The Christmas season is over and as we look forward to the dawn of a new year, it’s time to look back at 2013 with a brief glimpse at the best and worst the year had to offer. The following list is my own personal take on what the best and worst films of the year were. That means that my views do not reflect that of the site as a whole. So if you want to hurl your flaming arrows of criticism, take aim at me.
The films listed below are in a very specific order. Using a revolutionary counting system, I’ve placed them in order of ten to one with one being my favorite movie of 2013. Below that I’ve also placed my picks for worst film and one honorable mention.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t pick [insert your favorite movie here] for my list, it might be because I didn’t see it. So if you feel that there’s a movie I missed out on, please tell me in the comment section.
10.) Hansel and Gretel
This movie was utterly dumb, but in all the right ways that appealed to me. Though the film looked derivative of such “classics” as “Van Helsing” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentleman”, it managed to avoid the biggest cardinal sin most of those films suffer: being boring. “Hansel and Gretel” doesn’t take itself seriously and instead plays like a big budget B-movie. There’s humorously stiff acting, nice action, and practical effects that are so cheap they’re almost nostalgia inducing. My favorite being Edward the Troll who looked like a 80s special effect done with modern technology. This isn’t an easy movie to recommend, but if you see it in the right setting it can be one of the more enjoyable viewing experiences you’ll have this year.
9.) Warm Bodies
“Warm Bodies” had everything going against it. All of the promotional materials made the film look like “Twilight” with zombies and it didn’t help that the main actress could have been a body double for Kristin Stewart. I was ready for the worst. Thankfully, I was worried for nothing.
Where “Twilight” features soulless husks as main characters, “Warm Bodies” gives us zombies with hearts. While it isn’t an outright horror film, it is a clever take on the zombie genre which has been so carelessly watered down and misused over the years. It took something that could have been easily formulaic and forgettable and created something that was unique and heartwarming. A sentiment I reserve for zombie favorites like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Fido”. While not up to the caliber of those films, “Warm Bodies” certainly deserves an honorable mention.
“Mama” was far from perfect, but it was a great way to kick off the cinematic year. The film’s biggest accomplishment was in creating a movie that featured an intensely creepy atmosphere. From the cabin in the woods to the suburban home, every scene strived to embody an ominous presence. “Mama” also managed to create characters that were earnest enough to care for. A young woman forced to accept the role of a mother, a brother trying to salvage his family, and two young girls forever marked by a horrific act. It’s a shame that the movie opted for shoddy CGI in place of practical effects. Just check out this test footage to see what could have been. Despite that and an ending that felt out-of-place, “Mama” was definitely a welcomed surprise.
7.) American Mary
There are a few things that are guaranteed to make me squirm in my seat, one of which is the use of medical tools. I know I’m setting myself up to be tortured by some psychopath, but nothing sends a chill down my spine like seeing a scalpel in action. “American Mary” earns a place amongst my favorites this year for its journey into a strange and surreal subculture. It didn’t provide a nuisance analysis of body modification, but it also didn’t present its participants as “crazies”. The horror, in the film, wasn’t drawn from the people who participate in body modification. Instead it served as a backdrop for the sickening spiral of destruction that Mary found herself in. It was a visually gripping movie that left me thoroughly satisfied.
6.) Evil Dead
As far as reboots go, “Evil Dead” is as good as you could hope for. It didn’t attempt to be a shot for shot remake of the original film, but it also didn’t stray too far from the core of the “Evil Dead” series. While it will never sit shoulder to shoulder with the original films, the movie did prove to be a worthy successor to the title. From the ultra-graphic violence to the unique interpretation of the mythos, the film paid respect to the original series by not shamelessly ripping it off and instead attempted to build something new by using the old films as a foundation. At the very least, this modern take on “Evil Dead” might inspire a new generation of horror fans to seek out the old films and discover them for the first time, which is groovy indeed.
5.) Pacific Rim
Giant robots fighting giant monsters on the big screen, I believe this is the singular goal that mankind has been striving for since it dragged itself out of the primordial ooze. Given Pacific Rim’s poor box office returns, though, I seem to only share that sentiment with a few others. Regardless, that doesn’t change the fact that the movie was a well-crafted love letter to the Kaiju genre. While the story was formulaic, the film was beautifully shot and featured the best robot action since… well, ever. And that music! It’s been a long time since I’ve heard such a catchy theme song used in a movie. The acting was average, at best, except for Idris Elba who is always pure class. “Pacific Rim” was a movie made by fans for fans and it’s a shame that it didn’t receive the love it deserved.
Talk about a head trip, “Maniac” was one of the most surreal experiences I had with a movie this year. It was so refreshing to see a movie go with the first person perspective without relying on some weird found footage angle. By allowing us to see the world through the eyes of the film’s protagonist, we’re given a deeper perspective of the slasher’s motivations than we’re typically accustomed to in these films. It provides us a way to empathize as well as being simultaneously disgusted by his behavior. By seeing the world through his eyes, we’ve lost all control of ourselves and we share the same psychotic prison that he occupies. It’s a sad and heart breaking film, while still being an excellent slasher flick.
3.) Insidious Chapter 2
Let me preface this by saying that I really did not like the first “Insidious”. I don’t know if it was the movie itself or just my mood at the time, but the film never really clicked with me. So I didn’t really have high expectations when it came to “Insidious Chapter 2”. However, I thought that this installment did an excellent job of evolving the story in way that expanded the “Insidious” universe. It would have been so easy to just make a sequel that was more of the same, as most horror films are want to do. However, the second chapter fleshed out previous ideas that were established in the first film and did so in an entertaining way that successfully blended horror, humor, and character drama.
2.) You’re Next
In a year where home invasion films seemed to be all the rage, “You’re Next” set the bar unbelievably high. The film took your preconceived notions about what a film like this would be like and flipped the script on you. If you haven’t seen this film yet, which wouldn’t be a surprise since it had a quiet opening, I’d recommend you just go and watch it. To give you any explanation about why it’s worth watching would be to ruin the experience of discovering it for the first time.
1.) The Conjuring
There are very few horror movies that I watch multiple times and “The Conjuring” was my most watched movie of the year. I saw it at least five or six times because I kept recommending it to friends and family members who typically don’t like horror movies. This film really reminded me of the 80s horror films that were about the strength of a family under adversity. Sure it had some great jump scares and a creepy atmosphere, but what really got to me was how good this movie made me feel by the end. I don’t normally look for that in my horror movies, but “The Conjuring” did it in a way that wasn’t cheesy and accomplished it through the strength of relatable characters rather than forced sentimentality.
Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto’s “Safe Haven” segment in V/H/S/2
For the most part, I thought that “V/H/S/2” was a step above the first film. It still wasn’t an enjoyable movie experience for me, but the segments really showed some marked improvement. Most notably, though, was “Safe Haven” which blew me away. It was visceral, it was scary, and it was intense. With just twenty minutes, Gareth and Timo managed to establish characters with dimension and create a twisted tale that spiraled into some insane directions. “Safe Haven” alone made watching “V/H/S/2” worthwhile.
Worst Film of 2013
A Haunted House
You’re telling me that “A Haunted House” isn’t horror? Did you see that movie? Cause it was pretty fucking horrifying! I love the Wayans Brothers, I think they’re great. I grew up watching their TV show and I thought “Scary Movie” was a pretty good parody of the slasher genre. But “A Haunted House” is a travesty for which there is no excuse. You might say that there were other bad horror films deserving of the moniker “Worst Film of 2013”. Films like “Texas Chainsaw 3D” or “The Purge” and while I may agree that those were not particularly good films, they were at least entertaining in some way.
However, there are no redeeming qualities about “A Haunted House”. I went to go see this movie so I could review it and you know what? I just couldn’t bring myself to write the review. Instead I went home and laid in bed. I didn’t sleep, though, I just laid there and cried. I don’t know how long the tears lasted, but when I finally stopped, I felt cleansed. As if I someone had wrung me like a wet towel and all the hurt and pain caused by “A Haunted House” had dripped out of me.
In other words, it was not very good, but I look forward to seeing “A Haunted House 2” because there’s no way it could be any worse, right?