1) A Quiet Place
This is a brilliant film as well as a horror film that brings a huge amount of terror and drama together in such a perfect way. The movie has very little dialogue and highly relies on the senses and the mind to bring on the heart-pounding terror. The scary and intense scenes are so well-done that they had me holding my breath. You genuinely care about this family and want to see them survive. Emily Blunt and John Kraskinski are brilliant in their roles as the parents who will do anything to protect their children and each other.
Part sci-fi, part horror, part drama, this movie perfectly combines these elements and balances them out in a mind-bending, intense, and often emotional film. The visuals are amazing, the monsters are fantastic, the score is excellent, and the setting of the Shimmer is so well established and provides so much mystery of what it is and how it affects people. This is a very cerebral film that may not work for some, but truly is probably the most under-appreciated and almost forgotten horror film of the year.
3) The Strangers: Prey At Night
This sequel is a huge tonal change from the original slow-burn thriller. This one is first and foremost a slasher. The titular villains are more vicious than ever and you are just itching for them to get what’s coming to them. The film features many homages to classic horror films and even how its filmed has a great retro Carpenter-esque feel, and then you have the excellent soundtrack (the pool scene involving Total Eclipse of the Heart is one of the best horror scenes of the year). The cast does a fine job and you care for them, even if they could have used a little more development. By the end of the film I felt a huge rush of adrenaline released. Of all the horror films to come out this year, this one is easily the most fun and entertaining.
This remake pays an excellent tribute to the original film while telling it’s own story. This is definitely a slow-burn film that is sprinkled with haunting and twisted moments. In the big dance scene towards the end, it’s so intense and well-done, and the addition of how it intercuts during the chase scene of one character is great. This movie succeeds in keeping you wondering just what is going to happen next. The pay off in the final act as well as its twist is excellent. The epilogue scene however definitely could have been cut out, but it wasn’t exactly terrible either. Tilda Swinton is great playing three different characters, Mia Goth shines in a role that involves her character growing from a side character to one who’s more in the forefront. Unfortunately Dakota Johnson just didn’t have much to do in her lead role, she did fine with what she had, her physical performance was great, but she deserved a character with more persona and depth. That said, I consider this to be one of the best and more successful remakes ever made.
I admit I didn’t love this movie nearly as much as others. I thought the pacing was too slow, and that it could have been shorter because some of it felt repetitive and dragging. But my biggest issue is that when the real in your face horror comes in in the final act, I was not sold by that at all. Sure some brutal and shocking stuff happens, but to me, it felt way too familiar and been done before. Everything in the final act felt too familiar and even done in the Paranormal Activity franchise. Now all of that is where my issues end. Everything prior to the final act was brilliant. Had this kept the same tone throughout the film instead of going balls to the wall horror, I would have loved it much more. The constant feeling of dread and intensity throughout the film and between the family was so tangible and perfect, and often felt like a punch in the gut. Toni Collette is just plain amazing and Oscar-worthy at the mother/wife of the family desperately trying to hold herself and her family together, and you see the anguish she’s trying to hold in and the desperation of trying not to appear crazy to her family when shit gets real. If there is any horror performance in years that deserves award recognition it is definitely Toni who owns this movie.
6) Hell Fest
This is a plain, simple, and fun slasher that hits all the right notes. I personally really liked the characters and had fun with them, I didn’t want any of them to die. The setting was excellent and well-used and made for some great intense scenes and well-executed jump scares. The killer was pretty basic and not the most original, the kills could have been gorier, and the transition to the final act felt so clearly rushed they killed off two characters in the most boring way at the same time in a clear attempt to cut to the chase. More than anything, the final scene wasn’t necessary and felt pretty tacked on. Still, it was great to see a fun slasher like this in the theater this year along with Strangers Prey At Night.
Jamie Lee Curtis is amazing in her return as Laurie in this reimagining of the series. She shows Laurie’s trauma very well makes you feel her pain, and she’s great in her bad ass moments. Her traumatic scenes could have been fleshed out more (despite my disbelief of her being this traumatized after just those short few minutes with Michael in the original). Michael has never been more menacing or terrifying and I loved it. My biggest issue lies in the script. There were too many undeveloped characters and some that were only used as plot devices. We also have a plot twist the felt out of place, and ending that felt underwhelming due to its ambiguity. I was also not a fan of the humor in it, it ruined a kill scene that should have been intense and scary but was ruined by just one comedic line. This film had flaws, but it definitely was a good and serviceable film to fans by giving us a new version with great callbacks to the original series, and good cat and mouse sequence with Laurie and Michael in the final act.
8) The Ritual
This lost in the woods horror movie perfectly uses the woods setting and the fear of the unknown to deliver and intense and suspenseful movie. It’s in the same vein of Blair Witch Project where less is more. When we get to the final act, we are given more physical horror, and that works well-enough. But it’s only when the movie shows our films’ villain that it becomes a letdown. If we had only seen bits of the monster at the end, that would have been fine, but to show the whole things was disappointing.
This revenge horror films takes its sweet time during the first hour to introduce us to our characters, and it is very testing of patience during this hour. However, the gorgeous but haunting cinematography and visuals seem to keep you gripped until the main revenge plot of the film begins. From there’s it’s a blood bath with a fantasically unhinged performance from Nicolas Cage. The whole films is a trippy and bloody fever dream you can’t look away from.
10) Bird Box
This film doesn’t have as much scares or intensity as A Quiet Place with its similar plot (instead sound this involves sight), and it definitely aims to be more of a drama with horror elements than an actual horror. That said, it’s still a good and occasionally intense movie with some crazy moments. Sandra Bullock is fantastic as the hard mother who is hell bent on saving her kids. What I admired about the movie is that we don’t get to see these monsters, instead we get the feel of what happens when they are around, and that’s just as chilling. The film alternates between the past and present, but it manages to come off as if we are watching two separate stories, which I thought was a nice little tactic.