It’s that time again and I just love doing my top ten dark cinema movies. All my previous year’s top films can be found in the links at the end. Mother of Movies’ top 25 best dark cinema 2019 includes films from film festivals to look out for. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for release dates or click through to the review.
Obviously there are still a few movies I’m yet to see like The Lighthouse, Uncut Gems, and a few others so if you don’t see something in this list that was amazing, it’s possible I just haven’t seen it yet.
We should probably just get straight into it though.
Bong Joon Ho has received enough praise for Parasite to rival many films. The unexpected nature of the narrative and likeability of the characters inside its orbit pressed up against the social commentary was enough for me to make this my most memorable film for 2019. For a film that goes for over 2 hours, I could have watched more of this story. Everything about this South Korean masterpiece from the cinematography to the intricate details of its zany cast was a win for me.
The story begins with a family who has the ability to integrate into a wealthy family’s life. Of course, every family has a secret and this film will show you just how bad a situation can get.
Jordan Peele is a name on everyone’s lips as a rising writer and director and for good reason. Love him or hate him, the man can write a crafty tale. Us was a film I didn’t review as I felt there were so many ways to interpret its narrative I didn’t know where to start.
The story leaves its hold like a bull from a gate and barely slows for a second. This one has doppelgangers and they are anything but nice. Everyone inside this cinematic gem will make you wonder how it was all put together. Lupita Nyong as Adelaide is my top performance of 2019. The accents she put on her mirrored character, Red had me double-check the casting list to see if a body double was used. The whole central cast played two roles throughout.
I should have seen Zombieland 2 at the cinema instead of 3 From Hell. The sequel that took 10 years to come was my most anticipated film for 2019. From the opening scenes to the bright and busy finale, this is a sequel that equals the original 1995 movie. It was funny, it was fresh and I loved the addition of bit parts along the way. If you haven’t seen either film, get onto it and watch them back-to-back.
This film starring Jesse Eisenberg made me realize how much I adore him in movies. I watched The Art of Self Defense for a Fantasia Film Festival. The Art of Self Defense is one of those dark black comedies that shocks you with its humour. Imogen Poots stars as Anna and the film centers around a Karate dojo. Not just any dojo, this one has a special members section for those willing to go the extra mile. The Art of Self Defense will make you feel guilty for laughing and has so many one-liners that you’ll remember them all year.
Greener Grass is a comedy. But it’s not your average haha funny comedy. Its dark pastel underbelly of competition moms is what has allowed me to plonk this in the middle of this best of 2019 dark cinema list. Greener Grass is a film from debut director-writers Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe who also stars as the main characters in the movie. Released by IFC Midnight this film shocked their audiences with its Stepford Wives infused sight of the senses. It’s for lovers of weird narrative and a film you need to make time for.
I watched Tigers Are Not afraid for Fantasia Film Festival in July 2018 for Movie Hooker, an awesome Irish friend of mine. There were no plans for release back then and it’s never been in any of my ‘Best of Dark Cinema’ lists. Tigers Are Not Afraid belongs firmly and safely in any top ten. The film was finally released in August 2019 and now streams on Shudder. Issa Lopez’s Spanish language dark fantasy tale consisting of some of the best performing kids I can ever remember seeing in one place. The whole film is a sight for the eyeballs and will make you fall in love with world cinema. I promise.
Oh Midsommar, how I had hoped you would be the brightest five-starred film for 2019. The follow-up film for Ari Aster was easily a film I went into with high expectations. Midsommar is still very, very good though if you like your films to be a double entendre mashup of epic proportions. My favorite review for this film was from Horror World & Reviews. Ari Aster is a profound and wonderful writer-director and if Hereditary and Midsommer are indications of future performance, this man is genius.
Midsommar follows a small group of friends as they visit Sweden for a magical festival that happens only once every 90 years.
As a massive fan of the author John Ajvide Lindqvist (Let the Right Ones In), I followed the news of this movie as it announced the adaptation from novel to screen. Border didn’t release in many countries until mid-2019. It’s Swedish moniker, Gräns is a dark fantasy about a customs officer who can smell fear. I know right, just that part is intriguing and that’s not even the best part. I loved this movie.
9. The Swerve
I cannot sing The Swerve’s praise more. The Swerve is a movie from Dean Kapsalis and stars the brilliant Azura Skye as Holly. Another yet unreleased title to the wider public, I apologize for teasing you with its brilliance but I got to see this as part of the press for Cinapocalypse. I have no idea what the delay is, but I can only guess that the films’ exceedingly dark narrative may have something to do with it. If you actively seek out movies that make you feel like crap, then this will eventually top your list of movies that are as depressing as you want them to be.
True stores based on seedy crimes don’t come better than Mope. I watched this as part of the press for Cinepocalypse Film Festival and as yet it hasn’t had a wide release. I’m sure it will be on many people’s best-of list for 2020 though. A story about two guys in the porno industry who are trying to make their own star rise. Steve Driver and Tom Dong (their porno names) are real people played by Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Kelly Sry. This movie is as funny as it is sad and if you wanted to find out more about the bottom tier of this industry without having to see peen then this is the movie to watch.
11. Ready Or Not
Samara Weaving is kick a**, there are no if or buts about it. I pity people who aren’t a fan of this amazing Aussie actress because she brings a cool wind to most films I’ve seen with her in it.
Somehow filmmakers behind heralded that a game of hide-and-seek was a good backdrop for a horror movie and gosh darn it, they were right! This movie got extra points because of just how fun it managed to be. If you’re looking for a film to make you laugh and keep you on the toes this ought to about do it.
IFC Midnight is my favorite distributor and the fact I get to see a lot of their films before anyone else excites and enthralls me. Depraved is a 2019 underrated indie gem and more people need to see this film. It’s essentially the Frankenstein story for the modern cinephile and was written and directed by Larry Fessenden. Not everyone has agreed with my praise for this film. But I will continue to stand in the dimly lit corner of the film lovers’ world with others that thought it was great too.
13. Pet Sematary
Say what you will about the reboot of Pet Sematary from directors Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer. Younger moviegoers with no intention to watch old cinema classics from Steven King will get their money’s worth with this film. I’m not young, but I loved this version. The dark color palette, the epic special effects, and the solid casting all contributed to what I think was the best reboot of 2019.
Rob Grant is a great independent filmmaker and I like him. He has this quirky sense of narrative and brilliant ability to introduce a comedic accent to his work. It’s the sense of finer details inside his films that brings it to the next level. Harpoon is a single location film set upon a boat. It’s as much a tale about friendship as it is about not bringing weapons on board. Harpoon somehow manages to be a survival film that will make you squirm.
15. She Never Died
I got to see this as part of a Blood In the Snow film festival I covered and She Never Died is the companion piece for He Never Died. The latter is on Netflix and I can only hope She Never Died drops there too. Watch them back to back then pray for a third film to finish off the set. This film is for lovers of anthology type stories and dynamic characters with capabilities that are otherworldly. For a dose of violence see this film.
I’m not a fan of these types of films but I adored this. Described as Cosmic horror Starfish is a visual feast for the eyes only competing with just how great the soundtrack is. The story follows Audrey who’s smack bang in the middle of a monster-filled apocalypse and following clues on a mixed tape left by her best friend to try and save the world. This movie was exactly what I needed at the time I needed it. Sometimes films speak to your heart, and Starfish spoke to mine.
17. The Nightingale
The Nightingale is a movie in the same niche as The Swerve. Neither will leave you feeling good about anything for a little while. An Australian drama, the story follows an indigenous aborigine and an Irish convict who both end up on the same side following brutal acts. Aisling Franciosi and Baykali Ganambarr who play Claire and Billy give the most amazing performances here. This is not the type of film you fall in love with, but it’s definitely a movie that sticks with you for a variety of reasons.
Arnold Swartzengger has a son and here he plays Daniel, the imaginary friend of Luke (Miles Robbins.) Daniel Isn’t real is a psychological thriller that can be read in two ways. I liked looking at both sides of this tale of the impact of traumatic events. Many critics have called Adam Egypt Mortimer and Brian DeLeeuw’s movie uninspired and that it leans too heavily on other works. I don’t care about that, I just loved that it worked. And what’s a story without a few good name-drops anyway.
19. Charlie Says
There are literally dozens of movies about Charles Manson, and I have seen just about all of them. Told from the angle of the women in Manson’s life and just how they ended up tangled up in the mess that was. Charlie Says is based on the book ‘The Family’ and it’s really well done. If you’re an avid viewer of this type of film and subject matter, then this one is not like the others.
20. El Camino
Was Breaking Bad your favorite series ever? I’m still looking for something that I enjoyed more, so when I heard there was a film coming I was more than excited. Dubbed a fan film, there is not a lot the El Camino film offers to those who’ve never seen the series. El Camino picks up exactly where the series left off and finished the series off in one 122-minute chunk of Jesse Pinkman and Walter White giving you the finale you always wanted.
I liked Joker. I liked Joaquin Phoenix’s wonderful rendition of the unusually dark character and I liked the way the story was told. Sure it was not praised highly by mainstream fans and even many others. At the time of writing, Joker was rated by just under 600,000 audience members on IMDb and has an average score of 8.7/10. As a superhero fan who likes horror, the emergence of these superhero horror movies and television series totally does it for me.
22. The Wind
Lizzy Macklin makes her way across the Western Frontier with her husband. He spends a mammoth amount of time away and she spends much of her’s alone. So many movies set on the Western plains tell the stories of the menfolk and this one tells the story of what it was like for the women. The intricate and purposeful woven time splices used to tell this particular story was beautifully orchestrated. The score was brilliant and this feature-length film was a directorial and writer debut for both Emma Tammi and Teresa Sutherland.
The final chapter in the Shyalaman trilogy about superheroes with a difference. Unbreakable, Split and Glass follow David Dunn, Kevin Crumb and Mr. Glass across three films ending with a fitting conclusion. The casting is amazing and I can watch this and remember that Bruce Willis does do good work.
24. Culture Shock
An anthology series installment, from Hulu’s Into the Dark with Culture Shock. This movie played at a bunch of film festivals and was written and directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero. Marisol (Martha Higareda) wants a better life for herself and her unborn baby and to do that she needs to cross the border into the USA. A brilliantly told multifaceted story about whether the grass is really greener on the other side.
25. Striking Vipers
Black Mirror is an anthology series too but the episodes are feature film length right on the nose and therefore classify as movies. Striking Vipers is hard to describe but essentially follows two college friends who run into each other and begin playing Mortal Kombat online using nifty futuristic immersive gaming devices. Needless to say, some things happen in this alter-reality that will not agree with some viewers. I loved the creativity of this episode and had to include it in my top 25.
Honorable Mentions + Cinema That Isn’t Dark
For a year that many people say is a bad year for film, I am 100% sure there is plenty to offer from 2019. In no particular order.
- Marriage Story
- Dry Blood
- Happy Death Day 2 U
- The Clovehitch Killer
- The Dead Center
- The Prodigy
- Long Lost
- Fighting With My Family
- Always Be My Maybe