Jerry Smith’s Top 10 Horror Movies of 2019
It’s that time of year again. Collecting ten of my favorite horror films proved to be a surprisingly easy task in 2019. It’s the first year in quite some time where I actually had to trim my list down from 20 to 15, finally landing at the ten films that spoke to me the most. Some films on my list worked as hands-free therapy for me and some were just downright FUN to experience. Some films that would have been on this list don’t officially come out until 2020, so I left out Bit and After Midnight, but I would highly recommend both films, they’re exceptional.
As always, this list is comprised of films that resonated with me for one reason or another, so if one of your favorite films of the year isn’t on this list, instead of telling me how wrong I am for not listing Ready or Not…write your own list and share it with me, I’d love to read your faves 🙂
10.) IT: Chapter Two
(Dir. Andy Muschietti)
This one was quite the surprise for me. I found the first film in Muschietti’s two-movie adaption of the classic Stephen King novel to be entertaining, but ultimately somewhat forgettable. Chapter Two though, this one was 100 % my jam. Seeing the Loser’s Club return, older and ready to confront the horror and trauma they faced in the first film was so refreshing to watch.
The film has such an excellent cast and performances by Bill Hader and James Ransone really help IT: Chapter Two land in an emotionally rich, albeit devastating way. Plus, Jack Dylan Grazer as a young Eddie is always a blast to watch, the kid has some serious acting chops.
(Dir. Alexandre Aja)
Some films hit us on a personal level and that’s awesome to experience, but on the flip side to that, it’s equally great to see a film that aims to just give its audience a wild, scary and fun ride. Crawl saw Aja return to the genre that he knows well. The French director knows his way around graphic violence and this alligator mixed with hurricanes survival story is full of it. Heads get chomped, characters you expect to come to save the day end up being gator food and there is such a wild, rebellious approach to this flick. Crawl feels dangerous, exciting and is easily one of the most entertaining theatrical experiences I’ve had all year.
(Dir. Ari Aster)
Ari Aster needs some therapy (don’t we all). Between last year’s Hereditary and 2019’s Midsommar, Aster has proven that nobody tackles emotional horror as well as he does. Leaving the descent into witch-filled madness of his debut behind in favor of a Norwegian culture-based story involving a toxic relationship and a woman coming to terms with who she is and what “family” really means to her, Midsommar gave me some of the most memorable images of the year, with a Wicker Man meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre aesthetic that has to be seen to be believed. One sequence involving a ritual where an elderly couple jump to their deaths to fulfill ther culture’s traditions left me speechless, with a visceral punch to the gut and eyeballs. Between Hereditary and Midsommar, I am all in on team Aster; I simply cannot wait to see what he does next.
7.) 3 FROM HELL
(Dir. Rob Zombie)
When 3 From Hell was announced, I’ll be honest: I was extremely skeptical. Zombie had given viewers the perfect send-off for the characters in The Devil’s Rejects and to bring them back for another go seemed forced and going back to the well. Jesus Christ was I wrong. 3 From Hell not only brought the Firefly clan back for more, but ended up giving us all Zombie’smost meditative film yet. Make no mistake, carnage is front and center in this one, but there are quiet moments of introspection in this movie, moments that breathe new life into characters we already loved. The addition of characters like Foxy (Richard Brake) and Sebastian (Pancho Moler) help extend the family, so to speak, and it’s so nice to see Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie and for a brief moment, Sid Haig, return for more mayhem.
(Dir. Scott Beck, Bryan Woods)
Another pleasant surprise, Haunt hit me in the face harder than bullies used to in grade school. The story involving a group of friends going to an immersive haunt (similar to that of Blackout) not realizing that it’s run by real-life maniacs with a penchant for mutilating not only their victims but themselves as well. Haunt bypasses laughs and jokes in favor of one mean as hell film filled to the brim with brutal deaths, excellent set pieces, and one of the most memorable baddies around with the character played by The Strangers: Prey at Night‘s Damian Maffei. Beck and Woods showing that they can go from writing a film like A Quiet Place to co-writing and directing Haunt really speaks on how diverse their storytelling can be. Watch this one with the lights on.
5.) The Fare
Taking a cue from The Twilight Zone, D.C. Hamilton’s The Fare is a film that I went into with zero expectations and it ended up being a film that really made me feel somewhat better for having experienced it. It’s rare to see a film that shows how genre storytelling can also play as one of the most endearing love stories in quite some time and The Fare is just that type of movie. It’s a film that sees two people stuck in a time loop and working to get out of it, while also trying to save each other as well. Great writing, excellent performances and some visually rich sequences, I’d recommend this one to any viewer looking for something fresh and unique because The Fare is most definitely both.
4.) Black Christmas
(Dir. Sophia Takal)
Oh, this movie. The film that angered many for the same reason that makes Black Christmas so effing relevant, Sophia Takal’s remake of the 1974 classic breathes new life into that story and gives viewers a feminist call to arms, filled the brim with socially relevant statements and ideas and one hell of a cast. A good remake does its own thing, and like last year’s Suspiria remake, Black Christmas confidently does just that. Less of a straight-up slasher and more of a hybrid of horror genres, BC might not have set the box office on fire, but it did a great job of entertaining while also (hopefully) making its viewer think (or in one case, not think enough to know it’s silly to punch a screen because women stood up for themselves in a movie…). Plus, THAT EXORCIST III HOMAGE!!
3.) The Lighthouse
(Dir. Robert Eggers)
How does one follow up a debut as strong as The Witch? Well, if you’re Robert Eggers, you follow it up with a black and white film about two keepers who get blackout drunk and lose their minds in the form of The Lighthouse. I still feel hungover from watching this one and I don’t even drink often. Robert Pattinon and Willem Dafoe ooze authenticity and there is no way that Pattinson wasn’t really hammered during the making of this one; the film just FEELS wet and intoxicating, and I mean that in a good way. Visions of mermaids, fist fighting over potatoes and a lot of farting, The Lighthouse starts off odd and just runs with it, leading to one frightening finale that will not leave your mind for a good while. Plus, where else can you hear a drunk Pattinson declare his desire to have sex with a steak?
2.) Daniel Isn’t Real
(Dir. Adam Egypt Mortimer)
Already a fan of Mortimer’s previous film, Some Kind of Hate, I walked into Daniel Isn’t Real expecting a good movie, but like the next film on my list, I walked out a changed person. I have never felt so seen by a film when it comes to my struggles with mental health and Mortimer’s film takes trauma witnessed and experienced by its protagonist and gives it a face in the form of Daniel, an imaginary friend with sinister plans. A film about the battles we have with ourselves, the topic of suicidal ideation, and having literal swordfights with your own mind, Daniel Isn’t Real shows off some of the best writing and directing I’ve witnessed, as well as two excellent performances from Miles Robbins and Patrick Schwarzenegger as Luke and his imaginary friend/enemy, Daniel. a profoundly impactful film, I would check this one out ASAP if you haven’t yet.
(Dir. A.T. White)
Starfish, Starfish, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. A.T. White’s film came to me almost immeditely after losing one of my best friends unexpectedly and it came during a time when grief and pain were at a high. A poetic look at coming to terms with the loss of someone and how our own pain and loss can in some ways become monsters we deal with, Starfish is shot beautifully, scored with such intense and sad music (by the film’s director nonetheless) and gives its viewers one game changing performance from Halloween (2018)’s Virginia Gardner. There’s a sadness in Starfish that bleeds sincerity and authenticity and it was truly one of the most beautfully haunting viewing experiences I’ve ever had. Sometimes loss can feel like the world is ending and the way White approaches that feeling and pain speaks wonders on how talented he is as a filmmaker. This film isn’t only my favorite film of the year, it’s my favorite film of the decade. God, I love movies and Starfish is yet another reason why I do.