It’s been ten years since 2010. How old do you feel?
Personally, we think we look pretty good for 62. As of 2020, that’s how long Famous Monsters has been around. A decade has also passed since Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine returned to print under the current team! So many anniversaries. We’re overwhelmed.
No end of the decade would be complete without a surplus of noisy opinions on the best and worst in genre media! Rather than argue, at FM we came to a peaceful consensus on our favorite horror, sci-fi, and fantasy movies, television, comics, video games, and a few other things. We’ve also included personal picks for the 2010s to give a little insight into how our brains work.
After reading the below article, go check out the triumphant return of the Famous Monsters Podcast with Episode 30! The topic? Best movies of the decade. And the list differs slightly from the one below, so you’re not getting spoilers if you read on… plus, our passion for horror and sci-fi films when arguing out loud is a bit more, um, unbridled.
OUR FAVORITE MOVIES
THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017)
The Shape of Water isn’t just a love story — it’s a love letter to Monster Kids and cinephiles around the world. It shows that monsters are art, and that the true beast hides in sheep’s clothing. Guillermo del Toro and Doug Jones have worked together on many projects, but this is their magnum opus. While the rest of the cast get to express their characters’ motives and feelings through speech, Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins are relegated to gestures and facial expressions. Watching them feels like watching a dance, painting a story of true love that is blind to all exterior flaws. Beside’s Jones’s elegant movements, a lot of credit needs to go to the immensely talented SFX team that worked on creating the fish man’s makeup and prosthetics. Del Toro continues to show that practical effects aren’t just alive and well, but there’s still so much we can do with them. We’re eager to see how he molds the tale of Pinocchio into a similar beautiful darkness.
GET OUT (2017)
It’s not often that a first-time director releases a movie that creates an immediate wave through not just a genre, but the cultural zeitgeist as a whole. It’s also not often that someone known almost exclusively for comedy makes such a smash hit in a completely different genre. Somehow, Jordan Peele managed to do exactly that with GET OUT. It’s hard to think of any horror movie that commanded as much attention this decade. Daniel Kaluuya does a phenomenal job as main character Chris Washington — just name a more iconic shot than the look of horror on his face as a single tear drops from his eye.
A QUIET PLACE (2018)
If anyone wasn’t sure that John Krasinski is more than just Jim Halpert from THE OFFICE, well, now they know: this guy can do it all. In addition to this film’s great directing, acting, and writing skills, Krasinski is also blessed with a phenomenal cast. Each actor is able to squeeze so much emotion out of every movement. When there is a rare moment of actual spoken dialogue, it feels meaningful. Many horror and monster flicks have families facing a horrific threat, but most don’t focus on creating a family we care about. No one in this film is disposable. When someone is in danger, the film has you silently at the edge of your seat, not letting out a peep — as if your silence helps to keep them safe. Never before has sound played such a huge part in a movie. We’re very curious to see how it affects the sequel coming in 2020.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)
A piece of distilled perfection in the form of dystopian action, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is not only a masterpiece of genre filmmaking, but of the art of film in general. Director George Miller returns to the series he left in 1985 with such vicious authority you’d think he never left, and editor Margaret Sixel — who won an Oscar for her impeccable work — creates a structure that is all journey and character development, with only a little time left for revelation. Immortan Joe is a villain for the ages, and the guy playing a flaming guitar on the top of a monster truck will live forever as one of the most insane moments in movie history.
Leading up to US, everyone was worried: is Jordan Peele going to have a sophomore slump? Turns out the answer was a giant, resounding “ABSOLUTELY NOT.” If it wasn’t clear enough from his first film, US proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Peele has a knack for bringing out the best in his actors — even if they’re playing two roles at once, as is the case in US. It’s been a while since we had a great doppelganger flick, and this one completely knocked it out of the park.
SHIN GODZILLA (2016)
With the state of kaiju movies today — mostly giant schlocky battles à la KING OF THE MONSTERS (which we absolutely loved for what it was) — it’s hard to imagine a new Godzilla film could be an absolute masterpiece, but what a masterpiece this is. SHIN GODZILLA’s design is potentially the most unnerving Godzilla has ever looked, to say nothing of that tail and what it begins transforming into at the end. We could go on for hours about this movie, from the comedic ribbing of bureaucracy to the tsunami-reminiscent footage of some of Godzilla’s earlier forms to the sheer devastating power of the new atomic breath. Every piece is phenomenal.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011)
Few horror films caused such a divide amongst the general population as THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. If you’re a horror fan, chances are it caused some arguments between you and your less terror-inclined friends — not everyone was prepared for the level of meta this campy classic delivered. Thank goodness Lionsgate managed to rescue this one from the shelf, or we’d have missed out on one of the best trope-honoring pieces of horror comedy ever created.
PERSONAL BEST AND WORST: Jason, Marketing Manager
BEST: CHERNOBYL (2019)
HBO’s miniseries CHERNOBYL is not, by definition, part of the horror genre. Yet at the same time, it’s hard not to refer to it as such: how else can you classify something that contains a scene in which bodies must be buried in solid lead caskets and then covered in concrete to prevent the corpses — which had essentially decayed and melted while alive — from infecting living people with their symptoms? This docudrama is perhaps one of the most effective and accurate, “based on a true story” pieces ever told, and it’s done so with meticulous precision (which you can hear about on HBO’s tie-in THE CHERNOBYL PODCAST, one of Apple’s top 10 most listened-to podcasts for 2019). It doesn’t sensationalize the gut-wrenching horror of one of history’s worst disasters, but it does leave you massively unsettled, in no small part due to the exceptionally creepy score composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir. Creator Craig Mazin fully delivers on every piece of this miniseries — and it’s not for the faint of heart. Let me put it this way: if you thought the decapitation scene in HEREDITARY was stomach-churning, CHERNOBYL will shred you.
WORST: CHERNOBYL DIARIES (2012)
If HBO’s CHERNOBYL was one of the best of the decade, it’s only fitting I visit the other end of the spectrum with CHERNOBYL DIARIES. It gets a big fat F for accuracy, which on one hand is almost understandable — radiation and its effects on people is a difficult science to grasp — but on the other hand, not even the setting is well done, despite tourism in Pripyat already having started to become popular in 2012. (There are no f–king fully-formed cooling towers at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, and there never have been.) The characters are forgettable, the scares are typical and boring, and the plot is riddled with nonsense. To be entirely fair, CHERNOBYL DIARIES isn’t the first film to use mutated-by-radiation humans as monsters, but they’re essentially watered down versions of the people from THE HILLS HAVE EYES with no motivation or reason to what they’re doing. Rotten Tomatoes currently gives it a score of 19% — which is maybe about 15% too generous.
OUR FAVORITE TV SHOWS
LOVE, DEATH, + ROBOTS (2019)
Netflix originals are hit or miss for sure, but LOVE, DEATH, + ROBOTS — which originally began as a new project under the HEAVY METAL brand — is a horror/sci-fi/fantasy anthology series with badassery to spare. Each installment feels entirely unique in both its method of storytelling and focus of narrative, so you get everything from traditionally 2D animated vampire demons to Pixar-style mechs vs. aliens wars to hyperrealistic video-game-style space travel. You go into each new episode not quite sure what to expect, and the results are almost always satisfying, if not flawless. The result just feels like unbridled creativity, like a bunch of graffiti artists spray painting a wall at the same time and coming away with a beautiful mural.
Those of us that grew up with the 8-bit game in the 80s were understandably wary about this one. Video game adaptations are famously terrible, so how could such a legendary property like CASTLEVANIA come to the screen in a believable way? Luckily, a promise came in the form of the show’s creator: one Warren Ellis, who is one of the best comic book writers of all time and clearly has a relationship to the property beyond a commercial one. Ellis’s writing paired with classic anime-style imagery (given the game’s Japanese origin, this is almost a given, but still a huge plus) and a boldly chosen voice cast (Richard Armitage? YES PLZ) makes this one of the most impressive Western-origin adult animation series in years — possibly ever, given Western bias towards more family-oriented animated fare. Its gothic goodness and demonic beauty is unmatched on modern television.
STRANGER THINGS (2016- )
Nostalgia has hardly ever shined and been represented so well as it has in this series. Following the road map laid before it by films like E.T., THE GOONIES, MONSTER SQUAD, and others, STRANGER THINGS takes a group of D&D-obsessed kids in the 1980s into supernatural adventure. As they grow with each season, so does the threat from “the upside down”. Besides shining a light on the highlights of a decade, STRANGER THINGS also catapulted the careers of David Harbour, Millie Bobby Brown, and Finn Wolfhard into the stratosphere — particularly Wolfhard, who has been in the new IT films and will be in the long-awaited third installment of GHOSTBUSTERS. Until then, we eagerly await to see what’s in store for the gang in Season 4. Is Sheriff Hopper still alive? How will Mike and Eleven manage a long-distance relationship? Will we get the infamous trope of a class trip overseas? Stay tuned…
PERSONAL BEST AND WORST: Jenn, Art Director
BEST: THE WITCHER 3 (2015)
Over 100 hours of playtime later, I’m ready to go through it all over again… immediately. Immersive storylines contribute to endless replay-ability as your decisions throughout the game lead to dire consequences that not only affect the actual ending, but the physical landscape of the game. RIP all those robust villages that are now riddled with wraiths and disease. Whoopsies. You don’t need to have played the earlier installments of the game, as it does an excellent job of giving you enough back story and catching you up without feeling overly repetitive and distracting (like some Uncle Bens of New York and rich Waynes of the alleyways). Oh, and did I mention the plethora of f–ked up looking monsters and ghosts? There’s pretty much every kind of creature imaginable (alive, undead, and in between) for monster lovers. Also, GWENT IS THE BEST THING EVER. Ignoring world-shattering quests to play card games really puts the cherry on top of the whole thing.
WORST: STAR WARS - THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019)
I sense a great disturbance in the force. Can we just call this the Rise of the Plot Holes instead? An appalling lack of continuity, destruction of established characterization, and poor CGI at pivotal moments leave much to be desired for an ending to a long-running acclaimed series. This is clearly the work of one director’s hissy fit over having to share his toys at the playground.
OUR FAVORITE VIDEO GAMES
If you’ve ever owned a Playstation and love horror, there are only two games coming to mind right now: RESIDENT EVIL and SILENT HILL. Where RESIDENT EVIL is a fast-paced shot of adrenaline at every corner, SILENT HILL is a slow burn that drills fear into your soul. However, much like EVIL, SILENT HILL started to lose its spark with each passing installment. But something very special happened in the year of 2014: a demo was released. A whispering buzz was stirring, and everyone was talking about P.T. (Playable Teaser). This was like no other demo and, honestly, like no other game. There are first-person games, but none are notable for not using an HUD. Heck, you don’t even see your body, and to top it off, you’re not given any button prompts either. Everything is about discovery, which makes you feel lost at all times. You’re so focused on trying to figure out what each button does as you go down a looping corridor that each creaking and bumping sound makes you jump and cringe with fear. This is especially cranked up if you’re playing with headphones on, as the game advises doing. Eventually, with each loop, you start to learn more about the possible story as you hear a report on the radio and you start to be able to interact with objects. The more you learn, the creepier it gets: ever-changing halls of rot, blood, and baby cries. At the end of this 15 minutes journey, you see the names Hideo Kojima (METAL GEAR), Guillermo del Toro (THE SHAPE OF WATER) and Norman Reedus (THE WALKING DEAD). The teaser finishes with a title: SILENT HILLS. Tragically, nothing ever came from P.T., and we never saw a SILENT HILLS game or even a SILENT HILL since. But P.T. has become a thing of legend, and has changed how developers approach story and design to this day.
RESIDENT EVIL 7: BIOHAZARD (2017)
When RESIDENT EVIL was first released back in March of 1996, it brought fear and joy to everyone’s console. With each installment, the stakes were raised, and hearts were pumping as we took Chris and Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine, and Leon Kennedy through tight hallways and alleys escaping Tyrants, Nemeses, lickers, and zombies. All the zombies! Things started going downhill when the franchise began trading scares for more explosions. By RE 6, it felt more like a Michael Bay production than than a George A. Romero outing. When RESIDENT EVIL 7 came out in 2017, it wasn’t just a breath of fresh air — it was a whole oxygen tank! It brings the player into a first-person perspective and has them traverse through a ragged old house that could have come straight out of TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. All of the claustrophobic feelings of the first three are not only back, but elevated — especially if you’re lucky enough to play the game in its VR mode. It also brings back puzzles that involve you traveling back and forth through the map. And of course, it wouldn’t be RESIDENT EVIL without an enemy that is constantly evolving and giving you that feeling of “Will these last 3 rounds be enough?”. It’s worth checking out to answer that question for yourself.
PERSONAL BEST AND WORST: Chase, Social Media Manager
BEST: HORROR ARTIST ANDY SCIAZKO
For horror fans who love having their fears reflected in art, you’ll want to take a look at Andy Sciazko’s work. Reminiscent of Stephen Gammell’s art from SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK, Sciazko does a great job at bringing our nightmares into the light. These uncanny pieces will drag you into a horror-filled atmosphere full of haunting detail. In other words… you’ll love it.
WORST: THE MUMMY (2017)
Also known as MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: MUMMY or MUMMY IMPOSSIBLE, THE MUMMY was a just wasted opportunity. We were hoping for a horror-fantasy film that would blow us away and act as a foundation for a revamped Universal horror franchise and cinematic universe. Instead, the story unraveled to reveal truly unlikable characters in an action film that happened to have mummies in it. If you spent most of this movie asking yourself, “Why is this happening?”, you’re not alone. In the end, no amount of bandages could preserve this new Dark Universe.
OUR FAVORITE COMIC BOOKS
The first choice for a comic book that ruled the decade was pretty much a no-brainer. Hands-down the biggest success of DC’s “New 52” initiative, BATMAN by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo — with very few creative team changes over the course of its 52 issues — kept us riveted every single month from 2011 to 2016. Wait a minute, you say — Batman? A horror book? Indeed, that’s what first grabbed everyone’s attention when it debuted: Snyder, who had just come off of a successful DETECTIVE COMICS run, was helming AMERICAN VAMPIRE for Vertigo and SEVERED at Image, whereas Capullo is still best known for his work on SPAWN. The two of them together bring down the dark curtain for Bruce Wayne: psychological torture, creepy owl-people, labyrinthian mazes, huge mechs, flower monsters, headless horsemen, and gladiator-style lion fighting are just a few examples of where the book goes. In “Death of the Family”, Snyder and Capullo redefine the Joker for a new generation. Capullo’s nightmarish depiction of his rotting, reattached face will haunt comics fans for years.
NOWHERE MEN (2012- )
Eric Stephenson’s unfinished allegory for what becomes of our world when science is the new rock & roll tells the story of four scientists who create World Corp and mirror The Beatles in a very Apple/Microsoft kind of way. Also much like The Beatles, their separation has devastating effects: the group goes through a Fantastic-Four-like transformation thanks to a secret viral experiment gone wrong that the “fab four” scientists never fully completed before their “breakup”. While the story tries to bring them back together, it also gives us the adventurous struggle of the newly powered space workers who need to find their way back to earth without the help of the “World”. The true magic of this book lies in the faux news articles and ads interspersed with action that sculpt out the world of NOWHERE MEN. Hopefully, 2020 will be the year we get the much-deserved continuation of this modern sci-fi odyssey.
PERSONAL BEST AND WORST: Holly, Executive Editor
BEST: SNOWPIERCER (2014)
2014 was a great year for movies — we got the best Marvel movie (CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER), indie horror gems (IT FOLLOWS, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT), and TUSK, Kevin Smith’s disturbing and underrated ode to the walrus. But with SNOWPIERCER, director Bong Joon-ho gave us one of the best movies ever made, focusing on a post-apocalyptic caste system aboard a moving bullet train wherein a faction from the back of the train, encouraged by the help of mysterious notes sent through food, decides to revolt and move forward. Joon-ho takes this admittedly high-end concept and peppers it with such surreal brilliance, bizarre humor, and unforgettable violence that there’s no real American precedent — only Joon-ho’s early Korean films (like THE HOST and BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE) manage to capture the tone. It’s a truly international picture, and therefore unique. I remain wary of the upcoming TV show, mostly because a lot what makes this movie work is its impeccable casting, from Chris Evans as the reluctant riot leader to Joon-ho’s perennial favorite Song Kang-ho as a lock-picking junkie.
WORST: SINISTER (2012)
I sat down to watch this after having been mildly impressed by INSIDIOUS (with the exception of the final five minutes — superfluous twists, ugh). I still have a great deal of respect for James Wan, and I love Ethan Hawke. I didn’t expect to be blown away — only entertained. Tragically, this movie opens with a generic “mystery” that is so completely obvious I spent the rest of the movie thinking Surely that’s not all there is. Surely there’s something else going on here. Nope. I was forced to watch as the main character attempts to unravel this “mystery” and is accompanied by his hysterical wife (“Think of your family!!”), a generic demon, and a smattering of useless jump scares. Barf.
OUR OTHER FAVORITES
WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE (2012- )
If you weren’t into podcasts in the early part of the decade, there’s a chance you might have missed this one. Don’t let that stop you, though — WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE (or WTNV) is an eerie yet dreamy experiment when it comes to storytelling and world building, and definitely holds up to this day. WTNV masquerades as a local radio station in a small desert town that has some majorly mysterious stuff going on, but it’s all taken completely in stride by the characters. One of the major selling points of WTNV is host Cecil Baldwin’s velvety, rich voice — when they say someone’s got a radio voice, this is who they’re talking about.
MARBLE HORNETS (2009-2014)
Internet horror is far from a new phenomenon. It wasn’t even really that new in 2010 — “creepypasta” had already been a word for 4 years, and online ARGs were big enough that even Warner Brothers had used them for movie marketing campaigns. But something happened right at the turn of the decade that created a distinct shift in what internet horror series looked like, and that thing was MARBLE HORNETS. Though it technically started in mid-2009, most of its content (and arguably some of its best) happened in 2010 and after. Before Slenderman became so comically overdone and the initial terror he sparked disappeared, MARBLE HORNETS managed to capitalize big on what made him so unsettling. But the best parts of aren’t even the use of creepypasta: their puzzles, editing, storytelling, tie-in videos, and characters make this series shine in a way that all of its successors fell short of. Even the late, great Roger Ebert called it “remarkably well-done”.