Directed by: Gil Kenan Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire
Remakes of classic horror can either completely reinvent the concept or hew too closely to the original and be deemed unnecessary. Poltergeist nearly falls into the latter category, but it’s saved by the serious talent involved. Screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire — who won a Pulitzer Prize for his play Rabbit Hole — might seem like an odd choice, but his script captures the blend of horror, fantasy, and absurdity that made the original Poltergeist a success. As Eric and Amy Bowen, Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt are far better than your standard genre parents: Their performances ground the film, which otherwise might collapse under all the evil clowns, homicidal plant life, and ghostly static. This Poltergeist remake isn’t all that frightening, but it’s a lot of fun — and while nostalgia may have warped our perception, that’s essentially what the original had to offer, too. If we’re going to get remakes over original horror, let’s hope they all put at least this much effort into the proceedings.
Directed by: Mickey Keating Written by: Mickey Keating
The title Pod suggests something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, an intentional connection, courtesy of writer-director Mickey Keating. His film isn’t a remake of the 1956 classic (or any subsequent version), but it does mine horror from paranoia, an effective technique that has the characters second-guessing each other — and the audience second-guessing the characters. It’s unclear if troubled veteran Martin (Brian Morvant) has actually captured a vicious creature, or if he’s merely suffering from a psychotic break. And Martin’s nervous tics and unhinged rants are terrifying enough on their own: He rails against mind control and government monitoring as his helpless siblings, Lyla (Lauren Ashley Carter) and Ed (Dean Cates), struggle to reason with him. Whatever monster exists in the basement of the cabin, it’s secondary to the monsters in Martin’s head — that unsettling revelation, the basis of paranoid horror, is what elevates Pod past simple creature feature.
17. Bloodsucking Bastards
Directed by: Brian James O’Connell Written by: Ryan Mitts and Dr. God
The joke at the center of the horror-comedy Bloodsucking Bastards isn’t all that subtle: Corporate jobs will suck the life out of you. In this case, Evan (Fran Kranz) slowly realizes that the new hire at his company, slick sales manager Max (Pedro Pascal), is turning the workforce into vampires. But while the setup might be obvious, the execution is what makes Bloodsucking Bastards so much fun to watch. The script, by Ryan Mitts and director Brian James O’Connell’s comedy group Dr. God, is consistently funny — it rests solely in the workplace comedy genre, approaching the encroaching vampire threat matter-of-factly. (The characters’ largely nonchalant reactions to the supernatural are some of the funniest moments in the film.) And kudos to True Blood for popularizing the grossest new facet of the vampire mythos — when vampires are staked, they explode like blood-filled water balloons — because Bloodsucking Bastards follows suit, ensuring that however satirical the film is, the violence is very real. Besides, let’s face it: Sometimes gore is hilarious.