Another epic year for horror movies! Picking a Top 10 wasn’t easy, but we’re not afraid of a little hard work. Mostly.
Is 2019 done already? But… but… I haven’t seen all the movies yet! Like The Lodge. I know I’m going like that one. C’mon, people, let’s get that thing streaming somewhere! But I digress. I did my best to see as many as I could and here are the Best of the Best (assuming you share my taste in movies).
10. Daniel Isn’t Real – Directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer. Does anyone else remember Phoebe Cates and the late, great Rik Mayall in Drop Dead Fred (1991)? It was the PG-13 version of the “imaginary friend comes back” storyline. Loved that movie and I think that’s what initially drew me to Daniel Isn’t Real. That, and its exceedingly cool story. Pacing-wise, it could stand a wee bit of tightening up, but — no spoilers — if you love movies that make up their own mythology coupled with an acting duo (Miles Robbins as “Luke” and Patrick Schwarzenegger as “Daniel”) who were beautifully in lockstep with each other for the entire movie, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for.
09. It: Chapter 2 – Directed by Andy Muschietti. I’m beginning to think this is an unpopular decision, but I’m going to stand by it — It: Chapter 2 was better than the first one. Yes, I understand that they recycled several scenes from the first movie, but I enjoyed how they did it. I liked the additional scenes they showed in flashback with the kid versions of the now-adult gang and loved the ruthlessness of Pennywise. The ending dragged on a bit, but overall this is a solid movie.
08. Sweetheart – Directed by J.D. Dillard. J.D. Dillard returns with his sophomore effort after a reasonably successful run with 2016’s Sleight. I get the feeling this one slipped past a lot of people, but if you like creature features with a strong female protagonist you should give this one a try. Dropped into the middle of a shipwreck story where our hero, Jenn, initially just has to contend with surviving on a deserted island, we’re treated to one of the best creature intros in recent memory followed by a fantastic woman vs. fishman brawl for survival.
07. Us – Directed by Jordan Peele. What more can I say about Us? 2019 was the Year of Lupita and this was just one of her highlights. In his post-Get Out phase, with Us and his Twilight Zone revival, Jordan Peele could do no wrong in 2019. Teaming up with Lupita Nyong’o for Us was like adding extra awesome to an already fantastically awesome pile of awesomeness.
06. The Wretched – Directed by Brett Pierce and Drew Pierce Another sophomore effort that was hit out of the park. The Pierce Brothers came back with a vengeance and gave us The Wretched — a tale of witchcraft unlike many you’ve seen before. This ain’t no cauldron-stirring, broomstick-riding, cackling in a pointy hat witch. This witch is literally a Force of Nature; burrow-dwelling and predatory with a penchant for eating children. Madelynn Stuenkel does an amazing job bringing physicality to the witch (“The Wretch”) in her natural form and single-handedly makes this movie a must-watch.
05. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Directed by André Øvredal. If you’ve gotten a chance to listen to the most recent podcast, you already know that I’ve got a bit of a man-crush on André Øvredal. From Trollhunter (2010) to The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Øvredal’s been hitting all the right notes since I was introduced to him and this linked-anthology film is no different.
04. Extra Ordinary – Directed by Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman. If you’re from Ireland or New Zealand your countries have a couple things in common. (1) You both have fantastic accents and (2) both of your countries know how to make absolutely wonderful horror/comedy films. The tagline, “Putting the Normal in Paranormal,” fits this movie perfectly and also describes the best thing about it. The two main characters (Maeve Higgins and Barry Ward) do a phenomenal job portraying “normal” people who get wrapped up in a paranormal situation while Will Forte steals the show with his preternatural mustache.
03. Ready or Not – Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Samara Weaving. Need I say more? Samara. Weaving. From TV’s Ash vs Evil Dead (2015-2016) to Mayhem (2017) with Steven Yeun to The Babysitter (2017), Samara Weaving has set herself up as one of horror/comedy’s Top Tier actors. Show me a horror movie starring Hugo Weaving’s niece, Samara, and I’ll show you a horror movie I’m dying to see. Case in point, Ready or Not. You can roll this one in with the rest of the movies following 2019’s “We Hate Rich People” theme and it easily stands head and shoulders above nearly everything you put next to it.
02. Little Monsters – Directed by Abe Forsythe. Did I already say 2019 was the Year of Lupita? Because, seriously. If that woman ever decides to leave the world of horror, our favorite genre will be losing one of its most dynamic actors. As The Scariest Things’ stalwart reviewer Liz says, this is a thoroughly charming zom/com and it’s got a lot of heart. Yes, there are children in this movie, but fear not! They all do a great job at taking direction and the little kid lead, Diesel La Torraca, is for sure my vote for #2 as the Best Kid EVER in a Horror Movie (#1 being Finnish wunderkind, Onni Tommila, of 2010’s Rare Exports).
01. Satanic Panic – Directed by Chelsea Stardust. Easily sliding into my #1 spot is Fangoria’s addition to the “We Hate Rich People” theme of 2019. This one just struck a chord with me and I love it. Hayley Griffith does a fantastic job as scrappy pizza delivery gal, Samantha Craft, while Matthew Modine’s daughter, Ruby Modine, plays Judi Ross — a young woman who’s entirely uninterested in being used as her mother’s sacrifice to Baphomet — to the hilt. Rebecca Romijn as Judi’s mom and leader of the ultra-wealthy cult of Satanists effortlessly holds the movie together and is an absolute joy to watch.
And there you have it! My take on the Best of the Best for 2019. Thanks, as always, for making The Scariest Things community such a fun and active one. Happiest of holidays to you all! Here’s to many more cinematic scares in 2020!