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02 January, 2011

2010 in Review

  
How can it be that yet another year has passed, seemingly in the time it takes to write about it, and once again here sits the Unimonster, older, fatter, and hopefully, wiser?  No sooner are we finished saying farewell to 2009 than here is 2011 kicking in our door.  Where does the time go?

At least it’s been a good year for those who love Horror Films, Science-Fiction Movies, Superhero Flicks, and the return of the good old Action Movie.  We had Iron Man back for another blockbuster outing and the three kings of ‘80’s Action films on-screen together for the first time ever.  The sequel to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY was scaring up audiences in theaters, THE WOLFMAN was bringing Classic Horror back, at least briefly, and a new generation learned not to fall asleep for fear Freddy would get them.  Mythology was hot, especially Greek mythology, with two big-budget films scaling Mount Olympus.

The year started with a post-apocalyptic mish-mash of a film, the Hughes Brothers’ THE BOOK OF ELI, starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldham, and Mila Kunis.  It was a bleak, dystopic vision of a nightmare world, just what one wants to see when sunk in the midst of winter doldrums.  Demons and Vampires made an early appearance, in LEGION and DAYBREAKERS, respectively.  We had the usual spate of sequels and remakes, including continuations of two of the biggest franchises in genre film, the TWILIGHT saga and the HARRY POTTER films, and both performed as expected.  As this is being written, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Pt. I, is still going strong in theaters, on track for eclipsing ECLIPSE.
Several names from the past were once more prominent in the world of genre film, most notably that of B-Movie master Roger Corman.  In 2009, he was honored with the Thalberg Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his life’s body of work.  This year, several of his 70’s and ‘80’s Drive-In features were released in newly remastered editions, in what was fittingly dubbed the Roger Corman Cult Collection.  Finally it appears that the undisputed king of the Low-Budget Movie is getting the recognition he deserves.  By any measure, it’s been a couple of good years for Roger.

Also in the news was another old friend—only not one of flesh and blood, but of ink and newsprint.  After twenty-seven years, during which the name and brand was sorely abused, Famous Monsters of Filmland once more took it’s rightful place on the newsstand.  A dedicated group of professionals, led by publisher Phillip Kim, and with the full blessing of Forry Ackerman’s estate, have resurrected this greatest of Monster mags.

Another resurrection of sorts was of everyone’s favorite “hostess with the mostess,” Elvira.  In September, she launched Elvira’s Movie Macabre on ThisTV, a syndicated broadcast network.  Happily for the Unimonster ThisTV is on a channel that is received in the Crypt, enabling me, for the first time in a long time, to enjoy a horror-host first hand.

In March, the Unimonster made the rounds at the HorrorHound Indy convention, which played host (no pun intended) to the largest gathering of Horror-Hosts ever assembled.  As reported in my write-up of the convention,

The occasion was a memorial service for Vampira, and all the great horror-hosts who have passed on.  As images of those departed hosts flashed on the screen, accompanied by a funereal dirge, a slow candlelight procession of horror-hosts made their way to the stage, extinguished their flames, then took their seats.  The master of ceremonies, Dan Roebuck’s Dr. Shocker, led the assemblage in a very fitting, very well deserved tribute to Vampira, and her alter ego Malia Nurmi.  At the ceremonies conclusion, the gathered hosts formed up on stage for a group photo, which captured 83 horror-hosts in one place at one time, easily setting a record for such an occurrence [Uni's Trip from the Crypt:  HorrorHound-2010, 3 April 2010].

Overall, it was a busy year in the Crypt.  Part of this is simply due to our getting back to a regular publishing schedule for the first time in more than a year.  But much of it owes to our senior correspondent Bobbie Culbertson, and her increased role in providing you with great reading material.  Though her name may appear only once or twice a month, her efforts are present in nearly every piece.  Whether in assisting in research for an article, sharing a rare movie from her extensive Vault, or giving us her unique view of, and confirmed passion for, Joel, Mike, and the Bots, Bobbie’s work touches every part of the Crypt each month.  Our hard work was recognized with another nomination for a Rondo Award, for which I am most grateful.  The fact that we didn’t win does nothing to diminish the thrill of being noticed, by both our readers and our peers.

Of course not all was fun and games in the world of Genre fandom this year.  For every diamond in the mine, there are a thousand just plain old rocks—and let me tell you, the genre movie fan had a lot of rocks thrown in their direction this past year.  From the horribly misconceived JONAH HEX, to yet another in the seemingly endless chain of SAW sequels, Hollywood had fans shucking, ducking, and diving all year long.
So settle back, pour yourselves a good stiff belt of your preferred configuration of ethyl alcohol esters, and relive the year that was… both the good and the bad.

1.)  Genre News Item of the Year
a.      Universal Studios Shamefully Ignoring the 75th Anniversary of James Whale’s THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.
b.     The Deaths of Patricia Neal and Kevin McCarthy.
c.      The Controversy Surrounding Robert Rodriguez’s MACHETE.
d.     The Global Success of James Cameron’s AVATAR.
e.      The Gathering of Horror-Hosts at the HorrorHound Indy convention in March.

There were many topics making news in the world of Genre film this past year, and as is often the case, most were not good.  One that was, however, was the worldwide phenomenon that was James Cameron’s film AVATAR [Ed. Note: AVATAR, a 2009 release, is ineligible for consideration for any of the movie awards for 2010].

Now, whether or not you’ve seen AVATAR (personally, I haven’t), and whether or not you liked it, it’s blockbuster success can be considered a very good thing for the Genre.  Yes, it’s success will guarantee a flood of cheaply produced rip-offs seeking only to exploit that success.  Moreover, by all accounts it was a heavy-handed, in your face, subtle as a tire iron to the kneecap message movie.  Still, it was enormously popular, both domestically and internationally.  It brought millions of people, including those who might not have considered themselves fans of Science-Fiction, into theaters to see a Science-Fiction movie.  Much as STAR WARS did three decades previously, it crossed over into audiences that wouldn’t normally be exposed to Sci-Fi, and some members of that audience will cross back, finding that first sample pleasing.  In the long run it will mean more Genre fans—and that’s never a bad thing.

If there was some controversy attached to Cameron’s film, it was nothing compared to the firestorm that raged over Robert Rodriguez’s MACHETE.  The film, an expansion of the fake trailer Rodriguez included in GRINDHOUSE, the homage to 1970’s Times Square Cinema co-directed with Quentin Tarantino, borrowed a standard theme from Blaxploitation Films of the ‘70’s, giving it a 21st-century twist in the form of illegal immigrants vs. racist good-ol’-boys.  How one perceived this film depended greatly on where one stood on the topic of immigration, legal or otherwise (and not a topic of discussion suitable for this web-site).  That topic is a vital one, one that must be the focus of a serious national discourse—not a B-grade Exploitation Film.  I dislike social lectures disguised as entertainment, regardless of my opinion on the matter in question.  MACHETE wasn’t a bad movie; it might even have been a very good movie.  The trouble was there was too much message in the way to know for sure.

To loyal readers of The Unimonster’s Crypt, it’s common knowledge that my first love is the classic Horror Films of Universal Studios, the Horror Films that laid the foundation for my love of all things scary.  Those films are embodied in the iconic monsters of my childhood—Dracula, the Wolf-Man, the Mummy, and the greatest of them all, Frankenstein’s Monster.  Arguably the greatest example of the Horror Film is James Whale’s 1935 sequel to FRANKENSTEIN, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Critics who favor it over its predecessor point to Whale’s superior use of subtle imagery in constructing an allegorical comparison between the Monster and Christ, as well as Karloff’s excellent performance and the improved technical effects.  Whatever your opinion on the relative merits of the two films, it is impossible to overrate the importance of both to the Horror cinema.  Therefore it astounds fans of these films that Universal, the studio that gave birth to these legendary creations, the studio that owes it very existence to the Monsters, could so callously disregard the 75th anniversary of so important a film.  We who love the Monsters have grown accustomed to Universal’s cavalier attitude towards its greatest progeny—or so we thought.  However, the corporate suits with no sense of history, or any connection to the studio’s past, always manage to surprise us.

Likewise, to those of us whose roots run to the B-movies and Creature Features of the 1950’s, two movies defined Science-Fiction in that decade—1951’s THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and 1956’s INVASION OF THE BODY-SNATCHERS.  The former starred Michael Rennie as a benevolent alien, come to Earth to convince humans to change their ways, and Patricia Neal as the Earth woman who aids him in his mission.  Neal brought a strength and intelligence to her portrayal that was rare for that period, helping to make it one of the most memorable genre films of the decade.  The latter film told the story of a small-town doctor in California, played by Kevin McCarthy, who discovers that his friends, neighbors, even those he loves are being replaced by alien duplicates.  It was perhaps the most frightening, effective Science-Fiction film of the Decade, and much of that is due directly to McCarthy’s terrific performance as Miles Bennell.  Both Neal and McCarthy passed away in 2010, and we in the Horror community have lost two more connections to a time when stars were stars, and the Classics we now venerate were playing in our neighborhood Drive-Ins.

For most of us, however, the most solid connection to those beloved movies came in the form of a middle-aged man in a goofy costume, doing a bad imitation of Bela Lugosi.  I am speaking, of course of the archetypal Horror-Host, the reporters/news anchors/weathermen who, when their stations acquired the Universal Shock Theater package of films for broadcast in the late 1950’s, were pressed into service as hosts for these films.  Most weren’t looking for the extra work, few were compensated for it, but collectively they crafted a tradition that survives to this day, despite the death of locally originated programming and the rise of corporate broadcasting conglomerates.  This past spring, at the HorrorHound Indy convention, no fewer than 83 active hosts took the stage in a tribute to the first of their kind, Vampira, as well as all those of their number who had passed on.

When one considers the spectacle of 83 men and women in outlandish costumes filing one by one into the auditorium, flickering candles in hand, “somber” or “moving” may not be the words that spring to mind.  However, the ceremony managed to be both, as each host extinguished their flame as images of their absent forebears flashed across the screen.  There was humor in the service, of course, provided by Dr. Shocker and Joe Bob Briggs, Penny Dreadful and Count Gore.  But they never lost sight of the fact that this was a memorial.  As the gathered hosts assembled on-stage, the historical significance was not lost on the audience.  Never before has there been, and quite possibly never again would there be, such a gathering.  I’m proud to say that I was there in that audience to witness it.

2.)  Best Trend of 2010
a.      Burn-on-Demand DVD’s.
b.     The Renaissance of Roger Corman.
c.      High-Quality (and otherwise) Horror on Television.
d.     Digital 3D.

Several positive trends took place in the world of Genre film in 2010, making it an overall good time for fandom.  One that was making headlines all year long was the growing use of digital 3D processes, not only in production of the movies, but with the growing technological sophistication of HDTV’s and Blu-Ray players in home video applications as well.  Though three-dimensional movies are hardly new, at the risk of sounding cliché, this ain’t your granddaddy’s 3D.  The biggest boost to this clamor for 3D was James Cameron’s AVATAR, which made extensive use of it.  The Crypt, unfortunately, remains permanently ten years behind the times, technologically speaking, but I must say that improvements such as this makes me wish it were otherwise.

Another technological innovation that’s making waves through fandom is the increased use of Burn-on-Demand DVD’s for titles that lack sufficient demand to make keeping them stocked in inventory cost-effective.  This method of inventory control is a mixed blessing [see section below], in that it does allow smaller companies, such as Something Weird Video or Sinister Cinema, to make available some truly rare, hard to locate titles.  Quality may be an issue, and the presentation won’t be nearly what one is accustomed to with a regular, manufactured DVD—but when one is trying to locate a copy of Kroger Babb’s KARAMOJA, or Lewis and Friedman’s DAUGHTER OF THE SUN, there simply aren’t many other options available.

For the past several years, fans have awaited the coming of a Horror network on TV, one that will cater to our desires.  There have been fits and starts in that direction, but in every case they have come up against the insurmountable obstacle of getting enough market penetration to be financially viable.  They have fared somewhat better as web portals for the on-line delivery of media content, but even with that they can hardly be considered major presences in the genre.  But new developments may have rendered the question moot.  Recently, Horror and Science-Fiction programming has been erupting all over the dial, both on local broadcast and national cable stations alike.  Fringe, The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Supernatural, Medium, Ghost Hunters—just a few of the regular series that viewers have been treated to in recent seasons.  None have matched the hype (justified or not) given to AMC’s new blockbuster, The Walking Dead.  Based on the graphic novels of the same title, The Walking Dead premiered to huge ratings, not to mention both fan and critical acclaim.  I’ve not seen it myself (in an aggravating, insulting development, AMC has chosen to encode the program to prevent recording, preventing those of us without cable or satellite service [and yes, AMC, there are still some of us out here!!] from viewing the program), but if it hews closely to the style and storyline of the books, then it should be a winner.  At any rate, if the regular networks are willing to provide us Horror-starved fans with this wide variety of quality programming, then do we really need a dedicated Horror Channel?

The best trend of 2010, however, was that finally one of the greatest figures in the history of Exploitation film is getting the long-delayed, long-deserved recognition to which he’s so justly entitled.  Roger Corman’s career began in 1955, with THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS.  Fifty-five years later, he’s still active in the industry.  His films built American-International Pictures in the late ‘50’s, made Edgar Allan Poe cool in the ‘60’s, explored every area of Exploitation Film in the ‘70’s, and led the direct-to-video charge in the ‘80’s.  Half of Hollywood cut their teeth on a Corman production, including talents such as Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Nicholson, Joe Dante, Jack Hill, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, James Cameron, Dennis Hopper—these are just a few of the people to whom Corman gave a leg up in the business.  In a career that has lasted more than half a century, Corman has done nearly everything that can be done behind the camera, and a few things in front of them.  In 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finally saw fit to recognize his contributions with the Irving Thalberg Lifetime Achievement Oscar.  Then beginning this spring, the Roger Corman Cult Collection series of DVD’s hit the video store shelves and on-line retailers.  Comprised of some of his best work from the 1970’s and ‘80’s, Shout! Factory’s done a superb job with these old B-pictures, cleaning them up, adding commentaries, producing special features for them.  They’ve invested an amazing amount of care into films that most people regarded as less than great upon their release, and that’s in recognition that, thirty or more years after critics essentially wrote these movies off as disposable, they are still loved and appreciated by their fans.  That’s due in large part to the creative talents of one man, and it’s gratifying that Hollywood’s finally acknowledging what his fans have known for decades.

3.)  Worst Trend of 2010
a.      Burn-on-Demand DVD’s from Major Labels.
b.     The Switch to Video-on-Demand from more Traditional Rental Options.
c.      The Push to Convert to Blu-Ray from DVD.
d.     How much Longer Must We Put Up with the Nausea-Inducing Tween Pabulum that Passes for Vampire Movies Today?
e.      The Decline of Classic Horror.

While I’m generally in favor of anything that brings fans into the genre world, I must draw the line at the anemic, poufy, nancy-boy type of vampire so popular today.  The lineal descendants of the lace-wearing foppish vampires created by Anne Rice, and personified on-screen by Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in the execrable INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994), the sparkling, doesn’t-really-want-to-hurt-anyone, tween-idol variety of bloodsucker may have studios raking in the cash from pre-teen girls (and their parents).  Frankly, I for one miss the good, old-fashioned, unconflicted, heart of evil throat-rippers from days of yore.  It’s not that there haven’t been efforts to do vampire films that hearken back to that earlier style; this year’s DAYBREAKERS made the attempt, half-hearted as it might have been.  But when the third TWILIGHT film, ECLIPSE, earns more than $300 million at the box-office, producers have little incentive to try anything different.

That might be related to the overall decline in the appetite for Classic Horror.  While those who love the monsters, mad scientists, and maniacs of the ‘30’s through the ‘50’s haven’t felt their ardor cool, we can’t deny that demand for classic Horror has waned since it’s high point some five years ago.  Universal’s latest effort to reinvent one of their Classic Monster franchises, THE WOLFMAN, was a great film, yet was unable to break even at the box-office.  If this were one isolated instance of weakness on the part of a Classic Monster, then it might be overlooked.  But taken in context with the underwhelming reception previously given to VAN HELSING and THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR, and it’s easy to see that our beloved Monsters are about to be relegated to a hidden corner of Universal’s vaults yet again.  In truth, that has already begun, with the studio’s refusal to acknowledge the 75th anniversary of THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  While the fact of their reluctance to gamble further on the Monsters is understandable, their callous disregard for their own history is unforgivable.

Technology can provide some wonderful tools for filmmakers and fans alike, but as with all tools their effectiveness depends greatly on how they are used.  And the rush to embrace new technologies is fine—except when those who are doing the embracing wind up excluding those who aren’t quite so eager.  Though it’s manifested itself in various ways this year, this rush to push people, willing or not, into new technologies is the worst trend of 2010.  Whether it’s the push by major distributors to drive people to Blu-Ray instead of DVD, or the major-label distributors switching to Burn-on-Demand discs for titles that deserve better support, or companies like Netflix deciding that they’d rather just stream video to their customers, distributors and retailers are always on the lookout for cheaper, more profitable ways to deliver their products to the consumer.  And I have no problem with that.  All I ask is that they remember not everyone can afford to upgrade their home video libraries every time a new format comes along (frankly, a surprisingly large percentage of the Unimonster’s collection is still on VHS), or has the latest HDTV—Blu-Ray combination (once again, “… ten years behind the times …”), or cares to watch movies on a cell phone or while sitting in front of a computer.  The Unimonster is no Luddite, and I’m happy to welcome new technology.  But don’t drop the old until there’s at least 85% penetration with the new, and don’t try to force us, kicking and screaming, to accept the new before we’re ready.  And don’t cast us away because we aren’t.

4.)  Notable Passings
a.      Patricia Neal (1926-2010)—the star of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL also appeared as the wife of Fred Astaire’s character Ricky in 1981’s GHOST STORY.
b.     Kevin McCarthy (1914-2010)—his performance as Dr. Miles Bennell in 1956’s INVASION OF THE BODY-SNATCHERS made him a genre star; his cameo appearance in the 1979 remake reintroduced him to fans, and made him a Horror icon.
c.      Ingrid Pitt (1937-2010)—when Hammer Films began to introduce nudity to their Horror films, she was their leading female star.  Star of films such as THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, COUNTESS DRACULA, and rival studio Amicus’ THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD.
d.      Irvin Kershner (1923-2010)—though possessed of a full resume of genre work, including THE EYES OF LAURA MARS and ROBOCOP 2, he will be forever remembered as the director of STAR WARS, EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
e.      Roy Ward Baker (1916-2010)—one of the most prolific British directors of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, his credits include such Hammer and Amicus classics as QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, VAULT OF HORROR, and … AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS.
f.       Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010)—long before he became known as the undisputed master of parody movies, in titles like AIRPLANE, THE NAKED GUN, DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT, REPOSSESSED, and SCARY MOVIE 3 and 4, he starred as Commander J. J. Adams of the starship C-57D, in the Science-Fiction classic FORBIDDEN PLANET.
g.      Dino De Laurentiis (1919-2010)—one of Hollywood’s most successful producers, his list of genre credits range from 1968’s BARBARELLA and DANGER: DIABOLIK, through DEATH WISH, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, SILVER BULLET, HALLOWEEN II, and ARMY OF DARKNESS, to his most infamous production, the 1976 remake of KING KONG.
h.     Tony Curtis (1925-2010)—though his own genre work is limited to a spectacular performance as Albert DeSalvo in THE BOSTON STRANGLER, a rather forgettable one as Harry Erskine in MANITOU, and an uncredited voice-over in ROSEMARY’S BABY, his greatest contribution to the genre was in the form of his daughter, the definitive Scream Queen of the Slasher Film, Jamie Lee Curtis.
i.       Gloria Stuart (1910-2010)—while modern audiences recognize her as Rose, the elderly survivor of the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic, in James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster TITANIC, to Horror fans she is remembered as the beautiful star of two of James Whale’s greatest films of the early ‘30’s—THE INVISIBLE MAN, and THE OLD DARK HOUSE.
j.       Dennis Hopper (1936-2010)—one of the numerous graduates of the ‘Roger Corman film school’, his was a familiar face to fans of Exploitation Film in the late 1960’s.  In 1969 he made his most significant film as a director, the anti-establishment classic EASY RIDER.
k.     Meinhardt Raabe (1915-2010)—one of the few remaining cast members of the 1939 Fantasy classic THE WIZARD OF OZ, he was the last remaining Munchkin who had dialogue in the film.  As the Munchkin coroner, it was his task to pronounce the Wicked Witch of the East deceased.
l.       Frank Frazetta (1928-2010)—one of the greatest comic artists of the 20th century, his paintings gave definition to the literary creations of authors such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard.  His work transcended popular culture, appearing on everything from album covers to movie posters to magazine illustrations.
m.  Fess Parker (1924-2010)—to children of the ‘50’s he will forever be Davey Crockett; children of the ‘60’s remember him as Daniel Boone.  To B-Movie fans, however, he is Arthur Croddy, a pilot confined to a psychiatric ward following a close encounter with giant ants in THEM.
n.     Peter Graves (1926-2010)—a familiar face to fans of B-Movies, his appearances in such low-budget turkeys as KILLERS FROM SPACE, IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, BEGINNING OF THE END, and PARTS: THE CLONUS HORROR made him a frequent and favorite target of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 cast.
o.     Corey Haim (1971-2010)—the troubled young star of SILVER BULLET, THE LOST BOYS, and the WATCHERS lost a lifelong battle with addiction two and a half months after his 38th birthday.
p.     Zelda Rubenstein (1933-2010)—the diminutive Rubenstein became famous playing the psychic Tangina in Tobe Hooper’s POLTERGEIST, and afterward was often cast in similar roles.  Her distinctive voice could be heard narrating the cable reality show Scariest Places on Earth.
q.     Jean Rollin (1938-2010)—perhaps the most popular French horror director of the 1970’s, his films frequently combined sex and horror in equal measure, in titles such as LA VAMPIRE NUE (THE NUDE VAMPIRE), LE LAC DES MORTS VIVANTS (ZOMBIE LAKE), and LES RAISINS DE LA MORT (THE GRAPES OF DEATH).


5.)  Third Annual Induction to the Crypt of the Unimonster’s Catacombs of Distinction
a.      Basil Rathbone (1892-1967).
b.     Curt Siodmak (1902-2000).
c.      Frank Frazetta (1928-2010).
d.     Isaac Asimov (1920-1992).
e.      Malia “Vampira” Nurmi (1921-2008).
f.       Willis O’Brien (1886-1962).

Once more we gather to pay homage to those who have paved the way, those who laid the foundations that modern Horror and Science-Fiction have been built upon.  For the first time, the selection process was thrown open to a vote, and I must say I’m extremely pleased with the result.  The six inductees in the Class of 2011 may not be exactly who I would’ve chosen, but all are deserving of inclusion, and after all, that was the reason for the voting.

Every area of the genre world is represented here.  We have the Mother of all Horror-Hosts, and the Father of King Kong.  The artist who breathed life into the sword-and-sorcery epics of Burroughs and Howard, and the writer who molded modern Science-Fiction.  The man who made Sherlock Holmes an icon, and the one who conceived the Wolf-Man.  If not for them, the genre would not bear the rich history and tradition that it does.  If not for them, the Unimonster would not exist.

6.)  Horror-Host of the Year
a.      The Bowman Body.
b.     Elvira.
c.      Mr. Lobo.
d.     Karlos Borloff.

She’s easily the most recognizable Horror-Host now active, with a tight black dress, big hair, and even bigger—ah, talents.  She began her career in the spring of 1981, at KHJ-9 in Los Angeles, when her program, Movie Macabre, began it’s run.  She recently returned to the airwaves in a nationally-syndicated program—Elvira’s Movie Macabre.  Her name is Elvira, and even as she approaches her 60th birthday, she still rocks the Horror world.

The curvaceous clone of actress Cassandra Peterson, Elvira is a sexy, sassy, SoCal Valley Girl, with a generous helping of Morticia Addams (by way of Vampira) thrown in.  Maybe not the brightest ghoul in the graveyard, but certainly the best looking.  Peterson has her Elvira persona honed to perfection: sarcastic without being cutting or snide; risqué without being vulgar or trampy.  All the while, the bite in her humor is moderated by a self-deprecating style that is perfect for the character.

There’s little argument that Elvira has been the most commercially successful Horror-Host ever, parlaying her popularity into merchandise, comic books, Halloween costumes, home video, even to starring roles in two movies: ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK, and ELVIRA’S HAUNTED HILLS.  Her return to the television airwaves this past September brought joy to her legion of fans, not least of which is the Unimonster.

The mysterious host of Cinema Insomnia, a dark-haired, mustachioed, glasses-wearing man known only as Mr. Lobo, is rapidly becoming one of the most familiar hosts on the national scene.  Not only is the program syndicated nationally (as well as available on-line), but Lobo has also made frequent appearances in documentaries on the subject of Hosted Horror shows, including playing host for VIRGINIA CREEPERS: THE HORROR-HOST TRADITION OF THE OLD DOMINION, from Horse Archer Productions.

Mr. Lobo himself has also applied his talents in such diverse media as comic books, radio talk shows, trading cards, and music videos.  Much as Elvira did before him, he has become more than his program, spreading his influence throughout the Horror community.  Next July will mark Cinema Insomnia’s tenth anniversary, and Mr. Lobo promises it will be the best season yet.  I for one can’t wait.

The inclusion of the Bowman Body, the Horror-Host alter-ego of Bill Bowman, in the running for Horror-Host of the year might seem an odd choice.  After all, he left the airwaves in the late 1980’s, over twenty years ago.  The fact is however that the Bowman Body is hot right now, with interest in his career growing in light of a new documentary in the works from Sean Kotz and Horse Archer Productions.

Kotz, whose company brought us the excellent documentary VIRGINIA CREEPERS (mentioned above) in 2009, has a nostalgic love of Horror-Hosts that is apparent from his work.  When confronted by the vast amount of material that had been amassed on Bill Bowman for the earlier documentary, Kotz recognized the potential for a second film focused on Bowman’s career.

Bowman, who began his run as the Bowman Body on WXEX-8 in Richmond, Virginia, in June of 1970, was a balding, rumpled ghoul with an ever-present band-aid on his forehead.  As his shows would open, the first thing the viewer would see was his trademark sneaker and striped sock flopping out of his coffin, followed by his standard greeting—“Hi there Horror Movie fans…  With a Mummy as his sidekick, and a ukulele always at hand, he entertained Virginians for almost twenty years.  Though Bill Bowman has been off the air since the late ‘80’s, his fans still remember and love him.  That’s enough for us to pay tribute to him here.

Those same Virginians are now entertained by another Horror-Host, one who bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Rob Zombie on steroids.  Karlos Borloff, aka Jerry Moore, is the heavy-metal master of ceremonies of the Monster Madhouse.  Airing weekly on Fairfax Public Access (FPA-10), Borloff mixes Rock ‘n’ Roll, Giant Monster movies, and a costumed cast of crazies into a high-energy program that keeps his fans begging for more.

A prominent feature of Borloff’s Monster Madhouse is the frequent guest appearances by other Horror-Hosts, especially fellow Virginians Count Gore De Vol and Dr. Sarcofiguy.  This ‘cross-pollination’, the exposing of one host’s audience to other hosts, is a great thing for the tradition of Hosted Horror shows.  It reinforces the concept that these characters are not in competition with each other.  Rather, what benefits one hosted program benefits them all.  For his efforts in this direction, and for hosting an all around damn good show, Moore’s Karlos Borloff is The Unimonster’s Crypt Horror-Host of 2010.

7.)  Most Eagerly Anticipated Project of 2011
a.      GREEN LANTERN.
b.     SUCKER PUNCH.
c.      TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.
d.     HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Pt. II.
e.      SCREAM 4.

I must admit—I came late to the TRANSFORMERS party.  The first film pretty much escaped my notice.  I was already in my twenties when the original cartoon series aired, and quite frankly it never impressed me; certainly not enough to make me want to see a feature film version of a twenty-year old toy commercial.  But as the hype surrounding the sequel, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, began to penetrate my shell of indifference, I began to develop an interest in the franchise.  Okay, Megan Fox in the trailers didn’t hurt.  But when I saw the movie, I was bowled over by the action, special effects, and by the story itself.  Now I’m fully on-board, and waiting for the May release of TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.  Am I happy that Fox isn’t a part of the new film?  No—Hell NO (I’m not that old).  Let’s face facts—she was a big part of the franchise’s previous success.  And this installment is already facing an uphill struggle as the third film in a trilogy.  Typically, those often fail to live up to their predecessors.  But judging from the one trailer I’ve seen for the movie… well, I can’t wait until May.

In the late 1990’s Wes Craven reinvented the Slasher genre, giving it a sense of humor and a sense of cool with SCREAM.  Seemingly overnight, it became the most ripped-off concept in Horror.  The fact that that particular horse was beaten to death with an alacrity that would shock the most cynical of movie-fanatics doesn’t detract from the innovation and quality of the original, however.  Though the franchise suffered as time went on, it never degenerated into the straight-to-DVD crapfests that characterized its imitators.  Now, after eleven years, Craven is revisiting the franchise with a brand-new sequel, SCREAM 4.  Compared to that earlier time, the situation is not too different in the Horror Genre.  The first half of the ‘90’s was what I’ve described before as a ‘dead zone’, lacking much in the way of original Horror, and some could argue that, on the heels of SAW number WHO-GIVES-A-DAMN and the nineteenth Hollywood remake in a row, the phrase “original Horror” is an obvious oxymoron.  The one major difference between then and now is the fact that yet another sequel to a played-out franchise is unlikely to be in any way innovative.  Add to that the fact that Craven has spent the better part of the past five years revisiting his landmark films, often with disappointing results, and hopes are not high for this trip back to the 1990’s.  But with Craven directing this stroll down memory lane, results might be different.  I’m willing to take a chance in April and find out.

Nine years ago, fans of fantasy and magic began a journey down a long, twisting, progressively darker and more ominous path, following a boy wizard and his friends.  In July, that journey reaches its conclusion, with the release of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Pt. II.  If, just last month, you happened to read my review of the penultimate chapter in this saga [Ed. Note: The Screening Room: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Part I, 5 December 2010], then you know full well how much I’m looking forward to this movie, how long I’ve waited for this ending.  Those who are fans of the original novels have waited even longer.  In a little over seven months, that wait is finally over.

As a life-long fan of DC Comics, I’ve been patiently waiting for some of my favorite comic-book characters to make it to the screen.  True, my favorite super-hero, Batman, has been well represented (Joel Schumacher and George Clooney notwithstanding), and Superman has been a box-office bonanza.  However, the rest of the DC universe has suffered at the hands of Hollywood, most notably this year’s JONAH HEX.  Meanwhile, I’ve seen virtually the entire Marvel universe parade across the screen, multiple times.  Finally though, we fans of the Justice League are getting a little payback, with the June release of GREEN LANTERN.  Starring Ryan Reynolds in the title role, and directed by veteran (GOLDENEYE, CASINO ROYALE, EDGE OF DARKNESS) Martin Campbell, my second-favorite comic-book super-hero is making his long-awaited big screen debut.  The trailers that have been released so far are doing a great job of stoking the green fires for this one, and it comes in a very close second on the list of my most eagerly anticipated movies for the coming year.

The movie that nudged it out for first place, however, is Zack Snyder’s latest orgy for the eyes, the fantasy / sci-fi epic SUCKER PUNCH.  I’ve seen every trailer yet released for this one, and still it defies description—you have six hot chicks, giant samurai warriors, robots, zeppelins, World War II bombers, missiles, swords, machine guns—and Scott Glenn.  It all revolves around a young girl’s desire for freedom, and a quest… a quest for five items that will help her reach her desire.  I don’t know what the full story is, or if there is a story.  From what I’ve seen so far, I can’t say I really care about a story.  This movie looks to be pure mind-candy, a psychedelic light-show for the eyes.  A coherent, interesting story would simply be icing on the cake.

8.)  Franchise or Ideas Most in Need of Resurrection in 2011
a.      HIGHLANDER.
b.     HALLOWEEN—minus Rob Zombie.
c.      Godzilla.
d.     Giant Bugs.
e.      MTV’s Fear / Scariest Places on Earth

In a flood of remakes and sequels pouring forth from Hollywood’s perpetual regurgitation machine, there are many instances where franchises or films get ignored, franchises that would benefit from reinvention, revisitation, or redemption.  Some ideas are cyclical, and quite frankly are due for a return.  Others have been improperly handled, and need to be restored to former glories.

One such franchise is that of Michael Myers, the HALLOWEEN franchise as created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill more than thirty years ago.  Though some would say that without Carpenter’s guidance the series of films quickly degenerated into low-grade Cable TV filler, compared to the mess Rob Zombie has made of the premise I would argue for a return to those days.  Zombie’s remake, once it actually left the station, wasn’t a bad movie.  However, far too much time and effort was invested in getting inside Michael’s head, destroying exactly what made the original so damn effective.  It was the mystery of Michael Myers that made the character what it was, and it was Donald Pleasance’s absolute conviction that Michael was the embodiment of evil that sold the original film.  In contrast, Zombie’s HALLOWEEN was little more than a primer on the creation of a psychotic serial killer, reducing the greatest of the Slasher genre to the status of a glorified Henry Lee Lucas.  And his HALLOWEEN II was an incomprehensible Freudian mess, a movie shot from a psychiatric dissertation, not a screenplay.  I’m not asking that we have yet a third version of the original story.  I just want a “do-over,” a chance to forget Zombie’s hapless tampering with my favorite Slasher franchise.  Just take up where HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION left off.  I can settle for crappy, what I can’t take is insulting.

From the late ‘80’s into the mid-‘90’s, the Highlander film and television franchise was one of the most enjoyable Sci-Fi / Fantasy concepts around.  The tale of Connor Macleod, a Scottish Highlands clansman who is immortal, was an exciting, original premise that made a superb 1986 theatrical film.  Poorly handled afterward, to be sure, by people who had no sense of, nor respect for, the mythology created in the original film, it could be very bad, as demonstrated by the way the franchise ground to a halt, with HIGHLANDER: THE SOURCE, a 2007 Straight-to-Scifi (now SyFy) Channel embarrassment.  However, it could also be a very entertaining, very well conceived look at just what it might mean to live forever, locked in an endless struggle with others of your kind.  The original movie starring Christopher Lambert (as Connor) and Sean Connery was excellent, and the TV series that starred Adrian Paul as Duncan Macleod was a worthy successor to that film.  The fact that so many of those tasked with following the first film felt the need to disregard the already established backstory is unfortunate, but doesn’t diminish the quality of the basic premise.  Though it’s rare for me to ask for a film to be remade, I think this is one of those times.  This franchise, and it’s fans, deserve better than they’ve received.

I can’t say that I’ve ever seen much on MTV that I enjoyed, at least not since the days when M-T-V stood for Music TeleVision, rather than Morons on TV.  However, one program that captured my attention was the reality show Fear.  The premise was simple:  take a group of twenty-somethings, dump them in a supposedly haunted location, equip them with video equipment, and give them a series of dares to complete over two nights in order to win a cash prize.  A similar series appeared on the Fox (later ABC) Family Channel, The Scariest Places on Earth.  Yes, both series could be very cheesy, with obviously staged effects and overhyped “legends” about the sites being investigated, but the same can be said for every so-called “reality” show.  At least these were interesting, and occasionally did venture onto locations with actual documented histories of paranormal activity.  These shows were at times ridiculous, true—they were also very enjoyable, and I for one would love to see their return in some form.

Anyone familiar with my writing knows that the Unimonster has a very soft spot in his heart for the Giant Bug movies of the 1950’s—THEM, TARANTULA, THE BLACK SCORPION, and my favorite of the genre, THE DEADLY MANTIS.  Okay, so these movies were cheesy, cheap, and often just plain silly.  But they were also incredibly fun diversions, the type of movie that was perfect for watching through the windshield of your car, your date snuggled tightly to you, both of you munching on a box of popcorn.  When one considers the state of the art in Special Effects today, and realizes how fantastically an army of twelve-foot long ants would translate to the screen, eating their way into the heart of a major American metropolis—then it’s hard to understand why someone hasn’t made that happen yet.

But by a large margin, there’s one franchise that I want to see reawakened more than any other.  It’s been seven years since Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and their kind last rampaged through Tokyo and environs in GOJIRA: FAINARU UÔZU —aka— GODZILLA: FINAL WARS.  Toho announced at the time that it was the last film in the “Millennium” series, and as the end of the movie left Earth in shambles, with ninety-some percent of humanity dead, I’d say that’s probably for the best.  But there’s no reason Toho can’t begin a fourth era for the king of all Kaijû, doing as they did in the mid -80’s, taking the big guy back to his beginnings.  The arguments I advanced for the Giant Bug movies hold just as true here, though I wouldn’t want them to move away from the tried-and-true “Suitmation” techniques that have worked perfectly for more than fifty years.  So, if I do have one wish for the Horror and Sci-Fi community for the New Year, it’s to hear that unmistakable roar echoing over Tokyo Bay one more time.

9.)  Creature of the Year
a.      John “Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul” Zacherle.
b.     Cortlandt Hull.
c.      Phillip Kim.
d.     Sean Kotz.

Many people work hard to make this hobby better, most from behind the scenes.  They do what they do without desire for recognition, often for no other reason than to share their love of the genre.  Their labors often go unrewarded, and there’s little that I can do to change that.  But I can do my part to see that their work does not remain unrecognized.

One individual who’s spent a lifetime spreading a love of Horror movies is John Zacherle.  Zacherle, who began his career as a Horror-Host as “Roland,” on WCAU-10 in Philadelphia in the mid-1950’s, soon moved to New York City.  Broadcasting on several stations in New York, including WOR-9, WABC-7, and WPIX-11, “Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul” soon became the most popular and recognizable of the early hosts.  Combining a fun, easy-going nature and a wry sense of humor, Zacherle succeeded by connecting with teens, communicating with them on their level—a rare occurrence in the Eisenhower era.  Though his show ended in the 1960’s, Zacherle’s never been out of style—until recently, he was still making public appearances in character, and is active each year around Halloween.  He remains a popular figure at conventions, and his 2006 biography (Good Night, Whatever You are: My Journey with Zacherley the Cool Ghoul, written by Richard Scrivani), was very well received by the Horror Community.  Though Zacherle is now in his 90’s, and has curtailed his activities to a great degree, he remains the elder statesman of Horror-Hosts, a living link to the very earliest days of the tradition.  He deserves every recognition that can be given him.

Someone who is working hard to see that all Horror-Hosts are given their due recognition is Sean Kotz, head of Horse Archer Productions.  Beginning with 2009’s VIRGINIA CREEPERS: THE HORROR-HOST TRADITION OF THE OLD DOMINION, Kotz has led the wave of nostalgia for the great Horror-Hosts of his, and our, childhoods.  While we many not have had the same (or, in the case of the truly unfortunate among us, any) hosts where we grew up, we still share the same basic tradition.  And in March, he’ll give us the next installment in this tribute to the gruesome ghouls who held our hands and guided our explorations into the world of Horror cinema with HI THERE HORROR MOVIE FANS, a documentary examining the nearly twenty-year career of Bill “the Bowman Body” Bowman.  I’ve known Sean since 2004, and his passion for the Horror and Science-Fiction genres is undeniable.  I eagerly await his new work, and hope that in the future he allows his creative energies to expand beyond the boundaries of his native Virginia.

The surname Hull is, of course, familiar to those who consider themselves fans of Classic Horror.  Henry Hull was the star of Universal’s initial foray into the world of Lycanthropy, 1935’s THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON.  His nephew, Cortlandt Hull, works hard to keep the memory of his uncle, and all of the great Horror icons, alive through his web-site, the Witch’s Dungeon.  His traveling museum of full-scale replicas of the great Universal Monsters appears at conventions nationwide, and Hull’s most recent project is THE AURORA MONSTERS: THE MODEL CRAZE THAT GRIPPED THE WORLD, a documentary examining the beloved Aurora monster models of the 1960’s, and starring none other than Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul.  Hull strives daily to preserve the traditions of Classic Horror fandom, and his efforts deserve our heartfelt appreciation.

In 1983, the original 25-year run of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine came to an end, leaving a void in the hearts of MonsterKids everywhere.  Though the title was eventually back in print, it was in name only, a disrespectful shell of it’s former self.  For much of the past decade, the Famous Monsters trademark has lain dormant, fought over in court as well as amongst Horror fandom.  In 2010 however, those arguments were finally settled, and Famous Monsters of Filmland once more came to life.  Though it will take the creative talents of many people to bring this magazine to life from issue to issue, the driving force behind those talents is publisher Phillip Kim.  I was privileged to be in the audience at the Famous Monsters convention in Indianapolis this past July as Kim laid out his vision for the future of the magazine, and how they intend to remain faithful to the traditions began by the original editor of the magazine, Forry Ackerman.  It helps greatly that they are working in close cooperation with Forry’s estate, and with Joe Moe, Forry’s friend and caregiver through the final years of his life (and 2009’s Creature of the Year).  Time will tell whether Kim is able to stay true to his vision, but for making the effort, he is The Unimonster’s Crypt Creature of the Year for 2010.

10.)         Movie-Babe of the Year
a.      Scarlett Johansson: (Natalie Rushmon/Natalia Romanova/Black Widow—IRON MAN 2).
b.     Mia Wasikowska: (AliceALICE IN WONDERLAND).
c.      Ellen Page: (Ariadne—INCEPTION).
d.     Mila Kunis: (Solara—THE BOOK OF ELI).
e.      Kelly Brook & Riley Steele: (Danni & Crystal—PIRANHA 3D).
f.       Olivia Wilde: (Quorra—TRON: LEGACY).

As always, genre movies are defined, in part, by the lovely young women who populate the casts.  Though many may argue that that’s an objectification of women, that doesn’t alter the fact that it’s simply the way it is.  By a large margin, the fans of Horror, Science-Fiction, and Fantasy films are young males, and producers are well aware of what their target demographic wants to see on the screen.  I for one choose not to fight against these objective conditions, but rather sit back and enjoy them.

From her beginnings as the very cute, but highly annoying Jackie Burkhart on That 70’s Show, Mila Kunis has grown into a beautiful young woman—and a fairly accomplished actress.  The Ukrainian-born star of THE BOOK OF ELI displays some of that acting ability opposite Denzel Washington.  Both performers make a valiant effort in an ultimately losing cause, but the movie is weighed down by a preposterous, poorly-written script based on an absurd premise—not a problem that can be laid at the feet of the actors.  Kunis’ performance as Solara is 180 degrees from the bubbly airheaded Jackie, and is a relative bright spot in an otherwise dismal production.

Another movie that disappointed me, though not to the degree that THE BOOK OF ELI did, was Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND.  It wasn’t through any fault of the director; on the contrary, Burton was his usual bizarrely brilliant self.  But I’ve never found Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass stories enjoyable in the least, and not even a favored director, working with his familiar cast of incomparable performers, could alter that.  But there were bright points to the production, and one of those was it’s star, Mia Wasikowska, in the role of Alice.  Her portrayal of Alice was far more three-dimensional than any I’ve seen before, bringing to the part a realism and humanity that contrasted well with the surreal absurdity of the rest of Wonderland.  It wasn’t enough to overcome my lack of affection for the basic story, but it certainly helped.

One of the most talked about scenes in a Horror film this year was the naked underwater frolics in PIRANHA 3D, featuring Kelly Brook and former porn star Riley Steele.  Now, far be it for me to object to naked frolics, underwater or otherwise, and both ladies certainly do much to improve an already fine film.  Both are deserving of notice, though speaking from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, Brook steals the scene.  Prurient?  Yes.  Gratuitous?  Undoubtedly.  A damn fine scene?  You betcha!  After all, we’re talking about a movie concerning thousands of prehistoric carnivorous fish—not Hamlet.  This movie defines the word “Gratuitous.”

Familiar to television viewers as the enigmatic “Thirteen” on Fox-TV’s House, Olivia Wilde is one of the loveliest women on prime-time TV.  A tall, striking brunette possessed of a beautiful face and terrific figure, Wilde has plenty of opportunity to display the long lean lines of that figure as Quorra in TRON: LEGACY.  Now frankly, I wasn’t a fan of the original TRON, and I’ve not been in any rush to see the sequel, in theaters only three weeks now.  Still, I’ve seen enough clips and stills from the film to get a firm grasp on just how well Wilde fits into her skintight costume.  That’s enough to earn her a nomination as Movie-Babe of 2010.

A different type of attractiveness is that of Ellen Page, star of the Sci-Fi megahit INCEPTION.  The petite Canadian beauty has a fresh, innocent, girl-next-door quality that stands out in the land of Botox and Silicone like a cat at a dog show.  As Ariadne, one of those with the ability to enter and control the dreams of others, her performance does much to counter the annoying presence of Leonardo DiCaprio.  One might think that, in a race of this sort, Page vs. Wilde or Brook would be a mismatch—and they’d be right.  Ellen Page wins handily over both.

Once again however, my unremitting addiction to red hair wins out.  Pretty enough as a blonde, Scarlett Johansson is knock-out gorgeous as the red-headed Natalie / Natalia / Black Widow in IRON MAN 2.  Woefully underutilized, she nonetheless has a big impact when she is on screen.  If there is an IRON MAN 3, I can only hope that they make better use of Johansson’s character—and that they keep the red hair.

11.)         Movie-Monster of the Year
a.      Benicio Del Toro: (Lawrence Talbot/the Wolfman—THE WOLFMAN).
b.     Sir Anthony Hopkins: (Sir John Talbot/The ‘Beast’—THE WOLFMAN).
c.      Ralph Fiennes: (Lord Voldemort—HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Pt. I).
d.      The Kraken—CLASH OF THE TITANS.
e.      Mickey Rourke: (Whiplash—IRON MAN 2).
f.       Jackie Earle Haley: (Freddy KruegerA NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET).

In contrast to last year’s dearth of decent Movie-Monsters, this year actually produced a decent crop of ghoulies, ghosties, and things that kill in the night.  Refreshingly, all but one of our nominees actually had an actor underneath the make-up, whether real or computer-generated.

That one exception was the terrific conception of the Kraken from CLASH OF THE TITANS.  Though I miss the genius and artistry of Ray Harryhausen’s original creations, the CGI Kraken is a damn effective beast, and better fits the remake, which owes far more to the God of War videogame series than it does to Harryhausen’s original CLASH OF THE TITANS.

Mickey Rourke is bizarre looking enough without make-up; with it, he can become one helluva convincing bad guy.  We have only to remember his performance as Marv from SIN CITY to give proof of that.  As Whiplash, the Russian villain who challenges Iron Man in IRON MAN 2, Rourke is in high form.  One’s never quite certain where the actor leaves off and the character begins, which is how it should be.  But with Rourke that’s usually a little disturbing.  There’s always a thought in the back of my mind that there’s really not much of a distinction between one and the other.  Still, there’s no denying that it makes him an effective Movie Monster.

One of the best actors working in genre films today is Jackie Earle Haley.  In 2009 he was superb as Rorschach in THE WATCHMEN, he can currently be seen in Fox-TV’s The Human Target, based on the DC Comics character Christopher Chance, and in 2010 he became the first actor other than Robert Englund to play Freddy Krueger, in the remake of Wes Craven’s A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.  The movie itself, though better than I expected, was still not good.  “… Better than I expected …” was not a very high bar to have to clear.  But Haley’s performance, darker and more overtly threatening than that of Englund’s in the role, did much to lift it above the level of mediocrity assumed by most recent remakes.  Krueger is unique among the big three Slashers in that he speaks, and quite often.  It requires an actor to portray him, not a hulking stunt man.  Rather than simply aping Englund’s style, Haley invested his characterization of Krueger with a distinctive personality.  Had he been given more to work with, this movie might have earned a Movie of the Year nomination.  As it is, the fact that it didn’t find itself among the Crapfests of 2010 is due almost entirely to his efforts.

One of my favorite movies of 2010 was Joe Johnston’s THE WOLFMAN.  I know it underperformed at the box-office, and is largely responsible for Universal’s all-but-official disavowal of Classic Horror.  Still I believe that it was an excellent movie, and while it can’t compare to the 1941 original, it was far superior to either of the studios other recent ventures into their past, VAN HELSING and THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR.  A large part of my affection for this film comes from two things—Rick Baker’s fantastic make-up effects, and Benicio Del Toro’s performance as the tortured Lawrence Talbot.  Talbot, whether in the guise of Lon Chaney, Jr. or Del Toro, is Universal’s most sympathetic monster.  He views his condition as a curse, a curse to which death would be preferable.  Dracula revels in his vampirism, the Monster has only hatred for a humanity that he can never truly attain, the Mummy is driven by an ancient love 3,000 years old—only the Wolfman exists in both worlds, human and monster, and only the Wolfman has the reason enough to seek the end of his curse.  Del Toro did a superb job capturing that angst.

Since he returned to confront Harry Potter at the end of … THE GOBLET OF FIRE, Ralph Fiennes’ Lord Voldemort has been consistently one of the best Movie Monsters around.  Unswervingly evil, his every action is bent on the control of the magical world, and the destruction of “the boy who lived.”  Fiennes, one of this generation’s finest actors, does an excellent job portraying Voldemort as evil incarnate, a fitting antagonist for a story of such epic scope.  Though his on-screen time was limited in HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Pt. I, the effects of his presence were not.  And he promises to be far more involved in the next chapter of the saga, as he and Harry face off in a final battle of good against evil.  He might have fallen just short of the top spot in this year’s Movie Monster countdown—but I wouldn’t place any bets against him for next year.

 I’ve already mentioned two of the reasons that I so enjoyed THE WOLFMAN—now here’s the rest of why it is a nominee for Movie of the Year:  Sir Anthony Hopkins.  His performance as Sir John Talbot, lord of Talbot Castle, and the “beast” responsible for the death of his wife, one of his sons, and the spreading of his lycanthropy to the other one, is pure golden malevolence.  Hopkins is as gifted an actor as exists today, and he excels at playing Monsters.  His Sir John delights in his lycanthropic condition, eagerly embracing that which his son considers a curse.  Their climactic battle, as their home burns around them, is nothing short of spectacular, and earns Hopkins the title of Movie-Monster of the Year for 2010.

12.)         DVD Release of the Year
a.      HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, Roger Corman Cult Collection.
b.     PIRANHA (1978), Roger Corman Cult Collection.
c.      KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS Special Edition.
d.     THE WOLF-MAN (1941) Special Edition.
e.      The Complete METROPOLIS.
f.       MANIAC 30th Anniversary Edition.

The biggest news in Genre DVD’s this past year has been the Roger Corman Cult Collection that Shout! Factory unleashed upon fans of Drive-In movies, beginning in May and still on-going.  Thus far, 26 of these Corman classic movies have been released on DVD, insuring that 2010 has been a good year for Roger’s fans.  While these movies are “classic” only in the sense of their importance as examples of the low-budget Drive-In movie, Shout! Factory has done their due diligence on these offerings, cleaning them up, restoring them, and loading the DVD’s with special features.  Two of the discs are nominees for DVD Release of 2010; a third for DVD Box Set.

One of the best Corman-produced films of the late ‘70’s-early ‘80’s was 1980’s HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP.  Directed by Barbara Peters, the movie is one of the most over-the-top gorefests of that era, and has long been a favorite in the Crypt’s movie room.  Just as my well-worn, ancient VHS of the film was about to give up the ghost, along comes the Shout release of this title.  Not only was I able to upgrade, but along with a pristine, widescreen print of the movie comes assorted special features, including a making-of documentary, deleted scenes, and commentary.  The treatment Shout! Factory gives to a 30-year-old B-picture is amazing, and indicative of the care they’ve invested in the entire line of Corman classics.

Much the same can be said for the other Corman classic on this list, Joe Dante’s 1978 take on killer fish, PIRANHA.  There’s little to say about this disc that hasn’t already been said about HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, other than this film is especially relevant this year, with both the 3D remake in theaters and the death of star Kevin McCarthy.  It may not be as good as HUMANOIDS…, but it is a great popcorn flick, and a great DVD release.

One of my favorite movies of the ‘70’s is John “Bud” Cardos’ KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS, a 1977 William Shatner vehicle in which he co-stars with a million or so tarantulas.  Of course it’s cheap and cheesy (it stars Shatner, for God’s sake), but it works very well, and the final scene, an aerial view of the town encased in spider webs, is particularly effective.  I’ve long wanted a decent DVD presentation of this title, and my wishes have at last been granted, thanks to Shout! Factory’s new Special Edition DVD.  While not loaded with special features (interviews with Shatner and Cardos, a commentary track featuring Cardos and others, behind-the-scenes footage), it’s not a big drawback.  The main selling point of this disc is a pristine, new-for-this-release anamorphic widescreen transfer, a beautiful print that puts all previous home video releases of this title to shame.

In 1980, William Lustig was shocking audiences with MANIAC, an ultra-low-rent take on the Son of Sam killings.  Violent, gory, over the top, it starred Joe Spinell as Frank Zito, a psychotic young man driven by memories of horrific childhood abuse to murder beautiful young women.  For the two-disc 30th Anniversary Edition DVD of this Grindhouse staple, Blue Underground pulled out all the stops.  With two separate commentary tracks, an interview with co-star Caroline Munro, an interview with make-up effects artist Tom Savini, a biography of the late Joe Spinell, plus more, this release is packed with content.  Some might question whether such a movie as MANIAC deserves this superior level of treatment—I say bring it on!!!

One side-benefit of Universal’s remake of THE WOLFMAN was the release of THE WOLF-MAN (1941) Special Edition DVD.  As I stated in my review [DVD Review: THE WOLF-MAN (1941) Legacy Special Edition, 6 March 2010] of this two-disc release, “When called upon to review a movie with which virtually every horror fan is familiar, one’s task is not so much to tell them why they need to have this film in their collections, but why they should own this release of it, if the reviewer feels that they should.”  My opinion, then as now, was that anyone who considers themselves fans of Classic Horror would benefit from the addition of this release to their library.  Not so much for the film itself, but for the wealth of special features with which Universal Studios Home Entertainment gifted fans.  No fewer than five documentaries accompany this nearly seventy-year-old classic, ranging from the definitive examination of the phenomenon of the Universal Monsters, the 1998 Kenneth Branagh-narrated UNIVERSAL HORROR, to a newly-produced biography of Lon Chaney, Jr.  Pure in Heart—the Life and Legacy of Lon Chaney, Jr., examines the often troubled life of Creighton Chaney, the abandoned son of one of the first Horror icons of the Silent Screen, who would grow up to become a Horror icon in his own right.

But for Classic Horror fans, one DVD release dominated the news.  In November, Kino released the long-awaited two-disc Complete METROPOLIS.  Working from a print found in a film archive in Argentina, a print that did not have the edits that were made to make the film more commercially marketable prior to release in the United States in the late 1920’s, Kino was able to restore it to virtually complete condition.  Whole storylines, cut to shorten the film and to make the message less radical, have been reinstated, redefining this film for future generations.  Though segments of the restored footage are less than pristine, it certainly is watchable, and adds much to what was already a landmark film.  Also included are several documentaries on the film—the history of it, the making of the movie, and the search for and restoration of the lost footage.  It’s not quite as thrilling as finding an intact print of LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT would be—but it’s close enough to earn the title of DVD Release of 2010.

13.)         DVD Box Set of the Year
a.      Thriller: The Complete Series.
b.     Turner Classic Movies’ Greatest Classic Films Collection: Hammer Horror.
c.      Mystery Science Theater 3000 Box Set, Vol. XIX.
d.     The SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE Roger Corman Cult Collection Box Set.
e.      Tales from the Darkside: The Complete Series.

One must begin to wonder where the multi-film Box Sets have disappeared to lately.  Other than budget-priced collections of unrelated films, packaged without special features and released without any fanfare, there’s been precious little to enjoy in the way of Genre Boxes this year.  In one way that’s good, as it has given me a chance to catch up on older sets I missed when first released.  In every other way—to express it in the most succinct terms possible—it just sucks.

Turner Classic Movies can still be counted upon to feed the hunger of movie lovers, however.  Among several box sets they’ve released this year is one of interest to Horror fans—the Turner Classic Movies’ Greatest Classic Films Collection: Hammer Horror.  Featuring four Hammer Horror Films—THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, HORROR OF DRACULA, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, and FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, it is a very nice presentation of these four Hammer classics.  One does wish for more in the way of extras, but this is an enjoyable addition to the libraries of dedicated Hammer fans.

I’ve already spoken at length on the Roger Corman Cult Collection DVDs from Shout! Factory.  One of the releases in this collection is the far-better-than-the-movies-deserved SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE Collection.  Including all three films on two discs, along with commentaries, trailers, and special features galore, it’s a fantastic presentation for three not-so-fantastic movies—something akin to $4,000 worth of tires and rims on an $800 car.  Still, it’s a great set, especially for fans of Drive-In cinema.

One area where there’s no shortage of new releases is in that of sets of television series—whether complete seasons, complete series, or just selected episodes, TV shows on DVD are hot.  Three such sets made this list, more by default than true merit, with one notable exception.

One of the best horror anthology series of all time was Tales of the Darkside, inspired by the success of the feature film CREEPSHOW, and produced by that film’s director, George Romero.  Between 1983 and 1989, 90 episodes were produced for syndication, mixing themes of Horror, Science-Fiction, and Fantasy with an often comedic twist.  Not as broadly comic as the Tales from the Crypt series on HBO would be, it was a welcome treat for horror fans in the 1980’s.  Now the complete series is available on DVD from CBS Home Video.  Though sadly lacking in bonuses, that’s not unusual for TV shows on DVD, and doesn’t hinder one’s enjoyment of the set.

Another series that continues a fine tradition of well-done DVD box sets is the Mystery Science Theater 3000 releases from Shout! Factory.  Volume XIX in the series, featuring four experiments—MST3K 107: ROBOT MONSTER, MST3K 423: BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, MST3K 818: THE DEVIL DOLL, and MST3K 911: DEVIL FISH, is packaged with a figurine of Gypsy the Robot, and includes various special features, including a short featurette, Larry Blamire Geeks Out!: ‘Robot Monster’.  At fifty bucks it’s pricey, but even such a recently converted MSTie as the Unimonster can tell it’s worth it.

Speaking of “pricey,” our Box Set of 2010 certainly qualifies in that regard.  With prices ranging from $90-$120 on-line, and a list price at Image Entertainment of $149.98, Thriller: the Complete Series, hosted by Boris Karloff, has been called the most frightening television series ever.  Running for two seasons, from September 1960 to April 1962, all 67 episodes are presented here, with a wealth of special features.  With Karloff introducing each episode, and featuring both actors who had been stars and those who would become stars, this contemporary of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone had a greater emphasis on pure Horror, with comparable standards of writing and production.  Besides, it has Karloff!  Yes, the price is WAY too steep—one reason the set has yet to find it’s way into the Crypt’s movie room.  That doesn’t mean it’s not at the top of my “needful things” list—or that it shouldn’t be at the top of yours, as well.

14.)         Crapfest of the Year
a.      JONAH HEX.
b.     THE BOOK OF ELI.
c.      REPO MEN.
d.     DAYBREAKERS.
e.      THE LAST AIRBENDER.
f.       SAW 3D.

As usual, there was no shortage of craptacular movies oozing their way onto screens this year, and the nominees on this list are just the ones through which I personally suffered.  There were in all likelihood worse movies served up in 2010; fortunately, I was able to avoid them.

One of the first movies to offend my horror sensibilities this past year was DAYBREAKERS, a third-rate underachiever of a vampire movie from Michael and Peter Spierig.  The twin brothers do have talent, as demonstrated by their 2003 “Zompocalypse” feature UNDEAD; and they do start with an interesting premise, that of a “vampire apocalypse,” where a plague has transformed most of the Earth’s population into night-dwelling bloodsuckers.  The problem is that they do absolutely nothing with it.  Instead, they meander about from one absurd plot point to another, constructing a film that not even such fine actors as Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill can rescue.  The movie finally moves a little at the end, but by that time, it’s too little, much too late.

A film that started with absolutely no premise, then ran it into the ground, was this year’s installment of the SAW franchise, SAW 3D.  The producers promise that this will be the last entry in this long past played-out franchise—I wish to God that they’d sign a contract to that effect.  It should’ve ended three films back.  There is nothing left of what was once a very fresh concept here; the movie serves merely as a delivery system for more bizarre ways to mangle flesh and spill blood—copious amounts of blood.  If you’ve seen all of the previous installments—Hell, if you’ve seen any of the previous installments, there’s nothing that will surprise you here.  There is no plot, no story—just gore and mayhem, and quite frankly, I want more out of a horror movie.

One of the movies that were hyped early on in the year was THE BOOK OF ELI, a Denzel Washington vehicle directed by the Hughes brothers.  Perhaps we should have a ban on twins directing movies together, or at least stopping after one genre film.  Their first genre effort, 2001’s FROM HELL, was a fantastic movie, perhaps the best ever produced concerning the Whitechapel murders of Jack the Ripper.  This however is an overblown mess, based upon a ridiculous premise only made worse by the not very surprising ending.  The fact that the cast turned in very good performances does nothing to overcome the complete absurdity of the script, by Gary Whitta.  Add to that the post-apocalyptic theme of the movie (a theme that, quite frankly, is growing very tiresome), and the whole just drags the viewer down.

A cousin of the post-apocalypse movie is the Future dystopia movie, those films set in a future world where events have transpired in ways that do not bode well for humanity.  This too has become an over-used theme among genre filmmakers, who far too often take the path of least resistance in conceiving their projects.  One such film out this year is Miguel Sapochnik’s REPO MEN.  Sapochnik, whose resume primarily consists of being a storyboard artist, somehow convinced a consortium including Universal, Relativity Media, and Stuber Productions to give him control of a $32 million budget for his first feature, a feature that grossed less than $14 million at the box-office.  Once again you have a lot of talent in front of the camera—Jude Law, Forest Whittaker, Live Schreiber—but they’re stuck working with a dismal, ugly, and worst of all boring script.  Dystopic stories can work—1984 is a case in point—but there has to be an actual story involved.  There’s simply nothing here for viewers to care about.

In 1999 I was tremendously impressed by the directorial work of M. Night Shyamalan, with the blockbuster hit THE SIXTH SENSE.  Since then, I’ve been waiting to have that first impression confirmed, and through an unbroken string of follow-ups that has now stretched to six feature films, I have been disappointed.  The most recent disappointment from Shyamalan is THE LAST AIRBENDER, based upon the popular anime series Avatar: The Last Airbender.  The visuals are impressive, I’ll grant you that much, and the cast does a decent job working with the ponderous material, but there’s so much exposition to wade through—by the time the film hits it’s stride, the audience has lost all reason to care.  Fans often wonder why some beloved comic book or graphic novel is altered in the process of translation to the screen, altered in order to make it more accessible to those who were not previously fans.  This movie is an example of why that is necessary.  If one was a fan of the anime series prior to seeing this, then they were generally pleased with the result—the Uni-Nephew being a case in point.  If one was completely unfamiliar with the storyline of the source material however—such as was the case with the Unimonster—then it’s a hopeless jumble that loses the viewer by the time the opening credits have left the screen.  Clearly the director assumed that everyone would be as familiar with the material as he, since there was no effort to involve anyone who wasn’t already an ardent fan.  It’s very much a personal project of Shyamalan’s, as he not only directed, he’s also responsible for the screenplay.  It stands as proof that, just because you have the ability to bring any pet project of yours to the screen, it doesn’t mean you should.

The only genre film sin worse than assuming all your viewers are fans of whatever material your project is based upon is ignoring those who are fans already, and altering that material into something unrecognizable.  That’s the sin committed by sophomore director Jimmy Hayward with JONAH HEX.  Based on the DC Comic books featuring Jonah Hex, a heavily-scarred bounty hunter driven to fight for justice in the American West in the years after the Civil War, the movie could’ve been one of the contenders for Movie of the year had it been handled properly.  Instead of a serious look at Hex, a man reminiscent of Ethan Edwards, John Wayne’s character from the 1956 classic THE SEARCHERS, you get an absurd plotline, terrible acting, ridiculous special effects, and a total reinvention of the character of Jonah Hex that’s an insult to fans of the comic books.  It makes the similar in tone WILD WILD WEST look good in comparison.  If co-star Megan Fox had appeared in the background of every shot totally naked it would not have been enough to save this movie from the crapper.  It easily floats to the top of the bowl as the Crapfest of 2010.

15.)         Movie of the Year
a.      THE WOLFMAN.
b.     HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Pt. I.
c.      PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2.
d.     KICK-ASS.
e.      IRON MAN 2.
f.       CLASH OF THE TITANS.
g.      THE EXPENDABLES.
h.     SHUTTER ISLAND.
i.       PIRANHA 3D.

One can’t help but notice that the field for Movie of the Year is a little more crowded this time out, and that’s not necessarily a ringing endorsement for the genre.  Much like the NFL, the state of genre film has reached a level of parity, a general mediocrity that means a film need not rise far above it’s peers in order to stand out.  Each of these films succeeded in entertaining me in a way that was unusual for the average genre movie this year.  That doesn’t make them all great movies, but it does make each worthy of note, and worthy of discussion.

One of the most eagerly anticipated films of 2010 (at least, for the aforementioned Uni-Nephew) was the $125 million remake of Ray Harryhausen’s CLASH OF THE TITANS.  The second of two films based on Greek mythology to hit screens this past spring (the first being the good, but not spectacular, PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF), this version owes far more to the Sony God of War videogames than to Harryhausen’s magnum opus.  That’s not an indictment—on the contrary, it takes this movie in directions that avoid too many direct comparisons with the original, thereby allowing us fans of the first to enjoy this one, without feeling too disloyal.  Louis Leterrier directs a decent cast, led by Liam Neeson as Zeus, Ralph Fiennes (in another good performance) as Hades, and Jason Flemyng as Calibos.  The story is adequate, not stellar, but seriously, it’s hard to screw up something that’s been told and retold for 25 centuries.  At any rate, it’s the special effects that elevate this film.  CGI scorpions and harpies can’t replace a good script, but they can transform a good script into a great movie.

Sometimes one’s not in search of a great story, just gratuitous blood, gore, and nudity.  One movie that supplied all three, along with a stiff belt of humor, was Alexandre Aja’s remake of the 1978 Corman Classic, PIRANHA 3D.  Okay, so no one’s talking Oscar here—a movie doesn’t have to be good in order to be good.  So what if it’s pure exploitation?  Sometimes that is exactly what you want in a movie, and PIRANHA 3D is a perfect example of it.

Lacking some of the impact of the preceding film in the series, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 nonetheless made much of the same formula, constructing a very good, old-fashioned, ghost movie.  Having an actual budget for the film might have hindered as much as helped, though.  So much of the original’s creepiness hinged on subtlety—a door slowly opening then closing, furniture moving, footsteps moving in the darkness.  That’s present here as well, but they take the opportunity to add a few flashier effects into the mix, and the result isn’t as effective as they might wish.  Still, director Tod Williams does a decent job treading essentially the same water as Oren Peli did in the original.  Not great filmmaking, but a refreshing break in a year packed with big budget superhero epics.

Even for as talented and experienced a director as Martin Scorsese, there remains new ground to explore, and this past year he ventured into new territory with his first Horror film, SHUTTER ISLAND.  With an all-star cast, led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, and Max von Sydow, and working from a script by Laeta Kalogridis (from the Dennis Lehane novel), Scorsese builds a tight, suspenseful thriller that holds together well through the first two-thirds of the film.  After that, there’s something of a breakdown, both in the plot of the film and the mystery surrounding the ‘twist’ at the end.  However, Scorsese’s too good a director to let it get totally out of hand, and while the ending isn’t as satisfying as it might otherwise be, it’s still very good.  Now frankly, DiCaprio’s presence in a movie is usually the kiss of death as far as I’m concerned, but he does a very credible job here; not good enough to change my opinion of him as an actor, but he wasn’t the detriment I expected him to be.  The film’s ending is ambiguous, enough so that it’s possible for two people to come away with different impressions of what has occurred, and some of the plot points do tend to stretch the limits of credulity.  Neither proved to be a hindrance to my enjoyment of the film that became, somewhat surprisingly, Scorsese’s biggest moneymaker to date.

A film that surprised no one by earning huge numbers at the box-office was Jon Favreau’s IRON MAN 2.  Though some critics and fans were disappointed by the follow-up to the first film, it’s hard for me to find too much fault with it.  The action was easily on a par with the previous entry, as were the performances from most of the cast.  The story was the weak point of the film, with plot themes that were less than coherent and were in many ways just a rehash of IRON MAN.  That aside, while I’m no fan of Robert Downey, Jr., his portrayal of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, is by far his best work.  IRON MAN 2 will never be a favorite of mine the way movies such as THE DARK KNIGHT or THE PUNISHER are, but it’s good enough to earn a top-five spot for 2010.

One movie that came out of left field, surprising a lot of people (the Unimonster included), was the Superhero flick KICK-ASS.  Based on the Icon comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr., the movie was directed by Matthew Vaughn and stars Nicolas Cage, Aaron Johnson, and Chloë Moretz.  As controversial as it is entertaining, it tells the story of a teen-age boy, Dave Lizewski (Johnson), who decides one day to be a superhero.  No special powers, no special training, just a costume ordered on-line and a desire to help people.  His inauspicious start sees him stabbed and beaten, but he refuses to give up, and is soon inspiring others to take up the calling, including a somewhat unconventional father-daughter team, Big Daddy and Hit Girl (Cage and Moretz).  Big Daddy routinely shoots his body-armor-clad 10-year-old daughter with live ammo so she can get used to the pain of the impacts, then takes her out for ice cream.  He gives her a balisong knife for her birthday.  The first time we see her in action she’s carving her way through a gang using a Japanese katana, cursing like a sailor.  To say this movie sets out to offend is an understatement.  It’s also an understatement to say that it works, on a variety of levels.  The action is well done, and plentiful.  The writing is excellent, the performances spot-on, and the cinematography is spectacular.  It’s a very uncomfortable film at times, but it’s also a damn good one.

One of the high points of the year, at least for those of us who were addicted to Action Films in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, was the first on-screen meeting of the giants of the Action Film genre, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Sylvester Stallone.  The occasion was a brief expository scene in Stallone’s homage to those great Action flicks, THE EXPENDABLES.  Directed by Stallone, and starring some of the biggest Action heroes of the past twenty years, the plot is—well, the plot is unimportant.  Let’s be honest, the plot serves merely to put our heroes into situations where they get to kill people and blow stuff up.  It’s gloriously inane, magnificently mindless, and I love it.  It doesn’t have to make sense; it’s a hypodermic full of testosterone right in the ol’ butt-cheek, a tonic to us geezers who spent their twenties watching Arnold wipe out an entire South American army by himself, Bruce blowing up a skyscraper to take down terrorists, and Sly kicking Commie Ass.

One movie that was high on my list of anticipated projects at this time last year was the remake of the Universal classic THE WOLF-MAN, from 1941.  Joe Johnston’s THE WOLFMAN, starring Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, and Sir Anthony Hopkins, might have underperformed at the box-office, but it exceeded my expectations.  To be honest, those expectations weren’t very high—recent experience has taught me well.  Still the movie was much better than I had hoped, staying true to the spirit of the classic film while managing to explore new ground.  Del Toro did as good as job as possible, though prior to seeing the film I had felt he was miscast as Lawrence Talbot.  He still would not have been my first choice in the role, but he did carry it off successfully.  Blunt was a waste, sleepwalking through the role of Gwen Conliffe.  Seventy years ago, Evelyn Ankers became a star based on her memorable performance in the role; here, Blunt is barely noticeable.  The supporting cast is decent, particularly Hugo Weaving as Inspector Abberline, but one performance stands out from the crowd, and elevates this production to just shy of Movie of the Year.  That performance belongs to Hopkins, who I earlier recognized as Movie-Monster of 2010.  Hopkins, one of the finest actors alive, is never so enjoyable as when he’s playing someone who’s evil—totally, completely, unashamedly evil.  His Sir John Talbot relishes his lycanthropy, delights in giving himself over to the beast within, without so much as a hint of conscience regarding the consequences.  Watching him work is spectacular.

As I said earlier, it didn’t take much to earn a film a nomination for Movie of the Year this time around, there were so few that tried to rise above the average.  However, earning a nomination is one thing—actually being named Movie of the Year for 2010 is quite another.  Only the best can earn that, however crowded the nominee field may be.  And this past year, the best was HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Pt. I.  In a year where simply striving to be better than mediocre set a movie apart, David Yates, Steve Kloves, Warner Bros., and everyone connected to this movie worked to keep it at the level of excellence fans have come to expect from this franchise.  From the spectacular wand battle at the beginning of the movie to the cliffhanger ending at Dumbledore’s graveside, …THE DEATHLY HALLOWS was a bittersweet experience for long-time fans.  Darker, more mature, and far more somber in tone, it serves more as a set-up to the final showdown than as it’s own movie.  That might make it less satisfying to some; for those who understand they’re merely seeing the first half of the final movie, it just heightens our anticipation of things to come.

So there it is—2010 wrapped up in a neat little package.  It’s been a year of growth for us here at the Unimonster’s Crypt, and hopefully 2011 will continue that growth.  We’ll be introducing some new features here at the Crypt, and giving some of our older features a little break.  We will do our best to earn your continued loyalty, and we welcome your input—what do you like, what would you like to see more of, how can we make the Crypt more enjoyable and informative.  In the meantime, we’ll be there throughout 2011, so that when this time rolls are next year, we can share with you the best and the worst of the genre.  Happy New Year!