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Oh, the Horror!


January is tricky for movie studios. They all released their awards-bait films in December, hoping that a just-under-the-wire release will help their Oscar nomination chances. Now in January, with these prestige movies still in theaters, they don’t want to compete with themselves, but they don’t want to leave holes in the release schedule. So, what’s left? Horror movies.

Whether you like horror films or not — and I do — that’s pretty much all you’re getting until the rom-com glut of Valentine’s Day (see: He’s Just Not That Into You, Confessions of a Shopaholic). Until then, here’s a guide to the icky, gooey, sticky, gory films in theaters this month. If you’re squeamish, you can start hiding your eyes now.

Donkey Punch
Metacritic Score: 43
A group of girls meet some handsome fellows at a nightclub, and it turns out the men are the crew of a posh yacht, and they offer to take the girls partying on the high seas while the owners are away. But when one of them dies aboard the ship, things start to get ugly. This small British indie indulges in all of the horror genre’s excesses: there’s graphic and gratuitous sex, bloody and often silly violence, and lots of ear-piercing shrieking. But the setting — on a yacht in the middle of the Mediterranean — is claustrophobic enough to offer up some actual suspense.

Watch Jaime King’s and Megan Boone’s eyes bug out in three dimensions in My Bloody Valentine 3DMy Bloody Valentine 3DPhotograph by Michael Roberts

My Bloody Valentine 3D
Metacritic Score: 51
A small mining town is just starting to recover from a horrible tragedy — one of the miners goes on a gasmask-wearing, axe-wielding murderous rampage — when the psychokiller returns. Here, the 3D is the main attraction. Don’t expect a clever story or any new twists on the slasher genre. But, the 3D uses new state-of-the-art technology, which means that when jawbones and eyeballs pop out at you from the screen, they look crystal-clear.

The Unborn
Metacritic Score: 30
A college student finds herself haunted by her unborn twin, whose spirits sometimes manifests itself in the weird kid she babysits. Yes, a lot of this movie is as outrageous as its premise, but it gets points for recognizing the true creepiness of children (particularly the demonic unborn ones). The film was written by The Dark Knight‘s David S. Goyer and co-stars TDK‘s Gary Oldman, but don’t expect any of that film’s wit or elegance.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
Metacritic Score: 47
This is the third installment of the hit Underworld franchise and it does what part-threes often do: goes back in time. In this case, we find out just how vampires and lycans (werewolves) became mortal enemies. No surprise: it’s because of a girl. Performances by better-than-this actors Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen (yes, the same guy who played Frost in Frost/Nixon) make this movie better than it has any right to be.

The Uninvited
Metacritic Score: N/A (it’s not open yet)
Talk about wicked stepmothers: Anna Rydell has a notion that her dad’s new squeeze is a murderess. Ghosts corroborate her story. This movie isn’t out yet, but David Strathairn is in it. That means it has to be a little bit classy, right? Comedienne extraordinaire Elizabeth Banks seems too pretty to be an evil stepmother, but maybe she’ll shed her trademark goofiness for some icy stares.

Wow, a lot of horror films start with “un.” If you were going to make a scary movie with an “un” title, what would it be? (Mine: The Unemployed. In this economy, that’s the scariest thing ever.) What’s your favorite scary movie? (Don’t say Showgirls — that joke is played.) Let me know in the comments.