Every year to celebrate Halloween I watch at least one horror movie a day every day during the month of October. As I scour my way through gore-filled death scenes and jump scares, I come to find some real standouts when it comes to characters, scenes and movies. Thus, this created my own little awards list - The Ones That Made The Cut.
Out of the horror movies I watched in 2019, here are the ones that are worth a damn and why. Please note as well, this article will contain spoilers.
Best Death Scene In A Horror Movie: Joey in Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Masters
2018 Winner: Clara and Koldo in Rec 3: Genesis
2017 Winner: Mike in Tucker and Dale Vs Evil
A Nightmare on Elm Street is renowned for it's iconic use of special effects to create unique and masterful death scenes, with images of Freddy Krueger coming through the wall above the young Johnny Depp's bed coming to mind. Well in Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Masters, the special effect death scene that ended up taking the cake - and the best death scene in a horror movie during the challenge - was the death of Joey Crusel, one of the kids from the hospital that first made an appearance in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
Joey's death is quick, and it doesn't involve a lot of build up, but it's pretty spectacular. Joey dozes off looking longingly at a bikini model babe poster above his water bed, only to be met with the same bikini model - now naked - knocking on the inside of his water bed and inviting him in. Tempted, the model swims away and is replaced with Freddy, who slices through the bed and stabs him, drowning him in his own waterbed and referring to it as a "wet dream". The bed is obviously above a pool on the set, but the affect is classic Nightmare and looks awesome which is why I decree it the Best Death Scene in a Horror Movie of 2019.
Strongest Victim In A Horror Movie: Juno in The Descent
2018 Winner: Kirby in Scream 4
2017 Winner: Reece in Green Room
Many of the characters who have won Strongest Victim in a Horror Movie were characters who were being terrorised by a crazed killer, and their skills and knowledge catapulted them into almost final girl status, only losing out by an accidental twist of fate in the end. I almost awarded this to the character of Veronica in the movie Final Girl but after watching the horror classic The Descent I knew the true winner belonged to the character of Juno, played by Natalie Mendoza.
The British horror film centres on a group of adrenaline-loving women descending into a caving system that Juno claims is uncharted, hoping to mark the discovery for themselves. Instantly Juno proves herself the strongest as her extensive knowledge of caving and splunking gives her the immediate advantage over her fellow thrill-seekers, but it is when the crawlers of the cave attacks the group that she proves her instincts and survival methods are strong.
Defending her friends from the crawlers, Juno fights valiantly, only to be horrified when her instincts lash out her chosen weapon - a pick axe - at a shadow coming up behind her, only to discover it is as one of her friends. Horrified, Juno backs away from the dying Beth and begins to search for an escape route, unknowing that Beth is still alive and leads a revolt against Juno for her reaction. It is only through her trust with the main character Sarah - who is pissed knowing that Juno had an affair with her late husband - that Juno ends up being the victim to the crawlers.
It is her extensive skills and abilities that makes Juno the strongest victim for the 2019 catagories, but it's also her instincts. She wasn't wrong in turning the pick-axe towards her friend because she was caught off guard after fighting crawlers that literally came up behind her. She was also reacting in shock when she left, another perfectly reasonable reaction that Sarah finds as heartless. Juno was smart, together, and despite the attempt to depict her as the "bitch" character, she proves herself to be the best character of the movie.
Most Surprising Slasher Movie: The Sand
2018 Winner: The Final Girls
2017 Winner: The Babysitter
The Sand - otherwise known as Killer Beach (it's literally in the title of the movie so why did they change it?) - is exactly the kind of ridiculous horror movie that perfected the slasher genre. Something so outlandish and weird is killing a group of hot people, and they know they are ridiculous; just look at the Sharknado franchise which is up to its 6th movie.
This time a group of graduates party at the beach only to wake up and find that something has hatched and is waiting for them beneath the sand. As one by one the group realise that they are being devoured by the beach they are on, they set about in different ways to get to safety, only for plans to be thwarted constantly.
Look, this movie does not have the calibre that the previous winners of Most Surprising Slasher Movie have, considering those while ridiculous were good, but The Sand is the perfect thing to watch for a mind numbing horror, and surprisingly, was kind of so ridiculous that it was kind of fun to watch. For this, I award it 2019's Most Surprising Slasher Movie.
Most Realistic Horror Movie: XX
2018 Winner: The Skeleton Key
2017 Winner: The Belko Experiment
XX is a four part anthology movie written and directed by women creatives featuring stories called The Box, The Birthday Party, Her Only Living Son, and The Fall. Similar to a type of horror Trop fest, all of these movies are pretty realistic takes on humanised horror, but it is actually the story of The Box that really wins the Most Realistic Horror Movie of 2019. The Box is a short film about a family of four who are simply riding a train back home after a busy day. The stories son Danny asks an old man what is in a big red box he is carrying, and when he looks inside he is both under-dramatically overcome by a mysterious force. This mysterious force means Danny refuses to eat any food presented to him.
As Danny continues to refuse to eat, he eventually whispers something to both his sister and his father which causes them to also start refusing food. Eventually at Christmas time we are presented with the horrific reality of starvation and malnutrition as the very gaunt and emaciated Danny live out their final days without really seeming to mind their hunger. Seeing Danny so emaciated is the true key to this absolute horror story and stays with you.
The reality of the struggle and worry of Danny's mother and father over Danny's refusal to eat is terrifying, as she literally dreams about being happy to find her family feasting on her own flesh at the table. The realities of not being able to feed your child is harsh and horrific in its own right, and this is why XX - and in particular The Box - win the Most Realistic Horror Movie for 2019.
Best Villain In A Horror Movie: Harold in Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
2018 Winner: Tiffany in Bride of Chucky
2017 Winner: Sam from Trick R Treat
Iconic horror movie villains are well known, and the devastatingly gruesome looking scarecrow named Harold from the Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark book franchise is no different. Recreated for the 2019 movie, Harold is a decaying looking scarecrow in the middle of a field who is subjected to cockroaches crawling over its face and rampant vandalism by the bully Tommy. During the scary story montage, a drunk Tommy comes home and stumbles into the cornfield, only to get lost with constant walking around the corn. Harold then comes alive and stalks Tommy, stabbing him in the chest with a pitchfork. Tommy then chokes and finds himself turning into a scarecrow himself, slowly replacing Tommy as the scarecrow in the field.
For those who may not be familiar with the book franchise, Harold is one of the most well-known antagonists, but his creepy, decaying appearance makes for a great haunting for those who are simply watching the movie as well. The fact that Tommy himself turns into Harold the Scarecrow is an awesome twist to the hauntings, and the fact that we have no idea where Harold ends up afterwards adds to the mystery overall. It is these reasons that makes Harold the Best Villain In A Horror Movie for 2019.
Most Horrifying Horror Movie: Wolf Creek 2
2018 Winner: The Shining
2017 Winner: The Hills Have Eyes
I heard that Wolf Creek was gruesome and horrifying, but it was really Wolf Creek 2 that took the cake. Loosely based on real life Australian backpacker killer Ivan Milat in NSW, Wolf Creek 2 takes place in the Aussie outback of WA, and further solidifies that the most horrifying acts are usually committed by humans.
Wolf Creek killer Mick Taylor (played by John Jarrett) has found his next targets in the form of two German tourists touring the Australian wilds and it's the initial deaths of these backpackers that earn Wolf Creek 2 it's title as Most Horrifying Horror Movie of 2019, with the seemingly alright local man Mick coming to warn them that they aren't allowed to camp in the area they are in. Making a choice to stay, Mick gets hostile and begins to gruesomely beat up the German backpacker in front of his girlfriend, who sits terrified in the tent.
Soon Mick turns his attention to her, and proceeds to string her up and prepare to rape her, ripping her underwear off and informing her they have "several months of fun ahead of them". When the boyfriend attacks from behind, it is then that Mick's rapey plans are foiled but he instead turns to cold-hearted killing, slitting the boyfriend's throat before decapitating him fully (It's also worth mentioning that decapitation was something that actually happened during Ivan Milat's killing spree, so this is a pretty accurate representation of just how far the Backpacker killer could go). Knocking the girlfriend out, she soon comes to to find Mick gruesomely cutting her boyfriend into pieces. Blood and guts spray everywhere, his dick is shown clearly to viewers as it is cut from the boyfriend's bloodied body, and the parts are carelessly thrown into an esky on the back of the truck. It's a disturbing scene to watch, and definitely a disturbing scene for the poor girlfriend.
This movie is not for the faint-hearted, but it continues to solidify the notion that the true element of horror is human, and that at the true heart of humanity lies cruelty.
The One That Didn't Make The Cut: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge
2018 Winner: Halloween
2017 Winner: Not awarded
There were a few that were considered for the dishonorable mention of The One That Didn't Make The Cut, but I absolutely had to give it to A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. This was a movie that wasn't created by Wes Craven because he didn't want to do another franchise, but after it out grossed the first movie at the box office he decided to get back involved.
Not having Wes Craven involved was a big mistake. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is terrible because the creators attempted to do something different with the idea of Freddy killing people in their dreams and it almost killed the whole thing. This time, Freddy attempts to possess the body of a kid named Jesse, who has moved in to Nancy's Elm Street home, and tries to kill people in the real world. What occurs is the absolute unravelling of Jesse whom everyone kind of discounts and ignores, and a very confusing back and forth of whether Freddy is actually there and doing the killing, or if it is Jesse all along.
Written with sub-tones of homoreoticism, unnecessary scenes of Freddy's terror, and a huge step away from the series idea, the sequel falls flat amongst the others, but it still brings the campy modelled gore that Wes Craven unleashed in the first movie. Scenes of Freddy bursting through a dummy model of Jesse's stomach have the classic horror take you come to expect, but it was just not on point with the rest of the series. If you're going to watch the franchise, skip ahead to Dream Warriors instead!