These are the days and months when many people start reflecting on their year’s accomplishments and failures–the Ghost Diaries reflects on horror movies. We look back on the year with nostalgic fondness, running a slow motion highlight reel of brutal murders, screaming faces, demonic possession, and pools of blood spreading across new laminate floorboards. 2013 is probably not going to be looked back upon as a watershed moment for horror cinema, but there were still plenty of gems.
Here are our picks for the best horror movies of 2013…
This artfully crafted haunted house film wasn’t as scary as we had hoped. But what it lacked in scares, it more than made up for in creepy atmosphere and unnerving suspense. Director James Wan has become a master at playing with obvious horror conventions: walking down a flight of creaky stairs; characters opening doors we know they shouldn’t be messing around with; seeing shadows in the bedroom at night. All these elements work together to pay homage to old school horror movies, but Wan adds just enough originality to keep us on the edge of our seat. The vintage look and the fact that it was purportedly based on a true story, really helps enhance the creepy tone of the film. Our only real complaint was the film showed way too much too soon. The Conjuring more then qualifies as a premium addition to the “haunted house” genre.
V/H/S 2 is smarter, slicker, and scarier then the original. In fact, every single one of the found footage horror vignettes are gems in their own right, which is more than can be said for the first V/H/S. So if you felt like you were having a meltdown while watching the first one, give the sequel a chance. There are some ingenious tweaks to the genre, including a zombie attack filmed by cyclists, Fire in the Sky for teens, and one of the greatest conceptualizations of bloody cult madness we’ve ever seen. Read our full review of V/H/S 2 for a closer, no-spoilers look!
This highly ambitious indie horror flick will work its magic on many viewers; others may find its thought-provoking tone unwelcome in the horror genre. Much like Cabin in the Woods, Resolution is able to poke fun at traditional horror conventions while simultaneously examining the way stories are told. The plot revolves around Chris, who is forcing his best friend to detox from meth in a remote cabin (a better version of the lackluster drug subplot in the Evil Dead remake). What they both don’t know is that the cabin lies on an Indian burial ground where some really weird things have been going on. The ensuing mysteries unfold at a nice pace and the acting is flawless. It’s the relationship between the friends that truly makes this film tick as well as it does. In fact, the ending is the only thing that stops it from being a masterpiece. Either way, Resolution is a breath of fresh air for the horror genre and, if you have the patience for it, a journey well worth taking.
One of this year’s best, though it’s better looked at as a dark fairy tale than a straight up horror movie. If you’re into old school scares, you might just love this movie. Mama is a mixed bag, but its finest moments are well worth the price of admission, especially if you’re a die-hard Del Toro fan. The real treat of this film is watching the supernatural character Mama materialize on screen. She’s one of modern cinema’s eeriest monsters, a 7-foot tall spidery, broken-boned corpse that lurks in the shadows–and her dry-rotted mask is absolutely terrifying. There’s also an emotional weight to this film, which most horror films lack these days. Mama inflects just enough thematic twists to keep you guessing till the bittersweet end. A deranged fairy tale about family, heartbreak, and sheer evil.
We Are What we Are
We Are What We Are is a sophisticated horror movie that Terrence Malick might have made had he been a horror movie director. The story revolves around a reclusive family of cannibals who are slowly decimating the population of a small country town. What really makes this film work is that it doesn’t waste its time with cheap scares. Instead the scares build slowly, so when the true horror comes, it hits you like a tidal wave. The cinematography is absolutely mesmerizing. It’s the type of horror film Alfred Hitchcock would have drooled over. If you’re looking for a dark, stylish, and mature piece of genre filmmaking then this is the film for you.
Kiss of the Damned
If you’re into stylized movies like House of the Devil, you will love this oversexed vampire film. Kiss of the Damned is clearly a celebration of what made the Italian 1970s horror films of Dario Argento and Mario Bava so thrilling in the first place. The real pleasures of this film don’t come from the story but from its dark erotic mood and beautiful visuals. If you love 1970s vampire sexploitation films, this movie will be a real treat. Plus, there was just enough dark blood oozing and clever horror elements to keep us satisfied. The soundtrack was great too!
If you can tolerate gore (and let’s face it, why would you be reading this list if you couldn’t?), you will drool while watching Maniac. It’s certainly not a perfect film; in fact, it kind of falls apart halfway through. But not before showcasing no less than half a dozen brutal scalping scenes. With a better Act 2, this movie could have been a masterpiece but it’s still a fun watch and the soundtrack is like a contemporary homage to A Clockwork Orange. But back to the scalpings–seriously, a movie has NEVER dwelt so intently on the act of slicing off the top of someone’s head. Have fun!
World War Z
World War Z was not the zombie apocalypse masterpiece we wanted–but it might very well have been the one we deserved. Initially, we were heartbroken when we found out how far the film strayed away from Max Brooks epic novel by going in the most conventional direction imaginable. Then there was the PG-13 rating, cartoonish looking zombies, non-existent gore, and the generic rah rah American nationalism. But as sheer spectacle, War World Z is surprisingly effective. The set pieces are sensational and the action scenes are relentlessly intense and often quite scary. There are very few horror films that are able to deliver pulse-pounding excitement at this epic of a scale, and for that we love this movie.
Frankenstein’s Army is sure to please many hardcore horror fans. There’s very little plot here, but that’s okay, the slick creature designs and special effects are so stunning that you will instantly forgive this film for its plethora of missteps. In fact, Frankenstein’s Army has the most wildly inventive looking monsters we’ve seen in the last 20 years. The story is told in the found footage format, revolving around a platoon of Russian troops who stumble upon a secret Nazi lab during the last days of World War II. This movie not only breathes new life into the found footage genre, it also showcases how masterful visual creativity can still carry a film. Once the freak-show begins you’ll have a permanent smile on your face till the end.
Also, check out our Best Scifi Movies of 2013!