Did Jordan Peele's "Us" scare you as much as "Get Out" did?
Another year, another lineup of horror movies released in cinemas over the course of 12 months.
10) "Pet Sematary"
While some are good, others were from mediocre-to-bad efforts. Instead of focusing on the rotten ones, we rounded up a list of Top 10 horror movies of 2019.
Definitely a kitty not worthy as a pet.
Sure, the original "Pet Sematary" directed by Mary Lambert may have its own fanbase, but the 1989 original was mostly a schlocky piece of horror. By contrast, this 2019 remake from Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer of 2014's "Starry Eyes" fame, fares better. Among the biggest improvements is the better-than-expected cast led by Jason Clarke's engaging turn as Louis Creeds, while Jete Laurence almost steals the limelight as Louis' young daughter, Ellie. The remake is also largely faithful to Stephen King's 1983 bestselling horror novel of the same name, complete with all the thematic elements related to fear of death and resurrection. And kudos also go to the directing duo for being daring enough to make a major change in the later scene. Let's just say it somehow works in its favour, a result that made its downbeat third-act all the more creepy and effective.
9) "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark"
Harold the Scarecrow, one of the horror figures that comes alive in
"Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark".
André Øvredal, the Norwegian filmmaker best known for directing 2010's found-footage horror "Trollhunter", takes the late Alvin Schwartz's beloved trilogy of children's books of the same name and turns this otherwise PG13-rated horror film into a reasonably tense, though sometimes erratic genre piece. The young actors acquit themselves well enough, notably Zoe Colletti's solid turn as Stella Nicholls. The creature effects are worth noting as well, namely the one involving a creepy Harold the scarecrow.
Jackson A. Dunn plays the titular Superman-like character with evil intent in "Brightburn".
Although this James Gunn-produced "Brightburn" doesn't completely fulfil its potential, it's hard to deny the overall huge ambition in this otherwise small-scale horror movie. Get this: the movie takes the famous Superman backstory most of us have grown accustomed to and turns it into a subversive horror version altogether. Instead of portraying the character as a saviour, the boy with Superman-like abilities turns out to be evil. Sure, Josh Trank did this before in "Chronicle" back in 2012 where he mashed the superhero genre with sci-fi horror undertones, but at recent times where we are exposed to the oversaturation of superhero movies, "Brightburn" is considered more of an antidote and give us something different for a change. David Yarovesky, who actually served as the director of this movie, does a good job in staging both the effects-laden and gory moments.
7) "It Chapter Two"
The adult members of Losers' Club in "It Chapter Two".
Whereas the first chapter of "It" released two years ago was a solid combination of Spielbergian-like coming-of-age drama with a clown-centric horror undertone, this second and final instalment doesn't really recapture the same phenomenal success. The shockingly lengthy 169 minute film is largely to be blamed here, with returning director Andy Muschietti attempting to cover various grounds that could have been trimmed shorter. This is particularly evident during the repetitive second act where the adult members of the Losers' Club decide to split up to find their respective artifacts to be used for battling against Pennywise in a ritual. Still, "It Chapter Two" remains an effective and well-acted horror film, thanks to the solid ensemble led by James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain while Bill Hader steals most of the show as Richie Tozier, a role previously played by Finn Wolfhard in the first movie.
6) "Zombieland: Double Tap"
The gang's back for more zombie action in "Zombieland: Double Tap".
For the record, "Zombieland" was more of a one-off movie that didn't really need a sequel. Well, 10 years later, it's here anyway and the result is a sequel simply existing due to its fan-favourite popularity and nostalgia factor. The story still retains the same old episodic-heavy storytelling beats, with only a few tweaks here and there. The jokes are mostly uneven but still, it's hard to deny the winning chemistry seeing all the same actors; Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin; reprising their respective roles with relative ease. There are some notable introductions of new characters including Zoey Deutch as a dumb-blonde character, Madison, while Rosario Dawson brings a feisty edge to her supporting role as the manager of an Elvis-themed motel who falls in love with Woody Harrelson's character. Some of Ruben Fleischer's directions deserve praise as well, notably the hilarious slow-motion opening montage scored to Metallica's "Master of Puppets" and an elaborate setpiece shot in a seemingly unbroken take involving the gang trying to bring down a pair of zombies.
5) "Escape Room"
One of the intense moments in "Escape Room".
The "Cube" and "Saw"-like premise where a few strangers find themselves trapped inside the space while looking for a way out is something that we have seen numerous times before. But that doesn't stop "The Taking Of Deborah Logan" and "Insidious: The Last Key" director Adam Robitel from coming up with a surprisingly effective horror movie after all. The escape-room moments are all thrillingly staged, with the one involving an upside-down bar room being the highlight of the movie. It also helps that Robitel offers ample room for the six actors to give their best, notably Taylor Russell and Deborah Ann Woll's performances as Zoey and Amanda.
4) "Ready Or Not"
Definitely not the bride's happy night with the in-laws in "Ready Or Not".
Suspension of disbelief is definitely required to enjoy the absurdity of "Ready Or Not", which centres on a bride (Samara Weaving) trying to survive her wedding night to avoid getting killed by her husband's crazy family members. Talk about taking the familiar phrase of "till death do us part" to a whole literal, blood-soaked level. The movie's 95-minute runtime is brisk enough while Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett did a splendid job embracing the gleefully over-the-top premise with technically know-how directions. Of course, none of this would have worked if not for Samara Weaving's scene-stealing performance as well as the equally solid ensemble including Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell.
Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper in the scene from "Crawl".
Alligators made a great comeback in Alexandre Aja's "Crawl", a creature feature about a daughter (Kaya Scodelario's Haley) and her injured father (Barry Pepper) stuck in the crawl space of their family home amid the Category 5 hurricane. At just under 90 minutes, Aja wastes little time getting it straight into the action with just enough character development, all without bogging the momentum. Both Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper deliver better-than-expected performances, which is normally not to be expected in this kind of genre. Given the fact that Aja has prior experience in directing creature features in "Piranha 3D" nine years ago, he shows tremendous skills in executing a few suspenseful and close-call moments involving the alligators. Speaking of alligators, the CGI is convincing enough for a movie that only cost a measly USD14 million. No wonder Quentin Tarantino himself named "Crawl" as one of his favourite movies of 2019.
2) "Happy Death Day 2U"
It's all déjà vu experience again with a "Back To The Future Part II" twist in
"Happy Death Day 2U".
Christopher Landon's "Happy Death Day" was no doubt a little gem of a horror movie with "Groundhog Day"-like setup. Two years after the first movie's surprise box-office hit, the sequel, "Happy Death Day 2U", upped the ante by giving us something different than sticking to the same old formula. Let's just say Landon pays homage to "Back To The Future Part II", particularly during the one involving an alternate timeline. The plot may have been convoluted but this is to be expected, given its outlandish premise but Landon is wise enough to keep his pace fast enough to command your attention throughout the brisk 100-minute runtime. Sci-fi undertone aside, the sequel is also blessed with some effective horror-centric moments while Jessica Rothe has again delivered an engaging lead performance as Tree.
Lupita Nyong'o in the scene from Jordan Peele's latest creepy horror-thriller in "Us".
This is it... the numero uno for this year's top horror movie turns out to be Jordan Peele's "Us", the same director who gave us the brilliant socially-conscious horror masterpiece, "Get Out" two years ago. Just like the former, Peele combines horror tropes, comedy and social commentary in his acclaimed sophomore effort. Even the setup itself a fascinating one: a family of four (Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex) is on their vacation when they encounter four mysterious strangers in red jumpsuits that bear striking resemblances like doppelgängers of themselves. The added doppelgänger tone is undoubtedly creepy while Peele's metaphor-heavy screenplay provides neither clear-cut answer nor anything that help to spoonfeed us. This is the kind of movie that demands to be discussed and interpreted, depending on your respective point-of-views. "Us" is also blessed with some of the most intense moments ever seen in a horror movie this year, notably the dread-inducing opening prologue in an amusement park and a violent setpiece in a house scored to The Beach Boy's "Good Vibrations" and N.W.A.'s "F**k The Police". The cast is just as great, with Lupita Nyong'o deserving a special mention in an award-worthy performance as the strong but emotionally vulnerable Adelaide.
Cinema Online, 21 December 2019