Friday, January 3

Favorite Horror Films of 2013

It was a great year for horror. Independent films were exceptional and there were even a few standouts from Hollywood as well. There was a nice mix of different genres too, some paying homage and others turning to inventive means of crafting narrative. I decided to do something different this year, so instead of listing the films in some kind of difficult order, I am simply going to offer them as a whole. They were all good in their own unique ways. Enjoy.

American Mary (Dir: Jen and Sylvia Soska)
The handling of the narrative is unsettling, along with proper character development and a dread filled atmosphere this is one compelling film. The narrative makes interesting comments about self-identity and the manipulation of it both physical and psychological. Jen and Sylvia Soska, two budding directors, have offered an exceptional horror film.

The Battery (Dir: Jason Gardner)
Shot on a shoestring budget Director Jeremy Gardner has constructed an ingenious character study of two men trying to exist amidst the zombie apocalypse. They are complete opposites but they need each other for survival from both the isolation of humanity and the threat of death lumbering down their path. “The Battery” is an inspired independent horror film.

Byzantium (Dir: Neil Jordan)
While Director Neil Jordan doesn’t try to reinvent the mythos he instead steadily fashions a vampire tale akin to the design of a Hammer film. The focus on a mother-daughter relationship, which is helped by the great performances of the two leads, offers the story time to portray the changes in their past and how it has shaped their present. Jordan offers a film that harkens back to the fundamental structure of the vampire film.

The Conjuring (Dir: James Wan)
James Wan is one of the few genre directors that understands how to execute a scare. The film, about real life paranormal investigators, builds great suspense and is legitimately filled with scares.

Contracted (Dir: Eric England)
The slow development of this film is accommodated by the ingenious take on transmitted infection. Though some of the movements may seem somewhat anticipated, the narrative does a great job of making the transitions feel unpredictable.  

Evil Dead (Dir: Fede Alvarez)
The horror genre has been plagued in remake/rebooting mania for the past few years. Most of the films offered barely meeting the standard. While Fede Alvarez’s “Evil Dead” couldn’t live up to all the unfair expectations, the result was still an unrelenting and ambitious ode to the gore-saturated original.

Grabbers (Dir: Jon Wright)
This was a great creature feature in the vein of one of my personal favorites “Tremors”. However, this one has a great narrative spin, as the only way to fight the monsters is to get drunk! Funny and well written.

 John Dies At The End (Dir: Don Coscarelli)
Based on a book by David Wong, Director Don Coscarelli takes the most ambitious of source material and crafts a work of creativity. Chaotic from start to finish, with jumping narrative shifts and “did that just happen” moments, there is a little something for just about every genre taste. “John Dies At The End” takes the kind of risks more horror films should.

Magic Magic (Dir: Sebastián Silva)
Terrible people compose Silva’s social horror film. Meticulously paced the film unwinds building on suspicions and detriment of the lead characters' mental sensibilities. It’s slow and you won’t care for many of the characters, but horror fans should appreciate the clever genre attributes.

Resolution (Dir: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead)
Mike and Chris, two estranged friends, meet in an isolated cabin. Mike is trying to get Chris, an addict, to kick the habit. Chris refuses and Mike chains him to the wall. What transpires is an unorthodox horror film that builds with subtle hints about the underlying story.

Room 237 (Dir: Rodney Ascher)
A documentary about “The Shining”, more specifically a documentary about the conspiracy theories you never saw in the film. For instance, how it was about the truth behind the moon landing or the genocide of the Native Americans. Sound odd? It is, but it’s also entirely entertaining and interesting even though the ideas proposed are sometimes preposterous.

Sightseers (Dir: Ben Wheatley)
A dark comedy with nice horrific twists concerning a couple that takes a holiday where things get increasingly bloody. Ben Wheatley is a good director and this film might have fallen flat without the proper guidance to execute comedy and horror.

Sleep Tight (Dir: Jaume Balagueró)
“Sleep Tight” is a creepy film about an apartment front desk manager who stalks on the tenants in his complex. Though the film stumbles slightly in the end, the remaining film is unsettling mainly because of the great performance by Luis Tosar.  Jaume Balagueró crafts a film principled on a traditional aspect of horror, mainly that man can be just as terrifying as monster.

Stoker (Dir: Chan-wook Park)
From a technical standpoint, “Stoker” was one of the best of the year. The photography is absorbing accommodated by a saturated palette. The atmosphere is manipulated finely by both the editing and sound design, maintaining the mystery introduced in the first frames of the film. “Stoker” may not resemble Chan-wook’s past films, but it’s nonetheless a compelling and demented tale.

The World’s End (Dir: Edgar Wright)
Edgar Wright finishes his Cornetto trilogy in fantastic fashion. Old friends get together to relive the adventures of their past, however strange things are taking place in their hometown. Wright builds great characters with some particularly touching dramatic moments, all while creating chaos around every corner. A fitting end.

This is the End (Dir: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen)
The funniest horror film I’ve seen in a long time. While comedy comes before horror in this film, the setup is clever and the narrative moves swiftly with some inventive turns on familiar genre conventions.

Would You Rather (Dir: David Guy Levy)
What would people do to other people for money? This is a question explored in numerous films, however this film implements the design of a game we've all played at some time in our past. With a great core of actors and a wicked performance from Jeffrey Combs, "Would You Rather" makes something deviously amusing.

You’re Next (Dir: Adam Wingard)

 Home invasion is defended at the hands of a young woman with survival and combat skills. A great twist on the tried and true home invasion subgenre; Wingard mixes great characters in dangerous situations with a group of stalkers hunting them in their home. Things feel familiar but it is executed with such skill and expertise. Part of this is attributed to the lead character played by Sharni Vinson but also the perfect utilization of the genre tools.

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