After scoring $41.9 million opening weekend for The Conjuring and then $40.3 million for Insidious Chapter 2, James Wan clearly dominated the genre box office, but with innovative heavy hitters like You’re Next, The Purge, Mama and more in the mix, there was some serious competition climbing to the top of this chart. Check out which 2013 horror reboots, remakes, sequels, adaptations, and original content earned the right to call themselves the best of the year.
By Perri Nemiroff
10. The Purge
Even after pointing a finger at The Purge for being little more than a gimmicky high concept, there’s no denying that the scenario of a 12-hour period during which all criminal activity is legal is highly cinematic, because when it came down to The Purge, Dark Skies and The ABCs of Death, it’s The Purge that earned the #10 spot for being the thrill I’d most like to experience again.
There are loads of horror movies featuring sick and twisted killers out there, but the situation changes when you experience a narrative from the villain’s perspective and even more so when you see the action play out from his point-of-view. Maniac’s Frank isn’t some mindless Michael Myers thrashing about with a kitchen knife. He’s methodical, and the idea of someone putting that much thought into such malice and getting so much pleasure out of it is deeply unsettling.
8. Ghost Team One
As someone who tends to shun the flood of horror spoofs, it’s hard to believe Ghost Team One made the cut – and at #8 nonetheless. Not every joke is a winner, but the filmmakers behind this one take the time to turn their leads into two goofy yet believable amateur paranormal investigators and then stars Carlos Santos and J.R. Villarreal take it from there, making Sergio and Brad a delightful pair that’s a pleasure to spend time with.
7. You’re Next
Even though You’re Next only made $7 million after the film’s epic marketing campaign, this highly unique spin on the familiar home invasion scenario is bound to have a lasting effect simply because it’s so much fun to watch. Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett nail the balance between sheer terror and wit, offering up a high-energy string of kills that’ll make you both cringe and cheer.
6. We Are What We Are
Jim Mickle and Nick Damici continue to prove they’re ones to watch, delivering a viciously beautiful slow burn in their third feature collaboration, We Are What We Are. Even though The Parkers are highly reclusive and honor a deplorable custom, honest performances and Mickle’s delicate approach create an all-consuming, visceral world that supports the film’s devastating build, making the grand finale notably provocative and, therefore, far more disturbing.
5. Bad Milo!
Not only did Jacob Vaughan manage to make a movie about an adorable, albeit vicious little creature that crawls in and out of a man’s butt, but it’s actually a very well done, engaging and suspenseful movie, too. Even though Milo is clearly a very bad Milo, the combination of spot-on character design and Ken Marino’s impressively honest connection to the little guy will make you feel for him, too.
If you still get a kick out of running around whispering “mama” Lilly-style, it’s clear Guillermo del Toro’s Mama did the trick. The Dr. Dreyfuss portion of the narrative is undeniably weak, but Jessica Chastain and her young co-stars develop such a unique, eerie and oddly charming family dynamic, that’s all that’s necessary to turn the film into a totally engaging experience with characters you truly care about at the story’s core.
3. Evil Dead
Typically a lack of narrative layers and overdose of gore is the sign of a horror movie rooted in shock value and little more, but in the case of Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake, the familiar plot points actually wind up enhancing the experience by highlighting the absolutely stunning display of carnage. Plus, think about it; if somebody gets tree raped and starts hacking up his or her friends, there probably wouldn’t be much time for family drama and drug problems anyway.
V/H/S is a solid horror anthology; V/H/S/2, however, is an absolutely exceptional cinematic experience. All four of the film’s short segments are brimming with creative content and quality filmmaking. “Phase I Clinical Trials,” “A Ride in the Park,” and “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” are all highly successful, but it’s the film’s third section, “Safe Haven,” that’s flat-out mind-blowing. If you consider yourself a horror buff and haven’t seen that one, you need to do something about that immediately.
1. The Conjuring
The Conjuring isn’t just the best horror movie of 2013; it’s one of the best movies of the year, period. The film is absolutely brimming with effective scares, but what makes this a must-see movie for everyone, whether you call yourself a fan of the genre or not, is the exceptional character development and incredibly thoughtful shot selection. There are no scares for the sake of scares here. By taking the utmost care with his source material, visuals and plot progression, James Wan delivers a film that earns the right to keep you up at night.
Must See in 2014: Cheap Thrills and Afflicted
Had these two films hopped off the festival circuit and made their way into theaters before the end of the year, both easily would have secured a place on this list. Drafthouse Films and Cinedigm are teaming up to let you experience Cheap Thrills’ especially twisted game of dares on VOD in January and in select theaters in February, but CBS Films has yet to set a date for the domestic release of Afflicted, so you better keep an eye out for that one because as an especially inspired, creepy and well-shot shaky cam film, it could turn out to be a 2014 can’t-miss hit.