By: Heather Seebach
Not surprisingly, many of my most anticipated films of 2013 ended up on my year-end list! I picked them well! To see #20 through #11 of my countdown, click here. Otherwise, proceed!
10. We Are What We Are (d: Jim Mickle)
Like Maniac, this one proves that remakes are not the devil! Mickle did right by this one, modifying the original story just enough to keep it fresh. Too often, remakes color within the lines of the source material, and while that could be a beautiful film (hello, Let Me In!), it will inevitably suffer from redundancy. We Are What We Are, however, does not have that problem. By switching up the gender roles and moving the setting, this reboot works beautifully
9. Evil Dead (d: Fede Alvarez)
Oh look at that - another remake! Frankly, if this film had gone by any other name, it'd be worshiped by most of the people who hate it right now. It's an incredibly fun splatterfest peppered with Easter eggs for The Evil Dead fans like me. Sure, it's not perfect but its rating is a hard R, its gore is all-practical, and its tongue is planted firmly in its cheek. There is classy horror and intelligent horror - both represented on this list - and then there is balls-to-the-wall, fun-as-all-hell horror, which is what Evil Dead is. Full review.
8. Upstream Color (d: Shane Carruth)
Carruth's last movie was the mind-bending cult favorite Primer and his latest definitely continues that trend of making the audience work for answers. I walked away from this one with questions but still feeling fulfilled. It's a beautiful piece of dramatic science fiction that sticks with you long after. I would go further into the plot, but it's complicated - just watch it!
7. Only God Forgives (d: Nicolas Winding Refn)
This and Lords of Salem are no doubt tied for most divisive film on my list. I understand why this might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it boggles my mind that so many film lovers absolutely loathe this movie. If nothing else, one must appreciate the artistic beauty of it. Personally, I love the story, the cinematography, the performances (especially Vithaya Pansringarm), the music, and more. It's another film that expects you to think, and also to absorb it. I suspect seeing this in a dark cinema helped my experience - I do not recommend watching it while distracted. Full review.
6. Sightseers (d: Ben Wheatley)
This is the second Wheatley film to appear on my countdown but this one is very different from A Field in England. Edgar Wright produced this wickedly funny tale of two losers-turned-killers. Leads Steve Oram and Alice Lowe (who also wrote the film together) are brilliant and impossible not to love despite what awful human beings they are. Full review.
5. Stoker (d: Park Chan-wook)
This one is the American debut of the director who brought us the Vengeance trilogy among other brilliant Korean films. Like many of Park's other works, Stoker is a gorgeous, tense thriller with strong performances. Not your average coming-of-age tale, this movie is sexy, violent, and stunning to look at. Full review.
4. You're Next (d: Adam Wingard)
I'll probably get a lot of shit for ranking this one so high but here's the thing - I love this movie. From a technical standpoint, it's not better made than, say, Stoker but it's an incredibly fun, clever movie that I saw numerous times in the theater. It was unfairly lumped in with the wretched home invasion film, The Purge but this is more than just another masked invaders horror flick. You're Next took two long years to get released and it was worth every moment as far as I'm concerned. Hype be damned! Full review.
3. The Battery (d: Jeremy Gardner)
The debut feature from writer/director Jeremy Gardner has garnered an incredible amount of praise in the indie horror community with good reason. It transcends being a just a fantastic zombie movie and is a beautiful drama about friendship and survival. In the lead, Gardner is fantastic, as is his chemistry with co-star Adam Cronheim. The soundtrack is one of my favorites of the year and this film has one of the ballsiest (and most effective) single takes I've ever seen. Add to that the fact that this film was made for a meager $6,000 and it's impossible to not be impressed. Full review.
2. The World's End (d: Edgar Wright)
This choice probably comes as no surprise as Edgar Wright can do no wrong, but I genuinely think this movie is perfect. I cannot yet say if it's my favorite of the Three Flavour Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead will always be near to my heart), but it is definitely Wright's most mature film to date. It is hilarious, poignant, and occasionally heartbreaking. This is not just a parody of sci-fi films, but rather a well-made science fiction piece itself. It is a perfect end to a brilliant series of films. Full review.
1. Gravity (d: Alfonso Cuarón)
This harrowing tale of survival in outer space is such a magnificent yet minimalistic spectacle. With a cast of just two people, flawless visual FX, and jaw-dropping cinematography, Gravity made me feel like I was right there in space with the characters. This is another film that should be experienced on the big screen, and a rare case where 3D actually improves the experience. Still, even on a small screen, it's a riveting story and a marvel to behold. It is my #1 choice of 2013 for being such an unforgettable cinema experience. Full review.
Simon Killer: This is about a young American man wandering the streets of Paris after a devastating break-up. It's an intriguing little movie with a visual style that reminds me of Gaspar Noe on downers. I just wish it were shorter and tighter, I love the idea of being this uncomfortably close to a sociopath but it tends to drag.
Here Comes the Devil: After two children go missing in a cave and return acting strange, their mother starts to suspect something sinister is happening. From Spanish director Adrián García Bogliano, Devil is creepy and fearless, but a bit all-over-the-place and occasionally melodramatic. Still, give it a watch if you're in the mood for a ballsier brand of demonic possession horror.
V/H/S/2: This sequel did not feel as consistent as V/H/S to me, but it was significant elevated by "Safe Haven", which is worth the watch alone. I wish that was a full feature. I also enjoyed the first-person zombie short by Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale.
Black Rock: People were falling all over themselves to support the female-directed American Mary (which, frankly, sucked) but few seemed to recognize this better female-directed horror film. Directed by Katie Aselton and written by her husband Mark Duplass, this survival horror about 3 friends hunted on a remote island may lack in gore FX but makes it for it with suspense, realism, and commentary.
**If you're wondering about Grabbers, Berberian Sound Studio, John Dies at the End, and Resolution, these were all on last year's best-of list. I decided to separate the not-yet-released movies this year, so below are five I think were great and you should them check out as soon as they're available:
Best Films You Can't See Yet:
5. Found (d: Scott Schirmer)
This is one of the most disturbing horror films I've seen in years. It is rare that a film leaves me with my head in my hands (no pun intended) but this is one of those times. This coming-of-age tale about a young horror fan is intense, gory, relevant, and a bit soul-sucking (in a good way).
4. Big Bad Wolves (d: Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado)
A father takes justice into his own hands after his daughter becomes the victim of a child killer. This was not the "best film of the year" as Tarantino hyped it, but I enjoyed this bleak, surprisingly funny Israeli revenge thriller despite some of my issues with it.
3. Cheap Thrills (d: E.L. Katz)
In this funny, tense thriller, two old friends compete for cash via increasingly fucked-up challenges. In the lead, Pat Healy continues to be one of the most interesting actors working in genre film today. The movie is full of bleak, nihilistic humor and carries some very timely commentary.
2. The Machine (d: Caradog W. James)
This impressive film is destined to be a sci-fi classic. Looking at it, it's hard to believe it was made for under $1M because, frankly, I'll take these incredible VFX over Avatar any day. The film takes place in the near future, where British intelligence develops android soldiers. A particular creation (the fantastic Caity Lotz) becomes self-aware and threatens the system. This is a must-see for fans of Blade Runner or The Terminator.
1. Motivational Growth (d: Don Thacker)
It's easy to sell this movie on its 1-line description alone: Jeffrey Combs plays a sentient fungus. Awesome, right? Still, this movie is so much more than that. Writer/director Thacker gives the film a world all its own, with intriguing characters and a quirky visual style. A very cool chiptune soundtrack fuels the awesome. The movie feels like the lovechild of Frank Henenlotter and a Nintendo Entertainment System. It's unique, funny as hell, and should not be missed under any circumstances. Full review.