A Bloody Good Time 01.09.14: The Top Ten Horror Films Of 2013
Posted by Joseph Lee on 01.09.2014
From Evil Dead and The Conjuring to John Dies At The End, You're Next, Curse of Chucky and more, 411's Joseph Lee counts down the top 10 horror films of 2013!
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.
It's that time again, folks. Time to count down the best horror films of the year. I'm not going to take up too much of your time, let me just say that 2013 was a really strong year. Not only did Hollywood knock it out of the park more than expected, but the independent scene was stronger than perhaps any year I've ever done this. There were a lot of quality scares to be found if you knew where to look.
But that doesn't mean that the year didn't have some really, really bad misfires. Let's look at...
The Three Worst Horror Films Of 2013
#3: Come Out And Play
This is a remake of the little-remembered killer kid film Who Can Kill A Child?. I can't compare the two because I haven't seen that, but I would like to think it's better than this. This movie is just all around stupid. The characters are stupid, the ideas are stupid and there's one bit that's really stupid. I don't mind spoiling it for you since the goal of this section is to prevent you from seeing the film. The kids in the town are killing people and can pass on the curse (or whatever, it's never explained) on by touch. So a little girl touches a woman's pregnant belly. The fetus somehow murders her from the inside. A murderous fetus. Yeah, the movie lost me after that.
#2: Texas Chainsaw 3D
I'll say this for Texas Chainsaw 3D. It's not Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. But if that's the only compliment I can muster you know it's a bad movie. The thing is, it's one of those bad movies that gets worse the more you think about it. I might not have even had it on this list when I first saw it. But then I started to think more and more about everything wrong with it and just started to grow to hate it even more. I can't say the ruined Leatherface, but they certainly didn't help him any. "Do ya thing, cuz" and don't see this movie.
#1: Fright Night Part 2: New Blood
At least Texas Chainsaw 3D resembled a proper Chainsaw film. I'm not sure what this was trying to be. This direct-to-video sequel is, for all intents and purposes, just another remake, and not even a good one. There was just zero effort put into this thing. It's a lazy movie that rehashes a story that was just told again in 2011. And this one didn't even have a fun Chris Sarandon cameo to make it better. There just seems to be no point to this movie other than to make money. Once they have your dollar, it doesn't really matter if what they show you is crap or not, I guess.
The time for being negative is now over. It's time to look at what are the best movies that 2013 had to offer...here are the Top Ten Terrors Of 2013!
#10: Curse of Chucky
Director: Don Mancini Cast: Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif, Chantal Quesnelle, Jordan Gavaris, Danielle Bisutti, A Martinez Story: After her mother's mysterious death, Nica begins to suspect that the talking, red-haired doll her visiting niece has been playing with may be the key to recent bloodshed and chaos.
I can't really say that Curse of Chucky made Chucky scary again, because he was only scary to me when I was a kid. I can't really say the movie made Chucky entertaining again, because I think all of the Child's Play movies have some entertainment value one way or the other. What I can say, however, is that this is one of the better sequels in the franchise and may be second only to Child's Play. I may have to rank these movies in the future to know for sure.
Are there some problems? Sure. The brief CGI Chucky shots are ill-advised and there's a random jump scare at the end for seemingly no reason. But the film is a love letter for Chucky fans, attempting to make the killer doll a threat again, tying the entire, screwed-up series together and letting Brad Dourif do his thing in his most popular role. If you are a fan of the pint-sized slasher then you're probably going to enjoy this. Just make sure to watch through the credits for an extra special surprise.
#9: Dark Touch
Director: Marina de Van Cast: Missy Keating, Marcella Plunkett, Padraic Delaney, Charlotte Flyvholm, Stephen Wall Story: A young girl is the only survivor of the massacre that claimed her parents and baby brother. She is adopted by neighbors but the force that destroyed her family is still there, waiting to strike again.
Some movies are disturbing because of what they show you. Dark Touch is an incredibly dark and depressing that disturbs you with what it implies. The story of Niamh is very tragic and the horrific things that happen to her cause the horrific things that happen later. I can go ahead and tell you that this movie is a lot like Carrie, because the trailer does. However, while the remake of Carrie played it safe and by-the-numbers, this is a much more extreme version and it hits the mark a lot more than that remake did.
This is a movie that I had no expectations for going in and was blown away by the level of acting from the lead, as well as the grim places this movie was willing to go for the sake of horror. It uses the trappings of a horror film in order to show the effects of childhood trauma and the fact that the most disturbing individuals can be found in real life, not a film. It is deliberately slow to allow everything to build, but once it gets rolling and you realize what's going on, it jumps off the rails into insanity feet first.
#8: You're Next
Director: Adam Wingard Cast: Shami Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, AJ Bowen, Barbara Crampton Story: When the Davison family comes under attack during their wedding anniversary getaway, the gang of mysterious killers soon learns that one of victims harbors a secret talent for fighting back.
I don't think I've seen a best of 2013 horror list that hasn't included You're Next, so I'm not about to break the trend. The fact of the matter is that this is a very smart (although not as much as it thinks it is) slasher movie that is both fun and gory. As I said in my review, it's a little formulaic, but that hardly matters if you're having a good time. There's a reason that there are twelve Jason movies with a thirteenth on the way. Some people just like to see people get butchered on screen in creative ways.
While the movie has some flaws, as many films of its type do, I really dug the performances of AJ Bowen and Shami Vinson and really enjoyed the copious amounts of blood-letting that we were shown in the movie. This is definitely not PG-13 horror. The only word I can think of when thinking of You're Next is fun, because that's exactly what it is. It's just a good time with weapons and gore, and there's nothing wrong with that for horror fans.
#7: John Dies At The End
Director: Don Coscarelli Cast: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Doug Jones, Glynn Turman Story: A new street drug that sends its users across time and dimensions has one drawback: some people return as no longer human. Can two college dropouts save humankind from this silent, otherworldly invasion?
This movie is just weird. But then, most Don Coscarelli movies are. Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep and now this. While this doesn't have the Tall Man (although Angus Scrimm does show up) or Bruce Campbell as Elvis, it is possibly Coscarelli's most ambitious movie to date, based on an equally ambitious novel. I don't know if that synopsis does the plot justice, as a lot of things just happen and it's all bizarre. More importantly, it's funny. The guys fight a meat monster, for crying out loud. A monster composed of various meat products. It's insane.
But I can't say there was every a single second I was bored. There's just something about it that keeps you interested and watching. It maybe lacks a bit in the horror department (but what horror comedy doesn't?) but it makes up for it with original ideas and funny performances. The cast is also quite good, from the two leads to character actors like Giamatti and Clancy Brown. I can only hope that Coscarelli tackles This Book Is Full Of Spiders, but maybe just give us Phantasm 5 first.
#6: We Are What We Are
Director: Jim Mickle Cast: Bill Sage, Julia Garner, Ambyr Childers, Jack Gore, Michael Parks Story: The Parkers, a reclusive family who follow ancient customs, find their secret existence threatened as a torrential downpour moves into their area, forcing daughters Iris and Rose to assume responsibilities beyond those of a typical family.
2013 will be known as the year that indie films attempted to push the envelope just a little bit more than what they usually do. It would be easy for someone to remake a foreign film about cannibals and make it Hollywood-ized, lazily made and just an attempt to make a quick buck. What Jim Mickle does with We Are What We Are is make it his own movie. It's not simply a remake of the 2010 Mexican production, it's a very well-made horror film with a slow burn until a shocking and grotesque finale.
Even before you realize this family eats people (and they reveal it pretty quick), you get the impression that something is off. They don't really react to things the way a normal person should. They're extremely religious and on some sort of fast before the oldest daughter has to take up the "work" of the dead mother. We soon find out what that work is and just how long it's been going on in this family, who eat people like you or I would eat a cheeseburger. It's just what they do. That alone makes it a messed up movie that needs to be seen.
#5: Bad Milo
Director: Jacon Vaughan Cast: Ken Marino, Gillian Jacobs, Patrick Warburton, Stephen Root, Peter Stormare Story: A horror comedy centered on a guy who learns that his unusual stomach problems are being caused by a demon living in his intestines.
It's a movie about a butt demon. This should have been really bad. However, not only was it really funny and depraved, but it was also kinda heartwarming and I want the folks at Magnet to release plush Milo toys. If I had to pick one of these movies for "Surprise of the Year" it would be Bad Milo, because it's a completely original movie with great performances all around and it's the best horror-comedy of the year. And I don't think I can stress this enough, it's about a butt demon.
As I said in my original review, this bizarre little entry into the world of horror would be right at home in the 80s alongside the work of Frank Henenlotter or Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Milo himself (a completely animatronic puppet, by the way) is both adorable and menacing and he absolutely owns the screen whenever he's on it, much like Chucky did in Child's Play. The puppet, at times, manages to upstage the actors! That's the sign of some quality work from the special effects department.
#4: American Mary
Director: Jen and Sylvia Soska Cast: Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk, David Lovgren, Paula Lindberg, Clay St. Thomas Story: 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.
Well, it's a horror movie starring the girl from Ginger Snaps, I had to see it eventually. While I haven't had a chance to check out the Soska Sister's debut entry (Dead Hooker in a Trunk), I will definitely check it out now, along with their next effort See No Evil 2. They've earned my loyalty for a bit with this strange piece of body horror that combines nasty imagery with a rape-revenge story for an intense ride.
Another aspect about this film that's not getting enough love...American Mary is funny. It's not a comedy, and the moments that require a serious tone get it, but this film does have a bit of a dark comedic streak to it and just the thought of what these clients want done to them is both horrific and kind of silly. I think that was the intention, too. How else can you react when twins that may or may not be "incestual" lesbians want to cut off their own arm and replace it with their sisters (or and by the way, they want horns too for some reason). It's a wild movie that should be as fondly remembered as the role that got Isabelle noticed fourteen years ago.
#3: Evil Dead
Director: Fede Alvarez Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore Story: Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. The evil presence possesses them until only one is left to fight for survival.
I think long-time readers of this column are aware of how much I was against the Evil Dead remake. I'm well aware that the original film isn't perfect, but it had a charm all of its own that I was convinced this movie would somehow ruin. I even dedicated an edition of this very column to why I though the remake was not going to be any good. Then I saw the trailer and started to believe. Then I went into the theater and was blown away.
Evil Dead manages to serve up a heaping helping of gore that would make Takashi Miike blush. It's wall to wall blood with very little CGI and strong performances from the cast. Did I like it better than the original? Of course not. Was it an incredibly effective splatter film? Hell yes. This thing had me squirming in my seat for certain moments. Sure, I didn't find it particularly scary, but it's like Stephen King once said: if you can't horrify or terrify, go for the gross-out. This was a Hollywood movie with teeth, and it wasn't afraid to throw every variety of blood at the camera in order to entertain its bloodthirsty audience. It was made for everyone: Gorehounds and Evil Dead lovers alike (and the two aren't always mutually exclusive). So let me say once again, I was wrong about Evil Dead. But being wrong isn't always a bad thing.
Director:Franck Khalfoun Cast: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder, Jan Broberg, Liane Balaban, America Olivo, Megan M. Duffy Story: As he helps a young artist with her upcoming exhibition, the owner of a mannequin shop's deadly, suppressed desires come to the surface.
Let me just say up front that I love the original 1980 Maniac. I thought William Lustig did a terrific job, Joe Spinell provided a chilling performance and the entire film itself remains vastly underrated. So to say I was approaching this remake with cautious optimism would be an understatement. I wasn't as against it as other remakes, but I was really hesitant to like it. What happened is that this movie won me over within minutes with a new, interesting take to the slasher film that retains the spirit of the original.
Elijah Wood should only play psychopaths in his career. He gives Spinell a run for his money in this film and that's high praise coming from me. I think Wood not only works because of his talent, but because he is the least likely person you would suspect of being a serial killer. That's probably how he is able to acquire so many victims. I even enjoyed the first-person angle of the whole thing (not found footage, let's clear that up right now) as it put us in Frank's shoes as he generally acted insane and murdered innocent people. At no point do we leave Frank so we're stuck with him every single moment to experience his delusions and psychotic behavior. It's pretty deep for a movie about a guy that scalps people. On top of all that, it has excessive amounts of gore (if you're into that sort of thing) and some really clever nods to the original. I don't want to say this is better than the original, because I love the original, but it comes a little too close to surpassing it.
#1: The Conjuring
Director: James Wan Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lily Taylor Story: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.
There are some of you that are going to say The Conjuring is overrated. I've seen it elsewhere and hey, every great movie will have its detractors. That's what makes opinions what they are. Regardless of how you felt about this movie, it's hard not to give James Wan his proper respect for what is not only his best film, but a incredibly well-made horror film that does everything right. This movie just works on every single level and it's one of those rare horror films that sticks with you after its over.
I'm not prone to hyperbole and I don't say what I'm about to say lightly. I don't get scared often at the movies. I'm not clinging to the edge of my seat with anxiety at any of them. The Conjuring was terrifying. This movie crawls underneath your skin and has you jumping at nothing, expecting scares when they are none and delivering scares when you least expect them. It just steadily increases the suspense and tension until you can't take it anymore, and then it gives you some more anyway. Mock me all you want, I don't care. I think this is the scariest horror film of the past ten years and will be remembered as one of the classics. This is James Wan's best film to date and honestly, I'd be shocked if he manages to top it.
That's it for me. Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. We'll be back next week.
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