With only a few hours remaining, 2013 is drawing to a close. It’s time to reflect on what I believe to be the best horror films of the year. I saw a great many horror films throughout the year and while many were disappointments, there were a lot that I truly enjoyed. 2013 was a pretty good year for horror, both the mainstream and indie arenas had a lot to offer fans of the genre.
Every year it’s difficult to make a best of list, but this year seemed to be particularly difficult due to the amount of great films that came out. My top ten list this year is a mixture of both mainstream films as well as independent horror. The only rule I put upon my list is that a film had to have been released in 2013, even if it was filmed prior to this year. It was very difficult to assign a numerical order to the list but here goes:
10. The Cemetery
Director: Adam Ahlbrandt
This dark and moody indie film is a great effort from a filmmaker that I see a lot of potential in. A group of five reality show ghost hunters are headed into the woods of Pennsylvania to track down an abandoned church cemetery. Armed with a stolen church record detailing the whereabouts of this rumored haunted cemetery, they have to head in on foot miles into the wilderness. After finding the cemetery, they unearth more than they bargained for when the group discovers that sometimes the possessed souls of the dead don’t always stay that way.
9. The Lords Of Salem
Director: Rob Zombie
Rocker Rob Zombie’s films have been hit-or-miss, but The Lords Of Salem is his best work yet, it’s too bad he says he’s retiring from horror because the film shows his growth as a filmmaker. The film tells the tale of ancient witches returning to Salem, Massachusetts to take revenge. Despite the casting of his wife in every film he’s directed, Sheri Moon Zombie is actually pretty darn good in the role of rock DJ Heidi in the film. It’s always great to see the wonderful ensemble cast of cult actors that Zombie assembles for his films and this one is no exception. The Lords of Salem is a creepy and unsettling tale of witchcraft in modern day Salem with some great visuals making this Zombie’s most accomplished film to date.
Director: Patrick Rea
Another great indie filmmaker to watch out for is Patrick Rea as his second feature film Nailbiter proves beyond the shadow of a doubt. Nailbiter is a great monster movie and doesn’t disappoint. Rea crafts an unbelievably taut and suspenseful chiller that’s not to be missed and the film definitely lives up to its name.
A mother and her three daughters are on the road, traveling to Kansas City to pick up her husband at the airport. While traveling across Kansas, they run into bad weather in a small town. They get caught in a tornado, and the storm blows their car into a ditch on the side of the road. Looking to take shelter, the family runs to an isolated farmhouse with seemingly nobody home. They break the padlock on the storm cellar door so the girls can take refuge from the storm. Once inside, they become trapped when a large tree branch falls across the cellar door. To their horror, the mother and her daughters soon discover that the farmhouse is not what they expected and the horror they will soon face is much more terrifying than any tornado.
7. Insidious: Chapter 2
Director: James Wan
Insidious: Chapter 2 is the first of two films from director James Wan on my list this year, read on to find out what other film of his made the list! Chapter 2 delivers on the scares and expands upon the mythology set up in the original and gives a superior haunted house chiller.
In Chapter 2 we pick right back up with the Lambert family immediately following the events of the first film. Things are not quite over for the family as the hauntings continue to increase and Josh begins to exhibit strange new behavior. Meanwhile, Josh’s mother and wife seek out ghost hunting geeks, Specs and Tucker along with old friend to help find answers. To do so, they must look back into the past to end the horrific events of the present before all is lost.
6. Evil Dead
Director: Fede Alvarez
I know many of you might not agree with this choice because the film has also landed on many worst of lists of the year, but I will defend this film as one of my favorites this year. The mostly practical effects are insanely gory, resulting in the most carnage on film this year. Using the building blocks that Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Rob Tapert had put down from the original film, Alvarez has expanded upon that universe and created a truly horrific and blood-soaked film that not only pays homage to the original but ventures off in its own separate and distinctive direction.
In the new story, we are introduced to five friends who are heading to a remote cabin in the woods to help Mia overcome her drug addiction. Once there, they make a terrible discovery of the Book of the Dead. They unwittingly summon demons in the nearby woods that have been lying dormant by reading incantations in the book. Once awakened, the demons possess the group one at a time with grisly results until only one is left to fight for survival and end the night’s horrors.
5. American Mary
Director: Jen and Sylvia Soska
The second film from Canadian twin directing duo of Jen and Sylvia Soska is a triumph of independent horror cinema. Their film delves into the dark underbelly of underground freakish body modifications with a subplot of twisted revenge. The lead role of Mary was played marvelously by the very talented Katharine Isabelle, who in my opinion turned in the finest performance of any actor in an independent film this year!
The story follows medical student, Mary Mason, as she becomes increasingly broke and disenchanted with the surgical world she once admired. The allure of easy money sends Mary into the world of underground surgeries which ends up leaving more marks on her than her so called ‘freakish’ clientele.
Director: Andrés Muschietti
Mama is the feature length version of Spanish director Andrés Muschietti’s short film of the same name. He again wrote and directed the feature version and had a little help from acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo del Toro as producer. Muschietti brought much of the creepiness from that short film into the feature version. At its heart, Mama is a fable about a mother’s love for her child and the lengths she’s willing to take to protect what’s hers. It’s a dark fairy tale of the type that del Toro has been known and loved for.
Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years…. but how alone were they? Something evil has followed the girls out of the forest, and they call it “Mama”.
Director: Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sánchez, Timo Tjahjanto, Adam Wingard
V/H/S/2 is the sequel to the wildly popular first film, V/H/S. Like the previous film, V/H/S/2 is a found footage anthology, but unlike the first film, this one is actually very good. This film fires on all cylinders, it is superior in every way to the first film. There is not a bad sequence in the bunch. The film makes smart use of the found footage sub-genre, the filmmakers make believable decisions as to why each sequence is being recorded and the writing is impeccable by all the writers involved. V/H/S/2 is the smartest use of found footage I’ve seen in quite a while.
Searching for a missing student, two private investigators break into his house and find collection of VHS tapes. Viewing the horrific contents of each cassette, they realize there may be dark motives behind the student’s disappearance.
Director: Franck Khalfoun
It’s very tough to take on a remake of a beloved splatter film like Maniac, the die hard fans can be very unforgiving and unopen to giving a remake a chance. French director Franck Khalfoun did a tremendous job of translating his vision of the remake and updating it for modern audiences. In many ways, his remake is better than the original film with much of the success going to lead actor Elijah Wood who turns in a creepy performance as the psychopathic serial killer. This is a film that ranks as one of the best of the year and is a must to see.
As he helps a young artist with her upcoming exhibition, the owner of a mannequin shop’s deadly, suppressed desires come to the surface.
1. The Conjuring
Director: James Wan
The Conjuring is director James Wan’s second film on my best of 2013 list, and it’s the best by far. I can’t even begin to say enough positive remarks about the film because it shines in almost every way. Wan has crafted an abnormal haunted house/possession film in that it harkens back to the days when films need not rely on gratuitous gore or sex but rather mood and suspense. There are many adjectives that can be used to describe The Conjuring – Scary, frightening, intense or terrifying, but none of them do the film enough justice. All I can say is The Conjuring is one of the most frightening films I’ve seen in recent years, and for good reason. Horror fans need to see The Conjuring at all costs; it really is the scare of the year!
The Conjuring follows the true story of the Perron family, Roger, Carolyn and their five children. Set in 1972, the family moves into a house in Rhode Island only to experience mysterious occurrences from day one that only worsen in intensity. At their wits end and with nowhere else to turn, they approach noted paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren for help. What follows is an all-out assault on The Perron family by some very nasty entities in which the Warren’s fight the most unrelenting battle of good vs. evil they’ve ever encountered before or since. Since this is a true story, the Perron family felt the world was not ready to hear the full story until now – 30 years later.
These films are all exceptional horror films for the year but they just didn’t make it into my top ten, regardless they all should be sought out.
Curse of Chucky, Warm Bodies, World War Z, Dark Touch, Byzantium, Grabbers, Hatchet III, Resolution, Stitches, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh.