It’s a great year for horror fans already, and even though a few months are ahead of us, we can start summarising the genre’s offerings in 2019.
What were the best horror movies of 2019 in the first six months of the year? What were the titles that we would all be happy to erase from memory?
When looking at the box office, it’s clear that the audiences worldwide loved “Us” by Jordan Peele.
The movie finished its run with an astonishing $175 million, on the box office podium with bronze medal (“Avengers: Endgame” and “Captain Marvel” respectively first and second). While this probably stems from an incredible success of Peele’s stellar debut “Get Out”, “Us” gained raving reviews and cemented the rise of horror as the genre with most promising future to look forward to. Second in the genre came “Pet Sematary” with just above $53 million worldwide.
Note: this article is going to be updated as new movies arrive.
#17 Hellboy (2019)
Plot: A brand new take on the comic book character from hell, this time Hellboy needs to stop a blood-curdling witch Nimue before she’s brought back to life to wreak havoc everywhere.
Guillermo Del Toro’s “Hellboy” and “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army” worked thanks to the light, fun treatment of the whole story. Ron Perlman’s Hellboy was a thick-skinned guy, but nonetheless charming. And given the fabulous setting fueled by Del Toro’s exquisite imagination, these two movies overcame the childishness of source material.
The 2019 reboot reaches for gore, f-bombs, and crude humor to lay out a plodding story of a superhero who can’t decide whether he’s a good boy or a bad boy. It’s been the topic of two previous installments, and the new movie doesn’t bring anything new to the table.
The visual aspect, fueled by CGI, harvests stuff from “The Brothers Grimm” and “Resident Evil” to offer a shapeless, soulless pap.
Hardly ever I wish to unsee a movie, but “Hellboy” managed to reach this level of awfulness. And seeing Mila Jovovich desperately trying to defend this crap makes it even more cringeworthy.
Click here to read my full review of “Hellboy”.
#16 Ma (2019)
Plot: Teenagers in a small town meet Sue Ann, a creepy lady who lets them party in her basement. Soon, Sue Ann, better known as Ma, begins to show her true, sadistic nature.
When I first saw the trailer of “Ma”, I could smell its stink from miles away. And the film, directed by Tate Taylor, didn’t surprise me at all.
It is one of the most Ill-conceived, loose stories that found their ways to the cinemas this year. Taylor has neither grip nor storytelling skills to make “Ma” work as a witty, twists-filled thriller. Instead, the movie wastes more than 90 minutes on a story that you couldn’t care less about, with teenagers who act as if they’ve never watched a horror movie in their lives.
The only question I have is what the hell is Octavia Spencer doing there.
Here’s a full review of “Ma”.
#15 Havana Darkness (2019)
Plot: Three friends travel to Havana after one of them finds a mysterious notebook of Ernest Hemingway. The book leads to a secret place, where the three get trapped and forced to play a deadly game.
There’s never enough ways to kill a decent idea for a horror movie. In “Havana Darkness”, director Guillermo Ivan couldn’t handle a script as simple as three people and one torture house. In a dragged-out part when the protagonist wanders around Havana, the cinematography feels like ripped out of a documentary about Cuban history. There’s no tension, and the plot moves in a slowcoach pace, giving time to irrelevant sidestory of a couple that travelled along.
“Havana Darkness” is dull, and there is no amount of special effects, crossbows, machetes or Cuban scenic shots that could save this little horrid piece.
Click here to read the full review of “Havana Darkness”.
#14 The Curse of La Llorona (2019)
Plot: A curse is cast upon children of a social worker in the 70s in Los Angeles, when she finds one of her proteges possessed by the terrifying La Llorona.
Boy, oh boy. “The Curse of La Llorona” was everything but scary, and while it provides a hell lot of fun, it happens for all wrong reasons. The director of the film presents a ridiculous dependence on jump scares, moving like a scared child in the dark whenever his film requires a bit of plot or world building.
As an addition to the “Conjuring” universe, “The Curse of La Llorona” adds just as much as a ton of sand on a desert. Still, it’s been wildly entertaining to see so much bad filmmaking packed in one film.
#13 The Lodge (2019)
Plot: A woman is trapped in an isolated cabin with two kids who find her presence unwanted.
Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, the authors of creepily good “Goodnight Mommy”, revisit the same old dynamic between children and their mother. Strings are pulled in a similar manner as they were in the duo’s debut, but this time the puppetry fails to deliver.
“The Lodge” is an awful razzmatazz to follow, with Riley Keough fiddling in its centre as if none of the plot’s movements were enough to make her care. The horror isn’t there either, whereas Franz and Fiala prefer to copy ideas of their predecessors instead of sculpting their own monument of fear.
To put it simply, just skip it.
#12 The Prodigy (2019)
Plot: A woman finds here son tormented by an evil spirit.
Creepy children were given quite some children this year, and it seems that there’s a lot to dig deeper than what we’ve already seen. The Prodigy, however, avoids going to places unknown.
It’s a by-the-book story of a woman whose kid goes bonkers because some who-cares ghost infiltrated its brain. In the times when creepy children became an unnecessary addition to “all the horror cliches series”, “The Prodigy” repeats things you’ve seen before. In doing so, it’s also pretty ill-inspired and, at times, even quite laughable (which might be its only redeeming part).
Click here to read the full review of “The Prodigy”.
#11 Polaroid (2019)
Plot: A girl finds a vintage camera which holds a deadly mystery within its photographs.
Lars Klevberg’s been busy in 2019, but “Polaroid” is indisputably the lower tier of his annual works. A few decent scares help to get through its bumpy ride of a plot, which chooses to copy & paste many of the most generic horror tropes (although it does steer away from on-screen violence in exchange for building a ghost story of sorts).
At the end of the day, “Polaroid” holds the badge of an average crowdpleaser – it’s enough to entertain, but too basic to care more than that.
#10 Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2019)
Plot: A bunch of teenagers finds a cursed book, possessed by a strange host which kills by writing terrifying stories that become real.
There was a lot to expect from a film that’s been produced by Guillermo Del Toro, but “Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark” could easily be called this year’s most dissatisfying title among the most expected ones.
What didn’t work was mostly the plot, for its tedious throwbacks turned it into a bastard of “Stranger Things” and “It”. While some of its scares landed quite well – like a chubby ghost duplicating itself in a neon-red corridor – a variety felt awfully basic. And with its lackadaisical direction helmed by Andre Ovredal, “Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark” has little to shine with.
#9 The Hole In The Ground (2019)
Plot: A single mother raises her son in a rural area of Ireland. When the boy finds a gigantic hole in the ground, strange things begin to happen.
Again, if there’s any theme of 2019 in terms of horror, it must be “something’s wrong with my kid”.
Creepy children flooded this year’s scary scenes, but – quite lamentably – none of them is a match for classic creepers like “Omen”. “The Hole In The Ground” takes the viewers to a brooding forest and adds a mysterious hole in a ground (which is a brilliant, mysterious concept by the way) just to spend an hour on parental issues of a single mother. The film is confined within two actors mostly and the development of the plot smells like dozens of other more and less successful horrors.
Even though “The Hole In The Ground” was widely praised by many critics, it probably happened so thanks to the good scares shortage we witnessed over these last few months.
Click here to read the full review of “The Hole In The Ground”.
#8 Werewolf (2018)
Plot: A group of juvenile ex-prisoners of a concentration camp is locked in a giant mansion when a group of ravenous hounds surrounds the house.
Adrian Panek’s “Werewolf” is an example of a fantastic idea for a short feature, which wasn’t developed enough to constitute enough material for a full-length.
The film takes a bold step in utilizing the horrors of a concentration camp as a fuel to post-war trauma. On the conceptual level, “Werewolf” offers a nuanced approach in speaking about the atrocities of war and how shattered life can’t be glued together easily.
It all works until it doesn’t. Once Panek shuts the mansion’s door and orders the audience to stick around for more than an hour, “Werewolf” gets tiring to say the least. I could be going overboard with this, but Panek’s film could have gone for something more unnatural, paranormal even. The hounds aren’t really scary, and the film’s psychological lining wears off pretty fast.
Click here to read the full review of “Werewolf”.
#7 Brightburn (2019)
Plot: A couple adopts a child that they find near a small asteroid crater. As the kid grows older, it becomes more vicious and inhuman.
Even the best concept falls prey to the poorly written plot, right?
You see, “Brightburn” sounded great on paper. Among the still-going-strong superhero movies, a movie about a Superman kid going bonkers could easily take its warm spot. It did so when you judge on the budget, but the film’s premise had much more to explore than what “Brightburn” has to offer. Strip it down from its intriguing idea, leave the household name of James Gunn out of the way, and what you’re left with is another creepy kid that has moronic parents.
Here’s the full review of “Brightburn”.
#6 Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
Plot: The LA art circles are shaken by the discovery of paintings that carry a nefarious force inside them.
“Velvet Buzzsaw” had all of the components of a masterful piece. A great director, a stellar cast and a genuinely original story set within a colourful world.
Unfortunately, this seemed like too many things to handle. Dan Gilroy’s film is never set to do one thing properly – it’s not scary enough to call it a full-bodied horror, it’s not deep enough to call it a thought-provoking satire regarding the snooty world of high-end art dealers and artists. This mess is caused by an overabundance of supporting characters, who exist only to please the actors playing them. Everyone fights for attention, creating a collage made from diverse but underdeveloped roles.
While it’d be unfair to call it a art for art’s sake, “Velvet Buzzsaw” is still kind of a bummer.
Click here to read the full review of “Velvet Buzzsaw”.
#5 Us (2019)
Plot: A family is attacked by a group of doppelgangers whose hostility turns into a run-for-your-life trap.
Some call Jordan Peele a blissful director that revived the horror genre. Others, including me, see Peele as an interesting voice that’s somehow gaining way too much credit for the simple substance convoluted by a fair share of gimmicks.
“Us” is a film which often meanders in directions either too obvious or too kitschy. Jordan Peele likes to rely too much on the cards that worked in “Get Out”, but frankly, it’s not a copyable mechanism.
On the other hand, there is a fair amount of artistry included. Peele learnt the game of light and shadow, he knows when to throw in a joke and when to tighten the bolt.
I wouldn’t call “Us” a groundbreaking achievement, however I admit Peele’s craftsmanship might soon bring us a truly masterful piece of horror.
Read here about “Us” and “Get Out”.
#4 Child’s Play (2019)
Plot: Another entry in the franchise about a killer doll called Chucky. This time however, the genesis of the toy’s murder cravings change quite significantly.
There is an exciting switch in the franchise, which didn’t land well for everyone. Instead of a toy possessed by a soul of a serial killer, the modern Chucky is a result of a system malfunction – a result of intentionally bad programming in its production.
The movie blends a whole lot of silly yet indisputably entertaining moments ranging from chainsaw gore to ridiculously funny one-liners. Mark Hammil, whose voice gifted Chucky, clearly fits the concept. The entire story delivers just the right amount of horror and comedy.
#3 Pet Sematary (2019)
Plot: When a couple moves to a new home, they soon find out that an unusual cemetery lies within their vicinity.
A remake is usually incapable of delivering a more in-depth look into the main problem of its source material, but “Pet Sematary” proves there are exceptions.
Driven by the psychology of its characters, and immersing itself in the despair – rather than pure horror – “Pet Sematary” understands Stephen King’s graceful ability to switch tones without batting an eye. There is power in this remake, derived from the way it looks at the idea of resurrection – it’s not whether you can or should, but about when you should know to let go.
Here’s a full review of “Pet Sematary”.
#2 Bacurau (2019)
Plot: A political fiction set in dystopian Brazil, a few years from now. In a small village called Bacurau, its inhabitants are soon haunted by a series of sinister events.
“Bacurau” isn’t technically a horror movie all along for a vast part of Kleber Mendonca Filho’s (directed together with Juliano Dornelles) feature is dedicated to a political fiction, aimed at presenting the Brazilian instability and socio-economic disturbances. However, the directors clearly lean toward a survival horror too, letting “Bacurau” go wild in its blood-soaked second half.
Don’t approach it as a typical horror flick and you’ll find yourself wildly entertained (and possibly encouraged to do a bit of research regarding Brasil).
#1 Midsommar (2019)
Plot: Dani (Florence Pugh) joins her douchebag boyfriend on a trip to Sweden after a tragic family loss she just goes through. Along with a few friends, they go to the all-sunny all-flowery festival Midsommar which is, in fact, an embodiment of horror.
Ari Aster’s second feature is a harrowing fairy tale, where the final reveal feels almost cathartic. While it isn’t conventionally scary as it lacks jump scares or other genre tropes, “Midsommar” delivers an absolutely blood-chilling experience – one that leaves a long-lasting impression.
Bizarre, magical, horrid in the least expecting moments. “Midsommar” is all that one could hope for after Aster’s confident debut “Hereditary”. The American director goes back to the topic of copying with grief, but this time, he also reaches to the human desire of attachment. The film’s remarkable cinematography enriches the experience of a slow-burn nightmare, dipped in radiant colours and festivities that keep an ugly secret. It’s gonna be hard to compete with Ari Aster’s marvel this year.
Here’s the full, cool review of “Midsommar”.
What are your favorite horrors of 2019? Leave your lists in the comments!