Many times I will rent horror movies solely based on how original the plot is. Regardless of how terrible it might be, I’ll always give it a chance if it is something I’ve never seen before, hoping it turns out to be great. Grace was won of those films, a case where I read the back of the box and thought, “now that’s sounds cool,” and it was. The movie revolves around a pregnant woman who loses her unborn baby in utero during a tragic car accident. Opting to go ahead and deliver the lifeless fetus anyway, the mother goes into labor only to be shocked to give birth to a live, breathing baby. Chalking it up as a medical miracle, the doctors let the mother take the child home to begin her new family. But after weeks of the baby refusing milk, the mother soon realized that all the hungry baby wants to eat is human blood. She becomes a hermit with her baby, going to extreme measures to satisfy her child’s hunger. This Sundance gem from writer/director Paul Solet was definitely worth the rental and ended up being one of the best surprises of 2009.
4.) Dead Snow
The chief reason why this film cracks my list of top five horror films is thanks to that million dollar premise; the same premise that supposedly got the movie financed with just two powerfully awesome words: Nazi Zombies! And even though Dead Snow could have and should have been a lot better than it was, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Tommy Wirkola’s blood soaked tale of medical students stranded in the snow capped hills of Germany while being slowly picked off one by one by flesh eating, swastika wearing monsters from the Third Reich is an absolute blast to watch. With obvious inspiration from American horror classics like the brilliant Evil Dead, Dead Snow is one of those contemporary horror films that was created with blood-and-guts comedy as its number one objective. Just goes to show that Tarantino wasn’t the only filmmaker this year to put a humorous spin the “horrors” of WWII.
3.) Paranormal Activity
Unlike much of the nation’s population, I didn’t fall madly in love with Paranormal Activity when I first saw it, personally having some issues with the film’s lackluster ending (what the hell, Spielberg?). Now don’t get me wrong, it was definitely creepy as hell with some real stomach-upsetting moments, but the film’s fright factor isn’t what gets this film in my top five. What won me over was what a convincing and entertaining movie writer/director Oren Peli was able to deliver with just a minuscule budget of around $11,000 that was able to be enjoyed by a global audience. An impressive feat that thousands of struggling filmmakers try to achieve every year. Now, thanks to Peli, there is new found hope for them as every major movie studio in America is on the lookout for the next Paranormal Activity.
2.) Trick R’ Treat
Thanks to two years worth of extensive Internet buzz that no film could live up to, this anthology of spooky tales was unfortunately considered a disappointment to many people, unable to live up to world wide web’s hype. But for me, it became an instant holiday classic, one that immediately made my annual Halloween playlist of horror films, accompanying the likes of such notable titles as John Carpenter’s Halloween and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Written and directed by Superman Returns scribe Michael Dougherty, Trick R’ Treat has intriguing characters in fun, campy stories that comprise a movie that never takes itself to seriously while at the same time staying true to the spirit of All Hallows Eve. The film ended up being one of the best selling DVDs of 2009, which kind of makes you wonder exactly what Warner Bros. was thinking shelving the movie with such bankability among the masses of horror junkies for two whole years. Hopefully they won’t be that stupid for the already planned sequel.
I’m almost certain that if you watched this history/horror hybrid from director Anti-Jussi Annila on mute for its entire running time, it would still effectively creep the hell out of you. The Finnish film, which was technically a 2008 release but didn’t make its way over to the States until 2009, has without a doubt some of the most gorgeous cinematography you will ever see in a horror movie, utilized to create a dark, eerie atmosphere from start to finish. Brilliantly interweaving elements of arthouse cinema with the shock value of modern Hollywood horror, Sauna delivers a supernatural tale set in year 1595 that’s just as believable and terrifying as anything seen in Paranormal Activity. Completely oblivious to horror films from Finland beforehand, thanks to Sauna, I will now be keeping an eye out for them.