Looking Back: Tim Picks the Five Best Horror Films from the Year 2012

December 26, 2012


Since the horror genre is pretty much always ignored when awards season rolls around, this year, we figured our horror guru and The Golden Briefcase co-host Tim Buel should take the time to honor some of the best horror films of 2012. For my money, I think there's only a handful of truly great horror films in any given decade, but our own Tim Buel sees many more films in that genre than I do each year. So without further adieu, here are Tim's picks for the five best horror films of 2012. We'll tell you right now that Paranormal Activity 4 will not be found on this list, and you may not have even heard of a few of these films. Read on!

#5. The Innkeepers

The Innkeepers

Ti West's The House of the Devil was a huge sleeper hit with horror buffs when it came out in 2009, so everyone was greatly anticipating his follow up. What we got was a hilarious and chilling tale of two amateur ghost hunters investigating their place of employment on its final closing weekend. Ti West again shows his love and appreciation for slow-burn storytelling and fantastic use of dialogue to create believable and endearing characters (played brilliantly by Sarah Paxton and Pat Healy). The film delicately plays with tone as we pace through the creaking and haunting chambers of The Yankee Peddler Inn with our main characters, waiting to see what secrets the Inn holds.

#4. Sleep Tight

Sleep Tight

Juame Balagueró is most widely known for his two entries in the excellent found-footage series [REC] (co-directed by Paco Plaza), yet he has branched out alone in this latest effort and proven he can hold his own as a director. Sleep Tight is a film about an introverted apartment employee who is infatuated with one of the complex's tenants. The main character, Ceasar (played extremely well by Luis Tosar) blurs the lines between the moral and the perverse when it comes to his obsession with Marta Etura's Clara, "visiting" her while she sleeps and violating all terms of privacy. Sleep Tight also challenges the audience with a moral dilemma as we essentially root for a pervert to not get his comeuppance. The film is just now being released in the US, so try to catch it as soon as you can!

#3. Sinister


Sinister is a film that was very much on the radar of all critics and friends of screenwriter and fellow film blogger C. Robert Cargill (aka "Massawyrm" of Ain't It Cool News), yet the question remained: how good was the final product? The answer is damn good. Backed by Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity, Insidious), Cargill and his good friend Scott Derrickson have crafted a very unsettling and disturbing little horror film that takes some traditional horror tropes and flips them on their head. The film sets true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) in the house of a murdered family where he begins to unravel the mystery surround their deaths and other related murders. The truly memorable and most gut-wrenching scenes of the film come in the form of found-footage (truly found fooage!) on Super 8 film reels that depict the murders. The tapes are accompanied by a fantastic droning score and unforgettable visuals.

#2. Kill List

Kill List

Ben Wheatley is shaping up to be one of the most important filmmakers of our age due to his phenomenal first film, Down Terrace, and then this year's follow up, Kill List. The film showcases the story of two hit men in Europe who decide to take employment from an enigmatic employer after a particularly nasty affair in Kiev. The main characters, played by Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley, follow a disturbing and harrowing set of murders towards a fiery conclusion that challenges the audience's perception of the film's reality. Kill List not only qualifies as a fantastic thriller, but it truly showcases some of the best horror elements seen on screen in many years with its twists and turns, all done in unwavering slow-burn style. Kill List is now available on DVD/Blu-ray and is, in my opinion, one of the must-owns of 2012.

#1. Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods

It is almost no surprise that the Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard collaboration is ending up on most critics' end of the year lists (including yours truly's), because it is all in all a darn fine piece of cinema. The film spins a web of mysteries surrounding a traditional setup of a group of college kids heading to a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway where, of course, not all is what it seems. Talking too much about the plot of Cabin is cheating the film, where its mysteries and secrets are integral plot points to the greater picture.

Goddard could not have chosen a better directorial debut than Cabin due to the fact that the film gets to show a little bit of every style of horror film. Whedon and Goddard's script and characters, however, are what truly sell the realism and scope of the picture, which erupts in one of the most ballsy endings seen in a very long time. All in all, Cabin in the Woods is an essential see from this year's film slate (it also made Ethan's list of Surprisingly Good Films of 2012), celebrating all that horror is and what horror will continue to be. Be sure to check out Jeremy's SXSW review which can say more than I could ever say here about what Cabin in the Woods means for horror cinema.

So there's the year's best in horror if you're looking for true terror. In addition, keep an eye out for Ethan's Best Comedies of 2012, another genre that mostly goes completely ignored by the Academy. Stay tuned the rest of the week for our final year-end pieces that include the picks for Best Films of 2012 from Ben Pearson, Jeremy Kirk and Ethan Anderton. Catch more year-end recap goodness with our Best Posters, Biggest Disappointments, Surprisingly Great Films, and Worst Films of 2012. Thoughts on Tim's horror list?

Find more posts: Editorial, Horror



What exactly was "flipped on their head" in Sinister? It was so run of the mill and bland story wise.

Ryd on Dec 26, 2012


and a knock off when you get to know the Slenderman....

Jericho on Dec 26, 2012


Bagul and Slenderman could not be more different.... =)

timbuel on Dec 27, 2012


Deity, darkness, soul collector, mass murderer, goal is to endlessly consume souls of kids, wears a suit, rather tall, has his own symbol, been around since ancient times, even has the word Boogie as a nickname..... no wait your right Bagul has hair....

Jericho on Dec 27, 2012


But you REALLY think Slenderman was the inspiration for Bagul? Similar yet not the same. Slenderman is pure mystery where as Bagul is involved with pagan worship and demonology..

timbuel on Dec 27, 2012


Slenderman has been around since 2003 '9000 BC if you want to count a cave painting in Brazil' and has maintained a popularity on the itnernet all that time. Sinister just popped up this year with a character not existing until it released, its too hard to think otherwise.....

Jericho on Dec 27, 2012


Eh you're absolutely entitled to think so but I think that's wicked cynical.

timbuel on Dec 27, 2012


What was so "run of the mill" about Sinister? The main character and main plot points were refreshingly original and the film went darker directions than we usually see from a film like this. You're obviously entitled to your opinion, I just think your statement is a little broad...

timbuel on Dec 27, 2012



nem on Dec 26, 2012


i love cabin in the woods, but this is not a horror

me on Dec 26, 2012


This is your perogotive obviously, but I definitely consider Cabin a horror film just as much as it is a celebration of horror films. And yes nem it is my #1. I stand by it! To each their own though!

timbuel on Dec 26, 2012



avi on Dec 26, 2012


tell that to the audience I saw it with who were screaming as much as they were laughing.

Kento on Dec 27, 2012


All you do is troll these "best of" lists to disagree with the poster.

Chazzy on Dec 27, 2012


Kill List was ok, i think you have grossley over estimated its director.

Happy camper on Dec 26, 2012


I thought it was horrible.

Craig on Dec 27, 2012


Have you seen Down Terrace? Sightseers? His segment in ABCs of Death? Ben Wheatley is a gem.

timbuel on Dec 27, 2012


The Innkeepers, really? So disappointed with that one. Just when it seemed like something was going to happen, it didn't. The atmosphere was good to a point, Kelly McGillis was an interesting addition, but my girl and I thought it fell completely flat. There's a lot of potential with the 'old haunted hotel' story, but this one was weak. imo

grimjob on Dec 26, 2012


Agreed. A lot of people praise it for being a "slow-burn" suspense movie, which only means something if the build up leads to strong ending. This movie didn't have that.

JP on Dec 26, 2012


the last part of your post is the most important thing you said... "IMO". Also I think the movie constantly had something going on. And to say nothing happened is ridiculous. The whole movie is a series of events culminating in a finale that felt pre-ordained and actually was by the Kelly McGillis character.

Kento on Dec 27, 2012


Agree to disagree.

grimjob on Dec 27, 2012


Anybody who gives any credibility to the innkeepers, CLEARLY, has no idea what the fuck they are talking about

Baphomitt on Dec 28, 2012


None of these are worth your time except for maybe "Cabin" and that's not even horror....

ff on Dec 26, 2012


you realy mean this? Go watch snuf movies if you aren't satisfied with sinister! Everybody i spoke found sinister very creepy and me to! Man you creep me out...

avi on Dec 26, 2012


I obviously disagree with you on this but Cabin is VERY much a horror film. Could you maybe describe your thoughts a little better than a blanketed statement?

timbuel on Dec 27, 2012


I personally thought Sinister was awful. In my top 5 worst movies of the year. Nothing really happens. Thought VHS was a much better movie.

csgabriel on Dec 26, 2012


sinister was a great great horror flick! And everybody who wasn't impressed by it is a psychopath and has no feeling.... Fanboys always suck on every discussion because they are so narrow minded that every discussion is always ending in a totall waste of time...

avi on Dec 26, 2012


preemptively attacking those who disagree with you... amazing.

Kento on Dec 27, 2012


Cabin in the wood is not a horror movie

Yousef Hammad on Dec 27, 2012


Oh but it very much is Yousef! Why do you think it isn't? First rule of arguing is to supply a counter argument 😉

timbuel on Dec 27, 2012


hahaha true I like your list, granted I havent seen all those films, just Cabin in the Woods and Sinister but i dont really think of Cabin in the Woods as a horror movie, more of an action type film that pokes fun at the horror movie genre but thats not bad, I still love the movie 😀

Said Samayoa on Dec 27, 2012


The first hour of Sinister was extremely scary. It fell apart in the last half hour. Exactly like Insidious.

Brian Ricci Movie Review on Dec 27, 2012



Adam Lubicz on Dec 27, 2012



timbuel on Dec 27, 2012


saw the pay off coming in the first act, wasn't scared once during the film, bad performances from almost everyone, exposition given over the internet... did I mention I saw the twist in the first act?

Kento on Dec 27, 2012


Nice job with the list. It's refreshing to see one for the horror genre.

Isildur_of_Numenor on Dec 27, 2012


I hated Sinister with a passion. It felt so generic... and I wanted to like it since I've known the writer for years, but I was bored out of my mind and never scared once. where is VHS on this list?

Kento on Dec 27, 2012


VHS wasn't very good.

Tykittaa on Dec 28, 2012


I was quite disappointed with Cabin in the Woods. After reading so many blog posts that basically read like love letters to the film, I didn't find that it differentiated itself much from any other "cabin in the woods" scenario except in it's overly hyped sub-narrative, or "reveal", if you will. Don't get me wrong, it introduced a very interesting concept, but it could have been executed SO MUCH BETTER. Having anticipated this thing for so long, I'll be honest, the movie in my head was WAY more interesting than what was presented on the screen: a rushed, predictable, sub-par storyline. If you're looking for a "cabin in the woods" movie that's a love letter to horror cinema while not playing out like your typical "cabin in the woods" fare then see "Dead Snow".

Chris on Dec 28, 2012


Kill List is awesome. Tim Buel is awesome.

David Klein on Dec 28, 2012


1. ParaNorman (yes, it counts) 2. The Innkeepers 3. The Cabin in the Woods 4. Prometheus 5. The Woman in Black

Tykittaa on Dec 28, 2012


Love seeing these lists but always disappointing. Cabin in the Woods was far from horror. Good movie though but seeing that labeled as horror is what makes me disappointed but I'll check out most of these.

tra la la la la di da on Dec 29, 2012

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