Top Ten 2009 Genre Movies You Might Not Have Seen But Really Should
23rd Jan 10
Waking up in a rancid pool of your own faeces and vomit and what looks like half-digested crème eggs, you have this horrifying realisation that it’s the New Year and at least two things have to be done... 1) you have to remember to go to work again and 2) you’d better string together some kind of redundant top ten to celebrate / commiserate 2009 or else feel left out because every other opinionated bastard is pulling a top ten out of their arsehole.
What of this year they call “2009”, then? Another 12 months of economic misery, international grimness, gratuitous worldwide panic about Swine Flu, despair about the (overrated) bloody weather. It wasn’t all bad: after all, Jade Goody died and Michael Jackson will never, ever be able to unleash anything as poisonous as “Earth Song” upon the unsuspecting yet horribly gullible general public.
However, disappointment reigned supreme: where the hell was Jarvis Cocker at Jackson’s funeral when you needed him? And much of the year just seemed to sour things that were previously pleasurable: don’t know about you, but this reviewer now gets unwelcome pangs of guilt when trying to masturbate over Brittany Murphy in that 8 Mile sex scene. She was hot once, you know.
As for movies, a year that gave us such gems as The Wrestler, Inglourious Basterds, Bronson, Moon and Trick r Treat could never be consigned to the dump-bin of history. Even if said year did also give us irredeemable walrus spunk like Passengers (Anna Hathaway glumly trudges through another I-see-dead-people script), The Grudge 3 (anonymous nobodies glumly pretend to be scared by sadly hilarious white-faced Japanese gals) and Blindness (everyone acts glum and needlessly committed to a pretentious script that doesn’t just hammer home its “message“, it gets Danny Glover to spell it out to us VERY CLEARLY in the form of Morgan Freeman Narration Without Morgan Freeman).
It wasn’t a terrible 12 months in movie-land, however. Hollywood gave us two welcome opportunities to shoot our load over Megan Fox (cheers to Transformers Revenge of the Fallen and Jennifer’s Body!), mean-spirited slasher movies were back in fashion, the latest Saw movie was a lot better than the last one and the song “Raped In The Face” (featured in Hamlet 2 ) just might be the finest movie-related original tune ever.
You know which movies everyone says you should have seen in 2009. Many of said movies will get scores of Oscar nominations, will feature Philip Seymour Hoffman and will be as boring as fuck. What follows is a top ten of genre-related movies that are worthy of your attention, yet, either due to poor release strategy or a failure to emerge in the UK, may have escaped your attention.
If we were looking outside the genre there would be a plum place for Bobcat Goldthwait’s subversive, painfully satire World’s Greatest Dad in which a universally despised teenage loser becomes a martyr simply because his devoted dad (Robin Williams) covered up the sordid details of his death-by-masturbation (in a year where the aforementioned, universally despised Jade Goody enjoyed a similar degree of post-mortem popularity just by snuffing it, this refreshingly cynical and sharply scripted flick seems even more relevant, go check it out).
But for now, here’s an alternative top ten of the twelve months I’m already referring to as “the year that ruined my alone time with 8 Mile“.
10 .Amusement (2009) As far as cleverly plotted horror anthologies go, Trick ‘r Treat deservedly won all the kudos, though you would be churlish to ignore this smaller-scale yet still good-looking homage to vintage Amicus portmanteau flicks.
Three apparently unconnected episodes, eventually linked by a giggling madman, feature well executed riffs on Duel and the Todd Slaughter school of mad science, though it’s the middle story that emerges as the standout. Capturing the pared-down woman-in-peril intensity of the doll segment of Trilogy of Terror and the prologue of the original (proper) When A Stranger Calls it features the comely Katheryn Winnick as a babysitter menaced by a psychopath in a full-size clown costume.
Genuine shivers abound from this simple, familiar premise, offering fresh proof that sometimes all you need to make a scary sequence is a hot girl, a dark house and a bunch of malevolent clown imagery.
9 .Vertige (2009) In recent years, the best of French horror - we’re talking Inside, Martyrs, Switchblade Romance - has been the punishing, soul-scarring, shit-the-bed-scary kind of cinema that makes you feel like Gallic madmen have been let loose with a production crew made up of brilliant lunatics.
Vertige, a flab-less, highly suspenseful combination of survivalist horror (a la Wrong Turn) and Cliffhanger , is not nearly as staggering but executes its familiar plot with more panache and intensity than most. Young folks with a Supergrass fetish are enjoying a summer adventure crossing the longest foot-bridge in Europe, until a grunting lone mountain man decides he wants their severed heads to add to his impressive collection.
Like The Descent, the movie cannily makes its perilous backdrop as much of a danger as its brutish villain, with a sweat-inducing collapsing bridge sequence being a ballsy highlight. Sadism is used sparingly, the protagonists are likeable and it’s the only horror movie of 2009 to feature a lead actress named Fanny. Insert cheap joke here.
8 .Babysitter Wanted (2009) The most impressive thing about this cool, twisty low budget feature is the way it consistently defies expectations, starting as yet another post-Saw torture-o-rama before wandering into babysitter-in-peril territory and eventually winding up as a blackly comic spin on The Omen, with the near-silent Kai Caster making for a fabulously sinister Anti-Christ.
Sarah Thompson is a cute babysitter heroine, who becomes so focused on the bald, dagger-wielding stranger lurking outside that she fails to register the significance of the designated tubs of raw meat stored in the fridge for young Caster or the fact that he never, ever takes off his cowboy hat.
After around 45 minutes of decent stalk-and-slash theatrics, the movie saves its funniest, sickest shtick for its second half, and also delivers a delightful, circular resolution for Thompson’s appealing protagonist.
7 .Tormented (2009) A brisk, pleasantly mean-spirited British take on 80’s American slasher flicks (though, ironically, the flick from that decade it most resembles, Slaughter High was a Brit-made film pretending to be from the U.S.). Funnier and sicker the longer it goes on, this deliciously flippant movie has a lot of fun with high school stereotypes, notably some sarcastically depicted Goths whose band of choice is called Crying While Wanking.
No one is remotely sympathetic, with the possible exception of the fat, Shrek-lookalike resident outcast (Calvin Dean) whose bullying-induced suicide provokes a series of vengeful, supernaturally achieved killings. Vividly capturing the bitchiness and cruelty that characterises high school life, Tormented is playful in its sadism and relishes the chance to craft some of the most loathsome teen characters ever seen in the genre.
The murders are marvellously grisly, including a gaudy Tenebrae inspired hand-lopping and a genuinely cringe-inducing bit involving an eyeball that needs to be nudged back into its socket.
6 .Sexy Killer (2009) Despite a bunch of outdated pop culture references (a joke about the “fat girl” in Titanic and the umpteenth riff on the “You call that a knife” skit from Crocodile Dundee), this is a witty, colourful slice of horror-comedy fluff.
Hot young Macarena Gomez knows how sexy she is and uses it at every available opportunity. She belittles guys during sex, keeps severed heads in her fridge, has a dog named Jason, talks to the camera direct and reads “Cosmo Killer” magazine for its job specific articles like “69 Ways To Get Rid Of Annoying Corpses”. Gomez’s routine serial killing shenanigans are the focus of the first half before a plot detour turns the whole thing into a zombie movie in the final reels.
Self-conscious throughout in both its style and humour, Sexy Killer is nonetheless a likeable, knockabout lark in the fan boy spirit of 80’s genre flicks like Night of the Creeps; Gomez makes for a memorable callous femme fatale.
5 .Embodiment of Evil (2009) Emerging from prison after 40 years, Coffin Joe sets his scowl to “intense”, regroups with his hunchback assistant and resumes his quest for immortality. 73 year old actor / director Marins, returning to an infamous character originated in the 1960’s, is understandably enthusiastic about a movie that gives him a chance to snog, grope and fuck a succession of beautiful women, memorably smearing cheese and milk over one particular naked broad before letting loose a rat inside her (as director, Marins tactfully cuts to a p.o.v. vagina shot, gawd bless him).
If this was really what we all had to look forward to in our 70’s (as opposed to Alzheimer’s, prostate cancer, shitting into a bag and walnut-like ball-sacks), there would be truly some incentive to indulge this “getting old” bollocks. Typical for the Coffin Joe series, the visuals are often surreal, the humour is droll and jet-black, and the nasty, un-PC spirit of 70’s exploitation cinema is revived to riotous effect.
It showcases some of 2009’s best gore moments, with lots of scalping, body piercing... and a life-affirming sequence in which C.J. slices off a gal’s arse cheek and feeds it to her.
4 .Home Movie (2009) Paranormal Activity got all the attention, but another, lower-profile no-budget domestic-set fake-reality horror movie makes for just as much of a nightmarish evening’s entertainment. Kind of a You Tube-era spin on the themes of the uber-grim Who Could Kill A Child, this consists of an edited series of snippets from the home movies of troubled pastor Adrian Pasdar, his therapist wife and their two kids.
As we observe the family celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, et al, it becomes clear that the two kids are seriously fucked up: moments of mild discomfort are superseded by reveals of goldfish-sandwiches, crucified pet cats and cold blooded murder. Like a lot of the movies in the post-Blair Witch reality horror cycle, Home Movie is slow-burning, inexplicit and devoid of all hope.
It’s remarkably effective in its depiction of the inadequacies of the middle class parents (Dad is in denial and harbouring dark secrets from his own childhood; Mum treats her kids callously as just another two patients) and bone-chilling in the way it documents the escalation of the kids’ creepy behaviour. When the format switches to their point of view in the final few minutes, the effect is devastating.
3 .Laid to Rest (2009) Praise be for a modern day slasher flick that’s irony-free, unpretentious, doesn’t have an elaborate silly twist at the end, and realises the kinds of ingredients we all need: exploding eyeballs, extreme flesh wounds, busted heads and a leading lady whose boobs are bigger than her acting talent.
Laid To Rest also finds time for two incidental characters whose song of choice is called “Sexy Bitches Are My Favourite Kind of Bitches”. Needless to say, it’s awesome. The killer is a chrome-skull-masked fiend with a retro video camera and a bitchin’ knife, the kills are almost CG-free, old-school slash-em-ups, the abrasive metal soundtrack is laid on with a trowel, just like in 80’s Dario Argento flicks, and Bobbi Sue Luther’s breasts are really, really impressive.
Huge fun from start to finish, and old Chrome Dome is, along with the loon from The Hills Run Red 2009’s most impressive new slasher.
2 .Plague Town (2009) David Gregory knows a thing or two about great modern horror movies, having carved out a niche for himself as the go-to-guy for genre-related DVD documentaries - stand-out works being “The Shocking Truth” feature about the making of the proper Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the hilarious Ban The Sadist Videos for Anchor Bay’s video nasty box set.
Gregory’s feature debut owes a lot to many of the classics he has documented while also representing the work of a talented dude who loves the genre. This Irish set chiller riffs on Who Could Kill A Child as a fractured American family unit gets stranded in a remote town where a devastating virus has created a generation of deformed, sightless kids. The adults strive to find fresh breeding stock from visitors to erase such irregularities in the future.
Dark humour and cranial bisections highlight this low budget but genuinely creepy movie which, en route to its very 70’s-style bleak ending, incorporates a lot of surreal, unnerving imagery: notably a sequence in which a bunch of eerie, eyeless kids playfully hurl sickles at a terrified girl bound to a tree.
1 .Dead Girl (2009) Roll up, roll up, (dead) ladies and germs, it’s 2009’s most uplifting zombie rape movie! A verrrrrrrrrrry uncomfortable insight into the world of horny, desperate teenage outsiders, it’s designed to make you feel dirty and uneasy from start to finish. That’s the bad kind of dirty and uneasy, not the kind you might get from, for instance, having intercourse with someone a little “slow” while simultaneously watching an episode of “Sweet Valley High”.
Two high school misfits - pathetically lovelorn Shiloh Fernandez and equally shag-less but more callous Noah Segan - spend their days smoking weed and lusting after hotties. Their discovery of a barely alive, beautiful naked brunette (Jenny Spain in this, or any, year’s toughest female genre role) bound to a gurney in an abandoned mental hospital, leads them on the darkest of dark moral paths. For them, this peculiarly unkillable (and increasingly deteriorating) beauty represents “hot pussy” on tap, a handy fuck-slave and a more exciting alternative to masturbation.
As nihilistic as they come, though relatively restrained in terms of on-screen violence, Dead Girl is leavened with the blackest of humour and credibly reflects the kind of objectification that all of us, knowingly or not, are sometimes guilty of. It eventually wanders into slightly more conventional zombie movie territory, but the punch-line is appropriately sour and a lot of the imagery (the dead girl’s oozing, infected wounds; a shot of her battered body with a photo of a blonde taped to the face to allow for a more pleasant fucking experience) is genuinely scarring stuff.
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