I missed the common sense deadline of January 1st for the decade recaps I have been writing so I decided to take a break from those and get out my list of the the best of 2019 before it was too late. We’ll continue with the decade recaps soon. I’ve hit a rough patch with that anyway. It’s not easy to find “essential” horror movies from the 90’s. This list features a couple of movies that came out of nowhere to surprise me, a few that I have been anticipating since first hearing about them, a couple that some (or most) wouldn’t consider horror and more Netflix originals than any other year, so far. Let’s get into it.
10. In The Tall Grass
The list starts off with a Netflix movie. In The Tall Grass was a bit of a surprise for me. I heard some good things about it but it took a long time for me to finally sit down and watch it. I don’t think they did themselves any favors with the description, which sounded extremely boring. This movie is anything but boring. It jumps right into the action and presents a number of questions. As soon as you get an answer to one, you’re presented with another.
9. Ready Or Not
Talk about a surprise. I was prepared to enjoy Ready Or Not just not nearly as much as I did. This film is pure fun from beginning to end. There are a ton of laughs, plenty of deaths and a batshit crazy ending. Samara Weaving is perfect in this film. Her reactions to the crazy things that are happening around her are spot on, yet you always believe that she is going to kick some serious ass. The giant mansion on the sprawling estate makes for some great visuals. This is probably the most fun that I had in a movie theater in 2019.
8. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile
This is the first of two movies on this list that some people will say isn’t a horror movie. I get where they are coming from but I think they are taking too limited a view of what constitutes horror. The performances alone are enough to land this film on the list. Add in the terrific costume design and captivating story and you easily have the best film that has a name that I can never remember. Eventually I just tell everyone to watch the Zac Efron as Ted Bundy movie.
7. The Dead Don’t Die
Possibly the most divisive movie of 2019. I happen to fall on the side of the people who loved it. It’s a zombie movie with a cast that is way too good to be in a zombie movie, written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. There isn’t a whole lot more that needs to be said. It’s definitely a film you will either love or hate. Is it more oddball comedy than straight up horror? Sure. But at this point I’m happy to finally have a take on the zombie film that feels fresh.
It seems like Brightburn was largely overlooked. The “evil Superman” movie delivered on the gore in ways I didn’t expect and it knew exactly when to ratchet up the tension. The cast was all on point with their performances and it set up what I hope will become a slew of sequels about other superheroes who have started wreaking havoc all around the world. I don’t know if we will ever get any of those sequels but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. This concept could have easily gone off the rails but they nailed it and I would love to see more.
5. The Hole In The Ground
This little Irish film landed on Amazon Prime and it took me a bit to watch it. I’m glad I finally made time for it. It’s an excellent “creepy kid” movie. I’ve heard complaints that it is slow. I understand where those are coming from but I don’t mind a good slow burn as long as it doesn’t get boring. The Hole In The Ground never approaches boring. The characters are rich and the filmmakers pull you fully into the environment so that once things go crazy, you’re completely invested.
Easily my most anticipated film of 2019. Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out. Could it live up to his debut? That was the big question coming into the year. It wasn’t long before we got an answer, yes he could do it again. In fact, there are many ways in which Us is a better film than Get Out. While it’s not as accessible from a story standpoint, from a technical perspective, I think that it’s a much better made film. I heard people say that there was too much humor but comedy and horror have always gone hand in hand and I actually think this is a much scarier movie than Get Out.
Parasite is the other film that a lot of people will say isn’t a horror movie. It certainly doesn’t start out as one but the horror and dread develop as the story starts to unfold. There is no way that this story is going to end well, you can tell that from the beginning. Director Bong Joon-ho unfolds the story beautifully and by the time we hit the third act, this has landed firmly in horror territory. Thins go off the rails in the best of ways. It’s a wonderfully told story that finds you rooting for all of the characters, even though you know that they can’t all win.
The other great follow-up of 2019. I think, in my mind, Jordan Peele and Ari Aster will always be linked. Aster’s Hereditary is still being debated by people. Midsommar is his sophomore film and he knocks it out of the park. The folk horror genre is alive and well, as is horror in broad daylight. Aster has called this a break-up film and no one explores grief and raw emotion better than he does. This movie will stick with you just as long as Hereditary did and we’ll be debating and dissecting it for a long time to come.
Writer-director Joe Begos wasn’t on my radar when 2019 started. I hadn’t heard of Bliss. Last January there was nothing to indicate that this would be my pick for the best horror film of the year. I started to hear good things about it in September and caught the film at a festival in October. I haven’t stopped singing it’s praises since. Bliss is a modern, psychedelic, vampire movie that feels completely of it’s time. All of the performances are great but Dora Madison stands tall in the lead role. It’s a visually stunning piece of work with the colors keeping you almost mesmerized as the gripping story unfolds around you. Bliss is without a doubt my favorite horror movie of 2019.
– Zombieland: Double Tap
– Satanic Panic
– The Wretched
– Horror Noire