RESOLUTION: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's genre debut is a unpredictable and playfully sinister tale worthy of The Twilight Zone. Performances by Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran are strong as they play two friends holed up in a cabin menaced by the locals, drug dealers and something otherworldly. Paranoia ensues. Benson/Moorhead know their budgetary restrictions allowing our imaginations to run rampant. Thanks to this, Resolution becomes one of the more original genre offerings we received in 2013.
GRABBERS: The Tremors template is easily imitated, yet few have proven to pull it off (not even the Tremors sequels). Enter Grabbers. Set on an island off the coast of Ireland, the film introduces to a small community beset by tentacle monsters from outerspace. Your only protection? Get drunk. The creatures are Lovecraftian. The humor is is lively. More importantly, the characters are fully realized, which is what made Tremors excel at what it was doing. Another round of Grabbers, please?
THE LORDS OF SALEM: Rob Zombie's trades in a white horse for a goat and leaves ol' Mikey Myers in the dust for a film that's certainly an acquired taste. He positions wife Sheri Moon into a leading lady role as a Salem, Massachusetts radio DJ who is slammed with a whammy of a curse after playing a record. While the film meanders on a script level, it certainly delivers on the creepy visuals. The Lords of Salem is Lucio Fulci-esque experience that sometimes has you scratching your head and it offers no easy answers, but it has style to spare.
KISS OF THE DAMNED: For her feature debut, Xan Cassavetes directed something that's reverent of a bygone era of vampire cinema. Want a vampire love story? Try this one for size. It simmers with sexuality and danger. And it finds time for amusing and snobbish philosophical discussion about immortality akin to the conversations had in early Euro-vampire films. Slick and featuring fine turns from its cast, Kiss of the Damned is recommended for those who dig films like Daughters of Darkness.
EVIL DEAD: Haters come at me. I saw this one three times at the theaters and had a blast. Why? Read my damn review.
CONTRACTED: A cautionary tale for our time. A young woman meets a faceless gent at a party, they have meaningless sex and she contracts something worse than any STD they tell you about in Health Class. Director Eric England makes all of the right decisions with this contemporary "body horror" film. Contracted plays it clever on a script level and knows how to get under your skin as its protagonist suffers a slow emotional and physical transformation that will churn your stomach. This should be playing on repeat in every Planned Parenthood waiting room as if to say, That'll teach ya for having unprotected sex!
THE CONJURING: James Wan bids adieu to horror (for now) with this not-entirely-scary but definitely classy, old school supernatural romp. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are perfectly cast as Ed and Lorraine Warren, supernatural investigators taking on their toughest case. Wan keeps the "Boo!" factor high and pulls out all of the visual tricks to keep you on the edge of your seat. With The Conjuring I believe he's done all he can with the supernatural and if he does indeed return to horror, hopefully he'll turn to a different horror sandbox to play and grow in.
YOU'RE NEXT: Saw this one a few times. Holds up each time. Read my fave review right here.
STOKER: Park Chan-wook's American debut is visually beautiful and, on a thematic level, warped. It's not a subtle coming of age story by any means (That piano sequence! That bloody masturbation shower scene!). But, writer Wentworth Miller pens a deliciously evil portrait of young India (Mia Wasikowska), her hot mess of a mother (Nicole Kidman) and her weird uncle (Matthew Goode). Stoker was a film that arrived early in 2013 and has held up on repeat viewings. It casts a hypnotic spell.
MANIAC: Who would have thought that a remake of a lurid '80s film starring Joe Spinell and directed by William Lustig would work so well? The creative team of director Franck Khalfoun and writers Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur do exactly what you should do with a remake: Elevate the material, do something a bit different while staying true to the heart of the original. Here, they present a film mostly told from the POV of a killer. Wood bravely eschews the nice guy image he has created and embraces the disturbed nature of his character Frank. Maniac is grisly, engaging and unapologetic. I love it for all of these reasons. Oh, and that score by Rob is the best soundtrack of the year.