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December 28, 2010

FMWL 2010 - The Year That Was (Part Two) - FMWL's Top 11 Genre Films of 2010

I know what you're thinking - "Well, it's one more...isn't it?"  And you're right.  Top 10s are so cliche, anyway.  (Almost as cliche as referencing This is Spinal Tap, but I digress....)

I saw a lot of horror, sci-fi, and all-around weird films in 2010.  And when it came time to make a list of my favorites, I felt a little lost.  But when I really broke it down, the eleven films listed below - each of which fits under FMWL's loose definition of being a 2010 film - were absolutely the eleven films I knew I had to recognize, because they were the films that I was certain would stick with me for as long as I shall view movies.

Ranking the eleven films was a far bigger challenge than picking the eleven films, because I truly love each of these films in their own way.  So, though I have went ahead and done my best to rank these films in countdown fashion, make sure you recognize that I will stand up for each of them any day.  At FMWL, we're all about being unconditional.

You probably never saw most of these films at your local multiplex, and you might not have even heard of some of them...but rest assured that these are the eleven films that I'm going to remember most fondly from 2010.

First....The Honorable Mentions:
Films that didn't quite get here include:
The Darkness Within (Directed by Dom Portalla.) - A raw, yet enthralling indie psychodrama with great performances.
Frozen (Directed by Adam Green.)- Chilling and effective; Emma Bell gives a fantastic performance.  Plus, it's a great talking piece.
Machete (Directed by Robert Rodriguez & Ethan Maniquis.) - Might grow on me with time.  If nothing else, it was a ton of fun.
Splice (Directed by Vincenzo Natali.) - I love Frankenstein tales, and Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody propel this one despite the awkward random sex parts.

Then....The List.
FMWL's Top 11 Genre Films of 2010 

Number 11: Devil (Directed by John Erick Dowdle.)

I'm a sucker for religion based horror films, and I'm a sucker for The Twilight Zone.  I'm not usually a sucker for the mind of M. Night Shyamlan - at least not since the near perfect Unbreakable - but Devil won me over with its simple tale of elevator-bound horror.  It's not exactly Serling and it's a bit long for its story, but I loved what it did with the clever premise and the message it sent home with me.  I'll be revisiting it often, I think.

(Check out The Mike's review of Devil HERE.)

Number 10: Hunter Prey (Directed by Sandy Collora.)

I haven't had a chance to review this one yet, (I just saw it on Thursday) but this is one heck of an old school sci-fi film.  The premise is simple - A ship crashes on a desert planet, and the survivors search for the dangerous prisoner who escaped during the crash.  A battle of wits ensues.  Director Collora, who made this as his first feature, succeeds in creating a minimalist game of cat and mouse using practical effects and unknown actors (except for the voice talents of Buck Rodgers babe Erin Gray).  This is the kind of low budget sci-fi film that would have been loved in the '70s or '80s, and I'm stoked to have found it in 2010.

(Check out the trailer for Hunter Prey HERE.)

Number 9: Centurion (Directed by Neil Marshall.)

When a film by Neil Marshall, who might be my favorite new filmmaker this side of John Carpenter, comes in at number 9 on the list, you know it's been a great year.  Marshall's fantastic tale of ancient war is the only true action film to make FMWL's list, because the action plays so much like a horror film.  Like Marshall's phenomenal Dog Soldiers, the film blends genres well and features some of the best cinematography I've seen in 2010.

(Check out The Mike's review of Centurion HERE.)

Number 8: Dark and Stormy Night (Directed by Larry Blamire.)

I waited far too long for Larry Blamire's follow-ups to one of my favorite spoofs, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.  But patience paid off, as 2010 saw the DVD release of both that film's sequel (The Lost Skeleton Returns Again!) and the spoof of "old dark house" films, Dark and Stormy Night.  Both were fantastic entertainment, but I'm giving Dark and Stormy Night the edge for being a spot on comedy that inspires plenty of belly laughs.  Blamire and his ensemble have hit another home run with this one, and I've already begun popping in this DVD at times when I need a pick-me-up.

(Check out the trailer for Dark and Stormy Night HERE.)

Number 7: The Commune (Directed by Elisabeth Fies.)

As I stated in Part One, I'll most remember 2010 as the year in which I learned what independent horror can be at its very best.   There are three films that inspired me to feel this way, and the first I'll mention here is The Commune.  Following the journey into fear that a young girl takes while living at a Northern Californian commune with her kooky father, Elisabeth Fies' film is as haunting as anything I've seen this year.  My initial response to the film was not entirely positive, but I haven't been able to shake the film from my memory.  In my mind, that's the mark of a truly effective horror film.

(Check out The Mike's review of The Commune HERE.)

Number 6: Triangle (Directed by Christopher Smith.)

Another mental horror, Christopher Smith's Triangle (technically a 2009 release, but the DVD hit in 2010), is the kind of twisty ride I just can't get enough of.  I haven't really reviewed it yet, because I don't even want to start thinking about it...I just want to let it happen to me, over, and over, and over.  Melissa George gives a surprisingly fantastic performance in the difficult lead role, and there are plenty of images that are both brutal and unforgettable.  

(Check out a quick post on the film from The Mike's other blog HERE.)

Number 5: Let Me In (Directed by Matt Reeves.)

Eat some now, save some for later, eat some now, save some for later.....

Err....Sorry, that jingle is still stuck in my head.  And much to my surprise, so is Let Me In, the Hammer Films produced remake of the sublime Let the Right One In.  A fine example of what a remake can be (even though it doesn't really improve upon the original), Let Me In gives a new perspective on the tale we loved in LtROI, and great performances by Kodi Smit-Mcphee and Chloe Moretz do wonders for the film.  This might be the most grand mainstream horror of the year, and I'm still getting over how much I dug it.

(Check out The Mike's review of Let Me In HERE.)

Number 4: Dead Hooker in a Trunk (Directed by Jen & Sylvia Soska.)

The basis of my initial reaction to Dead Hooker in a Trunk was simple: I never thought I'd have so much fun with a movie called Dead Hooker in a Trunk.  Despite my love of all things bizarre, I've always been a bit of a conservative fella.  Films called Dead Hooker in a Trunk are a little outside of my rural Iowan upbringing.  But there the film was, being ridiculously fun, and charmingly uptempo, and even sadistically sweet...and I was loving it.  It's not just a catchy name, Dead Hooker in a Trunk is modern grindhouse cinema at its best.

(Check out The Mike's review of Dead Hooker in a Trunk HERE.)

Number 3: The Last Exorcism (Directed by Daniel Stamm.)

I mentioned my love for religio-horrors earlier, and The Last Exorcism was so far up my alley that it was a good way.  The performances of Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell are truly among the best I've seen this year in any film, and there are plenty of wonderful images throughout the film that made my skin crawl.  Some don't feel as passionate about the finale as I do, but I thought it was a cool way to wrap up the story and I don't hold anything against it.  Horror's best rags-to-riches story of 2010 is one I can't wait to revisit often.

(Check out The Mike's review of The Last Exorcism HERE.)

Number 2: Dawning (Directed by Gregg Holtgrewe.)

If there's a film from 2010 that's most made me look over my shoulder in fear, it's the yet-to-be distributed Dawning.  Making the most of a secluded, wooded setting and the discomfort that arises from a dysfunctional family, the unseen terror at work in Gregg Holtgrewe's film kept me thinking while the technical aspects of the film made me forget the film's independent nature quickly.  Aside from being a great horror film, this was the film that inspired me to look deeper into the world of independent horror, and I'm incredibly grateful to have experienced it.

(Check out The Mike's review of Dawning HERE.)

Number 1: Monsters (Directed by Gareth Edwards.)

I just don't know where to begin when talking about Monsters.  It's a one-of-a-kind sci-fi film that offers spectacle and humanity in equal doses.  Though it won't thrill those seeking action or gore, it struck me as one of the most moving and beautiful films I've seen in ages.  Perhaps the characters aren't that unique or the monsters aren't featured as much as we'd like - but the road we travel through the film is well worth taking.  

I know I'm rambling....but that's what Monsters did to me.  And I love that.
(Check out The Mike's review of Monsters HERE.)
I never would have predicted this list as 2010 began, but I'm ecstatic about the 11 films I've been able to list today.  They might not each be your cup of tea - this is certainly a varied bag of genre goodies - but I hope you can find something in one of these films that you dig as much as I do.  

(And if not, just dig something you want to dig.  That's why genre flicks are here in the first place.)

Meanwhile, I've got one simple message for these films......


R.D. Penning said...

Nice work yet again Mr. The Mike! You know how I love my Independent Horror, and you still managed to throw on there a couple movies I haven't seen yet. Damn it!

Anonymous said...

Awesome list Mike! Bah, I forgot to mention Frozen on my list!

The only one I had a hard time with was Devil. I really wanted to like it but felt like it was too over explanatory and hokey in its religious references. I really wished they had toned down that aspect a bit more and left it up to the viewer to figure things out.

Fred [The Wolf] said...

Wow, I haven't seen most of these. Then again, I've been dealing with stressful crap for the past 3 months. I added most of these to my Netflix queue. Thanks for bringing these to my attention!

Liam Underwood said...

I've also not seen most of these, but I managed to pick up Triangle cheap on Blu so hopefully I'll be in for a treat!

Here's hoping 2011 is equally as great

The Mike said...

Thanks all!

Russ - Can't wait to hear what you think of 'em! Here's to more indie horror in 2011.

James - I actually really liked that part of Devil, but I can understand where you're coming from. Thought the voiceover gave it a bedtime story kind of feel. (But, if I wrote the list today, it might get bumped now that I've remembered other stuff. Shhh.)

Fred - Thanks, and look forward to seeing you catch up with 'em. Glad to have you back around!

Liam - Triangle would have probably been higher up the list any other year, I think. This was an incredibly hard list to rank, because from 7 up they're all so good. Hope you dig it!