When it comes to the genre scene this year, 2019 has completely knocked it out of the park with an array of eclectic blood-drenched offerings from across the globe.
On the horror movie front, both the independent and mainstream circuits have delivered some of the most engaging, chilling and thought-provoking cinema put to screen meaning its been no easy feat to compile this list and narrow it down to just ten films. In 2019 we’ve been scared in broad daylight, evaded psychopaths and been forced to really look at ourselves with many laughs as well as scares along the way.
Happy New Year, Horror Hounds and welcome to Hayley’s Horror Reviews, Top 10 Horror Movies of 2019.
10. Ma (2019)
• Director: Tate Taylor
• Country: USA
Kicking off the list, is a popcorn thriller, with a showstopping performance from Octavia Spencer as the titular character. A group of rebellious teens think all their partying prayers have been answered when they become acquainted with Sue Ann, a lonely middle-aged woman who allows them to party in her basement. To begin with, all seems to be going well, Sue Ann gains the company she’s longed for and can relive her misspent youth, while the teenagers indulge in all the debauchery, they wouldn’t dream of getting away with their own parents. Events soon take a dark turn as Sue Ann isn’t all she seems, taking the film down the bunny boiler/stalker route with some exciting twists and inventive murder set pieces. While Ma doesn’t tread new ground, it remains entertaining and engaging enough, hitting home the cautionary message of “be careful who you trust”.
9. The Banana Splits Movie (2019)
• Director: Danishka Esterhazy
• Country: USA
Tralala, next up is an unexpected black comedy gem that transforms beloved Hanna-Barbera characters into the epitome of terror! The Banana Splits Movie is an utter crowd pleaser that doesn’t hold back on the carnage and chaos. When an unsuspecting family attend a live taping of ‘The Banana Splits Show’ for the youngest member’s birthday, unbeknown to them a bloodbath awaits when the show’s producer decides to pull the plug on the long running children’s series only for murder and mayhem to ensue! The Banana Splits Movie incorporates a basic horror premise while taking the blood shed and brutality up a notch, its downright entertaining with overblown caricatures, menacing androids and an abundance of colour expected from the cartoon world. The Banana Splits Movie wears its heart on its sleeve (literally) and is the perfect, “friends’ night in” style of film.
8. Midsommar (2019)
• Director: Ari Aster
• Country: USA | Sweden | Hungary
Ari Aster’s freaky follow-up to 2018’s Hereditary certainly did not disappoint. An evident love letter to The Wicker Man (1973), this unnerving folk horror is highly visceral and effortlessly gets under the viewer’s skin with its transfixing narrative and illuminating visuals. After suffering an unimaginable tragedy, Dani (Florence Pugh) travels to Sweden alongside her boyfriend and his friends to attend the traditional mid-summer festival, soon this idyllic world transforms into the stuff of nightmares as Dani and her friends become entangled in the bizarre, unorthodox traditions of a pagan cult. Midsommar is a worthwhile, intricate slow burn that elevates anxieties and masterfully frightens us in broad daylight. Tonally dark and undeniably warped, Midsommar is a cinematic, horror experience that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck and leave you reeling long after the credits have rolled.
7. IT: Chapter Two (2019)
• Director: Andy Muschietti
• Country: Canada | USA
2019 saw the eagerly anticipated conclusion to 2017’s successful Stephen King adaptation, IT. Much like the original novel and 1990 mini-series, IT: Chapter 2 explores the adult years of its core characters and how they must face their childhood trauma when the malevolent Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) resurfaces once again to strike terror into the sleepy town of Derry, Maine. Chapter 2 proved to be a strong follow-up with exceptional casting, each adult actor effortlessly fitted into their roles, making it believable that they were the same people as their childhood counterparts. Pennywise was even more skin-crawlingly sinister this time around, with Bill Skarsgård further cementing his portrayal of the whimsical clown as a modern horror icon. IT: Chapter Two used cinema-defying technology by de-aging its child actors who had grown up considerably since filming the first instalment for continuity purposes as well as producing some eye-poppingly, grotesque creatures for the added fear factor. IT: Chapter Two deals with haunting and timely themes such as trauma, suicide and the brutal treatment of the LGBTQ community, incorporating some exceptionally dark elements into the film. Both IT instalments are hands down some of the best Stephen King adaptations put to film and will undoubtably be mentioned in the same breath as many iconic horror classics for years to come.#
6. Us (2019)
• Director: Jordan Peele
• Country: USA
Following the success of the genre-defying, Get Out (2017), Jordan Peele released his second feature film in 2019, the ambiguously titled, Us. The Wilson family, consisting of mother, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), father, Gabe (Winston Duke), daughter, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and son, Jason (Evan Alex) head to Santa Cruz for an idyllic beach vacation. Adelaide remains apprehensive as she is haunted by an ominous incident that took place at the beach during her childhood. Attempting to make the best of things, Adelaide goes along with her family vacation until they are confronted by their own doppelgangers armed with sharp scissors and a thirst for violence turning a weekend of relaxation into an unrelenting fight for survival. Us is well-paced, building up strong character development and family dynamics before introducing the threat. Layered with mystery and a dark underbelly, the film does what horror films should have done eons ago by placing an African-American family at the forefront. Jordan Peele continues to make progressive films and brings fresh ideas into the horror movie fold. Us is mesmerizing, doused in a disconcerting atmosphere accompanied by a haunting soundtrack (the remix of Luniz “I got 5 on it” is chill-inducing). Lupita Nyong’o steals the show, delivering one of 2019’s strongest female performances in a horror film as she undertakes playing both the fearful Adelaide and her sinister counterpart, Red effectively.
5. Little Monsters (2019)
• Director: Abe Forsythe
• Country: Australia/United Kingdom/USA
The second film on this list to feature the incredible Lupita Nyong’o in a role and film which is a complete departure from Us. Little Monsters was the crowd-pleasing closing film of Celluloid Screams: Sheffield Horror Film Festival and is guaranteed to garner success beyond horror fandom due to its comedic and light-hearted approach as a zom-com. A kindergarten field trip turns deadly when the class of kids, their empathetic teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o) and one of the kid’s immature uncle Dave (Alexander England) get caught up in a zombie outbreak! Confined to hiding in the farm park gift shop, its now up to Miss Caroline and Dave to keep the kids safe while they both learn a thing or two about growing up along the way. Josh Gad also stars in a scene stealing performance as the over-the-top, loudmouth, erratic children’s TV host Teddy McGiggle, who is the opposite of what a friendly kid’s TV show host should be! The child actors are a revelation, holding their own next to the adult cast. Little Monsters is outright hilarious bringing the fun factor to horror, in a cleverly written, heart-pounding dark comedy.
4. Doctor Sleep (2019)
• Director: Mike Flanagan
• Country: USA | UK
Director Mike Flanagan (Oculus/Hush/Gerald’s Game) adapted another of Stephen King’s works in 2019 and the second to feature on this list. Ever wondered what happened to Danny Torrance, the traumatized little boy from The Shining? Well, Doctor Sleep will answer all those questions as it follows Dan played by Ewan McGregor into adulthood, but did the horror ever really go away? In this sequel, Danny must use his unique abilities to help protect another young child with similar powers, named Abra (Kyliegh Curran) from an evil cult known as The True Knot, who prey on ‘special’ children to gain immortality. Doctor Sleep shares recognisable imagery and re-creates pivotal scenes and characters from The Shining but also holds its own. It pays tribute to the Kubrick classic without trying to emulate it completely by incorporating its own visual style. Doctor Sleep is very dark, allowing for some disturbing, breath-taking moments. Rebecca Ferguson is outstanding as the cruel Rose ‘The Hat’, the malignant cult leader who will go to extreme lengths to remain youthful and protect her ‘family’. Doctor Sleep has all the components that a cinematic horror movie should have, the performances are stellar, its filled with unsettling moments, features characters to empathise with and remains gripping from beginning to end which is a testament to Stephen King’s penchant for writing stories that truly resonate.
3. Death of a Vlogger (2019)
• Director: Graham Hughes
• Country: UK
Graham Hughes, writes, directs and stars in this micro-budget Fright Fest favourite that shines a light on modern-day ‘influencers’ and the manipulative side of ‘internet culture’. Death of a Vlogger is told in the style of a mockumentary and keeps the viewer guessing from beginning to end as it follows an ambitious content creator who convinces his followers that he’s being followed in a different way, his apartment is supposedly haunted! With plenty of twists and turns to come, Death of a Vlogger is a film that’s best entered into knowing as little as possible beforehand. Graham Hughes successfully creates an effective, psychological horror on a low budget, through using a resourceful concept and a down to earth/naturalistic script. Found footage isn’t always looked on favourably within the horror genre but Death of a Vlogger is one that defies the stigma. Compelling, unsettling and thought-provoking, Death of a Vlogger makes a stark statement on the pressures of internet fame and the price paid when it all goes horribly wrong. Death of a Vlogger deservedly won the Love Horror Award at the Unrestricted View Horror film festival in 2019.
2. Come to Daddy (2019)
• Director: Ant Timpson
• Country: Ireland | Canada | New Zealand | USA
Come to Daddy popped up on several UK horror festival line-up’s this year and proved to be one of the most popular entries throughout the entire festival circuit. Come to Daddy chronicles the experiences of 30-something, recovering alcoholic Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) who is summoned to a remote location to reconnect with his troubled estranged father played by Stephen McHattie. The atmosphere is so tense, it leaves the audience on tenterhooks when these two are reacquainted, Come to Daddy, however may not be the film the viewers expect by the time it reaches its nail-biting climax. It’s a film that deserves to remain spoiler-free before going into it to experience its full throttle of an impact. Elijah Wood is superb as the meek, mild-mannered protagonist who finds himself in an unorthodox situation he struggles to claw out of and delivers one of the best performances’ of 2019 genre films. Beautifully shot, ultra-stylistic, unapologetically violent and thrilling throughout, Come to Daddy is one of the most exciting genre films to tour film festivals this year.
1. Why Don’t You Just Die! (2018)
• Director: Kirill Sokolov
• Country: Russia
Why Don’t You Just Die! is a film that takes the viewer firmly in its grip and doesn’t let up until the very end. While often likened to the style of Tarantino, Why Don’t You Just Die! is very much its own beast offering an exhilarating, bloodthirsty viewing experience alongside pitch black humour. Fast-paced and furious, Why Don’t You Just Die! is essentially a domestic thriller, the action takes place in the confines of a small apartment, which sees a “meet the parents” situation go horribly wrong. It centres around corrupt cop, Andrei (played menacingly by Vitaliy Khaev), who finds himself surrounded by a group of people with their own grudges against him to bare. From his aggrieved daughter, long-suffering wife, a deceived colleague and a violent young man, each of them armed with a reason to want him dead, but will Andrei just die?! Setting much of the action in one space, heightens the intensity and unpredictability of where events will lead. Why Don’t You Just Die! unapologetically pushes the boundaries with the gore and violence while keeping it’s tongue firmly in its cheek. It’s no surprise that it came in as the winning film in the new features’ category at the Abertoir Horror Film Festival as it’s the ultimate, ultra-violent crowd pleaser. Why Don’t You Just Die! is set to be released in 2020 through cult label, Arrow Video.
Horror in 2019 was all levels of outstanding, so it will be exciting to see what sights 2020 will show us!