There’s no doubting that this last year was a great year for horror / genre movies. Whoever it was that said “You’ve never had it so good” was obviously talking to genre fans of 2005. In fact, so good were the films, we’ve even had to leave out the most hotly-anticipated horror movie ever from our Top Ten list; George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead, which although rather excellent, couldn’t quite muster the ‘classic’ label that so many zombie fans (us included) were hoping for.
Other movies that came close included Shane Black's witty action-packed return to movieland with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, the gently and genuinely haunting Exorcism of Emily Rose, Wes Craven's return to fun form with Red Eye, Christopher Nolan’s dark take on Batman Returns, the stunning Hong Kong action-comedy Kung-Fu Hustle (we’re still wondering why this was outside our Top Ten) and several low-budget indie gems such as Wild Country, Thailand’s Born To Fight, German serial killer movie Antibodies and French actioner District 13.
So without further ado, sit back and read our Top Ten genre films of 2005, as voted for by all of us here at eatmybrains. Happy New Year to you all – here’s to 2006 being even better...
10 .Sin City (2005) Busting out of the blockbuster blocks early in the year, Robert Rodriquez’s experimental Sin City (along with the help of Tarantino and Frank Miller) pleased all fans of comic books and film ‘digital’ noir. With a stunning cast, sexy babes and guns (lots of guns), the film relaunched a heavily disguised Mickey Rourke back into the public eye, and remoulded Frodo as a cunning cannibalistic killer. Some may argue that the three intertwining stories are ever so slightly similar (brooding narrator and vengeance themes), but there’s no arguing the finished product, shot almost entirely on green screen, looked like it would drop even Judge Dredd’s jaw. It’d be a sin to miss it. - Rawshark
Read our review of Sin City from the FrightFest Presents event here.
9 .Night Watch (2005) A sometimes bewildering, occasionally maddening, always entertaining mish-mash of SF/fantasy influences both old and new that proved that you don't need Hollywood Blockbuster budgets (a paltry $5 million in this case) to deliver a satisfying modern fantasy movie. With it's mythic take on the vampire legend, dark, gritty city-scapes, characters wearing sunglasses at night and slow-mo fight sequences, Night Watch provided the kind of high-octane thrills often missing from other recent genre trilogies. And in Anton we met a likeable, very un-Hollywood flawed hero perfectly in tune with the film’s often whimsical eccentricity. Bring on Day Watch. - David Hall
8 .P (2005) Transcending the Asian ghost story genre this year was Paul Spurrier’s Thai flick, playing more like a meditation about friendship which just happens to contain horrific elements, rather than a hackneyed tale about possession. It’s this central relationship between the two bargirls which anchors the film and gives such an emotional resonance once the terror unfolds. The British director employs Cinemascope to wonderful effect, creating a kaleidoscope of both sexy and chilling images. With its non-judgemental approach to the sleazy underbelly of Bangkok, P is a bold picture which really delivers on many levels and deserves to find a wider audience. - Soulmining
Read our review of P from the FrightFest 2005 event here.
7 .A History of Violence (2005) Cronenberg's biggest budget work to date, but far from being the sell out many feared. A History of Violence turned out to be a potent meditation on identity and trust, punctuated by shocking bursts of carnage and the odd kinky sex scene. Good news. Viggo Mortensen is quietly excellent as the family man whose remarkable act of heroism alerts some very dubious old colleagues to his new life, and there are creepily effective cameos from Ed Harris and William Hurt. This taut, muscular thriller gave Cronenberg his biggest audience since The Fly, but there are no signs here that he's ready to pander to the mainstream, which can only be a good thing. - David Hall
6 .Marebito (2005) Shot on DV in just eight days, Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge) goes Takashi Miike with this waking nightmare on the streets of Tokyo. Marebito is a masterpiece of guerrilla filmmaking, with its shaky camera angles and minimal sound design dressing Shinya Tsukamoto’s central performance, lending an unsettled and improvised feel to the picture. The descent of the obsessive cameraman into the netherworld, where he encounters an animal-like girl with a thirst for blood, parallels our own descent into madness, where the boundaries are blurred and we’re never quite certain what is real and what is imagined. It’ll haunt you for days afterwards. - Soulmining
Read our review of Marebito from the FrightFest 2005 event here.
5 .Cache (Hidden) (2005) Austrian director Michael (Funny Games) Haneke's riveting psychological thriller was, for me, the most devastating piece of cinema of 2005. A nightmarish scenario, worthy of a Hitchcockian thriller (middle class couple receive threatening pictures and videotapes of their house from an unknown assailant) is stretched to breaking point as Haneke poses as many questions around the 'victim' (Daniel Auteill) as the unseen enemy. In doing so, he has delivered a chillingly plausible film completely in tune with our troubled times. Everyone is guilty at some level in this towering work, which may well turn out to be Haneke's masterpiece. An instant classic. - David Hall
Read our full review of Cache from the London Film Festival here.
4 .Wolf Creek (2005) With an obvious debt to the iconic Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Greg McLean’s debut outback serial killer movie blew away all notions of Australia being an idyllic island of paradise. A true return to gritty ‘realistic’ horror, McLean’s genius was in taking his time to build up characters we really cared about, before unleashing John Jarratt’s ‘Mick Dundee from hell’ as perhaps the best (and quite often the funniest) serial killer of the year. With great digital cinematography and winning naturalistic performances, Wolf Creek reminded us all that true horror is that which seems so real, most notably the ‘head on a stick’ set piece. - Rawshark
3 .The Devil's Rejects (2005) Rob Zombie’s sophomore effort marked one of the biggest surprises of the year, the work of an assured talent who’s clearly learnt from his mistakes on the bigger-budgeted House Of 1000 Corpses. Whilst Spaulding, Baby and Otis are the film’s clear villains, their actions are almost eclipsed by Wydell, the Sheriff who will stop at nothing to halt their reign of terror. It’s this dichotomy that makes The Devil’s Rejects much more than simple exploitation. The terrific ensemble cast are complemented by Zombie’s near-documentary feel, clever editing, and the coolest sounds of seventies. The final showdown to the sound of ‘Freebird’ is, for me at least, this year’s most iconic horror moment. - Soulmining
2 .Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) Last year Park Chan-Wook took our top spot with Oldboy. This year he returned with the third part of his revenge trilogy, and even though Sympathy For Lady Vengeance only makes it to number two, it’s no less a film than it’s predecessor. This time our protagonist is Lee Geum-Ja, a 32-year-old woman who is released from prison after spending 13 years unjustly incarcerated for the murder of a 5-year-old boy. Visually second-to-none, with inspired transitions and dreamy images, Park’s tale of revenge and retribution (with blacker than black humour) will most certainly leave you feeling the utmost sympathy for the gorgeous Lady Vengeance. - Rawshark
Read our full review of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance from the London Film Festival here.
1 .The Descent (2005) Best horror film of the year though undoubtedly goes to Neil Marshall and his pants-wettingly scary story of six girls on a caving expedition in the Appalachian mountains. A million miles better than his pretty good Dog Soldiers, Marshall finally proves that Britain really can deliver on the horror front with a film that contains more ‘jump out of your seat’ moments than all the other films included in this list combined. The all-female cast are outstanding, the Crawlers are deliciously nasty as they hunt by smell (following de scent! – sorry…), and even hardened gore fans will wince at the shocking display of blood and broken bones. It’s lean, it’s mean and it’s as scary as hell. See it. - Rawshark