Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Favorite Scary Movies of 2013

With 2013 firmly behind us, it's about time to list my favorite Scary Movies of 2013. As usual there's an assortment of mainstream, indie, drama, comedy and sci-fi. I've rewatched most of these films and it's surprising how much a second viewing improves my overall experience (Insidious 2, Evil Dead) or ruins it further (sorry World War Z, Room 237). Second viewings allow you to really study the film without the expectations, internet chatter, or misleading trailers that can impact the initial enjoyment.

1. The Conjuring
This is the scariest film of 2013. The actors are fully committed. There is no trace of satire, comedy or other distractions that keep horror movies from achieving a full impact. And best of all, it's an original story not a sequel, remake, reboot or reimagining. Read my review

2. You’re Next
It's almost as funny as it thrilling and clever. As someone who doesn't like home invasion themed movies, I found this one to be almost enjoyable in a disturbing way. This is the kind of film where you stand up and root for the hero. Read my review

3. Evil Dead
Remakes rarely make anyone's best-of list since many fans refuse to accept that a cherished film is modernized. I found this remake to hold the gleeful, dark spirit of the original intact and it was by far the bloodiest, and goriest film of the year. Read my review

4. This is the End
A meta-comedy that delivers both frights and laughs. The cast plays versions of their celebrity selves making this one of the most enjoyable end of the world movies ever. Read my review

5. Gravity
Although this sci-fi thriller is not necessarily a genre movie, it was the most heartstopping movie of the year. Sandra Bullock gives a gut-wrenching performance as an astronaut stranded in space. Director Alfonso CuarĂ³n brought the same intensity and darkness that he brought to Children of Men and the arguably the best of the Harry Potter series, The Prisoner of Azkaban. It's a technical marvel that must be seen in 3D to be fully appreciated, and it reminds us that space is equally awe-inspiring and deadly.

6. Warm Bodies
Zombie movies have been done to death so its refreshing to see an original perspective. This one tells a story from the point of view of the zombie who has impaired motor skills but can still think, reason, and yes, feel. Read my review

7. Grabbers
This foreign film is a fun and sometimes silly monster movie that echoes films like Slither and Tremors. Sea creatures descend upon an island community during a terrible storm, and the only way to avoid being eaten is to get thoroughly pissing drunk. Read my review

8. My Amityville Horror
The Lutz family experienced 28 days of terror in their infamous Long Island home. 30 years later – and after his parents death – the eldest son agreed to take part in this documentary to tell his side of the story. Whether or not you believe him, the effects of that experience appear in every wrinkle on Daniel Lutz face. It's a fascinating study in what happens to people after a haunting, and the lasting impression it can leave on a scarred soul.

9. Maniac 
This remake stars the slight Elijah Wood as a serial killer who loves mannequins. It's dark and bleak, and the movie is mainly told through the eyes of the killer making the audience a participant in the brutality. The experience is unnerving, stark and for experienced horror movie fans. Read my review

10. Stoker
The director of the original Oldboy brings a very foreign and beautiful aesthetic to this story of a very troubled family led the icy queen herself, Nicole Kidman. The performances are brilliant and this family drama quickly turns into an unsettling study of the psychotic mind. Read my review


Honorable Mentions

Insidious: Chapter 2 – a good follow-up wraps up the story but ultimately isn't very scary
John Dies at the End – bizarre, funny and entertaining hallucination of movie
American Mary – a great story and cast but fails to drive home a fully satisfying ending
Escape From Tomorrow – another bizarre fever dream of audacious guerrilla filmmaking
Carrie – great performances and effects but still felt too familiar and unnecessary
The World's End – a funny sci-fi film that pits the Simon Pegg against a robot invasion
Byzantium – an atmospheric and bleak take on vampire story worth seeing

Unfortunately, I have not seen the following well-reviewed films, so they too may make it onto an amended list: The Battery, We Are What We Are, The Banshee Chapter, Twixt, and Anti-Viral.

2 comments:

  1. There is much goodness on this list! Glad to see Grabbers, John Dies, Byzantium and My Amityville Horror getting some love! I still don't understand all the applause for the Conjuring, though.

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    1. Yeah, The Conjuring is a divisive movie. I definitely loved it more the second time and the third viewing really showed me the craft that went into it. Every choice made (the soundtrack, the unusual angles, the choppy editing) helped create AND sustain an unsettling dread. The top notch cast is what really sold it to me. Their anguish was palpable, like when the little girl sees the monster in the dark corner but her sister (and presumably us) do not. I watched that scene frame-by-frame and I'm convinced there is the slightest glimmer of a face there. This movie also feels like a straight-forward old fashion horror film, and being a child of the 80s I connected to those slow-building, character-driven, and atmospheric sensibilities. It seems like a movie that could play alongside Burnt Offerings, The Changeling, or The Amityville Horror. Many horror movies today rely solely on gimmicks (found footage) or effects, and ignore the core concepts.

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