First of all, Happy New Year to all of you and thank you so much for yet another year of overwhelming support in 2019! This list has been compiling and evolving in my head for months now, partly due to the fact that there were so many phenomenal horror and genre films released this year, but mainly because the holiday season absolutely kicked my ass and I haven't had much time to sit down and write it all out!
Much like 2018, this year was really good to us genre film fans! We received some fantastic big budget films, such as Us, Doctor Sleep, and IT: Chapter Two, and a shit load of indie gems, so many, in fact, I'll probably miss a few on this list and end up kicking myself later on for leaving them out... Regardless, narrowing down the dozens of films I watched this year into a "top ten" list was fucking hard, and that's a pretty damn good problem to have!
Unfortunately, given the fact I'm a father, a fiance, and I work retail, I wasn't always able to make it out to the theater to see everything released. The next few months will be used to catch up before the chaos sets in again. If I left a film out that you feel should be on this list, comment it below. But remember, don't be a dick. This is all my personal opinion after all.
Newer independent filmmakers and genre veterans alike delivered so many phenomenal films this year, to the point of being insanely overwhelming! And while I could create a massive honorable mention list, these are just a few that stuck with me. S. Craig Zahler is easily one of my favorite modern filmmakers, and Dragged Across Concrete was another fantastic cinematic experience. Like his previous efforts, Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Bone Tomahawk, Dragged Across Concrete is a slow burner, perhaps even more so than Brawl and Bone Tomahawk, but when the action an violence to kick in, it kicks in like a shotgun blast to the face! It's a smart and brutal thriller with exemplary performances all around. Almost Human and The Mind's Eye director Joe Begos returned with his gritty and visceral vampire headtrip that is Bliss. Begos is another modern filmmaker that ranks high on my list of favorites, but unfortunately, internet drama tarnished my experience with Bliss and ultimately prevented it from landing in the "top ten." Japanese director Shinichiro Ueda released a fresh take on the zombie film with the fast and furious backstage horror-comedy One Cut of the Dead. Ari Aster unleashed his sophomore feature Midsommar, an uncomfortable cult fever dream that sadly didn't live up to my expectations set by Hereditary. Still a very tense and unnerving flick! Alexandre Aja made his long-awaited return with the disaster horror film, Crawl, an insanely tense and brutal killer alligator film that demonstrated proper and effective use of CGI. And lastly, I'd like to give some love to Marcel Walz, who impressed me greatly with Blind, a refreshing slasher of sorts that nails the contrast between beautiful imagery and gruesome violence.
10. The Perfection (directed by Richard Shepard)
While it technically premiered in 2018 at Fantastic Fest, Netflix released Richard Shepard's unexpected treat, The Perfection, back in May and it completely caught me off guard. I ventured into the film knowing next to nothing about its plot and was blindsided by a series of shocking and unexpected twists. Just when I thought I had a grasp on what was happening, Shepard threw me for a loop with an unforeseen curveball. Living up to its name, The Perfection is damn near just that, horror perfection.
9. Straight Edge Kegger (directed by Jason Zink)
Given my love for metal music, I always do my best to seek out films that blend metal/punk and horror. Films like Deathgasm, The Devil's Candy, Green Room and one that appears later on in this list, are amongst some of my favorite films in recent years. Jason Zink's punk as fuck Straight Edge Kegger feels right at home beside the aforementioned films, as well as the '80s rock 'n' roll gems such as Black Roses and Trick or Treat, but brings its own stylistic flair into the mix. It features everything most horror fans love, from practical blood and guts to booze and boobs, not to mention, a killer soundtrack!
8. Joker (directed by Todd Phillips)
While not technically a horror film (note the use of "genre" films in the title), Todd Phillips Joker dabbles with horrific elements, namely the horrors of real-life society and the failing mental wellness system. The film pours on the heavy-handed depression and hopelessness, while also serving up some well-placed fan service and a one-of-a-kind Joker origin story.
7. In Search of Darkness (directed by David Weiner)
While it may be a bit weird to include a documentary in a "top ten" list, my extreme love for '80s horror films made David Weiner's in-depth doc In Search of Darkness a shoe-in for this list. Having backed the film on Indiegogo early in 2019, I highly-anticipated its release, and when the finished product was delivered to me last month, the film itself met all of my expectations and then some. Featuring interviews with some of the biggest names in horror and clocking in at over 4 hours, In Search of Darkness is, without a doubt, the most comprehensive and definitive '80s horror doc ever created!
6. Villains (directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen)
A lot like The Perfection, Dan Berk and Robert Olsen's Villains is a film that feels like it's gonna be one you've seen done a multitude of times. Instead, it turns the genre on its head with a few unanticipated twists and turns that kept me captivated until the film's conclusion. Villains features an outstanding degree of quirky, dark and uncanny attributes, in addition to standout performances by Bill Skarsgard and Maika Monroe.
5. Harpoon (directed by Rob Grant)
I must say, 2019 was filled with so many surprisingly delightful films, and Rob Grant's Harpoon was another one that I went into blindly, but given my love for Turbo Kid's Munro Chambers, I knew I had to check it out. Grant took a minimalistic approach to the lost at sea premise and imbued it with clever storytelling and direction. It's a cunning, witty and razor-sharp gut punch of a film with stand-out performances that almost single-handedly keep it afloat (pun intended). Trust me when I say this is one boat ride you won't regret taking!
4. Assassinaut (directed by Drew Bolduc)
Admittedly, I'm a huge fan of Drew Bolduc's hilariously offensive The Taint, so you can bet your sweet ass I was more than excited to check out his latest foray into genre filmmaking, Assassinaut. Simply put, this sci-fi horror shocker was an absolute blast! Similar to The Taint, it's packed with plenty of blood and guts, but features a lot less exploding phalluses this time around (I know, a real bummer, right?). But, the film makes up for its lack of penile explosions with a whole lot of heart and abundant thrills. For those of you who feel horror movies have lost their sense of fun, seek this one out, as there's much fun to be had here!
3. Lords of Chaos (directed by Jonas Åkerlund)
Yes, I know, how very poser-ish of me to include this film on my list... Despite all of the controversy surrounding Lords of Chaos, the cries of the Black Metal elitists around the web, and its supposed historical inaccuracies, it's easily one of the most disturbing cinematic experiences I had all year. You see, at its core, Lords of Chaos is a true story involving teenagers, teenagers who pushed each other to very nasty and brutal extremes in order to gain "evil" reputations within the Norwegian Black Metal scene surrounding Oslo in the early '90s. From the church burnings to the murders and Dead's suicide, Åkerlund presents the tale in such a bleak and horrifying manner, that it's hard to watch at times. And though they fail to even attempt authentic accents, Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen all gave stellar performances.
2. The Head Hunter (directed by Jordan Downey)
These last two films have been neck and neck for first place for months now, and it was so hard to place one over the other as they're both perfection in my eyes, in very different ways. Jordan Downey's The Head Hunter is truly a minimalist masterwork of genre filmmaking. Made for less than The Blair Witch Project, The Head Hunter feels like a film that was made for ten times its budget. From its gorgeous locations and cinematography, to its impressive special effects outstanding performance by Christopher Rygh, The Head Hunter is one of the very few films that I consider to be perfect in every way.
1. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (directed by Quentin Tarantino)
Again, placing my top two films was a rather tough decision to make, and it was just set in stone last month when I was able to revisit Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time in Hollywood for the first time since seeing it in theaters. With his ninth film, Tarantino once again proved himself as one of the greatest filmmakers of our generation and delivered, quite possibly, the best work of his career. The golden age of Hollywood, which Tarantino clearly idolizes, is presented in loving detail and in an almost dreamlike wistfulness. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt deliver absolutely phenomenal performances, the production design is completely spot-on, cinematography is flawless, and so on. And while it may not be a horror film, it does, however, feature one of the most violent, savage and overall satisfying finales I've ever seen!
#DRAGGEDACROSSCONCRETE #BLISS #MIDSOMMAR #ONECUTOFTHEDEAD #CRAWL #BLIND #THEPERFECTION #STRAIGHTEDGEKEGGER #JOKER #INSEARCHOFDARKNESS #VILLAINS #HARPOON #ASSASSINAUT #LORDSOFCHAOS #THEHEADHUNTER #ONCEUPONATIMEINHOLLYWOOD