Top 20 Horror Films of 2013

by cohost Philip

February 18, 2014


Phil's Top 20 best horror/thriller films of 2013. Based on release to general audiences in the USA. NOTE: This is an arbitrary list where such films as The Conjuring are missing. However, 2013 had a lot of good films with parts of those films that were weaker than the rest of the picture. As a result, the list includes films that worked best for Phil rather than critical acclaim.

#20 – V/H/S 2 (USA) - In all honesty, I liked V/H/S 1 better as a whole. That is a minority opinion I think but if you take the various stories of these two anthology films and rank them, I have to say the first had my three favorites though no doubt the second is solid. In all honesty, this film could be rated higher but just like all anthologies, they are a bit disjointed since they are really short films that are arbitrarily put together. However, VHS2 stands strong with all five of its stories. Sci-fi, zombies, cults, aliens. It has it all. The Safe Haven segment is absolutely insane - well done yet crazy. Slumber Party Alien Abduction is no holds barred, breaking the rule "No Children, No Pets die". A Ride in the Park is a pretty sweet zombie film even as a stand alone. A great anthology and paired with the best stories in the first makes an even better viewing experience.

#19 – Come Out and Play is a remake of a 1970's film entitled Who Can Kill a Child? Directed by a Belorussian director simply going by the name Makinov who has probably brought more notoriety to the film than the film itself. This gem of a movie takes place in Mexico where children have gone bad. Not just another entry in the subgenre. As an art, the film is shot beautifully. It has a very bright yet faded look to it being shot mostly in hot summer sun. Yet it makes the movie feel very much a throwback to indy and Euro horror from the 1970's. The ending alone was brilliant.

#18 – The Call , like many films on this list, is brilliant all the way up to an unfortunate weaker ending. Scary, suspenseful, and with a brilliant performance by Michael Eklund as the killer, The Call is an edge of your seat thriller that harkens back to many action oriented films. Directed by Brad Anderson, mostly known by genre film addicts for Session 9, with this release and the success it had, he is probably here to stay as a Hollywood staple. As an addendum, both Abigail Breslin and Halle Berry shine as well in their roles.

#17 – Kiss of the Damned. I've always been a fan of dark dramas and character studies more than supernatural horror, yet Kiss of the Damned is a nice mix of both. A vampire film through and through shouting back to the Euro flicks of the 1970's, this Xan Cassavetes film is soaked in sex and blood. Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes, The Divide), Roxane Mesquida (Sennentuntschi, Rubber), and Josephine de La Baume shed their clothes a whole lot and also end up in a bloody and violent ménage à trois that sort of fits within the realms of urban fantasy fiction. Slow and brooding, the film may not be for everyone but if you like vampires or 1970's european horror, this film fits the bill.

#16 – Dark Skies There's nothing that scares me more when it comes to a movie monster than the Greys. Though Close Encounters of the Third Kind was one of my staples as a child, the Estelle Parsons and James Earl Jones movie, The UFO Incident, was even more defining for me. Dark Skies takes the aforementioned alien and borrows plot devices from some of the greatest horror thrillers of all time. What we get is a very effective frightful film. Again, like many movies on this list, it has its weak moments, but the scary parts work and they work really well.

#15 – Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps. This Swiss-Austrian co-made film is based off Swiss mythology, taking the Sennentuntschi, a kind of malevolent demon, and bringing it to film. With a large ensemble cast and an interesting yet disjointed story within a story within a story, the film pays off well as a police procedural, a dark mystery, and even as grindhouse horror with its blood and sexual themes. Small town Europe with its superstitions will never be the same. Roxane Mesquida's second feature on this list.

#14 – Thale. Another mythology based horror film (from Norway), unfortunately the posters and trailers ruin the surprise. Crime scene cleaners work out at a small house on a lake and find a hidden basement that appears to be a serial killer's den. With its gloomy and frightening sets, the film builds apprehension for our leads before finally turning into something completely different. The first film on this list that actually has an ending that brings happiness to all the characters who make it out alive.

#13 – Warm Bodies. I'm usually not a big zombie fan but this film is just a complete joy. More romance, teen film, and even comedy at points, Warm Bodies gets all these things right along with its blood and gore. Twilight meets Hunger Games meets zombies. I'll say it now, for straight dead zombies, after Night of the Living Dead, Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, and Return of the Living Dead, this is the next best zombie film out there. I felt like I just walked out of the Lindsay Lohan film, Freaky Friday. It made me feel that happy.

#12 – Embrace of the Vampire is another remake (or better stated, a re-imagining) of a cult film. As a standalone movie, however, it works and it delivers what it is suppose to. The main appeal of the film to me is its stylistic look and feel. A brooding lead character with a very sleek art house filming style make it seem as if the film was made for me. Also it has a sorority and frat house kind of setting, a good many bloody set pieces, and a throwback to the checklist of 1980's horror filming.

#11 – I Didn't Come Here To Die. Is it a slasher or a parody? Either way, its a great film. Blood, sex, crazy deaths, slasher mentality, this film has it all and it does it in a very original way. Though the ending has a segment that could have been trimmed a bit, the film otherwise is an absolute blast to view. It's low budget only shows within the context of it being a perfect child to 1970's independent or drive-in horror cinema.

#10 – All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. Everyone has probably heard the story and release of this film so I won't talk about it here, however this slasher is one of those surprising films that has the staples of co-eds in danger but turns it around and makes it a bit more original. With its less than glossy look distinct from the slashers of the 1990's and 2000's and a very nice twist at the end, this film deserves a watch by any fan of the slasher that is sick of all the remakes and franchises that have gone into parody.

#9 – Jug Face. It's definitely a crazy sounding name for a film, but don't let that turn you away. From its opening credit sequence, to its somewhat Lovecraftian idea of a monster, the story of a young girl trying to break away from her cult and commune-like life only to keep being dragged back in is itself the reason this film stands out from most horror films from 2013. Well acted, well shot, and very stylistic, Jug Face, its name be damned, should not be missed.

#8 – Byzantium is one of those films like Jug Face that has a name that seems at first to make no sense. But the title itself refers to an old ocean side hotel that our two lead vampires hole themselves up in. Taking place in the underbelly of society, this vampire tale brings a new spin on the vampire origin story and even how they feed. Stylistic, corporeal, and filled with great performances by the whole cast especially Gemma Arterton.

#7 – Sleep Tight is one creepy film. A concierge of a building in a city in Spain happens to be everything from a pervert to a peeping tom to a violent criminal. The film, directed by Jaume Balagueró (Rec, Rec2), is a dark character piece that unfortunately doesn't play nice with the innocent and generally fine folks of the apartment building. Very dark and very twisted, the story oddly seems mainstream in its approach to a very shocking subject.

#6 – The Purge. Okay, so this film is as mainstream of a horror film as you can get. Released wide and starring Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, it was very successful at the theater. The film got mixed reactions and some even said that its wonderful if silly premise gets sidetracked when it turns into a home invasion film, but to be honest, the thing that makes this film work for me is the scares. It has one creepy and effective antagonist that definitely brought chills to me. I loved some of the set pieces (specifically the boyfriend confrontation) and also the ending. The reality here is that people that have experienced what our lead characters have usually don't turn into vengeful crazies in the end. This film follows suit and is true to its message.

#5 – Girls Against Boys is one of the very first films for 2013 that I saw and with its title, I was very apprehensive. But the film absolutely blew me away. Again, like so many others on this list, it is a very stylistic film. It also, like others on this list, is about young people trying to find their way. The movie has intense violent and unexpected set pieces during its shock moments while during its down time the movie is very much like Doug Liman's Go or 2013's Spring Breakers. Having re-watched it recently to just make sure I wasn't mistaken during my first viewing, this film held up and is worth a viewing.

#4 – Dark, brooding, and shocking, The Silence is a German language film that really stood out for me. Similar to the Jake Gyllenhaal films Prisoners and Zodiac, this movie was the inspiration for the short lived but very stylistic AMC television show, The Killing. When a sexual murder of a young girl happens at the very same location as a similar murder that occurred years ago, it appears a serial killer has once more arisen from dormancy. It's a film that's a police procedural, a character study, a dark drama, and a horror tale all in one. Check it out.

#3 – Did you ever want to see the origin story of a serial killer? Simon Killer is that film. The movie follows an ex-patriot American in Paris and watching him do his everyday doings. The film portrays itself as a movie about a lost soul trying to find themselves after a bad breakup and some down-on-their-luck musings, but eventually we come to find out that we are actually watching a sociopath slowly and frighteningly turning into what can only be defined as a serial killer. A very disturbing film but more for psychological reasons than for its visual frights.

#2 – If Simon Killer is an origin story of a serial killer, the Maniac remake is its soulmate. Starring Elijah Wood in a follow up to his Sin City psychopathic ways, the movie tag alongs with an artist who couldn't sanely survive his childhood. Instead he ends up as a murderer of beautiful and free spirited women. Filmed in a point-of-view way, the movie is filled with shocking sexual violence that works as a straight slasher but transcends that and fits perfectly with such classic films as those with Hannibal Lector or the David Fincher's movie Seven. A modern classic that deserved a wide Halloween release.

#1 – Sightseers is such a quirky film that when the violence does occur, it makes the horror in the film even more effective. Mid-thirties woman and man meet up. Both are kind of outsiders and awkward. One we find out is a sociopath and clueless about it. The other feels a connection and wants to fit in causing even more horrendous crimes. An odd film which hits all the right buttons both for drama and horror. Two defective people trying to connect with mixed success.