This was a weird year. There weren’t that many great “straight up” horror movies out there, at least not in my eyes. I feel like the genre is at a turning point where it’s about to be reinvigorated, I’ve already seen a few of the films coming out next year (ones that simultaneously fit the definitions of the genre while taking it to new places) and I think 2013 will represent a turning point. 2012 saw the genre tentatively figuring out how to spread its wings in the age of huge budget divides (just like the American middle class, medium sized films are on the wane), VOD and a shifting landscape in general.
So don’t be surprised if some of these movies don’t 100% fall under the “horror” category. It’s not like I tossed Cloud Atlas on here or anything, I operated from the films that we cover on the site, but you’ll see what I’m talking about inside. On occasion we cover some great stuff that doesn’t rigidly fit the definitions of the genre, but it’s material that we feel appeals to horror fans’ sensibilities. That being said, I also kept this year’s “best of” list to films that were released in 2012. I still saw plenty of movies that I fell in love with, and here are 10 that you might dig as well.
10. The Road (May 11; Freestyle Releasing)
The first act of Yam Laranas’ The Road features some of the scariest imagery I’ve seen in a ghost story in quite some time. The rest of the film turns out to be a surprisingly effective, and expansive, yarn. A movie where some of the quietest moments are the most frightening.
9. Detention (April 6; Samuel Goldwyn)
I totally get it if you hate Joseph Kahn’s Detention. I myself was prepared to hate it based on its trailer, but the movie quickly won me over. It depicts the millennial generation in a way that I haven’t seen on film before and it’s full of fun carnage courtesy of its slasher villain Cinderhella. Imagine Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World meets Scream and you’re getting warm. Oh sh*t, add time travel in too. Yeah, there’s not much else like it.
8. Chronicle (February 3; Fox)
Another film that we took some flack for, but seeing as this is the closest we’ll get to a live action Akira in the next few years, it’s totally fair game. Director Josh Trank also succeeded in crafting a tale of telekinesis rivaled only by Carrie in its depiction of supernatural power gone wrong. Oh, and he succeeded in reinvigorating the found footage format to boot.
7. John Dies At The End (December 27th [On-Demand]; Magnet)
A fun, trippy blast that ladles on the gore while not being afraid to ask the bigger questions. A lot of people might find this movie confusing, but as long as you engage with it and pay attention, you should be fine. Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes turn in great performances as the film’s two heroes and director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep) is in fine form. This movie really tickles the parts of my brain I abused in college.
6. Kill List (January 4; IFC Midnight)
Ben Wheatley’s masterpiece hit the festival circuit last year, but I only saw it upon its release in 2012. While I have a huge fondness for the film, it’s not something I’m eager to revisit. It’s one of those instances where I have to commend its artistry enough to place it in my top 10, but its such a foreboding watch that I’m not sure how many times I’ll reach for it on the shelf.
5. Frankenweenie (October 5; Disney)
I can’t believe all the love that went to ParaNorman in 2012 while this far superior stop-animation gem went more or less unnoticed. This touching tale that riffs on classic horror history is easily Tim Burton’s best film in over a decade, and Martin Landau’s science monologues as Mr. Rzykruski made me want to stand up and cheer.
4. The Sound Of My Voice (April 27; Fox Searchlight)
A beautiful and suspenseful look inside the world of what appears to be a modern-day cult. Brit Marling is magnetic as Maggie, a person whose very existence is dependent on her charisma. It’s also a film about the existential horror of not actually knowing the answers to some seemingly basic questions about life.
3. Seven Psychopaths (October 12; CBS Films)
A hilariously sharp bloodbath that not many people bothered to check out in theaters. Colin Farrell is great, but it’s really Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken who run the show here. Not to mention Tom Waits as a long-term serial killer with an affinity for rabbits. Remember folks, these movies you keep discovering in their ancillary stages of release will cease to exist once those ancillary stages dry up.
2. The Grey (January 27; Lionsgate)
Such a visceral, powerful movie. Liam Neeson gives the performance of his career in what is easily Joe Carnahan’s best film. Sure it works as survival horror, but it’s also a great allegory for the daily battles we find ourselves embroiled in. Neeson is joined by an ensemble that perfectly represents the battle, and balance, between the masculine id and superego.
1. The Cabin In The Woods (April 13; Lionsgate)
Without question the most fun I had in a horror movie this year. The Cabin In The Woods manages to meet almost every slasher demand you can think of before going on to become so much more. It’s a hilarious film with a lot to say about the way our culture consumes violence, both on film and in regard to real-life tragedies.
Bonus: V/H/S (October 5; Magnolia Pictures)
No, I wasn’t asked to write about this one. But – if I didn’t happen to write for Bloody-Disgusting – it would easily be somewhere in the middle of my Top 10. I truly dig most of the segments and it’s got more effective scares than most of the films I saw this year.