2013 was a great year for horror. Coming up with a best-of-the-year list was fairly easy. Some years it requires an entry or two that were good but hardly great, but not this year. Also, many of the year’s best horror movies are simply outstanding films. The “genre film” qualifier is not necessary and they are as good as anything else released this year, horror or otherwise.
Another hallmark of a good year is when you don’t passionately hate a lot of the movies. Granted, I haven’t seen every horror release, including Insidious Chapter 2 (hated the first one), but the majority of the worst-of-the-year list is comprised of disappointments as opposed to truly awful offerings that deserved scorn and ridicule, and there was a lot more to love than hate this year. And without further ado, the list.
The BEST in no particular order…
Honorable Mention: Horror on television
Has there ever been a time when horror thrived on television the way it does now? With Hannibal, Bates Motel, Grimm, The Following, The Returned, American Horror Story, Sleepy Hollow, The Walking Dead, and Dracula, it feels like the genre is on just about every channel. Sure the quality of these shows runs the gamut, but most of them are either mindless entertainment or really, really good. Plus, after so many years when it seemed like horror on TV ranged from rare to non-existent, it’s cool to have so many options.
The MOST DISAPPOINTING in no particular order…
- Mama: Not terrible, but not very good either. The premise is strong and the leads are talented, but it never manages to rise above mediocrity. There isn’t much suspense and the scares are minimal. The title character fails to register as well. She could have and should have been a memorable new villain, but Mama is passable at best, just like her movie. I was really excited about this one and was underwhelmed overall.
- Texas Chainsaw 3D: Even though it was nothing special, I was having fun with it for a while. Then it (SPOILERS!) suddenly tries to make Leatherface misunderstood and sympathetic, and the heroine actually helps him. WTF? Just stupid and nonsensical, even for something like this. I tuned out from that point on and don’t remember much about what happens after that. It could have been a decent if unremarkable slasher. Instead it ends up being mostly worthless.
- Curse of Chucky: Making Chucky scary again is a great idea, except he was never scary to begin with. The original movie is good, but Chucky himself is not exactly terrifying, not like Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger in their original entries. Writer/director Don Mancini gets an A for effort, and Fiona Dourif is good as the lead, but Chucky still isn’t scary. Most of the time you just wonder how these dopes manage to let a little doll murder them. There’s also a lot of padding/filler to stretch it out to 90 minutes.
- Dark Skies: Again, didn’t hate it, but it’s incredibly “meh.” The strange occurrences, the rearranged household items, the troubled kid, it all feels really played out, very “been there, done that.” Capable leads Josh Hamilton and Keri Russell (not to mention J.K. Simmons) prevent it from being completely without value, but after this one, Priest, and Legion, director Scott Stewart appears to specialize in making average-at-best genre movies.
- Beneath: It seemed so promising. Director Larry Fessenden (Wendigo, The Last Winter) is extremely talented. It features a giant man-eating aquatic creature devouring young people stranded on a lake. And it uses mostly practical effects. Should be a good time right? Sadly it wasn’t meant to be. The characters are insufferable, even for a movie like this, and the creature seems to have about two minutes of screen time. Many of the deaths don’t even involve the huge fish. A huge disappointment.
Dishonorable Mention: Hemlock Grove
The worst of all the horror TV shows, by far. This Netflix show is laughably bad. It looked relatively interesting at first and seemed to promise monsters of some sort (I have no familiarity with the source material). Instead, we got a guy transforming into your garden variety wolf, and enough cringe-inducing melodrama and bad acting for 37 shows on the CW network. It was tough making it through all 13 episodes, and when it was finally over, I immediately regretted not quitting after the first two or three.