The new year beckons, bringing with it a retrospective glance at my favourite films of 2013. I managed to catch a lot of new horror this year, from remakes (notably Evil Dead and the not-so-notable Oldboy) to sequels (a couple of which are on this list) through to straight to DVD oddities and fantastic re-releases of old films. It's been a strong year for horror, making this list an easy one to compile, with no padding.
10. Texas Chainsaw 3D It's an annual tradition that my Top 10 of any given year always starts with one entry that I shouldn't have really enjoyed, but did anyway. Last year I was tickled by Fetish Dolls Die Laughing (niche viewing, to say the least) and the year before that, it was the desperate depravity that was The Human Centipede 2. This year, it's Texas Chainsaw 3D, an ill-advised sequel to Tobe Hooper's original film and attempt at rebooting the franchise. It has its heart in the right place, and there are some very good scenes of chainsaw carnage to be found, but, ultimately, it's a failure. Always good to see Leatherface back on the big screen though.
9. Maniac The first remake on this list, Maniac is a superior retelling of the flawed but entertaining William Lustig film of the same name. Elijah Wood takes the title role as crazed mannequin fancier Frank, who takes to the street murdering innocent women following a traumatic childhood. Shot mostly from Frank's point of view, like some terrifying version of Peep Show, it's gruesome, shocking and fantastic fun. Not all remakes are bad, see?
8. The Lords of Salem Rob Zombie's previous films have always been a little hit-and-miss to me. While his House of 1000 Corpses and Devil's Rejects look great and have their visceral thrills, I've always found the director's style to lack substance on any level beyond pastiche. And then there's the matter of his Halloween films... The Lords of Salem, however, might just be his best work yet. Dark, moody and more subtle than his previous features, its story will stick with you for weeks afterwards, while Sheri Moon Zombie gives a career-best performance as doomed DJ Heidi Hawthorne.
7. V/H/S/2 While I thought the original V/H/S to be something of a wasted opportunity, high on misogyny and low on ideas, the creators really bring their A-game to this sequel. The Raid director Timo Tjahjanto's Safe Haven might last only fifteen minutes or so, but it's the best found footage film I've seen since [REC]. The other segments of this horror chocolate orange aren't to be sniffed at either.
6. Hatchet 3 Victor Crowley returns in a sequel which gives us Caroline Williams, Zach Galligan and Parry Shen... again. It's effectively the same film as the previous two, but that's fine – the Hatchet experience never seems to last long enough for my tastes.
5. Django Unchained Spike Lee may have very vocally denounced Tarantino's slavery epic, but I thought it (as its place on this list may suggest) one of the best films of the year. Jaimie Foxx plays the titular Django, released from slavery and trained as a bounty hunter by kindly gun-for-hire Dr. King Schultz (an adorable Christoph Waltz). Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent as the villainous Calvin Candie, while the less said of Tarantino's cameo the better. Hey, Lee, you know what isn't on this Best of 2013 list (or any other, for that matter)? Your Oldboy remake.
4. A Field in England Were it not for the excellent Dredd, Ben Wheatley's sublime Sightseers would have topped my Top 10 of 2012. Not far behind that is his Field in England – a surreal, unsettling British civil war film set in, well, a field in England. Reece Shearsmith is well-cast as the lead, while Michael Smiley is terrifying as the villain of the piece. Released on TV, DVD, cinemas and On Demand on the same day, it doesn't matter how you watched it – so long as you did.
3. Curse of Chucky I was lucky enough to catch Curse of Chucky at my first Frightfest. The audience reaction was incredible – and rightly so, for Don Mancini's return to the franchise is a resounding success. This film revitalises Chucky, making him scary again while also remaining one of the funniest I've seen all year. The Curse of Chucky? It's really fucking good!
2. Evil Dead Another remake, this one near the top of the list. Fede Alvarez's remake of the old Eighties classic didn't disappoint, being as violent, gory and exciting as everyone hoped it would be. Very groovy indeed.
1. From Beyond The best film of 2013 is... an old Stuart Gordon film from the Eighties? For my money, the best film of any year is an old Stuart Gordon film from the Eighties. I'd searched, in vain, for From Beyond for years before this fantastic Blu-ray re-release found its way to me. Better, even, than his classic Re-animator, it reunites Gordon with leads Jeffrey Combs (fabulous, as always) and Barbara Crampton, loosely adapts an old HP Lovecraft story and throws a little purple speedo-wearing Ken Foree in there too. The best film Stuart Gordon has ever made, the best Lovecraft adaptation ever made (unless you actually wanted to see a faithful adaptation, that is) and the best release of 2013.
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for HorrorTalk and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.