Well, here we are again at the end of another year. It was a busy year for me creatively, so it feels like I saw less films in 2013. However, after perusing the archives I - as per usual - was able to cull my faves together for you. Here they are below in no particular order. Oh, and in case you're wondering why You're Next isn't on here, it's because I already heralded it as my top horror flick of 2011.
USA, Dir: Mike Flanagan
After seeing this film at Midnight Madness, I knew it was a lock to make this year end list. Building on the skills displayed in his previous film Absentia, Flanagan's wonderful scare-filled piece is made more impressive by his seamless juggling of dual narratives. Anchored by solid performances from both adults and children alike, this film was a fantastic and well-rounded supernatural thriller.
USA, Dir: Scott Schirmer
Yep, even months later, I still adore this movie. I gushed during Toronto After Dark about how much I responded to this film and that hasn't changed. Schirmer makes the rough-around-the-edges production work in his favour, and elicits great performances from his principles. The gore work is top notch, and his choice to make it a period piece was also a nice touch. The source material was a self published tome that Schirmer just stumbled across during his time at a publishing house, which just makes you think how many other genre gems are out there just waiting to be discovered.
USA, Dir: Jeremy Gardner
This little zombie apocalypse indie that could is still on my mind. It's pretty amazing that the day-to-day musings of two ex-ball players could be so engaging, but it's in no small part due to the charisma and chemistry of the film's stars Gardner and Adam Cronheim. Imagine a zombie picture with hardly any zombies in it that still managed to be more entertaining that one with a billion. I have mad respect for these dudes.
USA, Dir: James Wan
Out of all the “haunting” pictures we've had over the past ten years, I think this is the most successful. James Wan has grown immensely as a director over that time and this is his most consistent scare-fest to date. His technical prowess is now quite impressive and combined with the talents of Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor and Wan-regular Patrick Wilson, I feel this was something well above what we expect from this subgenre.
USA, Dir: Ti West
I have to give West credit where credit is due. After a few missteps, he delivered an extremely intense experience here. He not only owned the over saturated “found footage” format, but also managed to blur the line between reality and fiction. As one would expect from West, the pace is slow, but the performances - Gene Jones as the enigmatic leader The Father especially - are natural and completely suck you in.
I feel I have to point out that there were some good remakes this year. Granted, there were tons that ranged from empty to awful, but there were at least two that I felt had a lot of merit. Jim Mickle's remake of We Are What We Are was pretty exceptional, both technically and thematically. By changing just enough to keep the core intact, he made it his own. The other was Alex Aja & Franck Khalfoun's redo of Bill Lustig's Maniac. It was every bit as ugly and disturbing as the original, Elijah Wood was as committed as his predecessor, Joe Spinnell and add in the fantastic score, and you get one of my biggest surprises of 2013.
Speaking of surprises, I'd say another two would be Would You Rather? and The Banshee Chapter. The simple nature of the former - wrapped around one of the best performances from Jeffrey Combs in years - really worked in its favour. As for the latter, this was a throwaway “found footage” tale that I expected nothing from, but by using the true story of MK Ultra and mixing in Lovecraftian lore, it made for a really creepy yarn.
As for disappointments, there were few thankfully. The only one worth mentioning would be Forzani & Cattet's latest art-house effort The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears. Much like my experience with Berberian Sound Studio last year, it was a technical marvel, but failed the fundamentals. I am all for using different avenues to tell a story, but there must, when all is said and done, BE a story.
The worst? Well, nothing got my back up this year more than All Cheerleaders Die. It was a mess of a film, and just the kind of thing I now expect from Lucky McKee and his minions. With every passing effort from these guys, it further cements that May was a fluke.
So that's it for another year. Before I go, I have to make mention that this is the first instance where all five of my faves were domestic titles. That's gotta mean something. Even with all the tripe that Hollywood trots out every year, it goes to show that we're doing something right. Right?