This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
BY BECCA JOHNSON JULY 27, 2023
It's safe to say that the horror genre is back in full swing, upping it's game over the last few years to create some modern classics, cult favourites and spooky season staples. A24's supernatural horror Talk To Me, directed by Michael and Danny Philippou, releases in cinemas this Friday and early screenings have been a triumph. It follows a group of friends who discover how to conjure spirits using an embalmed hand and become hooked on the new thrill – until one of them of course goes too far.
With some critics claiming it's the best horror since Hereditary and easily the best of 2023 thus far, now is a great time to look back on the last few years and see what competition it has. Join us as we delve into the 2020's Top 10 Horror Flicks so far.
Bones and All (2022)
Bones and All fits into many, many genres, and horror is definitely one of them. It follows a young adult named Maren, played flawlessly by Taylor Russell, who embarks on a journey to find her Mother after her Father abandons her. However, Maren has a secret, the same secret as the disenfranchised drifter (Timothee Chalamet) that she meets – the pair are 'eaters', more commonly known as cannibals. Despite their best efforts to lead a normal life, their otherness often gets the better of them, and all roads lead back to their terrifying pasts.
A road movie with disgusting horror, gorgeous visuals and an impeccable score, a movie that shouldn't work becomes one of the best of last year. It is a masterclass in balancing tone, combining horror and romance effortlessly. It shocks with it's gore, yet drags you in with it's acceptance and love. With tremendous performances, stunning cinematography and effective horror, Bones and All is unmissable.
Dividing audiences, Malignant is a film that can easily be described as campy, dumb and crazy – however, these are the reasons many have such a blast with it. Paralysed by shocking visions of grisly murders, Madison's (Annabelle Wallis) trauma worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are actually terrifying realities.
Malignant is great at subverting your expectations; the first two acts set things up nicely, creating a good amount of intrigue, and the third act goes crazy and provides heaps of schlocky, campy fun! The plot is one of James Wan's most interesting and unique so far, showcasing what he can do when allowed to run with his ideas. Practical effects are utilised fantastically throughout, looking great and elevating the movie nicely. Wan clearly took inspiration from Giallo and old slashers to create a horror movie full of twists, turns, action and cheese.
The Empty Man (2020)
The Empty Man is a horror film to head into as blind as possible. All you need to know is that it follows a retired cop who investigates a string of mysteriously disappearing teens, which the locals believe is the work of an urban legend.
The acting is fantastic, particularly from James Badge Dale, the storyline is entirely unique and the score matches the tone of the movie perfectly. The horror elements are very chilling, with plenty of shocking scenes that'll send a shiver down your spine and engrave themselves into your brain. The first fifteen minutes, whilst completely different in tone to the rest of the movie, are utterly phenomenal and create one of the best horror openings in recent years. Every scene has an enjoyable element, The Empty Man deserving to be commended for being unlike anything else out there. It's metaphorical, bold and goes to places you'd never expect.
Nope is perhaps one of the most obvious on this list, but it's impossible not to mention it. When discussing the greatness of modern horror, Jordan Peele plays a big part, and his 2022 flick lived up to the hype of his first two. Set on a California horse ranch, a brother and sister discover something sinister in the sky, whilst the owner of a nearby theme park attempts to profit from the mysterious phenomenon.
Nope is Peele's most ambitious film to date, and it really works. The performances from Palmer, Kaluuya and Yeun are fantastic, the cinematography is astounding, the sound is cleverly designed to elevate the horror and the storyline is exciting and unique, offering many hidden messages. It may be hard to piece things together, but after two or three viewings and a Google, it becomes pretty genius. All three of Peele's horror movies are impressive, and it's exciting to see what else he can do with the genre.
X and Pearl (2022)
Although wildly different in tone and the scares they go for, X and Pearl make for a fantastic double feature, regardless of which way round you choose to view them. Releasing first, X tells the story of a group of young filmmakers in 1979, who set out to make an adult film in rural Texas. Their reclusive elderly hosts catch them in the act, leaving the cast fighting for their lives. Releasing later on was Pearl, the prequel that gives us the backstory of the old lady who wreaks havoc in the original. Trapped on an isolated farm, Pearl must tend to her ill Father under the overbearing watch of her Mother. Lusting for glamorous stardom, Pearl's ambitions and repressions collide, showing us how she became the iconic villain we see in X.
Both movies work fantastically well as slashers, and although X provides more scares than Pearl, the latter showcases an exceptional performance from one of the best scream queens working today – Mia Goth. They're gory, well shot and fantastically written and directed by Ti West. It's pretty damn cool that we got two horrors from the same franchise in one year, and this story still has more to give this year.
After cannibal horror Raw released back in 2016, audiences were excited to see what director Julia Ducournau could bring to the genre next. 2021's Titane provided everything we could've dreamed of and more. Following a series of unexpected crimes, a former firefighter is reunited with his son who has been missing for ten years – but, trust me when I tell you, this plot summary tells nothing and doesn't even scratch the surface.
Not for the faint of heart, Titane is likely the most disturbing and upsetting on the list. If you fancy something a little strange, that's going to make you feel uneasy, sick and impressed all at once, Titane cannot be missed. It is violent, hallucinatory, and erotic, utilising body horror in ways we've never seen it before. It consistently subverts expectations whilst giving two incredible lead performances from Agathe Rouselle and Vincent Lindon. It's hard to describe, so go in as blind as possible and enjoy the ride... if you can stomach it. It's not quite French extremity, but if often comes close.
David Cronenberg is a household name when it comes to horror movies, so the community were especially excited when his son Brandon Cronenberg announced he was making a sci-fi horror – we were right to be excited, Possessor is great. It follows an elite corporate assassin played fantastically by Andrea Riseborough, who uses brain-implant technology to take control of other peoples bodies and terminate high profile targets.
If you like the sound of the intriguing, Black Mirror-esque premise, you're bound to have a blast with this one. Often feeling like an experience rather than just a movie, it's the type of flick that nestles itself into your brain and leaves you thinking about it for days to come. It's psychedelic, has great elements of body horror and features a wonderful side performance from up-and-coming favourite Christopher Abbott. It has complex ideas that are explored well throughout, the dive into humanity and morality giving us plenty to chew on.
Perhaps the most underseen on this list, Censor is a great hidden gem that deserves a wide audience. Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond, it follows a film censor named Enid who takes pride in her meticulous work of watching gore-filled flicks and guarding unsuspecting audiences from them. When she is assigned to review a disturbing film from the archive, she realises it echoes her hazy childhood memories of her sisters disappearance, and she must unravel how this eerie work might be tied to her past.
Censor is a great movie to push play on if you want something completely original and unique. It is fun, wild and helmed by a great lead performance from Niamh Algar who showcases a slow descent into madness – one of our favourite sub-plots as horror fans. It has an immersive mood and tone, stunning visuals and a clever script that blurs the line between reality and fiction.
Ending the list on another well-known flick, Barbarian took last year by storm, as it was picked up by the Tik-Tok generation and labelled one of the most horrifying horrors in recent years. Whilst us well-versed in the genre may not necessarily agree wholeheartedly with that statement, it is undeniably excellent and worth watching for anyone who hasn't yet. In town for a job interview, Tess arrives at an Airbnb late at night to discover it is already occupied. Against her better judgement, she decides to stay anyway, and soon discovers
that the strange man she is sharing with is the least of her concerns.
Bill Skarsgard and Justin Long, horror visuals that will scar your brain for life and a crazy, shocking twist – what's not to love? When it comes to horror, Barbarian is as effective as you can get, giving a bit of everything. It has a “final girl” worth rooting for, a chilling villain, an element of mystery and a slew of reveals.