My list includes the usual assortment of mainstream, indie, drama, comedy, sci-fi and even horror adjacent films. I've rewatched most of these films and it's surprising how much a second viewing improves my overall experience (Insidious 2, Evil Dead) or ruins it further (sorry World War Z, Room 237). Second viewings allow you to really study the film without the expectations, internet chatter, or misleading trailers that can impact the initial enjoyment.
1. The Conjuring
This is the scariest film of 2013. The actors are fully committed. There is no trace of satire, comedy or other distractions that keep horror movies from achieving a full impact. And best of all, it's an original story not a sequel, remake, reboot or reimagining.
2. You’re Next
It's almost as funny as it thrilling and clever. As someone who doesn't like home invasion themed movies, I found this one to be almost enjoyable in a disturbing way. This is the kind of film where you stand up and root for the hero.
3. Evil Dead
Remakes rarely make anyone's best-of list since many fans refuse to accept that a cherished film is modernized. I found this remake to hold the gleeful, dark spirit of the original intact and it was by far the bloodiest, and goriest film of the year.
4. This is the End
A meta-comedy that delivers both frights and laughs. The cast plays versions of their celebrity selves making this one of the most enjoyable end of the world movies ever.
5. The Borderlands (a.k.a Final Prayer)
This British found footage film is a slow-burn with increasingly disturbing moments of supernatural activity in a church, and features the most harrowing ending that will haunt you for weeks.
6. Warm Bodies
Zombie movies have been done to death so its refreshing to see an original perspective. This one tells a story from the point of view of the zombie who has impaired motor skills but can still think, reason, and yes, feel.
This foreign film is a fun and sometimes silly monster movie that echoes films like Slither and Tremors. Sea creatures descend upon an island community during a terrible storm, and the only way to avoid being eaten is to get thoroughly pissing drunk.
8. My Amityville Horror
The Lutz family experienced 28 days of terror in their infamous Long Island home. 30 years later – and after his parents death – the eldest son agreed to take part in this documentary to tell his side of the story. Whether or not you believe him, the effects of that experience appear in every wrinkle on Daniel Lutz face. It's a fascinating study in what happens to people after a haunting, and the lasting impression it can leave on a scarred soul.
This remake stars the slight Elijah Wood as a serial killer who loves mannequins. It's dark and bleak, and the movie is mainly told through the eyes of the killer making the audience a participant in the brutality. The experience is unnerving, stark and for experienced horror movie fans.
The director of the original Oldboy brings a very foreign and beautiful aesthetic to this story of a very troubled family led the icy queen herself, Nicole Kidman. The performances are brilliant and this family drama quickly turns into an unsettling study of the psychotic mind.
Insidious: Chapter 2 – a good follow-up wraps up the story but ultimately isn't very scary
John Dies at the End – bizarre, funny and entertaining hallucination of movie
American Mary – a great story and cast but fails to drive home a fully satisfying ending
Escape From Tomorrow – another bizarre fever dream of audacious guerrilla filmmaking
Carrie – great performances and effects but still felt too familiar and unnecessary
The World's End – a funny sci-fi film that pits the Simon Pegg against a robot invasion
Byzantium – an atmospheric and bleak take on vampire story worth seeing
We Are What We Are
The Banshee Chapter
Unfortunately, I have not seen the following well-reviewed films, so they too may make it onto an amended list: The Battery, Twixt, and Anti-Viral.
The I Can't Believe It's Not Horror Award
Gravity – Although this sci-fi thriller is not necessarily a genre movie, it was the most heart-stopping movie of the year. Sandra Bullock gives a gut-wrenching performance as an astronaut stranded in space. Director Alfonso Cuarón brought the same intensity and darkness that he brought to Children of Men and the arguably the best of the Harry Potter series, The Prisoner of Azkaban. It's a technical marvel that must be seen in 3D to be fully appreciated, and it reminds us that space is equally awe-inspiring and deadly.