The Best of 2013 by Joey Keogh
2013 was a surprisingly good, and very varied, year for horror that, in spite of beginning with the release of ‘Texas Chainsaw 3D’ and ending with ‘Carrie’, wasn’t characterised by shitty remakes, or yet more unnecessary sequels.
This year, more so than any other, we were treated to a wide variety of thought-provoking, inventive, and very scary films that proved once and for all that there’s life in the old genre yet.
My picks for the best horror movies of 2013, in no particular order:
Best Of 2013
1. The Lords Of Salem
Rob Zombie finally proved his detractors wrong, that in spite of his cult classics and ill-judged Halloween reboots, he could make a damn good, very intelligent horror film, with a disturbing, Kubrick-esque nightmare trip into one woman’s possible insanity, which combined stunning visuals, with an awe-inspiring score and a shockingly eloquent central performance from his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie. A modern masterpiece, from the least likely director.
2. A Field In England
The very prolific Ben Wheatley made it three in a row with this incredible little film, set entirely in, well, a field in England. Starring Michael Smiley in his most unsettling role yet, with the great Reece Shearsmith as his unlikely adversary, Wheatley showed that a horror movie doesn’t need to bloody, over the top, or even very showy to be truly terrifying. Just to put it into perspective, one of the most frightening scenes takes place entirely off camera.
Mia Wasikowska gave a stunning central performance as a quiet, slightly disturbed kid dealing with the loss of her father and the sudden reappearance of her suave, possibly dangerous uncle. Chan Wook-Park’s first English language feature was moody, quiet and incredibly moving, managing to lull the audience into a false sense of security before unravelling at an agonisingly slow pace. The devil really is in the details.
The definitive proof that horror remakes don’t have to suck, this bizarre story of a lonely mannequin collector who stalks and scalps women at night was Elijah Wood’s most shocking role to date, not least because he somehow managed to make his killer sympathetic, in spite of some rather damning POV shots.
5. No One Lives
Who knew that a film from ‘Midnight Meat Train’ director Ryuhei Kitamura and the rather infamous WWE Studios could be so fist-pumpingly awesome? Luke Evans hammed it up in the lead role as a villain pitched against a group of small town crooks who don’t realise quite who they’re messing with, until it’s too late. Funny, scary and completely crazy, ‘No One Lives’ also boasts one of the most jaw-droppingly awesome reveals in any horror film this year. Must be seen to be believed.
6. The Conjuring
You’d be forgiven for thinking yet another haunted house story from the seemingly omnipresent James Wan would be more of the same – lazy gimmicks, dodgy SFX and a central premise that makes little to no sense. Happily, unlike the dreadful ‘Insidious Part 2’, which was also released this year, ‘The Conjuring’ incorporated just enough elements of classic horror to produce a spine-tingling ghost story that builds the tension effectively and delivers scare after scare without anyone needing to hear anything weird on a baby monitor.
7. You’re Next
Adam Wingard’s ‘You’re Next’ was the most talked-about mainstream horror release of the year, and for good reason. Boasting a show-stopping central performance from everyone’s new favourite Final Girl, Erin, AKA ‘Bait’s Sharni Vinson – a chick so bad ass, she makes Katniss Everdeen look like Bella Swan – and some seriously inventive gore, this could’ve been yet another, dull home invasion thriller, a la the totally overrated ‘The Strangers’. Thankfully, it was a fun, funny and very gory exercise in how mainstream horror could, and should, be done.
8. Hatchet 3
The third instalment in Adam Green’s hugely popular ‘Hatchet’ series somehow managed to turn everything up to eleven yet again. Victor Crowley may not be the new horror icon that Green would love him to be, but he’s a formidable foe for actual horror icon Danielle Harris, and he delivers the goods in the most literal sense – from ripping off balls to pulling someone in half. Many a tear was shed when Crowley said his final goodbye, and who knows if this is really the end, but if it is, it’s a fitting end to possibly the only horror series that actually got better with each instalment.
9. V/H/S 2
Strange to have not one, but two sequels on a Best Of list, but in this case, the Bloody Disgusting guys didn’t just learn from the mistakes of the first instalment – ‘V/H/S 2’ was such a ridiculous departure from the first flick, it’s difficult to believe it even came from the same people. With segments from talents as varied as Adam Wingard and Gareth Evans, this anthology is so inventive, each piece somehow better than the last, it almost makes the upcoming ‘ABCs Of Death 2’ look palatable. Almost.
10. Curse Of Chucky
This could feasibly be called a reboot, a sequel, or both but Chucky’s latest adventure was shocking for a number of reasons. Mainly, Don Mancini delivered exactly what he’d promised previously – a scary, fun, funny, and definitively Chucky film, just like the fans wanted. With a fantastic central performance from Fiona Dourif (daughter of Chucky himself, Brad Dourif) and boasting some very clever practical effects to make the old doll move yet again, ‘Curse’ proved that Chucky may be slightly outdated, but he still has his place in modern horror, and more importantly, he can still pack a punch (while delivering an insanely good one-liner).
Although this was undoubtedly a very strong year for horror, there were still a few stinkers that threatened to derail the good work done by their clearly superior contemporaries. At the risk of giving these dreadful films any more attention, here are my picks for this year’s flicks that are best avoided:
Worst Of 2013
1. Insidious Part 2
It’s unclear what more there is to tell of this most boring of stories, but a third instalment is slated for a release very soon. At least Darth Maul didn’t make an appearance this time, but ‘Part 2’ was so irritatingly dull, it’s hard not to wish he head.
2. Evil Dead
Yet another “re-imagining” of a classic film that unequivocally did not need to be remade, ‘Evil Dead’ tried to turn the gore up a few more notches, and even incorporated a nifty little plot point about recovering from a drug addiction, along with some impressive practical effects. Unfortunately, little thought was given to anything but the gore and it essentially resulted in a big ol’ “meh” once the paper-thin premise was, quite literally, torn apart.
That this was the final horror release of the year was a travesty in itself. A scene-for-scene, at times word-for-word, remake of Brian De Palma’s incomparable seventies coming-of-age shocker, ‘Carrie’ left a miscast Chloe Grace Moretz to fend for herself against dodgy CGI and even dodgier, over-the-top, supporting performances in what felt more like a superhero origin story than a horror film. The decision to leave out the final money shot in favour of a crumbling CGI tombstone will surely baffle everyone for years to come.
2013 was an awesome year overall, and lots of other shit rocked too, apart from movies. But mostly it was the movies that made it.
2013’s Honourable Mentions
Album: Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal
Oli Sykes can sing! And it’s now totally okay for bearded, tough metalheads to listen to his band because they’ve proven they can rock just as hard, if not more, than their older contemporaries.
Book: Mark Kermode – Hatchet Job
Dr. K delivered lessons in film criticism for those of us crazy enough to still consider a career in film journalism. A must-read, for film fans and critics alike.
Festival: Frightfest, as always!
With less mud and much more comfortable seats than every music festival in the country combined, FF reigns supreme for uniting horror nerds, in the gorgeous confines of the Empire cinema in Leicestar Square, with a consistently awesome line-up, wonderful guests and far too much popcorn. How long till next year!?
TV Show: Hannibal
A TV programme so gorgeous, it made me want to lick the screen, Hannibal also managed to give me more sleepless nights than everything else I saw this year combined.
Tour: Depeche Mode – Delta Machine Tour
They may be getting on a bit, but Depeche Mode still know how to rock and, with a show clocking in at over two hours, they deliver real value for money too. Plus, Dave Gahan can grind a mic stand like no one else.
Merch: Ariescope’s “Shin Pads” T-shirt
A must for horror nerds, Adam Green’s “Shin Pads” T-shirts, released towards the end of the year as a surprise for hardcore fans of his popular ‘Holliston’ TV series are everything that merchandise should be. Nobody will get it, but that’s not the point.