- The horror genre has gained a variety of new additions in 2019, with some films being heralded by critics and others being picked apart.
- Horror films like “Sweetheart,” “Us,” and “Ready or Not” earned praise from critics for elevating the horror genre with inventive storytelling.
- Other horror movies such as “The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” “The Curse of La Llorona,” and “Jacob’s Ladder” missed the mark and were panned.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
2019 has welcomed plenty of horror films, from monster flicks and ghostly tales to mind-bending thrillers and stories of survival.
But not every terrifying movie that’s come out this year was a smash hit.
Here are 10 of the best and 10 of the worst horror films to come in 2019, so far.
As a note, the scores listed throughout the piece were accurate at the time of publication but are subject to change.
“Sweetheart” charmed critics with its simple premise and captivating star.
When Jenn (Kiersey Clemons) washes ashore on an isolated island she quickly gathers that she not only has to battle the harsh elements, but also must survive a mysterious monster that awakens at night.
The horror thriller debuted to limited release early in the year, impressing critics with its minimalist approach and Clemons’ central performance.
“[‘Sweetheart’] not only fully delivers the conventions of genre and storytelling that audiences expect from the film’s premise, but it also elevates and refines them to a sharp point,” wrote Todd Gilchrist of The Wrap.
“Us” proved itself as an electrifying follow-up to “Get Out” (2017).
Despite reservations, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) return to the same beach she frequented as a child with her own children in tow.
When eerie coincidences crop up and four strangers arrive unwelcome on their doorstep, Adelaide rises to defend her family.
After comedian-turned-director Jordan Peele impressed audiences with his horror satire “Get Out” (2017), critics were quick to commend his sophomore film effort for its originality and mastery of tone.
“In his newest film, the Hitchcockian horror ‘Us,’ the writer, director, and producer Jordan Peele offers a sharp, often funny meditation on the terrifying power of human connection,” wrote critic Hannah Giorgis for The Atlantic.
Read More: 11 things you didn’t know about ‘Us’
Critics called the action thriller “Ready or Not” darkly funny.
When Grace (Samara Weaving) weds into the powerful Le Domas family, she’s surprised to learn she has to play hide-and-seek to seal the deal. Her disbelief turns to fear as her new in-laws grab weapons and crossbows to play the game with a grisly twist.
Film critics praised “Ready or Not” for deftly balancing elements of horror and comedy, with many pointing to Weaving’s lead performance as a highlight of the film.
The Times critic Ed Potton called “Ready or Not” a “delicious romp with a game heroine that never takes itself too seriously, and has some pointed things to say about the class system.”
“Little Monsters” earned praise for breathing new life into the zombie-horror genre.
The horror-comedy “Little Monsters” stars Lupita Nyong’o, Josh Gad, and Alexander England as a trio of adults who do their best to protect a class of elementary-school children during a sudden zombie outbreak.
Zombie films may be well-tread territory in horror films, but critics applauded “Little Monsters” for finding inventive ways to explore the sub-genre.
“Cinematically speaking, zombies have been done to death, but in this new comedy from Australian writer-director Abe Forsythe the gag is precisely how far the trope can be taken for granted,” wrote The Age critic Jake Wilson.
Critics found “Depraved” to be a welcome addition to a plethora of “Frankenstein” remakes.
“Depraved” is a modern update on Mary Shelley’s classic novel “Frankenstein” in which an unhinged surgeon builds a man out of body parts and reanimates his assembled corpse in a Brooklyn apartment.
Although the story of “Frankenstein” has been remade and retold countless times, film critics found Larry Fessenden’s take on the tale to be surprisingly refreshing.
“The movie has an unexpected poignancy: At the end of the day, it seems, all a monster really wants is a girl of his own,” wrote The New York Times critic Jeannette Catsoulis.
“Girl on the Third Floor” was praised for its unsettling atmosphere and imagery.
In “Girl on the Third Floor,” a man (CM Punk) attempts to renovate an old house to provide for his wife and prepare for the birth of their unborn baby.
Despite his wife’s concern that the renovation is taking too long, Don pushes on even as the crumbling infrastructure reveals gruesome horrors.
When praising the film, critics particularly pointed to its well-laid atmosphere of dread that paved the way for its gorier elements.
“If ‘Fatal Attraction’ and ‘The Shining’ moved in together into a house built by Clive Barker then it would likely look a lot like ‘Girl on the Third Floor,'” wrote Kat Hughes for The Hollywood News.
Critics adored “The Hole in the Ground” for its dread-inducing story.
After moving to a new home on the countryside of Ireland, a young boy falls into a sinkhole and re-emerges unharmed. However, his mother soon suspects that the disturbed child that returned to her is no longer her son.
Although some critics didn’t find the material particularly original, most felt that “The Hole in the Ground” was an effective horror film due to its chill-inducing tone.
“In this creepy Irish-Finnish co-production, that fear combines with more modern concerns about the traumas of parenting in a way that freshens up the soil,” wrote Paul Byrnes for the Sydney Morning Herald.
The slow-burn pace of “Midsommar” captivated critics.
In the aftermath of a family tragedy Dani (Florence Pugh) accompanies her long-term boyfriend and his friends on a trip to Sweden for a mysterious festival.
From the onset of the trip, Dani begins to suspect that something is wrong, but her anxiety does little to prepare her for the horrors to come.
Critics felt that Ari Aster’s “Midsommar” was a skillful follow-up to his horror debut “Hereditary” (2018), lending praise to the film’s suspense-driven plot.
“I was never, even for one second, feeling the length,” said Film Week critic Claudia Puig. “I found it so unsettling and sinister. At moments it was a little uneven, but it’s so watchable and gets under your skin in a really creepy way.”
Critics called “Crawl” exciting and teeth-rattling.
In the action-thriller “Crawl,” a hurricane hits Florida right as Haley (Kaya Scodelario) discovers her injured father in the crawl space of their house.
As floodwaters rush in and an alligator appears, Haley desperately tries to save her father and herself.
Critics felt “Crawl” fully delivered on the campy thrills and notes of terror necessary for a solid creature feature.
“‘Crawl’ moves and moves us in a classical fashion like a survival film,” wrote William Venegas for La Nación. “That is why actions are more important than words. The suspense is generated from shot to shot, from scene to scene.”
“The Lodge” was praised for its disturbing premise and talented lead.
Forced to spend time with her soon-to-be stepchildren in an isolated winter cabin, Grace (Riley Keough) confronts psychological demons from her traumatic past and she tries to protect the children from harm.
“The Lodge” earned acclaim for doling out an intriguing premise and a riveting performance from lead actress Keough.
“This film will unsettle you in the moment and leave you thinking about the repercussions of grief, violence, blind faith and manipulation long after the credits roll,” wrote Jennifer Verzuh for Little White Lies.
On the other hand, critics panned “Critters Attack!” for lacking energy and charm.
In the science-fiction horror “Critters Attack!” 20-year-old Drea (Tashiana Washington) is tasked with babysitting for her professor’s children.
Drea decides to take the kids on a hike through the woods without realising that alien creatures have crashed in the forest and are out for blood.
Despite the self-aware campiness of “Critters Attack!” most critics felt the film suffered from a weak script and lack of charm.
“The Critters themselves are fun enough, but ultimately the plot is sluggish and even the hard-R rating for gore and ‘bloody creature violence’ is not really enough to make it worth your time,” wrote Deirdre Crimmins of High Def Digest.
“The Prodigy” seemed to rely on jump scares more than storytelling.
As her son grows older, Sarah (Taylor Schilling) suspects more and more that a malevolent spirit is taking hold of her child. The film takes a dark turn as Sarah realises just how forsaken her son may be.
Critics largely disliked “The Prodigy,” expressing that the story seemed mishandled and relied too heavily on cheap scares.
“Not even an amiable central performance from Taylor Schilling … and some early atmospheric mood-setting can save this ‘demon child’ knock-off from its ineptitude,” wrote The Times critic Kevin Maher.
“47 Meters Down: Uncaged” was called “brainless.”
The sequel of “47 Meters Down” (2017) follows four young women as they plan a diving trip to see Mayan ruins at the bottom of the ocean.
They realise too late that the ruins are also home to dozens of bloodthirsty sharks.
Critics largely blamed the film’s shortcomings on a lack of direction and pacing that failed to instill fear in viewers.
“This brainless sequel to ’47 Meters Down’ forsakes much of what made that 2017 survival thriller the lean and mean success it was, a credible shark threat being first and foremost,” wrote Toronto Star critic Peter Howell.
Critics said “In the Tall Grass” stretched its premise too thin.
Alarmed by the sound of a child crying amidst a field of tall grass, two siblings (Laysla De Oliveira and Avery Whitted) go to help him, only to become ensnared in the grass as well. Their confusion turns to terror as they look for a way to escape.
Based on a novella by Stephen King and Joe Hill, “In the Tall Grass” garnered negative reviews from critics for stretching its source material too thin.
“Despite an uneven track record, ‘In the Tall Grass’ gives the lamest King adaptations a run for their money, as writer-director Vincenzo Natali labors to stretch out the story, which takes a wrong turn in more ways than one,” wrote Brian Lowry for CNN.
“Don’t Let Go” was called convoluted and tonally messy.
In the dramatic horror “Don’t Let Go,” Detective Jack Radcliff (David Oyelowo) grapples with the sudden murder of his young niece (Storm Reid).
When a phone call from his niece connects him to the past, Jack races to solve her murder before it can happen again.
Critics felt that “Don’t Let Go” unevenly shouldered its tonal shifts, swinging between despair and optimism at a disorienting speed.
“The time-travelling investigation is indeed optimistic, but in reality and execution, it’s just magical thinking wrapped up in a fussy, overly convoluted plot,” wrote Katie Walsh for the Los Angeles Times.
Per critics, “Tone-Deaf” mishandled its message on culture clash.
In “Tone-Deaf,” millennial Olive (Amanda Crew) decides to leave the city for a moment of peace and quiet in the countryside.
Unbeknownst to her, the man renting her the house (Robert Patrick) is a vicious psychopath fuelled by an unhealthy contempt for younger generations.
Critics said that any attempt at social commentary in “Tone-Deaf” was lost upon delivery.
“Gruesomely diverting and agreeably bizarre in shorts bursts but ultimately undone by its determination to use its characters as proxies in a facile, idiotic Boomer-vs.-Millennial culture clash,” Andrew Wyatt wrote for The Lens.
Critics felt that “The Silence” wasted a talented cast.
As the world falls prey to creatures who hunt by sound, Ally (Kiernan Shipka), a young girl who is deaf, attempts to seek refuge with her mother and father (Stanley Tucci).
As the family waits out the monster invasion, a nefarious cult looks to exploit Ally.
Most critics found little to praise in “The Silence,” feeling that the merits of the cast were wasted on an uninventive film with a plodding pace.
“Even the always-welcome Stanley Tucci can’t add any flair to a movie that feels so much like a relative of John Krasinski’s 2018 smash hit [‘A Quiet Place’],” wrote Roger Ebert critic Brian Tallerico.
Critics called “The Curse of La Llorona” clunky and listless.
Based in Los Angeles in the 1970s, a social worker named Anna (Linda Cardellini) tries to protect her son and daughter from a deadly curse connected to the supernatural mythos of La Llorona, a weeping woman who preys on young children.
Critics mostly derided “The Curse of La Llorona” as a listless horror film that’s overstuffed with cheap scares.
Critic Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out wrote, “It may further the brand a bit, but it’s the opposite of frightening: a sludgy collection of tired jump scares, inexpertly mounted period décor – this time we’re in a too-shiny 1973 Los Angeles – and a continued slump into generic blahness.”
Critics said “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” exploited its subject matter.
“The Haunting of Sharon Tate” centres on the real-life tragedy of actress Sharon Tate (Hilary Duff) and her untimely murder at the hands of members of the Manson “family.”
Although the story is based on Tate’s murder, the film added elements of premonitions and psychological trauma.
The critical consensus for “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” was strongly negative, with many reviewers writing the film off as exploitative.
“The movie’s petty folly – its failure of imagination and morality – is that it actually goes out of its way to turn the Manson murders into schlock horror,” wrote Owen Gleiberman for Variety.
“Jacob’s Ladder” was widely dismissed as an unnecessary remake.
In David M. Rosenthal’s “Jacob’s Ladder,” surgeon Jacob Singer (Michael Ealy) focuses his attention on his wife and child after the untimely death of his brother. But when a stranger insists that his brother is still alive, Jacob’s grasp on reality is shaken to its core.
Many critics scratched their heads at this modern update to “Jacob’s Ladder” (1990), questioning the reason for a remake that fell so short of the original.
“The new ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ is less strange and scary, and more mindlessly action-packed,” wrote Noel Murray for the Los Angeles Times. “It doesn’t feel like a dream. It’s more like hearing a stranger describe a dream.”
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