Saturday, January 7, 2012

Finally Putting 2011 To Bed: An Aimless Rant About The Year That Was...

Once again it's time to put to bed another year in horror. Which, for the most part has not been overly exciting, at least not to me. I'm hard-pressed to make any kind of serious "top ten" list about which films are the best of the year, as I found so many films to be hyped up to the high hills and then be profoundly disappointing.  I"m hoping things turn around in 2012, at least before December and the world ends.  Right?

Personally (as in outside the horror box), 2011 has probably been the worst year of my life. A quick run-down of events has me remembering that my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer, I had my own cancer scare (benign!) and then major surgery to recuperate from in the summer, things at work took a major  tailspin that is only now starting to slowly improve, my grandmother died, we got insanely awful new assholes neighbors, and both of my cats have been ill. 
On the upside, I did gain a beautiful new niece in March, was lucky enough to vacation joyfully on Hatteras Island in the late spring, and oh yeah - I watched some stellar horror television.  Yeah, I said television.  Movies just didn't do it for me this year quite as much as the various tv shows that got me through the muck that was 2011.  Even non-horror television such as Sons of Anarchy and Justified came through with fantastic seasons.  But between True Blood, Game of Thrones, The Vampire Diaries, The Walking Dead, and American Horror Story, a case can certainly be made that 2011 belonged to tv.

Regardless, this is kind of a rambling post about what made me happy this year, with a few lists thrown in because that my friends, is who I am.

The MOST EXCITING THING THAT HAPPENED IN 2011:  Yes, I had to use CAPITAL LETTERS for this.  I was published. Twice.  In January, I was lucky enough to be in issue #300 of Fangoria.  A landmark issue that serves as a retrospective of 300 of the greatest horror films of all time, I was happy to serve up reviews of some of some of my favorite horror films, including Deep Red and Night of the Living Dead, among others.  To see my name in print in a magazine I'd been reading since I was around eleven or so, well...that was epic.

In February, I was published in Paracinema.  If you are not familiar with Paracinema, you should be. It is (to quote Wikipedia and someone else, I'm sure): a quarterly film magazine dedicated to b-movies, cult classics, indie, horror, science fiction, exploitation, underground and Asian films from past and present.  In other words, it is some fantastic writing about genre films.  I was utterly honored to be asked to contribute to its very first women's issue, which was - just as you suspected - an issue written entirely by women.  And damn, it was so awe-inspiring it is currently sold-out.  So what did I write about?  Laura Palmer of Twin Peaks fame.  Which reminds me how much I'd love a piece of cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee....
Anyway, if you haven't read Paracinema, you're missing out.  Go here immediately.

Here at FWF, it was a busy year.  In addition to keeping my 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' feature going strong (which after over 100 weeks and well over 500 gruesome and gory pics will become more of a sporadic Sunday occurrence at this point), I also let you fine folks in on what really scares me in the 'Bringing on the Fear' feature, continued to talk trash about some less-than-perfect films in 'Mindless Movie Monday', brought you 'My Life in Film' - going decade by decade through films that shaped me into who I am today, and in my most exhaustive move yet: my 'Halloween Festival of Lists', in which I wrote a list for every damn day of October, effectively burning myself out for most of the remainder of 2011.

This March marks four years of Fascination with Fear.  At times, life gets in the way of letting me write as much as I truly want to, but I am hoping to continue here as much as is humanly possible.  I am also hoping this year will be better for me personally as well, for if so then the blog surely benefits from my happiness. 

For now, I give you my meandering look back at the moments in horror last year that tickled my fancy and alternatively made me want to stick chopsticks in my eyes.

F/X's American Horror Story
My 'best horror experience of 2011":   American Horror Story.
Though I am a big fan of The Walking Dead, pound for pound, American Horror Story packed a bigger punch in my book.  It also trumped the witchy goodness of the summer season of True Blood, which is insanely difficult to do in the Hadden household.  You know how I love my vamps. 
But AHS opened a whole new can of worms on television.  Not since the days of Twin Peaks and The X-Files have I been so utterly anxious for upcoming episodes.  It was all about whether or not the newest episode could out-do the last one.  For me, episode 6 of AHS - "Piggy Piggy" -  was the most frightening thing I'd seen on television or film all year.  With a Columbine-esque school shooting in the beginning that had me on the edge of my seat, ep. 6 was a shocking and eye-opening hour of television.  I can't say enough about this show.  I realize that in 2012 we will gain a completely new family and house to contend with, but I just want to give a shout out to Jessica Lange ('Constance Langdon') and Evan Peters ('Tate Langdon') for making this show so damn much fun to watch. Their acting has been top-notch while scaring the pants off us as they chewed scenes into tiny bits. Oh, and speaking of pants: thank you Dylan McDermott ('Ben Harmon') for....your ass.

I Saw The Devil
 Seven Horror Purchases I'm Happy With:
1) *I Saw the Devil  - See more praise and gushing to follow...
2) The Caller (screener) - My favorite screener from 2011.  Dark and creepy.  And Stephen Moyer.
3) Jane Eyre - A dark, gothic period film with a stunning score by Dario Marianelli/Jack Liebeck.
4) The Reef - Not Jaws, of course...but worlds more entertaining to me than Open Water.
5) Wake Wood - I love me some creepy Irish countryside with disturbing pagan rituals. Bring it.
6) Amer - What if the French made a giallo?  Yup, here it is.
7) Black Death - Sean Bean in a medieval-era horror film? Need I say more?

Burning Bright
Eight favorite Netflix rentals this year:
1) *I Saw The Devil - First I rented, then I purchased the next day.
2) Stake Land - The best vampire movie I have seen since Let The Right One In.
3) Super 8 - I'm not a fan of kids in movies, but this one made me feel all nostalgic.
4) Burning Bright - A real surprise.  Premise sounds absurd but it totally works.
5) Red State - While it can't be labeled straight horror, it's as disturbing as anything you'll see in that genre.
6) Hobo with a Shotgun - Overrated, yes.  But the sheer fun of it, combined with Rutger Hauer's wonderful performance, make it a win.
7) Quarantine 2 - This film is so much better than plain ol' Quarantine.  Trust me. And they got rid of the roving camera thank heavens.
8) The Perfect Host - This surprised me as well.  David Hyde Pierce plays Niles again. Well, until he turns into a psycho.

*A few words about I Saw the Devil, which lies at the top of both the favorite rental and favorite purchase list.  With good reason.  It was my favorite movie of the whole damn year.  Yes, the film was released in its native South Korea in 2010, but it didn't reach us here in the US until March of 2011.  I've already written a review so I won't go on about it again, but suffice it to say it is such a powerful and intense film - even my husband (who can't stand subtitles) enjoyed the hell out of it.  While it cannot be called entirely horror, it is a visceral yet engaging revenge film like no other, and you will see it topping many a "best of" list this year. It also started my insane quest to see everything Lee Byung-hun has ever done.  And if that includes commercials for Snuggies, I'd be okay with that. 
Looks like I'm going to see the new G.I. Joe film.

Moving on to the crap of the year:

The Haunted Airman
(He's just as bored as I was...)
Ten "why the hell did I rent this?" rentals from Netflix:
1) Altitude - I stand by my statement that this film is complete and utter nonsense.
2) Case 39 - Why, Renee, why?
3) Psychosis - Not even looking at Charisma Carpenter could save this one, sorry.
4) The Resident - Not even looking at Jeffrey Dean Morgan could save this one, either.
5) Grotesque - Probably the worst film I have seen in perhaps eight or ten years. Gah!
6) Hatchet II - Not entirely awful, but pretty damn close.
7) The Rite - Hard to believe Anthony Hopkins headlined this.
8) The Inheritance - The ending ruined anything they might have pulled off.
9) Apollo 18 - I wanted to like this.  However...
10) The Haunted Airman - I fell asleep twice while watching this, so in truth it could have gotten better and I wouldn't have known. My guess is probably not.

Five "I wish I'd have rented this first so I'd have known not to buy it" purchases:
1) Chain Letter - I didn't finish this one, so there you go.
2) Fright Night ('11) - Again, even gazing at Colin Farrell really couldn't save this.
3) The Presence - I don't hate this, in fact it's beautifully shot, but it drags terribly.  I mean SLOW.
4) Scream 4 - I would have been happy with seeing this only once, just for shits & giggles.
5) The Ward - Aww, I guess my expectations ran too high. 

Seven films I'm pretty glad I DID miss:
1) My Soul to Take - I still have no desire to see Wes's latest.
2) Season of the Witch - I hear it's a massive fail, so I steer clear.
3) Priest - Paul Bettany has creeped me out since The Da Vinci Code, sorry.
4) Don't be afraid of the dark - Again I say: I'm not a fan of "kids in peril".
5) Cowboys vs. Aliens - I'm just not understanding the title.  Or the point.
6) Hostel III - Bringing it to Vegas?  Nah!
7) The Thing (2011) - Yeah, I'll catch it on DVD like everyone else.

Twenty movies I missed in 2011 but hope to catch in the coming year:
1) Drive
2) Contagion
3) Dream Home
4) The Woman
5) Little Deaths
6) The Tunnel
7) The Innkeepers
8) The Bleeding House
9) Absentia
10) The Last Circus
11) We Need to Talk About Kevin
12) The Skin I Live In
13) We Are What We Are
14) Melancholia
15) The Divide
16) Grave Encounters
17) Needle
18) The Silent House
19) Yellow Brick Road
20) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

My most anticipated films of 2012:

The Woman in Black
- The original '89 production has long been one of my favorites, so I'm really anxious for this one.

The Yellow Wallpaper - Mental illness and horror go hand in hand sometimes.

The Awakening - Already out overseas, this period film looks like it could be a winner.

Dunderland - Norway churns out another chiller.

The Raven - Not sure how I feel about this one, but will take a look nonetheless.

The Silent House - An American update of the Uruguayan film.  For now, it looks creepy.

The Grey - Liam Neeson vs. The Wolves. Yay.

Prometheus: In no way will it top Alien, but we have to have a looksee, right?

 Rabies - Looking to see what Israel can contribute to horror.

 And of course, The Dark Knight Rises.  Filmed in my backyard.  Pittsburgh serves as Gotham.  Hines Ward has a cameo. Summer can't come fast enough...

Also on tap but no trailers available yet...

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter:
Because the book rocked.
Dark Shadows: Johnny Depp, people.  Seriously.
World War Z:  Will see even with the unfortunate casting of Brad Pitt. Ugh.
The Expendables 2: Yeah, I know - not horror.  So sue me.

Favorite book of 2011:  Vampires: The Twilight World by Sir Simon Marsden.  NOT a book about the infamous sparkly vampire series.  A book of infrared photography intertwined with intriguing text about the mythology, lore, and various "hot-spots" of vampire legends.  Downright stunning.

Favorite movie score:  Hands down Jane Eyre.  I have long adored the scores of Dario Marianelli, and this is just another notch on his superiority belt.  No one does period films better.  It reeks of melancholy but has hints of quiet happiness infused. Runner up:  Straw Dogs by Larry Groupé. 

Favorite non-horror movie:  I absolutely loved The King's Speech.  Love might not be a strong enough word.  Colin Firth is (as usual) a marvel. For something I couldn't imagine being remotely interested in, this film caught my attention and ran with it.  But since it was filmed in 2010, I'll give you another pick for 2011.
Most assuredly, Steven Spielberg's War Horse is one of the great films of 2011.  The cinematography is outstanding, the story heartwrenching and moving, and the score - sweeping and yet another triumph for John Williams.  Plus, it has horses. Duh.

And finally, my list of random awards:

*The "I can't believe I sat through this whole movie" award:  Red Riding Hood

*The "Surprise! This remake was actually good!" award:  Straw Dogs

*The "When the hell is this going to get a domestic DVD release?" award:  All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

*The "What the hell is this movie about, anyway?" award:  11-11-11

*The "It better be as good as everyone says because I'm sick of hearing about it" award:  TIE: The Woman and Attack the Block.

*The "SO didn't live up to the hype" award:  The Ward

*The "I really don't give a shit whether I see this" award:  The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence.  Seriously,  wasn't number one enough?  You had to do a number two?  (see what I did there?)

*The "I loved it then I hated it then I liked it alright" award:  Insidious

*The "Can't wait for the sequel" award:  Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The "This is what I'm watching tonight so I have to get off the laptop" award:  Trollhunter



Dr Blood said...

That was a much more in depth look at the worst year in horror since the mid '90s than most people wrote. Congratulations on your successes and commiserations on all the bad stuff.

"The Haunted Airman" must be about 5 years old now since I saw it on BBC3 before moving to America. It was beyond boring and even Dennis Wheatley's novel "The Haunting of Toby Jugg" was better (in fact, it's my favourite Dennis Wheatley novel apart from the stupid ending).

At least we all have "The Awakening" to look forward to. It was written by Stephen Volk and appears to be a lot like "The Others" in the way it looks so it's got to be good.

The Mike said...

You're one of the bests, ma'am, and this is a great wrap-up. Here's to an awesomer(?) 2012!

(And can't wait for you (and others) to see Absentia. So good.)

Christine Hadden said...

Dr: Thanks for reading! And yes, I'm very excited for The Awakening. Together with The Woman In Black and The Yellow Wallpaper, it just might be the year of the period film. Not sure if I can include The Raven yet in that group- will have to see!

The Mike: thank you also, for taking the time to read my gibberish! And congrats on the years & success of FMWL, it's well deserved! I'm always anxious to see what's next! ;)

Restaurant Bruges said...

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deadlydolls said...

FIrstly, you should finish Chain Letter just to see the ridiculous ending. It's not THAT bad compared to some of the other stuff on that list!

And Wake Wood was a severe disappointment for me. It had SUCH a great and sad premise with a gorgeous setting, but the switch to killer kid film--and this coming from someone who LOVES killer kids--just felt so lazy and empty. But I'm glad you liked it!

And finally, sorry to hear about your rough patches. I'm sure things will look up in 2012. Keep up the most excellent work you do here.

Christine Hadden said...

Okay, okay, I'll finish Chain Letter if you say so ;)
And Wake Wood was by far a better film in the beginning than the end. I myself, am not as crazy about killer kids than you are, so I'll admit that was a bit of a letdown.

And thanks for the kind words, they mean a lot coming from the author of one of my fave blogs :)