Merry Christmas boils and ghouls. It has been a solid, if limited, year for the horror genre that was devoid of much big-screen attention. Most of the films on this list either had a limited theatrical run or were just released to Video On Demand. Hopefully next year horror films will start seeing a theatre resurgence, because if Rob Zombie couldn’t get his new film a wide release what hope can other, more independent artists have. At least we can be thankful that the Paranormal Activity franchise took a year off, thank god. So here comes all your presents, wrapped up in a neat bow… Dr. Morbid’s Top 10 Best Horror list of 2013, ready to GO!
Honorable Mention: The Lords of Salem – Rob Zombie’s fifth feature length effort was very hit or miss among his fans, including me, hence it being listed as my Honorable Mention. Sheri Moon Zombie, playing a radio DJ named Heidi Hawthorne who receives a mysterious record that might have something to do with a coven of witches, gives a great performance as the film’s lead. While I love the slow build of tension and the 1970’s aesthetics, I felt that the end of the movie was kind of a mess. But anybody that is a fan of Rob Zombie’s will be able to forgive most of this movies negative points. Also, if you are a fan of Rosemary’s Baby or just 1970’s cinema in general there is a lot to appreciate, if you can get past all the Devil penises.
10. Insidious: Chapter 2 – I am a huge fan of 2010’s Insidious, although there seems to be a big division amongst horror fans. I was apprehensive when I first heard that a sequel was being made, and I waited until recently to actually sit down and watch it. James Wan and Leigh Whannell are always great as a writing/directing team and this film, while one of their weaker collaborations, still succeeds in continuing the original film even though I still think Insidious should stand on its own. The film seems to run off track into crazy territory in the final half-hour, but Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne keep it grounded with their convincing performances amongst the chaos. This film is worth watching as a crazy companion piece to the much better original.
9. Army of the Damned – Sure, Tom DeNucci is a local Rhode Island director, so you could view this selection as favoritism, but thankfully that is not true. Surprisingly, Army of the Damned is probably one of the best movies this year to sit down with a bunch of your friends and get drunk to. Sully Erna, lead singer of Godsmack, does a great job as lead and appearances from genre favorites such as Tony Todd and Michael Berryman only enhance the fun. While not a perfect film, it is damn well an entertaining one. Bring on the Damned sequel!
8. American Mary – Horror films are normally made by a majority of male directors, so it is nice to see a film on this top ten list that is made by two female directors, Jen and Sylvia Soska. This Canadian gem recently found its way on my radar after all the praise that horror fans on message boards gave this film. For those that don’t know, the film follows a broke medical student named Mary Mason who finds herself performing illegal and underground surgeries, and she is portrayed near perfectly by Katharine Isabelle. American Mary isn’t overtly graphic or gory, but it is definitely a twisted and sadistic look into the semi-sexual but disturbing sub-culture of illegal body modifications.
7. Aftershock – Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge fan of Eli Roth as both a Producer and Director, as well as somebody that I would love to have a drink with. But who knew that the sadistic mind behind Cabin Fever and Hostel was an actual bonafide actor. Aftershock, co-written by Roth and director Nicolas Lopez, follows a group of survivors trying to stay alive after a massive earthquake in Chile. Unlike most of the other horror films on this list, the villain behind this movie is mother nature herself. Aftershock does not shy away from the violence and the real joy of the film is trying to figure out who will survive in the end. It also helped that most of these characters were likable and you were rooting for them to make it, although most of them do not. Harsh, brutal and uncompromising, I can’t wait until they team up again for The Green Inferno sequel (although I have yet to see the original, which will be released September 5th).
6. We Are What We Are – A slow burning moody horror film that relies less on gore and violence, and more on character relationships and a rising dread that permeates the film. Based after the 2010 Mexican film of the same name, this movie accomplishes something that few American remakes of recent Foreign films do, it is vastly superior to the original. Jim Mickle, director of Stake Land as well as this film, is a name to look forward to in the future. The plot follows a family of reclusive cannibals whose lives, after the death of their mother, slowly begins to unravel. Even though We Are What We Are takes its time with the narrative before getting to the bloody stuff, once it reaches the conclusion, boy are you in for one satisfying bloodbath. Dark, brooding and savage, just the kind of horror film that deserves some support.
5. You’re Next – The Purge, a popular horror flick that missed making my list, was a typical home invasion movie in which a family has to survive against a group of masked psychopaths, but with a great concept behind it. Unfortunately, the movie failed to live up to its concept. Adam Wingard has no such problem with You’re Next, another home invasion flick with the exception of not being a letdown. And even better, the last half-hour of the film is like a bloody adult Home Alone in which the final survivor turns the house into a giant death trap. The death scenes are creative and unique, there are several twists and turns to the script, and the Final Girl is straight up bad-ass. The film ends on a final ironic and bloody note that is just perfect. Hopefully the sequel to The Purge will be more in line with this film, and less like its disappointing original.
4. Evil Dead – I was dreading this film ever since I heard the rumors about my favorite horror film, The Evil Dead, being remade for modern audiences. I had prejudged this film before it was even completed, so when I finally took the time out of my day to see it I was surprised by how entertaining it was. Hell, nothing will ever come close to the original film and just for the simple fact that this remake wasn’t a disaster, this film deserves a high spot on this list. I also have to applaud the filmmakers for using a lot of practical effects that were gory, disturbing and pretty convincing. Fede Alvarez’s remake of The Evil Dead has plenty of nods and throwbacks to the first two films, while still telling its own story and being different enough to warrant its existence. Just like Insidious: Part 2, this film should be looked at as a companion piece to the original film and if you view it as that, then this film is a hell of a lot of fun.
3. The Conjuring – James Wan is back to his old tricks again, creepy puppets and ghost hauntings, only this time it’s based on reality. The Conjuring follows the real-life investigation of a haunted house in 1971 at a farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island (about 20 minutes from where I live), by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The movie not only is creepy, but at moments can be quite terrifying, although I am no longer affected by such moments. The movie is well filmed and has some fantastic cinematography. Patrick Wilson once again nails the role and it is quite obvious by now that Wan knows how to bring the best performances out of him. After watching Wan’s second foray into ghost territory, Insidious: Part 2, I couldn’t help but compare it to this much more superior film. It will be interesting to see if James Wan is really done with the horror genre or not, but The Conjuring would be a great film to go out on.
2. Curse of Chucky – If there is anything that Curse of Chucky has taught me, it’s, “Don’t fuck with the Chuck!” I’ll get it out of the way now, this straight to DVD release is the best Chucky movie since the original film. I think Hollywood should be ashamed of itself for not releasing this film into movie theaters, especially since the only horror movie released around Halloween was the by the numbers Carrie remake. Don Mancini, the director of this film and the creator of Chucky himself, made a fantastic decision to not remake his original film and instead make a new chapter to the series that focuses on making a killer doll scary again. The previous two films, Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky, were both satires and they both turned the character into something close to the character of Freddy Krueger after The Dream Warriors. Don Mancini refused to let the character of Chucky, somebody that horror fans have grown to love, and the Child’s Play franchise die. And with the case of Curse of Chucky I would not only say that Mancini was successful, but he somehow made Chucky frightening again and is well on his way to continuing the film with a seventh addition to the franchise, and hopefully this time it makes its way into theaters.
1. Maniac – The original Maniac was a sleazy 1980’s slasher film, with early special effects by Tom Savini, about an over-weight gross man that stalks and murders young woman, scalping them and using their scalps to decorate mannequins. While the original film was okay, it definitely is no masterpiece and feels very much like a sleazy exploitation film that I never felt the need to re-watch more than a couple of times. I prefer William Lustig’s (the director of 1980’s Maniac) other film Maniac Cop much better. The remake, however is a completely different film and somehow manages to be superior in every way. Most of my problems with remakes is the fact that the original films were so good that there is no reason to try and outdo the original. But for movies such as The Hills Have Eyes and Maniac, the initial films showed promise but under delivered. There are many reasons why Frank Khalfoun’s version of Maniac is my favorite horror film of the year, but in the spirit of keeping this short and precise here are the main three reasons. 1) Elijah Wood’s creepy and disturbing portrayal of Frank, the films titled maniac, 2) the first-person viewpoint, which is original and different than what is usually seen in a film like this, and 3) the amazing cinematography and gore effects, which are both top notch. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, then you are missing out.
Other Notable 2013 Films: V/H/S 2 ‟Safe Haven‟ segment, The Purge, Big Ass Spider, Bad Milo, Contracted
So, prepare for the conclusion of 2013 and the start of the New Year by seeking out all the films on this list and watching them. The Horror community needs to support the GOOD films so that the Studios and Hollywood will start seeing Horror as the cash-making machine it once was, so that we can see these movies the way they were intended… on the BIG SCREEN with other screaming fans. There are several films to look forward to in 2014, such as The Green Inferno, Almost Human, Horns, Devil’s Due, Tusk, Knights of Badassdom and the remake of The Toxic Avenger as well as many others. And don’t forget the conclusion of the EPIC TRILOGY, The Human Centipede 3!
Have a Terrifying Holiday Season and a Horrific New Year from all of us here at Morbidly Amusing!