It's been a great year to love scary movies. 2019 offered a wide variety of horror films, from the frightening to the fascinating, fun, and f***ed up. There were women in white, side-splitting zombies, child-chasing ghouls, fearsome Final Girls, and brutally bad boyfriends. All of them giving us chills, thrills, and reasons to scream in excitement, fear, and even frustration. It's been a rush.
So, as we prepare to say goodbye to this year, SYFY FANGRRLS is taking the opportunity to toast the very best of 2019 horror movies with a top 10 list sure to spook you.
"I know love exists."
2019 kicked off with some seriously solid horror thanks to a scrappy indie out of Canada. On New Year's Day, American audiences were gifted writer/director Justin McConnell's terrifically twisted tale of a serial killing shapeshifter, who extends his life by taking the lives — and forms — of his victims. Though studded with body horror, gruesome gore, and much murder, this is a story about love — at least, according to the monster at its center. And that's where things get really interesting. With an unreliable narrator and a thoughtful exploration of rape culture, McConnell made a movie that's not only skin-crawlingly scary but rivetingly relevant to the MeToo era.
One Cut Of the Dead
"Keep on shooting!"
This was a year rife with zombie comedies, from the Adam Driver-fronted The Dead Don’t Die to Lupita Nyong'o's Little Monsters and the long-awaited sequel Zombieland 2: Double Tap. But the best of this humorous horde rose from Japan. Gathering buzz on a world-trekking film festival tour, Shin'ichirô Ued's One Cut of The Dead awed critics and genre fans alike with its meta and madcap spin on zombie movies. It all begins with a bullying director who goes to extreme lengths to get an authentically frightened performance out of the lead actress of his undead drama. Much silliness and B-movie gore can be enjoyed here, as well as an impressive 37-minute long take. Then, this bitingly brilliant flick lunges in a wickedly clever new direction that will make you want to watch it again. Immediately.
Knives and Skin
"Our lips are sealed."
"Horror" and "musical" are words that don't often go together. Yet writer/director Jennifer Reeder has managed dark magic with her genre-bending jam, Knives and Skin. The story centers on a small town thrown into spin when a local band geek goes missing. While grappling with mortality, domestic disharmony, and the unwinnable binary offered teen girls, its characters break into cryptic covers of '80s pop songs that are beautiful and bittersweet. The result is a film that's surreal, stylish, spooky, and stupendously bold.
"There's someone in the house!"
If you think you know Black Christmas, think again. Writer/director Sophia Takal teamed with writer/podcaster April Wolfe to create a fresh and feminist spin of the 1974 cult classic. The basic concept remains: a mysterious murderer menaces a sorority house of holiday-celebrating co-eds. But that is soon spun into a more sinister story of conspiracy, misogyny, and kickass heroines. All they want for Christmas is to take back this not-so-silent night. Salty and scary, it's a perfect treat for a girls' night out.
Ready Or Not
"You wanted to get married."
Family game night has never been so lethal as in this twisted tale of cats-and-mouse. Created by Radio Silence, Ready Or Not stars the dazzling and dynamic Samara Weaving as a spirited bride whose introduction to her in-laws grows gruesome over a devilish family tradition. To earn her spot in the wealthy family and their board game empire, she must survive a version of hide-and-seek that involves shotguns, crossbows, and a sunrise deadline. But this bride came to play, proving a vibrant and vengeful force in a film filled with biting comedic beats, fascinating characters, and ghoulish spectacle.
Tigers Are Not Afraid
"We are princes. We are warriors. And tigers."
Written and directed by Issa López, Tigers Are Not Afraid delivers a fractured fairy tale about a brave little girl on a frightening quest. Set in a city ravaged by drugs, corruption, and cartel violence, Estrella (Paola Lara) hangs onto whatever hope she can when her mother vanishes. The girl has visions of blood, but with the help of three magical wishes, a gang of lost boys, and a whispering ghost, she sets off to find her missing mother. López casts a spell over her audience, enchanting us with a world full of horror yet alive with wonder. It's no surprise this fantastic film has earned praise from fantasy masters like Guillermo Del Toro and Neil Gaiman.
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
"Do you want to see a haunted house?"
Inspired by the creepy and coveted children's books of the same name, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark aimed to appeal both to nostalgic grown-ups and a whole new generation of horror fans. Trollhunter director André Øvredal and visionary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro did just that by bringing to life such goosebump-bringing stories as "The Pale Lady," "The Red Spot," and "Harold." With creepy creatures, vicious verve, and a PG-13 rating, this was a frightening film that parents and kids could enjoy together. After all, the family that screams together has nightmares about murderous scarecrows together.
"I don't know about magic. I always called it 'the shining.'"
Though he's built his reputation on supremely scary adaptations like The Haunting of Hill House and Gerald's Game, writer/director Mike Flanagan had his work cut out for him when he set out to make a sequel to The Shining. Should such a movie follow the path laid by Stephen King's novel and its follow-up tale of Danny Torrance all grown-up? Or should it continue the version spun by Stanley Kubrick's classic but controversial adaptation of The Shining? Flanagan ambitious aimed for both in a bold new vision that offers nerve-gnawing suspense, trippy action, and harrowing horror. Plus, it gave us the gift of Rebecca Ferguson as the deadly and seductive Rose The Hat. There was a string of Stephen King adaptations hitting this year, from Pet Sematary to It: Chapter Two and In The Tall Grass. But Doctor Sleep proved the best of the bunch.
"If you want to get crazy, we can get crazy."
With his directorial debut Get Out, celebrated comedian turned horror-helmer Jordan Peele left audiences drop-jawed and ravenous for more. For his ferocious follow-up, he offered another original tale of terror that targeted a hidden evil lurking in the heart of American society. Considering his first outing scored him an Academy Award, the anticipation and expectations were sky-high for whatever film Peele would present next. Us did not disappoint. It offered a chilling and cerebral adventure in which a loving family is forced to fight for their lives against deadly doppelgangers. While the whole ensemble cast did an outstanding job in paired parts, Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o sparked goosebumps and broke hearts with a double-act that has some screaming she deserves another Oscar.
Last year, writer/director Ari Aster blew audiences away with his ferociously frightening directorial debut Hereditary. This year, he gave us a follow-up that was less soul-scathingly scary, but sensationally satisfying all the same. Like its predecessor, Midsommar follows a heartbroken woman through a life-changing, sanity-threatening event. In this case, American tourist Dani (force of nature Florence Pugh) has her world turned upside down when she follows her boyfriend (Jack Reynor) to a remote Swedish village for a mysterious mid-summer festival. There will be blood, betrayals, a spine-tingling score and screaming so agonized it'll echo in your pounding chest. Here, Aster favors a brand of horror that's less jump scares and more creeping, suffocating dread. Then, he reminds us of the grand possibilities of horror, not only to scare but to heal. At the end of this burningly brilliant film, he offers audiences a climax that is both bracing and cathartic, like doing a shot of ceremonial liquor. Skoal!