I’m going to come right out and say that I think this was a uniquely abysmal year for horror movies. It isn’t even that the options on hand were terrible so much as most of them ranged from being over-rated to being meh. In fact, its such a bad year for this genre that there was only one horror movie all year that I even gave a positive rating to, and even that one only barely squeezed through. As such there’s pretty much only one thing a film needed to do in order to get nominated in this category this year: not be as bad as The Purge.
- The Conjuring: A lot of people seemed to like this movie when it came out, and I’m not really sure why. It’s a fairly competently crafted film, and I guess that’s what people were responding to, but that wasn’t enough to make up for the fact that it’s an aggressively clichéd entry in the genre. It’s absolutely shameless in its regurgitation of tricks and scares that have already been run into the ground by other haunted house movies, and that more or less killed it for me. However, it was not as bad as The Purge.
- Evil Dead: Horror remakes are usually a doomed enterprise, but every once in a while they work out. For the record, I didn’t see the Carrie remake and can’t tell you whether or not it’s as bad as The Purge, but I can pretty conclusively say that this Evil Dead remake isn’t. Of course I’m maybe a bit more prone to be non-judgemental about it if only because I’m not all that crazy about the original The Evil Dead (which is a film I view more as an energetic low budget project than as a real horror film). This remake is made pretty cometantly and has some effectively queasy gore.
- Insidious Chapter 2: There were two James Wan helmed horror films this year: The Conjuring and Insidious Chapter 2. The Conjuring was probably the better acted and directed of the two, but Insidious Chapter 2 was the more creative of the two… well at the very least it was the sequel to a film that had an interesting twist on the haunting genre and was able to carry over that twist. At the very least it managed to surprise me in a few places, which is more than I can say for The Conjuring. That said, it’s still a pretty flawed and problematic film, but not as flawed and problematic as The Purge.
- V/H/S 2: At the center of V/H/S 2 is a 30 to 40 minute segment directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans called “Safe Haven” which in and of itself may be one of the few horror movies this year worthy of more than the dubious honor of merely being “not as bad as The Purge.” In that short we see a small group infiltrate a strange Indonesian cult and… well, things get crazy from there. Its good stuff, unfortunately it’s just one small part of an otherwise unimpressive anthology film that isn’t much better than the last V/H/S.
- You’re Next: I was kind of hoping that this would be the great horror movie that would save this genre in 2013, but that wasn’t to be. This home invasion thriller is in the rather awkward position of being too deconstructionist to be scary but not deconstructionist enough to really work as a sort of meta-comedy. As such it feels like a movie that was made by people who put a great deal of thought into the mechanics of the slasher film but not enough thought into creating the atmosphere of dread and menace that’s needed to really fuel such a film. It’s certainly a lot better than dreck like The Purge, but I don’t think it really worked overall.