Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2013
Staci Layne Wilson's Picks
These lists are always difficult, given the fact that we as reviewers see movies at film festivals (which may or not ever be released), online screeners for VOD releases, and those going straight to disc. Therefore, in order to make this more relatable to the casual horror fan, I’ve narrowed my love and loathe lists down to USA theatrical releases only, ordered by date. (If I didn’t mention a movie, then that probably means it just didn’t move me one way or another.)
Warm Bodies (February 1)
Sure, it's PG13 so don't expect any Deadgirl gratuitous rapes or any cheeky "how about a little head?" jokes, a la Evil Dead 2 between the male and female leads here. But the flick’s got heart. Here’s the gist: R is a hoodie-wearing disaffected youth, affected by a zombie plague that's swept the world and divided the undead from humankind. He's fine just eating brains and listening to records on the hi-fi in his hipster bachelor pad – until he meets a warm-bodied mortal girl, Julie. It's clichéd, but it’s also cute and charming, not to mention well-acted (Rob Corddry steals the show) and entertaining.
Stoker (March 1)
A sinister, suspenseful, tawdry and fun thriller, Stoker is the first English language film from Korean auteur Park Chan-Wook. "Stoker" is also the surname of its fictional family — played by Nicole Kidman as the sexy, icy mom; Mia Wasikowska as her secretive, misfit teenage daughter; and Matthew Goode as the mysterious, malevolent uncle — but Stoker has nothing at all to with Dracula novelist, Bram. It's just another delightfully crimson red herring in a flick that's full of them. The story has a very Tennessee Williams-meets-Alfred Hitchcock feel to it with Park’s hyper-stylized sensibility. It's oozing with spider webs of dread and tension, punctuated with the occasional splat of horror.
Antiviral (April 2013)
"Long live the new flesh!" The son of body-horror king David Cronenberg, Brandon Cronenberg may seem like a clone born of a test tube with his directorial debut, Antiviral. But the younger Cronenberg adds yet another dimension to the family legacy in a truly striking and unforgettable instant classic, with a keen aesthetic eye and the ability to coax intense yet subtle performances.
Evil Dead (April 12)
Employing practical effects (only occasionally augmented with CGI enhancement), the supernatural murder and mayhem offers something truly garish and gruesome to behold... not since The Shining’s elevator scene have I seen so much blood (in fact, the forest even rains red at one point). Bodies – living, possessed, and dead – are violated in all sorts of ways, ranging from tree limbs to chainsaws to nail guns to fireplace pokers and even an electric carving knife. Not a single punch is pulled. And yet, while visually more violent and destructive than, say, a Saw or a Hostel movie, Evil Dead feels less skeevy. It’s not an exploitation film; it’s old-school horror.
Maniac (June 21)
The story isn’t much. And the structure is not much different from the 1980 original. It’s about a socially awkward, artistic misfit with OCD who somehow manages to kill with impunity but without detection as his reeking abode collects flies by the gross. As in the original, our Maniac (Elijah Wood) meets an attractive, fresh-faced female photographer and becomes obsessed with her. What elevates Maniac from being just another sickening slasher are technique, style, pacing and mood. It’s certainly one of the best "serious" horror movies I’ve seen in quite some time, elegantly and carefully crafted from start to finish. It is not for everyone, as it is arty and outré - a bloodthirsty and beautiful curio with a standout soundtrack and mannequins that menace to creepy perfection.
The Conjuring (July 19)
The Conjuring is based upon the real life supernatural crime case of Ed and Lorraine Warren, founders of New England Center for Psychic Research (est. 1952). It’s set in the early 1970s, before the Warrens became famous for their work in regard to The Amityville Horror. With a feel reminiscent of director James Wan’s previous haunted hit, Insidious - and a touch of "American Horror Story" Season One - The Conjuring covers the chain of terrifying events which plagued the Perron family from the moment they moved into a fixer-upper farmhouse. Wan pulls no punches, even when it comes to the jump scares, and delivers on all the promise he showed in his earlier, almost-there devil-doll horror film Dead Silence.
Horror movies I liked:
The Lords of Salem, We Are What We Are, Carrie, You’re Next, The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, The Curse of Chucky
Genre movies I loved:
Blue Ruin, Side Effects, Only God Forgives, The Wall (German), Blancanieves (Spanish), Pacific Rim
Mama (January 2013)
I have no idea why Mama was marketed as a "modest" thriller, propaganda stating it employed the "less is more" approach. I saw the full-on ghost, from head-to-toe and even in extreme, unflinching close-up, time and time again, throughout the film. The ghost ain't shy, that's for sure.
Scary Movie 5 (April 11)
Black Swan and 127 Hours are sent up along with the usual traditional horror flicks a la Paranormal Activity and Sinister. The only thing really scary, or funny, about Scary Movie is the idea there’s going to be a Scary Movie 6.
Black Rock (May 17)
A wannabe distaff Deliverance, this talky, bitchy hipster vanity project from writer-director-star Katie Aselton falls flat at every turn.
The Purge (June 7)
Intriguing concept: In a futuristic society, for one night a year, murder may be committed without consequences of any kind. This should bring up all kinds of possible moral and legal questions and conversations, but apparently the filmmakers didn't care about delving into the speculative possibilities. Instead, they chose to make a big, dumb home invasion horror.
Oldboy (November 24)
Oldboy is a remake of the well regarded Korean revenge thriller directed by Park Chan-Wook (which, in turn, was based on a Japanese manga). Unintentionally funny, overwrought and turgid, everything is lost in translation.
Horror movies I didn’t like:
World War Z, Byzantium, Come Out & Play, The Green Inferno
Did not see:
Texas Chainsaw 3D, Hell Baby, V/H/S/2, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Is the End, The World's End, American Mary, The Monkey’s Paw