As usual it's now customary for me to pause a moment to consider the truly dreadful moments in horror cinema this year. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2 was awful, of course, and the embarrassment of attending a midnight showing with the director and lead actors present probably made for my personal most uncomfortable horror viewing experience. IN FEAR deserves a mention, both for being stultifyingly dull and for getting a multiplex cinema release when there were other far more worthy films that deserved it. Then there was the usual crop of terrible remakes, including EVIL DEAD (or Don't Do Drugs, Airbrushed Teens. This was so dull I was actually nodding off by the end) and CARRIE (or Let Us Show You Why Brian de Palma Is Such A Great Director). James Wan made two incredibly successful horror movies I really didn't like at all - the rambling, rushed-feeling INSIDIOUS 2, and the holier-than-thou histrionics of THE CONJURING.
Movies that didn't make my list below, but deserve special mention anyway, included the surprisingly good WORLD WAR Z with Brad Pitt (how could I not love a major movie in which an aeroplane gets diverted to Cardiff?), and the terrifically entertaining CURSE OF CHUCKY. The first VHS wasn't very good, but VHS 2 deserves a mention, not just for a general better quality of story all round (except for the framework which was still very tatty), but specifically for Gareth Huw Evans and Timo Tjahjanto's segment 'Safe Haven' which is just as terrifying on DVD as it was on the big screen. Evans is busy on THE RAID 2 but I hope he finds the time to do some more horror.
Anyway, that's enough of everything that didn't make the list - here's my cream of the crop for 2013:
10 Silent Night
I don't think this one got a UK cinema release but it came out on DVD last month so it counts. Stephen C Miller's remake of the 1974 SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT turned out to be a hugely enjoyable old school slasher movie with some properly horrific murders, some stylish direction, and best of all a sense of outrageous glee as we got to take a look at the sleazier side of small-town yuletide celebrations. Best watched over the festive period, SILENT NIGHT surprised me as being one of the best Christmas-themed horror films in years.
Once again Ben Wheatley makes the top ten. This one divided people immensely and I was more surprised than anyone when I found myself intrigued, engrossed, and I actually ended up liking it a lot. Having had a chance to chat to actor Reece Shearsmith in depth about the film, I was delighted to discover that my interpretation was pretty much correct so if you want to read my review of it again it's here.
8 FRANKENSTEIN'S ARMY
An absolutely cracking remake of the 1978 Richard Franklin original, Mark Hartley's remake is also head and shoulders above the pointless new version of CARRIE that came out last month. Eschewing the Franklin film's urban setting for a massive creepy asylum out in the country, some terrifically stylish direction, and Pino Donaggio supplying his best film score in years (why isn't this available to buy yet?) all make PATRICK superb operatic over the top entertainment. It's out in the UK next year & it's well worth catching.
6 BIG BAD WOLVES
One of my favourites from this year's FrightFest. I've since had the opportunity to see the same team's previous RABIES aka KALEVET (2010). If you haven't seen that it's worth catching up with while we wait for this to get a release. A thriller that keeps you guessing and with a final shot I can still see vividly now five months after watching it means BIG BAD WOLVES gets a deserved place in the top ten.
It's next to near impossible to get an anthology film with 26 stories to work, but ABCS OF DEATH had so many good segments that it gets the number five spot. Definitely worth watching at least twice to get all the horror goodness it has to offer, there's another one in the offing and hopefully it will be as good a showcase of modern horror talent from around the world as this one was.
Yes it's a horror film - a beautiful, stylish, mesmerising horror film that deals with the nature of masculinity and human strength and weakness. If you didn't get to see it at the cinema get a big telly and the Blu-ray to get the most out of director Nicolas Winding-Refn's gorgeous compositions. VALHALLA RISING and DRIVE made me a fan - this is the one that means I'll now watch anything he does.
Because if anyone is going to be the new Ken Russell it might just be Rob Zombie, a director who hopefully has grown up enough now that the petty cruelties of HOUSE OF A THOUSAND CORPSES and THE DEVIL'S REJECTS have been purged from his system. LORDS OF SALEM was a delicious, crazy, flamboyant horror film that certainly overstepped the mark in places, but I'd rather have too much excess in a film like this than restraint. Another director who I'll now watch whatever he does next.
2 THE BORDERLANDS
I'm a huge fan of homegrown British horror and I think it's a shame there isn't more of the good stuff out there. THE BORDERLANDS was very, very good and it's another one I'll be watching again when it finally gets a release. A STONE TAPE-influenced tale of priests investigating demonic goings-on at a church in the West Country, I loved the ending of this one so much it's all I can do not to type it here now. But I'm not going to because you deserve to discover it for yourselves. Great stuff and on the basis of this and THE DEVIL'S BUSINESS, in this case I'll be watching out for whatever producer Jen Handorf comes up with next.
Because it was great, because it was beautifully made, because it was Steve Woolley and Neil Jordan together again and doing horror, but most of all because when I saw the previews of this at FrightFest 2012 I actually thought it wasn't going to be very good at all and I spent six months with no intention of really wanting to watch it. My favourite horror film of the year because it's terrifically written, beautifully acted, at times astonishingly directed and if a single one of these things had not been absolutely top notch the vast sprawling house of cards that was this movie's plot would have come crashing down. Well done to all concerned. We need more like this. Lots more.
So there you go - you may well not have agreed with everything (or anything) I've said there, but I think there's no argument that the horror genre seems to be in quite a rude state of health at the moment. I'm already getting organised to attend all next year's FrightFests, kicking off with Glasgow at the end of February and hopefully I'll get to meet up with some of you at one of these events. Other than that, there's currently a stack of review discs on my desk, so in 2014 you can expect my thoughts on Charles Band's PUPPET MASTER and SUBSPECIES series of films, as well as quality-sounding fare like AMAZONIA, REEL EVIL and ZOMBIES VS STRIPPERS. There's a whole load of great-sounding classic and cult material due out from a range of labels (including THEATRE OF BLOOD - my favourite film of all time - due out from Arrow), so I may even be spared reviewing those last three, but we shall see.
Very finally, huge, huge thanks to everyone who has visited this site in the last twelve months. It's been far and away House of Mortal Cinema's most successful year in terms of interest from both readers and film folk, and all of these reviews are here because of all of you. I won't pretend that writing this stuff is hard work, but there's a very special kind of pleasure to be taken in knowing that lots of people get entertained by it. And it really helps when I get faced with films that end up in my Trapped In the Room With It section. Thank you all - you help me make it through the rubbish, and find even more ways to love it.
With best wishes for 2014 - take care & keep being nice to each other,