Scary movies are not really my bag. I am frequently too far from the characters in the story (because they are assholes) to really care if they live or die. But occasionally a horror movie comes along and really works for me. One of those made it into my top 5 this year. Here are the other three horror movies I saw, some awards I chose to give them and the arbitrary numerical score to help express my complex opinion.
There is a movie missing from this list because I have decided to throw it into a different hopper (for what I would normally call a bad reason to do so), unless you know to look for it you won't notice it is missing but I am mentioning it now because I want to.
The Award for best Unlikable Protagonist: "Sinister" (Trailer)
A washed up alcoholic writer moves his family into a potentially dangerous situation, but at the same time he has a really valid perspective on his life and you commiserate with him about his plight. As he sees more and more grisly images and is drawn into what appears to be a series of cult murder/kidnappings you wonder if he is being haunted or is going nuts. Yeah it is pretty good, and I really liked the ending. There is graphic content that is shocking in subject matter and presentation. There is good pacing.
The only thing that is really of issue is that there is no mystery, at no point does the main character appear to be homing in on some sort of answer or manages to change the course of things through his actions. He and his family are ostensibly doomed and at no point do you feel they can escape. I compare this to "The Ring" in that there are haunted movies with disturbing images, but "The Ring" (Trailer) had the main character unraveling the history of the video, the little girl ghost, and then takes proactive steps to save herself and the audience follows her on that journey. What I am saying is, in "The Ring" the characters have agency, in "Sinister" they don't. (They both even have a scene in which the main character dramatically burns a movie in a fire-place/fire-pit and is unsure if such an action has any impact), though to be fair, in "The Ring" the cause of the murders is obviously magical in origin and the idea of undoing a curse makes some sense, in "Sinister" you are unsure if the main character is cursed or just losing his mind, that helps defuse the sense of helplessness.
7/10 (Worth seeing as it is a better than average movie of its type)
The Award for Ruining Good Tension with a Jump Scare: "The Woman in Black" (Trailer)
This movie has style in spades, there is a good 10-15 minutes in which this thing has next to zero dialogue and is just Danny Radcliffe running through a haunted mansion nearly shitting his pants as truly tense and creepy things happen, and he acts his heart out, even though he still looks in the range of a 15 year old I kind of bought him as a single father trying to be a professional.
The movie has lots of scary images and disturbing scenes that have very little blood and instead have just a very creepy vibe to them. However, all that good stuff out of the way, it has issues all over the place with structure (I really have no idea what the timeline looks like for this haunting; the ghost that seems to be causing the problem is of a woman who killed herself in the mansion, or was she away in a nuthouse, was her son being kept from her, or did he die and they not tell her until later, there is a lot of confusing stuff in there).
And the Award winning flaw is the jump scares, some work, but the one that I really remember and hate has to do with Danny Radcliffe looking out of a window and a handprint appearing on the window, then a screaming face appears, it is loud and effectively blows the tension load all over the place. I guess it was supposed to be the payoff, but it just sucked and retroactively poisoned a lot of the good stuff that led up to it, which is too bad. The ending is also rather bit of a letdown as it is sort of telegraphed and "tasteful" in its own way, which makes it a little tonally confused.
Also, if you are one of the fuckwits yelling expecto-my-dick or whatever at the screen, you are not funny, you are a child, grow the fuck up and respect that he is not that character. He is an actor, you diminish for yourself and all others Danny Radcliffe's ability to work his trade by stupidly tying him to that boring ass character. GROW UP.
4/10 (still worth watching if you like ghost stories)
|There, now that I have in part ruined your childhood, let's all move on.|
The Award for Worst Cinematography: "V/H/S" (Trailer)
I will give this movie many props, it is not afraid to be bloody, nude, and frequently shocking, it is not in any way shy. It has a lot of good ideas chief among them is the framing device, a group of guys break into a house to steal a bunch of VHS tapes that they are told are very valuable, each part of the movie is a tape they are watching.
All that good stuff being said: "V/H/S" is offensive to my eyes. The entire film is done in a level of shaky camera that made me actually ill. "The Hunger Games" (Trailer) did this to hide violence, these guys do it because... for whatever reason... they decided to be too "realistic" with how these video tapes would look.
I am a bigger lover and defender of "Cloverfield" (Trailer) and the style of found footage than most people and I think it can add to a movie's sense of immersion. A really good movie that came out this year was "Chronicle" (Trailer) and it is basically the gold standard for found footage movies. BUT, while I do not mind the found footage concept of many movies, this was so rocky, so ugly that I had to cover my eyes numerous times. This film really needs to be remade with a lot of tweaking, a lot of artistry, and some stronger casting in a few roles. But if I had to choose one thing to fix: at the very least don't have the framing device be found footage, you can have each of the movies-within-the-movie be found footage, but have the overall framing be in a traditional style, if for no other reason than you would get a chance to rest your eyes.
3/10 (Don't watch this movie, and warn others away from it)