Editor’s note: Rob G here, fiends. As you may or may not know, I co-host a horror talk-show podcast on GeekNation called Killer POV with Rebekah McKendry from Fangoria magazine and Elric Kane of Inside Horror. We’ve got an epic cross-over episode with The Bloodcast coming up on the GeekNation website (and iTunes) queued up for next week where we discuss in great detail our top 10 horror movies of the year, but in the meantime, I wanted to extent the invite to Elric to contribute his list in print here with us on ICONS. So below are Elric’s favorite 13 horror movies of the year. You can check out mine right here. And keep an eye on the Killer POV page for the link to our full-on podcast episode of the best of 2013 horror! Enjoy!
Elric Kane – Host of Inside Horror & Killer POV Podcast: Between festivals and what I saw in general release this year I believe its the best year in Horror filmmaking since the 80’s. I’ve read a bunch of end of lists claiming this to be one of the weaker years, which I just don’t get. The fact that I have another ten films that could make this list proves that there is a great mix of studio and indie films finding new and creative ways to breathe life into the genre. Let’s delve into the 13 that stuck out for me in 2013!
Unlike most of my counterparts I didn’t love this remake. I admire the innovation and technique but never fully engaged with the film due to the first person narrative. I think I felt about this how some ‘Evil Dead’ fans felt about that re-make. Joe Spinnel’s performance in the original is so involving and fragile that it’s amongst my favorite genre performances of all time. Emotion in films is so contingent on the reaction-shot that I felt while the concept of locking us in the killers perspective is great it distanced me from caring about the events. I’m sure this was the intent but just didn’t work for me. That said, I had a terrible screening of this and love the score so I promise to re-visit it under better circumstances.
Forgive the pun but I feel a lot of folks missed the boat on this one. Larry Fessenden continues to be one of the most important voices in the genre both as a director and a producer of new talent. This is his most overtly satirical film yet and spares none of the genre archetypes from its destruction. I don’t know how I feel about the Killer fish but the cartoonish way it’s portrayed makes it clear that we are free to laugh. This film takes a hatchet to surface level friendships and has by far my favorite death scene of the year, ripped from the Hitchcock playbook. I hope people re-visit this one and discover the gem that lies beneath.
11. V/H/S 2
If this was a feature length version of ‘Safe Haven’ by Timo Tjahjanto & Gareth Evans it would be vying for my #1 spot. That’s how much I loved their segment of this sequel anthology. It may be my favorite found footage film of all time, as it uses the medium perfectly and continually surprises the viewer. Regardless, as an anthology on the whole it’s less creepy then the first but far more playful. Making an anthology that’s fun to watch rather then a chore is a rarity these days.
10. HERE COMES THE DEVIL
I only just caught this film but was thrilled with its strange sexual energy and the 70’s filmmaking flourishes that overflow this Mexico set Satanic body-snatcher flick. I had liked sequences in all of the Bogliano directed films so far but this was his first film where it all came together. There’s a truly honest portrayal of the parents sexuality and guilt at play that could only emerge from a culture dominated by Catholic ideals.
9. THE LORDS OF SALEM
Like a lot of folks, I steered clear of this one after the first wave of negativity emerged. My mistake. While not a big fan of Zombie’s work as a whole (I love ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ and that’s about it) I absolutely relished this Fulci fueled nightmare for all its indulgences and imperfections. I’m sure that if someone had handed me a VHS tape of this when I was 20, it would have blown my mind. Leave hype and expectations at the door and let the ‘Lords’ lead you to straight to cinematic hell.
8. YOU’RE NEXT
A couple years of hype can certainly hurt a film, but I did my best to stay spoiler free on this one. Home invasion films are always ugly and this relishes in making its victims suffer, but then again the family in question is part of the 1% so it’s nice to see them squirm. The highlight of the film was the seemingly improvised banter between brothers AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg who lend an authenticity to the sibling rivalries. I think the film plays best as a comedy about Home Invasion films rather then as a straight genre pic. Sharni Vinson is the best ‘Final’ girl in years and really shines through as a character I would love to revisit (ie.Die Hard 2), until then I will settle for having the track ‘Looking for the Magic’ on loop in my brain.
This was one of my favorite surprises of the year. Having avoided the film due to the cover art that sold it as a torture film, I finally checked it out on AJ Bowen’s recommendation. The art couldn’t be more misleading as this film is all about intrigue and heart. I find myself often complaining about not caring for characters in modern horror films but here I was sucked into their friendship and the strange events unfolding around them, almost like a participant. The third man. The slow building dread that envelopes the friends is creepy without ever fully showing it’s hand, which was really refreshing and I find myself still thinking back on the film months later. Really excited for whatever is next for this duo.
6. EVIL DEAD
All I’m going to say on this one is that it was the most fun I had watching a film in theaters all year. It wasn’t the best or the smartest film of the year, but with the crowd I saw it with, it hit all the buttons for a great genre movie. I love the original Evil Dead as much as the next guy but this was different enough for me to leave the comparisons at the opening titles and watch the most visceral horror film of 2013.
5. KISS OF THE DAMNED
Remember when Vampire films had a powerful eroticism and sunlight didn’t make them sparkle? Thankfully so did Xan Cassavetes who returns the vampire film to it’s artistic, blood thirsty roots. While stylistically there are similarities to the work of Jean Rollin, this is much more playful and the pacing tears along with a haunting soundtrack and a visual beauty that compares only to it’s leading ladies. I really love the way this film makes you feel. Especially the shower scene…
4. ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE
I was patient for this one. Having heard about it for years and turned down offers to see import DVDs I waited for its release and was thrilled that I did. If Terrence Malick had shot a teen slasher film it would have been this. While the story isn’t new, the way it unfolds and how it positions both the characters and audience to desire Mandy Lane is brilliant. Without giving spoilers it’s not about what the twist is as much as how the twist works and how it changes what you’ve seen. When we desire something so much we tend to not look too carefully at what it actually is. Moths to a flame.
3. THE CONJURING
I believe lists need to be subjective. There is no objective best. That said, objectively this is the best horror film of the year 😉 Now, its not quite my favorite of the year but damn was it a brilliantly crafted, scary classic, studio horror film. I think it will be on best of lists for the next 50 years. I only hope director James Wan gets a chance to revisit the world of demonologists again. If studios put the effort into crafting great films like this rather then found footage sequels the genre would greatly benefit.
2. THE BATTERY
This is my favorite independent film of the year. It inspired me to want to make my own films and it completely enthralled me as a film that knew exactly what it was and the means it needed to do it. It also launches its director/ star Jeremy Gardner as an exciting presence with one of the best characters of the year. There is a style at play in this film that surprised me at every point. Just as I settled into how the film was made it presented another visual flourish or inventive way to show an event simply that enhanced the focus of the story. This was very close to top spot for me but the knowledge that Jeremy will make an even better film at some point is reason enough to keep it at #2.
I fell hard for this film. When I walked out of the screening I knew nothing could trump its artistry, tone, beauty and dark sexual undercurrent. This is what a truly great director is capable of with a strong simple story. The visual design and thematic matches are superb and it feels like the kind of film that if one moment was pulled out the entire thing would unravel. It reminded me of being a kid and getting lost in someone reading you a great story. Layer for layer this film will only improve over the years and is destined to be remembered as a modern classic.