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[BEST & WORST ’13] Lonmonster’s Top 10 Horror Films of 2013!

In retrospect 2013 was spectacular for horror, proving that the genre continues to progress in both the independent and studio worlds. We were treated to some instant classics that delivered conventional horror, while others explored new territory and challenged the concept of what it means to be a “horror” movie. I keep hearing people say, “film is dead,” and I cannot disagree more. Genre cinema has always thrived off of passionate filmmakers, and every film on my list bleed with passion and love from its creators.

Narrowing down a best-of-the-year list is a trite exercise, as is ordering them in some sort of countdown, but the ten films listed below left a mark on me in 2013. Each film stuck with me for one reason or another throughout the year, and I imagine they will stay with me for a long time to come.

Mr. Disgusting (Best/Indie) | Evan Dickson (Best) | The Wolfman (Festival Favorites) | Patrick Cooper (Best)
Lonmonster (Best/Worst) | Lauren Taylor (Best/Worst) | Ryan Daley (Best Novels)
Best Posters | Best Performances | Best Trailers

10. Warm Bodies (February 1; Summit)

I’m a sucker for anything related to Shakespeare. I have no idea how he did it, but Jonathan Levine (with the help of Isaac Marion’s novel) managed to mix zombies with Romeo and Juliet in a thoughtful and emotional horror comedy. While not everyone will bite the hook of the film, a love story between a human and a zombie, it’s oddly touching if you can suspend your disbelief. The film has Jonathan Levine written all over it, mixing serious social commentary with moments of delightful romance that you just don’t get these days unless you’re willing to spend your time on cookie-cutter romantic comedies or their more pretentious alternatives.

9. Gravity (October 4; Warner Bros.)

The only reason Gravity doesn’t find itself at number one on my list is because it’s not strictly a horror film. That said, Alfonso Cuarónand his incredible DoP Emmanuel Lubezki pack this movie with so much on-the-edge-of-your-seat dread that if offers more real fear than the majority of horror movies. It captures the absolute terror of that black abyss that is outer space by forcing us on a survival journey alongside Ryan Stone (Sanda Bullock). I sincerely believe that Gravity is the cinematic event of my lifetime.

8. Evil Dead (April 5; TriStar)

Fede Alvarez makes his directorial debut with a remake of one of the most beloved horror franchises of all time with some of the most feverous fans out there. Suffice it to say, he had some big shoes to fill. Alvarez delivers a remake that that pays homage to the original, while boldly taking the series in a new direction. Horror fans often disparage remakes for either sticking too close to the source material, or for straying too far and I believe Alvarez found a perfect balance between the two.

7. Simon Killer (April 5; IFC Films)

Simon Killer is not a conventional horror movie, however, it maintains an incomprehensible sense of dread throughout that keeps you guessing at every turn. The film forces you to identify with a psychopath until you question everything you’ve seen, including your empathy for him. It’s no secret that the most effective way to scare an audience is to enable the use of imagination rather than showing everything exactly as it occurs, and Simon Killer executes this method to a tee. It’s an audaciously uncomfortable film, the likes of which Lars Von Trier would be proud.

6. Byzantium (June 28; IFC Films)

With its modern Gothic aesthetic and bildungsroman-style narrative, Byzantium is one of the most memorable vampire films in recent years. Considering Moira Buffini penned the script, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the story favors drama and romance over horror. However, unlike some recent vampire stories that focus too much on love, Buffini harkens back to the essence of vampire lore, never letting us forget that these are tragic creatures. What is perhaps most impressive about Byzantium is how the style matches the content. Sean Bobbitt’s cinematography captures the heartrending yet alluring spirit of the blood-sucking lifestyle.

5. You’re Next (August 23; Lionsgate)

You’re Next proves that the best way to make a good genre movie is simply to make a good movie. Home invasion films are tired, yet Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard breathe new life into the subgenre. You’re Next comes packed with all the tropes you expect, but also includes real characters with authentic motives. The final girl is a mainstay of horror and it’s a hard archetype to fool around with. However, Erin (Sharni Vinson) is one of the most memorable final girls since the 80s with her clear backstory that offers an explanation for her uncanny ability to kick ass. It’s also darkly funny, which I don’t think most viewers appreciate enough. With such a low budget, You’re Next is a testament to the skill of those involved, and I can’t wait for the next Wingard/Barrett film.

4. Stoker (March 1; Fox Searchlight)

Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker is stunning, disturbing, and intensely sensual. The film’s structure and story owes much to Alfred Hitchcock, but where Chan-wook strays is his highly unusual mood. Stoker has an intimate atmosphere that oozes with sexual anxiety that is almost too much to bear.

The cinematography is masterful. I never stop a film and rewind on first viewing, but there were several shots throughout Stoker that I just had to rewind in order to experience their beauty a second time. Stoker is a visual masterpiece and an impressive first feature screenplay from Wentworth Miller.

3. Maniac (June 21; IFC Midnight)

Maniac functions not just as a visceral experience, but also as a brilliant commentary on the voyeuristic nature of slasher movies. Director Franck Khalfoun along with Alexander Aja take the 1980 original, which was banned by the BBFC, and turn it into something fresh that reflects on the video nasties from that era. It’s strange to others that horror fans like to watch people die on-screen, and Maniac puts it in perspective. It literally places you into the shoes of a killer who is both revolting and mysteriously sympathetic. Maniac is a remake that transcends the original film, which alone is a feat few are able to accomplish. And, my god, the score is brilliant.

2. A Field In England (July 5; DraftHouse)

A complete exploitation of our senses, A Field In England is unsettling and salient as Ben Wheatley refuses to confine to traditional cinema. While his previous films split audiences, this one will divide even the most hardcore cinephiles. Wheatley lets the film be what it wants to be without feeling the need to force it into a specific genre, and because of its oft abstractness, the film maintains a pervasive chilling mood. Taking into consideration his work over the past few years, Ben Wheatley is one of the most talented and original filmmakers working today.

1. The Conjuring (July 19; New Line Cinema)

Ghost stories are hard to tell. There is such a lengthy history of the subgenre that it’s tough to find fodder for new supernatural material without having a film ripe with bankrupt imagery. Enter James Wan’s horror valediction, The Conjuring. He employs the true story of Ed and Lorraine Warren whose investigations have acted as the basis for many horror flicks over the years. Wan pays homage to paranormal horror of the 70s and 80s by focusing on the story of a family plagued by a haunting in their new abode, and it is the fact that he creates such an empathic cast of characters that makes the film so horrifying. The scares are utterly relentless throughout, never letting go of the audience. If this is to be Wan’s true farewell to the genre, he’s said goodbye with a masterpiece.



  • Michael_M

    Great list. Concise yet clearly articulated arguments. I have only partially watched Maniac, having to rely on my Netflix subscription. Looking forward to all of these when I get the opportunity.

    I don’t doubt your sincerity, but I question Gravity as a cinematic event. It received high praise and the trailer looked amazing. But I don’t think it penetrated the social consciousness to the degree that The Exorcist or Star Wars could be identified as event films.

    The technology that supports film has become so advanced that we take for granted the ability to produce such spectacle pictures. This dilutes our amazement; yes we’re impressed but what’s next.

    Question: Did you go to the theater to watch it more than once? Titanic, for example, was an event film because for several reasons many (primarily young girls) went multiple times. I think that’s a good judge of a film’s potency. I’m not aware of that kind of enthusiasm for Gravity.

    • Lonmonster

      Thanks for the kind words! I saw Gravity twice in theatres. I don’t think it touches the philosophical level of films like The Exorcist or, say, 2001: A Space Odyssey, but on a technical level it is an astonishing accomplishment. The story is tight and simple. It’s also a big deal because it’s a huge budget sci-fi thriller based on an original concept, which there are far too few of these days. I’m hoping it will lead to studios taking more risks on films like this rather than dozens of superhero sequels. Unfortunately, I think enthusiasm is lost on Gravity because most people don’t have a background in film which makes it difficult to appreciate the film’s technical merits. I think that when we look back twenty years from now, it will be noted as a landmark film that started a wave of change.

      • tyler

        I wish that I could have loved Gravity as much as you did. I don’t think I have ever been as excited for a film by its trailers than Gravity. All just to end up absolutely hating it! Took my entire family (parents, uncles, aunts, grandma, nieces, and friends)and not one of them thought it was anything but “torture to sit through.” They still hate me for picking it. They refuse to let me pick any more movies to go to the theater for now! Stupidly, I still do watch the trailers and still get amused by those!

  • RubenVeritas

    I can’t believe this fuckery of the Conjuring being #1. That was the most generic, unoriginal, predicable horse shit of the year.

    • CTHL


      “Generic” is the perfect one word description… I really can’t see anything special about it, yet for some inexplicable reason it keeps being praised as the second coming.

      Much the same story with Wan’s Saw and Insidious as well… I think he puts subliminal messages in his movies to trick weaker-minded viewers into thinking he’s done good, cuz I sure don’t see it. That crazed conspiracy theory quickly goes to pot though, it didn’t seem to work so well with Dead Silence or Insidious 2… well, scratch that, it did work with I2, because that movie is complete and utter shit yet still got generally favorable reviews. I think I’ve figured it out…

    • PeteyHalfSox

      well stated!

    • thefinalchick

      Thank you! I’m so disappointed that I’ve seen it on so many “Best of 2013” lists. The fact that people actually consider this to be a great film is the real horror.

    • tyler

      I have to agree. I can see why it is put at the top of the list – because really, what other choices has 2013 given us? But overall, there are a thousand low budget, straight to video horror films that are so much better. This is the same thing everyone did with last year’s “Sinister.” God awful movie that everyone thought it was just the best thing ever. Try watching that shit for a second time on a smaller screen – GOOD LUCK with not dying from boredom!

    • sadiesaidhorror

      PREACH!!! PREACH!!!
      Most overrated movie of 2013. Seriously.

    • 713

      Frankly I’m glad so many people think so, I’m sick and tired of hearing how great that movie was. The Conjuring wasn’t a good movie, it was a popular movie. Horror fans of all people should respect the difference.

  • tbaio

    Good list. I didn’t see all of them, but the ones I did see deserve to be mentioned. I would have put Insidious 2 in place of Gravity though. Thanks for the article.

  • AndrewSoukup24

    I definitely wanna check the ones out on the list that I haven’t seen…Simon Killer and Maniac and A Field In England…but as far as some of these I completely disagree…Warm Bodies was boring and lame as hell and The Conjuring was unoriginal in almost every way….Gravity and Evil Dead were both great in my opinion and Stoker was alright.

  • Darkness69

    Good to see Evil Dead here. I found it to be, first and foremost, respectful to the original and the effects were amazing – I think “The Thing” fans can only sigh in exasperation, considering how the “prequel” turned out to be. I’d love to see “Insidious 2” here as well, but overall it’s a good list.

  • monkeyofdoom

    I’ve seen a lot of the films from the list and the one I really disliked was Evil Dead, I just found it to be not scary and just trying hide that fact with over the top blood along with the huge let down of the final monster.
    The Conjuring I liked but most because the acting was good.
    Maniac, I loved the look of it and was fun.
    Stoker, I 100% agree on.
    A Field In England was just odd but I’ll be honest by saying I didn’t always get it but somehow I liked it

  • LilBastardFromHell

    Agreed with the first 2 #10 and #9 but Evil Dead, seriously? I was sitting in the cinema and just got more disappointed with each minute. It’s just gore, badly filmed. It’s a shitty, bad executed movie. The other movies in the list might be really solid horror, but Evil Dead is just cheap trash, and i wanted to love that movie.

  • joannasprinkle

    ……am I the only one who didn’t like Evil Dead?

    • sadiesaidhorror

      No, you’re not. Not at all.

  • djblack1313

    Lon, i love your Best List the most!!!! i’m so happy and shocked you had BYZANTIUM on the list. I LOVE THAT MOVIE! so good! also loved STOKER, WARM BODIES, EVIL DEAD.

    MANIAC, THE CONJURING and YOU’RE NEXT i also enjoyed.

    great list Lon!

    • djblack1313

      oh and Lon, with Stoker you said,

      “I never stop a film and rewind on first viewing, but there were several shots throughout Stoker that I just had to rewind in order to experience their beauty a second time.”

      the duet piano scene and the wake/gathering scene (where the camera moves non-stop) with Mia’s India walking around the house (if my memory’s correct)? those 2 sequences were especially incredible. i also love how India wakes up in bed and there’s the layout of shoes all around her. just talking about this makes me want to watch it again. i think i will! 🙂

    • Lonmonster

      Thanks, @djblack1313. Glad you dig my picks. There were so many great scenes in Stoker. I was blown away by the scene in the park where she goes on the “date” and that piano scene as well.

  • Krug09

    2013 was a horrible year for movies in general

    • John Marrone


    • 713

      The fact that The Conjuring is on every top 10 list says it all.

  • diapers

    Good list. Lonmonster, you must have luckily missed the BD board meeting about moving to mostly non horror for these lists. Good for you!

  • Paul Medenwaldt

    I picked A Field in England to watch off of this list because I wasn’t familiar with the title.

    I scratch my head why this movie was on somebody’s top 10 list on a website that is dedicated to the Horror genre?

    This movie had no reason to be on this list. It might as well of been filmed in this day and age but to give it some credibility (loosely used) they make it a period piece and still it failed.

    For those who are on the edge of watching this film, its basically about 5 guys that eat mushrooms and hallucinate and try to find a treasure in the middle of a field. Two quick scenes of gore but nothing more that would remotely associate this with a horror concept.

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