50 Best Horror Films of the 21st Century

Kicking off Halloween month with this banger of an article.

50. Malignant (2021)

Third Act Insanity / Spirit Killer / Violent / WTF / Real Dumb / Funny

Bonkers passion project from modern horror maestro James Wan. Guess he just had to create two of the most successful franchises of the genre (Saw, Insidious) and direct a Fast and the Furious movie for studio execs to give him the green light for this. It starts out terribly, with unnatural acting and really predictable beats, but it morphs into this outrageous and oddly compelling monster movie. The first two acts are easy to dismiss, but that third act is a certified comedic masterpiece. The third act was literally better than my family. And I love my family. HBOMax

49. Triangle (2009)


Australian / Mindfuck / Masked Killer / Boats / Mystery / Supernatural Forces / Groundhog Day

A real hidden gem of a psychological thriller, Triangle follows a stressed-out single mom on an ill-advised speedboat double date that ends in a nightmare! Melissa George (The Amityville Horror, 30 Days of Night) delivers her best screen performance here as the protagonist, but the real star of the movie is the way the plot reveals itself. Some cheesy special effects may hold it back, but Triangle has more ideas than most any three mainstream horror movies put together. Roku / PlutoTV / Peacock / TUBI / Freevee / Crackle / YouTube

48. The Conjuring (2013)

Haunted House / Set in the 70s / Likeable Characters / Catholic Shit / Legit Scary

This is about as mainstream as it gets and while the most recent offerings of The Conjuring universe range between not good and poop, people forget how simple and effective the first one was. Featuring a very talented four-hander cast (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston), a solid, coherent story that properly escalates and some really well-staged jump scares. HBOMax

47. Grindhouse (2007)

Double Feature / Goofy / 70s Vibe / Violent / Strong Female Leads / Good Kurt Russell

Overly ambitious and overly long, this Tarantino/Rodriguez brainchild still yields some cool shit. Planet Terror, Rodriguez‘s segment, is a consistently entertaining if not totally groundbreaking zombie movie while Death Proof, Tarantino’s segment, is long-winded AF but features some truly incredible scenes of action and dialogue. Kurt Russell is also fantastic in it. The fake movie trailers shown in between the two features are the best part of the movie though, with a hilarious British haunted house movie trailer by Edgar Wright, a wildly violent Thanksgiving slasher trailer by Eli Roth, and a bizarrely fascinating Nazi werewolf movie trailer by Rob Zombie. Seek it out in its original double-feature Grindhouse version because the individual movies don’t really stand up on their own. Showtime

46. 28 Days Later (2002)

British / Zombies / Good Soundtrack / Violent / Legit Scary

Frightening and stylish British zombie movie from the dude who made Trainspotting, another terrifying movie for completely different reasons. Director Danny Boyle films this like grainy home video footage which adds a certain creepiness while the quality of the performances (Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Christopher Eccleston) pump-up the realism. 28 Days Later put screenwriter and future director Alex Garland on the map. Another one of his movies is on this list further down because it’s better. HBOMax

45. The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

Incredibly Violent / Disgusting Dialogue / Gross / Set in 70s / Funny / Great Soundtrack

The exact definition of NOT FOR EVERYONE, this unbelievably brutal and mean-spirited, but technically very sound, redneck horror picture follows a family of disgusting murderers being gross as hell. The late great Sid Haig is super unhinged here along with horror icon Bill Moseley and underrated character actor William Forsythe. Sheri Moon Zombie is a bit much but not nearly as much as Zombie‘s urine-soaked, fecal-caked dialogue that constantly threatens to undermine his impressive directing and near flawless music supervision. HBOMax / Shudder / PlutoTV / Tubi

44. Session 9 (2001)

Haunted Asylum / Ambiguous / Legit Creepy / Great Performances / Subtle Shit

An unnerving waking nightmare that I first saw falling in and out of sleep at my sister’s ex-boyfriend’s house. Basically, it’s about an asbestos removal team (Peter Mullan, David Caruso, Josh Lucas) tasked with cleaning up an abandoned mental hospital. Of course, they begin experiencing a bunch o creepy shit and find a box full of patient session tapes, one of which is a multiple personality case. This is fairly subtle horror that never overplays its hand on the paranormal stuff and is elevated by good performances throughout, especially Peter Mullan (Ozark, Trainspotting, Tyrannosaur) who is pretty spectacular. $3.99 rental on Amazon

43. [REC] (2007)

Spanish / Zombies / Found Footage / Violent / Legit Scary

One of the few “found footage” horror films that actually does the thing correctly, Spanish import [REC] is a lean, mean, zombie movie machine. Sure, it relies heavily on jump scares because it’s a found footage movie, but the scare set-ups never feel cheap and the strength of the lead actress (Manuela Velasco) certainly makes everything feel more intense. A few years later they remade it as Quarantine for American audiences with Dexter’s sister in the lead and boy oh boy was it muy mala. Tubi

42. Thirst (2009)

South Korean / Vampire / Romance / Violent / Great Lead Performances / Dark Humor

From the brilliant filmmaking mind Park Chan-wook, who brought us Oldboy, The Handmaiden, and the upcoming Decision to Leave, Thirst is an abuse drama with strong horror and dark humor elements. A bit disjointed and overly long by about half an hour, it’s still worth your time because of everything it does well. There are some truly fantastic stretches within the 134-minute film and the two lead performances are great, so great it makes you wish the whole thing came together in a cleaner, more coherent way. Peacock

41. Trick r Treat (2007)

Anthology / Set During Halloween / Violent / Funny / Great Cast

Fun despite all the child murder, Trick r Treat is a Halloween-set anthology tale all taking place in the same fucked up town. There’s the angry old neighbor man (Succession‘s Brian Cox), the homicidal high school principal (Dylan Baker, sportin’ real Happiness vibes), and a couple of wild teens led by Academy Award Winner Anna Paquin. The stories all collide with one another, which is cool and leads to an ending that’s satisfying on multiple levels. Still, there’s a lot of child murder here, so enter at your own risk. $2.99 rental on Amazon

40. The House of the Devil (2009)

Babysitting / Slow Burn / Violent / Satan Cult / Set in the 70s / Early Greta Gerwig

Talk about a sloooowwww burn, Ti West‘s debut feature The House of the Devil takes a full hour to wind up but once that final third begins it descends into wall-to-wall tension and unpredictability. While it isn’t very focused on character development, the performances are all pretty good, especially a pre-Lady Bird Greta Gerwig and Tom Noonan (Manhunter, Anomalisa, Robocop 2) as the creepy old dude with a cane who owns the house where the “babysitting” goes down. However, if you don’t like slow burns, and I mean slow, this is not the movie for you. Peacock / Shudder / PlutoTV / Tubi

39. The Innkeepers (2011)

Indie / Haunted Hotel / Character-Focused / Slow Burn / Funny / Legit Creepy

Everyone pegs The House of the Devil as Ti West‘s best, but for my money, it’s the less flashy, more character-focused The Innkeepers, which displays every bit of West‘s meticulous attention to detail and a deep understanding of how to build tension. Taking place in an old haunted hotel, a day before it’s scheduled for demolition, the film is centered around two clerks and amateur ghost hunters, Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy). Luke is just trying to get through his final shift, watching porn on his laptop and refusing to give a single mom fresh towels, while Claire is much more interested in making spirit contact their last night in the joint. The Innkeepers might be slow and it doesn’t build to anything outrageous, but it’s good vibes and technique all the way through. Peacock / PlutoTV / Tubi / Freevee

38. Pearl (2022)

Serial Killer / Funny / Set in the 1910s / Great Lead Performance / Farm-Livin’

Eating my words immediately, Pearl is actually Ti West‘s best movie to date. An odd prequel to West‘s most successful movie, X, an uneven but entertaining blend of 70s sex comedy and 70s slasher, Pearl felt like an afterthought but ended up being a way more cohesive movie. It helps that Mia Goth, who also co-wrote the script, delivers a fantastic and oddly very funny performance as the titular Pearl, a cuckoo farmgirl dead set on making it in Hollywood. In Theaters

37. Host (2020)

Australian / Skype Movie / Made During Quarantine / Legit Scary / Under 1 Hour

I generally find found footage movies boring as shit, and although Australia’s Host isn’t a “found footage” horror movie, the “POV of a Zoom Call” format gives the audience, more or less the same thing. That being said, tightening everything to a 56-minute runtime and having a capable cast of actors really elevates and reinvents a tired format. Being this short allows for no lulls in the middle, so once everything gets set in motion, it’s an absolute mad dash to the finish line. Besides being expertly paced, Host is genuinely scary. It’s a slam dunk for a Shudder. AMC+ / Shudder

36. Saint Maud (2019)

British / A24 / Drama Heavy / Slow Burn / Great Performances / Unsettling

Rose Glass‘ shocking and unnervingly realistic portrait of an isolated loner turned insane religious zealot, Maud (a phenomenal Morfyyd Clark) who believes God is legit chatting with her. Unfortunately, she’s working as a hospice nurse to a bitter former dancer (a great Jennifer Ehle), a job that gives her far more responsibility and power than she should be allowed to have. The tightly paced 84-minute film wisely focuses more on the relationship dynamic between Maud and her patient with the more overtly horror elements used only as punctuation. I’m a sucker for character-focused horror, and this is it. Paramount+

35. Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Remake / Zombies / Funny / Violent / Character-Focused

The only really good movie Zack Snyder ever made, this 2004 remake is almost as good as the 1978 classic which is no small feat. Unlike the 1978 version, it leads with scares over humor (with the satire completely missing) but manages to pack in a few good comedic moments. The cast is solid with actor-turned-filmmaker Sarah Polley, Ving “Arby’s” Rhames, Mekhi Phifer, House of CardsMichael Kelly, and an against-type Ty Burrell as a wonderfully rendered asshole. It’s one of the most purely fun viewing experiences on this list. Peacock

34. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Sundance Film Festival 2010, Midnight

Funny / Slapstick / Violent / Great Lead Performances / Rural Folks

A ridiculous satiric horror comedy that asks what would happen if the backwoods killers in horror movies were actually just misunderstood citizens trying to help. Tyler Labine and especially Alan Tudyk are hilarious in their roles but what keeps this movie afloat is the seemingly endless parade of outrageously over-the-top accidental death set pieces. It’s gory as hell but never sinister. Tubi / PlutoTV

33. Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Sequel / PG-13 Horror / Funny / Time Travel / Groundhog Day / Great Lead Performance

A sequel nearly as good as the original, Happy Death Day 2U takes the Groundhog Day setup of the original and adds a soupcon of time travel. The obscenely underrated Jessica Rothe is back and as good as ever, but this installment really ups the ante on the ensemble cast giving us appealing nerd sidekicks and a sublime comedic performance by Rachel Matthews as the sorority president aspiring to be an actress. It doesn’t pack quite the same punch as the original, in all fairness the novelty wore off by this point, but it’s entertaining from start to finish. $3.99 rental on Amazon

32. Kill List (2011)

British / Hitman / Cults / Violent / Unsettling

A very unique horror film surrounding a hitman getting mixed up in and ultimately launching a makeshift investigation into cult activity from British filmmaker Ben Wheatley (High Rise, In the Earth, Free Fire). Generally, I’m not a huge fan of his, but this stands as his best movie by a considerable margin. It’s incredibly disturbing and unpredictable, but for fans of the harder stuff, it really pays off. $3.99 rental on Amazon

31. The Lure (2015)

Polish / Killer Mermaid Popstar Band / Musical / Violent / Lotsa Sex Stuff

Bonkers Polish mermaid musical about a pop band full of killer mermaids who swear off falling in love. Well, one ends up falling for some dude and the other thinks that’s bullshit. A lot of carnage and surreal imagery ensues, most notably giant mermaid vaginas. The music is really solid in this and you’re unlikely to see anything similar…ever. HBOMax

30. Happy Death Day (2017)

PG-13 Horror / Funny / Murder Mystery / Groundhog Day / Great Lead Performance

Not the best Blumhouse movie but certainly the most front-to-back entertaining, Happy Death Day surprised the absolute shit out of me the first time I saw it. I figured it was going to be some dumb, mild PG-13 horror movie and it ended up being far more clever and engaging than I ever imagined. Part of this is due to a fully developed, likable protagonist with an actual arc, perfectly played by Jessica Rothe. It has such a fun energy to it. $3.99 rental on Amazon

29. The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

Canadian / Indie / Slow Burn / Violent / Psychological Thriller / Great Performances

A surreal, artsy fartsy slow burn that is actually pretty interesting. Set in an all-girls boarding school over Christmas break and shot like a waking nightmare, The Blackcoat’s Daughter weaves back and forth between three timelines but never once lost me. This is partyl due to the strong trio of actresses at the center (Emma Roberts, Lucy Boynton, Mad Men’s Kieran Shipka) but mostly due to the confidence and poise of its writer/director, Osgood PerkinsAnthony Perkins‘ (Norman Bates from Psycho) son. Paramount+

28. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

Single Location / Mystery / Brian Cox / Legit Creepy / Supernatural Shit

Exquisite single location movie about two morgue attendants (Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch) attending to the mysterious dead body of a woman who may have or may not have ever been living or human. As they’re preparing her and scratching their head as to what the fuck her body even is, weird ghost shit starts to happen in the morgue. This is a great example of good low-budget horror filmmaking, something that fully understands its limitations and works well within its boundaries. It’s creative, and well-acted, especially by Brian Cox, and it consistently surprised me. AMC+

27. Midsommar (2019)

Tourism Gone Wrong / Swedish Cult / Violent / Great Lead Performance / Break-Up Movie

Florence Pugh is excellent as a college student reeling from the loss of her entire family at the hands of her sister. Her boyfriend is a tool bag asshole who reluctantly drags her to this weird Swedish summer festival where they straight-up murder motherfuckers. Midsommar is very obviously inspired by 1973’s The Wicker Man (not the Nic Cage version) but manages to feel completely like its own thing. It’s rarely predictable, dementedly funny at moments, gory, fantastically well-cast, acted, and gorgeously shot. This is such a beautiful movie for such a dark subject and a rare horror film that mostly takes place in sunlight. Well done, Ari Aster! Paramount+ / Showtime

26. Barbarian (2022)

Airbnb / WTF / Funny / Secret Room / Monster Killer / Breast Feeding / Justin Long is a Dick

HOLY SHIT! What would you expect from a mainstream super R-rated horror movie written and directed by one of the former Whitest Kids U’Know? The answer is something a little tamer than Barbarian, which I’m still in shock that a major studio got made. Maybe it’s the soaring success of handing over complete control of the asylum to other comedians turned filmmakers (Jordan Peele) that made them feel they could really let writer/director Zach Cregger go hog wild. I’m so incredibly glad they did because what we’re left with is an absolutely insane, high-paced, legit suspenseful, well-acted fun thrill ride that offers a twist of sorts every 20 minutes or so. If you think I’m going to tell you anything about the plot of Barbarian or what actors are in it, you’re crazier than the plot itself. Go in as blind as you can and strap in for an hour and forty-five minutes of something that will both terrify you and make you laugh till your stomach hurts. Sure, there are little things I’d tweak here and there, but that’s not the point of something like this. In true Malignant fashion, Barbarian‘s entire existence is because modern audiences are completely honest with themselves on what they want to experience in a mainstream horror movie. It’s WTF cranked up to 11. If you can handle this sort of thing, mad dash to your local multiplex. In Theaters

25. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Quality: Original. Film Title: Shaun Of The Dead. Photo Credit: Oliver Upton. Copyright: © 2004 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

British / Zombies / Comedy / Fun / Character-focused

A high school staple for me and thousands of kids my age, Shaun of the Dead is a fine representation of how good a horror comedy can be if it’s fearlessly self-aware. From the wonderful minds of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead is a superbly tight and well-structured zombie survival tale, finely seasoned with jokes and memorable performances all around. They would later outdo themselves with their next film Hot Fuzz, which parodied buddy cop movies, but Shaun of the Dead is probably their second-best film collaboration. Peacock

24. Climax (2018)

French / A24 / Violent / Avant-Garde / Dancing for Days / Acid Trip / Lotsa Sex / LGBTQIA+

I severely dislike Gaspar Noe because I find his movies to be nauseating trash that can rarely justify their own existence. However, I ended up loving his 2018 A24 surreal horror flick, Climax, about a modern dance squad of hipster sweeties brought to the edge of sanity when someone spikes the punch bowl with LSD. It’s claustrophobic, uncomfortable, violent, and wildly effective. It also opens with this fantastic five-minute interpretive dance sequence. Paramount+ / Showtime

23. Under the Shadow (2016)

British-Iranian / Haunted Apartment / Single Mom / Allegorical / Great Lead Performance

More of a drama with strong horror elements, I suppose, Under the Shadow is all about the psychological violence of oppression. Set during the 1980s in Tehran, hot after the Iranian Revolution and during a massive air strike by Saddam Hussein, Under the Shadow follows a woman and her daughter in a cramped apartment complex literally under fire. On top of all the war stuff going on around them, they also have to deal with this angry djinn that is attacking both of them. Obviously, this is very allegorical to the extreme sexual politics of the time and place, but filmmaker Babak Anvari never hit us over the head with it like we’re morons. This is a legitimately scary drama that never spoon-feeds us anything but at the same time, isn’t so obscure it’s difficult to decipher the film’s message. It also has a fantastic lead performance in it from Narges Rashidi as the mom. Netflix

22. Cabin in the Woods (2011)

Satire / Funny / Violent / Horny Teenagers / Self-Aware / Variety of Monsters

Funny, entertaining, surprisingly smart, and doesn’t shit the bend in the final fifteen minutes. Cabin in the Woods, Drew Goddard‘s horror adventure satirizing the tired tropes of the genre, was a major hit when it was released back in 2011 and is still talked about today. For as self-aware and goofy it gets, especially towards the end, it still offers some genuinely good scares. Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins are MVPs. $3.99 rental on Amazon

21. Mad God (2021)

Stop-Motion Animation / Puppets / Violent / Dystopian / Allegorical / Gorgeous

The kick-starter funded passion project of visual effects supervisor, Phil Tippett, who brought us Jurassic Park, Robocop, and Return of the Jedi. Produced over the course of thirty goddamn years and finally completed in 2021, this movie is an absolute work of visual art. The fact the narrative also feels like an allegory for a laundry list of American institutional problems from the healthcare system to labor laws is just the fecal matter icing on the solidified blood cake. This is really disturbing stuff and will certainly not be for everyone but for anyone who can look past it at the artistry, you’re in for the biggest treat. Shudder

20. Titane (2021)

French / Surreal / Violent / Great Performances / Car Fucking / Body Horror / Mistaken Identity

An endlessly fascinating, extremely disturbing, and surprisingly hilarious 2021 Cannes’ Palme D’Or winner that’s basically about a car expo showgirl/dancer, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) who for some reason has wild, insane, and athletic sex with a car resulting in her pregnancy. It’s also revealed that Alexia is a serial killer and part machine herself, because of a metal skull implant she received after a horrific childhood car accident. Alexia, pregnant, vulnerable, and murderous as ever, goes on a road trip across France, hiding her identity and trying to evade the police. She eventually, and I won’t spoil how, crosses paths with Vincent (celebrated French actor Vincent Lindon), a French Fire Captain, reeling from the loss of a child and suffering from a serious steroid addiction. If this all sounds insane, it absolutely is. If this all sounds just randomly out there for no reason, ehhhh, it is and it isn’t. Titane much like Ducournau‘s stunning college cannibal debut, Raw, is more of an experience than a traditional story, and while that sounds pretentious, it’s where these types of movies are heading. Straddling or more accurately, twerking, the line between art and trash, Titane is first and foremost an experience for the senses, both visual and emotional. It moves you in ways that you don’t expect and it always keeps you guessing, it’s very non-literal and metaphoric and yet it never seems stuffy or pretentious because it’s wholly invested in the emotional journeys of its two central characters. As Alexia, Agathe Rousselle is excellent, but the performance of the film belongs to Vincent London who mesmerizes with every scene. We actually become more invested in Vincent’s journey as the more focused second half takes hold. Hulu

19. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

South Korean / Ghost / Mystery / Psychological Thriller

A haunting and meticulously put-together South Korean haunted house movie about two sisters awkwardly adjusting to their new stepmother…AND THE FUCKIN’ GHOST IN THEIR HOUSE!!!! Instead of revealing its mystery all at once like most thrillers, it gives you the pieces one at a time over the second half of the movie. It’s a slow burn to be sure, but it keeps you on the edge of your seat with sharp cinematography and really great performances throughout. Shudder

18. Hereditary (2018)

Psychological Thriller / Demon Shit / Naked Old People / Great Lead Performance / Violent / Legit Scary

Yeah, it kinda shits the bed in the final scene but everything leading up to that is a real masterclass in suspense filmmaking. Ari Aster‘s debut film follows a family grieving the loss of their grandma, with the daughter/mom (Toni Collette) really having a difficult time dealing with it. This is a truly disturbing and terrifying horror movie about grief but it’s also a really emotionally intelligent family drama as well. Toni Collette delivers one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in a horror film that really should have netted her an Oscar nomination. I think Glenn Close got one for that movie where she’s a wife. Paramount+ / Showtime

17. American Psycho (2000)

Satire / Violent / Funny / Great Lead Performance / Serial Killer / Set in the 80s

Outrageously funny and plain outrageous dark comedy about the toxic combination of male fragility and capitalism brought to you by two women – Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner. Based on a far inferior and borderline-chauvinist novel by Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho takes place in 1987 NYC where a hotshot asshole investment banker (an outstanding Christian Bale) is beginning to lose his grip on reality and self-image. Yikes. He lashes out at dry cleaning ladies, threatens women at bars, and eventually starts axe and chainsaw murdering people from rival colleagues to unsuspecting sex workers. It’s decidedly not for everyone and disturbing stuff, but Harron and Turner manage to make him into a clown struggling to live up to the impossible “Alpha Male” standards he sets for himself, without making him any less dangerous. The young American WASP stereotypes that make up the supporting cast also help balance out the bleakness of the protagonist – from Reese Witherspoon’s materialistic trust fund baby to Justin Theroux‘s wormy cokehead sidekick. And that business card scene, that was comedy gold. HBOMax

16. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

New Zealand / Mockumentary / Vampires / Funny / Great Cast

What We Do in the Shadows manages to take the tired ‘mockumentary’ trope and make it seem fresh. This is due in part to a really funny screenplay and exceptionally well-developed characters, two of which are played by writer/director Taika Waiti and Jermaine Clement. It also manages to make vampires fetch again, all they had to do is make them total narcissists. The FX show is even better than the movie, and that’s saying a lot. $3.99 rental on Amazon

15. Annihilation (2018)

Science Shit / Strong Female Cast / Violent / Body Horror / Bright Colors

The best thing Alex Garland has ever been a part of, Annihilation is a thrillingly original and exceptionally intelligent science-fiction horror bedazzled in unicorn colors. It follows five scientists (Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Tuva Novotny) who journey forth into a military quarantined zone where a multi-colored glittery mist is rapidly infecting everything around it, eventually mixing all matter and DNA into one big blob of everything. Imagine a deer with flowers for antlers and a grandfather clock as a tail. That type of shit. Besides a consistently compelling narrative with strong, well-rounded characters we care about, it offers some truly frightening moments along the way. $3.99 rental on Amazon

14. The Lighthouse (2019)

Set in the 1800s / Dark Comedy / Character-Focused / LGBTQIA+ / Single Location

One of the only movies that feels 100% like a play and I’m still totally ok with it, Robert Eggers’ incredibly strong sophomore feature follows two characters talking and as an added bonus is shot like a 1920s horror film. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe play lighthouse keepers/makeshift roommates for the next couple of months and they get on each other’s nerves constantly. Whether it’s bickering about who was supposed to clean the kitchen, Pattinson‘s frequent masturbation, or Dafoe‘s noxious farts, The Lighthouse may look like a gothic horror film but it’s an odd couple roommate comedy at heart. Smart and incredibly crude, The Lighthouse is a gorgeously shot, completely self-aware deconstruction of a guy’s comedy that pokes fun at toxic masculinity similar to the way that American Psycho did. It’s also Willem Dafoe‘s best screen performance, he’s gloriously over-the-top as a live-action Horatio McCallister. Paramount+ / Showtime

13. Raw (2016)

French / Violent / College / Cannibalism / LGBTQIA+ / Strong Female Characters

From Julia Ducornau, the brilliant French filmmaker who went on to make Titane, Raw is her debut about an incoming vegan college student who gets hooked on cannibalism after a bizarre sorority pledge ritual. This is the epitome of “not for everyone” as it features some really violent and bloody sequences, but perhaps the most unnerving scene is the one without any bloodshed – a bikini waxing session between two roommates that turns wildly painful. This is a really well-acted horror film that manages to mix the macabre and humor in a way that doesn’t feel forced or surprisingly doesn’t feel tasteless. While Ducornau doesn’t break her back trying to make any of these characters likable, she never paints them as anything less than three-dimensional. Above all else, this feels like a fresh, new way of horror filmmaking and as Titane confirmed, this is the work of a new legend within the genre. Netflix

12. Let the Right One In (2008)

Swedish / Vampires / Coming-of-Age / Violent / Character-Focused / Lotsa Snow

Vampires are cute this time, in this surprisingly warm Swedish coming-of-age tale. That’s not to say the film isn’t also a dark, brutally violent, absolutely-not-for-kids blood-soaked vampire flick but it does give you an emotional window into the protagonists that most vampire movies do not. It’s about this twelve-year-old loner boy being bullied by kids at school who meets this vampire girl and for the first time in his life feels empowered. It’s not so much a romance as it is just a really good friendship between two people society has deemed as pariahs. Amazon Prime

11. The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

Spanish / Guillermo Del Toro / Set in the 1800s / Orphanage Drama / Kid Ghosts / Legit Scary

Many people consider this to be Guillermo Del Toro‘s magnum opus and they may be right. It is without question the first great film he made that manages to balance the scares with an actually compelling narrative that leaves us feeling more sad than frightened – like any good ghost story. This one takes place at a haunted orphanage in Spain, just after the Spanish Civil War. The ghost of a little boy with floating blood coming out of his dead head is haunting the halls and it’s up to this other little boy to solve the case! HBOMax

10. Pulse (2001)

Japanese / Early Internet Days / Ghosts / Avant-Garde / Legit Scary

Few films have unnerved and frightened me quite the way that Kiyoshi Kurosawa‘s Pulse did when I first saw it a couple years ago. His previous film, Cure, a serial killer slow burn from a burnt-out detective’s perspective featured some truly creepy sequences but this has a level of sorrow and bizarreness mixed with the spookiness that is hard to shake after you finish the movie. Like any good ghost story, it is sad and unlike most ghost stories there aren’t really any jump scares. It excels in how fucking weird it is. Good Gravy Marie, it makes you want to destroy all your electronics. Amazon Prime

9. Suspiria (2018)

Remake / Set in the 80s / Witches / Interpretive Dance / Violent / Mostly Female Cast

This is the perfect example of a remake justifying its existence. Celebrated Italian director Luca Guadagnino‘s Suspiria remake takes the skeleton of Dario Argento‘s original film and fills in the blanks with richer characters, an actual plot, and more muted, depressing colors to match the whole Berlin wall thing. He really does so much of his own thing with it that you forget it’s a remake until an evil witch teacher says the title of the film. This was the film that really sold me on Dakota Johnson as a great actor and of course, the unstoppable, flesh-toned art machine that is Tilda Swinton crushes it, fucking old school style as three different characters, one of which is an 80-something-year-old man. Throw in some Chloe Grace Moretz and Mia Goth for good measure and you got yourself a powerhouse all-female cast. Amazon Prime

8. Lake Mungo (2008)

Australian / Mockumentary / Ghosts / Family Drama / Slow Burn

One of the most quietly terrifying horror films I’ve seen in recent years, Lake Mungo is actually a mockumentary and more specifically, a drama about losing a child and the great emotional impact it can have on a family unit. Designed to look like a real documentary, Lake Mungo succeeds in always making us forget what we’re watching isn’t real. It’s a slow burn for sure, but the ending packs one of the biggest and most troubling scares I’ve seen in a movie. Tubi

7. Mandy (2018)

Surreal / Violent / Revenge Movie / Chainsaw Battles / Biker Monsters / Nic Cage

An art film in an exploitation film’s clothing, Panos CosmatosMandy is a ferociously entertaining and surprisingly poignant Nic Cage revenge tale. Anchored by a gloriously big Cage performance and supported by brilliant supporting turns by Andrea Riseborough and Linus Roache, this is a movie of two distinct halves the first offering the most artistic take while the latter offers wall-to-wall, brain-crushing fuck meat action. It’s a wild ride! AMC+ / Tubi

6. The Babadook (2014)

Australian / Monster Movie / Allegorical / Strong Female Lead / Annoying Kid

When Jennifer Kent‘s The Babadook was first streaming on Netflix, it was accidentally added to the LGBTQIA+ category and took on a life of its own. Watching the movie, it really has little to do directly with queerness and is more of an allegory for grief and the difficulty of being a single mom, amazingly well played by Essie Davis. Grief and anger are represented through the Babadook, a tall, skinny, Tim Burton-esque creature with his own nursery rhyme. This Australian monster flick was one of the first if not the very first movie of the 2010s wave of elevated horror. AMC+ / Tubi

5. Under the Skin (2013)

Scotland / Surreal / Alien / Scarlett Johannson / Mating & Killing / Avant-Garde

This is probably the biggest experimental/avant-garde artsy fartsy film on this list and the pretentious asshole in me just loves it! Wow, this thing is so inaccessible I’m getting a boner just writing about it. So Scary Jo plays an alien who traps horny dudes at bars and lures them back to her place with the unspoken suggestion of sex. Once there she sinks them into the black goop floor and they’re liquified for protein. This is a formally incredible film, executed so well on a technical level that it brought about comparisons to Kubrick at the time of the release. Director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast) really creates a fantastically suffocating atmosphere here and Johannson delivers maybe her best performance. You’ve never seen anything like it. HBOMax

4. Get Out (2017)

Jordan Peele / Fish Out of Water / White Liberals / Satire / Funny / Great Lead Performance

An absolute landmark not just in horror cinema but in mainstream cinema. This announced the arrival of Jordan Peele the filmmaker, not just the sketchster. Here he manages to communicate really raw and emotionally heavy ideas without ever feeling like cinematic broccoli. Peele knows how to keep you consistently entertained and even fuck with you a bit by sneaking in so many laugh-out-loud mini-moments. It also announced the arrival of star Daniel Kaaluya, an intense, chameleon of a young actor who went on to win an Oscar. $3.99 rental on Amazon

3. Green Room (2015)

A24 / Home Room Invasion / Heavy Metal Band vs. Nazis / Violent / Dark Humor

This is the type of movie most people will find too intense, but for those who can appreciate brilliantly constructed tension no matter how awful it makes them feel, this is the movie for you. Anton Yelchin (R.I.P.), Alia Shawkat, and some twenty-somethings are a touring heavy metal band on the last stretch of their cast. When their show gets canceled they get a replacement gig at a white power venue where they accidentally witness the murder of a young girl. Trapped in the green room and marked for death by the Nazis who run the joint, led by a chillingly restrained Patrick Stewart, the band is forced to fight their way out. Paramount + / Showtime

2. It Follows (2014)

Supernatural Killer / Horny Teens / Allegorical / Violent / Legit Scary / Ambigious Time Period

Basically an allegory for heartbreak and how fucking someone else can help you get over your past love. Heartbreak is represented here by a nameless, faceless presence that takes the shape of strangers or the folks you love and trust. It follows you forever until you sleep with someone else to pass on the curse or let it catch up to you and literally rip you apart. It Follows is masterful in building tension and subverting expectations at every turn, it’s genuinely scary and tremendously well cast. It also features one of the best scores of any horror movie ever, courtesy of Disasterpeace. Filmmaker David Robert Mitchell would go on to write and direct the disastrously bad and low-key sexist Under the Silver Lake, which A24 tried to bury in VOD. Netflix

1. The VVitch (2015)

A24 / Set in the 1600s / Scary Christian Stuff / Witches / Dysfunctional Family / Legit Scary

The closest thing I’ve seen to The Shining since The Shining, The VVitch is the scariest film on this list to me, an uneasy examination of how dangerous a holy text can be when viewed literally. It follows a prideful man who is so goddamn stubborn that he puts his family in a position to starve to death, isolated in the woods, rather than admit he’s being a pious asshole. After the baby is mysteriously abducted and eaten by a witch, the family members begin to lose faith in their God and each other and begin turning on each other. Written using vernacular from correspondence letters of the time period, The VVitch seems completely foreign yet all too familiar all at once. It feels uncomfortably real and like a hot critic quote from the original trailer points out, “It feels like something we shouldn’t be watching.” P.S. – The movie also discovered Anya Taylor-Joy. Thanks, movie. Paramount + / Showtime

SPECIAL MENTION

Mulholland Drive (2001)

Better than any movie on my actual list, I was hesitant to top off this bad boy with Mulholland Drive because I don’t really see it as a “horror movie”. Many others do, so I decided to add a special section for David Lynch‘s nightmare vision of The Hollywood Dream. Naomi Watts delivers her best screen performance as an aspiring actress, Betty Elms, who, after winning a Jitterbug contest in Ontario, journeys to the city of angels. There she finds an amnesiac on the run (Laura Elena Harring) taking shelter in her aunt’s house and together they seek to solve the mystery of who she is. I’d say from there the movie goes off the rails, but this fucking train never started life on a track. It’s literally the cinematic equivalent of sticking your head out a window and being hit in the face with a 1000-piece puzzle. You’ll still be figuring it out years after you watch it. $3.99 rental on Amazon

OTHER HORROR SHIT

Franchise with Me: The Hannibal Lecter Movies w/ Shawn Collins

Franchise with Me: Leprechaun w/ Ben V.

Franchise with Me: Chucky Movies w/ Michael Palladino

Franchise with Me: Dark Castle Entertainment w/ Danny Gurrola

FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES w/ Audrey Farnsworth (Season One)

MORE FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES w/ Audrey Farnsworth (Season Two)

The Puppet Master Franchise

  • Part One: The Early Years (#1-5)
  • Part Two: The Shitty Years (#6-8 + Demonic Toys tie-in) – coming soon
  • Part Three: The Nazi Years (#9-#12 + Blade spin-off) – coming soon

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