2009 will be remembered as a year in which drippy emo vampires took over the big screen while kick-ass vampires stalked the airwaves. Zombies came back from the dead and so did remakes and sequels. Here's a list of some of my favorites of the year, in no particular order.
3. Everything's better in 3D. Okay, these films would probably be a snooze in flat versions, but in RealD, they're a hell of a lot of fun. My Bloody Valentine kick-started the year for me, providing lots of refreshingly un-PC mayhem and various things (knives, breasts) being hurled from the screen. It was so cool when the killer miner turned his headlight to the audience; it actually felt like we were being illuminated and, therefore, recognized as potential victims! A side benefit of the film was Lion's Gate's DVD release of the 1981 original with the censored gore effects restored. Sure, the cut scenes were scratchy and didn't always match, but it was great to see what the filmmakers had intended when Paramount prudishly cut out all the fun on its original release. The Final Destination was a little more routine. Previous installments of the series were far more inspired even without the added dimension; it's like the filmmakers traded ideas for effects. That said, the RealD gave it the needed boost.
4. Orphan. I know, I dissed this one at first based on the poster, but it was a lot of fun and left films like "The Good Son" running home to their mommy. I mean, if you're going to depict a creepy little kid, do it with guns a-blazing. The film's multiple layers—screwed-up family, deceitful husband, disturbed wife—made the drama all the more intense.
Speaking of Jackson, word on the street is that "The Lovely Bones" is a stinker. I can't comment because I haven't seen it. Come on, Peter. First the labored "King Kong" and now a stoopid ghost story? He should take a lesson from Raimi—return to his roots with a nice inexpensive splatter comedy to loosen up.
6. Let the Right One In. Made in 2008 but not reaching American shores until early this year, this striking Swedish film tells the story of the relationship that develops between a lonely 12-year-old boy and the vampire next door. As deliberately paced as anything Bergman directed, it's set in the atmospherically chilly Scandinavian winter and the two young leads are marvelously natural and persuasive even in light of the fantastic story.
8. Dexter. Another selection from television, this Showtime series came back with a bang this year after what I thought was a rather lackluster season in 2008. John Lithgow makes a terrific villain, and his Trinity was a marvelously complex and creepy character. Best of all is what he did to Dexter. He really got the hooks into him, screwing up his judgment and—gasp!—causing him to make mistakes. And if you haven't seen the finale, it's a controversial mind-blower that's making us "Dexterites" impatient for the new season.
Well, the new year brings us Benicio Del Toro as "The Wolfman" and Kelly Leek—I mean Jackie Earle Haley—as Freddy in the "Nightmare on Elm Street" redo. I'll be interested in them both. There'll be another (yawn) "Saw" film and Sam Raimi's remaking "Evil Dead"! The director of the "My Bloody Valentine" remake is doing "Halloween 3D," which could be a lot of fun. And William Lustig is remaking his own "Maniac" (1980). Weird. And—oh, God!—another "Hostel"! If this list is accurate, there will be tons of other remakes as well, some in 3D (which is the only reason to do it, in my opinion).
Now back to your regularly scheduled holiday programming, already in progress.