In Hollywood, the word January has historically meant one thing: take out the trash early. The beginning of the year is generally a dumping ground for low-budget horror, clichéd romantic comedies and zany (read: unfunny) spoofs and satires.

With the December deadline to submit movies for Academy Award consideration now history, studios typically unload the detritus in January so that when the year is over, they can deny ever making the film. (That's our assessment, anyway.)

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. This month's irreverent comedy 'Youth in Revolt' and the vampire sci-fi 'Daybreakers' have both gotten impressively positive reviews, prompting us to look back on a few other January Surprises in recent years.
div>In Hollywood, the word January has historically meant one thing: take out the trash early. The beginning of the year is generally a dumping ground for low-budget horror, clichéd romantic comedies and zany (read: unfunny) spoofs and satires.

With the December deadline to submit movies for Academy Award consideration now history, studios typically unload the detritus in January so that when the year is over, they can deny ever making the film. (That's our assessment, anyway.)

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. This month's irreverent comedy 'Youth in Revolt' and the vampire sci-fi 'Daybreakers' have both gotten impressively positive reviews, prompting us to look back on a few other January Surprises in recent years.

'Notorious' (2009)
If there's one thing most musical biopics have in common, it's the desire (or mandate) to scrub the subject clean of their worst transgressions and focus on "the music, man," as if their past experiences had nothing to do with the songs they created. 'Notorious' looks at the life of rapper Notorious B.I.G., warts and all, presenting as accurate a description as you can get from a major Hollywood film. It doesn't hurt that Jamal Woolard's uncanny physical and vocal resemblance to the fallen rapper is eerily perfect.

'Cloverfield' (2008)
We're guessing this one will elicit the most polarizing responses on the list. While some thought the reveal of the monster was as phony-looking and disappointing as the end of the M. Night Shyamalan-directed 'Signs,' Matt Reeves' debut film combined a cinema verité shooting style with 'Godzilla'-levels of destruction, leaving viewers both exhilarated and dizzy. With J.J. Abrams on as producer, the film naturally builds up a sense of intrigue even while approaching its apocalyptic dénouement.

'Hostel' (2006)
After the cult success of his 2002 debut 'Cabin Fever,' Eli Roth wrote and directed this horror film about two American students looking for hedonistic debauchery in Europe. While the thought of drunk college students invading Europe would be scary enough for most people, Roth flipped teen horror conventions and avoided most of the standard clichés found in "torture porn" films.