Matt’s Ten Best Horror Movies of 2012

Another year and another 12 months in which I feel like I didn’t even come close to seeing all the horror movies I wanted to. Regardless, I was still able to come up with a list of ten horror movies from 2012 that I loved, and even if this list could be drastically different if I had seen all the best the genre had to offer this year, I am still more than happy with what is listed below.

If I wasn’t, I would have done a top five best of list and included more honorable mentions. The great thing, however, is that I still have a bunch of movies to look forward to in the coming months, so I’ll stop complaining about what I didn’t see and get into what I did with this list of my ten best horror films of 2012:

10. The Innkeepers

Ti West continues to eschew genre conventions with The Innkeepers, a film that avoids going heavy with the horror in favor of being a character study that plays on the paranoia of two slightly awkward but utterly charming slackers played by Sara Paxton (who I now officially adore) and Pat Healy. Throughout his career, West has shown a tendency for restraint in his approach to scarring an audience, and with The Innkeepers his restraint isn’t so much about simply holding back on the horror just for the sake of restraint.

Instead, what West does is question the possibility that the two main characters are suffering from overworked imaginations. This approach worked for some and, naturally, didn’t work for others. For me, however, the blend of Scooby Doo mystery, the creepy location, and the charmingly quirky characters worked just perfectly.

9. Silent Night

Steven C. Miller’s loose remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night is a prime example of Slasher cinema done right. This tale of a killer Santa on the loose in a small town retains the essence of what made the original film so much fun while not being a simple carbon copy geared towards a modern audience.

The filmmaking is top notch, the acting solid, the killer Santa is, well, killer looking, and there’s even a nice touch of depth. Oh, and the kills are off the chain! It’s simple: Silent Night delivers as a fun, gory and totally kick ass Slasher film, and me being a huge fan of fun, gory and totally kick ass Slasher films, well I suppose you can figure the rest out.

8. Prometheus

Ridley Scott’s not quite (but totally is a) prequel to Alien is a tough film for me to sum up, simply because my one theatrical viewing wasn’t enough for me to take it all in and fully process it. I do know one thing, though: I thoroughly enjoyed this truly epic and utterly gorgeous visual masterpiece for the spectacle alone, and to top it off, there were some truly intense and horrific moments strewn throughout.

The film is not without its flaws (it’s certainly the most divisive film of 2012), but its positives are far too great for me to not give Prometheus a place on my best of the year.

7. Fritt Vilt 2 aka Cold Prey 2

Regardless of the fact that Fritt Vilt 2 is a 2008 release, sadly it has still not seen a release in North America as of this time (nor does it seem as if a release is on the horizon, either). This sequel to the successful and, overall, very solid 2006 Norwegian Slasher film does what very few sequels have: it’s better than the first one.

From the snow covered Norwegian setting to the empty halls of a hospital on the verge of closing down, Fritt Vilt 2 has a wonderful location that is nicely captured in each and every frame of the film. The characters are not only intelligent, they feel real, with real problems and concerns. Also, as with the first film, the presence of strong female characters are abound, and I don’t mean your basic, typical Slasher movie final girl, either.

6. The Tall Man

The Tall Man is yet another movie that has created some division among horror fans, and for a cavalcade of reasons, too. Pascal Laugier follows up his 2008 masterpiece, Martyrs, with a gorgeously crafted film that begs, for better or worse depending on one’s opinion, for the viewer to think.

The Tall Man starts off as a seemingly stereotypical dramatic thriller, only to take numerous, and very surprising, twists and turns, delving into a tale that, to put it broadly, questions a township’s ability to care for their own well being, specifically the well being of their children’s future. Maybe not the horror film it was marketed as, but the many hours of thinking and conversation about its themes made The Tall Man a surprisingly great film for me.

5. Screaming in High Heels: The Rise & Fall of the Scream Queen Era

I love movies about movies, especially when they are movies about movies from my youth. Screaming in High Heels does exactly what its subtitle suggests, taking an in depth look at the huge splash that a handful of Scream Queens had on the home video scene throughout the 1980s and much of the 1990s.

The doc focuses on three of the biggest names to “bare their talents” in numerous B-Horror and Sci-Fi movies during this time period, Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer. Filled with candid interviews from all three of the “Queens” as well as insightful commentary from B-Genre film folk such as Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau, Screaming in High Heels is a trip back to my childhood, where the video store was my church and my VCR was God.

4. [REC] 3: Genesis

First off, I have to mention that the first [REC] is, without a doubt, one of my favorite horror films from the last decade as well as one of my favorite horror films, period. The second film, on the other hand, had an incredible first and third act, but somewhere in the middle things got pretty muddled and, well, silly, due to a handful of youthful characters. So it goes without saying (even though I just said it) that I absolutely love what makes the first two films tick (and I look forward to a return to form in ‘Apocalypse’), however, I am always open to a change of pace, especially when that change of pace is as fun as [REC] 3: Genesis is.

The switch from the normal found footage style that the first two films all but mastered to a more traditional style of filmmaking worked fine for me (I love the switching point so much) because not only is the film well made, it was something different. I love the setting and the humor of it all, and shortly after the shit hits the fan, I started to get a swell of excitement; a swell of excitement that comes from watching Umberto Bava’s Demons’ films, because that is exactly what [REC] 3 is: Demons 3. Or 4, or 5, or 6, or whatever fake sequel they made it to.

3. The Grey

I know that some will scoff at this pick saying that “The Grey is not a horror film,” and I can understand why some people might not see it that way. With that being said, while it is brilliantly poignant, beautifully put together, and touchingly sentimental, at its core, The Grey is an animals attack film. It’s Grizzly; it’s Jaws; it’s Cujo; it’s, well, it’s Frozen, minus the skilift. It’s a full-on survival film that forces a group of carefully written male characters to face an infinite amount of horrors.

From the frigid weather and the lack of food and water to the internal demons that these men both singularly and collectively face, The Grey throws the worst at these men, and then tosses them to the wolves to make things all the more horrifying.

2. Cabin in the Woods

Without a doubt, one of the biggest and most entertaining surprises of 2012 was the Drew Goddard/Joss Whedon collaboration Cabin in the Woods. What was seemingly a “teens getting killed in the woods” type of horror movie began to pique curiosity with its Rubiks cube poster art and trailers featuring what appeared to be elements of sci-fi. Things certainly not found in your typical “teens getting killed in the woods” horror flick.

However, what was to come in the film’s final act was something that I believe many of us did not see coming, and it’s what happens in that last half an hour or so that had me exiting the theater with the biggest grin across my face. Featuring an orgy of movie monsters of all shapes and sizes, from werewolves and giant spiders to killer clowns and faux Cenobites, Cabin in the Woods lovingly delivered a horror movie orgasm for the ages, and one that will not be matched again by a theatrical release anytime soon.

1. The Loved Ones

Led by a brilliantly psychotic performance from Robin McLeavy, this Australian teen horror flick plays like a mash-up of Misery and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, with a little Carrie tossed in for good measure. Focusing on a girl who simply cannot take no for an answer, The Loved Ones is a delicious mixture of well written, sympathetic characters, truly gruesome scenes of torture, and comedy as black as the Tarman himself.

The balance of humor and horror is about as perfect as it gets, and it is incredibly rare to get a horror movie, specifically a teen horror movie, with characters as carefully thought out as the ones found in The Loved Ones. I had actually seen The Loved Ones last year, and I am so absolutely thrilled that it finally got a stateside release (the film was released in 2009 in Australia) and has been getting the attention from horror fans that it deserves. There’s nothing worse than a great horror film sitting on shelves for long periods of time (I’m looking at you, Mandy Lane and You’re Next).

Honorable Mentions

Here’s a look at a few of the films I really enjoyed, but didn’t quite make the final cut:

The American Scream – Not a horror film, but for people who love Halloween, Michael Paul Stevenson’s follow up to the wonderful Best Worst Movie is a touching look at three families that run homemade haunted houses every Halloween.

The Woman in Black – While there are a few stale moments, the wonderfully Gothic nature of The Woman in Black is incredibly refreshing in our modern age. It’s nicely crafted with some truly creepy moments strewn throughout, and it’s nothing short of awesome seeing a studio like Hammer put out a solid, classic horror tale that harkens back to the days of Bray Studios.

Penumbra – This Argentinian paranoid thriller takes a slow and captivating approach to its horror, guiding its viewer through a story that never has a perfectly clear path, which both works for and against the film. The strength of Penumbra, however, really lies with the craftsmanship and a wonderful performance by Cristina Brondo, who plays a wonderfully hateful character.

The Pact & Absentia – I feel like I can group bout of these films together because they are both indeed fantastic examples of great, non-Hollywood horror. Both movies are filled with captivating and original stories, great performances, true attention to detail, and respect for the audiences’ intelligence, proving that there is always good, original horror to be found, so long as you take the time to look for it.

Killer Joe – Propelled by a fantastic performance from Juno Temple and a frightening performance from Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe is a darkly twisted film that will likely make some viewers feel a little uncomfortable. Well, unless you love fried chicken and lots of bush, that is.

V/H/S – The shorts are a little overly simplistic and some of the characters extremely deplorable, but being a fan of both found footage and shot of video horror, this anthology film worked just well enough for me to add it as an honorable mention. I don’t know what it is, but the confines of found footage always creeps me out, and the retro VHS style of V/H/S only added to that creepiness for me.

Whew, that is it for me folks. Chances are there are at least a handful of films that many of you disagree with, so I fully encourage you to share your thoughts on my picks for best of 2012, and please feel free to share some of your favorites that I missed!

With that said, here’s looking forward to 2013 and all the horror goodies that will come with the new year!

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