Friday, August 26, 2011

At Long Last, Marvin the Macabre's Top 10 of the Past 10

As we wrap up the Top Ten of the Past Ten Liststravanganza, I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to contribute a list. This sense of community is what got me into the whole horror blogging game, and you’ve all made it a blast.  Before a present my own list, however, there have been a few more guest entries to present.
First up, we’ve got Ashley at Pussy Goes Grrr. Here's the link:
Fantastic list Ashley. It's good to see The Others represented. I was really impressed with that one and have often wondered why I don't hear more about it from horror bloggers. I also see you have an affinity for French horror. Virtual high five! Hell yeah. I enjoyed both Ils and Inside, although Frontier(s) ranks higher on my personal list (yet still didn't crack the top ten). The final shot of Grace just kills me. While I really enjoyed the film, I'm thinking you need to be female to have it really hit you at that gut level (strange that it was directed by a man). Anyway, great list, great taste, and great website. I'm so glad you participated, just so I could check out the cool shit going on at your site.

Nextly, we’ve got three tenths of a list from my big sis, who actually submitted a top ten, but didn’t quite grasp that it was restricted to the last decade. However, three of her picks do meet the criteria.  They are:
 The Strangers
The Descent

If there’s one thing I learned from this project, it’s that horror fans are awesome. Oh wait, I already knew that.  It was that this past decade has been full of some of the best horror films ever. Wait, I already knew that too. Okay, try this: I learned that if you’re going to ask for guests to submit lists, you should really present yours first if you don’t want to look like an unoriginal D-bag (D is for doggy, btw. Get your head out the gutter.) In fact, only one film on my top ten wasn’t listed by one of you first. Since we all know the only reason to start a blog is to give people the illusion that your opinion somehow matters, originality counts for a lot. Having undermined this illusion, I’d better dispense with further ado and present the list we’ve all (by “we’ve all” I mean “I’ve”) been waiting for:
Marvin the Macabre’s Top Ten of the Past Ten:
#10 – Hostel Part 2

I put off seeing this one for a couple of years, because although I liked Hostel, I didn’t want to see more of the same. Oooh, it’s girls this time instead of guys; that’s supposed to make it original? Then I watched the documentary on American horror called Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue, which showed a clip of the bloodbath scene, but didn’t identify the movie. The imagery was so striking that I knew I had to see it, and searched for months for the twisted film the scene came from. To my mind, it is one of the most powerful kill scenes in horror, because while it’s horrific, it’s also disturbingly sexy. Watching it, I felt simultaneously turned on and disgusted that I was turned on. These conflicting emotions make for a very uncomfortable viewing experience, and one that haunted me long afterward. This scene alone qualifies Hostel 2 for my top ten, but there’s so much else going on.
I loved the focus on the clients and all the political implications of the cell phone bidding wars, as well as the role reversal of the two American killers. I also love the manner in which the final girl survives. There were all manner of shocking scenes in the film, yet it seemed less focused on the torture than its predecessor. It seems that Eli Roth chose to improve the characterization and the emotional connection with the audience rather than merely boosting the body count.

#9 – The Ring

The premise of The Ring seems kind of dumb. Deathtape: the VHS that Kills. But every time that phone rings after someone watches the tape, my heart pounds like crazy and the movie beats my disbelief into submission. The whole film exudes an atmosphere so thick with despair that it sells the iffy premise and makes every little detail chilling.
I thought the fake-out ending was great, because after a great build-up, it had me believing that it was going to turn out to be another “solve the mystery and find the body so the spirit can rest” type of ghost story. I was extremely disappointed. But everything after the “You  weren ‘t supposed to help her,” line was balls-to-the-wall freaky. The Ring deserves a place on my list simply for how long it made me afraid to walk from one end of my house to the other in the dark.

#8 – Let Me In

Let me just get this out of the way: Yes, I have seen the original, and yes, I prefer the remake, and no, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. When I first watched Let the Right One In, I had been told repeatedly that it was the greatest vampire movie ever, so I was expecting a completely different movie. I thought it was going to be, I don’t know… scary?  It was really good, and I recognized that, but the disconnect between expectation and reality was just a bit jolting, like when you’re expecting water and take a sip of Pepsi.
When I watched the American remake, I knew exactly what to expect, and it didn’t disappoint a bit. I thought Matt Reeves created some great scenes, especially ones involving Elle’s companion, that beat anything in the original. I also thought Chloe Moretz and Kody Smit-McPhee were excellent, living up to the performances of their predecessors admirably.
I’ve written about this one before at LINK, so I won’t say too much more, except that I need to give the original another look, so don’t pile on me too hard y’all.

#7 – High Tension

What I love about High Tension is how after a bare bones, minimal set-up, the full-bore terror begins and doesn’t let up ‘til the credits roll. The violence is spectacular, and even when it’s over-the-top it seems all too real. But forget the violence, Alexandre Aja is a master of suspense.  The scene where Marie is trying to find a place to hide while she can hear the family being murdered elsewhere in the house is nerve-wracking. I felt like I’d run a marathon after 91 minutes of High Tension.
And okay critics, the ending nearly ruins the film. All the momentum comes to a screeching halt as you say, “Wait, that don’t make no sense.” But just go with it. Believe me, you’ll be thinking about this movie for days… and looking for that fucking car (shiver).
#6 – Trick r’ Treat
I’m going to go out on a limb here and boldly state that Trick ‘r Treat kicks Creepshow’s sorry ass. And I’ve loved Creepshow since I was a kid. Admittedly, the thing in the crate could rip Sam into itty bitty bits, but overall Trick ‘r Treat wins the coveted Marvin Award for best horror anthology film ever.
My favorite sequence is the one with the kids staging a cruel prank that goes wonderfully right (well, not for them). It’s got that fun, fog-machine-spooky atmosphere that I’m a total sucker for, and it captures the spirit of Halloween perfectly. This is one movie I know I’ll be watching at least once a year for the rest of my life.
#5 – Shaun of the Dead

Do I even have to explain this one?  Let me hit the high points. Genuinely funny. Genuinely scary. Great love story. Real drama. Check out Bill Nighy’s death scene; it’s absolutely touching. I’ve seen several zombie horror-comedies since this one, but none is as balanced, charming, or emotionally engaging.
#4 – The Descent
 Again, this was such a popular pick that I scarcely feel the need to explain myself. This is one of those films where the location is central to the horror. The only spelunking I’m likely to do is here in the mancave, and I’d have a hard time choosing between exploring caves and driving fishhooks into my gonads as the worse hobby. Which is to say that this movie completely scared the piss out of me well before the cave crawlers shoved their pasty-white snouts into the screen. I actually didn’t know about the cave crawlers in advance, so their appearance was a huge shock to me, and made the film a truly powerful experience. This is one of those movies I buy extra copies of at the pawn shop to give to people who haven’t seen it.

#3 – Session 9
You know what I love most about Session 9? No partying teens at the lake. No frat boys or sorority babes on vacation in a foreign land. It’s a horror movie starring middle aged asbestos removal workers, which I’m sure is why I never heard of it until I starting reading horror blogs. These are honest-to-god characters rather than walking stereotypes.
The best character in the film, however, might just be the location. The abandoned mental hospital they are removing the asbestos from tops my list of all-time creepiest locations in a horror film. It uncannily resembles the location of a recurring nightmare I have where I’m in this huge building, and the deeper I go into it, the more dilapidated it becomes until it is barely even a building, but more of a ruin. The mental hospital in Session 9 goes straight to my subconscious mind and throttles the shot out of it. Every time I watch the movie, without exception, I get convulsive chills before anything creepy even happens, when they’re just getting the tour of the building.
Aside from the building, the scariest part of the film is Jurian Hughes’s performance as the recorded voice of former patient Mary, who suffers from multiple personality disorder. The really freaky thing is, you get the feeling that only two of Mary’s personalities come from her mind. The third, Simon, seems to an entity unto himself, who speaks and acts through Mary.
Session 9 probably tops my list of current movie obsessions. I can’t think of a single flaw in the film. And it’s still only number 3. The last 10 years of horror rule!
#2 – [REC]
I’ve tried not to mention [REC] too much lately, because when I started blogging, I couldn’t shut up about it. I try to get everyone I know to watch it, and no one yet has been disappointed (unless they’re lying to me).  That’s because:
A – It is the most masterful example of POV horror in existence.
B – It is a sincerely frightening zombie/outbreak film, in which the afflicted humans are so vicious that they make Romero zombies look like mildly irritated special ed students.
C – That goddamned thing at the end! Jesus effing Christos!
D – Satan inhabits the actual cellulose of the film, seriously.
I still haven’t the heart to watch the American remake, Quarantine. I like Jennifer Carpenter and all, but when is anyone in the mood to view a mediocre rehash of a classic? That’s right. I declare [REC] to be a classic of the genre. Anyone care to argue the point?
#1 – Martyrs

Watching Martyrs isn’t really much like watching a movie at all. You generally watch a movie to have a good time, maybe talk about it with friends for an hour or so, and move on with your day. Watching Martyrs is more akin to fasting for a week, or pushing your body to the point of exhaustion, or… I don’t know. It’s an experience more than a movie, one that affects a profound change in the viewer’s state of mind. Okay, I may be overselling the thing, but I seriously left this film in a daze, unable to talk about it except to say, “Wow.”
The thing I love most about Martyrs is how it starts out as a solid horror movie, becomes an excruciating horror movie, and ends up becoming a philosophical meditation (without ever becoming boring). I’ve seen lots of angry reviewers online calling Martyrs pseudo-intellectual. Bullshit. They just don’t like to think very deeply. And they are probably covering for the fact that the film disturbed them to the core. It is disturbing, no doubt about that, but if you look with the right frame of mind, you can see the film is actually quite beautiful.
I realize I’ve said virtually nothing specific about Martyrs and what it might be about. Good. This is truly one film where you should approach it knowing as little about it as possible. Just know this: it is not a pleasant viewing experience, it is extremely brutal, and if you think you can handle it, it is one of the best films of the past decade.

So there you have it. Liststravaganza completed. Or is it?
Not quite. Look for a wrap-up post where we do some super-nerdy number crunching and find out which films were the highest rated, which contributors were the most original, and where to find your host, Marvin the Macabre, making his singing debut. Exciting shit, that.


  1. Another excellent listravaganza entry. I look forward to the wrap-up. I learned about a lotta new films during these entries; it's always great to learn about new stuff.

  2. Great stuff, man. I too waited on Hostel II and loved it. Never been a Ring fan, but all of the rest were in the convo when I made my list.

    Thanks for putting this all together!


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