Hey there, it’s your friendly neighborhood fringe horror guy back with another year-end list that will either intrigue or anger you. The choice is yours. Because my choices for best horror-ish movies have all been made.
Remember, these are fringe horror movies. Although this year’s list includes more “traditional” horror than it usually does, every movie here has been accused of “not being horror” by someone, most likely in the comments section of the internet. Of course, I’ve also seen It Chapter 2 accused of not being a horror movie in these comments sections, and it literally has a shape-shifting murderous clown, so maybe I really do know as little as people say I do.
So, without further ado, here are my top ten fringe(ish) horror movies of 2019.
10. Knives Out
The body count in Knives Out may be low (it’s one), but it’s a brilliant twist-a-minute tribute to Agatha Christie that will make even the most ardent haters of The Last Jedi forgive writer/director Rian Johnson. Basically, the patriarch of a family turns up dead, and an enigmatic private detective (played by Daniel Craig) has to sort through a mansion full of suspects. Whodunnit indeed.
Parasite is another twisty and turny one that ends as a completely different movie than it started. This Bong Joon-ho joint is about a family of schemers who infiltrates a rich household by posing as skilled and talented workers. But, of course, there’s more to the story than that. Much more.
This one is more of a pure horror flick, possibly the most so on this list. Bliss is about an artist who is under the gun as she faces the terrible combination of a creative block and a looming deadline. She turns to drugs to spark her inspiration, but the drugs she gets are not the normal, run-of-the-mill hallucinogens.
If you’ve ever wondered what would have happened if Superman was evil, Brightburn is for you. It’s basically the origin story of the Man of Steel – a boy comes crashing down from the stars and is raised by a midwestern couple. But this alien child doesn’t stand for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. He’s a naughty little camper.
Ah, yes. Joker. This is ostensibly an origin story for the most notorious villain in pop culture history (at least until Darth Vader came along). It steers away from the comics and makes up a lot of the story in places, but since the Joker has always been a famously unreliable narrator (“wanna know how I got these scars?”), we’re going to allow it. This may be the most important film of the year on a social level, and that’s in a year that includes Parasite.
5. Doctor Sleep
Doctor Sleep is the long overdue cinematic adaptation of Stephen King’s long overdue sequel to The Shining. Director Mike Flanagan does the impossible by bridging the gap between the story telling of King and the visual aesthetic of the 1980 Stanley Kubrick original. Great fun for admirers of either camp, or especially, of both.
4. The Death of Dick Long
Probably the least known movie on this list. Try to go into The Death of Dick Long with as little prior knowledge as possible. If you need a brief synopsis, it’s about a band whose drummer, one Richard Long, winds up dead after a night of partying. His pals spend the next day trying to cover up the cause. This one is more Coen Brothers than traditional horror, but it’s a shocker.
What do you get when you cast a bona-fide Oscar caliber actress to play across from two modern scream queens? You get Greta, that’s what. Elle’s Isabelle Huppert has a devilishly delicious time villainizing Carrie’s Chloë Grace Moretz and It Follows’s Maika Monroe in this stalkery slasher. Along with Ma and The Intruder, this was one of three respected-thespians-tormenting-innocents movies this year, but it’s easily the best of the bunch.
Jordan Peele’s Get Out established the filmmaker as one to watch in the horror world, and Us just confirms that notion. The movie is about a family who goes takes a trip to their vacation home, and are the victims of a home invasion. The kicker is that the invaders are carbon copies of themselves. And it just gets weirder and more disturbing from there. Not quite the social message that Get Out is, but it’s close.
And speaking of establishing a reputation as a master of horror…Ari Aster’s Hereditary was one of last year’s best movies, and Midsommar shows the writer/director picking up right where he left off. Midsommar is about a group of Americans that travels to Sweden for a cultural festival, and things go very wrong. Believe it or not, the three-hour director’s cut is better than the two-and-a-half hour theatrical – and that’s coming from a guy who lives for 80 minute slashers. Midsommar is a brutal treatise on grief and mourning, all wrapped up in a neat little condemnation of toxic relationships. And it’s the best movie of the year.
For more year-end best-of lists, check here.