2013 has proven to be a banner year for film. One of the deepest years in recent memory, especially when it comes to independent film, we cinephiles have been treated to an abundance of riches when it comes to high-quality films. On the other end of the spectrum, however, is the horror genre.
While 2013 brought with it a few truly great horror films, such movie-going experiences were few and far between. As Halloween season rolled around, hardcore fans were horrified by the prospect of only one true horror film getting a wide release in the month of October. While there has always been an abundance of low-budget horror flicks to go around, wide horror releases were scant not just in the Fall, but throughout the year as a whole.
Now the quantity versus quality debate is one as old as time itself and to complain endlessly about the lack of wide horror releases would be a disservice to those films that proved to be well worth the price of admission. As far as the quality of the few horror films released in 2013, there is no question that we were treated to some of the best of this new century.
So here’s a collection of my favorite horror films released in 2013.
Remaking an absolute horror classic is always a difficult task, but when you have the blessing of the original film’s team it certainly can have its advantages. Fede Alvarez was hand-selected by the likes of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell to helm the new version of the cabin in the woods tale and while the film is not a complete success, Alvarez’s confidence brims at the bloody seams. The final blood-soaked set-piece is a highlight, in addition to lead Jane Levy’s performance as Mia, a recovering addict. While the film pales in comparison to the original on which it is based, overall it was a fun movie-going experience that is certainly better than most contemporary horror remakes.
Insidious: Chapter 2
While not as purely fun or original as James Wan’s first Insidious outing, what makes Chapter 2 stand-out is its refusal to shy away from the crazy. Perhaps the most notably crazy aspect of the film is the performance by one Patrick Wilson, who seemingly embraces his inner Nicolas Cage to deliver an entertainingly nut-so turn as the head of the Lambert family. It may be inconsistent at times, but it’s certainly still a series that is capable of providing whacked-out haunted house scares.
5. The Lords of Salem
A flick that I admittedly like a whole lot more than most horror fans, The Lords of Salem is a movie-going experience that I believe to be a massive step forward for one Rob Zombie. Truly embracing his inner Kubrick with chilling cinematography and a keen sense of under-lying dread, Zombie has never made a film more visually-stunning than this one. For much of its run-time, Salem is a slow-moving exercise in building tension and creating a world that is most definitely not as it seems from the outside. The film eventually explodes into an insane final act and while it proves to not be as strong as the first two-thirds, it’s still an experience that no other horror filmmaker would dare to unveil. While I wouldn’t say it’s Zombie’s best film, it’s his most accomplished and confident film in terms of his direction, the color palette, and the stunning cinematography.
4. Curse of Chucky
When the latest film in the Child’s Play was announced as a direct-to-DVD release, fans feared the worst. It’s quite ironic then that Curse of Chucky may just be the best film in the series to date. Priding itself on actual scares as opposed to the tongue-in-cheek nature of previous entries, Curse is an assured horror flick with a great voice performance from the legendary Brad Dourif. Chucky has never been this scary and while Don Mancini takes some unnecessary leaps in storytelling towards the end of the film, it remains an assured return to form for a previously all-but-dead fan-favorite horror series.
3. You’re Next
A film that debuted all the way back at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011, it was a long journey for Adam Wingard’s You’re Next to make it to the big-screen. The wait, fortunately, proved to be well worth it as the film took on the home invasion horror sub-genre to strikingly original effect. The film contains one of the finest female horror heroine’s in quite some time as Sharni Vinson’s Erin proves to be the perfect match for the animal mask-clad killers. The film uses family dynamics and black humor to provide one of the more entertaining movie-going experiences. I greatly look forward to more from Adam Wingard.
Having not seen the original Maniac, I came into Franck Khalfoun’s horror update with no previous baggage. I’m guessing it certainly helped, because I was blown away by the stunning first-person portrait of an insane man who relates more to mannequins than to members of the opposite sex. Elijah Wood encapsulates Frank so deeply that you wonder why he doesn’t play more psychopaths. There’s also the stunning first-person cinematography which sets the film’s eerie mood and puts you inside the mind of a man you’d rather not know. It’s a work that is as accomplished as it creepy, and I truly wonder why the film has seemingly been swept under the rug by so many. It’s not just a horror film, but a film with artistry in spades. I could not recommend it more highly.
1. The Conjuring
Without question in my mind the horror film of the year, James Wan’s expose on the evil lurking in a small town family’s farmhouse proved to be his finest directorial effort yet. It’s a film in which it’s title card is as iconic as the scares that follow it (as you can see above). The Conjuring not only contains the creepiest doll you’ve ever seen in your life, but some terrifying jump scares that truly make you question why you ever criticized that horror technique in the first place. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga do solid work as Ed and Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigators who try to help the Perron family. It’s a film truly meant to be experienced on the big-screen with a group of terrified people around you. It’s scary, it’s fun and it’s one of the best horror movies in recent memory. It’s James Wan’s The Conjuring and it’s my favorite horror film of 2013.
And so the year that was 2013 ends. It was a year in which we were not only treated to some truly great horror films, but in which I personally was able to travel to the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time. While there I had the pleasure of attending Midnight Madness, a series of screenings with an eye towards showcasing new horror and genre films. It’s safe to say I saw some films while there that may just be making my list come next year when they are actually released. We as horror fans certainly have a lot to look forward to in 2014.