a genre mashup that injects the viewer into an unrelenting nightmare.
A secret service agent is obsessed with tracking down a serial killer who randomly murdered his pregnant fiance. The agent plans to catch, torture, and kill him. However, as his quest proceeds, the line between good and evil becomes irrecoverably blurred. Aside from an incredible amount of graphic and disturbing violence, the film is a meditation on moral relativism. Unlike similar genre films produced in the United States, the avenger is not celebrated. His moral cause becomes just as unrecognizable as whatever malevolent force is animating his prey.
This movie was almost unbearably bleak. Yet, it has much to say about the nature of violence and revenge, especially for a country (United States) that routinely celebrates the death of enemies, both foreign and domestic.