2013 hasn’t really been a banner year for horror. You get the feeling that horror cinema is in a real transitional stage. We’re certainly over the remake hump that dominated the 2000s and therein studio horror output has slowed dramatically. The void hasn’t quite been filled by the Indie scene, which too often continues to rely on tried and tested genre blueprints. Paranormal activities continue to rule at the box-office with hauntings, possessions, and exorcisms dominant with the popular audience. So what of the best of the year? Here’s what tickled my wobbly bits over the past 12 months:
Exorcism movies are becoming overly familiar and worse of all overly predictable. But of the demonic haunting studio offerings, this was easily the best, if not at all groundbreaking or different in any way. But the lead performances were excellent, captained by Patrick Wilson, who’s fast becoming a genre fan favourite. This ‘true-story’, you feel, would have been better off, and had more of an impact, had it been made 10 years ago, prior to the current haunting glut.
This Indie movie attempts to weave many a traditional horror thread into an ever changing plot. Found video footage, drug addiction, sacred land, missing people, lost souls, religious cults, gangsters, roaming lunatics, demonic forces, and even post-modernism are all candidates for the evil that besets two guys in a remote cabin. It’s an interesting watch which keeps you guessing throughout and after the credits roll. The writing is sharp and the dialogue never dull. The two leads do a great job of convincing you of their long term friendship. The crack addiction element could, and should, have been treated with a little more respect and attention to detail, but all-in-all a far better approach to the subject, as a narrative device, than Evil Dead managed.
Be honest horror fan, you were never going to give this an easy pass. Had this been a movie called ‘Rural Blood Puke‘, or ‘Forest Rape Tree‘ it would’ve likely been one of the darlings of the year. Saying that, it isn’t, and it came with a lot of baggage. Baggage containing big shoes – to fill that is. But it did succeed on enough levels, not least the size of its balls. Big’ol blood filled balls. And Fede Alverex emptied them big juicy non-CGI balls all over your face and you loved it. It was a shame then that, the movie was equal parts blood hurricane and terribly written characters.
This Irish creature feature is a rare modern Monster B-movie that works.., mainly because it has heart. Something majorly lacking from all of those horrible Asylum and Sci-Fi channel CGI shit-fests. The creative team here love monster movies clearly, but they’re not interested in throwing out cheap references, this is their own movie. But the love of the genre is there for all to see: You’ll recognise traces of Jaws (and Jaws 2), Aliens, The Thing, 50s B-movies likes Tarantula, and I’d be surprised if the creative team weren’t fans of 1998’s fantastic Deep Rising. The movie uses its Island setting well and surrounds two very likable leads (again rare) with a fantastic group of hodgepodge supporting players. The CGI is stronger than anything Asylum could offer, and yes, when it can, it offers plenty of practical effects too. A hidden gem.
Here’s a movie which asks the question what makes a movie a horror movie? Is it the content? The execution? The visceral depiction of violence? This is a movie about murder, inherent psychosis, and to some degree incest. In the hands of many a director this could have been a sleazy and sordid affair. But such is the skill of Korean director Park Can-Wook (making his English movie debut) and the ambiguity of the performances (Matthew Goode is deliciously menacing, turning in a real Norman Bates-esque performance) that it comes across as brooding drama. But make no mistake this is horror addressed in a smart and intelligent manner. So much so that you forgive some of it’s shortfalls – it certainly creeks under the weight of it’s own dramatic intentions. Disturbing, interesting, unhinged.
The found footage anthology series continues with this followup to last year’s V/H/S. Like the original it’s a mixed bag (although none of the sequences are terrible by any means). Along with the [REC] movies, this series utilises the found footage concept better than anything else horror has to offer (here’s looking at you Diary of the Dead). The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and like the original all the parts are strong enough. Part 1 ‘Clinical Trials‘ is the weakest, but Parts 2,3, and 4 ‘A Ride in the Park‘, ‘Safe Haven‘, and ‘Alien Abduction Slumber Party‘ are all fantastic in their own unique way.
Adam Wingard took the home invasion film and kind of fed it through the Giallo meat grinder. The result was a slightly nonsensical but hilariously entertaining horror film that can be well and truly filed under ‘romp’. A rare occasion where the filmmakers, actors (and their characters – and that’s important), and audience are all in on the joke from the get go.
First of all let’s talk about how smart this is from a filmmaking perspective. Almost the entire movie is shot in the first person (first perspective), but not using the handheld-camera gimmick. From an artistic standpoint this is an interesting take on the horror convention which fetishises the killer’s gaze, but usually only during the kills. Here we’re invited, literally, behind the killers eyes from the get-go. From a practical aspect this gives the filmmakers the ability to cast Elijah Wood as the titular ‘maniac’ without needing him on-set for months at a time (therein saving a whole bunch of the budget). Wood appears sparingly, and cleverly, in reflections. Smart. The film itself is reminiscent of Peeping Tom (1960) and enjoys Giallo like kills, effects, and music. One of the most enjoyable and refreshing modern slasher/stalker pics in years (and yes I realise it’s a remake).