The 50 Best Horror Films Of All Time

The best horror films of all time…

horror

Alien (1979, Scott)Horror begins and ends with “Alien” as far as I’m concerned. I am a sci-fi guy and Ridley Scott’s was THE guy to take that genre and plant his alien seed, seamlessly crossbreeding it with true and claustrophobic horror. The resulting ingestion period spit out not just the best piece of horror ever seen but one of the best examples of the cinema experience period. The post-“2001,” post “Star Wars” story and visuals expanded the outer reaches of science fiction and did something no science fiction film ever did: make space feel real and intimate as a crew of blue collar space, uh, people encounter an alien… not so much monster but parasite. It’s hard to say what works “best” about the film. For my money it’s the “Psycho” switch–a third of the way into this film when Tom Skerritt, the only “name” actor in the film next to Harry Dean Stanton when it was made, was killed we were left without a stable center and that make the film feel up for grabs. Enter Sigourney Weaver, the unlikely and at the time unknown star. Along the years and after fighting and endless hoard of these creatures her motto could be “I’ve known you for so long that I don’t know anything else” and I would say the same thing about this flawless film because I can’t think of horror without first thinking of “Alien.”

  1. Alien (1979, Scott)
  2. Evil Dead II (1987, Raimi)–The funniest and most inventive horror film ever made. Almost a cartoon. And has any other horror protagonist gone through as much as Bruce Campbell?
  3. The Thing (1982, Carpenter)–the best remake ever made by the best horror director ever.
  4. The Host (2007, Bong)–funny, sad, scary.
  5. Let the Right One In (2008, Alfredson)–best film of 2008.
  6. Day of the Dead (1985, Romero)
  7. The Exorcist (1973, Friedkin)–gets credit for legitimizing horror films in a way nothing else had before or has since. Also becaus it’s really good. Ruined my childhood though.
  8. Videodrome (1983, Cronenberg)–long live the New Cronenberg.
  9. Demon Night: Tales from the Cript (1995, Dickerson)–I am not ashamed to write that “Demon Night” is good enough to warrent a top ten spot. The film has the structure of a Western but is horror all the way. Goofy but intense.
  10. 28 Weeks Later (2007, Fresnadillo)–“Weeks,” not “Days.” Give us a “Months!!!!”
  11. Antichrist (2009, von Trier)–too soon to tell exactly how good it is but it will always be scary. But is it horror? Yes.
  12. Jacob’s Ladder (1990, Lyne)–best twist ever.
  13. Rosemary’s Baby (1968, Polanski)–stay strong, brotha!
  14. Re-Animator (1985, Gordon)–the only good film based on a Lovecraft story.
  15. Cemetery Man (1994, Soavi)
  16. The Ninth Gate (2000, Polanski)
  17. Thirst (2009, Park)
  18. Shaun of the Dead (2004, Wright) –2004, the best year for zombie  movies ever.
  19. May (2002, Mckee)–a fantastic and classic indie cult horror movie that’s “Welcome to the Dollhouse” meets “Frankenstine.”
  20. Screamers (1995, Duguay)–a true and totally bleak 90s cult sci-fi horror hybrid. This film will never be liked.
  21. Phantom of the Paradise (1974, De Palma)
  22. The Cabnet of Dr. Caligari (1920, Wene) The first horror film ever.
  23. Blade II (2002, del Toro)
  24. Event Horizon (1997, P Anderson)
  25. The Last Man on EarthOmega Man, the remake, is better (and one of my favorite movies of all time) but “Last Man” is more true to its horror roots. As for “I Am Legend”… well, lets not talk about it. Vincent Price is a one-of-a-kind horror movie actor and this is his best film because he plays it so real rather than campy.
  26. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992, Coppola)–not a Coppola fan but his interpretation of Dracula is visionary and way ahead of its time. Gary Oldman’s depiction of the Count stands as the best movie monster performance ever.
  27. Land of the Dead (2006, Romero)
  28. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994, Craven)–Way better than his old Nightmare. As Craven films go, NM is Scream before there was a Scream. The horror re-imagining stars the actress from the first “Nightmare,” Heather Langenkamp, playing the actress from the first “Nightmare.” Wes Craven’s even in it playing Wes Craven, a director haunted by his Freddy creation! Sooooo meta. And soooo scary!
  29. Slither (2007, Gunn)–a rare film that remembers that horror films are also allowed to be fun.
  30. Shadow of the Vampire (2001, Merhige)
  31. Nosferatu (1922, Murnau)–watch the above back to back with “Nosferatu” for a great night, muahhaha.
  32. Army of Darkness: Evil Dead (1992, Raimi)
  33. Halloween (1978, Carpenter)
  34. The Hills Have Eyes (2006, Aja)
  35. MST3K’s Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
  36. Quarntine/[rec] (2008)
  37. In the Mouth of Madness (1994, Carpenter)–this self aware, Lovecraftian horror film, about a horror writer, is one of the most overlooked horror films in the history of the genre.
  38. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000, Kawajiri)
  39. Don’t Look Now (1973, Roeg)
  40. Dawn of the Dead (2004, Snyder)–the remake is better than Romero’s version. I said it.
  41. Dressed to Kill (1980, De Palma)
  42. Deep Red (1975, Argento)–have to say it grew on me. Argento’s best and most focused effort.
  43. Hostel II (2008, Roth)–people really dislike this film.
  44. The Birds (1963, Hitchcock)–evil birds? WTF? Sharks, yeah; lions, sure; alligators, okay; insects even but birds??? Here is a film that really should not have worked if you only looked at it on paper… but it’s Hitchcock. I love that the firm almost apocalyptic.
  45. Lord of Illusions (1992, Barker)–not many people know about this film. And they all suck.
  46. Eyes Without a Face (1960, Franju)
  47. The Hour of the Wolf (1968, Bergman)–Bergman? Horror? Yes!
  48. What Lies Beneath (2000, Zemeckis)
  49. Interview with the Vampire (1994, Jordan)–I grew up on this film and am a huge fan of Anne Rice (I know, I know). That the film does not hold up well is why it missed the list.
  50. Martin (1973, Romero)–This loser vampire story (an awkward kid likes to drink blood) is most unique non-horror approach to this horror film I have ever seen. Oh, and this film does not star Martin Lawrence.

Just Missed the List…

  • Cronos (1996, del Toro)
  • The Fury (1978, de Palma)–X-Men meets Scanners.
  • 28 Days Later (2002, Boyle)–would be in the top twenty if it weren’t for the abysmal last act set in a military base. What a way to ruin a potential classic.
  • The Prophecy (1995, Widen)–Christopher Walken as an evil angel, Eric Stoltz as a good angel, Elias Koteas as the hero and Viggo Mortensen as Satan. God, how I love the 90s!!!
  • Exorcist III (1990, Blatty)–underrated and unfortunately criticized horror sequel. It also contains the most scary and well shot horror scene of all time. One word: hallway)
  • Phantasm–saw it for the first time not to long ago and it’s brilliant. So much more than that movie where a tall guy shoots metal balls at you. Coscarelli created one of the truly unique post Halloween horror movies.

 

Note: Though they exhibit horror elements sci-fi action movies like “Aliens” or “They Live” or “Predator” are not, by my definition, horror first and foremost. There’s a lot of close-calls in this genre. For instance, are “Mulholland Dr.,” and “Eraserhead” horror? Is this month’s “Antichrist” really horror? Is “Jaws” horror? And finally, do serial killer movies such as “Psycho” belong more to the horror or the thriller genre–unless its a killer movie like “Dressed to Kill” where the reality is heightened to a point of un-reality I would say the latter but I this is totally the eye of the beholder so you can call bullshit on me but please don’t because I love you.

Best Horror Performances

  • Gary Oldman, Dracula
  • Williem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire
  • Bruce Campbell, Evil Dead series
  • Sigourney Weaver, Alien series
  • Klaus Kinski, Nosferatu
  • John Cusack, 1408
  • Ray Parks as Fast Draw Earl McGraw at the beginning of From Dusk Till Dawn. Every second is flawless. And who would have thought that McGraw would go to be in three more Tarentino films (both Kill Bills as well as Grindhouse)
  • Jeff Goldblum in the Fly
  • Kare Hedebrant and Linda Leandersson, Let the Right one In.
  • Vincent Pryce in anything he did

Worst Horror Films of All Time: Campy-Bad Gets a Pass, These Are Bad-Bad

  1. Friday the 13th–take your pick. Jason is a boring and blunt “monster” that elicits no interest or dread. The plots are recycled and the characters he slashes are  not worth the slashing–I liked Freddy vs. Jason though.
  2. I Know What You Did Last Summer–a film about Jennifer Love Hewitt’s boobs… and not much else.
  3. The Grudge
  4. The Village
  5. The Exorcist 2: The Heretic
  6. Alone in the Dark–I heart to hate Uwe Boll
  7. Soul Survivors
  8. Any horror film with “In Space” in the title. “Jason X: IN SPACE,” “Hellraiser: IN SPACE,” and of course “Leprechaun: IN SPACE… In the Hood.”
  9. When a Stranger Calls–the most boring horror film of all time. ring. hello. silence. WHO  IS IT! WHHHHOOOOOOOOO! the end
  10. Rocky Horror Picture Show–I just don’t get it.
  11. One Missed Call
  12. The Hills Have Eyes 2
  13. Any movie with “Chucky”–I hate Chucky.
  14. Day of the Dead (remake)
  15. Any “Crow” movie that is not the first “Crow”
  16. Halloween III-H20
  17. Scream 3

Review: Paranormal Activity

  • What’s Good: The scene with the baby powder. The amazing anticipation anytime we’re in the bedroom seen above. Usually the ghost just fluffs pillows but it’s still really exciting.
  • What’s Not:A very shallow film. The film does not even try that hard to make us think that the characters “should” stay at home, I love how a visiting ghost Dr. gets creeped out by the energy in the house and screams “oh, and the presence will follow you wherever you go… lata!” on his way out.

It took about ten years but the horror genre finally gets its unlikely successor to “Blair Witch.” Which (haha) basically means that everyone will see this un-seen ghost movie once, and probably even like it (as I did), but, because it’s a gimmicky “reality” spook show where, as its non-fans love to point out, “nothing happens,” where do we go from there? Nowhere, this is the end of the line. Others will copy “Paranormal Activity” but none work because what’s there to copy? There is simply not much to hold on to or embrace in terms of actual content or any measure of horror mythology. I guess they could do “Paranormal Activity 2” set in the attic but anything short of that limits this phenomom’s had-to-be-there potential. Still, any successful horror movie that’s not “Saw” should be seen and supported.  

Funny how just a few days after the art house horror-esq movie “Antichrist” arrives another film with similarities such as (a) there are only two characters in the whole movie; (b) the two characters are married; (c) the characters are trapped, by their own design, in a confined space such as a house even though they could leave at any moment; (d) the wife in both relationships is deeply disturbed by inner demons that, in the case of “Paranormal Activity” but not “Antichrist,” are LITERAL demons.

This is what I call a Youtube horror movie where a house is haunted and… and… um, yeah, it’s haunted you see and… uhhhh, a dude captures it all on film with his new camera. His reasons for constantly shooting the house and his girlfriend is unclear because he doesn’t do anything with the footage except watch it and go “woah, look at that!” only to continue to stay in a house that is clearly going to hell. He’s a dumb ass horror movie character in other words. The premise is as a thin as the spectre. All the “scary” stuff happens in the bedroom, but only at night because ghosts love the night. (I have a theory that the new Leno show is so bad that the ghost snapped and decided it would rather entertain itself by scaring this retarded.) At night, the cool sound of wobbling energy (the ghost materializing?) is usually followed by a noise, a tap, a gust of wind or some sort of otherworldly ghostly resonance. If the movie “Jaws” has the tagline “Don’t go in the water” then “Paranormal Activity’s” should be “don’t go in the bedroom.” And on that level it really works! I for one scared the shit out of my sister who lives in my upstairs apartment and I urge everyone to do the same (to your sister, not mine please). The hauntings become more severe until the end where I must admit to have seen the different, and more subtle, ending than what was in the theatrical cut. I liked what I saw and hated the one you probably saw, which makes no sense. 

Either way, a similar but vastly superior handheld or Youtube horror film, with a real story and a tangible menace, is the underrated “Quarantine,” a remake of the equally good but most would say better Mexican film “[rec].” That film has rage zombies that tear apart human flesh while this one has… an invisible ghost that closes doors at night. That sounds (and sometimes is) underwhelming but “Paranormal Activity” accomplishes its very basic mission statement of slowly creeping us out. And its hard to hold a film accountable for a lack of substance when I can’t look away from a it? The film is not really directed and the story is not really told but the sum of the parts adds up to a really effective horror film that had me h(sp)ooked all the way through. As is the case with “Blair Witch,” “Paranormal Activity” the film will be forgotten but the experience of watching it is here to stay.

Paranormal Activity: B / Lasting Appeal: D

Review: Antichrist

antichrist

  • What’s Good: One of my unlikely favorite films of the year. A beautiful and stridently masterful work of art full of sensory images that’s also…
  • What’s Not:…really horrible and ugly. A Lars von Trier (“Dogville,” “Dancer in the Dark,” “Breaking the Waves”) film in other words. It’s also his best because for once he’s not hiding behind his art, he’s using it to attack us.
  • Playing Devil’s Advocate: The film is all sound and furry but no meaning. It’s a jumbled and mean mess of a movie. The only thing this film is about is how insane Lars von Trier is.  
  • “Antichrist.” Fuck! What are we to make of this? It’s hard calling something one of the best films of the year that makes you feel the worst you have felt all year. Lars Von Trier has set out to make a film about madness and the horrible things humans do to each other and has succeeded more than just about any director this side of Werner Herzog or Brian de Palma. The best way to describe the awesomely titled “Antichrist” is to say it will cut you and that if you watch it you will hate life for a least a day after watching. And that’s a compliment! Watching it hurts but its the kind of hurt we need and the kind of hurt that I could not look away from. As director Lars von Trier tells his simple yet disturbing tale of humanity’s masochistic dark side he heaps layers upon layers of artistic formalism and his approach is jagged and obvious but the effect reached his approach is undeniable and, after your done, unforgettable. I hate that Trier’s dirty parable was so well made because this is also a film I instinctively want to reject and tell people to stay away from. It’s quite mad but there’s genus in its madness and there’s no getting around that.

    “Antichrist” has only two characters, one a man and Other (capital o) a woman, who, by the end are both stripped of their humanity in almost every way possible including their gender markers i.e. gentiles. The man is a headstrong psychiatrist that seeks to enforce reason to chaos and the woman, his wife, is… um, crazy. During an opening sequence that is best described as a avant-garde horror commercial porn (classical music, slow motion, black and white, and, wha!!!, a shot of actual hardcore sex done by what I hope to dear god is body doubles), the couple’s son wakes up somewhere atop a hi-rise building, sees his parents having sex (in slow-mo!) and pulls a Clapton by heading straight for the window, falling to his death which is probably what I would do I if my dad was Williem Dafoe and I saw him boning my mom. Anyways, this tragedy sets off a chain of events that drives the mother to the point of Freudian madness (I have a hunch that she was a bit off before the accident) and, it goes without saying, in bad need of help. The interesting thing is that the “help” is what hurts. Is it a good thing or perhaps a horrible thing that her husband is qualified in “helping” people with “problems.” A few dozen night-terrors/angry-sex-beat-downs later and the couple are off to the woods, a lake house called Eden. As a qualified therapist, the husband’s project and maybe even experiment becomes his own wife whom he psychoanalyses to death! She is stricken with a condition that is obvious in origins but mysterious in its symptoms. This vague and debilitating illness, depicted with haunting perfection by actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, dominates the narrative and, if you look at it in terms of gender issues, touches upon themes of male hegemony and witch trials. She tells him the woods are the first, make that second, thing she fears most in life so… yeah, off to the woods they go. Here, the film has all the makings of a genuine horror story. Horror fans take note, the “horror” is psychological, metaphorical, tonal and achingly poetic. There are no monsters or flesh eating viruses. And the Antichrist in question is not of the “Omen” variety. 

    “Antichrist” is ripe with ostentatious imagery that claws at the screen and burns some nasty shit in your head that you won’t soon forget despite wanting to. Trees, hills, grass, animals, acorns, man made tools and of course the historical pictures depicting man persecuting women throughout the ages. The symbolism, allegories, Biblical metaphors, Freudian signs, surrealist imagery or whatever else you want to call what von Trier is doing here is handled with a most heavy hand but not unsuccessfully applied if you take the whole film into account. The story will be moving along in its own peculiar way and all of a sudden Trier will cut to a slow motion tableau or dissonant visual balled. Williem Dafoe for instance will be talking a walk in the woods while on the way to the couple’s cabin and, wham, his beautifully ugly mug (Trier makes great use of the actor’s amazing features) is now staring at the camera (and by extension us!) as the film cuts to strange and off-putting images of, say, a female deer giving birth as it trots away or a fox eating itself or a baby bird falling to its death. As these disturbing (in ways we can’t always place or consciously articulate) images wash over us the film further adds to the rich-to-a-point-of-choking atmosphere by cueing menacing, David Lynchian sound chords. These alienating, distorted and perhaps hallucinatory asides that characters experience occur more and more frequently once the couple in in their cabin until a point comes where the viewer realizes that the asides are now the norm because the weird shit has taken over the film completely. The film and its characters become consumed by the sadistic and controlling artist. So, then, let it be said that Trier is the monster of this horror spectacle.

    The film has been called misogynistic and that is… bull shit. Film academics are so politically correct these days that if a film disturbs us we scramble to dismiss it or classify it as something outmoded or the work of an “angry white male” and, thus, unworthy of serious consideration. That’s sad because it prevents a real dialogue from taking place. Yet all this film wants is for such a thing to take place. Every second is a prod to the viewer be it a pin prick to our intellectual side or a full frontal assault on our sensitivities; Trier plays with the viewer’s instinctual impulse to both look away and yet also sneak a peek a horrible things. Like the fox consuming its own self from head to tail, its almost as if “Antichrist” wants the viewer denounce it because that only proves its point. At Cannes this year the film got an anti-award for its horrible views towards women. Okay, but the jury then awarded Charlotte Gainsbourg, the wife, with a best actress award (and rightfully so). So which is it, fuck-wads? While bad things happen to a woman, bad things also happen to a men and, I must add, women do bad things to men and men do bad things to women. In other words: bad things happen to people! 

    If I haven’t referred to the characters by name it’s because they don’t have them: she (Gainsbourg) is called Her while he (Dafoe) is called He and the two make life a living and literal hell for each other. That’s practically the thesis of this piece! The film in other, simpler words, is in one sense about the evils we do to each other but is really about the evil we have inside us innately. In one intense scene (aren’t they all?) Gainsbourg says that nature “is the devil’s playground” and this theme is consistently evoked by Trier through the mise en scene. Pine cones drop like a-bombs, animals watch as if emissaries of the devil and dirt hits buried bodies like with w real feeling of organic weight. Like some twisted Werner Herzog film, nature does indeed have plans for the two. Nature is beauty and all-giving (a female trait) but it also destroys and kills (male). Above all, the film makes us see and FEEL that, while human nature is a force of darkness, its also natural. Humans at their core, and if viewed with human constructs such as logic and morality, are evil. If nature is the devil’s playground then human are the devil itself. The Jeckle and Hyde horror movie twist is that the monster was inside us all along.

    During one of the many day dreams we experience a fox, after eating its own tail, turns to Williem Dafoe and actually speaks. “Chaos reigns” he growls. I laughed at the ridiculousness of this absurd moment (which are not uncommon by the way) but at the same time was haunted by the lasting impression it left–one of surreal hopelessness and total consumption at the hands of the chaotic void from which we all spring from and perpetuate. As the final shot (which appears at first to be ants walking up a hill… except they’re not ants, they’re people–women to be exact) fades the parting line of the film is a dedication to Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. I laughed again here because it should have been David Lynch.

    Grade: A

    Review: Zombieland

    • What’s Good: A bright and fun zombidy. Funny horror films are making a comeback and that there’s the best cinematic trend of 2009.
    • What’s Not: Way too short. The film is so fun I wanted more. Though I really feel the amusement park final act could have been reworked or even rethought.   

    Mah zambah eeeeett harmanz brahnz…nerrrgggg….orhhh, nnnnnh brahnz thhhhann uurrr thhhheennn goooo merveeee urrr waaaacchhh….lkkee ehhhhttt loooot… almmm aaaa gooooo aaaa brahnz.

    I’ve never seen a zombie movie in which characters squirt on some hand sanitizer after smokeing a gaggle (what is the plural term for a zombies anyway?) of undeads. I’ve also never seen one in which the cause of the zombie plague is revealed to be bad hamburger meat. “You’ve heard of mad cow? well this is mad human” the protagonist states in the most casual, matter of fact manner possible. I once thought that the splendid and, at the time of their release, refreshing combo of Max Brooks’ deadpan “historical” zombie fiction satire novel “World War Z” and the only Romero approved post Romero zombie film ever, “Shaun of the Dead,” was the logical end-point for outre zombie humor. But, like a glistening appitezing nugget of brain matter, newcomer Ruben Fleiscer’s palatable, instantly/insatiably enjoyable “Zombieland” has come along to prove that not only is it not the end of zombie humor but that there may be no end in terms of comic possibilities. Zombies are funny: this film laughs at them.

    This may be the best zombie movie ever made that, on the diegetical surface, adds almost nothing new or notable to the genre except for that whole mad human virus origin. There’s nothing really original about the film but, like a lot of simple but fun comedies, there doesn’t need to be. This isn’t a parody either, which would have been quite easy if the influx of trendy zombie student films is any gauge. Like any post-human meal, the film is all parts: the humor of “Shaun,” the last stand guts and bravado of “Dawn of the Dead,” and the fourth wall breaking aesthetics of the Russian horror cluster fuck “Night Watch.” The nebbish, irritable bowl surviving protagonist, who is the kind of character that would result if Woody Allen had an ass baby with Holden Caulfield, learns to live by the creed of a boorish new partner he encounters on the road to nowhere, that of “enjoy(ing) the little things” in an existence full of pants shitting dread (and I mean that literally). He’s right, and why not apply that dime store philosophy to the film because once you as the viewer stray off the path to look at the big things (like structure, plotting and the entire second half of the film) you see how unremarkable “Zombieland” actually is. The little stuff  –consisting of mostly the main character describing details of his world, quick one liners and sight gags– though, it’s got covered and covered so well that you aren’t even aware of anything else.

    The film stars Jesse Eisenberg who was in “Adventureland, of which “ZombieLAND” is nota sequel though oddly enough it is also set in an amusement park, and “The Squid and the Whale.” In a welcome turn of events, Eisenberg is the new Michael Cera for people who don’t think Michael Cera is all that in terms of range or humor or, uh, range of humor. Eisenberg is fantastic because its not often we get to see a horror movie protag spazzing (as opposed to shooting) his way through a zombie apocalypse. This kind of fragile, self effacing personality works really well within the usually rigid confines of this subgenre. Woody Harrlson is the aforementioned partner who gets a lot of laughs out of his hillbilly act of shooting first and asking dumb questions later (ah, I love Woody). Playing a mix between father figure and frat buddy, Woody steals the show and doesn’t even have to try that hard to push the laughs as I suspect he’s just naturally funny. Like that squirrel from “Ice Age,” the running subplot where Woody searches high and low for one of the last remaining Twinkies on earth is perfect in its genus stupidity. Another big time show stealer is a cameo that I won’t mention even though it will very quickly grow become legend–the thrill of not seeing this cameo coming added so much to the experience of watching “Zombieland.” The film also stars Emma Stone, who is Mila Kuntis for people who don’t think Mila Kuntis is all that which, admittedly, is not as many people as Cera but… getting sidetracked, sorry. Her partner is played by the significantly better actress Abagael Breslin and the two gals, in another nice genre/character twist, are the masculine troublemakers who constantly one up the male duo. Breslin and Harrilson, the film’s “real” stars, ironically take a back seat to the lesser knowns but the formula works better that way. I am tempted to say this is a pivotal performance for young Breslin who proves here to be totally able to escape the soul crushing clutches of kid actor-dom.

    This is not just a zombie movie but a zombie road trip movie. We don’t get many of those even though it seems like an obvious setting. Sure, to some degree, almost all Z movies start off all road trippy but most if not all settle into a semi-logical narrative holding pattern where the running characters find themselves cornered by the horde of flesh eaters in a house or bunker or tall building or barn or take your pick. This film starts on the road and stays on on the road and if it can be faulted for anything it’s that it isn’t long enough! “Zombieland” really could have used a longer middle section –more random zombie bashing fun or weird antidotes or, my favorite, zombie “kill of the week” flashbacks– but I think the writers and director felt like they had to cram in an obligatory plot when that is the least interesting and/or essential part of what makes “Zombieland” so entertaining.  

    Getting back to the road, I am reminded of one of my favorite current run graphic novels called “Walking Dead” by Robert Kirkman. That sprawling series, however brilliant it tends to be, has zero sense of humor about zombies or the absurd situations humans find themselves in a world run by them. This film on the other hand contains a lot of humor and even lot of heart but not much else. The writing does a fine job of relaying the first two aspects and doesn’t even bother with trying to establish anything else. Again, it has not obligation to so it won’t be faulted. The directing is also interesting in that it starts off in the vein of Zach Snyder–the slow motion zombie attack on fat people, business people, old people etc. opening credit montage (a stylized hoot) and a manic introduction to the ways of world we now live in implies that the film is going to hit us with a flurry of style and gore but it wisley levels off into a more standard, unobtrusively made horror comedy that allows great sight gags and character moments to be the real focus.

    Is this movie a zombie classic? I’m not sure. The jokes, often too clever by half but clever nonetheless, need some time to settle with me (will it hold up on a second viewing… I think so) but I feel this one has a good shot of enduring and, now that it’s made some money, hopefully even becoming a series. As I said in my “Drag Me To  Hell” review. we could use more humor in our horror.

    grade: B

    Paper Street Emmys: Ten Best Shows

    forget the Emmys, my vote for the best shows on TV goes to…

    1. Lost season 5

    The best show on TV right now is “Lost.” That’s it. List closed. Nothing on television came close or even tried to come as close. The formula for success these last few years owes just as much to the show’s blessed lack of filler episodes as it does the twisty turny back-to-the-past-to-the-future plot which spun heads, blew minds, and confused the retarded mainstream network audience who found a lot more comfort in the millions of stand alone murder shows than this deep mythology that actually –how dare it– required abstract thinking! If I could go back in time a year just about the only thing I’d do is re watch this season and, okay, maybe also spare myself the trauma of watching “Transformers 2.” Season’s 4 and 5 of “Lost” will go down in my book as a miraculous return to form that surpasses what I thought the “form” or format was in the first place! That the lush visuals are as eye popping and layered as the retro storytelling (most of the season is set in the 70s, which allows Hurley to “make some improvements” on the Star Wars OS!!!), nuanced characters and the nerd god comic writer Brian K Vaughn make “Lost” the most pleasurable show on television in what’s gotta be years. And that’s despite the vacuous vortex of fan (un)favorites Jack and Kate. This a brave and brilliant show whose impact on TV’s landfill landscape will really be felt and missed once it finishes its run next year.

    2. Damages season 2

    This is a fantastic lawyer show. Next to “Law and Order” in the 90s, the best lawyer show ever shot in fact, though I’m not a fan of the genre so what do I know? Well, what I do know is that season 2 does not suffer from the sophomore slump that many claimed it had. They said it was overly complicated and that there were too many characters and then I issue them with a subpoena of whoop ass. Not sure if we are watching the same show because what I see here is a consistently entertaining drama that does not take the easy way out by being a Grisham-y thriller and, instead, is more “Murder One” in the way it submerges the viewer in a single case throughout the season (Glen Close vs. a dicky corporation vs. a superb William Hurt as the whistle blowing wife killing baby daddy) and surprises us by making characters we love bastards then making us love the bastards. I also give “Damages” credit for being the only show on TV besides the above one for using a flash forward framing device well.

    3. Breaking Bad season 2

    Controversial, I know, but this is the best show on AMC. I don’t know about it being great art like “Mad Men” but it is certainly great in terms of blending genres (death, drugs, action, family comedy genres) and pulling off the neat trick of being entertaining, perhaps even funny, and dramatically inclined as well. Dying teacher turned drug dealer Walter White’s wife (whoa, three Ws!), as always, is annoying. So is his wigger partner Jesse “I can’t do this anymore, dogggggg!” Pinkman. But that only makes us flock to Cranston’s wonderfully drawn/driven Walt even more, does it not? We literally feel his pain it comes from all angels as well as from within. And in a fantastic development/evolution of the character, his moral ambiguity is leaning ever more towards the sinister side as he gets, against all odds, healthier. Before he had nothing to loose, now he has something to live for… and a lot to loose! If this keeps up the show’s going to have a lot of dark stuff to work through in subsequent seasons. Is redemption possible? Really, really solid stuff… except, of course, for the mind numbingly stupid opening flash-forwards this season depicting a stuffed animal in a bombed out pool leading up the season ender that, with a literal explosion of suckage, is trying to be “Lost” or, god, I don’t know what.

    4. Smallville season 8–Wait, wait, come back! I haven’t lost it! Hey look, I even put “Mad Men” on my list to make up for my obsequious “Smallville” love, okay. This is an indulgence but an indulgence I’m proud to defend (which is more than “Hero” fans could do these last few years) if you’ll hear me out. This show is not considered good by the public, it’s not critically respected and it’s not even a niche show like “Supernatural.” For Christ’s (or Jor-El’s) sake, even “Smallville” fans are sick of “Smallville!” Bah! That it’s still on the air sometimes feels like a gift to me and me alone because I’ve never come into contact with an admirer. Whatever, season 8, coming off a good IMO (but, again, unpopular) season 7, was spectacular. Gone is Lana and the puppy love. Gone is the farm and city of Smallville (they should have changed the name of this show then, huh). Gone even is Lex Luther of all people (previously the best aspect and actor of the show). Here is a “grown up” Clark who is now a reporter at the Daily Planet in Metropolis and now acting halfway straight with his emerging feelings for Lois Lane. The usual array of lame plots and gags and, sigh, Lois Lane Lame (Erica Durance is so bad that I can’t look away) still exists but the show as a whole feels renewed and exciting to a point where it’s almost a new show. I should credit the show for subbing in the great comic writer Geoff Jones (I’m NOT a DC guy but even I’ve read and love his Green Lantern series), who, in just a few episodes (one nifty one has a team from the future assisting this boy Clark who “doesn’t even act like the man of steel” to defeat Brainiac) justifies and even argues in favor of the retconned existence this show’s “world,” is an enormous honor. It would be  one thing to say it’s all Geoff but it’s not. The “big” episodes are some of the best of the series. All that plus… Doomsday.

    5. Venture Brothers Season 3

    I adore this show and this season. Not just because it’s the most coherent and structured narrative being spun on Adult Swim but because season 3 found the Venture team looking a lot more reflective and, uh, a lot more nude too (the uncensored DVDs are a eye gouging blast–just wait till Dr. Venture jumps in a hot tub in all his glory… with a bomb strapped to him to boot). From the secret League of Extraordinary Gentlemen take off (set years before whatever date or universe “Venture Bros” is set in) to Sampson’s military origins (he answers to a guy that looks like a grizzled Sergent Slaughter with one addition: he has giant breasts) to poor Rusty’s childhood trauma (Papa Venture was a huge dick… literally), this season could have just provided more random fun (violence and humor need not always have a purpose on Adult Swim after all) but it instead chose to deepen the show’s increasingly madcap mythology.

    6. 24 season 7–I love what I’m about to write: 24 is back!

    7. Aqua Teen Hunger Force season who the F knows?

    Perhaps my favorite show of all time. That said (and not said lightly): this is not one of the best seasons to date and I’m not saying that just because I have no idea what season the show is currently in exactly–I think the last four unaired episodes of season 5 were grafted or reused for season 6 but I have no fucking idea why!!! Certainly, though, this modernist (or surreal, or postmodern or whatever else they’re selling) animated show is unlike anything on TV. Last year I loved the underground creature/curvy PC repair girl (don’t ask) “CHUD” story because, well, any episode that shows Frylock for what he is (a lonely, needy, repressed creep) is instantly great. And of course how can I forget any episode that features a hairless Wookie? God damn! And the return of the “Dickasode” Dick Man was the dick flavored cherry on top, who, instead of attempting to leave the planet on a jet made of dicks, this time goes undercover as the toothfairy to makes a ship out of, yes, teeth… POWERED BY DICKS (but not really)! And what can be said about the live action episode? Erm, I’m still trying to figure that one out. Lots of fun. Lots of WTFs. Lots of meat, fries and master milkshakes. I hope it lasts forever.

    8. True Blood season 1 and 2

    It took me sooooo long to make the leap and watch/commit to “True Blood.” It’s not that I was not keen on the subject (I practically have a tattoo that says “I heart gay vampire shit”) or the pedigree (Alan Ball, whose “Six Feet Under” was as good as it was infuriating)  but, rather, than I knew I would like the show which is “Twilight” for people with a sense of humor. So of course I finally watched and, yes, finally fell in love with the deep fried southern horror cheese. Vampires have made a comeback these last few years and I like that the mythology here does not take itself as serious as just about any other vampire mythology. It’s refreshing to laugh at vampires and the people who love/hate/fuck em and the writing team provides just enough cultural/political relevance to keep it from being total fluff. But mostly, it’s fun in a woman porn sexy kind of way. Even when it sucks (ha!), like the drunken orgy that was season 2’s main plotline (umm, “True Blood” did you forget this is a VAMPIRE show!), it’s laid back cornball charm is always on display and always hard to resist. Or perhaps I’ve just been glamored into liking the show.

    9. Darker than Black series

    The best new anime since “Death Note” is one that’s a lot harder to describe. “DTB” is not all out creepy and it does not resort to spiky hair/emo boy anime cliches. Stories move slow (most are two parts) and don’t always have true payoffs. What’s not lost is the show’s intense sci-fi driven wallop set in a world that’s… changed. By what? An alien dimensional portal that turns humans into X-Men (and I guess you could say X-files) like mutants. That we don’t know quite how is what makes this fantasy world so interesting. This show is mature and adult, but not talky and boring. We get really cool plots with international intrigue and cops but also hell gates and talking cats.

    10. Dexter season 3

    Gets worse with every passing season. So why do I still love “Dexter” do death? The character is that charming. You could put him in “Grey’s Anatomy” and I’d like it (provided he kills them)! This season sees Dex reverting deeper and deeper into the well of madness that is not serial killing so much as domestic life. WTF, NOOOOO! Here’s an idea, let’s have Dexter NOT buy donuts for his non-kids and not fight with his girlfriend and soon to be wife about where he goes or who he is. He’s Dexter, damn it, and he needs to be free!

    10.2 Mad Men season 2

    I’m not going to orgasim all over this show like everyone else but I’m also not going to deny its spellbinding power. What grabs me is simple. Complex characters engaged in struggles so internal that they hardly exist on the surface and are rarely spoken of directly. How… European. The show never opts for easy explanations and scene after scene plays out where we have no ideawhat, exactly, characters are thinking. The mystery, rooted in ordinary 60s corporate climate juxtaposed with “normal” domestic life, makes made “Mad Men” an enigma of sunny and dark proportions. A symbolic anxiety is always looming over the narrative and that cloud never seems to part, even when characters are smiling. It’s odd though that a show so smart can be so dumb when it comes to the anything but subtle shoehorning of real life historical moments like Cuban Missile Crisis that are juxtaposed with the inner turmoil of the characters (sooooo contrived and unoriginal). This season, which started off slow and worked itself into quite a little package with a great separation subplot, even managed to make Don Draper’s previously unexplained past compelling (the L.A. set episode “Jet Setter” in the pic above possesses the series best writing  and directing to date!), and this is something that season one failed to do.

    also great…

    • Battlestar Galatica–I must admit that I have not finished season 4.5. And what does it say about the show that I’m afraid or unwilling to finish out of fear of it sucking as much as I think it will? Hit or miss it may, but this is a landmark show that will be missed and, no, I’m not watching “Caprica.”
    • Eastbound and Down season 1–Kenny Powers is that good, deal with it motherfuckers!
    • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia–Gets better and better as television comedy gets worse and worse.
    • Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles–fare thee well sci-fi network show. You never stood a chance.

    In a few days I’ll give a mention to the best and worst actors, writers etc.