Hello again Fiends, and welcome to our annual countdown of the year’s best Thrills & Kills! This is always a hard list to compile because even your least favourite horror films have memorable moments. Poor dialogue, bad pacing, unbelievable premises all mean nothing when it comes to finding those killer scenes that stick with you for years to come. A word of warning before we move on: This list contains spoilers, so proceed with caution.
As expected, some of the year’s best scares and kickass sequences were found in some real odd places. Movies intended for kids, movies we underestimated, and movies even non-horror fans are calling the best of the decade. And rather than wasting a paragraph on all of the movies I wanted to include on this list, let’s just right into it. Below are Nightmare on Film Street’s Top 10 Thrills & Kills of 2019.
10. It Chapter Two: A Helping Hand
There were a lot of scenes to choose from in IT Chapter Two, including an incredibly eerie sequence with Adult Eddie in the basement of the Derry Pharmacy and, of course, a scene with so much blood that it gives Dead Alive (1989) and Evil Dead (2013) a run for their money. For my money, the opening sequence of IT Chapter Two is the most disturbing scene of the whole movie. It shifts gears hard from the first installment, making it very clear very early on that we have left a word of childhood fears and have entered a deadly realm of adult dangers. Not only is this a grim depiction of a hate crime, but it shifts into the point-of-view of our victim who finds a hand reaching out toward him…but not one offering anything remotely close to help.
9. Crawl: Who Recuses The Rescuers?
Things go horribly wrong, terribly fast for everyone involved in Crawl. Not only is the year’s biggest hurricane inching its way toward shore, but alligators have made Haley and Dave’s neighborhood their new feeding ground. And what originally looked to be one or to alligators is brilliantly revealed to be a full-blown congregation of prehistoric predators! These monsters are ruthless killing machines, and everything (including thieves and rescue workers) is torn to itty bitty shreds. 10/10 would Crawl again!
8. Scary Stories To Tell in The Dark: Hanging’ with Harold
Leave it up to Guillermo del Toro and André Øvredal to put some of the year’s coolest scares into a freaking kids movie! Really, any sequence in Scary Stories To Tell in The Dark could be plucked for this list but Harold and his unnerving murder(?) of a local bully sent shivers down the spines of audiences across the world. It’s a testament to the craft of these filmmakers that stories so beloved could still scare us after all these years.
7. Us: Seven Second Massacre
Likely the shortest sequence on this list, Us‘s should be given an award for cinema’s fastest home invasion. Couched between brilliantly hilarious moments from Elizabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, and an Amazon Alexa, the “Seven Second Massacre” sneaks up on you and slits your throat before you eve have time to process what is happening.
6. Doctor Sleep: The Death of Baseball Boy
Hands down, the darkest scene of the year. Mike Flanagan has received a lot of credit this year for threading the needle between Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King, to craft a sequel to not only a beloved film, but a celebrated novel. But he also deserves a 10 foot tall MVP award for giving us a stomach-wrenching kill in a big-budget studio film! Children are often used to show the ruthless, uncaring nature of cinema’s most cold-blooded killers, but rarely do you see children die on screen, especially in such a grim, prolonged fashion.
5. Child’s Play: Christmas Chaos
Child’s Play was (for me at least) the sleeper hit of the year. Everyone completely underestimated this film and it was an absolute riot! It takes a completely different approach to its predecessors, serving up a killer doll movie perfect for newcomers to life-long fans alike. Regardless of how much you love the original Child’s Play films, you have to give this movie credit for having high-energy, surprisingly gory sequences. And bonus points for the Christmas-Time setpiece that saw a complete shithead of a cheating husband shredded by a snowblower.
4. Ready Or Not: Hail Satan!
Samara Weaving is unstoppable as Ready or Not‘s blood-soaked bride. What should have been the best day of her life was quickly followed up by the worst night of her life. In a sinister game of hide-and-seek, Weaving must outsmart her new in-laws to stay alive, despite being outgunned, outmatched and out of places to run. Ready or Not was one of the most fun films we saw this year at the theatre and it’s finale is a grand explosion of brain matter and bad blood.
3. Bliss: Sacrifice Everything For Your Art
What would you give to complete your masterpiece? Would you sacrifice everything? Dezzy (Dora Madison) is struggling to break out of a creative block, looking for inspiration anywhere she can find it including mind-altering drugs that may be transforming her into a blood-drinking monster. Everyone around her becomes disposible when she is in the grips of this new artistic freedom, until she is literally standing a top a throne of corpses looking down on all that she has created. Among the bodies lays her “boyfriend” (played by Jeremy Gardner, writer director of After Midnight) who Dezzy tears open like a juice box of human blood. F*CK! YES!
2. Midsommar: Let The Bodies Hit The Floor
Number two on our list is a pretty obscure pick that not too many people have seen. JK, it’s Ari Asters’ Midsommar – which is likely be somewhere on everyone’s best of the year lists, if only in honorable mentions. It’s an expertly crafted film and a fantastic addition to the folk horror subgenre. MIdsommar is a very deliberately paced film, and that allows not only for deep, rich character development in our leads but also time for the viewer to process and appreciate the odd rituals of this small Swedish village. You are lulled into a calm sense of spectatorship that makes the sacrificial deaths in the film hit so very, very hard. Just as the characters do in the film, we march slowly toward the inevitable until it comes crashing down on us in a wave of unmistakable horror.
1. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood: Cult Kids Roasting on An Open Fire
When I think back on the scenes that shocked and surprised me this year, nothing can top Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. We are all well aware of the Manson Family and the horrible acts of violence they committed at the behest of their leader Charles Manson, and when we first heard that Quentin Tarantino was making a “Mason Movie” we all quickly envisioned how the film would likely end. But leave it up to Tarantino to pull the rug from underneath you at the last second! Tarantino is pretty well known for explosive endings, and shoot-em-up showdown but he really topped himself with this year’s most surprising and satisfying finale.
And there you have it! The Best Thrills and Kills of 2019. What was your favorite moment of the year? Let us know all about the scenes that scared you and the moments that blew your mind over on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club.