A decade is ending, so what better time to examine 10 years worth of horror films? Admittedly, I love modern horror. Yes we’ve seen a horrific number of remakes, reboots, sequels, and unimaginative ripoffs. But like a magically reanimated corpse, horror continues to revive itself.
In order to honor this decade, let’s take a look at some categorical standouts before I share my ranked top 10 list of my favorites from the past decade:
Worst Trailer: Insidious Chapter 1
This trailer takes a fresh movie, and makes it look like generic schlock. I still blame this trailer for waiting too long to watch this film.
Worst Sequels: Insidious Chapters 2 through 4
I like that later chapters make Lin Shaye the main character (how many other franchises feature a badass elderly woman as the protagonist!?), but Insidious kept trying to build on a film that leaves you with no good places to go.
Best WTF Moment: The ending of The Boy OR the entirety of Sadako vs. Kayako
In The Boy, you get an outlandish plot with an outlandish twist.
In Sadako vs. Kayako (aka it’s about to be a…ghoulfight!) you get an outlandish plot based on a joke with a bizarrely ingenious solution. What is one to do when not one, but two famous ghouls are haunting you? Try to get them to fight one another of course! The fight itself lasts for approximately a minute. The movie is still worth watching.
Best Trailer: IT Chapter One
A great trailer doesn’t give too much away while giving you an enticing taste of what’s to come. This trailer does this – ending with that uncanny sound that leaves you intrigued.
Best Actress: Toni Collette, Hereditary
Best Actor: Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Best Final Girl: Maddie, Hush
Best New Director: Mike Flanagan
In just this decade alone Flanagan has given us Oculus, Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Gerald’s Game, Doctor Sleep, and The Haunting of Hill House. Beyond his ability to build a scare, he knows how to build emotion and create nuanced, three-dimensional female characters. There are a lot of great directors in horror, but Flanagan takes the cake with consistently high-quality stories.
Best Horror Movie for a Non-Horror Fan: Train to Busan OR The Final Girls
Train to Busan is a horror film that focuses on shockingly fast-paced suspense vs. spine tingling scares so the horror itself is approachable while being sincere. Moreover, this is an emotional roller coaster that will have fans and casual viewers alike incredibly invested in the characters and story.
I am leery to go with horror-comedy since non-horror fans usually appreciate levity, but in the age of meta horror levity is usually based in part of a deep knowledge and appreciation of the genre. Otherwise it’s just an opportunity to laugh at vs. with the genre poking fun at itself. Still, The Final Girls offers enough fresh laughs and heart to appeal to anyone no matter how familiar they are with the films it is referencing.
Christmas Horror Film You Should Add to Your Annual Rotation: Better Watch Out
It’s like Home Alone as a horror film on a shoestring budget with plenty of nasty twists and turns. The less you know going in the better.
Best Remake: Suspiria OR Evil Dead
These two films excel as remakes for completely different reasons. Suspiria takes the same basic plot of the original, and creates an incredibly different film. Where the original is loud and bombastic, the remake is quiet and subdued. It’s almost like a challenge to see how different the same plot can feel in different hands.
Evil Dead is a faithful remake that uses a higher budget, creative twists, and loads of well-executed practical effects to make an updated but honorable version of the original.
Best Sequel: Final Destination 5
Is Final Destination 5 a better film than Halloween 2018? Absolutely not. But it is an INCREDIBLE feat for the fifth movie in a series to be the best in the series, especially when it came directly after the worst sequel in the franchise. Final Destination 5 stays true to the ridiculous universe of its predecessors while breathing life into the characters and death sequences. Also the opening scene is one of my favorites, incorporating a great score and neat homages to the previous films in the franchise:
Scariest Film: Last Shift
There are scary moments in many of these films. There are unnerving images that will stick to your brain and resurface in the middle of the night. But Last Shift is through and through on of the most terrifying films I have sat through. I felt a bone chill throughout viewing it, and had to pause and walk around my apartment a few times to take a break.
Most Innovative: Get Out
Every moment of this film was carefully considered and crafted till it drew to its incredibly timely conclusion. Of course horror films are no stranger to socially relevant themes, but many are so incredibly hamfisted *cough* The Purge: Election Year *cough*, it insults the genre’s potential to explore our deepest fears and anxieties as a society. Get Out aptly taps into issues of racism, and puts viewers squarely in Chris’s perspective throughout the story. The result is a film that functions as a shining beacon of hope for the future of the genre.
Ranked Top 10 List from the 2010s
- Get Out
- The Final Girls
- IT Chapter One
- Cabin in the Woods
- The Visit
- The Innkeepers
What can I say? When I tried to sit down and rank my favorites, they were pretty in line with some of the biggest films of the decade. Paranormal movies have really reigned supreme this decade, and I’m a big fan so that works just fine for me.
Rather than wax poetic about the films I selected (I will leave that for individual “Why You Should Watch” posts), I thought I’d comment on the most obvious films that are missing from my list:
The Conjuring: As soon as you know what type of horror film this is, there’s an obvious path the film will follow. Any sense of real danger is lost. I admire how effectively James Wan builds his scares, but I found The Conjuring to be predictable and trite vs. the creative twists of Insidious. The Conjuring Universe is horror’s very own MCU but I’ve felt underwhelmed at every film in the franchise and its spinoffs.
A Quiet Place: Similar to The Conjuring I found this to be extremely well-executed but predictable and unmoving.
The Babadook: Well-executed with some great scares. This didn’t make the cut because I have no maternal instinct, so watching the parent-child dynamic in this just reminded me of how relieved I am to not have to go through something like this.
It Follows: Such an ingenious plot but too many leisurely paced, meandering scenes to be in the top 10.
The VVitch: I wish I understood the hype about this. I do love Black Phillip so if he ever gets his own spin-off I’m here for it.
Yes this is totally cheating, but I’d hate to not mention some of my other favorites this decade:
Train to Busan: This is absolutely a better film than most in my top ten, but in my heart of hearts it feels more like an action more than a horror movie for the most part so after much deliberation I knocked it out of the top ten.
Last Shift: Loved how scary I found this, but I have not revisited it in fear it will not live up to that first viewing so I couldn’t top ten it.
Don’t Breathe: So thrilling and full of social commentary and characters you care about. The twist (you know which one I’m talking about if you’ve seen this) makes it hard to put it in my top ten. It is also one that has the most impact during the first viewing.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones: Loved this sequel and the focus on a protagonist who wasn’t a privileged white person, but being a sequel it didn’t feel groundbreaking enough to be in the top ten.
What Keeps You Alive: This is probably the best lesbian horror film I’ve ever seen, but I would need to watch it a few more times to fully sort how I feel about it versus other films I’ve listed.
- We Are Still Here
- The Invitation
- Grave Encounters
Looking forward to another great decade in horror. Till next year!