If you haven’t noticed, movies sometimes defy classification. Were there 10 fabulous horror movies in 2011? Sort of. While some might be action/horror or thriller/horror, or, in one case, comedy/horror, each of these movies had some of the basic elements of a horror movie, and therefore make the list.
10. Red State
Red State, Kevin Smith’s first horror movie (unless you could Clerks 2 as a horror movie), didn’t get the best reviews. Some called it forgettable, even, but I will tell you that Michael Parks seriously rocks in the film as the patriarchal religious leader Abin Cooper. Between Park’s performance, the intense chase scenes around the Five Points Church, and the convincing yet subtle performance of John Goodman (who was a perfect choice for the role of Agent Joseph Keenan, it was a pretty solid film. Some might argue that the plot falls a little flat, with important plot points being revealed in a conversation at the end, but those would do well to remember that the film had an overall small budget, and a special effects budget of only $5000. My only complaint? Just once, sometime, will someone cast Stephen Root as a total badass Lothario? He’s a beast, and he plays a lot of sniveling jerks.
9. Paranormal Activity 3
After my misstep including The Hangover Part 2 on the 2011 comedy list, I was reluctant to put a sequel, prequel, or any other type of continuation on this list, but you know how it goes. I could have easily substituted Grave Encounters – if I was just looking to fill certain slots on the list. The thing is, Grave Encounters wasn’t as good as Paranormal Activity 3. As “found footage” goes, this movie is every bit as good as the first one, and superior to the documentary-style Grave Encounters, which takes place in an abandoned mental asylum. PA3 is a prequel that offers fear, dread, and thrills with a tad more character development than the first two movies.
Saw director James Wan + Paranormal Activity writer Oren Peli = a scary movie. While not as scary as I was hoping it would be, the first part of the movie moves along rather quickly, and haunted houses and possessed children are almost always a win. Plenty of tension and drama, the film is satisfying for what it is. Personally, I find it a little difficult to trust Patrick Wilson again after Hard Candy, but Rose Byrne and her ability to look SUPER concerned and angelically martyrific make up for my little quirk.
7. Black Death
I was surprised at the amount of gore in Black Death, which is one reason I deem it a horror movie instead of an action movie or drama. That, and all the pagan rituals and Christian paranoia. Sean Bean’s involvement with the popular series Game of Thrones might give this film some success in the rental/DVD sales. Check this movie out if you want a necromancing, medieval, bloody, violent good time.
6. Fright Night
For those purists who would say that the remake of Fright Night is inferior to the original, I have two words to say to you. Chris Sarandon. Just kidding. Sarandon was probably the best thing about the original, which was totally on point in 1985 and sort of ahead of its time. This was a perfect time to remake the movie, because you can’t really compare them. They’re from two completely different eras. The script is a lot more robust, probably because of Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons 1-7, etc.), and the cast has some heavy hitters. Not Colin Farrell, who actually took the role of Jerry because he needed work, though he did a decent job as Jerry, but Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette, and David Tennant have some clout. All in all, it’s fun. Try it.
5. Stake Land
The concept is post Vampire Apocalypse, which is a refreshing change from all the zombies, right? Nick Damici shines as the “Tallahassee” type character, though his character, and the movie in general is not tongue-in-cheek like Zombieland was. Stake Land (despite the really dumb name) is darker, more serious, and better crafted than the zombie movie of similar pattern, though not as much fun. It’s not supposed to be fun. Called “The Road with vampires” by many critics, it has that urgent, desperate feel to it, but ultimately it’s Damici’s performance that stands out the most, rather than writer and director Jim Mickle’s commentary on the middle class.
4. The Woman
If you’re not familiar with writer/director Lucky McKee’s previous work, which includes the deeply disturbing 2002 film, May, this movie may come as a shock to you. It’s brutally raw and violent. But then, so was May. Faithful to people he’s worked with previously, McKee brings back Angela Bettis as the wife of the man who finds a, well, feral woman in the woods and brings her home to “civilize” her. Pollyanna McIntosh gives a stellar performance as “the woman,” and the film is shocking, yes, but beautiful in its own way.
3. I Saw the Devil
Technically, this is a 2010 movie, because it was released in South Korea in August of 2010. It showed in some theaters in March of 2011, so for the U.S., it’s, by all rights and purposes, a 2011 horror film. It is full of action, and could be considered a mystery or suspense film, but the story features a psychotic killer who is the embodiment of pure evil, so in my book, that’s a horror movie. Choi Min-sik is truly terrifying as Kyung-chui, the unrepentant and evil killer, and although the film is unrelentingly bloody and violent, it still retains that human element that makes for an engaging film.
The longtime horror house, hit-and-miss, Hammer Film Productions is back after its lackluster remake of Let The Right One In, Let Me In, released in 2010. Wake Wood is surprisingly good, playing off our biggest fears of death and dying. A married couple loses their daughter after a dog attack, and they participate in a pagan ritual to bring the girl back to spend three more days with her. In return for this, they are “bound” to Wakewood, the place where the ceremony took place, and when they don’t want to return their daughter, all hell breaks loose. If one does not expect too much, one will be pleasantly surprised to find that the movie is scary and made very well.
1. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
OK. You’re going to say that this is a comedy, and should not be on this list, especially not in the number one spot. If you’re the kind of person who wouldn’t list Shaun of the Dead as a horror movie, that is. If you realize that horror and comedy (hello, Army of Darkness) can go together like peas and carrots, you’ll agree that this is the most fun horror movie to come out in 2011. A crazy whirlwind where the bad guys aren’t really bad guys at all, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is wholly satisfying and full of gore, for good measure. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine are wonderful, and the movie is fun from start to finish.
Telepathic, homicidal, deeply creepy twins. Enough said.
Is it a fantasy flick? A mockumentary? Whatever it is, it’s good. But seeing as it’s PG-13 and falls more into the fantasy category, we put it as an honorable mention. There is supposed to be an American remake sometime in 2014, and I’m sure it will be straight horror then.