A Horror Renaissance: 2013’s greatest nightmares

horrorWhile much of the world buzzes on about the Oscars, gore-hounds like myself must deal with the despairing knowledge that our genre of preference will continue to go neglected. A true shame, too, for 2013 was a stalwart year for horror, both in the independent circuit and for the oft-neglected studio pictures. With The Conjuring’s absolutely astounding box office results, perhaps we are seeing the rise of another horror renaissance unlike anything since the late 70s to early 80s (a time when, though numbers were not great, a series of true classics appeared). Here is a list of just a few of last year’s top quality films.

Evil Dead

While far from being a perfect film in any regard, Fede Alvarez’s adaptation of the cult classic is a bold take on a beloved original. Sacrificing all the camp that makes The Evil Dead so endearing, this is a ruthless and mindlessly bloody new telling that does away with cherished icons like Ash as a whole, while still implementing plenty of winks throughout (some more subtle than others). But what really makes Evil Dead a member of this list is highly impressive makeup and practical effects. There was clearly some love put into this otherwise straight-forward gorefest.

V/H/S/2

The followup to 2012’s V/H/S is as bloodthirsty and unrelenting as anyone would expect. While suffering the same pitfalls as the original (mainly, disparity of quality amongst the individual’s stories), V/H/S/2 is another solid and powerful addition for anthology horror, and possible the most successful at mainstreaming the concept since Creepshow (1982). But what really lends strength to V/H/S and V/H/S/2 is the project’s dedication to providing free-reign to independent directors and allowing them a voice to channel their talent to a different, wider audience.

You’re Next

You’re Next offers an extremely clever interpretation of a familiar sub-genre. Filled with sharp dialogue and a nice Agatha Christie-esque home invasion story arc, director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barret have both put their best foot forward. Appealing to many tastes, You’re Next is as classy as it is bloody, snide as it is shrewd, engrossing as it is entertaining. A well crafted and well deserved addition to an often under-appreciated sub-genre of horror.

American Mary

American Mary is a love letter to David Cronenberg written in Takashi Miike’s ink with just a dash of Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left. While clearly a member of both the revenge and body-horror sub-genres, such labels would be a disservice to the film’s innovative and intelligent storytelling. An extremely critical and often comedic look at violence, sex, lust, love and blood – identical-twin directors, Jen & Sylvia Sosko, are stretching their artistic talents in a strange direction. American Mary is a bright torch in the world of horror – pushing the boundaries of the genre as a whole.

We Are What We Are

A remake of Jorge Grau’s Somos lo que hay (2010), We Are What We Are is a penetrating and disturbing portrait of a cannibalistic family that bends audience expectations. An insightful look into the minds and hearts of those both lost from society and themselves, We Are What We Are is a tragic, heartfelt, engrossing tale of pity and sympathy for of a family in mourning. An incredible addition to Jim Mickle’s budding career.

 

Anthony Pilloud lives in rural South Korea where he spends his days telling lies to children in the classroom and nights feeding stray cats in between film excursions.

16 thoughts on “A Horror Renaissance: 2013’s greatest nightmares

  1. Love the Horror genre, the only one on your list I wasn’t so keen on was You’re Next. However the others are all great movies, The Conjuring was the stand out film last year for me, not just in the horror genre but across all genres.

  2. Great list! I’ve seen all but American Mary, which I plan to check out soon. I still don’t know why horror is constantly overlooked as a genre. Some of the performances, like in We Are What We Are and The Conjuring, were outstanding, and the productions in general can stand up to a lot of the Hollywood drivel out there. Still waiting for those big wig execs to wake up!

  3. All solid choices for best horror of 2013. “American Mary” would top my list. I’m very keen to see the next project from the Soska Sisters. Personally, I found V/H/S 2 less successful than the first installment, though the “Indonesian cult” story by Timo Tjahjanto was quite strong. The “Evil Dead” remake was a straightforward gory horror flick, but enjoyable nonetheless. I caught “Somos lo que hay” on Netflix one night, and thought it did something new & interesting with the cannibal film subgenre. Haven’t seen this English language remake (I’m typically suspect of remakes of foreign-language films) but it has popped up on a few “best of” lists this year. “You’re Next” is definitely on my “must watch” lists. Incidentally, the “ABC’s of Death” had some strong segments, as well (and Timo Tjahjanto has a jaw-dropping contribution in that anthology, too). Great post!

  4. >V/H/S/2 is another solid and powerful addition for anthology horror, and possible the most successful at mainstreaming the concept since Creepshow (1982).<

    I knew exactly what I was going to say about this until seeing that the author lives in Southeast Asia…which has in the middle of the cradle of great anthology horror in the interim. Japan, Korwa, Thailand, and the Philippines have been kicking the rest of the world's ass vis-a-vis anthology horror for decades–Rampo Noir, Zoo, 4bia, Three…Extremes (and the prequel, which I liked even better), easily a dozen others have emerged from Southeast Asia in the past twenty years that are among the best anthology films ever created.

    • (James–FTR, I have seen all of these save the SOmos lo que Hay remake, and heartily concur on all counts except VHS2–I didn’t like it as much as most, but the one set in the Philippines…oh man, the first twenty minutes of that are the best horror from last year hands down.)

  5. I don’t know the genre nearly as well as you, but it has seemed to me for a while that horror needs a new Cronenberg. A young visionary who treats horror as a serious genre and takes chances with it. I thought that Eli Roth might be that guy but I’m not sure. It’s such a potentially marginalized genre that it can be easily dismissed (I just watched The Tingler, so I’m a little hyper-sensitized to the potential silliness right now.) It takes a rare talent to transcend that.

    Thanks for your list. I’ve only seen half of them so I’ve got some more titles to look for.

  6. Good list. Made for a fun read.

    I didn’t love Evil Dead and didn’t like You’re Next. I haven’t seen the rest of these, but is intend to catch We Are What We Are soon. That one looks pretty cool.

  7. Thanks for reviewing some good horror that slipped through the net during the past year. I like the look of ‘American Mary’, and ‘You’re Next’. However, I really cannot see the point of yet another American remake of a fine original foreign film, in the case of ‘We Are What We Are.’ Can those audiences really just not appreciate the Mexican version for what it is, without having to make it all over again, in English?
    Your suggestions are much appreciated Anthony. Regards from England. Pete.

  8. I agree with you 100% on the new era of horror but unless a true diehard group of horror enthusiasts gather and find the terrified button in the minds of today’s saturated unaffected youth then there is no hope. I feel the directors of the conjuring are on the right path with their endevoures and Im extremely excited about the Annabelle movie they are releasing. Horror touches my heart but I find myself reverting back to the old slashers time and time again maybe because that’s my youth?? Idk. I hope I’m wrong. Go rob zombie! Horror in all aspects will always be good to me. Even the bad. Lol

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