If you’re one of those people who claim they don’t like horror movies, then I’ve got three things to say to you:
- You’re full of bullstuff.
- You’re not foolin’ nobody.
- You’re a liar.
Now, I don’t think you’re trying to be a liar, per se, but you’ve decided that it’s “not cool” to tell other people that you like horror movies.
Before I lose you completely, let me ask you this: do you like the television series Game of Thrones? Because last time I checked, that story is full of witches, ice zombies, violence, incest, bouncin’ bosoms, erection-free ding-dongs, and cold-blooded murder. In other words: it’s a goddamn horror show.
Look, I get it, alright? You don’t want to be seen as indecent, improper, or something other than normal—whatever the hell that is—but it’s time to shed the chains and shackles of the 70s and 80s satanic panic. It’s time to embrace a genre that has a lot of great things to offer—books, movies, visual art, and music. It’s time to finally admit that you like horror.
So, forget about the early horror schlock that’s light on story and heavy on gore. That dumpster fodder gave the entire genre a bad rap. Modern horror focuses on character development, innovative plot structure, and moralistic tales—just like Game of Thrones.
I also want to point out that there are many classic holiday stories that most people don’t consider to be horror even though they are—Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, for instance.
With all that in mind, I want to recommend a few of the recent standout horror movies that may have flown under your radar. I’m intentionally skipping over some crowd-pleasing, money-making films like It, A Quiet Place, Hereditary, Halloween, and Mandy. They’re all solid horror movies, but they’re gonna get plenty of coverage elsewhere.
WARNING: spoilers to follow.
In 2016, the internet nearly broke itself in two because people were both decrying and championing the new, female-helmed Ghostbusters. You were a misogynist if you didn’t like it; you were supporting feminism if you did. On the one hand, Sony was trying to pull the wool over your eyes with a transparent cash grab, while on the other hand, they were taking exciting risks with older intellectual properties. You couldn’t escape it. The debate was rampant.
But let’s talk about irony.
Annihilation is an intelligent, scary, and well-executed science fiction/horror movie—with a cast consisting of nearly all women—and practically no one cared when it hit theatres.
Internationally, it was released directly to Netflix, and in the U.S. and Canada, it had a limited theatrical run. It bombed at the box office.
Writer/director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) based Annihilation on the first novel in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. To quote Jonathan Pile of Empire magazine, the film explores themes of, “depression, grief, and the human propensity for self-destruction.” Heavy and completely adult-themed stuff.
While it’s definitely a throwback to the 60s and 70s more measured and intellectual style of science fiction films, Annihilation feels extremely modern and forward-thinking.
Plus, it features one of the scariest monsters I’ve ever seen on film.
When it comes to Netflix-produced horror movies, it’s a mixed bag, but CAM is a true standout.
Through the lens of the adult webcam industry, we follow Alice Ackerman’s (Madeline Brewer) descent into narcissism, fame-worship, and the trappings that come with an identity crisis.
At its very core, CAM is about our reliance on technology to define who we are—it plays like an excellent Black Mirror episode.
The Clovehitch Killer
From moment one, you know that Don (Dylan McDermott) is the Clovehitch Killer, but that’s overtly intentional and a surprisingly unique take on the serial killer subgenre. This movie isn’t concerned with The Sixth Sense-stlye twists and turns. It’s about honestly dealing with a horrific family secret and showing—without any jump scares, fast edits, or loud music cues—the real-life horrors behind the actions of a serial killer.
If a mashup of Inglourious Basterds and 28 Days Later sounds like your cup of tea, then definitely check this one out.
Did we need a remake of Dario Argento’s horror-classic, Suspiria? Did Tilda Swinton need to play multiple roles—like the head dance instructor and the prosthetic-covered elderly psychiatrist? Did the movie need to end in an orgy of violence where Dakota Johnson grows a vagina in her chest and telepathically makes multiple people’s heads explode during a modern dance performance?
But I’m sure glad they did.
It’s about 45-minutes too long and the piano-driven score by Thom Yorke is out of place at times, but I think those missteps can be easily forgiven. The art direction captures Cold War-era Germany to perfection and there are a few sequences that are truly breathtaking—a woman turned into a human marionette and slowly broken into pieces, for instance.
Honorable mentions: Revenge, The Endless, Are We Not Cats, Apostle, and The Ritual.