The Top Ten Horror Films of 2019: Jon’s Totally Subjective List
’Tis the season…
8. The Dead Center
A screening of Billy Senese’s The Dead Center was one of my highlights of this year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend. The film hooks you right away, with the story of a dead man who wakes up in a morgue. He can’t remember much, but what soon becomes clear is that something terrible has returned with him. Shane Carruth plays a doctor trying to understand what is going on with his patient. The Dead Center starts small and intimate, but ultimately goes to much larger—and much, much darker—places. This was a film that took up residence in my mind. I was able to revisit The Dead Center in October, when Arrow Films released it, and am glad to say that it holds up to repeat viewings. This is striking cinema, that upon your first viewing will leave you surprised at where it goes. Jeremy Burgess reviewed the film after it played the Chattanooga Film Festival.
7. Daniel Isn’t Real
Adam Egypt Mortimer’s sophomore feature Daniel Isn’t Real feels right at home on the SpectreVision roster. Daniel Isn’t Real blends strong central performances, heady psychedelia, surprising moments of body horror, and commentaries on mental health and damaged—and damaging—masculinity. Daniel Isn’t Real had a limited theatrical release and hit VOD in December, and immediately joined the ranks of the year’s best. The film should leave viewers anxiously anticipating Mortimer’s next movie, the superhero riff Archenemy. It also further solidifies SpectreVision’s reputation, both as a studio to watch and as one willing to take chances on unconventional and challenging films. My review of Daniel Isn’t Real can be found here.
6. I Trapped the Devil
Josh Lobo’s I Trapped the Devil has regularly been likened to The Twilight Zone. It’s an apt comparison, and Lobo cites the episode “The Howling Man” as an inspiration. The movie also shares DNA with some of the greats of Satanic cinema from the last 50 years—from The Sentinel, to Prince of Darkness, to House of the Devil, which also shares some of its cast with I Trapped the Devil. The film combines an unseen and possibly demonic antagonist, a claustrophobic setting, and a completely unsettling score and sound design. The resulting mix gets under your skin, crawls into your head, and refuses to leave. Oh yeah… Did I mention yet that it’s a Christmas movie? Earlier this year I had the opportunity to speak with Josh Lobo about the film. You can also read my review of I Trapped the Devil here.
5. One Cut of the Dead
Shin’ichirô Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead had a strange path to this list. The film was originally released in Japan in late 2017, then played festival dates in 2018 before being released online illegally on Amazon Prime, then legitimately on Shudder this year in the United States. At a time when even the most die-hard fans of zombie cinema are feeling fatigued, One Cut of the Dead comes along to prove there’s still some life in the undead. I’ll keep my remarks here brief and somewhat vague, as this is truly a movie that benefits from going in knowing as little as possible. Despite the fact that zombie films have been done to death by this point, One Cut of the Dead brings something unique and so damned joyful to the table that it’s a must-see for fans of the genre, and for anyone interested in the art and struggles of filmmaking. Finley Ash’s mostly spoiler-free review can be found here.
The list continues on the next page…