2019 has been a banner year for horror.
The genre has been having a welcomed resurgence of late, thanks to such nightmare fuel as Get Out, IT, Happy Death Day, Hereditary, and 2018’s Halloween. Those big-screen causes of our night (and day) terrors have bled into this year’s impressive crop of horror flicks, with even more fright fests in store before the year ends.
We’re big horror fans here at Atom, obviously, and to celebrate the genre pulling its version of “Peak TV” this year, we decided to team up two Atom writers (Matt Donato and Phil Pirrello) to share their tag-team list of the best horror movies – and trailers and posters – that 2019 has given us so far. Be warned: This list… it’s not for the faint of heart. But we totally understand if you have to read it in between covering your eyes.
Matt Donato’s Best of 2019 Picks:
Best Horror Movie Posters:
I’m going to cheat and applaud a theme here: “Christmas Horror.” Minimalist designs, festive hallmarks dripping blood, all that goodness. For that reason, some of my favorites are I Trapped The Devil, The Lodge, and Blumhouse’s upcoming Black Christmas remake.
Best Horror Movie Trailer: Nekrotronic
From the directors of Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead comes what appears to be The Matrix meets Ghostbusters? Demons can travel through the internet, necromancers are being assassinated, Monica Bellucci plays the evil grand mistress — yeah, I’m 1,000 percent in. Look for this one in theaters this August.
Most Anticipated 2019 Horror Film To Come: Tigers Are Not Afraid
I’ve been waiting for Issa López’s Tigers Are Not Afraid to release since last year’s Fantasia Film Festival, and even then I was late to the game. All of Tigers‘ high praise in reviews and tweets are well deserved. Tigers Are Not Afraid will, mark my words, stand as one of 2019’s greatest horror films when it finally lands on Shudder later this Fall. Affecting, haunting, and expertly crafted.
Matt’s Picks for Best Horror Movies of 2019:
5. ‘Pet Sematary’
Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Pet Sematary adaptation flips enough narratives to tell its own story while simultaneously chilling via backwoods haunts. Say what you will about the ending, which an alternate sequence now challenges, but I’m here to fight for this film’s strong sense of horrific urgency. Jeté Laurence owns her character’s rebirth from toxic soil, and there’s plenty to fear in Kölsch and Widmyer’s nasty family nightmare. I guess I’m a minority stakeholder in the claim that Pet Sematary is some wicked mainstream horror? I’m sweet on this sour tale.
Even better, the Ramones’ “Pet Sematary” theme song is recorded for a new generation and played over the ending credits. Even though neither director wanted to hear another take, their faulty logic was overridden by pleading fans (yours truly included).
Do you like The Witch? Is colonial period horror your schtick? Lukas Feigelfeld’s Hagazussa tells a black magic tale of isolation, country rituals, and crippling grief that’s as horrific as it is despicably moody. Feigelfeld’s directorial debut makes proper usage of skull-lined caverns as a means of exposing production designs, squeezing every ounce of dread from an otherwise unpopulated folktale. It’s the kind of horror story that relies on history and blind faith; beliefs of pagan heresy in times of pioneered uncertainty.
Translation: Hagazussa is a slow, simmering burn that explodes once actress Aleksandra Cwen’s unhealthy goat milk obsession leads to her mother’s reemergence as a possible malevolent entity. Devastating, mesmerizingly dour, and so damn evil it’ll corrupt on visuals alone.
Ari Aster’s Midsommar is the sophomore stunner we’d hoped would follow 2018’s Hereditary. Shadows are traded for Swedish sunshine, possessions swapped for harvest rituals, and terror bursts in plain sight. For all of Will Poulter’s comedic “idiot abroad” relief and Jack Reynor’s imbecilic relationship fumbling, Midsommar is a nasty and natural cult-adjacent thriller. As long as it is entertaining, still vile in its hypnotizing treatment of life despite traditional teachings that excuse graphic violence. Movies this beautiful – May Queen flower dresses and all – shouldn’t be capable of destroying audiences so viscerally. Yet, here we are. Two films into Aster’s catalog and me fully ready to anoint the creator a certifiable master of scare-emonies. You’ve earned an “I’ll Watch Whatever You Make” pass, sir. Use it wisely.
2. ‘Horror Noire: A History Of Black Horror’
Attentive horror buffs have long known how tokenization of black and African-American culture plagued (and still plagues) genre cinema, and for those who don’t, allow the team behind Horror Noire: A History Of Black Horror to enlighten your outlook. Writers Ashlee Blackwell and Danielle Burrows, alongside director Xavier Burgin, create a documentary that’s both entertaining and informative. It’s not only a standout horror documentary, it’s an exemplary documentary overall. Educate yourselves, listen to those who’ve experienced what’s being recounted (Jordan Peele to Keith David), and better understand why this is such an exciting period in cinematic representation where the pendulum is finally swinging back.
With Climax, Gaspar Noé pulverizes and blends the most delicious, tainted Sangria flavors. A social experiment involving hallucinogens and non-stop choreographed expressionism of the most devilish order. Human nature, trauma, and a gazillion red flags – add narcotics for unchecked inhibition. Yes, there are three separate credits sequences. Yes, Noé delivers one of the most anxiety-ridden, deeply troubling watches of 2019. Yes, and most importantly, Climax is an entrancing descent into dance club hell DJ’ed by Satan himself. It’s like Step Up meets Dante’s Inferno, soundtrack provided by the Aphex Twins.
Phil Pirrello’s Best of 2019 Picks:
Best Horror Movie Poster: Us. Specifically, this theatrical release poster.
Best Horror Movie Trailer: Us.
This trailer. Any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Most Anticipated 2019 Horror Film To Come: It: Chapter Two
I mean, have you seen that teaser trailer?! This movie can’t give me day terrors soon enough.
Phil’s Picks for Best Horror Movies of 2019:
5. ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’
Netflix’s bloody and excessive feature, written and directed by Nightcrawler’s Dan Gilroy, is an uneven, gory piece of beautifully-shot camp. Set in the (no pun intended) cutthroat art scene, Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo are more than game for the dark and bloody turns this unflinching horror movie has in store. To spoil its plot and the twists here would be a crime — just watch the movie and discover them for yourselves. But be warned: This one is a slow-burn and not for the faint of heart.
Jordan Peele’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning Get Out is a noble misfire. Its ambitious reach via world building exceeds its grasp as a family struggles to combat the doppelgängers that take them down a bloody, survival horror path that literally ventures underground to explain the doubles’ Regan-era origins.
The end result contains one too many plotholes — Peele’s script feels like it was pulled quickly out of his drawer post-Get Out’s success before he could give it a polish or three. Despite its narrative flaws and the ideas therein that don’t quite shake hands with a fully-satisfying story, Us is unlike any movie audiences have seen. What new ideas it brings to the table, despite being undercooked or too far-fetched, are worth paying attention to, as anything Peele does is worthy of must-see status.
3. ‘Level 16’
2019 has (so far) been a banner year for the genre in terms of diversity and representation on the big screen, with Level 16’s female-lead ensemble at the center of writer-director Danishka Esterhazy’s ominous scarefest.
Vestalis Academy is a boarding school for girls that gives the dance academy in Suspiria a run for its money. Under the iron rule of a stern headmistress, Vestalis’ girls must maintain perfect purity and virtue if they ever want to escape the facility and enter the arms of loving, adoptive parents But when Vivien (Katie Douglas) realizes the true horror behind the adoption in store for her and her fellow orphans, an urgent and terrifying race for freedom unfolds. The closer Vivien gets to outside the academy’s walls, the more terrible things she learns about her captivity within them.
Think A Quiet Place, but on a smaller budget and with more emotionally-driven stakes and tension.
Starfish marks writer-director-producer A.T. White’s feature film debut, and it is a near-perfect balance of scenes that make you gasp and reach for the tissues. Aubrey (Virginia Gardner) goes from mourning the recent death of her best friend to struggling to survive an invasion of rampaging monsters. Their attack makes Aubrey one of the last humans alive on Earth, and Starfish chronicles the quiet moments of her emotional and physical struggle to survive the aftermath of this attack — one that her deceased friend left behind clues to combat, clues that could help Aubrey save the world and herself.
1. ‘The Wind’
Few things are as forever frightening as director Emma Tammi’s depiction of frontier life in this underrated supernatural drama from earlier this year.
The middle of nowhere, coupled with the bare minimum of survival skills and necessities, provides Tammi and screenwriter Teresa Sutherland with an always-unnerving canvas to paint their slow-burn horror centered on lonely wife Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard). Left behind on the homestead by her husband, Lizzy is forced to confront things that go bump in the night — and the possibility that her mind is playing tricks on her — as her looming isolation gives way to increasingly goosebump-inducing frights. Lizzy is either going mad or being haunted by a ghost; the more encounters with the latter fuel her belief in the former, which results in one of the most tragic and scary ghost stories the genre has ever told.