Jason’s Best and Worst Films of 2013

Jason McDonald

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.

hansel and Gretel Photo

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.

pic warm bodies

8.) Mama

“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.

American Mary Photo 2

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.

Evil Dead Writers Drop Out Of Sequel

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.

Pacific Rim Review

4.) Maniac

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.

Insidious Chapter 2 Reviews : You Tell Us!

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.

Conjuring b

Honorable Mention

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?

SmartAss - 4143.NEF


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      1. Kitty Queen December 29, 2013 at 9:03 pm

        I saw MaMa about 2 weeks ago and enjoyed it, did not find it scary but rather sad at the end.

      2. Leslie Iriel Cladera December 29, 2013 at 9:12 pm


      3. Oopsie Worth December 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm

        Insidious Chapter 2, hated it, thought it was worse than the first one. Hansel and Gretel and Pacific Rim didn’t see them will not be watching them, not horror movies to me. Ugh not a great yr for horror. (I know you don’t want the ones we liked but I must admit I was pleasantly surprise with Warm Bodies not scary but enjoyable.)

      4. Satra Darabi December 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm

        mama is the best horror movie

      5. Carolyn Beebout December 29, 2013 at 9:17 pm

        Both insidious movie r stupid not scary actually I found a lot of scary movies more predictable than scary

      6. Patrick Lubben December 29, 2013 at 9:27 pm

        just saw You’re Next loved it :)

      7. Brad Slaton December 29, 2013 at 9:35 pm

        The Battery tops my list with The Seasoning House and Found not far behind it.

      8. Brooke Thompson December 29, 2013 at 9:35 pm

        I worked on the SPFX for You’re Next so I’m obviously going to say what a great movie it turned out to be!

      9. Sean O'Donnell December 29, 2013 at 9:59 pm

        I totally agree with Pacific Rim, Del Toro knows how to deliver entertainment. I took my young son with no expectations and we really enjoyed it. It is what Godzilla and Transformers could have been.

      10. Sean O'Donnell December 29, 2013 at 10:00 pm

        I also agree with Hansel and Gretel and your assessment of the troll made me change my mind on the cheese factor.

      11. Sean O'Donnell December 29, 2013 at 10:03 pm

        Evil Dead and The Conjuring were the pleasant surprises of the year, but Insidious 2 is for kids and sucked ass. Looking forward to seeing You’re Next because I skipped it, assuming it was just another dud.

      12. James Bos December 29, 2013 at 10:04 pm

        Pacific Rim is horror?

      13. Aaron Cox December 29, 2013 at 10:11 pm

        I loved You’re next and Evil dead. Pacific Rim and Hansel and Gretel fell off my list, they both looked so horrible. I would not really consider them for a “Horror List” though, but I guess this year was bad for horror.

      14. Jeremy Arruda December 29, 2013 at 10:51 pm

        Sinister was my favorite

      15. Chris Mulder December 30, 2013 at 12:21 am

        “You’re next”is one of those movies you stumble across and absolutely love!

      16. Matt Kunka December 30, 2013 at 12:51 am

        Perfect list!!!!

      17. Lee Abernathy December 30, 2013 at 1:57 am

        ‘You’re Next’ and ‘Maniac’ are good….’American Mary’ was cool…the rest on this list are total crap.

      18. me December 30, 2013 at 3:59 am

        sinister…really??!!…i fail to see any redeeming thing about that movie…terrible..

      19. Author William Pattison December 30, 2013 at 4:19 am

        Sorry, hated American Mary. The film tanks in the last 25 minutes. Oh and the Soskas sounded like they were both doing very bad immitations of the guy from Human Centipede during their cameos. Strangeland is a far better film about the body modification movement.

      20. Danny Langevin December 30, 2013 at 4:43 am

        I just watched You’re Next and I didn’t expect it to be this awesome

      21. Sabrina Fronte Ruckdeschel Piche December 30, 2013 at 2:20 pm

        Pacific rim isnt horror

        • Herner Klenthur December 30, 2013 at 2:44 pm

          Pacific Rim is about a world destroyed by monsters I think we can allow it. We allow Godzilla after all

      22. Miranda December 30, 2013 at 2:57 pm

        I loved Evil Dead bought it as soon as it came out!! I really need to see your next! And I must be lame because I loved Texas Chainsaw 3d lol

      23. Norman Cenas December 30, 2013 at 3:21 pm

        ohhhhh your next is sooo brutal good

      24. Aina Rahim December 30, 2013 at 6:04 pm

        You’re Next is Wow!

      25. linda December 30, 2013 at 8:17 pm

        I think i would switch insidious chapter 2 and Evil dead but i loved your other choices (at least the ones i had seen) got mama for christmas :). I’ll have to check out maniac and your next.

      26. Ads December 31, 2013 at 2:33 am

        Saw Mama just 3 days ago and I enjoyed it. I watched The Purge as well and although it wasn’t really scary and I probably won’t watch it again I didn’t think it was too bad. Also watched Evil Dead and I was pleasantly surprised. Sometimes re-boots of a film can be lame and watered down and seeing as I loved the original I thought this would be a disappointment – so glad I gave it a chance! The gore and violence was sensational and it did make me laugh a couple of time (in a good way). Absolutely loved The Conjuring, best horror I’ve seen in a long time. I was actually sitting upright on my couch, blanket to my chin and very tense. It played out so many of my childhood fears (still can’t have a cupboard door open at night). I want to see You’re Next next. So far I have only heard good things about it.

      27. Pete Howard January 2, 2014 at 1:07 am

        This is a pretty solid top ten. The Conjuring and You’re Next are a bit high in my opinion but I enjoyed all of these films… except Warm Bodies was not a fan haha.
        REALLY glad Safe haven got an honorable mention, Blew me away too!

        I cannot agree more with your choice for worst of 2013. I chose to vote for ABC’s of Death because I was really excited for it, such great potential but it majorly let me down. Films like ‘A Haunted House’ you already know are going to be pretty awful based on actor selections and script writers previous films. Haunted House 2 was just a joke right?.. RIGHT?! (cries in bed).

        Good article Jason!

      28. federico galeano January 5, 2014 at 1:59 am

        horrible list

      29. tony c January 8, 2014 at 6:52 pm

        Great list. Loved Insidious 2, Mama & You are Next. Hated Pacific Rim.. As far as, horror spoof goes, waste of time..