Slasher films (and horror films in general) are a particular fancy of mine, so it is unfortunate, John and Brandon, that neither of you are aficionados. Though, Brandon, you do seem to watch horror films more than occasionally, so I'm not quite sure where you stand on the topic. I liked horror as a preteen, but my tastes moved to science fiction as a teenager and only in the last 7 years or so (partly due to Adrienne's enthusiasm for them) have I really pursued a working knowledge of horror. I will admit that my back catalog is severely lacking, but I have tried to remedy that recently (Creature from the Black Lagoon, House of Dracula, Vampyr, and Dementia 13 being some of the examples of old horror standards I've watched in the last few years). I have, however, seen quite a number of horror films from the eighties to the present, and they have proven to not only be endlessly entertaining for me, but also, as a whole more than in parts, hold definite cultural and social value in my estimation.
All that said, I have a very high opinion of Rob Zombie where his films are concerned. I have not seen Halloween 2 yet, but I did see the first one as well as House of a Thousand Corpses and The Devil's Rejects. He pushes the limits of gore, so this stuff is not for the faint of heart. But if you want to see what he's really capable of, that's definitely where you need to start. What I find significant and compelling about his work is that he has a disturbing and uncanny way of making his bad guys sympathetic to the point of identification. You find yourself accidentally rooting for them, particularly by the end of Rejects-- despite their totally depraved beahvior throughout the film. His serial killers are human and he does not objectify them like so many other slasher films do. It's unsettling, but quite brilliant. He continued this theme in his remake of Halloween, but I think it's weaker because it's not his material. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the film. But when you're dealing with a horror icon as familiar as Michael Myers, it's hard to see him as anything else but the mindless killer he's been portayed as all along. We like objectifying our serial killers, because, if I can identify with a serial killer, what then does that make me? I really do think Zombie is trying to make a statement: on some level, we're all monsters, or at least capable of being monsters. It's something that we need to be reminded of from time to time, especially those of us in the middle class bubble.
A few other random notes...
-Werner Herzog is a director I have been interested in for some time. I've only seen Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, and Incident at Loch Ness (which he didn't direct, but co-wrote), but I want to see more.
-Avatar: if you're going to see it, John, see it in 3-D at the theater. Otherwise there's no rush. I agree with Brandon about the eco-sociopolitical stuff moving me, but it's a Hollywood film, ultimately. It's James Caemron, for crying out loud.
-Whip It: saw it because a friend wanted to see it and I loved it. Barrymore is a product of Hollywood from childhood to the present-- how is she able to make a film so down to earth? It put Kristen Wiig on the map for me. I thought she was fantastic.
-I can see no reason, based on the trailer and a quick look at the cast, to watch The Wolfman. Am I missing something? Shutter Island, on the other hand, I already have set plans to see.
Brandon, you mentioned liking westerns- have you seen Walker? It was one of the first I saw that got me hooked-- along with the previously mentioned Vera Cruz, High Noon, and The Magnificent Seven.