Wow, what a truly inspiring year. Why, you ask? Simple – 2013 was the best year for horror that I’ve seen since starting my love for the genre back in college. Each year has its highs and lows, don’t get me wrong, and even though there were some insultingly bad horror movies forced upon us this year (which I already discussed in my 13 Worst Horror Movies Of 2013 article), the good mightily outweighed these forgettable blemishes. Count Dracula turning into a Praying Mantis? Last, last exorcisms? Sympathetic Leatherface? Forget all that malarky because 2013 was full of top-notch remakes, energized reboots, worthy sequels, ambitious independent winners, and horror comedies that had us laughing just as much as we were screaming. As a horror fan, this has been a year for the ages – and also a year that gave me a pretty empty wallet.
The most surprising thing I found while making this list was the amount of mainstream and US releases that stunned me in 2013. Looking back on last year’s favorites, so many were foreign and independent, as the mainstream fodder was just a parade of hapless clones trying to cash in on bored audiences. Thankfully that didn’t happen this year, and mainstream studios took more risks on true horror filmmakers, giving a little more freedom to people who have proven themselves time and time again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fully backing mainstream horror cinema moving forward, because this trend could have been nothing but a fluke, but if these big-budget studios can learn a thing or two from 2013, it’s that creative freedoms can go a long way – you’ll understand when you see some of my favorite films of the year.
Ah, sorry, I’m still like a giddy kid on Christmas. Honestly, I was only going to have thirteen selections, because I’m a horror fan and obviously 13 holds some significance in our community, but I couldn’t justify leaving the first title off my list, so I expanded it to fourteen selections just so I could properly pay respect to all the films I truly loved. Of course, I could have kept going this year, easily filling up an article with twenty selections, but a line has to be drawn somewhere. Hell, I might work up a third article that consists of movies who *barely* missed the cut, just so I can spread the love to every single title that deserves it – which so many do.
What am I saying, you’re all here for the list, so drumroll please – let’s get this show on the road. Enjoy The 14 Best Horror Movies Of 2013!Next
14) Curse Of Chucky
No matter how many times he’s melted down, torn apart by industrial fans, shot, or burned to a crisp, Chucky just never seems to die. Hell, even he comments on his own revivals in Bride Of Chucky when he taunts, “I’ll be back! I ALWAYS come back! But dying is such a bitch.”
Well, there we were in 2013, and Chucky came back with a brand new look – sort of.
Curse Of Chucky gets back to the true Gothic horror of the early franchise entries, abandoning the slapstick comedy later adapted by writer/creator/director Don Mancini. We don’t open with a fully animated Chucky doll, complete with wife and children, instead we revert back to Chuckster being mailed to his latest victim – only to become fully animated later on in the film. Mancini transitions back to building tension, utilizing Chucky’s size for stealthier kills while staying in this haunting realm where a killer toy runs free.
Curse Of Chucky isn’t brilliant just because we once again have a slasher villain worth fearing, but because Mancini also ties in every single franchise film plot-wise, not as to abandon any of his previous outings. Chucky’s mythos have been built film by film, and Mancini shows his confidence in the material by never abandoning a single film – not even Seed Of Chucky. Mancini stands by his creation, and makes a better film for it, appeasing old and new fans with one memorable outing.
Six films into the Chucky franchise and I’m still excited for more (a seventh was recently announced!). You can’t help but marvel at this ginger Devil’s longevity – and I’m sure Tiffany isn’t complaining either.
This one even I’m surprised by, but Mama scared the daylights out of me. I went into this screening thinking of nothing but some weak paranormal story featuring a punk rock Jessica Chastain, but boy was I wrong. Mama had me tensing up in my seat, squirming in eerie discomfort, and seriously wishing I invited someone to ease my nerves. Andrés Muschietti adapted his short to some serious feature success, and having Guillermo Del Toro’s influence as a producer certainly didn’t hurt, either.
Amidst all the screams and horrors, there’s a sweetness to Mama. I mean, it’s literally a terrifying story about a ghostly mother’s undying love, and the two human children who get tangled up in her desires. This is messing with the mama bear to the nth degree – except this mama bear can shuffle through the floors like a blood-thirsty shark through water. While the entire story is a hair-raising experience, the ending is equatable to the darkest Disney moment imaginable, but again, there’s this loving aura to it all, leaving us with a strangely heartwarming experience.
Mama is not the film I expected, but that makes it all the better – especially for a January horror release. Aren’t they supposed to be the worst? Kudos to Mama, the chilling maternal story that defied the odds.Previous Next
Alright, I’ve spooked you with my first two picks, so let’s move to more comical grounds for my next pick, coming all the way from our beer-guzzling friends in Ireland. No, I’m not being stereotypical by referencing alcohol and the Irish, because Grabbers just happens to be about aliens who invade a sleepy Irish town, set on exterminating all the humans who stand in their way. The catch? They’re poisoned by alcohol. Yup, you heard right – in order for our characters to stay alive, they have to stay mind-numbingly hammered. Beer and horror – does it get much better?
Grabbers is a hilarious little romp that channels the feeling of creature features like Gremlins and Slither, but also brings that horror bite that will definitely keep true genre fans foaming at the mouth. Some horror comedies focus a little too strongly on laughs, losing the true horror of the situation, but Grabbers had plenty of gore and death that balanced both scares and laughs with genuine originality. The aliens are vicious, the characters are hilarious, the idea is a bit of midnight-movie beauty – yet the whole production comes together without any cheesiness or forgettable filmmaking. Writer Kevin Lehane and director Jon Wright go at Grabbers with a big budget mentality, and deliver one of the best horror watches of 2013.
Want to have fun with this flick? Pick a character, and every time they drink on screen, you drink. Hope you’ve been working on your tolerance!
Disclaimer: We Got This Covered and all those involved with the movie Grabbers do not condone drinking mass quantities of alcohol – unless it saves your life from an invading alien force. In that case, channel your inner 90s Robert Downey Jr.
I’m still not 100% sure I understand Resolution, but I do know directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead blew my mind in ways that haven’t pushed horror boundaries in the last few years. Films like YellowBrickRoad have attempted to deliver a truly terrifying experience mixed with more intelligent horror understanding, but have gone up in flames due to an overly-confident delivery and a horrible comprehension of “intelligent horror.” Resolution is none of that, and continually keeps us guessing by dragging us into the film itself, ending on a giant question mark that’s both perplexing and curiously satisfying.
While our filmmaker’s grasp on such material is top of the year worthy, actors Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran are equally impressive as our lead characters. Starting out with a simple intervention, as Cilella simply wants to rid Curran of his dangerous drug addiction, the duo’s chemistry makes for an easy, loveable, and entertaining watch. As the film spins wildly out of control, our actors do an amazing job revealing information while remaining wonderfully suspect, perpetuating the mystery of Resolution. Mix that with the brilliant acting by Carmel the dog (who gives a astoundingly insightful commentary on the Blu-Ray), and you’ve got one absolutely mind-bending film that challenges everything we know about the horror genre.
Seriously though, all joking aside, Resolution is the epitome of brilliant independent filmmaking, taking an idea that would never fly in mainstream studios, and making a film that questions why those said studios aren’t willing to take a chance on more films like this. Just look at what Benson and Moorhead were able to do with a crazy limited budget, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.Previous Next
10) Insidious: Chapter 2
Everyone else is talking about how bad Insidious: Chapter 2 is, and here I am putting it in my top 10 horror movies of the year. For the life of me, I can’t figure out where the disconnect with this movie stems from. The original film received some pretty serious acclaim, really brought James Wan into a new light, and showed that paranormal horror could still be original and scary. For my money, James Wan and Leigh Whannell followed their first film perfectly, expanded upon mythology, answered lingering questions, and introduced even more questions to keep the story going. Apparently I’m one of the only people who thinks so, though.
Insidious: Chapter 2 is a perfect follow up that features an upped ante from everyone involved. While I admit some of Specs and Tucker’s comedy felt a little forced, all the actors brought another level to their characters. Looking specifically at Patrick Wilson, he’s given so much more freedom to flex his horror muscles while playing a character with two sides – the dark and the light. Watching Wilson descend into madness creates some seriously fun cinema for viewers, but this isn’t in the place of scares, either. Everything that made Insidious so eerily creepy comes back to scare us mercilessly again, making this sequel one of the better watches of 2013.
Haters are always going to hate, whether it’s a grudge against Wan or sequels, but James proves he’s the master of atmospheric tension once again, and scores a much deserved spot on this list. Maybe we’ll see him again as we continue counting down?
For more on Insidious: Chapter 2, check out our exclusive video interview with the cast below.
9) Bad Milo!
Ken Marino + an adorable butt-dwelling monster + an uncontrollable murderer = pure gold. It’s science. Can’t you see the equation right there?
Bad Milo! is another one of those independent horror flicks that found backers heavily invested in a concept that’s literally been pulled out of someone’s ass, letting director Jacob Vaughan create a film that’s funny, witty, inventive, and an absolutely perfect mix of horror and comedy. While it sounds ridiculous, having Ken Marino play a man whose frustrations manifest an intestine-residing monster is the absolute perfect choice. Mix that with Milo’s delivery and the laugh-riot scripting, and you’ve got a safeguard that prevents Bad Milo! from being yet another gamble that doesn’t pay off.
Ken Marino has showed us time and time again he’s one of the funniest actors in Hollywood right now, which makes it easy for him to lead this production as the cursed character Duncan. Just look at the picture above, as Marino snuggles with his little counterpart Milo – the chemistry between these two is too good to be believable. Milo is nothing but a puppet, yet when he’s playing around with Marino, there’s a certain spark of life that comes out, especially thanks to the practical effects work Vaughan smartly sticks with (minimal CGI is used when absolutely necessary). This is the bread and butter of Bad Milo!, only made more enjoyable when mixed with brutal creature feature attacks and truly gut-busting comedic efforts.
The Duplass brothers invested their money in Bad Milo! as producers, and their backing created one of the most memorable horror experiences of 2013.Previous Next
8) You’re Next
Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard are quickly becoming two of the most important names to watch in horror, with You’re Next elevating their status like a soaring rocket ship. If you think you’ve seen everything the home invasion horror genre has to offer, you’ll be in for one shocker of a watch when you sit down for what you might assume to be more generic blandness. A vacationing family in a creepy old mansion becomes the victim of aggressive attackers – sounds new and original, right?
That’s the beauty of You’re Next – it starts out like any other similar genre fare, but as the night presses on and the twists start spinning out of control, we’re treated to a smorgasbord of goodies made from only the highest caliber ingredients. Collaborating once again with close friends and filmmakers like Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, and Ti West, the cast comes together with relative ease, and newcomers like Sharni Vinson fit in snug as a bug. Mix that with harmonious song selection, creative scripting, and gory horror slayings that rival the best slasher death scenes you can think of. I’ve never seen better usage of a blender in my entire life…
Sharni Vinson deserves her own special shout-out for playing the film’s surprising hero, doing so in true survival girl fashion. She’s tough, intelligent, and provides a formidable opponent for the animal mask wearing invaders. Vinson plays a character who you can easily root for and admire greatly, creating a lasting impression that sears You’re Next into your brain. Man, if a movie this good is coming in as my eighth pick, I can’t wait to see what I rated higher (he coyly says pretending he has no idea).Previous Next
While I thought V/H/S was an admirable effort to create a new anthology horror franchise, V/H/S/2 came along and bested the original in every conceivable facet. The first time around we were given a few short stories that all had to be shot as if a VHS recorder (or similar device) was capturing all the action. Some were fun, some were boring, and some were just blandly average. Learning from their mistakes, the producers on V/H/S/2 decided to cut the amount of shorts from five to four, giving each storyteller extra valuable time to bolster their segments – and boy did they. Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun), Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project), Gregg Hale (The Blair Witch Project), Adam Wingard (You’re Next), Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption), and Timo Tjahjanto (Macabre) all make proper use of their additional minutes, taking this found footage compilation sequel to brave new lands.
Top dog honors here go to Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto, the geniuses behind the cult inspired “Safe Haven” segment. The premise is simple – a documentary team gains unprecedented access to a local group called the People Of Paradise Gate, led by a man known only as “Father.” Unfortunately for our filmmakers, they enter this fabled community just as their plans are coming to fruition, and the crew attempts to escape before they become part of the evil ritual happening all around them. Insanity, bloodshed, creatures, mass suicide – escaping a cult-summoned apocalypse has never been so horrifying and fun.
The rest of the segments all have their charms, from Adam Wingard’s scary bionic-eye story, to Eduardo and Gregg’s zombie invasion film from the perspective of the zombie, to Jason Eisener’s 80s inspired alien invasion story that blends creature feature creativity with cheeky campiness. So many subgenres are covered by our filmmakers, each delivering their own distinct segment, and even though some of the quality seemed a bit crisp to be VHS recordings, the film is better for it. Why watch the action through a grainy lens when we’ve got glorious, vibrant HD?!Previous Next
Stitches – a movie that will chill you to your funny-bone. See what I did there? It’s a horror movie about an undead clown hellbent on revenge, so it’s both funny, AND terrifying – hence the funny-bone joke. Wakka wakka! OK, seriously, it really isn’t all that terrifying, but what this slasher comedy lacks in scares, it makes up in brilliant, showstopping, year-topping kill sequences. Conor McMahon has created a new slasher mainstay in Stitches the murderous clown, played by comedian Ross Noble, giving another perfect example of how to properly mix horror and comedy together without losing that fragile tonal balance.
Do you know what makes this movie so magical? Well, the true magic of movie-making, of course! People forget that for years filmmakers have been using miniature replicas, physical props, and crazy special effects to make some pretty astounding productions (Star Wars?!), which is why I applaud Conor McMahon for sticking with practical effects work. Each kill is so vibrant and memorable because there’s barely any cruddy CGI clogging our screen, amping the fun-factor up to ridiculous levels. How he was able to pull off the “death by balloon pump” scene is still beyond me – and I f$ckign love it.
Look at this, we have not one, but TWO Irish entries on this year’s horror hits list. First Grabbers, now Stitches. Maybe we should be keeping an eye on this rich, intoxicating land.Previous Next
5) This Is The End
I have to admit, I struggled with classifying This Is The End as a horror film, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how evil and violent Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg made their one-of-a-kind horror comedy. My biggest inner argument revolved around how heavy handed This Is The End is on the comedy, but comparing it to other films on the list, there’s just as much comedy here as there is in Bad Milo!, and plenty of death to go around. Just because a film is gust-busting, wet-your-pants hilarious doesn’t mean it can’t be a horror film too, and you know what, compared to some other horror films I’ve seen this year, This Is The End blows them out of the water.
I own This Is The End on Blu-Ray, I’ve watched it numerous times, and each viewing only gets better. God bless this talented comedy troupe for having the balls to deliver such gold by playing exaggerated versions of themselves, poking fun at one another’s real life personas. I can’t even name all the dynamite actors involved in this project because each one is as funny as the next, and the cameos they secure only add to the apocalyptic brilliance. Michael Cera is just one of many stars who exploits themselves on-screen for a memorable joke, and although other stars are just as funny, none of them have as quotable a line as “It’s sippy time.” I’ll never be able to enjoy a Capri Sun the same way again.
Who cares if you’re laughing more than cringing – This Is The End happens to be a horror film that’s also one of the funniest movies of the year. It’d be a sin not to get a sequel here, even though the continuation would be a bit tricky – although I’ve heard the boys have some pretty genius ideas. Time to get cracking!Previous Next
4) John Dies At The End
I know some sites mark John Dies At The End as a 2012 movie, but since I didn’t catch it until its glorious “wide” release (and neither did you), it’s absolutely a 2013 release for me. Actually, this is exactly how I started off my 2013, watching John Dies At The End while vacationing in bumblefuck New Hampshire for New Years, and boy did I start the New Year off on a high note. I hadn’t read David Wong’s (Jason Pargin) book before tackling Don Coscarelli’s cinematic adaptation, but I think that made my viewing all the more entertaining. This is an oddly obscure film that takes extreme pleasure in being nothing but unfiltered weirdness, from meat monsters to phallic doorknobs, and this is where Coscarelli’s ingenuity shines.
In mentioning the unfiltered weirdness, I also have to say that John Dies At The End is a strategically planned out story that’s both twisted and hilarious, turning two burn-outs into unlikely heroes. After taking a fantastical drug called Soy Sauce, Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) become a confused demon fighting duo who can see and experience a whole other world most people can’t perceive. This gives Coscarelli the ability to play around with inventive monsters and wonderful horror elements, but it also gives our lead actors the perfect opportunity to suck us in with top-notch performances. I’ve already stated that I’d love to see Dave and John again, as these two were some of my favorite horror characters of the year.
Don’t think the title is a spoiler, because I guarantee your brain will not be ready for John Dies At The End – even if you read the book. Also, a shout-out to Paul Giamatti for being a producer/actor on this flick, showing his love for the literary incarnation and his faith in Don Coscarelli. Good move, sir.Previous Next
3) Evil Dead
There’s just so much win surrounding Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake. This movie is so good it not only succeeded in creating a proper remake/reboot that injects brand new life into Sam Raimi’s iconic cult hit, but it also reinstated my faith in Hollywood remakes after so many piss-poor attempts left me sad, confused, and downright mad. This is the line I’ve been using over and over again, but Fede Alvarez made the Evil Dead movie Sam Raimi would have made years ago given the technology and budget. I truly believe that. Alvarez’s Deadites are scarier, his death scenes are brutally unrelenting in the gore category, the dilapidated cabin is somehow invitingly vibrant, and he brings the scares big time because SAM RAIMI’S ORIGINAL EVIL DEAD WASN’T MEANT TO BE SCARY (If I hear one more person complain about this remake not being funny…).
Hats off to lead actress Jane Levy, who plays our doomed Mia, because her embracing of the darkness creates one of the most memorable “villains” of the year. Once she’s possessed by the Necronomicon-bound demon, she transforms into this sick, wicked Deadite who balances a terrifying aura with true, vile perversion. Of course, this is just the demon talking, but when she yells up to her brother and says, “Why don’t you come down here pretty boy so I can suck your cock!” – that’s when we understand the true gravity of her situation. That’s also a line that perfectly balances the tonal bliss created, allowing us to chuckle a little, but also be horrified at this sister’s exclamation. Somebody give this girl an award, because her Deadite transformation deserves a Best Leading Actress Horror Oscar – if those existed.
In terms of the film, Fede Alvarez makes me a very happy man by taking practical effects to a whole new level. We watch as characters chop off limbs, cut themselves, break bones, vomit on one another – the special effects in Alvarez’s Evil Dead are the best I’ve seen in years. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and Fede always seems to find that magical path towards absolute horror nirvana – aka gratuitously raunchy, disgusting gore. It takes a special man to challenge the amount of fake blood used to color Lake Victoria in Piranha 3D, but Fede gladly accepted the task, and is a better director for it.
I loved, loved, loved Evil Dead. No getting around it. I never thought a remake could be this good, especially for such a classic film, but everyone who trusted Fede Alvarez saw their faith repaid tenfold by a movie that’s part homage, part standalone – but completely amazing.Previous Next
2) The Conjuring
I guarantee I’m the only one who has James Wan on their best of the best roundup for 2013 two times, but I’m the bastard crazy enough to do it! Don’t misinterpret the placement of that statement either – The Conjuring is the Wan film that most horror fans have in their top 10, not Insidious: Chapter 2. The latter is the film most people hated, with The Conjuring being one of the most universally loved horror movies of the year. James Wan, the master of atmospheric horror, embraces Ed and Lorraine Warren’s most “active case” with a careful eye for detail and a dark fairy tale tone, creating a horror film so successful it broke horror-based box office records and absolutely blew away all different types of audiences. Sure, there are a confusing number of James Wan haters out there (WHO I’LL CHALLENGE ONE BY ONE TO HELL IN A CELL MATCHES), and they’re going to tell you how boring Wan’s films are – but just tune them out. No matter what the director does, it won’t be good enough for them. As stated many times already – “haters gonna hate.”
The Conjuring is a special kind of creepy that crawls under your skin, inches up your spine, and leaves you uncomfortably irked by keeping you consistently on-edge. It’s a bit of horror evilness that has so much fun scaring the willies out of you, but does so through tight storytelling, solid acting, and proper atmospheric build-up that creates a sense of doom and gloom – not cheap scares, a limitless body count, and overused clichés. The Conjuring will have you jumping because every scene embodies this vibe that says, “Hey, you should be scared – trust me.” Well, we are, which my close friend can attest to after missing most of the movie in theaters, using every excuse possible to look away from the screen.
Wan’s set design, attention to detail, and eye for horror elevate The Conjuring above being a spectacular paranormal horror movie, challenging some of the best titles of the year for cinematic supremacy. Credit Chad and Carey Hayes for writing a killer script, but praise James Wan for adapting it with every ounce of vibrant, radiant, horrifying life.Previous Next
I’m sorry, but as a critic, if you don’t like horror movies, you shouldn’t be rating them. Plain and simple. Maniac‘s 47% Tomatometer score is depressingly criminal, weighed down by so many “sane” reviewers complaining about excessive gore and graphic imagery. Um, hello? This is horror. Horror isn’t a killer getting away with murder off camera, or with unbelievably clean slayings. It’s not a normal guy running around as a serial killer, dialing down his actions as to not offend weaker stomachs in the audience. No, horror is putting you in the mind of Frank (Elijah Wood), sending you on a date with a sultry red-head (Megan Duffy), making you experience Frank’s instability, and then forcing you to watch as Frank strangles the last ounce of life out of his next victim. Brutal, relentless, unforgiving, sadistic, despicable – but that’s true, horrifying, disturbing horror.
Sorry, I know I sound a bit crazy myself, but Maniac succeeds because it becomes this mind-f@ck of a movie that puts you inside of a killer, goes through the movie in a POV camera style, and in turn transforms us into said killer. We hear Frank’s heavy breathing as he’s stalking women, we hear his inner thoughts, and we see his hands outstretched while committing the heinous crimes depicted on screen – as if they’re our own hands. Much Like Evil Dead, Maniac finds new and creative ways to breath life into a cult-worshipped movie, and creates an entirely new, visceral experience. Yes, the gore can be hard to handle and you’ll leave with a dirty, grimy feeling after watching as Frank, but that’s the immersive story Franck Khalfoun and Alexandre Aja create. It’s a wicked transformation for every viewer – and some people just can’t handle that.
Elijah Wood is also a main reason for Maniac‘s success, delivering one of the most noteworthy performances of the year. If Jane Levy deserves that Best Lead Actress Horror Oscar, Elijah Wood is a no brainer for the Best Lead Actor Horror Oscar. Wood plays a conflicted man, emotionally tortured by his mother and socially unstable, who kills women because of his hurtful past. Part serial killer, part wounded child, this strange sense of sympathy builds as Wood’s character thinks back to his childhood, but then we catch him in the act of killing and all bets are off. Elijah’s character creation is deep, layered, and dynamic as he gives us a villain to fear, and a reason never to walk alone at night.
I promise there’s no skeletons hidden in my closet, I’m just a horror movie fan who loves being psychologically horrified just as much as being physically scared. Maniac does both, and is hands down the best horror movie I saw in 2013.
Alright horror fans, now is your chance to tell me which of these films you personally hated, and which films I missed that you absolutely loved. I think you can find the comments section from here, no? Feel free to drop me a Tweet on the Twittersphere as well, I’m always down for a discussion!
Matt Donato Follow @DoNatoBomb