Crawl

Favorite Things: Best of 2019

As another year ends, it’s time for me to reflect on my favorite pieces of horror entertainment. It’s been another amazing year for horror, making it incredibly difficult to narrow down what I thought was the best. From movies to books to music to events, here are all of my best horror of 2019 selections!

BEST MOVIES OF 2019 (Note: I have two #1 films as I couldn’t choose between them)

10. Sweetheart

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I had a really hard time choosing between a few films to take this spot on my list, but ultimately Sweetheart stuck with me more than the others. Released on Netflix just before the end of the year, this film by J.D. Dillard brings together the thrills of an aquatic monster film with the deeper message of a social commentary film. I wish Blumhouse had done a bit more to get the word out about Sweetheart. It has great creature design/effects, a strong performance from Kiersey Clemons, and sends an important message. Full review here.

9. Harpoon

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This film surprised me because the three characters are so unlikeable! Normally this ruins a film for me because there isn’t anyone to root for, but it worked in Harpoon. Instead of rooting for someone to survive, we could all relish in their darkly humorous demise. The small setting on a boat adds to the tension of being trapped with people you hate and the performances from all three leads are wonderful to watch. Full review here.

8. Happy Death Day 2U

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It was hard to imagine there was any way to make a sequel to Happy Death Day. Yet writer/director Christopher Landon was able to double down and make a sequel that added to the mythos, injected even more humor, added some great sci-fi elements, and made the film have even more emotional depth. Plus, it’s impossible not to love Tree, played by Jessica Rothe. Full review here.

7. Crawl

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Everyone knows I’m a sucker for aquatic horror. Crawl was no exception. It drew from multiple fears people have including natural disasters, small spaces, and of course alligators. The film is very exciting and surprisingly gory, which is everything I could want from a killer gator film. Yet I believe the film held back just enough to keep it from getting too cheesy. Full review here.

6. The Perfection

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This was a film that caught me completely off guard. While watching for the first time, it shocked me again and again while also making me question what subgenre of horror it would end up fitting into. The many twists and turns, the unique format, and the overall plot made me fall in love with The Perfection. It may not work as well upon second watch, but I won’t forget how it felt watching it for the first time. Full review here.

5. Satanic Panic

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Satanic Panic is by far the funniest horror film I saw this year. I loved the play on the classic 80’s idea that the rich get rich by worshipping the devil. It allowed for some hilarious hijinks and fun practical effects. Plus, it’s impossible to not fall in love with the trifecta of badass female leads; Rebecca Romijn, Hayley Griffith, and Ruby Modine (especially Modine because she has the best dialogue). Full review here.

4. Tigers Are Not Afraid

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Writer and director Issa López truly created a powerful film with Tigers Are Not Afraid. It offers a unique glimpse into the lives of little kids surviving on the streets of Mexico, with an added supernatural element. The children acting in this film are absolutely fantastic. The balance of cartel violence, eeriness, and heartbreak tell a beautiful story that can appeal to even those who don’t enjoy horror. Full review here.

3. Daniel Isn’t Real

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This is a film with a plot that shouldn’t work on film. Yet Adam Egypt Mortimer not only made it work, but he create a beautiful film about trauma, mental illness, and inner demons. On top of having a great story, the film also has gorgeous visuals and superb performances from the two male leads. Daniel Isn’t Real is the kind of film that really takes an emotional toll and sticks with the audience long after it’s over. Full review here.

1. Doctor Sleep

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The more I think about it, the more I completely adore everything about this film. Mike Flanagan managed to write and direct what, in my opinion, might be the best Stephen King adaptation with Doctor Sleep. Not only did he bring the book to life, but Flanagan also managed to incorporate the film version of The Shining to appeal to fans of both the film and the books. The film really perfectly conveys trauma and addiction in a beautiful way, has fascinating characters, incorporates gorgeous visuals, and has a cast of amazing actors. Full review here.

1. Midsommar

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It might seem impossible to create an effective horror film drenched in daylight, but Midsommar does just that. Seeing truly horrific events unfold in the light and in a beautiful setting somehow makes everything more disturbing. Another emotionally driven film, the way writer and director Ari Aster is able to convey grief, trauma, and the longing for that feeling of “home” results in a memorable film experience. As someone who was once in a similar relationship as the one between Dani and Christian, I found the film to be especially cathartic to watch. Full review here.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (Films I watched, but didn’t review – no order)

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, Wounds, The Nightingale, Knife + Heart, Velvet Buzzsaw, Ready or Not

BEST HORROR SHORTS OF 2019

5. Road Trash – Written and Directed by Natasha Pascetta

4. Fanatico – Directed by Hannah May Cumming, Written by Hannah May Cumming and Sam Schrader

3. Hana – Written and Directed by Mai Nakanishi

2. Cemetery Song – Directed by Michelle Prebich, Animated by Justine Prebich

1. Finley – Written and Directed by J. Zachary Thurman

BEST FILM SCORES OF 2019

5. Tigers Are Not Afraid – Music by Vince Pope

4. Black Site – Music by Max Sweiry

3. Candy Corn – Music by Michael Brooker and Josh Hasty

2. Midsommar – Music by The Haxan Cloak

1. Satanic Panic – Music by Wolfmen of Mars

BEST TV SHOWS OF 2019

5. Creepshow S1 – Shudder

4. N0S4A2 S1 – AMC

3. Castle Rock S2 – Hulu

2. What We Do in the Shadows S1 – FX

1. Stranger Things S3 – Netflix

BEST BOOKS I READ IN 2019 (not necessarily released this year)

5. Osgood as Gone by Cooper S. Beckett

4. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

3. My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

2. The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer (I know this is cheating since it’s 3 books, but it’s my list so I don’t care)

1. Lady From the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara

BEST EVENTS OF 2019 (no specific order)

  • Midsummer Scream
  • Portland Horror Film Festival
  • The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder – including the holiday specials
  • Into the Dark on Hulu
  • Joe Bob Briggs Live: How Rednecks Saved Hollywood

 

 

Crawl

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A category 5 hurricane is heading straight for Florida. A young woman is unable to reach her father, so she decides to brave the storm to try and find him. What she finds instead is a nest of dangerous alligators. She will have to fight the predators and the rising floodwaters in order to save herself and her father.

This tension-filled film is directed by Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes) and written by sibling duo Michael and Shawn Rasmussen (The Ward, The Inhabitants). The film follows Haley, who is on the college swim team. She has a strained relationship with her father, but when she can’t reach him as the storm approaches, she is compelled to drive over to check on him. When she discovers him in the crawl space under their house and realizes he’e been attacked by an alligator, she has to go into full survivor-mode.

The thing that makes this film so effective and brings suspense to the audience is the combination of killer animals and being trapped in a small space. Killer alligators are terrifying enough on their own and, as we have seen in many “when animals attack” type horror films, they are very entertaining to watch. But alligators aren’t all that fast on land, so something more needs to be done to make them more frightening. The filmmakers take it to the next level with Crawl by keeping most of the film confined to the tight crawl space with no means of escape. It gives the film a very claustrophobic fear to compound the terror brought by the alligators. Then that terror is taken to all new heights when the small crawl space begins to fill with flood waters. It leaves the characters with the options of staying put and drowning or attempting to get past the alligators. Both options are enough to strike fear and panic in the hearts of audiences.

Crawl primarily focuses on two characters and both of them give the audience someone to root for. Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile) is tough as nails as Haley. She is a very strong female character with a complicated relationship with her family and a love-hate relationship with being a competitive swimmer. Scodelario is always a joy to watch and her portrayal of Haley delivers a dynamic, complicated, and kick-ass character. Barry Pepper (The Green Mile, True Grit) plays Haley’s dad, Dave. Pepper does an amazing job of playing the supportive dad who sometimes takes things a bit too far when trying to push his child to do better. Scodelario and Pepper play off each other very well. Much of the complexity with both of their characters comes from their strained relationship as we watch Dave fall back into his old swim coach ways as he talks to Haley. Their relationship and the way it strengthens throughout the film gives Crawl it’s heart. I also want to give a very special shout-out to Cso-Cso, the dog who plays Sugar, for being absolutely adorable, even when in peril.

For a summer creature-feature, this film has some very impressive effects. Most of the alligators are CGI, but they look absolutely stunning. There is one scene where the CGI looks especially gorgeous as the audience is shown a close-up of one of the alligator’s mouths. The use of CGI allows for the alligators to traverse the crawl space and the flood waters in order to deliver many fantastic jump-scares. The practical effects are equally well done. In any animal attack film it is a guarantee we will see bloody wounds from bites. The gore is truly taken to an unexpected level in this film. Most likely this is Aja’s influence. He is known for lots of amazing gore. Between bites, breaks, and other horrifying injuries, the practical effects are sure to make audience members cringe, gasp, and maybe even avert their eyes.

Crawl is the perfect summer creature-feature bringing action, scares, gore, and tons of thrills. Aja is definitely known for giving crowd-pleasing, bloody horror films and Crawl is no different. He expertly combines different fears to create a fun and thrilling summer flick with fantastic performances by Scodelario and Pepper. It may surprise audiences, but the story created by the Rasmussens delivers not only on the action and scares. It’s also a great heartfelt story about family coming together and conquering past issues. I wouldn’t suggest going into this film assuming you will see the next Oscar-winner, but if you go in expecting something that is fun and will have you on the edge of your seat, then Crawl is sure to be a fan-favorite.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10