Let’s be honest with ourselves. 2020 was an abomination. A pandemic ravaged through the world, while economic and political crises were prevalent in both the US and UK. Now more than ever movies are an escape, especially horror movies. Given the pandemic situation many films had their release dates stuck in limbo with many scheduled for 2020 still yet to be released— but that doesn’t mean 2020 still didn’t give us great movies. In fact, 2020 was one of the best years in horror in quite some time. As the front woman of Screen Queens’ Final Girls Club it gives me the tremendous honour of presenting to you, the horror films that made 2020 suck less.
10. Relic (dir. Natalie Erika James)
Where do I even begin with this one? This slow burn, dread inducing film from director Natalie Erika James absolutely destroyed me on so many levels. I would equate the feeling of watching Relic to the feeling of watching something beautiful slowly be destroyed. I thought I was desensitised to most modern horror films but after I finished Relic I had a good solid cry for about half an hour. Beautifully shot with some fantastic performances from Emily Mortimer, Bella Heathcote, and Robin Nevin, Relic proves to be a movie that has lingered with me long after the credits have rolled.
9. Gretel & Hansel (dir. Oz Perkins)
This one had the unfortunate timing of being released right before mass lockdowns took effect, so I feel this one slipped through the cracks on most people’s watchlist. A gothic period piece retelling of the namesake fairytale, Gretel & Hansel leans into its grim origins and presents us with a dark coming of age film with the sheen of a Marilyn Manson or Rammstein music video. Director Oz Perkins took themes from his previous effort The Blackcoat’s Daughter and was able to apply them with a stylised flair and bigger budget. Lead Sophia Lillis also gets to stretch her acting skills in a lead role that I hope we get more of from her.
8. Porno (dir. Keola Racela)
Hear me out, this film is a LOT better than it’s title. The debut from director Keola Racela follows a group of Christian teens as they work in a movie theater and through a series of unfortunate events, accidentally summon a Sex Succubus. Borrowing inspiration from Lamberto Bava’s Demons, Porno features some of the funniest moments in horror this year and an absolutely wild scene of penis mutilation. Just don’t Google this film without going into incognito mode first!
7. The Rental (dir. Dave Franco)
When I heard Dave Franco was going to make his directing debut with a slasher inspired by modern technology, I’m going to be honest that I rolled my eyes. So imagine my surprise when I finally watched it and not only was it good, but also ended up being one of my favourites this year! The film follows two couples with issues of infidelity, renting a home in the woods for a weekend getaway when they begin to suspect that they’re not the only ones there. Featuring two of my favourite performances of the year from leads Alison Brie and Shelia Vand, The Rental left me clamoring for a sequel once the credits began (it’ll also make me think twice before renting an AirBnB ever again).
6. Color Out of Space. (dir. Richard Stanley)
In a year where Lovecraftian horror was a hot topic—whether it be a prestige television series, a bevy of shorts, or indie filmmaking— it was hard not to take notice. Color Out of Space stands out from the rest of the pack not only because it features another unhinged performance from Nicolas Cage and was the long awaited return of Richard Stanley, but because like all great Lovecraft adaptations it improves on its source material to truly become something unique in its own right. Bathed in hazy shades of pink and purple, Color Out of Space becomes a mind-bending journey into something the human mind can’t truly comprehend. Throw this one on with some mates, kick back, and enjoy the trip.
5. The Invisible Man (dir. Leigh Whannell)
How does one go about rebooting the classic Universal Monsters for the modern era? If 2017’s The Mummy proved one thing it was that you sure as hell don’t go the action movie route. Instead, writer-director Leigh Whannell updates the horror story for 2020. With a focus on abusive relationships, gaslighting, and the fallout of ending such a relationship, Whannell pulls off what many thought was impossible to do: he made a classic horror icon scary again. Propelled to the next level by an absolutely heart crushing performance by Elisabeth Moss, The Invisible Man proves that the monsters of yesteryear can remain relevant and scary.
4. Host (dir. Rob Savage)
Where do I even start with this one? Honestly the less you know the better. It’s an hour long and one of the most suffocating, horrifying experiences in modern horror. Director Rob Savage and fellow writers Jed Shepherd and Gemma Hurley have crafted one of the best horror films I’ve seen in some time all from a Zoom call! Host is a shining example of what very talented people can do under a COVID-19 lockdown, making the most of what they have to hand.
3. Possessor (dir. Brandon Cronenberg)
With director Brandon Cronenberg carrying one of the premier surnames in body horror, there was a certain level of expectation for his second film. I’m happy to report that Possessor lives up to the family name in more ways than one. Possessor is one of the gnarliest cyberpunk, dystopian nightmares with an emphasis on body horror. The film features Andrea Riseborough as a contract killer who pulls off high profile assassinations by possessing other people’s bodies. When she possesses a body that’s aware of her presence, a hit goes horribly wrong and all hell breaks loose. Aside from featuring some of the most brutal violence this last year the film also features (in this writer’s opinion) some of the best social commentary on body and gender dysphoria and displacement. All around, a huge win for the Cronenberg legacy.
2. The Wolf of Snow Hollow (dir. Jim Cummings)
Jim Cummings is one of the most talented writers/directors working in the independent film scene today. Yeah, I said it. So imagine my surprise when I heard his follow up to the fantastic Thunder Road was not only going to be a horror-mystery, but also a werewolf movie! With a quick witted sense of humour, some great characterisation and commentary on addiction, family, and misogyny— it’s a Cummings movie full-stop. The fact Cummings also writes, directs and stars as the lead in this movie that has so many layers is impressive on multiple levels and makes The Wolf of Snow Hollow a movie absolutely worth celebrating.
1. Freaky (dir. Christopher Landon)
Be honest, who’s surprised here? I won’t repeat myself too much since I had the honor of reviewing Freaky for the wonderful site that you’re on right now. Freaky, from director Christopher Landon and co-writer Michael Kennedy, is what I look for in horror movies when I’m feeling down. Taking the simple body-swap premise of movies like Freaky Friday and giving it a horror spin, Freaky features some of the most exciting and visceral gore in a modern slasher film and outright some of the funniest humour to ever be present in horror/comedy. Brought lovingly to life by Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn, Freaky represents the paradigm shift I wish to see in horror comedies going forward and slashers in general. This was the horror film we needed this year to lift us up and remind us what it’s like to have fun.
by Reyna Cervantes