2006 in review

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Remo D
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2006 in review

Post by Remo D » Mon Jan 01, 2007 9:50 am

Well, here it is—or rather, there it was. 2006 was the year that I seriously considered hanging it up as any sort of genre completist. Not that I would have turned my back on horror entirely—that’s never going to happen, and I’ll always be there as a reviewer/historian. But the need to keep up with current theatrical trends sure didn’t make itself evident this time around—indeed, 2006 was one of the most utterly uninspired (not to mention uninspiring) genre years in quite some time. I caught up with several of this year’s items on DVD rather than go to any trouble to see them on the big screen—and to this day I have let such items as UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION and THE COVENANT go completely ignored (and likely to remain that way—leather/goth/Matrix business is high on the list of things of which I am most utterly sick.

No, this year it was comedy that hit all the right buttons for me. And I don’t mean latter-day Frank Capra fluff like MAN OF THE YEAR—I mean comedies that managed to tackle audiences in ways that you’d normally leave to horror films, be it with consummate genre/historical knowledgeability and authenticity (NACHO LIBRE); the pure unadulterated geekshow (JACKASS NUMBER TWO); in-your-face confrontations with the worst human leanings, be they scripted (the brilliant LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, which I have only just now seen) or spontaneous (BORAT); or full-scale, delirious hysteria (the unforgettable CRANK, which, naturally, wasn’t pitched as a comedy).

But horror? Pure horror? Remember a few years back when I commented on what appeared to be a new trend in 70s/early 80s remakes and cover versions, highlighted by Eli Roth’s well-informed tribute CABIN FEVER? It’s been three years since then, and we’re still doing 70s/early 80s remakes and Eli Roth cover versions? Tell me seriously that I would have missed something crucial had I taken the entire year OFF! And what do we get to lead off 2007? HOSTEL 2 and a remake of THE HITCHER! Good grief, people! (Okay, I admit that I really want to see GRINDHOUSE, even though it’s the ultimate in “cover versions.”)

Still and all, there were surprises and highlights, and I’m more than happy to give you my newly non-completist recap of the horror year 2006.

THE GOOD:

Don’t confuse “good” with “great” this time—not in most cases. Eli Roth’s HOSTEL did the trick for me, all right, and not just with the blend of “youth comedy” and gorefest. It’s been said that we’ve hit a new era of “torture porn,” and while it’s hard to defend something so gleefully graphic and sadistic from such charges, I’ll still take a blend of weird surprises and over-the-top assaults over something like WOLF CREEK (which I’d seen less than a month earlier). The difference is simple—WOLF CREEK simply numbed me with extended torture as I correctly predicted each and every dashed hope of the two female protagonists. But no matter how hideous HOSTEL got, I simply had to know what was going to happen NEXT, and that makes all the difference in the world.

The remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES was one of the most straightforward remakes out there, but I’d never gotten to see the original on the big screen, and this new version was played with plenty of gusto (yeah, guts, too) and took full advantage of state of the art effects. You could tell that the new players were making these characters their own, which also helped—noone was trying to channel Michael Berryman. And you just know that the obligatory sequel will be better than the so-called sequel to the original, too…

SCARY MOVIE 4 was the best in the series since the first one—the SAW and GRUDGE stuff was fun, but the central spoof of the Tom Cruise version of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS was flat-out hysterical. All that and the always-welcome Leslie Nielsen.

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING surprised the hell out of me by being relevant in addition to obligatory. A prequel to a remake? Never a good sign. But the questions posed by the remake were given very satisfying answers, R. Lee Ermey outstripped Leatherface himself as the new series icon, and the film’s take on the past Korean conflict and then-current Vietnam draft was more than just a history lesson in my book. “Stay the course,” eh?

SAW III was just good enough to squeak to this section of the list—thanks mainly to the well-orchestrated finale it builds up to. But the inevitable signs of wear are there—it would be so smart to make it a true “quit while you’re ahead” finale…. But NOOOOO! If SAW IV doesn’t finally drop the series into the crapper, then it’ll be SAW V, right?

I can always appreciate a surprise like BLACK CHRISTMAS. Had this been a literal remake, it would have been utterly disposable. However, they kept the trappings of the original while trying to do something a bit different and managed to pull off a fairly neat “sicko” thriller that certainly knew how to play to the crowd.

Well, there’s not much there that I’d nominate for future classic status. My PERSONAL favorite horror-related theatrical experience this year was the “TV horror host” documentary AMERICAN SCARY, but that’s not in regular release yet. So I’m going to have to cheat a bit and nominate a film that I actually saw on DVD before the U.S. theatrical release. For its unusual all-female perspective, for its relentlessness, for its lack of compromise and for pure shock value, I’m going to hand my top honor to THE DESCENT (even though it wasn’t a 2006 theatrical release in the U.K., even though I didn’t see it on the big screen, and even though the U.S. version was subjected to some annoying tinkering—at least they’ve set things to rights on the domestic disc). Now if this country could just get around to putting some unexpurgated Neil Marshall business in theatres? But why do something as cool as that when there’s plenty of CRAP to go around?

THE MIDDLE GROUND:

Morgan and Wong did better with their BLACK CHRISTMAS take then they did with FINAL DESTINATION 3. Sure enough, the gags were quite inventive and entertaining (and the interactive DVD is a hoot and a half), but the fact that this premise has been thoroughly played OUT shows all over the place (prophetic pictures like in THE OMEN? Or perhaps the desperate “we can’t think of an ending” fadeout?).

NIGHT WATCH was a decent bit of Soviet fantasy with some very entertaining moments—but I’m neither convinced that I saw anything worth creating a complicated mythology around nor certain that I’d even pick up the story again if they ever get around to releasing the sequel in these parts.

SLITHER was also fun but overrated (certainly not overattended as it turned out, though). Another attempt to do a throwback feature with new effects—but all it did this time was make the video-savvy audience say “Hey, that’s just like NIGHT OF THE CREEPS!”

When you’ve got super-creepy sets and a truly excellent horror-movie presence (the wrestler known as Kane), a talented director can make an out-and-out crackerjack. But a porno director will just rub it in your face and call it SEE NO EVIL. Too bad—this one could have really started something… but it would have had to have been SCARY instead of just gory.

See SCARY MOVIE 4—when you can make an effective joke out of hair ghosts and meowing boys, then a serious GRUDGE sequel isn’t going to cut it. Too bad again, as THE GRUDGE 2 is the movie that Shimizu should have made the first time around (for America) instead of simply re-making JU-ON. But it doesn’t work anymore, thanks to oversaturation.

So much fun hype for SNAKES ON A PLANE. And then the movie opened so everyone could forget about it. Hey, it was what it was, and I’ve seen far more offensive “brainless timekillers.”

THE OMEN was the plainest of all the remakes. Just the exact same movie with new faces set twenty years later (so we could do the 6/6/06 thing). Okay—nice to see John Morghen, and they did a pretty nifty update with the decap sequence. But by and large, it’s still one of the most unnecessary things I’ve ever bothered with. Which leads us to…

THE WORST:

How ‘bout a remake of a film that originally contained three segments? But let’s just take the first segment (because honestly, that’s the only part anybody remembers) and stretch it to feature length? Then let’s take a popular TV starlet, put her in the lead, and dumb the whole thing down to a PG-13 so her fans can go see it? Result: a weak teabag known as WHEN A STRANGER CALLS.

Man, AN AMERICAN HAUNTING was so exciting and memorable that I forgot to include it on my viewing log thread and even in my end-of-year post! Good intentions don't make up for a film in which absolutely nothing HAPPENS, I suppose... hey, just because I gave THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE a number-one spot LAST year wasn't a call for a cash-in, okay?

No matter how much gore he piles on, and no matter what Academy Award-winning cast members he can assemble, we already know that Uwe Boll can’t direct an effective horror film to save his life. Did anyone expect BLOODRAYNE to be an exception?

Not that Uwe has cornered the market on video game adaptations. “There must have been a fire here.” “Look at me. I’m burning.” “Hey, there aren’t any guys in this movie—better tack on a half-hour’s worth of subplot with the husband!” SILENT HILL may have looked nice. For a while. But I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

Such was also the case with the remake of PULSE—yet another disaster that Wes Craven managed to sign his name to somewhere. More J-horror cyberghosts, break out the duct tape, yeah, yeah, yeah. How about something SCARY happening once in a while? Excruciating.

I don’t think anyone was looking forward to a remake of THE WICKER MAN, but the good news is that Nicolas Cage and Neil LaBute had the guts to go through with the original ending (of course, now they advertise a “mind-blowing ending” in advance, so do you think anyone was actually surprised?). But the substitution of the original’s conflict of faith with a blatant anti-woman screed didn’t do much to convey the magic, nor did the extent to which we were expected to believe the pre-manipulations involved this time around. What a weird misfire.

Not only did we get the trailer for HOSTEL 2 before the year was out, we got the first out-and-out HOSTEL ripoff. Well, TURISTAS certainly did have pretty scenery. Did it have ANYTHING else to offer? This was not BLUE CRUSH or INTO THE BLUE... so if you're bound and determined to rip off HOSTEL, could you at least come up with a HORROR filmmaker to assign it to? P.S.: Brazil hates you.

But the very worst horror release of 2006 in my book was STAY ALIVE—and not just because it dredged out video games again. This one hit a new low in nonsense and contempt for the viewer. Elizabeth Bathory as an American? A video game that brings someone back to life that had to have been alive in order to create the stupid thing to begin with? Blatant “this character is DEAD” lies that only an idiot could believe? The fact that the character who isn’t dead has to be Frankie Muniz, so you don’t even get to see Malcolm die? A film that doesn’t make literal sense, video game sense OR horror movie sense—that’s a rock-bottom standard to reckon with!

Not much else happening. Some decent fantasy escapism with PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEN 2: DEAD MAN’S CHEST (love that Davy Jones). A very intriguing rotoscopic experiment with Philip K. Dick’s A SCANNER DARKLY. Plenty of good (and non-hair-ghost) J-horror on DVD and cable with MAREBITO, INFECTION, THE BOOTH and the banned “Masters of Horror” episode IMPRINT. Decent superhero fun with X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, and not-so-decent superhero ponderousness with JESUS … er… I mean SUPERMAN RETURNS. 2001 MANIACS and even HOLLOW MAN 2 were enjoyable direct-to-video items, I continue to enjoy even lesser Argento efforts such as DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK (though I preferred THE CARD PLAYER), and while CACHE (“Hidden”) was worth the hype as a maddening psychological thriller, it wasn’t really a “horror” movie in any traditional sense. Oh, also quite liked the Mexican “deadly reality show” item EL NOMINADO… and there was RIPPING GREAT action with DISTRICT B13—second only to CRANK in my book.

And--oh yes--does CASINO ROYALE really count as a remake? Whatever it was, it was top-drawer.

So that’s it for now. Enjoy 2007—but this time YOU may have to tell ME all about it.

Remo D.
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...and I don't even have a dog!


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Post by I am 138 » Mon Jan 01, 2007 1:52 pm

Not do 2007? You aren't fooling anyone, one hand! Thanks for a year spent reviewing things that I continue to avoid!
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Post by dr coathanger » Tue Jan 02, 2007 3:26 pm

And I thought *I* saw a lot of movies this year! Fucking Christ you sift through a lot of garbage, Remo D. I no longer have the desire nor the (testicular) fortitude to catch every genre release anymore though I do see most of them. I'm more than happy to let trash like 'The Grudge 2' or 'Turistas' slip through the cracks but I almost let the same thing happen with 'The Descent' which would have been a shame since that movie kicked at least three or four different kinds of ass. Paring it down for 2007, eh? Might be a good idea 'cause it looks like this past 365 may have just been a warm up for the TRUE year of remakes and sequels. Maybe they'll start selling cyanide pills with the popcorn...

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Post by Griff [Mola] » Thu Jan 04, 2007 1:33 am

Wow. Going through that list, I only saw HOSTEL, THE HILLS HAVE EYES remake, SILENT HILL and THE DESCENT (in late '05). And I enjoyed them all but, for various reasons, none of them really managed to knock my socks off.

A lacklustre year indeed, Sir Remo.

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Post by DylanDog » Thu Jan 04, 2007 12:56 pm

Yeah, usually when I read your year end wrapup, I remember about 4 more movies that I wanted to see, but didn't. This year none fit that category and there is nothing I regret missing. And there wasn't even anything so good that I just have to have it on dvd either. Better luck this year hopefully...
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Post by Latte Thunder » Thu Jan 04, 2007 3:20 pm

Going over Remo's list, I thought I was going to be the only one who couldn't really give a shit about '06's offerings, but it looks like it's a fairly unanimous decision that nothing really happened cinematically.

Looking back, I didn't get out to the movies once last year. Typically, I don't go out to the movies much at all anymore, but I go at least a couple of times. Not this year, nothing really to see.

It also pains me to look back and realize just how much of last year was remakes and sequels to movies I didn't care much for in the first place. I don't get bent out of shape over remakes because I don't go see them, but when the tide of original horror is being stemmed in favor of cheap remakes that bring in big returns, I start to panic a little. The remake train doesn't seem to show any signs of stopping, even if they are beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel with remakes on the horizon like Silent Night, Deadly Night.

I'd kill for an all new horror movie that isn't heavily laden with references to old horror movies. I'm really over that. I'd like one that isn't specifically directed at teenagers that have nothing better to do on a friday night. I'd like one that doesn't ape the asian ghost horror style. Hollywood is a commercial engine that is supposed to kick out movies that have mass appeal but not even the independent circuit has much interesting going on. My usual cushion of foreign genre movies was even thin this year.

For the most part, of everything that I saw that Remo saw, I agree with. I didn't see Crank, and I'd put District B13 on the top of list, but I saw it in 2005, same with Wolf Creek.

Fuck it.

'06 was so bad for movies that I'll take some from '05 to fill the gaps.

I kicked the year of with Sympathy For Lady Vengeance and I can say that it was well worth the wait.

I have the Strangers With Candy movie in from Netflix. Hopefully I'll have some nice words to say about it in The Beaten Track when I get done watching it.
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I have tride to reply to this three times but the phone always rings!

Post by chemical boy » Thu Jan 04, 2007 6:39 pm

Ok now I can finally add my two cents in here...
My analysis of this year was that it was the year of "soft horror" in that none of the films that came out this year were in anyway scary or even gorey.
Yes yes Hills Have Eyes had some blood and Silent Hill had the skin removal scene but all and all I just wasn't scared. in fact in some cases I was disappointed..for example Wolf Creek I mean what was that lame and short if you ask me no more than one good kill scene!
I ask you what is the world comming to when a horror movie only has one kill scene?
Of course I am a huge fan of the Friday the 13th fims, and the Halloween seires in which kill scenes are abundant and very well done so forgive me for having high standards...now lets talk about another flop Feast
that had to be the single lowest achievement of the year of course I asume dr coathanger will agree with me when I say "see what happends when WB stars do horror?"
You get a film with almost no plot, bad acting, shitty visuals and...well what can I say IT SUCKED
I really should have read the posted reviews before seeing it, that is definetly one of my new years resolutions.
Well my say is I agree with you Mr. D this year was not very impressive and one can only hope 2007 will be better
ps I would like to thank all the patrons of this particular board for helping me in improving my horror movie collection.
Many of your suggestions made it onto my shelf and I must say every suggestion turned out to be a winner
Thank you
And I wish you a great movie viewing year
hopefully you will not end up ever having to sit behind the guy who won't stop talking or behind the woman with the abnormally sized hair due
and if you do well I am sorry.
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Post by Kimberly » Fri Jan 05, 2007 6:31 am

One that wasn't mentioned from '06 that I thought was REALLY good was Hard Candy... and Pan's Labyrinth (although I squeaked that in at the end of the year)
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Post by Remo D » Sat Jan 06, 2007 10:42 pm

Never did get a chance to see HARD CANDY (I suppose I should scope the DVD out), and still no PAN'S LABYRINTH for me.

But I somehow managed to leave AN AMERICAN HAUNTING out of my thread, so I went back and put it in. Don't look for it in a high bracket...
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Post by chemical boy » Tue Jan 09, 2007 5:42 pm

What is this Hard Candy?
some insights on the plot if you please
I never even saw a preview for this..course I do live in Hawaii the most un horrific place in the whole U.S. Hard to belive with the great horror ledgends this island has.
I mean I heard some Hawaiian ghost stories when I was a kid that literally scared me piss liss
seriously I was to scared to get up and piss!
Lame I know but hey that's the mark of a good horror
if it can make your bladder silent then it is good
lol
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Post by DylanDog » Sun Jan 28, 2007 6:26 pm

Just want to add one thing. Remo was right, Little Miss Sunshine was fucking great. I never would have given it a glance but I'm glad I did.
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