As the rest of the cinematic landscape is dominated by remakes, reboots, and sequels, horror remains the one genre where an original idea can still thrive. And while horror certainly has its share of all those (including a few on this list), we’re thrilled to say that 2019 was filled with a variety of fun, creative, and compelling horror. So let’s dive in to the top 10 best horror films of 2019!
(Click on any title for our full review)
As superhero films reign supreme at the box office, the Gunn family saw fit to put the horror spin on this incredibly popular genre. While it’s so close to the Superman story, we’re honestly surprised that DC and Warner Bros. didn’t sue, Brightburn sets itself apart with horror and brutality far exceeding anything we expected. As Brandon commits to his evil purpose to “take the world” his kills are beautifully brutal and gleefully gory, satisfying even the most twisted of horror fans.
9. The Head Hunter
Amazingly shot for only an estimated $30K, The Head Hunter shows how minimalism can really work to a film’s advantage. Relying less on dialogue/overt scares, and more on cinematography/atmosphere, it manages to a tell a story that it trusts the audience to mostly infer. And in a sea of films that feel the need to dumb things down to the lowest common denominator, this is a welcome change.
One part Se7en, one part Exorcist, all parts awesome, Belzebuth delves deeply into demonology, but with the grounded approach of a crime thriller. So many demonic horror films try very hard to “outdo” the ones that came before, and this usually results in an absolute lack of subtlety.
Fortunately for this film, it walks the like brilliantly. And there’s no discussing it without mentioning how cool it is to see Jigsaw himself as a renegade priest, doomed to go to hell, but who still faces down demons and exorcises them!
7. Annabelle Comes Home
While both Conjuring films have been nothing short of brilliant, their spinoffs are very hit (Annabelle Creation, The Curse of La Llorona) or miss (Annabelle, The Nun). Annabelle Comes Home is without a doubt the best of them, simply because of how it ties into The Conjuring films, along with the entire career of Ed and Lorraine Warren.
The moment we saw all the cursed items in their house, we knew that this was a treasure trove of stories, waiting to be told. And it was even more enjoyable for those who are familiar with their real life cases, and recognized many of those haunted objects.
6. The Prodigy
Evil kids are nothing new in Hollywood (we’re looking at you Damien), but The Prodigy does so while still being mostly grounded in reality. Perhaps it’s because they don’t deal directly with the devil or anything demonic, it just seems a bit more plausible (despite the slight supernatural element). The only thing more disturbing than the murderous, vengeful child is that ending, which is far too good to be spoiled. If you haven’t seen it, check it out!
5. Doctor Sleep
Out of the all the films on this list, Doctor Sleep had the most monumental task of all. Not only did it need to live up to what is considered by many to be the greatest horror film of all time, but it also needed to be faithful adaptation to King’s sequel novel, as well as reconcile it with Kubrick’s film, while taking into account King’s utter disdain for it.
It’s not a perfect film, but it does a great job of balancing and juggling all this. Ewan McGregor really shines as a Danny that makes a lot of sense, considering the trauma of his past. And while it does contain a good bit of fan service, it’s done at the just the right amount, and really feels earned. No Shining fan can remain silent when they see Danny’s car drive up the mountain, and hear that iconic synthesizer music!
The next three items on this list could all be categorized as awesome follow ups by directors who had made a game changing horror film in the last few years, so let’s start! After bringing much needed prestige back to the genre by getting several Oscar nominations for Get Out, Jordan Peele’s next project delved even further into horror territory.
Us feels like a twisted Twilight Zone premise realized to its full disturbing potential. Unlike Get Out, its social/political commentary is much more nuanced, and even up for interpretation. Not to say that Get Out wasn’t subtle, but its message was much more direct. Us, on the other hand, can leave 5 different viewers with 5 different meanings, and that’s very much the point.
After delivering one of the best horror films of 2018 with Hereditary, Ari Aster wasted no time getting Midsommar out in theaters barely a year later. Much like Hereditary, Midsommar takes the slow burn approach, building tension and dread throughout its runtime.
But when the time comes for payoff, it’s brutal, visceral, and leaves the viewer unsettled for days to come. It’s the kind of horror film that you’re still thinking about days after watching it.
2. The Lighthouse
Robert Eggers proved with 2015’s The Witch that his obsessive attention to detail can create true immersion into a different world and time. He successfully did the same with The Lighthouse this year. Equipped only with two actors, one location, and a slow descent into madness, this film is an experience unlike any other.
We feel the tension building between Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson’s characters, all while feeling like we’re slowly losing our minds as well. It’s awkward, uncomfortable, and unsettling, but it’s so damn hard to look away!
1. Ready or Not
It may not be the most arthouse, the most politically infused, or even the most stereotypically “critically pleasing” film on the list, but Ready or Not knows exactly what it’s going for, and sticks the landing with a perfect 10.
We’ve seen plenty of films involving people hunting other people, but none do so with a gleefully dark sense of humor quite like Ready or Not. Among its cast of misfits, there’s not a single weak link and every character manages to steal scenes from everyone else. Its delightfully absurd ending probably wouldn’t work for most other films, but here it feels not only earned, but expected.
Which picks do you agree/disagree with? What were your favorite horror movies of the year?! Let us know in the comments below! For more reviews, rankings, and other fun horror content, follow Halloween Year-Round on Facebook and Twitter!