As 2014 soon approaches us it is time to reflect on the genre movies that held an impact this year. Unlike last year which saw massively, popular titles like American Mary and Sightseers, 2013 has been underwhelming in that sense with what has been on offer from the violent and sinister side of cinema. With that said however, there have been some innovative, hard-hitting and thought-provoking independent films that remain long lasting in the mind and fully deserve the recognition that the lacking-in-quality mainstream films have received. 2013 also saw a ground-breaking re-boot of one of the 80’s/90’s most popular franchises that surprised a hoard of fans. A few spooky, supernatural entries have emerged as well as the crossover between horror and disco music in some grindhouse, throwback fun! The majority of the films on this list have already received coverage from Hayley’s Horror Reviews and Scared Sheepless, therefore summaries will be provided as well as the links to my full reviews. Hope you’ve all had a goreific Christmas and have a Happy Horror New Year!
10. The Collection (2012)
- Directed By Marcus Dunstan
- Original Release Date: 30th November 2012, USA
The reason I’m including a film that originally came out in 2012 is due to the fact it gained a wider release in 2013 on blu-ray and DVD. The Collection was an unpleasant surprise and I mean that in a positive light. This film is proof of how a modern, horror sequel can find itself superior to the original. While The Collector was dull and contrived and came off as a knock-off Saw film, director Marcus Dunstan raised the stakes in the second installment which included an imaginative, blood-soaked and unforgettable opening sequence which saw a mass slaughter of several young party-goers in an abandoned warehouse! Josh Stewart returns as Arkin, a victim of the ambiguous serial killer who goes by The Collector. Second time round he is blackmailed into rescuing Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), the masked killer’s latest capture from his warehouse, filled with torturous traps! Less torture porn and more edge-of-the-seat thriller, The Collection keeps its audience gripped as Arkin leads a team of police officers to the Collector’s lure only for them to inevitably get picked off one by one. The Collector himself is brutal and irredeemable and is currently one of the genre’s most underrated horror killers. What makes him interesting is the film doesn’t feel the need to create some measly backstory in an attempt to explain his actions, he is the embodiment of ruthlessness and evil and is true identity is never fully revealed which leaves more to the imagination. While this may not be to everyone’s taste, especially those who became tired of films such as Saw and Hostel very quickly, Dunstan has taken a concept he knows well and challenged it a little bit more which proves that in the right hands more can be done with the sub-genre. The Collection is stylistic with some interesting and unexpected imagery, gory in the right places and not as predictable as one may expect!
9. The Purge (2013)
- Directed By, James DeMonaco
- Release Date: June 7th, 2013
Following on from his performance in the terrifying, supernatural thriller, Sinister, Ethan Hawke’s latest genre role was eagerly-anticipated. The Purge took the home invasion sub-genre to a whole other level. A futuristic look at American society, the film takes a frightening view on the idea that what if violent behavior was suppressed with the exception of only one night a year without consequence! The premise turns into a traumatic ordeal for one wealthy family as a group of masked, psychotic, middle-class criminals led by the sophisticated yet demented “Polite Leader” invade their highly-secured home. They bring with them the nastiest of threats if they don’t hand over an African-American known as the “bloody stranger” who has also entered their home in the hope for safety. With the non-violent Sandin family at the forefront of the chaos; tension is created as viewers will be left wondering if they’ll sacrifice the life of another human being in order to save their own skin? Or whether they’ll take on the thugs, putting all their lives on the line. The masks worn by the criminals are inventive and provide a sense of creepiness with their menacing grins. While not overly original, The Purge attempts to cover unexplored ground when it comes to the home invasion movie and the concept brings in a different dynamic. By the film’s conclusion an unexpected twist is in place that will leave the audience on edge as an element of security is cleverly taken away. Clearly the formula is in demand with the upcoming sequel set for release in 2014.
For my full June 2013 Review, Click Here.
8. To Jennifer (2013)
- Directed By James Cullen Bressack
- Original Release Date, 15th October 2013, USA.
2013 saw the first Horror movie to be shot in its entirety on the iPhone 5, showcasing the full potential of D-I-Y film-making. While demonstrating a resourceful approach to the found-footage sub-genre, To Jennifer is accompanied by an engaging story that keeps up its enigma throughout. Played out with a sense of realism, when watching To Jennifer, its like viewing a home movie that you accidentally stumbled on but are determined to get to the end to find out what happens to these characters. This is the core similarity the film shares with Bressack’s previous hard-hitting film Hate Crime (2012) but that is where the resemblance ends between the two. The narrative of To Jennifer centers on love sick Joey (Chuck Pappas) who believes his long-term girlfriend Jennifer (Jessica Cameron) has been cheating on him. Enlisting the help of his cousin Steve (James Cullen Bressack), he goes ahead with shooting a video documenting his feelings with the intent of confronting his unfaithful partner. With high emotions on the line, intensity is created as Joey and Steve travel across the country to discover the truth about what Jennifer has really been up to! To Joey’s annoyance, Steve doesn’t take the situation as seriously as he’d like and brings along his buddy Martin (Jody Barton) along for the ride who continuously leads them astray as he encourages Joey to move on. Each characters perspectives are documented giving different insights into the story. Its as realistic as it can possibly be and builds itself up at a steady pace. To Jennifer is a psychological thriller rather than straight-up horror but it manages to remain suspenseful until the brutal end. There are plenty of gasp-worthy moments as the shocks are delivered. As a found-footage film it is easy to watch as Bressack opts out of the shaky-cam approach giving the film a more naturalistic feel. It’s well-acted, shot and directed as To Jennifer is the first of its kind, an iPhone feature film. But the root of the film is an examination of communication or lack there of in a world where the lines are blurred between reality and social networking.
Click Here for my full review from July 2013.
7. Chanthaly (2013)
- Directed By Mattie Do
- Original Release Date, 18th May 2013, Laos.
The first festival film to be included on this list. I viewed Chanthaly at the Abertoir Horror Festival back in November and it was one of the films I eagerly-anticipated from the line-up and it certainly didn’t disappoint. As a fan of supernatural, Asian Horror, Chanthaly had the potential to completely unnerve me especially following my first viewing of the trailer. Chanthaly is ground-breaking for two reasons. It’s the first Horror film to ever be made in Laos and the first film to be directed by a woman. The project was incredibly challenging for Mattie Do as she faced restrictions of what she could and could not show within her communist country and thereby had to shoot different scenes, ones that would be acceptable in Laos and ones that would be fine to showcase in more liberated countries. This included not being able to show any form of gore or show a man and woman kissing on screen as in Laos it is considered respectful not to put any actors out of their comfort zone. With a very interesting background, Chanthaly tells the story of a troubled young woman with a life-threatening heart condition who is haunted by memories of her deceased mother. Chanthaly is a slow-burner as it primarily focuses on the strained relationship between father and daughter as Chanthaly does not accept her mother died in child birth and thinks there’s more to it than her father has initially told her. Soon, Chanthaly begins to see the spirit of whom she thinks is her mother which threatens her already fragile family life. Due to the slow build-up, the scares are even more profound as they come out unexpectedly and manage to get under the skin. The film also features an adorable dog and what’s not to love about that?! Mattie Do doesn’t need to rely on the obvious jump scares and loud noises to convey that there is an otherworldly presence. With being both a chilling ghost story and a cultural examination, Chanthaly is one of the most interesting Asian Horror films to emerge in a long time.
Click Here for my review from the Abertoir Horror Festival.
6. Curse of Chucky (2013)
- Directed By Don Mancini
- Original Release Date, 24th September 2013, USA
Following a successful screening at the UK’s biggest, Horror Festival Fright Fest back in August, Curse of Chucky was released straight onto DVD this Autumn and I for one couldn’t wait to see if the newest installment in the popular 80’s franchise would continue to be successful in 2013. It had been eight years since Chucky’s last murderous rampage in the abysmal Seed of Chucky (2005) and the series was in dire need of a re-vamp if it was ever going to be well-received. Mancini re-worked the film’s style which achieved the perfect balance of comedy and terror that reminded fans why we love the pint-sized killer doll in the first place. Instead of going down the tired remake route, Mancini focused on a whole new backstory that involves Charles Lee Ray before he transferred his own soul into the Good Guy doll and a score he is hell-bent on settling. Fiona Dourif provides an outstanding performance as the terrorized Nica, a young disabled woman who finds herself under Chucky’s wrath. As her family begin to drop off one by one, she discovers there is more to her family history involving the red-headed maniac doll that she ever imagined. Curse of Chucky brings in a sense of nostalgia while going straight for the jugular. It has its funny, ironic moments but remains brutal at the same time. The ending was beyond superb and extremely satisfying. Curse of Chucky defied expectations and came out as an incredibly decent genre film. Recent news suggests the series may yet continue in a possible sequel in the near future.
Click Here for my full review from October 2013.
5. Du Hast Es Versprochen (Aka. Forgotten) (2012)
- Directed By Alex Schmidt
- Original Release Date, 20th December 2012, Germany
Another entry that was screened at this year’s Abertoir Horror Festival. Forgotten became one of my absolute highlights of 2013’s line-up. An atmospheric, psychological drama/thriller, Forgotten incorporates plenty of twists and turns as it uncovers a childhood mystery for the protagonist Hanna (Mina Tander). When going through a rocky patch in her marriage, Hanna is reunited with her old friend Clarissa (Laura De Boer) by chance. Taking her young daughter, Clarissa and Hanna venture to the holiday home they spent many happy years in. But soon a threat lurks in the shadows, Hanna becomes haunted by a third friend who slipped her mind all those years ago and now seeks answers as to why the mysterious little girl keeps reappearing and what score she has to settle. What appears like a straight-forward supernatural chiller, Forgotten brings in an unexpected, thought-provoking twist that shocks to the core. Some audience members did feel the twists went too far however it came as a brave move for the film to break conventions and challenge expectations. The scariest moments come in the claustrophobic setting accompanied by some subtle jump scares that are enough to chill the bones. It’s a film that’s long-lasting in the mind yet leaves a satisfying conclusion. It’s a difficult film to discuss as I don’t want to give too much away! All I will say is check out Forgotten if you’re in the mood for a late night creepy little film with plenty of surprises up its sleeve. One to watch with the lights out!
Click Here for my Abertoir Horror Festival Review.
4. Discopathe (2013)
- Directed By Renaud Gauthier
- Release Date, 2nd November 2013, Canada
He was made for Loving You! I have a confession, I never liked the movie Saturday Night Fever (1977), the only aspect of that movie that stood out for me was its Bee Gees infectious soundtrack that remains popular today. You could therefore argue that judging by my tastes, Renaud Gauthier’s Discopathe is the perfect alternative. I first watched the film at Celluloid Screams Horror Festival back in October where it proved to be an absolute crowd-pleaser and the perfect closing film, leaving the audience on a high. Some may go into Discopathe expecting a black comedy/horror, which yes it does have elements of, however it is also a throwback to 70’s exploitation films in terms of its look and tone. The film has some dark, menacing and brutal moments amongst the tongue-in-cheek performances and humor. It’s pure, late night horror movie fun. The plot focuses on a young man named Duane Lewis, who is going about his business just fine until the summer of 1976 where he is exposed to a new breed of popular music that brings back memories of a traumatic past experience involving his father. The sounds of disco fails to make Duane dance but massacre anyone who crosses his path. Following the murder of a young woman at a retro night club, Duane flees to Montreal and takes up a new identity as Martin, the “deaf and dumb” caretaker of an all girls Catholic school. But Duane can’t escape those catchy, disco beats and feels compelled to kill again! Gauthier captured the sleazy side of exploitation and grindhouse in true 70’s style with grainy effect. When introducing the film he insisted the film to be played loud which added to the full enjoyment as KISS “I was made for Loving you” blasts into the audience towards the film’s climax. If you know what you’re letting yourself in for, Discopathe proves extremely entertaining and definitely one to catch with an audience or with a group of friends over a few drinks!
Click Here for my Celluloid Screams 2013 Review.
3. Chimeres (2013)
- Directed By Olivier Beguin
- Release Date, 5th July 2013, Switzerland.
Another entry from Celluloid Screams 2013, Chimeres became a festival highlight for being the vampire film genre fans have been waiting an eternity for! Chimeres is very engaging as it allows the audience to get an in-depth view of the characters before introducing any kind of horror element, giving us the chance to get invested in the couple, Alex (Yannick Rosset) and Livia (Jasna Kohoutova). This is also aided by the strong on screen performances from both leading actors who provide believable chemistry as the heartbreaking tale of blood, addiction, love and fangs is told before us! Alex is involved in a devastating car accident while the couple are on holiday in Livia’s place of birth, Romania. When rushed to hospital, he is given an emergency blood transfusion which results in some pretty unusual side effects. Gradually Alex develops a vampyric nature as the film depicts how a long term relationship can survive in the circumstances, with the vampire aspect cleverly used as a metaphor. Olivier Beguin intended to separate the film from others in the sub-genre by creating a strong character study rather than having the vampire element as the reason the couple are brought together. The depiction of the male and female characters in Chimeres demonstrates equality. Despite having a strong, creature-of-the-night boyfriend, Livia is equally as tough with emphasis on the fact she kick boxes and can handle herself when it comes down to it, physically and emotionally. This provided a refreshing spin reminding us of why Buffy The Vampire Slayer appealed in the first place and how much vampire themed films and TV shows as of late have lacked empowering female characters. Livia is the embodiment of a tough, female character, both strong and flawed but ultimately the film allows its audience to believe in the relationship and empathize with both characters. With some mezmerizing visuals, Chimeres is the best vampire film that has emerged in recent years, its passionate, gory, intimate, emotional and devastating.
Click Here For my full Review from Celluloid Screams 2013.
2. Jug Face (2013)
- Directed By Chad Crawford Kinkle
- Original Release Date, 9th August 2013, USA
Backwoods movies don’t get any better than Jug Face. Featuring is own fascinating mythology, Jug Face stands out on its own as it breaks a different ground in the sub-genre. Jug Face is the compelling story of a teenage girl, Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) who makes the shock discovery that she’s pregnant. While attempting to hide the news from her oppressive family who have already planned an arranged marriage for her, she makes a second discovery of the jug face. Within the community, the jug face represents the latest sacrifice and those who resemble it will have their blood drained into a murky pit as an offering, in a bizarre, religious cult-like tradition. The jug face is created by a local man Dawai, known as “the seer” and luckily for Ada, he’s her closest confidant, played by Sean Bridges. Ada hides the jug face from the entire community which leads to a series of devastating events to follow that spiral out of her control. As the blood-shed begins Ada struggles to find a way to escape her fate because no matter what, the pit wants what it wants! While those around her must come to terms with the tragic losses seeping through their small-scale community. One of the films highlights comes in the shape of the touching friendship between Ada and Dawai portrayed on screen. Actress Lauren Ashley Carter and Actor Sean Bridges have previously worked together as psychotic father and abused daughter in Lucky McGee’s The Woman (2011) and their roles in Jug Face are in complete contrast. The performances are convincing and there’s a sense of edginess and brutality throughout the piece, despite including a moderate amount of gore. At times, the film places the audience in a trance-like state with swift camera shots and rapid editing conveying how the pit works and how it takes what it wants. It’s a fascinating study of cult mentality that observes how a small, backwoods community deem murder acceptable as part of their belief system and a depiction of complicated family dynamics; including the taboo subject of incest. Jug Face will leave you gripped from beginning to end, its dark, thrilling and captivating with some of the best performances in a genre movie this year!
Jug Face became my top film of Celluloid Screams 2013, read the full Review Here.
1. Big Bad Wolves (2013)
- Directed By Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado
- Release Date, 15th August 2013, Israel
Chosen as the film to close this year’s Fright Fest, Big Bad Wolves brought with it a huge impact on independent cinema and for many was one of the most eagerly anticipated genre films of 2013. Catching a screening at this year’s Celluloid Screams, despite only making number #3 on what I considered the best offerings of that festival, Big Bad Wolves has proved to be the film that’s remained long-lasting in the mind and the most talked about. I’ve found myself recommending the film to many people as I can guarantee, its a must-see! The film is incredibly hard-hitting and powerful and will take a strong stomach to get through as it deals with a harrowing subject matter. Even though its a community in Israel that’s represented, the issue at hand is ultimately universal and will affect a great deal of viewers. Devastation has spread through a close-knit Israeli town due to the sick, twisted murders of local young girls at the hands of a depraved pedophile. With the mutilated bodies discovered without their heads, one vengeful father and police officer take matters into their own hands and plan to exact torturous revenge on the man they believe to have committed the horrible and vile acts of violence. In an attempt to gain answers so he can bury his little girl, Gidi (Tzahi Grad) comes up with the complex plan of holding supposed pedophile Dror (Rotem Keinan) a religious, school teacher hostage in his basement with the intention of torturing him in the exact, sick manner he allegedly tortured his daughter and many other innocent children. The most surprising aspect of Big Bad Wolves was its incredible technique of creating moments of light relief in an emotive situation. It’s a genre-bending, edge-of-the-seat, thrill ride that gets completely under the skin. It’s no surprise that Quentin Tarantino regards this his absolute favorite movie of the year. The torture scenes are just enough to make the audience squirm without being over the top, they are done exceptionally well. Each actor brings in a phenomenal performance, reminding us that when it comes down to it, they are all human and have been placed in a destructive situation which can cause actions to take place that would normally be out of character. The film is accompanied by a breath-taking score that heightens the emotions throughout. I can’t praise this film enough, its cut-throat, it has its own originality and deals sensitively with its subject matter while achieving a thought-provoking effect. This is a film that will captivate a lot of people and in some ways may provide a sense of comfort as crimes such as the one depicted is all too prominent within the media and society as a whole.
Click Here for the full review from Celluloid Screams 2013.
Kiss of the Damned
Coming Soon: Hayley’s Horror Highlights of 2013.
Hayley Alice Roberts.