December 2019 draws to a close. The past twelve months were full of twists and turns of every type for me and the Grue-Crew alike. But through it all, we devour horror films with a ferocious passion be they the most memorable or the best forgotten. This week, we take a look at our top 10 horror films of the year.
2019 is, in the end, a fantastic year for horror – even Rotten Tomatoes dropped an editorial illustrating how the tomato-meter sized up for our beloved genre. Hosting both the HNR and Gruesome Magazine podcasts I find myself challenged with picking from a full basket of terrific horror films. Below is one list, with one perspective, counting down the top 10 horror films of 2019 with a decided tilt toward those films reviewed under the HNR banner.
10) ESCAPE ROOM
While I feel I may be very alone in this opinion, the very first theatrical horror film of 2019, ESCAPE ROOM, tickle my fancy in a delightful way. A group of misfits falls into a trap, discovering they trapped in a dangerous and deadly escape room. The film successfully transitions the traps in the Saw series into a puzzle box of rooms each more dastardly than the one prior. I found this film tons of fun and I am looking forward to its inevitable sequel coming in 2020.
9) GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS
An uneven but incredibly beautiful American Kaiju film, GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS had me smiling throughout, astonished at the giant monsters duking it out on the big screen in mesmerizing hues and glorious CGI destruction. It was everything I wanted in a Godzilla film. Give me Godzilla vs Kong now!
8) ANNABELLE COMES HOME
Okay, okay, I am a sucker for The Conjuring universe of horror films – almost as much as I am for Blumhouse films. For me, ANNABELLE COMES HOME was a sideshow haunted house of fun and thrills. It gleefully played with a literal museum of monstrous mayhem and madness. Somehow, for me, the Annabelle films keep getting better with each entry. The Conjuring 3 is coming in 2020 and promises of The Crooked Man, an Annabelle 4, and a Bride film coming close behind.
7) IT: CHAPTER 2
While not entirely as successful as the recent It (2017), IT: CHAPTER 2 still manages to thrill, scare, and creep the hell outta its audience. The casting is phenomenal, brilliantly bringing to life adult versions of the kids from the first chapter. Pennywise gets some downright freaky moments as he goes after each character one by one. A worthy successor to Andy Muschietti’s first outing with a Stephen King classic.
6) ONE CUT OF THE DEAD
Shinichirou Ueda’s low budget look at horror films and, more importantly, the passion for making horror films, is a true gem. Again, the cast makes the film but ONE CUT OF THE DEAD has something special up its sleeve. To truly appreciate this film, the viewer must be patient and hold steady for the first 30 minutes as a strange and often awkward zombie film unfolds – then, the film takes a hard right turn and the rewards are extraordinary. A must-see film for any horror fan, especially the more you appreciate what it takes to make horror films.
5) READY OR NOT
Solidifying actress Samara Weaving as a modern scream queen and reinforcing the promise that the directing pair of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have a unique style and energy, READY OR NOT surprised most all horror fans with a gory and funny take on…hide and seek. The trailers looked fantastic, but this film was even better.
Jordan Peele proved he had directing chops for horror with Get Out 2017, this year he passed the sophomore slump test with the magnificent US. Lupita Nyong’o owns the film as both the strong-willed Adelaide Wilson and intensely frightening Red. The film is creepy, scary, and often funny as the Wilson family discovers they have a set of evil doppelgangers out to kill them all.
3) DOCTOR SLEEP
Director Mike Flanagan dared to take on the sequel to one of Stephen King’s best-known adaptations…The Shining…one that comes with its own controversy between King and its director Stanley Kubrick. Flanagan challenged himself to combine the sequel novel with the legacy of the Kubrick classic. Having to satisfy both Stephen King and the Kubrick estate, Flanagan did the unthinkable and created a brilliant adaptation that did just that (along with satisfying most King fans) as well a crafting a brilliant film. DOCTOR SLEEP is a modern classic.
I do love me a terrific monster film be it Kaiju, Supernatural Creatures, or Animals Run Amuck. CRAWL features a pack of hungry, vicious alligators thrown into a fight for survival by a ferocious hurricane on the Florida coast. The film is fast-paced, intense, entertaining, and often scary as hell as a family fights to survive both the weather and the beast. Director Alexandre Aja packed the film with a toothy, snarling punch that never lets up. Fan-freaking-tastic!
While drawing its inspiration from the comic book classic Batman villain, JOKER is not a superhero film. It is a terrifying, hardened, and emotional look at the making of a psychopath. The film is elevated with an award-worthy performance from Joaquin Phoenix that will be remembered for generations. A complex, layered performance amplified by a mesmerizing physical performance both in delivery and appearance. Adding in the ambiguity of an unreliable narrator, Arthur Fleck, gives the film an undeniable tone of suspense, surprise, and the unexpected. What seems to be a huge mistake upon its original announcement turned out to be one of the most important films of the decade. Holy cow, Batman, they did it.
The past twelve months were filled with terrific films many worthy of being in this list in place of most any other film. 2019 was an incredible year for the genre…and for cinema. The number of honorable mentions could easily be larger than the top 10 list itself.
Here are a few that made the list at one time or another:
- Incident in a Ghostland
- Stay Out, Stay Alive
- Satanic Panic
- Echoes of Fear
- The Furies
- A Nasty Piece of Work
- Tigers Are Not Afraid
- Culture Shock