This is always my favorite time of the year. Yea, it’s Christmas, but it’s also the time for year-end best horror movie lists. I love all lists, but everyone’s “best of” lists lets me search through for any movies that I may have missed or overlooked and can add them to my watch list. 2013 was a solid year for horror, both for theatrically released and indie features. Ghost movies like The Conjuring and Insidious 2 blew up the box office and even the more gruesome Evil Dead found enough of a footing to make a splash and spawn talk of sequels. And with that, here are 10 of the horror movies I most enjoyed in 2013.
10. American Mary
Katharine Isabelle stars as a med student looking to alternative ways to pay her mounting debt. She starts performing underground body modification surgeries for a quick buck, but quickly spirals out of control. Isabelle is perfect as the lead and you’re never too sure whether you should be rooting for her or against her. The make-up effects are equally amazing and this movie is sure to impress even the most hardened of gore hounds. American Mary marks the directing duo of Jen and Sylvia Soska, The Twisted Twins, as ones to watch out for in the future.
Who would have thought that the performance of the year would come from a French-Thai actor in a small Thai thriller? David Asavanond plays a whacked-out drug dealer named Jesus in New York dealing to three unsuspecting Thai college students looking for a good time on New Year’s Eve. Asavanond flips between friendly and insane as effortlessly as he switches between English and Thai in his dual-language role. Countdown falls short in the final few minutes as it ends on too much of a happy note after 90 minutes of torture and mind games, but it doesn’t prevent Countdown from being one of the best of the year. If you like Asian horror, but are tired of the typical ghost stories, give Countdown a look.
Having also been a fan of his other film this year, Roadside, director Eric England almost made it onto this list twice, but it’s his tale of a drunken party night gone wrong that captured my attention. Never has a movie about an STD been so damn entertaining. There’s not much out there that can actually make me cringe, but Najarra Townsend slowly rotting from the inside-out sure did the trick. The story moves along at a quick pace which keeps it engaging the entire way, and an excellent performance from the lead leaves Contracted as an impressive entry into the body horror subgenre. (Original review here)
7. The Battery
No movie caught me more off guard this year than Jeremy Gardner’s ‘The Battery’. I went from not even hearing about it, to being skeptical of it, to falling in love with it in a span of 3 days. Two friends try to survive the zombie apocalypse. It doesn’t come with a huge budget and hordes of swift zombies always chasing them down, but the story of friendship and surviving with each other through the apocalypse leads to the most entertaining zombie film I’ve seen in years. Not to mention there is a great soundtrack featured along the way. The Battery also has one of the tensest finales of all the movies this year and it’s a film that sticks with you long after finishing. (Original review here)
While Michael (Peter Cilella) puts on an intervention by handcuffing his drug-addict friend Chris (Vinny Curran) to the wall of the cabin he’s squatting in, he’s left to deal with angry drug dealers, Native Americans, cults, cave-dwelling hobos, and mysterious ramblings from a man in the middle of nowhere. Not to mention mysterious pictures/videos keep popping up every time they’re not looking. I’m willing to bet Resolution is unlike any movie you’ve seen before. It sounds complicated, but it plays out simply and subtly. Cilella and Curran carry the film with their instant chemistry and keep you glued to the twists and turns coming along the way. (Original review here)
5. The Conjuring
The Conjuring was the movie that drummed up the most noise in the mainstream this year, dominating the box office for a horror movie. Although it was a pretty formulaic ghost-story, director James Wan took that formula and perfected it. The story is tight and scares come at a solid pace while Lily Taylor and Ron Livingston give you a well-liked family to root for while Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are perfect as the Warrens. James Wan has said he’s leaving the horror genre for good, and if that’s true, he went out at the top of his game. But many people, including myself, hope he finds his way back to the genre that started it all for him. (Original review here)
4. You’re Next
The long awaited arrival of You’re Next, a festival favorite from a couple years ago, didn’t disappoint. The acting overall isn’t the greatest, but that’s offset by Sharni Vinson pulling off what could go down as one of the best “final girl” of all time. It also helps that You’re Next moves along at such a frenetic pace it doesn’t give you much time to breathe until the credits roll. Throw in some inventive kills and you end up with a hell of a movie. (Original review here)
Sightseers isn’t a strict horror, but it is dark comedy at its finest. Alice Lowe perfectly plays the demented yet pitiful Tina as her boyfriend Chris, played by Steve Oram, murders his way through the British countryside during their vacation together. Sightseers produces a full range of emotions and still comes up with big laughs even as it gets progressively darker as the film goes on. Director Ben Wheatley has already built himself an impressive and diverse resume in the horror/thriller genre, and he’s worth keeping an eye on. His movies never fail to take my breath away in the final scenes, and Sightseers upholds that tradition brilliantly. For those who like their comedy pitch-black, Sightseers is worth seeking out. (Original review here)
2. Evil Dead
Many horror fans were initially less than pleased about the Evil Dead remake, but once the movie came out, the majority were satisfied. Some still found reason to hate the film, but I loved it. Was it “the most terrifying film you will ever experience” like the theatrical poster promised? No, but it’s packed to the brim with blood and one hell of a fun ride. The fact this film got by the MPAA into theaters with only an R is an impressive feat itself. Filled with memorable scenes like the chopped-off arm and the entire finale, Evil Dead keeps its fun factor even for repeat viewings. I’ve seen Evil Dead multiple times and it’s a blast every time I see it. (Original review here)
There were a lot of quality horror films in 2013, but Maniac stands above the rest. It’s extremely gory and intensely disturbing, yet there’s a beauty surrounding the entire film. It’s odd considering the movie revolves around a psycho who scalps women, but it is quite beautiful. There aren’t many faults to be found with Maniac either. Everything from the story to the score was amazing, and the film is filled with memorable kills. The only real complaint Is that the city is so empty of other people for convenience purposes, but all other aspects more than make up for that minor believability flaw. The first-person view also worked well as it gave it a voyeuristic feel and made it that much creepier. Maniac goes down as an instant classic. (Original review here)