Best Horror Movies Of 2009
The year 2009 witnessed a full slate of major horror and suspense releases, ranging from remakes to originals to "based on a true story adaptations," with ghosts, zombies, vampires, aliens, demons and serial killers making us scream and squeal in delight. Here are my selections for the best wide-release horror/suspense movies of the year. (For the purposes of this list, I'm defining "wide" as 500-plus screens.)
2418 7.3 7.71. Zombieland (2009)
1032 6.8 6.92. Orphan (2009)
503 5.3 5.43. My Bloody Valentine (2009)
1527 5.8 6.44. Paranormal Activity (2007)
Overhyped? Sure. Overrated? A bit. Unoriginal? Yup. But Paranormal Activity is still an engrossing ride with some genuinely unnerving moments -- more than can be said about most horror movies today. It's able to scare without being explicit, although the ending (changed by the studio) takes all subtlety out of the equation.
400 6.4 6.55. A Perfect Getaway (2009)
1235 6.1 6.76. Drag Me to Hell (2009)
599 6.4 6.57. The Last House on the Left (2009)
676 5.2 5.68. The Box (2009)
572 6.3 6.29. The Uninvited (2009)
1185 5.2 5.110. Jennifer's Body (2009)
People who complain about the state of horror probably haven't delved into the limited releases and direct-to-video fare, a treasure trove of quality films that often outperform flicks on the big screen. Here are my choices for the top limited-release horror/suspense movies of the year. (For the purposes of this list, "limited" means less than 500 screens.)
465 6.6 6.811. Trick 'r Treat (2007)
At last, the movie that sat in development (or rather, distribution) hell for a couple of years was released in 2009 -- albeit on video and not in the theatrical setting it deserved. Early buzz might've raised readers' anticipation of the movie's quality to unattainable proportions, but that shouldn't hinder your appreciation of its refreshing creativity, pitch-perfect humor, sharply written plot, captivating cast and an overall charm that personifies the creepy fun of Halloween.
193 6.7 6.612. Pontypool (2008)
Pontypool's setup verges on brilliance: a radio DJ (Stephen McHattie, in a star-making performance), who makes his living with his words, must contend with a deadly virus that's somehow spread through the speech. Furthering the irony is the fact that the only way he can find out what's going on outside is through audio reports by the station's roving reporter. It's a lyrical, intelligent, admirably restrained film that turns viewers' imaginations upon themselves as they picture the mayhem that surrounds the studio.
42 6.4 5.813. Home Movie (2008)
516 6.1 6.414. Dead Snow (2009)
156 5.9 5.715. Deadgirl (2008)
74 5.3 616. Dorothy Mills (2008)
This unpredictable, multi-layered Irish mystery tells the tale of a skeptical child psychologist fighting against small-town superstition when she treats a troubled girl whom the townsfolk believe can channel spirits. Not terribly scary, but profoundly affecting, blessed with wonderful storytelling and soul-stirring performances.
61 6.5 5.617. From Within (2008)
50 6.3 5.218. Laid to Rest (2009)
28 5.7 5.919. End of the Line (2007)
From writer/director Maurice Devereaux, who gave us the enjoyable killer game show flick Slashers a few years ago, comes another overlooked gem -- this one featuring the refreshingly original storyline of a group of passengers trapped on an immobile subway train with a religious cult whose members believe that they can save souls by killing people. What it lacks in production value it makes up for in gory action, apocalyptic atmosphere and a nuanced script that doesn't go the easy route of painting all of the cult members as unsympathetic psychos.
12 5.4 6.120. Before the Fall (2008)
Also known as Tres Dias, this Spanish thriller positions a fairly simple tale about an escaped serial killer seeking revenge on the family who helped capture him within the backdrop of an impending apocalypse, as the Earth is about to be hit by a meteor. Chilling and heartbreaking with surprising moments of humor, Before the Fall raises questions of morality, love, loyalty and the value of life when all life as we know it is about to end.
566 7.3 7.121. Thirst (2009)
55 5.4 622. Infestation (2009)
Calling this the best SyFy channel movie to date is a dubious compliment at best, but that doesn't detract from the high entertainment value of this horror-comedy about a giant big invasion, which is more smartly written, funnier and has better comedic performances than many so-called comedies released in theaters. You have to wonder why they didn't go with a more campy title, though, like Bug Off! or Get the Bug Out of Here!
1306 7.1 7.323. The Road (2009)
200 5.3 5.624. The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations (2009)
173 5.9 6.325. Sauna (2008)
300 5.7 6.126. Carriers (2009)
Mining ground similar to The Road, Carriers captures the sobering desperation of humankind in the midst of a highly contagious global pandemic. Dark, emotional and deliberately paced, it's as much drama as it is horror, avoiding played-out Hollywood theatrics, over-the-top gore and any semblance of a happy ending -- thus, it was too hard of a sell for a wide release.
25 5.2 527. Red Mist (2008)
66 5.5 5.228. The Thaw (2009)
130 6.5 6.329. Cold Prey (2006)
54 5.4 5.830. Night Train (2009)
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