2012 was a great year for horror for a few reasons. First of all, I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of the films that made my list featured strong female leads. Now, with the iconic role of the scream queen, this isn’t entirely surprising in the horror genre. However, some of the leading ladies weren’t portrayed as helpless dames, or even a victim at all. Instead, some filmmakers in 2012 opted to take a different path, and make the female the villain for a change. This is both refreshing and promising for the future of horror, because it means that not only will women be seen as more powerful figures in storytelling, but it also makes the formula harder to predict. The year 2012 also shed light on some wonderful directors who deserve to be recognized, such as Scott Derrickson, Sean Bryne, Ti West, and Richard Bates Jr. All in all, 2012 was a successful year for horror, and 2013 looks like it will be even more exciting. Now, without further delay, here are my top five horror films of 2012.
5. The Innkeepers
This is technically a 2011 film, but it bounced around from festival to festival, until it finally received a limited release in theaters in February of 2012. An antique hotel called the Yankee Pedlar Inn has reached its final days, and the two innkeepers, Claire and Luke, are determined to capture digital evidence of spirits within the building’s ancient walls. The two soon find that some secrets aren’t worth digging up. What makes this story so successful is the tension that builds moderately, keeping the viewer intrigued throughout the entire film. Ti West’s style is heavily influenced by Stanley Kubrick, and he does an immaculate job in capturing the same slow burn that made Kubrick famous. Starring Sara Paxton, The Innkeepers is easily one of the best ghost stories in years.
4. The Loved Ones
When you never say no to your daughter, whether it be about food, clothes, or romantic interests, you wind up with Lola. The definition of a daddy’s girl, Lola sets her sights on a cute boy at school named Brent. When he declines her offer for the school dance, Lola and her father kidnap Brent, and throw their own little morbid prom at their home. Now, Brent must find a way to escape the clutches of his delusional prom date’s fantasy, before it’s too late. Robin McLeavy gives an astounding performance as Lola, the spoiled princess taken to the extreme. Her intimidating stance alone is reason to see this film. Plus, there are some truly beautiful scenes that paint a serene picture against this macabre mess.
Pauline is just like every other teenage girl. She enjoys reading, has problems with her mother, and occasionally drifts off into sexual fantasies. The only difference is, when she has erotic dreams, they’re filled with blood. Raised by her negligent parents and sister to a sufferer of cystic fibrosis, Pauline often finds that her troubled voice goes unheard. As she drifts farther and farther into the mouth of madness, the lines between pretend and reality blur. Watching her tumble down the rabbit hole is both fascinating and terrifying, and the ending will leave you breathless.
2. The Cabin in the Woods
This mind-bending game of life and death puts a new spin on the traditional story of the cabin in the woods. By letting the viewer in on the secret from the beginning, the film manages to tell the same story from two different perspectives: the characters onscreen, and the audience watching. Six friends travel to a remote cabin for a quiet retreat, but they’ll be lucky to leave with their lives. Drew Goddard makes an impressive mark as a leading director of a film that combines horror, comedy, romance, and self-awareness, to mold into one of the most intelligent horror movies ever made. I don’t want to spoil the ending for those that haven’t seen it, but I would advise watching this movie quickly, before the internet inevitably reveals the truth. The only reason why this wasn’t number one on the list is because I found the following film to be more terrifying.
Here’s one that I’m really surprised didn’t make it onto more of the “best of 2012” lists. If you’re tired of watching supposed horror movies that don’t even make you flinch, then this film is for you. Ethan Hawke’s strong performance, along with Scott Derrickson’s impressive writing and direction, combine to create a new adaptation of found footage, which is seemingly impossible in a genre that’s overrun with the style. Not only is the look of the film frightening, but the sharp, teeth-grinding, gritty music adds an edge that fits perfectly with the unearthly tone. All of the unique aspects of this thriller make it the best horror movie of 2012, a spot that’s well deserved for such an eerie, well-made feature. I can’t wait to see what Derrickson comes up with next.
ParaNorman – Some of the best stop-motion animation in years, and the homages to older horror films are enough to make any genre fan happy.
Chronicle – Not everyone will agree with me on this one, but I was surprised by how much I liked this found footage film. I expected a more extreme climax, but it was enjoyable to watch.
V/H/S – I had to see this one twice to really get a feel for it, but I’d say this horror anthology is worth watching. “Amateur Night” and “Second Honeymoon” are my favorite segments from the movie.
The Barrens – The director of the Mother’s Day remake provides an interesting take on the tale of the New Jersey devil, and Stephen Moyer shows just how much range he has as an actor, in this urban legend brought to life.