Here’s the first half of my list of the ten best horror films of 2009. The dates refer to the US DVD release of each title. Enjoy.
1. Martyrs (April 28, 2009) A young girl’s quest for vengeance against abusive kidnappers ends in a brutal scene of carnage. The story defies conventional script format, instead layering a series of unperceived events that blend to form, as Mr. Fox would say, a complete mind cuss. Pascal Laugier’s assured direction endows each blood-drenched scenario with a sense of beauty, and according to the DVD’s behind-the-scenes featurette, he shoots with nary a storyboard or shot list.
2. Drag Me to Hell (Oct. 13, 2009) A loan officer with the unpleasant task of evicting a gypsy woman from her home finds herself the recipient of an ancient and deadly curse. Sam Raimi’s triumphant return to horror provokes as many laughs as it does chills. With the current economic downturn providing a tinge of social commentary, the picture is an inspired about-face from the bawdy tendencies of modern horror pictures.
3. House of the Devil (NYR) A happy-go-lucky college student takes an unusual babysitting job and quickly discovers her employers have a nefarious motive for hiring her. Inspired by America’s obsession with the occult and satanic worship in the 70s and 80s and packing a retro look customary for those eras, the movie slowly and artfully builds to a gruesome payoff. Relying on mood and atmosphere, director Ti West constructs an experience that is equal parts horrific and cool.
4. Splinter (April 14, 2009) A group of unlucky persons find themselves trapped in an isolated gas station by an infectious disease that transforms its victims into zombies. Particularly good of its type, Splinter is a pleasant reminder that horror filmmakers are still capable of building character and producing calculated exposition.
5. Carriers (Dec. 29, 2009) Four friends attempting to escape a world-wide epidemic flee toward an alleged “safe zone.” The best of the friends trying to find sanctuary from a universal pandemic film released this year, Carriers boasts a sense of pragmatism absent from most works of this ilk. The cast make the most of a simple script and the direction is taught throughout forcing me to wonder how this picture has eluded the horror-viewing public.
(Part 2 Coming Soon)