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In Search Of Darkness Main

Stuart’s Best from Horror DNA 2019

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

In Search Of Darkness Large

As we come to the end of not only the year 2019 but an entire decade, it’s a pleasure to report that the Renaissance of Horror is still going strong. That’s a sublime feeling for me – I feel as if I got into the game at just the right time. There’s more variety, intelligence, style, and viciousness in the genre than we’ve seen in decades. In particular, the low budget/independent scene is turning out some insanely good work from up-and-coming writers and directors.

I reviewed 50 films for Horror DNA this year, and the quality across the board has been astounding (barring a handful of one and two-star stinkers that fell flat). I don’t recall last year being this much of a challenge to narrow to a ten best (obligatory Honorable Mention will, of course, be included). This is my favorite piece of the year to write, as it gives me a chance to share a broad range with you all in one convenient location.

Let’s dig in, shall we? You’ll need a bib…or maybe one of those ponchos they give the first few rows at a Gallagher performance. After you peruse this one, check out my Best of the Big and Small Screen of 2019 and Best Discoveries of 2019.

small-coverBuy from Amazon US. In Search of Darkness

At four hours and 20-minutes long, this documentary on ‘80s horror is exhaustive in both its resume of stars interviewed and stories told. The format keeps the whole affair moving briskly, and I frankly could have sat through twice the length and been just as absorbed. It’ll be a little harder to get your hands on if you didn’t back the project during its wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, but it’s more than worth searching out. It’s the definitive doc on ‘80s horror and one of only two five-star ratings I gave this year.

You can read my full review here.

small-coverBuy from Amazon US. The VelociPastor

My other five-star rating. A priest is scratched by an ancient dragon tooth, giving him the power to turn into a velociraptor to fight crime (which he does frequently with his hooker/doctor/lawyer sidekick). Do I have your attention now? I thought so. High-cheese SFX, a touching love story, vengeance, a pimp named Frankie Mermaid, Vietnam flashbacks, and ninjas. Did I mention he turns into a fucking dinosaur?! It’s the movie you never knew you needed. Once you see it, it’ll become the movie you must share with everyone. You’re welcome.

You can read my full review here.

small-coverBuy from Amazon US. Girl on the Third Floor

I’ll admit it, I took this initially because I’m a mark for “The Best in the World”, CM Punk (real name: Phil Brooks). I had a feeling that his off-the-charts charisma and “It” factor would make for an interesting flick. What I wasn’t prepared for was writer/director Travis Stevens’ freshmen outing as a director to be this good. A classic haunted house tale anchored by a lead performance that’s equal parts Don Draper and Ash Williams, this one will make you feel slimy and sleazy in the setting of a genuinely haunted Victorian wonder of a house. One of those times you applaud during the credits.

You can read my full review here.

small-coverBuy from Amazon US. Dead Ant

Jake Busey, Tom Arnold, and Sean Astin headline a campy masterpiece of hair metal and giant ants straight from a 1950’s atomic scare flick. The soundtrack is loaded with classic hair metal. The premise is utterly ridiculous. The performances are clichéd and over the top. The desert setting adds so much flavor. Also, there’s an original song called “Side Boob” that might be my favorite movie song ever. You heard me – side boob. Who doesn’t love a little bit of that?

You can read my full review here.

small-coverBuy from Amazon US. 3 from Hell

After 14 years, we finally got the next (final?) chapter in the Firefly saga, and it was more than worth the wait. I called it “National Lampoon’s Vacation with unapologetic shootings, stabbings, sexual assault, torture, gratuitous violence, gutter language, and criminal insanity; a true road movie with heart.” I stand by that statement. Otis’ (you can read my interview with Bill Moseley here) character development is fascinating, and Baby owns this movie. The entire cast slaughters it while Sherri Moon Zombie is a bonafide revelation.

You can read my full review here.

small-coverBuy from Amazon US. Into the Dark: Culture Shock

The Hulu film series gives you a solid lineup of monthly holiday-themed horrors, but Culture Shock is a cut above the rest. Not only does it feature Barbara Crampton (you can read my interview with Barbara Crampton here), but you’re treated to a crucially relevant film about the division in America that starts at the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s the pure horror version of A Handmaid’s Tale. Writer/director/actor Gigi Saul Guerrero is a legit triple threat and a straight up rock star that you’re going to hear A LOT more from in the future.

You can read my full review here.

small-coverBuy from Amazon US. Into the Dark: Pure

Man, the concept of purity has never been more suspect, and the nature of the father-daughter relationship has never been turned more upside down. If you’re critical of religion and female oppression, this is the movie that you absolutely must see. The finale takes the inspiration of Brian De Palma’s Carrie and does its own singularly fucked up thing with it. It’s rather beautiful.

You can read my full review here.

small-coverBuy from Amazon US. Saint Bernard

SFX maestro Gabriel Bartalos (you can read my interview with him here) has given us one of the most gloriously disturbing, thought provoking, visually striking, and wonderfully strange films of this or any other year. Think Eraserhead in flavor with a full-frontal assault of top-notch SFX and a Troma sensibility. I know that’s a lot to handle, but if you dare to take the ride you’ll never be the same. This is NOT a film to watch on drugs; it already makes you feel like you’re on peyote. You also get to enjoy Warwick Davis, and everybody loves Warwick Davis. He’s the original Baby Yoda.

You can read my full review here.

small-coverBuy from Amazon US. One Cut of the Dead

A zombie film that redefines the word “meta”. I’ve not had a more genuine outpouring of admiration and joy at a film this year. The zombie genre is a little tired, but Shin'ichirô Ueda has done something utterly unique. It’s a film for those who worship in the cathedral of film, whether you’re an actor, writer, director, producer, or just a film nerd. Be patient and be rewarded, because I promise you won’t find anything else like it.

You can read my full review here.

small-coverBuy from Amazon US. Tennessee Gothic

Didn’t we all have a battered paperback copy of the short story collection, Dark Masques? Remember Ray Russell’s classic, “American Gothic”, about the succubus who dupes the backwoods Southern farmer and his dim-witted son? Of course you do. This is the film version of that, and it’s a rare thing to see a story done so much justice. If you’re Southern (like me), you might even cringe a little. That’s a good thing.

You can read my full review here.

Naturally, I have to give you a little epilogue. Here’s your list of HONORABLE MENTIONS from a damn good year of horror: Depraved (killer take on Frankenstein), I Trapped the Devil, Into the Dark: Pilgrim, Into the Dark: School Spirit, Killer Sofa (the most fun movie of the year), Mermaid Down, Piercing, Portals, Replace, Terrortory II (my Anthology of the Year), The Shed, and When We Dance the Music Dies.

About The Author
Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Writer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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