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The Year in Horror, 2013: Rebekah McKendry’s Best Of

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2013 was a great year for indies. Studio horror pics were still there setting box office records, but the smaller films are the ones that fans clung to and championed. We also saw a burst of horror on television. Granted, SLEEPY HOLLOW, DRACULA, and others may not have been my first choice for scares, but just seeing the major networks support the genre warmed my horror-loving heart. This was also an unexpected year, as many of the films on my list, I honestly did not expect to love as much as I did. Here’s to continuing that trend in 2014!

THE BATTERY

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This is one of the aforementioned films that I really did not expect myself to fall in love with. When I initially heard it was shot for only a few thousand dollars, my skeptical “uh, this is going to be rough” voice clicked on in my head. Fuck that voice. This film is great! Two baseball players travel around New England during a zombie outbreak. THE BATTERY is smart, effective, and should be a textbook for film students on how to make a no-budget movie.

ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE

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So glad this film finally came out.  It only took seven years and multiple owners. Directed by Jonathan Levine, who went on to helm WARM BODIES, MANDY LANE focuses on the titular high schooler (a young Amber Heard), the sexual obsession of the many boys in her class. They vie for her affection on a camping trip, but as a hooded killer begins picking off the students, the film takes a shocking and deadly turn.

BIG ASS SPIDER

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Not the standard Syfy-esque giant animal movie. This is a self-aware, intelligent take on a well-worn subgenre. And unlike many of its giant creature brethren, BIG ASS SPIDER has a smart plot, decent digital effects, rounding out the hilarious comedy.

DARK SKIES

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Another that shocked my pre-conceived notions. I had heard the scathing critical response, so I had low expectations when the Blu-ray came around, but I really enjoyed this atypical alien fare. Instead of focusing on aliens attacking the earth, the focus is on just one family, routing it cinematically as a haunted house picture.

THE CONJURING

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The scariest film of the year, and quite possibly my favorite theatrical experience as well.  I had been reading about the Warrens for years, but nothing beat experiencing the terror through the eyes of James Wan.

HERE COMES THE DEVIL

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A so quiet, but intense film about two children who go missing, and return changed, slightly off. HERE COMES THE DEVIL proceeds at a slow burn but packs startling and shocking punches throughout. Sex-fuelled savagery and Satanism!

EVIL DEAD 

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I did not love every element of this film. The plot (or lack thereof) was a tad brisk, and it was missing a certain low-budget indie charm that the original was steeped in, but I really enjoyed the scares and kill sequences. The FX were outstanding, creating some of the best ultraviolence onscreen in years. So though the framework was not as strong as I would have seen, the meticulous detail given to the gore made this one worth a spot on my list.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

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This series has made my list for the past three years now. As it keeps reinventing itself into new horror genres, I still love where it is going. AMERICAN HORRROR STORY: COVEN is taking a much more classical approach to horror than ASYLUM, which was filled with everything from aliens to Nazis. COVEN found a sweet spot in the dramatic tale of a witch school and their deadly battle with local voodoo mystics. Even though it is less bat-shit than its immediate predecessor, the season has still packed the same amount of disturbing gore, scares, and intense sexuality.

GRABBERS

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Paid for entirely by a Lottery Fund, this Irish film is one of the best horror comedies I’ve seen in a long while. A small island town is under attack by tentacled, blood-sucking aliens and the local police soon discover that the creatures will not drain humans of their life juices if those juices are full of alcohol. Thus, in order to survive the alien attack, the townsfolk must stay drunk…really, really drunk. Dialogue, characters and some stellar effects make this one of my top picks for 2013!

STOKER

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Park Chan-wook directed the hell out of this film, transcending right into an ethereal realm. This story of a young woman, her father’s death and the reemergence of her strange uncle is both decadently beautiful and brutally ugly, often within the same shot. Stylish match cuts, fades, overlays, and lurid lighting bleed from one scene to another. This film is why I love horror cinema so much- it takes unforgiving, ugly subject matter and, through cinema, makes me find beauty and solace in it.

Finally, Everything SCREAM FACTORY released

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It may be unconventional to list a distributor on a top ten list, but if anyone deserves a spot, it’s Scream Factory. Because of their gorgeous releases, I have rediscovered so many horror films I previously overlooked or forgotten about including BODY BAGS, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, LIFEFORCE, SCHIZOID, THE HORROR SHOW, and plenty more.

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About the author
Rebekah McKendry
Rebekah McKendry is the Director of Marketing for Fangoria Entertainment, and additionally she is a college professor teaching classes focused on film history and horror films. She is also an award-winning filmmaker. She has Bachelor's Degrees in Film and English, a MA in Media Education, a MFA in Film, and she is currently completing her PhD in Media Theory focused on horror and exploitation cinema. She is especially passionate about grindhouse films, video nasties, and rare or lost titles.
  • Tweck

    The Horror Show! I’d forgotten about that movie.

  • KCHorrorFan

    Already on board with some of these, will definitely check out the rest! Thanks!

  • Nick S.

    Good list. Also, as per Rebekah’s bottom bio, she has the coolest PhD focus ever!

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