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Best Horror Movies of 2012: Theatrical

The Top Wide Releases of the Year

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Here are my choices for best horror/suspense films released wide in theaters from January through December 2012. (For the purposes of this list, I'm defining "wide" as 500-plus screens.) Honorable mentions: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Gone, The Raven, Silent House.

10. Underworld Awakening

'Underworld Awakening' movie poster.
© Screen Gems
Underworld Awakening is big dumb fun, shallow and cartoonish but fast paced and full of high-octane action that utilizes its 3-D technology well.

9. Paranormal Activity 4

'Paranormal Activity 4' teaser poster
© Paramount
Being the weakest in the series to date doesn't make Paranormal Activity 4 a bad movie. As "found footage" fare goes, it's still an effective entry, delivering the requisite spookiness and natural performances to overcome the lack of freshness.

8. The Woman in Black

'The Woman in Black' movie poster.
© CBS Films
Despite a dearth of originality, the picturesque setting and relentless scares make The Woman in Black a welcome return to the gothic horror of Hammer Films' heyday.

7. Dark Shadows

'Dark Shadows' movie poster
© Warner Bros.
A muddled script can't diminish Johnny Depp's endearing, giddy performance in the flawed but entertaining fish-out-of-water vampire tale Dark Shadows.
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6. Sinister

'Sinister' movie poster.
© Summit
Sinister's inventive structure helps imbue it with haunting imagery and an overwhelming sense of dread in a fine capper to producer Jason Blum's informal "spooky house" trilogy, following Paranormal Activity and Insidious.

5. The Collection

'The Collection' movie poster.
© LD Entertainment
The gleefully over-the-top sequel The Collection not only improves immeasurably upon its predecessor The Collector, but it functions as a refreshing throwback to '80s-styled slashers, delivering ridiculous kills, practical (read: no CGI) gore effects, a memorable masked villain and a simple, straightforward plot that barrels forward at a breakneck pace. The Collection knows it's not Schindler's List, and it embraces its pulpy content.

4. Prometheus

'Prometheus' teaser poster.
© 20th Century Fox
Stunning visuals highlight the larger-than-life Prometheus, whose script, despite much-publicized gaps and unanswered questions, works like a fascinating puzzle whose relationship to the Alien universe is never less than compelling, leaving viewers on the edge of their seats wanting more.

3. The Possession

'The Possession' movie poster.
© Lionsgate
It may not introduce much new to the demonic possession genre, but The Possession manages to not only scare and shock, but it conveys a level of humanity rarely seen in horror movies, thanks to a smart script and superb cast.

2. The Grey

'The Grey' movie poster.
© Open Road
Taking a concept -- plane crash survivors stalked by large man-eating wolves -- that could be fodder for a SyFy movie of the week and turning it into something as dramatic and socially relevant as The Grey is nothing short of miraculous. That it delivers action and suspense isn't surprising, but the touching level of genuine emotion is a shock and could potentially be worth of Oscar consideration.

1. The Cabin in the Woods

'The Cabin in the Woods' movie poster
© Lionsgate
Like a love letter to horror, The Cabin in the Woods toys with genre conventions while cleverly avoiding all-out parody. It strikes an inspired balance of laughs, thrills and splattery gore while pushing the genre boundaries and thinking outside the daunting horror box.

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