Normally I reserve my “best of” the year list for my own site, Day of the Woman, but the Icons of Fright family is the reason I was able to see 90% of the films on this list. Here’s the thing – I’m not a cool kid in L.A. or some other cinema megaland like most of the Icons of Fright contributors. I’m an unemployed blogger in Cleveland, OH slowly dying anytime anyone mentions how much fun they’re having at Fantastic Fest or screenings at The New Beverly. With that in mind, the films on my list were either seen from Screener links, Theatrical/DVD releases, or cranking out the cash for some VOD. Unfortunately, I STILL haven’t seen THE SACRAMENT, but it can safely be assumed that it would have been on this list. Le sigh.
This one completely flew past my radar. I hadn’t heard anything about this movie until it was already on Netflix, but I’m so glad I was introduced to it. It’s as if TREMORS had a baby with a book of Irish jokes and raised it on Lovecraft. A monster movie with a strong grasp of humor combined with entertaining circumstances, GRABBERS reminds us why we love tentacle monsters outside of hentai.
12 – BLACK ROCK
I’m definitely in the minority on this one, but I had a lot of fun with Katie Aselton’s BLACK ROCK. This is quite possibly the cinematic equivalent of blue balls. The cinematography, sound design, casting, and tension were all crafted beautifully…but all of the characters are idiots. These women make some of the most obviously bad decisions, and I almost love them for it. This is a movie that epitomizes the “DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU!” scream-at-the-screen mentality. It is for this reason that I’m putting it on my best-of list, because I can’t remember a time I was that involved in a film to where I actually found myself talking to the screen.
11 – KISS OF THE DAMNED
There really isn’t anything cooler than an old-school vampire flick. Xan Cassavetes has taken everything that I love about the vampire flicks of yesteryear, and added a bit of millenial charm to the overall package. This is one of those movies that die-hard horror fans brag about having seen and it’s a film that took back sexy vampires from sparkling pretty-boys and elegantly reminds us of the alluring nature of forbidden love.
10 – SIGHTSEERS
If Mickey and Mallory wore sweaters. Technically, SIGHTSEERS isn’t a “horror film,” but this dark comedy contains a wicked amount of gore and follows the story of two individuals that share a love of murder. I don’t care how funny it is, the concept alone is downright horrifying. Ben Wheatley’s follow up to the audience favorite KILL LIST is a strong one, and SIGHTSEERS is a film I would truly declare a “must-see.” A traveling movie with a nice little body count, I’m grateful that non-festival attending American audiences are finally able to experience this slice of genius.
09 – ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE
Like the majority, I had to endure the seven year wait to finally see this film. Unlike the majority, I’ve been surrounded by a bunch of horror critics the last seven years who already had the opportunity to see it! Let’s just say, this one was worth the wait. Amber Heard has since exploded, but I think her strongest work was in this debut flick. I want to gush about this until I’m blue in the face, but it’s a film that I really think would be better experienced if you don’t know anything going into it. Before I watched it, I was told it’s an “awesome slasher flick,” which, it is. BUT! ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE is so much more unique and interesting than your average slasher. It’s finally available, so do yourself a favor and see what all the hype has been about.
08 – CONTRACTED
A good ol’ fashioned scar-you-for-life body horror flick. I try to rate body horror films on a level of 1-I need a shower. CONTRACTED falls somewhere between “Pass the Purell” and “They don’t make enough bleach.” Eric England directed a beautiful and haunting tale of a date-rape survivor and how her experience continues to follow her every moment in the shape of a mysterious disease. The film is pretty gross – that’s for sure, but the powerhouse performance by the lead actress is worth every second.
07 – RESOLUTION
Jerry Smith had been harassing me for what seemed like a century to watch this flick the moment it became available on Netflix. You know what? That Jerry Smith is pretty good at picking out movies. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead really created something special. RESOLUTION is a film that stayed with me for days after viewing and managed to weasel under my skin and linger there. The film showcases the impeccable writing style of Justin Benson and when RESOLUTION takes a left turn…it’s a hard left turn into the gut.
06 – THE CONJURING
James Wan sings a hell of a swan-song when he’s leaving behind a genre. I personally love James Wan’s style, but none of his films have ever really “scared” me until THE CONJURING. Oh, lordy, lordy, lordy. Exceptionally paced and beautifully shot, this was one of the best mainstream-release horror films of the last decade let alone in 2013. Making a film genuinely scary is an artform, and James Wan created a masterpiece.
05 – STOKER
It’s hard to really call this a “horror film,” but much like THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, it’s so good that we as horror fans should be really calling it one of our own. Park Chan-Wook’s English speaking debut is absolutely incredible. It’s subtle and breathtaking and Mia Wasikowska gives the strongest performance of her career. This is one of those movies that I just want to scream “IT’S GOOD. IT’S SOOO GOOD!” whenever anyone asks me about it, because it’s way too hard to put into words just how wonderful STOKER is.
04 – MANIAC
I’m not inherently against remakes because every once in a while, we’ll get a film like MANIAC. Elijah Wood is one of the most under-appreciated actors of our time and he really proved that with his performance as Frank Zito. Franck Khalfoun shot an ambitious flick with a stellar supporting cast, a dynamite score, and beautiful cinematography. Someone please put Elijah Wood in another slasher film, now.
03 – WE ARE WHAT WE ARE
This movie wrecked me. Jim Mickle remade the 2010 Spanish film of the same-name and made one of the most heart-wrenching films I’ve ever seen. It’s absolutely gorgeous and the film takes the cannibal sub-genre and presents it in a way that I’ve never seen. It’s not very often that you see a level of moral constraint and dignity to the idea of eating another human being, especially coming from characters you actually care about.
02 – THE BATTERY
If I could try and seduce a movie at the bar and take it home with me, it’d be THE BATTERY. For the same budget that most directors wipe their ass with, Jeremy Gardner made one of the best zombie films I’ve ever seen. Characters you care about, interesting monster designs, fantastic dialogue, and perfectly paced, THE BATTERY deserves every award available and Jeremy Gardner should be given ten bajillion dollars to make his next movie. I’ll be first in line, that’s for damn sure.
01 – YOU’RE NEXT
If you follow me on twitter, you should have all seen this coming. I incessantly tweeted for months about waiting to see YOU’RE NEXT and then I saw it in theaters three times. No film festival screenings, no press passes, nothing. I spent nearly sixty dollars (including refreshments, duh.) to see this film. I was the only one in the theater for one of my viewings and you can bet your ass I was dancing in the aisles and belt-singing “Lookin’ For The Magic” every time the song was played. It had some of my favorite female characters of recent memory and dialogue that felt like it was ripped right out of a home movie. YOU’RE NEXT is everything I love about horror movies and reminded me of every reason why I want to work in the film industry. If I ever create something that impacts another person the way YOU’RE NEXT has done for me, I can die happy.