Happy New Year everyone! With the end of 2013, everyone who posts online reveals their lists. I’m no different. It is the age old tradition to compartmentalize a years worth of media into an easy to read checklist. In some cases writers attempt to be unique. Their lists can include best of, worst of, best theatrical experiences, most hyped, best of Netflix, or worst films based on personal experiences that created a bias toward the films in question. I’ve decided to create my very subjective list in a straight forward manner.
The following films all saw their wider release in 2013. This means they were made available for mass consumption, whether it be in theaters, VOD, DVD/BLU, or Netflix/Hulu. For a few films that made the list, my partner-in-crime and I saw them during their festival run in 2012. This being said, though I loved The Sacrament, it is not eligible for the 2013 list. So without further ado, here is my top 13 of 2013. Feel free to hate it in the comments section.
13. 100 Bloody Acres (Cameron and Colin Cairnes)
This Aussie horror comedy delivers equal doses of gallows humor and bloody special effects. “That’s a Morgan Brothers guarantee.” Actor Angus Sampson steals the show as Lindsay, a stoic bully of an older brother. In the fertilizer biz it’s all about your brand’s special ingredient. The Morgan brothers have found an ingredient to die for. 100 Bloody Acres is 2013’s answer to the beloved Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil.
12. Contracted (Eric England)
View my full review here. Eric England’s Cronenbergian take on sexually transmitted diseases even had the seventy year old couple behind us laughing at the utterly horrific on screen transformation.
11. Among Friends (Danielle Harris)
Danielle Harris’ (Halloween IV, V and Rob Zombie’s Halloween I, II) directorial debut showcases the beauty of a relatively new sub-genre taking shape – the dinner party comeuppance film. In Among Friends we get Next Wave regular AJ Bowen in another great performance and cameos by Kane Hodder and Xavior Gens (Frontier(s)). Also, don’t miss the hallucination sequence where Harris cameos in her Halloween IV costume.
10. Would You Rather (David Guy Levy)
Another dinner party film. Horror legend Jeffrey Combs plays a sadistic high society figure who invites desperate individuals to his home to compete in a series of “would you rather” games. Each round, the game gets bloodier and more satisfying. The film asks the age old question of how far you are willing to go to find a bone marrow donor for your brother dying of leukemia? Sasha Grey fits her role like a glove.
9. American Mary (The Soska Sisters)
The Soska Sisters first film, Dead Hooker In A Trunk (2009), showed promise for the twins but American Mary solidifies their presence in modern horror. Katharine Isabelle of Ginger Snaps fame trades the traditional route of a surgeon for that of a bod mod goddess. The modifications you see are all done through practical effects and they are a feat to behold especially since the film was shot in only fifteen days.
8. V/H/S 2 (Various)
Some claim this sequel is better than the first, but I believe they are equally perfect. Simon Barrett’s wrap around narrative – Tape 49 – immerses us into the framework while evoking it’s own terrifying moments. Adam Wingard’s “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” is absolutely horrifying. The ability to view another plane of existence whether it be ghosts or alternate dimensions is not just a plot device but a frightening philosophical concept that evokes the writings of H.P. Lovecraft.
From one of the directors of The Blair Witch Project, Eduardo Sanchez, we get “A Ride In The Park” which creatively shows through POV the lifespan of a zombie. No other film has made me want a GoPro camera so badly. Then we get to Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans homerun “Safe Haven.” Had this been a feature film, it may have crept into a top five spot on this list, maybe even number 2.
Finally we get Hobo With A Shotgun director Jason Eisener’s “Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” which has all the likable elements of a Steven Spielberg film without all the elements that we hate. The kids in peril here have no happy ending, and rightly so within the confines of VHS 2.
7. ABC’s Of Death (Various)
27 horror shorts for the price of one feature. There is nothing but pure beauty here. Even if a few shorts don’t completely hit their mark, most do. Here’s a grocery list of its perfect ingredients: Angela Bettis (Roman), Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani (Amer), Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun), Xavier Gens (Frontier(s)), Timo Tjahjanto (VHS 2, Macabre), Ti West (House Of The Devil), Adam Wingard (You’re Next), Srdjan Spasojevic (Serbian Film), Simon Barrett (You’re Next), and among the producers is Tim League. I’m very excited for the sequel.
6. All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (Jonathan Levine)
…And so do I, but not in a fragmented or misogynistic kind of way. This year gave us two delayed films, but the two years of waiting for You’re Next is nothing compared to the seven long years we’ve waited for Jonathan Levine’s first feature. He’s gone on to do The Wackness and 50/50 but it wasn’t until Warm Bodies did so well that some suits realized they could make money off of Mandy Lane.
We all thought that when Amber Heard became a star that they would release it then, but unfortunately it sat collecting dust. It couldn’t have been an MPAA problem, because while the film does give us blood soaked scenes, there is nothing too excessive. We get a nice, clean-cut, post-modern Slasher during the era of Torture-Porn. The film is not a self-reflexive Scream knockoff, it is a loving tribute to the 80’s Slasher craze while being wholly original.
5. Stoker (Chan-Wook Park)
When I first heard about Stoker, I thought about Alexandre Aja’s transition from French Extremist to American remake connoisseur. Granted, Park has firmly established himself as a taboo breaking visual artist. I still feared that a Hollywood backed film would be his ruin.
I was wrong, completely wrong, in my assumption. Taboos are broken and each scene is meticulously detailed in an eerie beauty. Mia Wasikowska gives a complex performance. While, Nicole Kidman steps away from her normal center stage to let Mia shine, her stoicism and naivete are impressive. Stoker fits perfectly in Park’s filmography.
4. Maniac (Franck Khalfoun)
Speaking of Alexandre Aja and remakes, Maniac is a great example of what a remake should be. Produced/written by Aja and directed by P2’s Franck Khalfoun, Maniac takes the sweating and sleazy blob of Joe Spinell’s performance and chisels him into the good mannered Elijah Wood.
While William Lustig’s original focused on Frank’s psychology, the remake takes this even further in one of the most technically challenging and unsettling choices ever made in horror cinema. The film is told only through the POV of its killer, you are seeing the world through a Maniac’s perception. Also, a big thank you for including Q Lazzarus’ Goodbye Horses – I can never get enough of that song.
3. The Battery (Jeremy Gardner)
Jeremy Gardner is a remarkable director. Every frame of The Battery is saturated in love. All the pieces of the story fit perfectly together: A buddy road movie, an existential drama, a loss of innocence theme, and a zombie plague.
With a budget of $6,000, The Battery shows us exactly how independent horror is made. A special thank you for introducing me to not only Rock Plaza Central, but also Wise Blood.
2. The Conjuring (James Wan)
Even though The Conjuring was this year’s most hyped horror films, it was also one of the scariest. When they changed the rating from PG-13 to R due to overall tone, I thought back to Poltergeist. Poltergeist still holds a parental guidance for 13 or older, but it stands the test of time as far as fear inducing images go.
There has been a lot of conversation over The Conjuring using “Based On A True Story” in their ad campaigns. We will never truly know what the Warrens saw or what the Perrons went through in that house, and that’s okay because we get to be entertained for an hour and a half. As a film, James Wan delivers the unknown world of the supernatural through a less-is-more approach that works on all levels to create fear in the heart of his viewers.
1. You’re Next (Adam Wingard)
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, along with the Next Wave troupe (Joe Swanberg, Ti West, AJ Bowen, Kate Lyn Sheil, Larry Fessenden, Amy Seimetz, LC Holt, and Lane Hughes) have created the best film of 2013 – though it was made in 2011. If you want an unparalleled home-invasion film look no further.
You’re Next gives us the destruction of the family dynamic, a survivalist film, a dark comedy, feminism, Dwight Twilley, scary metaphor-ridden masks, and delivers on the bloody/innovative kills. Nothing this year really comes close to the intense joy I had while watching You’re Next.
“…And now for something completely different” Just kidding, it is exactly what you think. The following are honorable mentions in no particular order.
Evil Dead : While I love the practical gore effects, the essence of the original was gone. I liked that it wasn’t a direct copy of the original, but it felt as though they relied heavily on exposition.
Byzantinum : Neil Jordan reinvents the vampire mythos again with this film. He has constructed a near perfect fable and the performances were spot-on. This will stay in my rotation of films to re-watch for years to come.
Grabbers : A wonderful horror-comedy that gives a reason to why the characters make stupid decisions – they have to be really drunk in order to survive.
The Upper Footage : Justin Cole’s film stands out as one of the best found-footage films of the year. The controversy surrounding his project and his unwavering nihilistic vision of the 1% make The Upper Footage a delightfully difficult film to sit through.
Here Comes The Devil : Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s homage to Peter Weir’s Picnic At Hanging Rock delivers powerful imagery within a highly sexualized possession film. While it deserves placement on the list, I just saw it too late in the game.
Warm Bodies : While Jonathan Levine’s horror follow up to All The Boys… provides a new concept of the living dead, its romantic comedy aspect feels wrong for a genre list.
The Dirties : How many movies can say that they’re a comedy about school shootings? Only one: The Dirties. This original concept uses parody and film references to make very real statements about bullying and mental illness.
Escape From Tomorrow : This is not only an exercise in gorilla filmmaking, but also a beautifully surreal commentary on family dynamic and failure. I had watched The Shining prior to seeing Escape and felt a lot of connections between the two. Father, failure in obtaining the American dream, becoming one with the history of a location: all Jack Torrance material.
Curse Of Chucky : We’re all just really excited to see Chucky as a doll to fear again.
Resolution: Here’s another no budget film that crawls under your skin. It is a slow-burn and even in the end you have no real clue as to what is happening. This is a good thing, because the film’s mystery is what haunts you while watching and for hours after. Remember: a story is a beginning, a middle, and an end – the end has to be the one an audience wants to see.
John Dies At The End : Or otherwise known in festival circles as JDATE. When I was finished with my top 13 and satisfied at the titles listed, I was rejoiced and happy to be done. I turned around and looked at my horror wall, just glancing over titles, and there it was: JDATE. I loved this film. I saw it during its festival rounds in 2012 so I must have just forgot – but I saw Maniac, ABC’s Of Death, and Contracted during the festivals and remembered them. I wondered why I didn’t remember, it was as though something told me to forget.
A faint whisper you only think you hear. I had to put the DVD in, I was compelled to. When I hit play, nothing happened. Had it been erased? Was this a dream? Then I realized the TV was not on. When I was about to turn the TV on, a banana made a ringing noise, and I thought there is no such thing as coincidence. That’s why John Dies At The End was not in the Top 13.
If I missed your favorite, please include it in the comments section. Chances are I may have not seen it, and would love to.