Dread Central's Best and Worst of 2013
Brad McHargue's Picks
Making a Best Of list is difficult, if only because I see so many horror movies on the festival circuit that have yet to be released by the end of the year. Can they logically be considered 2013 films? If you go by my list last year, then yes. It’s why I’m not including The Battery, The Last Will & Testament of Rosalind Leigh, and The Conspiracy on this year’s list, as all comprised the top three of last year’s.
Given that I’ve actually seen plenty this year that received a real release, I’ll be falling in line with the majority of my colleagues and comprising a real list of the Best and Worst horror films of 2013 that were released in theaters, VOD, or on DVD. And while I acknowledge that The Conjuring was a fun watch and actually pretty creepy, its story was so boring and formulaic that it definitely doesn’t deserve a spot on this list. Sorry, but it’s the truth.
Escape From Tomorrow: Set against the backdrop of Disney World, Escape from Tomorrow is a surreal and extremely dark look at one man’s mid-life crisis as he spends the final day of his vacation following a pair of French lolitas throughout the park, all while experiencing disturbing visions. Its avant-garde approach to shooting, along with its creepy imagery and bizarre look at the seemingly saccharine nature of the “happiest place on Earth,” ensures that the film will remain divisive, but it’s so damned unique and eerie at times that it remains one of my favorite films of the year.
Jug Face: Religious horror is a guilty pleasure of mine, provided it doesn’t focus on the Catholic Church. We get it. Demons are real. But in Chad Crawford Kinkle’s frightening Jug Face, a young girl is threatened with death by her community’s backwoods belief system that involves the worship of a mysterious pit. Despite a supernatural bent that doesn’t quite work when you want it to, Kinkle keeps the suspense flowing, bolstered by wonderful performances by Sean Bridgers and Lauren Ashley Carter.
You’re Next: I reviewed You’re Next way back in 2011 when I saw it as part of Fantastic Fest, and while it didn’t make a year-end list then, Adam Wingard’s send-up of the home invasion genre is dark, funny, violent, and guaranteed to make “Lookin’ for the Magic” by The Dwight Tilley Band your new favorite song. Lucky for us Wingard and his writing partner Simon Barrett have no signs of slowing down, with their forthcoming The Guest premiering at Sundance early next year.
Maniac: A remake of the 1980 thriller from William Lustig, this Elijah Wood vehicle follows the perspective of Frank, a serial killer who works as a mannequin restoration artist by day. At night he wanders the streets, stalking and killing women due to some deep-seated mommy issues. It’s not high art, but Wood’s performance, combined with Rob’s amazing score and Franck Khalfoun’s unique first-person perspective, makes Maniac not just an amazing film, but one of the rare remakes that actually works.
100 Bloody Acres: This one took me by surprise, but this Aussie gore flick that follows two brothers who use dead bodies as the “secret ingredient” in their fertilizer is filled with enough heart and humor that it elevates itself above most of the gore-for-gore’s-sake dreck that we tend to see. It’s violent, bloody fun and supported by great performances from all involved, particularly Damon Herriman, who plays the shy younger brother that begins to fall for one of his victims.
Special Mention: These films haven’t been released yet, but you should keep them on your radar anyways.
The Sacrament: It’s getting a release on VOD in May, but Ti West’s The Sacrament, in which a team of Vice reporters infiltrate a Jonestown-like cult to discover what happened to their friend’s sister, is easily West’s best film, thanks in part to the incredible performances of AJ Bowen and Gene Jones. Jones dominates the screen with his towering personality, offset by his seemingly feeble physical appearance, making for one of the most memorable and downright frightening characters - and films - in horror this year.
Big Bad Wolves: Aahron Keshales and Navot Papushado’s Rabies found its way on many Best Of lists a couple of years ago, and while their follow-up, Big Bad Wolves, isn’t exactly a horror film, it’s simply too good to not be mentioned. Quentin Tarantino dubbed it one of the best films of the year, and the Israeli duo responsible for directing the first Israeli horror film ever are poised to headline the genre’s list of greatest contemporary directors.
The Dirties: A found footage thriller that focuses on a young man’s obsession with film and getting revenge on the bullies that torment him at school, The Dirties is not just a great film, it’s an important one. It puts the focus not just on bullying, but on how it’s often overlooked by family members, friends, and outsiders, despite being placed front and center.
Bloody Homecoming: When I wrote my review of this ridiculously awful slasher film, the writer of the film came out of the woodwork and attacked me for not “getting it.” Apparently there’s a method to boring, rote, low-budget slashers devoid of anything remotely interesting or original, so kudos to him, I guess.
Absence: I adore found footage, but I admit almost all of it sucks. That said, a found footage thriller involving a woman’s unborn child disappearing from her womb sounded like it had potential. And it did! For the first five minutes! Then it becomes an hour of annoying characters, nonsensical scares, and an offensively lazy ending.
Insidious 2: I’m unapologetic in my saying that Insidious is half a decent movie. Its sequel doesn’t even have that luxury. Wan’s style helped make The Conjuring a damned fine film, but his eye for suspense is non-existent in Insidious 2. It’s a hurried mess of disjointed plot and piss poor acting that it’s amazing the two are from the same director.
Texas Chainsaw 3D: Just pure laziness and some of the worst one-liners in horror history. (“Do your thing, cuz.”)