Editor’s Note: Rob G here, fiends. Since Jerry Smith was such a pivotal and invaluable part of Icons Of Fright this past year, I thought it’d be fitting to invite him back into the fold to share his favorite genre titles of 2013. Jerry also has a new site that goes beyond the genre called The Martyrcycle, so be sure to bookmark it an keep tabs on the Facebook page as well. Without further adieu, here’s Jerry’s Top 13 of the year.
13 – CONTRACTED
I’m a massive fan of the body horror sub-genre, and Eric England’s CONTRACTED is by far the best film working within that to have been released in a good while. A woman is date raped by a mysterious stranger, and begins to fall apart, and decay. It’s well written, well directed and full of good performances by Najarra Townsend, Caroline Williams, and everyone else involved. Not for the faint of heart.
12 – YOU’RE NEXT
Having waited for YEARS to see Adam WIngard’s home invasion film YOU’RE NEXT, I absolutely loved this one, and saw it in theaters four times during its run. A smart, funny movie that suffered from some misleading trailers (it was marketed as yet another STRANGERS knock-off, when it reality, it was more akin to STRAW DOGS than anything else I felt). Great performances from the whole cast, especially AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg and Barbara Crampton.
11 – THE SACRAMENT
Ti West’s Jonestown-ish film THE SACRAMENT doesn’t officially come until next year (June 6th in limited theaters), but it blew me away so much after seeing it at this year’s Fantastic Fest, that I had to break the rules and include it in this year’s best. Already a fan of West’s films, I went in expecting a fun time, and walked out of the theater emotionally wrecked. Such a great film, full of some mind blowing performances by Gene Jones (dude deserves an Oscar for his performance as cult leader “The Father”, ), AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg and Amy Siemetz. Walking out of the film, which is about a VICE team of documentarians trying to find a news piece on a colleague’s sister, and getting more than they bargained for, I couldn’t wrap my brain around what I just seen. A shocking, profound experience, that will be impossible NOT to think about for weeks afterwards.
10 – WITCHING AND BITCHING
Another film that isn’t technically coming out this year, but was one that I watched at Fantastic Fest, Alex de la Iglesia’s LAS BRUJAS DE ZUGARRAMURDI (or WITCHING AND BITCHING to American crowds) is a visually beautiful film, full of sometimes creepy and always hilarious moments involving a group of criminals on the run, eventually leading to them coming across (and pissing off) a coven of witches. I honestly don’t remember the last time that I laughed so hard during a theatrical experience as this one. Such a perfect blend of horror, fantasy and comedy, and easily one of the best films that I’ve seen all year.
9 – BENEATH
Larry Fessenden’s BENEATH might have not been a hit with a lot of critics, but I absolutely adored this film. A group of recently graduated students take a canoe across a lake, and are hunted by a giant monster fish. Full of metaphors for how quickly people will turn on each other when they feel like they’re in danger, BENEATH is a fun time, full of some scares, and some really unexpected moments. Easily Fessenden’s best film in my opinion.
8 – WE ARE WHAT WE ARE
Director Jim Mickle took Jorge Michel Grau’s 2010 Spanish film WE ARE WHAT WE ARE, and gave it a southern makeover, giving viewers a remake that in my opinion, is far superior to the original. The matriarch of a family dies, leaving her daughters with the task of providing and helping their father feed the family with well..people. What easily could have been a hokey premise instead is a lush, beautiful film that doesn’t feel like just another cannibal movie, instead being an emotionally gut-wrenching film that stays with the viewer long after it’s over. It also has one of my favorite performances of the year, from Bill Sage as the father of the family.
7 – RESOLUTION
While I technically saw RESOLUTION last year via a screener from the studio, as well as a festival screening, the film was officially released this year, which is why it’s on this list. I have been championing this film like a madman all year, and I will continue to do so, as it’s such an interesting, genre-bending film about a man trying to get his drug addict friend clean by forcing him to go cold turkey in a cabin. It starts out as one kind of film, and slowly becomes an intense, sometimes terrifying film that one cannot simply just describe. The chemistry between the film’s lead actors is amazing, and it gives the whole “friend trying to get another friend clean” a much more believable experience than the other film using that angle this year (here’s looking at you EVIL DEAD).
6 – THE LORDS OF SALEM
A film that fell into the “either you love it or hate it” category, Rob Zombie’s THE LORDS OF SALEM simply blew the hell out of me. A beautifully shot film that recalls great European horror films of the ‘70s more than the sleazy stuff that Zombie is usually known for, THE LORDS OF SALEM, is a visual masterpiece, full of shocking scenes, and just as many endearing ones. If you’re expecting something completely linear and wrapped in a neat bow, you’ll hate this one, but holy hell is it perfect in my opinion. A DJ (played by Zombie’s wife Sherri) receives a mysterious record, that once she plays it on air, pretty much brings upon some horrific events. It boasts a great standout performance from Jeff Daniel Phillips as well.
5 – MANIAC
A remake of William Lustig’s 1980 slasher, MANIAC is another retelling that in my opinion, outdoes the original. The sleazy NY vibe of the original is traded in for the Los Angeles vibe, and Elijah Wood takes over the role of Frank Zito, giving viewers expecting Frodo a shocking surprise. Woods plays a serial killer with some serious mommy issues, and with a predilection towards scalping his victims and putting their scalps on mannequins. Almost entirely from the POV of the killer, MANIAC leaves you feeling drained afterwards, and also gives viewers what is, in my opinion, the soundtrack of the year.
4 – CHEAP THRILLS
While some might disagree that my opinion that the E.L. Katz-directed CHEAP THRILLS is a horror film, I’ve always found desperation to be a key element into horror and this film is full of it. Pat Healy plays Craig, a down on his luck guy who loses his job, gets an eviction notice, and is in danger of having his family on the streets. When Craig runs into an old friend (played amazingly by Ethan Embry), the two are then paid money by a sadistic couple to do horrific things throughout the night, each dare getting more and more dangerous. While it is as funny as hell, CHEAP THRILLS is a very dark, dark film, one that just kicks ass the whole time. The film officially comes out in February 2014, but I’ve seen it three times this year, so it’s another exception to the rule.
3 – CASSADAGA
A fun and beautifully shot horror film about a deaf woman that moves to Florida, after the tragedy of losing a loved one. Once there, the woman begins to see visions of a ghost, leading her to a serial killer that turns his victims into marionettes. Directed by Anthony DiBlasi, CASSADAGA is a fun ride, giving viewers a likable lead character played by Kelen Coleman, and one interesting villain. A fun, pizza and friends type of film.
2 – STOKER
OLDBOY director Park Chan-Wook’s English-language debut, STOKER is an absolutely well done film in every capacity. Great performances by Matthew Goode, Mia Wasikowska and Nicole Kidman, STOKER tells a coming of age story of a girl whose mysterious uncle, with a sinister agenda, shows up after the death of her father, slowly making his way into their family. It’s a subtle, gorgeously shot film, definitely a highlight of this year.
1 – V/H/S/2
While the first V/H/S film had its issues with some segments being good and other being not very good at all, that problem was fixed with V/H/S/2. Every segment of this anthology is solid, telling the story of a couple private investigators that find a set of VHS tapes, and watch them, trying to solve the disappearance of a young man. Everything from Adam Wingard’s robotic eye segment, to a very intense segment regarding an Indonesian cult, every “tape” in this film is directed by filmmakers who took shocking audiences seriously. HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN director Jason Eisener ‘s segment involving a group of kids being attacked by aliens steals the film, and one second makes you laugh, while the next second, makes you cringe. Solid stuff.