The Top 13 Horror Movies of 2019
By Jack Campisi
It’s time again to take a look back at the year in horror movies and pick the cream of the crop. 2019 came out of the gate slowly and only few flicks seemed worthy of a top ten list, let alone a top thirteen list. Luckily, a lot of good stuff arrived later in the year. There’s plenty to like, so let’s get started.
Jordan Peele’s second movie was a huge hit and he has quickly risen to the top of the horror genre. US is a doppelganger movie with strong themes, striking visuals and a great cast. While I had a good time watching this movie, I was not as impressed with it as many others. I thought it kind of fell apart at the end. However, it did have some really creepy moments and a lot of well-placed laughs. I do love its originality and the effect it has had on popular culture. It’s great to see so many mainstream people embracing a horror movie. I look forward to more from Mr. Peele.
12: In Fabric
Yes, it’s the story of a haunted dress… and yes, it actually works. I had a hard time deciding if IN FABRIC would make my list, or if it would end up as an honorable mention. I decided to add it because it has stuck with me more than most of the movies I watched in 2019. It’s a throwback to 60s and 70s Italian horror movies but done with a healthy dose of twisted humor. It’s kind of like Suspiria mixed with a little Shawn of the Dead and Tales from the Crypt and a splash of Hammer horror aesthetics. I had super low expectations for this one and I was pleasantly surprised.
11: Zombieland: Double Tap
ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP is like comfort food; it takes me to my happy place. Ten years after the beloved Zombieland gnawed its way into our hearts, comes the sequel we never expected. I was psyched when I heard they got they entire original cast back. They all are in top form, especially Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg. Newcomer Zoey Deutch practically steals the movie, but that honor goes to Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch. Their “doppelganger” scene is one of funniest things I’ve seen this year. Oh, and one last thing, be sure to stick around until after the credits.
The ultimate popcorn horror flick of the year. This movie crept up on me like a hungry gator in a dark crawlspace. CRAWL is just a good, old fashioned creature feature. It’s tense, fast paced and extremely entertaining. Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride.
9: One Cut of the Dead
This is a movie about a zombie movie, but it’s much more than that. ONE CUT OF THE DEAD was a ton of fun. You won’t know what the heck you are watching at first but stick with it. The payoff in the third act is amazing. I had such a good time watching this movie, and it’s astounding what they were able to pull off with such a tiny budget. If you are a horror fan, or a fan of filmmaking, be sure to check it out.
HARPOON was not on a lot on people’s radar this year and I am so happy someone suggested it to me. It’s about three friends stranded on a yacht in the middle of the ocean, caught in some kind of nasty, snarky love triangle. Will the elements kill them, or will they kill each other? This is a tight little thriller with a great sense of humor. Good writing and a sharp cast elevate this movie and comedian Brett Gelman’s narration takes it to the next level.
VILLIANS is the story of two small time crooks on the run who break into the wrong home. After they discover a frightening secret in the house they must contend with the crazy and sadistic homeowners. VILLIANS is darkly funny and full of surprises. It was in theaters for a second last summer and I missed it. Luckily, it finally showed up on VOD before the end of the year and immediately made it onto my best-of list. It boasts a killer line-up: Bill Skarsgård, Maika Monroe, Jeffrey Donovan, and Kyra Sedgwick. Each one of these stars crush it.
In BLISS we meet Dezzy, a struggling artist who’s in a rut and up against deadlines for her paintings. She is introduced to a drug called Bliss and goes on a debaucherous bender in the clubs of LA. Afterwards, she’s invigorated, inspired and oddly enough, finds herself craving human blood. This is a wild, frenetic and grimy movie that features an amazing performance by Dora Madison, who throws everything she’s got into this role. For a low budget movie, they certainly got a lot of bang for their buck. I really enjoyed this one.
What a long, strange trip this movie is. Dani and Christian are a couple that should really break-up but won’t for various reasons. Dani invites herself to join Christian and his friends on a trip to a midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village. Things slowly get weirder and scarier as the friendly villagers may be hiding a sinister agenda. MIDSOMMAR is Ari Aster’s follow up to Hereditary and he’s hit another home run.
4: Tigers Are Not Afraid
Wow, what a movie. TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID is a visually stunning film that combines horror and fantasy elements against the backdrop of the Mexican drug wars. It follows a group of homeless, orphaned children on the run from the drug lords and ghosts. The kids in this movie are flat out amazing and the story is heart-wrenching. TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID is a small and beautiful movie with equal amounts of dread and soul.
3: The Nightingale
Just between you and me, this is probably the best movie on this list. THE NIGHTINGALE is not necessarily a pure horror movie, but a lot of horrific things happen in it. It’s set in a British penal colony in Tasmania in 1825. It follows Clare Carroll, a young convict seeking revenge for violence committed upon her and her family by the British soldiers. She enlists the help of Billy, an Aboriginal tracker, whose people are also at odds with the British. The violence is brutal and graphic, but never gratuitous. It always serves the story. This is a dark and haunting movie, but surprisingly uplifting in the end. Director Jennifer Kent (of The Babadook fame) is brilliant, pure and simple. The entire cast is great, with Aisling Franciosi delivering a powerful performance in the lead role.
2: Ready or Not
READY OR NOT is a freaking a blast. A young bride must partake in her new husband’s family tradition of playing a game on their wedding night. She draws a card and gets Hide and Seek. What follows is a deadly, bloody and often hilarious game of cat and mouse, as the bride is hunted by her pretentious and homicidal in-laws. Can she survive until dawn? Can anyone? This was the most fun I had at the movies this year and READY OR NOT was almost my top pick overall. Once again, Samara Weaving shines bright here. Adam Brody is also a standout. Best of all, they really stick the landing. This movie had the best ending of any film this year.
1: Doctor Sleep
A sequel to The Shining? This movie could have pissed off a lot of people, including me. Young Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) may have escaped the Overlook Hotel, but 40 years later, his experience there still haunts him. He meets a girl with a “shine” lot like his. Now Danny must protect her from the evil that pursues her and finally confront the ghosts of his past. Hats off to Mike Flanagan because he pulled off a miracle. The Shining movie is sacred ground to a lot of people and so is the book. Many people love both and many don’t… particularly Stephen King, who is not shy in his disdain for Kubrick’s take on his novel. Somehow, Flanagan delivers an immensely entertaining movie that is satisfying to all parties involved, and even has the blessings of Mr. King himself. Flanagan clearly has a love of the material and it shows in every frame. Poor marketing hurt this movie at the box office, but it is one that should not be missed.
Daniel Isn’t Real
But wait, there’s more!
Be sure check out Hunter Shea’s Top 13 list at his blog and listen to the Final Guys podcast to hear Hunter, Jason and I discuss our picks.