October is a fine time to lay down the best and worst horror of the year. You know for the remainder of the year, all the big studios will be pushing their Oscar contenders, and October is the last great hurrah for horror to make its impact. In other words, if it is good and it’s horror, it is already out by now. 2013 has been a very polarizing year for horror, in my opinion. On one hand, you have a few movies that really kicked the genre’s ass (hint hint), but like always, you had horror films that seemed to follow the same boring tropes that lead all horror movies to an ironic and untimely death. It seems this year, the biggest offender when it came to bad, as is often the case, were the sequels. In regards to good, there are many that stand out. So much so, in fact, I will break convention and break down this list by genre to make it a little easier on you guys. Bad will be bad, but good will be put into more specific categories. Just thinking of my REMlins. Now, for your consideration, the best and worst horror films of the year. Some of which you may agree with, some if which you may laugh at me for, and some I am sure you’ve never heard of.
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2
You know what? Rape revenge movies are fucked up, and I have no idea why I still subject myself to them. Using a rape as a character development tool is unforgivable, and is a trope that should have been left in the exploitation genre of the 70′s. I Spit On Your Grave was a remake of a movie about a woman who gets defiled and goes on to take revenge on all her tormentors. It is a cruel film that seems to take pleasure in its capitalization of human suffering, and there was no joy to be had in it. So imagine, we live in a world where enough people saw it and liked it to merit a sequel. Do you know what the sequel is? It is a movie about a woman getting raped and then taking revenge on her captors.
If this film was South Korean, it would be beautifully shot, full of intense subtext, and for those reasons, acceptable. But no, this is an American film, and an awful one at that. A sad vision and version of what revenge is. I fucking despised every element to this stupid film, and am almost sorry I brought it up.
FRIGHT NIGHT 2
Listen, the original Fright Night is one of the best 80′s vampire movies, hands down. On top of that, the recent remake was about as good and as close to source material as remakes get nowadays. But HOLY SHIT was Fright Night 2 awful. I honestly mean SyFy channel, Canadian straight-to-DVD bad. Any elements that made the first movie(s) work was gone. I know this is a remake of a sequel (yes, the original Fright Night 2 was this shitty) but I could barely make it through this film.
Fright Night 2 features, get this, the same characters as part one, but recast and completely unaware that a part one ever happened. Next up, the self-aware humor of the first film is replaced with a stupid sense of taking itself too seriously this time, and for no discernible reason. The last fatal flaw is trying to re-imagine Dracula as Countess Elizabeth Bathory. I like the idea, but the execution was fucking awful.
Also, mark my words, if I ever meet Chris Waller, who plays this movie’s version of Evil Ed, I will literally punch him in his mouth for shitting all over one of my favorite horror characters of the 80′s. For shame, asswad. For shame.
I will say it now. Hatchet is the new Wrong Turn. A series that started off really strong and was a great deal of fun and a good homage to horror of yesteryear, and turned into a fucking satire of itself in the worst way possible.
I loved the first Hatchet. Loved how it reminded me of the 80′s horror I grew up on. And while Hatchet 2 may not have been as good, I still thought the kills were really original, and the film was a fun, violent ride. Then Hatchet 3 happened this year, and my God, does it suck.
This is a series that has over stayed its welcome, and needs to stop now if it intends to leave anyone with any pleasant memories of it.
THE LAST EXORCISM PART 2
Didn’t like part one because of the shitty ending, and liked part two even less.
First of all, to call something the LAST exorcism, and then to have a sequel that has a subsequent exorcism just proves you all to be liars. The first film should have been called The Second To Last Exorcism, and that would have been fine. Second, these movies are so inconsistent in the story they are trying to tell, they make The Devil Inside look like fucking Shakespeare (and I hated that fucking movie, too).
I have said it before and will say it again. Hiring contortionists who can change their voice and make funny faces does not a scary movie make. Please stop. Man, Eli Roth, what happened to you? You were such a promising name in horror at one point, and this year you give us Green Inferno (shitty Cannibal holocaust ripoff), Aftershock (kind of shitty earthquake movie) and you gave us THIS series. Fuck man, get it together. Cabin Fever had something special going on, as did Hostel. Cut this crap out. You are ruining the genre you claim to love.
We Miss You. Stop Sucking.
I know this one is more defined as THRILLER, but considering I am going to talk about the best thriller of the year a little further down, might as well tell you about the worst. This is the movie that was supposed to reinvigorate Lindsay Lohan’s career. This is the movie that was supposed to make Bret Easton Ellis a household name again like American Psycho did. This is the movie that starred the porn star, James Deen. This is the movie that was supposed to skyrocket director Paul Schrader (the guy who wrote Taxi Driver) to his former glory. This is the movie that did NONE of those things because it sucked.
Not only did it suck, but it had lingering cock shots, and you guys KNOW how I feel about that.
The Canyons is a tale of rivalry and jealousy in Hollywood, and how frail the ego can be, awww, who gives a shit? It sucked.
A FEW OTHER THAT SUCKED:
Dario Argento’s Darcula: How did one genius fall so far? Proof that not all things get better with age, this was one of the worst films I have ever seen from one of my favorite old-school horror directors. It pains me to even say that. Also, contender for worst CG of the year, hands down. Roger Rabbit, and I kid you not, looks more realistic.
American Mary: This film dripped style and ooze, but it lacked a story, had no gore, and had no antagonist, which forced them to tack one on at the end. Such a let down for a movie I had oddly high hopes about. I still stand behind the fact that the Beatress character (who has her vagina removed, btw) was incredibly interesting, and should have been the focal point for the movie. Outside of that, it failed.
Alright kids, now:
The Best Ghost Story:
I can openly admit, I was kind enough to leave director James Wan’s Insidious 2 off my worst of the year list because I really respect what the guy does for the genre, and how much love he has for it. The other thing that keeps me from being able to completely despise Insidious 2 is just how good The Conjuring is. How is it the same guy did both of these movies, with The Conjuring being so good, and Insidious series being so bad? That is a debate for another day, but regardless, The Conjuring was the best ghost story movie of the year.
The story of the hanged witch was scary. The haunting scenes (especially with the hand clapping game) were very chilling and effective, and even the pseudo-twist possession was well-executed. Just shows you how a good script can make all the difference.
The coolest part is I live a half hour from the haunted house in that movie. That is like the new version of living near the Amityville House.
I usually keep my horror strictly horror, but Side Effects was such an amazing movie (and it is not NETFLIX right now), and it has some murder and some twists and turns, so I really feel like I needed to speak its praises for a moment.
Side Effects stars Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, and Jude Law, and is pretty much a throw back to old Brian De Palma thrillers from the 80′s and 90′s (Dressed to Kill, Body Double). Directed by Steven Soderberg (Heat), Side Effects is a movie about a woman who is experiencing some side effects from some medication she is taking, and ends up doing some things she claims she does not recall doing, which opens the door for the many wild twists this movie takes.
What I loved about this movie is, I was never really sure, until the final frame, who was fucking over who. I knew double crosses were going on, but they were weaved so perfectly, I almost could not keep up, which in this case, worked in the movie’s favor. Seriously, see this movie now. It’s on Netflix.
Best Scary (and) Gory
I have already said all these is to say about this glorious, gory masterpiece. Pretty much raised the bar for all horror to come, in my opinion, and even bested the original.
Best Action Horror:
WORLD WAR Z
I may catch some heat for this, but hear me out first.
I know this was NOTHING like the book, and I read (and really enjoyed) the book, so in that sense, it was a fail. But as many people who didn’t read the book helped point out to me, it was an incredibly fun and non-stop, action-filled Summer movie. Did it seem like a zombie film? No, not very often. Did Brad Pitt spend a great deal of time running in this movie? Yes. Did it get a little heavy-handed at times, with some silly CG it could have done without? Maybe. But that is not what I am questioning here. My main point is I had some mindless fun with World War Z once I separated it from the book and started looking at it as its own entity.
Which is something the best of us have to do with most books when Hollywood adapts them. For proof of this look no further than the institutionalization at the end of the Fight Club novel, versus the hand holding at the end of the film, but I digress.
World War Z reminded me that sometimes you can shut your brain off and just enjoy the ride.
Best Indie Horror:
Jug Face just might be my contender for sleeper horror of the year. Cross old-school Wicker Man with new school Kill List (which is a movie I fucking adore) and you have Jug Face.
More a supernatural movie than anything else, Jug Face is about a small village of people who have adapted to a very strange and surreal way of living. There is a simple man who has visions he then molds into clay faces on jugs. If your face ends up on a jug, it means you are going to die. There is a sentient pit involved, and to tell you much more will ruin it, but Jug Face came out of nowhere this year and really floored me. It is one of those movies that reminds you why you love good horror. It has a building sense of dread. The setting feels very real. There is a definite evil, but we know not its source or what it is fully capable of.
The heart of the tale is about how one young woman finds her own face on a jug and ends up hiding it, forever breaking the natural order of things, and setting in motion a series of events that she, nor anyone, could have seen coming. Oh, and there’s incest, because what good backwoods story doesn’t have a little inter-family love?
Don’t worry, that sentence just made me cringe, too, but see Jug Face regardless. It is one of the best horror films of the year, and definitely the most original.
AND A FEW OTHERS THAT ROCKED:
Mama: Classic ghost story told with modern visual flair and ideals. Mama was very cool, and proved that PG-13 horror could still be effective.
The Conspiracy: No one heard of this film, which really didn’t help it along, but I really liked the elements of real world corruption being brought to attention in a faux-documentary that takes a turn for the horror in the last two-thirds of the film. Trust me, this one needed some more hype, and maybe this will help with that. By the way, they may only say it once in the movie, but this is based VERY MUCH on a real place, called Bohemian Grove, which I know a little too much about.
Hell Baby and Bad Milo: Both tasteless, B-movie comedies that are satire of horror films and horror tropes, and to be honest, both of them made me laugh way more than they probably should have.
Maniac: Already talked it up last year on my list, but holy shit. This movie is fucking brutal and brilliant.
Scenic Route: Definitely more a thriller than a horror, I may have to go on record and say this movie has my favorite ending of the year. Seriously. Yes, it was THAT good.
I know there are a couple of things a lot of you are wondering right now, as this list closes out. One, where is VHS 2? Truth is, I hated 3/4ths of that movie and found it a HUGE disappointment when compared to the original, but the Safe Haven story in that anthology is one of the best short films I have ever seen in a horror anthology, so that kept it off the worst list.
The other question from many of you, considering you know I love home invasion horror is where is You’re Next? Well, there’s a reason that film is not here, and that reason is going to be its own article, but the long and the short is, I think I wrote that film and no one told me. Take away what you will from that. Proof, for the most astute of you, is in between the lines, here.
Alright, those should tide you little devils over until next year. Please take to the comments and let me know what some of your favorite and least favorite horror films of the year were.