2011 was the year of the failed remake and questionable sequels. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was dull; The Thing was brutally damaged by embarrassingly bad CGI. Another mediocre Hellraiser film arrived in the company of a fair Scream sequel. New Paranormal Activity, Quarantine, The Human Centipede and Hostel sequels also shambled their way into the spotlight. None of these films impressed, but buried beneath the muck were a few treasures to seek out.
Check out our official picks for best films of 2011, and don’t forget to catch up on all the other years we’ve already covered, right here.
If you’re looking for an over-the-top, profoundly outlandish and extremely versatile anthology, you’ve got to give Chillerama a chance. It’s insane, right out of the gate up until the final minute of the movie. There’s one segment that proves to be something of a misfire, but the wraparound tale alone – which feels like it fell straight out of the ‘80s – more than makes up for it. It’s a fun flick, just keep the mind open and prepare for a few laughs.
09 The Caller
The Caller is an exceptionally eerie little picture that climbs under the skin, as we’re forced to contemplate solidarity and the unexpected threats that can potentially accompany it. The film is as somber as it is creepy, but if you’re going to check it out, don’t miss a cool opportunity to feel a little bit unnerved: watch it alone, late at night with every light in the house extinguished.
08 Fright Night
In the last six years Fright Night has really, really grown on me. Initially, I despised the film, because it features some of the worst computer generated effects to ever haunt a commercial release (it’s right up there with the remake of The Haunting). It’s hard to look at. The good news, however, is the ugly visuals don’t smack us in the face until the movie hits the mid-way point. Everything leading up to that – the moments in which we learn what kind of a guy Charlie is, and how lost Ed is, and how creepy, Jerry, the new neighbor is – is absolutely top notch, and to his credit, Colin Farrell did an excellent job of portraying the villainous Jerry, while Anton Yelchin somehow took a completely unlikable high schooler with hints of a sudden superiority complex, and made him endearing. I still don’t love the film, but I love the first half.
07 The Tunnel
Some love The Tunnel and some hate it. For my buck, it’s a well-made mockumentary/found footage feature with some above average performances and a thick sense of dread. We do come up a little short on the reveal front, which leaves the finale feeling just a tad anticlimactic, but everything leading up to the final moments is really well-executed, and it isn’t too challenging to buy into the reality these performers work to sell us.
06 Final Destination 5
The biggest surprise on this list is most certainly Final Destination 5. Of all the films in the series, this is the only one to sport a legitimate, full-blown final twist, and it is genius. I won’t ruin it for you, but I will say that, as a guy who isn’t all that crazy about the franchise as a whole, the fifth film is great, and ranks right up there with the inaugural franchise picture.
05 The Innkeepers
A slow burn creeper, The Innkeepers has been pegged by some as a dud and praised to high heaven by those who don’t mind taking a little extra time to reach the climax. For my buck, the film features a couple of terrific characters, a great setting and a damn unsettling final act. Ti West is a legitimate talent, and I’ll be a fan as long as he continues to pay loving homage to awesome films of the past.
04 The Woman
There are some films that, whether we like it or not, really stick to our bones. The Woman, a harrowing tale of a strange person yanked from a familiar existence and forced into another – and that other existence consists of some of the most unorthodox methods of “civilizing” a feral character one could imagine – may not sound like the basis of a true terror piece, but this strange and often shocking film will have your head spinning, especially as the final half hour mows through the viewer’s senses.
03 We Need to Talk About Kevin
Ever fear that your kid might grow to be an absolute psychopath, completely unpredictable in action and always seemingly one step away from wreaking havoc? If so, don’t watch We Need to Talk About Kevin, because it’s all about a kid who detaches himself from his mother in radical fashion as he simultaneously spirals into a terrible pit of darkness. The film isn’t conventional horror, but it is no doubt profoundly macabre and, in a few instances, frighteningly disconcerting.
Absentia looks like a bare bones production that has very little in the way of money or marquee drawing power attached, and that’s because it’s a small production that operates as a launch pad for a man that may end up as respected as some of his legendary peers. It’s also one of the best indie films to see release in the last decade, as Mike Flanagan gradually leads viewers through a strange world where the supernatural may be far more tangible than we’d all like to imagine. Keep an eye out for some brilliant tunnel shots and a closing sequence that successfully reveals terror without forcing it down our throats.
01 Asylum Blackout
The most underrated film of the year, Asylum Blackout is a staggeringly eerie production. It’s got a brilliant cast top to bottom that includes the likes of Rupert Evans, Anna Skellern, Darren Kent, the late Dave Legeno and Richard Brake, who turns in a performance that deserved to be recognized at the Academy Awards. The concept – being trapped in an insane asylum with a hundred or so loose and violent prisoners – is awesome, the execution is nearly flawless and director Alexandre Courtès never even contemplates pulling a single punch. If you haven’t found this beauty yet, then hunt her down, ASAP!