Sitting through Clash of the Titans in any format. Enduring a shit-ton of degradingly useless Hollywood conveyor-belt fodder that reached its nadir with the apocalyptically awful Sex and the City 2, a flick that actually made one yearn for the good old days of Cannon & Ball’s Boys In Blue (available on DVD in all good Hell dimensions near you). Realising that people actually a) spent time making and b) paid several pounds to watch the suicide-inspiring Vampires Suck. Yep, 2010’s movie slate leaves us with grim memories of movies that push all sane folk ever closer to donning the Tevlar and blowing the faces off whatever annoying, I-phone-clutching fuck-face you stumble across en route to inevitably splattering your own brains in spectacular style in Topshop’s window display.
As usual with January the internet - the hallowed medium that made all us fans of coprophagia feel marginally less alone - is overwhelmed with lists written by nobodies outlining the movie year’s highlights and lowlights, with a typical emphasis on snidely mocking the latter or using the former to explain just how mind-blowingly ground-breakingly clever Inception was. Awards season is upon us, which means the same Academy that actually thought Forrest Gump, Out of Africa and Shakespeare In Love were the stand-out films of their respective years, is about to bestow trophies upon whichever flicks happened to feature disabled / disease-ridden / unnaturally smart-mouthed characters this past year. And as usual most of these lists and award ceremonies will honour the same handful of movies, practically ejaculating over the nominee envelopes in the rush to announce Christopher Nolan as Genius of the Year or some tedious Bulgarian movie about a gay paraplegic with AIDS as Best Picture.
This particular nobody, who really needs to reduce his porn intake, happens to think that 2010 was rather a good year for movies in and out of the horror genre. It was, after all, the year that gave us Werner Herzog’s marvellously skewed take on Bad Lieutenant, the unrestrained, Shakespearean nihilism of A Serbian Film, the unashamedly adolescent exploitation goodies of Piranha 3-D and the finest movie Hitchcock never made, Buried. For the record, Inception wasn’t the best movie of the year - there was more intelligence, heart, depth and characterisation in a tiny movie like Tony, which was made for less than a blow job with Syphilitic Sally on the streets of Kings Lynn.
Then there are the movies that were easy to overlook. On the list that follows is a mixed bag of largely unloved or under-seen movies, all of which feature an outstanding sequence or magically depraved moment. Some of them are flawed, some are terrific but all have stand-out snippets that made you forget (for a while) about the fact that the guy that once played Travis Bickle is now headlining tumor-inducing arse-cookies like Little Fockers. And they’re all (cough) more fun than Inception.
10 .Bisection, 2001 Maniacs : Field of Screams (2010) Few had kind things to say about this broad, self-consciously un-PC cartoon-like sequel to Sullivan’s earlier Robert Englund vehicle, in which Bill Moseley takes over the role of the one-eyed mayor of Pleasant Valley, whose search for fresh, dumb Northern meat takes him on the road to Iowa with the irrepressible “Granny” (Lin Shaye). Another extended love letter to Herschell Gordon Lewis and the Grindhouse era, the movie has considerable fun with its ensemble of stereotypes and offers an extraordinary opportunity for fearless 66 year old Shaye to cut loose with a meat cleaver, take centre-stage in a full-blown musical number and figure in a grotesque punch line involving corn on the cob.
It looks and feels cheap, as it should, and is amiably punctuated by OTT creative death scenes. The best of these deserves a place in any round-up of the year’s finest celluloid moments and involves a near-naked blonde (Alana Curry) strapped to a table - an essential feature of any prize-worthy movie. After being initially tormented with a feather, this comely lass is spectacularly split in half through the female organ of love courtesy of a mighty saw blade. Unenhanced by any of the CG shit that marred a lot of gore highlights throughout the year, this old-school splatter set piece makes the whole movie worth sticking with.
9 .Explosive finale, Confessions (2010) Radio head’s “Last Flowers” provides a suitably haunting, recurring theme to this beautifully shot and stylised contribution to the Kids Aren’t All Right sub-genre of horror-dramas surfacing in our era of hoodie-paranoia. Although overlong and prone to self-indulgence, this grim post-Colombine account of violence perpetrated by adolescents boasts an ingenious narrative structure allowing us to follow the perspectives of various characters - including those who, in a lesser movie, would be merely ciphers.
Its cinematic lineage goes back as far as The Blackboard Jungle through to high-school vigilante-exploitation pictures like Massacre At Central High (like that underrated 1976 picture, Confessions hinges on a plot to blow up the school). It is especially perceptive in its depiction of the yawning divide of understanding between contemporary adults and kids, and the almost theatrical, claustrophobic opening stretch trapping us in a classroom of distracted, disrespectful kids and an unhinged female teacher announcing her mission, forms one of the most arresting first reels of 2010.
It’s the pay off, however, that really fulfils the movie’s promise and ensures it a place on this list : a stunning reverse-explosion is as striking as anything in Inception and is the stand-out moment, though it immediately precedes a darkly ironic twist and an astonishing, flippant final line.
8 .Chuckling at dead children in Zombies of Mass Destruction (2010) This was the best zombie movie of the year by a strong margin, and certainly the only one to feature as its survivors a smart Iranian-American hottie (Janette Armand), a harmonious gay couple and a middle-aged schoolteacher. A spry parody of Bush-era USA during an undead outbreak, it is full of incidental pleasures and quote-worthy dialogue, from a Clockwork Orange inspired sequence involving a “Conversion Machine” for gays to the announcement : “We have history’s greatest zombie on our side : Jesus Christ!”.
The Port Gamble backdrop allows for a deceptively playful indictment of casual racism and terrorism-paranoia, and the movie deftly mixes its non-CG splatter with the zesty humour of an above average American sitcom, notably the depiction of a key character’s coming out just as his mom turns into a bug-eyed zombie (“That is how my dad reacted!”). The highlight, however, is an early scene that nicely captures the ballsy, unpredictable tone as a little pigtailed girl is assured by our heroine that everything is going to be just fine … right before getting spectacularly mushed by an oncoming car that cruelly leaves her arm behind.
7 .The Barber Shop Massacre in Ninja Assassin (2010) 2010 brought with it a return for hard-edged, ultra-bloody R-rated action movies with the splattery spirit of the flicks we all enjoyed in the 80’s and pined nostalgically for when they started making Terminator movies with “12” ratings. The Expendables, Solomon Kane, The Book Of Eli and the marvellous Machete all had terrific moments and fine bloody set pieces, though this overlooked Berlin-set gorefest from the director of V For Vendetta has more momentum than any of them.
You shouldn’t get too caught up in the plot - surrounding an ancient, shadowy clan that steals kids and trains them to be supernaturally efficient ninjas - but instead sit back and enjoy the unpretentious ride generated by our invincible hero’s roaring rampage of revenge after a Braveheart style personal loss. Putting aside some acceptable CG embellishments, the movie is rife with decorative arterial sprayage and nasty flesh wounds and it offers ultra-violence from the outstanding pre-titles sequence. Before you can even find out who decorated the sets, the barber-shop prologue has unveiled bisected craniums, decapitations and people cleaved in half with the unrealistic but splendidly over the top glee you used to only find in the oeuvre of Takashi Miike.
6 .Happy Finish in Repo Men (2010) Although overlong and beaten to the punch in terms of its premise by Darren Lynn Bousman’s love-it-or-loathe-it cult wannabe Repo The Genetic Opera, this slice of futuristic nihilism plays out like a refreshingly unpleasant extension of that great Monty Python sketch, a debt that’s acknowledged onscreen by a TV clip of said sketch.
It’s a rare Jude Law movie that doesn’t leave you with the burning desire to kill, maim and then navel-rape every single person you see the next day, but this one has neat ideas and lashings of head-squishing violence, not to mention a bravura extended corridor sequence riffing on the brilliant one-take action scene from Oldboy. Its crowning glory, however, is a genuinely weird, gross, sexually charged climax of internal organ fondling between the two leads that seems to have drifted in from an early, forgotten, fucked up Cronenberg movie as opposed to a Universal-backed mainstream genre flick.
5 .Le Cheval Morte in Blood Creek (2010) Dumped, like Midnight Meat Train in dollar theatres for its US release by distributor Lionsgate, this genuinely strange and mean-spirited flick has an impressive Michael Fassbender cutting a striking image as a leather coat-sporting Necromancy-practising Nazi prone to bouts of self mutilation. The movie turns into an ultra-violent, intense siege scenario when the unleashed Fassbinder - on a relentless mission to become totally all-powerful via the accumulation of a third eye (!) - terrorises a modern day West Virginia family, and develops a fascinating mythology for its unusual monster.
Schumacher is the man who unleashed Batman and Robin on the world, so your expectations at the outset could arguably not be any lower, but the movie establishes its brutal edge early on with a multiple canine stabbing of the kind rarely seen in mainstream horror. Its most jaw-dropping sequence, however, involves a possessed horse galloping violently through a house before being bloodily shot in the head and set alight. Surreal, brutal moments like this punctuate a strong, somewhat 70s-like genre piece.
4 .Nothing To Cheer About Here : 7 Days (2010) This little-seen French movie has the same core-premise as 2010’s overwrought son-ofSaw movie The Tortured, to the point where you start to wonder if the latter is actually a straight remake. In stark contrast to the U.S. movie, and indeed the majority of the new wave of French gore movies, it opts for deliberate pacing, lengthy static takes and a disarming absence of any music. Surgeon Claude Legault is driven to extreme measures after his eight year old daughter is raped and killed by a serial pervert. The movie becomes as much about his authentically conveyed torment as it does about the inevitable scenes of the central villain having his knee wrecked with a mallet, getting flogged with chains and becoming reduced to a naked, helpless bag of bones lying in a pool of his own shit and blood.
The most impressive thing about the movie, aside from the way it transcends genre clichés is its refusal to make the audience at ease : there are no easy answers, no crowd pleasing “thriller” moments to leave us contented at the very end. Nothing reflects this more powerfully than the quietly devastating final moments, as the protagonist gives up on the idea of either killing his captive or killing himself. Far from the triumphant vigilante figure we are accustomed to, the closing sequence reveals an ordinary, devastated man resigned to the fact that nothing will bring back his child and admitting to a paparazzo that he neither regrets what he has done nor can in all honesty condone vengeance.
3 .Diner scene in Legion (2010) At Christmas, LA descends into apocalyptic chaos as fallen angel Michael (Paul Bettany) cuts off his own wings after changing sides. His mission, along with a bunch of other angels capable of hijacking the bodies of ordinary people, was one of “extermination” : the petty, destructive human race has played its last callous card and its time for them to be wiped out. He doesn’t think this to be the case, but the final hope for us all rests with the unborn child of a humble waitress (Adrianne Palicki) at an exceptionally remote Nevada diner called Paradise Falls. So runs the plot of this loveably goofy, fast paced flick that throws in everything from World’s Worst Ice Cream Man through to plagues of insects and an Omen esque score.
It’s no classic, for sure, but there’s a demented energy and an admirable confidence in its own loopiness. Moreover, there’s a show-stopping turning point scene early on in Legion that absolutely defines its borderline-unintentionally-hilarious, whacked-out charm : a sweet old white-haired lady who walks with a zimmer frame tucks into a red-raw steak before calling a fellow patron a “fucking cunt” and biting her husband’s throat. Tyrese Gibson, one of several sombre-faced actors without a whole lot to do, gets what might be the quote of the movie after this incident : “The bitch just walked on the ceiling, she aint staying here!”.
2 .Interspecies Erotica in Splice (2010) If you wanted - if you really wanted - a throwaway poster quote for Splice of the kind that PosterQuoteWhore Alan Jones produces 312 a week, you would call it the “thinking man’s Species. One of the best horror movies of 2010 owes a debt to the 90’s aliensploitation flick, though it also plays out like a contemporary take on Frankenstein filtered through the lens of David Cronenberg during his body horror phase. The fascinating premise, which opts to engage emotionally more than it does to startle on a visceral level, involves ambitious young scientists Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley taking their gene-splicing experiments to an unprecedented level when they create “Dren”, a striking, rapidly growing human-animal hybrid whose existence provokes changing attitudes in “her” creators.
Essentially a three hander driven by a trio of remarkable performances (with Brody atoning for Giallo), the movie introduces a remarkably strange, sexy and poignant new “monster” to the horror pantheon while pushing the boundaries of what you might expect to find in a studio-released mainstream U.S. horror movie. The movie-defining sequence proves to be a sex scene between a momentarily weak Brody - who through most of the movie wants Dren destroyed because he cant cope with the moral implications - and the seductive Dren. As uneasily erotic as it is suitably uncomfortable, this sequence is extraordinary, as is an unsettling rape scene that follows Dren’s change of sex and sets up a telegraphed but potent punch line.
1 .Auto-Erotic Asphyxiation : The Truth in World's Greatest Dad (2010) Q : When does a Hollywood comedy starring Robin Williams make its way on to a top ten like this one? A : When it’s directed by the man that made the bestiality flick Sleeping Dogs, is loaded with horror movie references and hinges on erotic asphyxiation and suicide. One of the darkest mainstream movies of recent memory, this has a never-better Williams as a miserably failed writer (sample work : “The Narcissists’ Life Vest”) whose sexually depraved son (Daryl Sabara, astonishing), a devotee of German sheiser porn, perishes during the aforementioned perversion. His devoted dad contrives ways for his son’s embarrassing demise to appear a suicide and, in the process, creates a post-mortem monster.
A savage satire in which a typical line is “If you don’t act nice at dinner, I’ll stab you in the face…”, this ranks alongside One Hour Photo and Insomnia as an example of how Williams should only be deployed as introverted, unstable losers. While affectionately referencing Freaks, Shaun of the Dead and, most prominently, Night of the Living Dead, Goldthwait’s script deliberately goes beyond the typical audience comfort zone and undermines the fickle 21st century culture of nobodies becoming media heroes. There are many notable scenes as Williams’ cover-up of his son’s inglorious death unwittingly creates an icon. Even more uneasy than the moment in which the bereaved dad breaks down while looking at his son’s dubious porn mags is the climactic sequence in which Williams reveals to all the new-found worshippers of his son that the boy himself, when alive, was an ignorant douche-bag whom they all actively despised.
In an age where a universally hated / mocked figure like, say, Jade Goody can become a martyr just by dying, this movie’s events and downbeat message seem all the more relevant. It’s not a horror movie but it’s made by a guy who loves horror movies…and it is, in short, awesome.