2003 has finally passed and for all it's safe to say that for horror movie fans it was a pretty mediocre year with some films managing to rise above the crowd, others bombing out like you wouldn't believe and still more being "just there" (which of course means we could live with or without them).
In what considered a "long time coming", we here at The Graveyard offer to you our first annual "Best & Worst Of." list. It's hard to believe that since this site started in 1997 we've never done a list such as this - it's even harder to believe you let us get away with it for so long.
There's three categories, each one has the TOP 5 of 2003. They are as follows: Best Movies, Worst Movies and Best DVDs. This list won't agree with a bunch of people but just be aware of the guidelines we considered while compiling our list. This list will not include films we have yet to view, so for example you won't see House Of The Dead popping-up in the "Worst Films" because we haven't seen it, the same goes for the other two lists. If a DVD appears on the list and it is not mentioned in the review for the film chances are that we're working on updating said reviews; this doesn't mean we haven't looked over the DVDs fully - in fact it's quite easy to say that this year was a great year for genre fans on DVD.
And remember that as we catch-up on our 2003 reviews this list may change in one way or another.
BEST MOVIES OF 2003
LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING
(New Line) - Dir. by Peter Jackson. 201m. PG-13
It's been said that they don't make movies like they used to. RotK proves that saying wrong. This is what moviemaking is all about, this is a good reason to throw down $8 + of your cash to see - this is the awesome finale to one of the greatest film series. EVER!
IDENTITY (TriStar Pictures) - Dir. by James Mangold. 90m. R
John Cusack heads a cast that includes Amanda Peet, Jake Busey and the ultimate movie heavy, Ray Liotta. They all end-up at a distant motel during a horrible rain storm and soon they start turning up dead. They're all there for a reason - but what?
Written by Michael Cooney (who did the mediocre Jack Frost movies) this is one kick-ass horror/thriller with tons of eerie mood, lots of surprises and a twist ending that is one of the coolest seen in 2003.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (Disney) - Dir. by Gore Verbinski. 143m. PG-13
Johnny Depp steals the show (as he usually does) as ousted Pirate, Jack Sparrow, who finds himself having to team-up with blacksmith Orlando Bloom and royal daughter Keira Knightley to take on ghost pirate Geoffrey Rush and his lackeys who are trying to lift their undead curse.
Along with RotK, this proves that large-scale, old fashioned cliffhanger type movies aren't dead and that if everyone behind it has conviction and wants the film to suceeed - it will. Plus it was entertaining as Hell.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003) (New Line Cinema) - Dir. by Marcus Nispel. 100m. R
The story is quite well-known by now as some twenty-something friends take a detour while on the road in Texas and fall victim to a quite demented (and cannibalistic) family who's most prominent member is dubbed "Leatherface" because he wears a mask of human skin and likes chainsaws.
The most unnerving Hollywood horror film in recent memory (in the past five years probably) this sticks close to the original, but adds its own meat.
WRONG TURN (Twentieth Century Fox) - Dir. by Rob Schmidt. 84m. R
Dying an undeserved death at the box office, this may have similarities to Deliverance and, in a looser way, Texas Chainsaw Massacre; but it stands its own ground thanks to lacking all the in-joke humour of recent horror flicks and piling on balls-to-the-wall thrill scenes.
And it's also got one of the coolest deaths of the year... one word: axe.
WORST MOVIES OF 2003
MIDNIGHT MASS (Lions Gate) - Dir. by Tony Mandile. 98m. R
In a future overrun by vampires (they're the dominant species now); a girl, a former priest who likes the sauce and his former parish decide to stand-up against the cult of vampires who are terrorizing them.
The only thing this has going for it is the premise; but it's an awfully leaden paced and bloodless effort paced with rotten acting and minimal character development and cohesion. And to think Wilson co-wrote the script...
DREAMCATCHER (Warner Brothers) - Dir. by Lawrence Kasdan. 136m. R
Director Lawrence Kasdan and co-writer William Goldman have done some good work in their day (Kasdan wrote Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Goldman wrote one of the best Stephen King adaptations with Misery); but here they seem floundering as one of King's weaker books (according to his fans) is turned into the worst movies based on his work.
The trailer offered way more than the film delivered and I think it's mostly because they had no idea how to make the movie at all scary, they had the ridiculous plot device of "ass bursting" on the alien baddies part, Morgan Freeman chewed-up scenery at will, there was lots of dumb one-liners and the special effects weren't so special. In fact this entire thing is terrible.
EVIL TALES 3: THE FINAL CHAPTER (4th Floor Pictures) - Dir. by Ryan Cavalline. 47m. NR
After showing some promise with Day Of The Axe 2, this just shows that the makers are trying too hard to have some sort of "indie appeal" to make them stand apart (in this case lots of female skin and low-brow humour).
This anthology flick offers four mediocre stories with only the second, "The Dead Forest" working in any form; the rest of this is tiresome and hard to take.
Plus the fact this only runs 47 minutes makes you wonder - since it feels padded even at that length.
MATRIX REVOLUTIONS (Warner Brothers) - Dir. by Andy & Larry Wachowski. 129m. R
Whereas the original was an intelligent and original effort and the second entry at least had a whole slew of impressive action sequences to enjoy - this has nothing. It doesn't bring the story to a satisfactory close, it doesn't explain anything and even the fight sequences feel tired and taken from one of the many clones that followed the original after its 1999 release.
Director/writers the Wachowski brothers just seemeed tired of the whole concept and this doesn't feel like much effort was put forth to please the series fans or to close off the series on a high note. In fact each film was a little poorer than the one before.
AQUANOIDS (Cinemacabre) - Dir. by Ray Peschke. 74m. NR
Some bikini clad environmentalists who decide to investigate a series of "sea monster" attacks the mayor is covering up and they get into all sorts of hot water while the creatures attack the townsfolk.
The tongue-in-cheek script suffers from slim character development and the acting is poor enough to also drag this down - but the worst crime this film commits is not giving us nearly enough gore/attacks and skin - and skin is a prerequisite for films of this type. Pretty useless stuff here, folks.
BEST DVDs OF 2003
ALIEN QUADRILOGY (Twentieth Century Fox) - Various Directors - Hours & Hours. R
Given theatrical versions and "special edition" versions of all four films (with commentary) and with each film getting a disc of extras to itself - plus a ninth disc of even MORE extras - this is the best DVD box set ever made.
Sure, it may seem pricey but it's well worth the cash - just plan on having three whole days with this puppy - it's huge!
CITIZEN TOXIE: TOXIC AVENGER IV (Troma) - Dir. by Lloyd Kaufman. 109m. R
This two disc edition of the fourth entry in their flagship series is such an impressive disc that if the Alien Quadrilogy hadn't come along this would've snagged top honours.
If the movie isn't hilariously offensive enough for you the plethora of special features might be with three commentaries, all sorts of twisted Troma goodies, a "making of" featurette entitled "Apocalypse Soon" that runs over two hours long and tons of other goodies. In other words, try and catch up all you other indie distributors.
THE HILLS HAVE EYES (Anchor Bay) - Dir. by Wes Craven. 90m. R
They've taken Wes Craven's second directorial effort (after 1972's controversial, Last House On The Left) and cleaned it up, given it a widescreen transfer and packed it to the brim with extras.
The best thing here, apart from finally getting this on DVD, is a commentary track, the cool "looking back" featurette on the making of the film and the fact it even includes the show "The Directors: Wes Craven" that aired on some cable channel that's name eludes me right now.
DAY OF THE DEAD (Anchor Bay) - Dir. by George A. Romero. 102m. R
They've lovingly brought the third entry in George A. Romero's "Zombie Trilogy" to DVD (this is the second release of the title) under their "Divimax" banner and the work put into the disc shows.
Firstly the packaging is very cool with a pop-out "Bub", an insert book meant to look like one of Dr. Logan's notebooks and bright colours. It just seems a little fragile is all.
Then we get a good widescreen transfer of the movie, a commentary, an above average "look back" at the making of the film, a featurette about Tom Savini's impressive gore effects and a handful of other goodies.
28 Days Later... (Twentieth Century Fox) - Dir. by Danny Boyle. 112m. R
Available in widescreen and full frame editions (and if you're buying full frame feel free to slap yourself) this has director Boyle and writer Alex Garland leading us through an interesting set of features about the making of the film with a decent commentary track, a handful of interesting features, the alternate endings (one of which is presented only in storyboards - and is very cool) and a bunch of other features. Let's just say if you loved this movie, you'll love the DVD.
Do you have a list you'd like to share of the best and worst of 2003? Then please feel free to join our message board and spew your thoughts - we're friendly, we don't bite and you'll get all sorts of fun/interesting conversations about the best genre in existance - that's right horror.
Here's to a great 2004! Bring it on!