Here we are just squeaking by the midpoint of 2019 and already, as any genre fan can attest, we’ve seen a wealth of outstanding horror films. The following list of 10 titles rates and ranks what have so far been Taste of Cinema’s favorites, but it’s worth pointing out that the months ahead will unleash several anticipated fright films (Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep, Andy Muschietti’s It Chapter Two, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s The Lodge, as well as Rob Zombie’s 3 From Hell, amongst them) that are sure to be added to our year end horror roundup this winter.
A few shoutouts also deserve going out to some better than average reboot/redos that didn’t quite make this list, like Lars Klevberg’s Child’s Play and Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Pet Sematary (not so much a reboot, but it is the second adaptation of King’s best-seller), both worth a watch for horror junkies.
And now, without further ado, here are the films, and be sure to join the conversation in the comments section below (be nice!). Enjoy.
Yes, Hellboy. No doubt a few people will scoff at the inclusion of Neil Marshall’s Hellboy reboot on any list purporting to be a “best of” anything, and won’t read any further down this list –– instead they’ll be writing a douchey insult in the comments below along with a groundless opinion about this film, which they likely haven’t even seen.
Well, that’s the internet for you. I’m here to tell you that the critics and the public got it wrong when they brushed this film aside and treated it with contempt. This Hellboy iteration, the third live-action adaptation of Mike Mignola’s comic book hero, is a diabolical delight.
David Harbour is fine as our eponymous half-demon, a dude who files his horns so he can wear hats, and the film draws on elements from some of Mignola’s strongest Hellboy tales (“Darkness Calls” and “The Wild Hunt” in particular), delivering us nothing but a gory good time.
Hellboy’s an old school 1980s/90s-style monster movie full of early Sam Raimi/Peter Jackson-era splatter that plays out like Evil Dead II meets Labyrinth and now I ask you, how the shit does that not sound completely and totally awesome?
UK-born, LA-based director/composer/writer A.T. White makes a splash with his visionary debut feature, a monster-permeated, apocalyptic-set indie. This artful, horror-themed character study stars Virginia Gardner as Aubrey, a young woman mourning the unexpected death of her best friend, Grace.
Grieving is a personal and complicated journey, and Starfish does this potentially dour theme justice by exploring how self-condemnation can be a painful factor in saying goodbye. Holed up in Grace’s small town apartment, Aubrey soon discovers that while she was wracked with guilt something utterly cataclysmic –– and let’s just say it, Lovecraftian –– has happened to the world.
Thankfully for Aubrey, Grace has left a series of clandestine clues about the unfolding Armageddon via cassette tapes she’s stashed around town. “This Mixtape Will Save the World” reads one, and that’s enough to get Aubrey down the rabbithole in this melancholic and consistently imaginative little movie.
Any genre movie fan worth a lick knows the name of Japanese novelist Ryū Murakami, the transgressive taskmaster behind such brilliant, darkly comical and mad works of terror as “Almost Transparent Blue” and “Audition”, the basis for Takashi Miike’s celebrated psychological horror film from 1999.
And now Nicolas Pesce, the promising writer-director behind 2016’s startling black-and-white mindfuck The Eyes of My Mother, uses Murakami’s 1994 novel “Piercing” as the source material for his latest, a memorable mélange of artful designs, brutal murder, and cruel comic terror.
Reed (Christopher Abbott) is a young man with murder on his mind who sets out to kill a random prostitute, Jackie (Mia Wasikowska), but instead, he finds himself in a messed up love story, of sorts, about two people who find one another at the best possible time in their lives. Or maybe it’s the worst time, depending on your perspective.
Either way you slice it (pun intended), Piercing is an unpredictable, macabre mindbender, with stylistic flourish to spare, a first rate soundtrack (more a mixtape/playlist of your favorite Argento and giallo moments), and some flashy performances from leads that are too likeable considering what sickos they are.
This fast-paced genre entry from producer James Gunn and director David Yarovesky takes a nasty nosedive into rather unexplored waters in the form of superhero horror.
Working with an inspired screenplay from Brian and Mark Gunn (two of James’ prolific brothers), Brightburn reimagines elements from the oft-told Superman origin story that posits the question: what if a child from another world were to crash-land on Earth and be raised amongst us? Only where Clark Kent became a hero to mankind, Brandon Breyer (Jackson Dunn) has much more sinister intentions.
Despite the loving and altruistic efforts of Brandon’s human mom (Elizabeth Banks) and dad (David Denman), once his superpowers start to kick in, he terrorizes his small town in the most murderous means imaginable.
The lower-jaw trauma and eyeball injuries so graphically displayed herein will linger long in the memory of even the most jaded and scrupulous gorehounds. Brightburn works as an effective digression and subversion of superhero tropes, making for an unforgettable freakout.
6. All the Gods in the Sky
Billed as “the debut feature from French madman Quarxx” it’s apparent from All the Gods in the Sky’s very first startling scene that it’s a visionary inauguration from an artist possessing both vision and craft, not to mention a subversive and transgressive gradient perfect for a midnight movie experience.
Simon (Sebastian Barrio) is a middle-aged man living in a dilapidated old farmhouse who’s wracked with intense guilt over a childhood accident that left his younger sister Estelle (Melanie Gaydos) severely disabled. Simon is on a slow and steady descent into madness as he cares for Estelle, all the while invoking ominous extraterrestrial intervention.
If you enjoy arthouse horror, sci-fi fantasy, and fairy tale-like storytelling balanced by relatable yet forbidding human incident, this gobsmacking and gruesome little picture might just blow you away.