Josh Millican’s Top 10 Horror Movies of 2020

In January, I was looking forward to seeing films like Candyman, A Quiet Place 2, and Godzilla vs Kong in 2020—but COVID-19 had other plans for us. This year saw the entertainment industry upended, with theaters, studios, and distributors scrambling to find a new way of conducting business during a pandemic. As a result, many of my most anticipated horror movies of 2020 were shelved.

It doesn’t mean that this was a bad year for horror movies—2020 was anything but. The lack of blockbusters allowed indies to shine bright, soaking-up the limelight normally reserved for major players. At this point in time, there’s no way of knowing if films like Candyman and A Quiet Place 2 would have made my Best of 2020 list. What I can tell you, however, is that picking my Top 10 was hard enough without them!

No one knows what 2021 will hold in terms of societal and economic recovery. But if history is any indicator, it’ll be another year of fantastic indies, propelled by brave filmmakers and studios willing to evolved with the times.

Below, in no particular order, are my Top 10 horror movies of 2020. I’m excited to hear what you all think about my selections!


Directed by John Hyams

A recently widowed traveler is kidnapped by a cold-blooded killer, only to escape into the wilderness where she is forced to battle against the elements as her pursuer closes in on her.

Alone stars Jules Willcox, Marc Menchaca, and Anthony Heald.

I think my colleague Jerry Smith said it best in his 4.5-star review of the film: “Alone will do for solo travel what Jaws did for swimming”. 15 minutes in, Alone put a knot in my stomach that only tightened throughout this extremely suspenseful offering. You may think you’ve seen cat-and-mouse survival horror done to death, and Alone doesn’t reinvent any wheels. What it does, however, is deliver pure, unflinching terror that will keep you squirming on the edge of your seat. Brilliant performances by the film’s two leads (Jules Willcox and Marc Menchaca) make this film something truly unforgettable.

Related Article: Car Crash Leads to a Survival Nightmare in Our Exclusive Clip from ALONE Out Now

Gretel & Hansel

Directed by Osgood Perkins

A long time ago in a distant fairy tale countryside, a young girl leads her little brother into a dark wood in desperate search of food and work, only to stumble upon a nexus of terrifying evil.

Gretel & Hansel stars Sophia Lillis, Samuel Leakey, and Alice Krige

The Grimm Fairy Tale Hansel & Gretel was given a brilliant reimagining by Osgood Perkins (whose film The Blackcoat’s Daughter made my Best Horror Movies of 2015 list). Gretel & Hansel (as the revised title implies) puts the female experience at the forefront, infusing the familiar story with timely subtext. Sophia Lillis and Samuel Leakey have great chemistry as the film’s titular leads, and I was also immensely impressed by Alice Krige’s creepy, understated portrayal of the Witch. Hansel & Gretel is teen-friendly without pulling any punches when it comes to delivering true horror. A vastly entertaining romp from beginning to end.

Related Article: Director Defends PG-13 GRETEL & HANSEL: “Doesn’t Affect Sophistication of Horror”

Bad Hair

Directed by Justin Simien

In 1989 an ambitious young woman gets a weave in order to succeed in the image-obsessed world of music television. However, her flourishing career may come at a great cost when she realizes that her new hair may have a mind of its own.

Bad Hair stars Zaria Kelley, Corinne Massiah, and Elle Lorraine

I know what you’re thinking: “A horror movie about a killer weave? C’mon Josh Millican!” But no, seriously, Bad Hair is a dark horse that deserves way more attention than it received. The same year Antebellum clumsily attempted to convey a meaningful African American experience through an exploration of Confederate monuments, Bad Hair succeeded at illuminating a minority experience with a film that can be appreciated by the masses. Funny yet poignant (and bloody as hell!) this Hulu Original proves writer/director Justin Simien is a future star of the genre. Bad Hair also overflows 1980s era nostalgia, especially as it pertains to the R&B music scene.


Directed by William Eubank

A crew of oceanic researchers working for a deep-sea drilling company try to get to safety after a mysterious earthquake devastates their deep-water research and drilling facility located at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Underwater stars Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, and Mamoudou Athie

Underwater is the best action-horror movies since 1986’s Aliens, and director William Eubank was clearly paying homage to James Cameron’s classic sci-fi masterpiece. Kristen Stewart’s Norah Price is Ripley reimagined: Smart, driven, and nearly unstoppable in her quest for survival against hideous humanoids. Fans of French Extremity will also recognize Vincent Cassel (Irreversible, Sheitan) as Captain Lucien. A monstrous 3rd Act reveal made Underwater one of 2020’s best and I was lucky enough to catch this one in a theater before the pandemic shuttered most of them.

Related Article: Video: UNDERWATER Ending Explained by Director William Eubank


Directed by Kurtis David Harder

Not to be confused with the Saw reboot originally scheduled to drop in 2020 (but pushed back to 2021 thanks to a little virus named COVID-19), Spiral is a hard-hitting queer horror movie with a twist that will leave your jaw on the floor. I have to be honest, though: I could have done without the last 5 minutes (which serve mainly as a prologue and don’t add much to the terrifying narrative that proceeded them), but the film is good enough to let this artistic misstep slide. Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman excels as the film’s flawed/paranoid protagonist in this harrowing psychological thriller with a mystery at its core.

Hunter Hunter

Directed by Shawn Linden

Joseph and his family live in the remote wilderness as fur trappers, but their tranquility is threatened when they think they are being hunted by the return of a rogue wolf, and Joseph leaves them behind to track it.

Hunter Hunter stars Camille Sullivan, Devon Sawa, and Nick Stahl

Released on December 18th, Hunter Hunter made it just under the wire for inclusion on this list. Indeed, any discussion of the best horror movies of 2020 will be incomplete without mention of this shocker. We’ve seen many iterations of Man vs Beast in our beloved genre, but as the film’s title implies, the ultimate alpha here is uncertain—and no one wants to be the prey.

Some horror movies contain a moment so singularly terrifying that those who have experienced them can simply refer to “that scene”; Hunter Hunter has one of those. No spoilers here, but horror fans and cinephiles will be discussing the conclusion of this film for years, maybe decades to come. The film’s three leads, Camille Sullivan, Devon Sawa, and Nick Stahl are all fantastic; the supporting cast including Summer H. Howell, Gabriel Daniels, and Lauren Cochrane also deserve mad props. Hunter Hunter elevates the survival horror subgenre to the echelons of high art.

Related Article: Interview: Devon Sawa Talks HUNTER HUNTER And Gives Update On BLACK FRIDAY!


Directed by Egor Abramenko

Summoned to a secluded research facility, a controversial young doctor examines a cosmonaut who returned to Earth with an alien parasite inside of him.

Sputnik stars Oksana Akinshina, Fedor Bondarchuk, and Pyotr Fyodorov

Blockbuster special effects blend seamlessly with indie filmmaking sensibilities in the intensely captivating slow-burn sci-fi/horror Sputnik out of Russia. Vast in scope and tensely claustrophobic in its delivery, fantastic yet grounded, Sputnik worms deep inside your psyche (not unlike the central alien parasite).

Related Article: Russian Sci-Fi/Horror Flick SPUTNIK Hits Blu-ray & DVD 2/9


Directed by Il Cho

The rapid spread of an unknown infection has left an entire city in ungovernable chaos, but one survivor remains alive in isolation. It is his story.

#Alive stars Yoo Ah-In, Park Shin-Hye, and Jeon Bae-soo

Can an apocalyptic zombie horror where the main character indulges in suicidal ideation be a “feel good” experience? Watch #Alive on Netflix to see for yourself. This frenetic and tense South Korean offering first hit my radar after we published an incredible essay by Chad Collins (read it for yourself, HERE). As the hashtag in the title implies, there’s a social media element at play (specifically, the use of unconventional platforms during times of societal collapse), not to mention a millennial perspective that will nonetheless resonate with horror fans of every age. #Alive is the best fast-moving zombie romp in recent memory (and succeeds in spades where the hotly-anticipated Peninsula, also out of Korea, fell short).


Directed by Mark Tonderai

A man crash lands in rural Appalachia and awakens in the attic of a traditional Hoodoo practitioner. He desperately tries to break free from her dark magic and save his family from a sinister ritual before the rise of the blood moon.

Spell stars Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine, and Lorraine Burroughs

Wait until you guys get a load of old Goat-Eyes!

There are elements of road-trip horror in Spell, except instead of a car or a van, we’ve got a family traveling by small plane. This immediately ups the ante, as anyone with fears of flying in a “puddle-jumper” will immediately get tense watching these guys gliding head-first into a storm! Once grounded, Spell plays out like Misery meets Skeleton Key; a wince-inducing rural Gothic steeped in Hoodoo mythology and folk magic (with a blistering dash of body horror mixed in for good measure). Look for Spell on Blu-ray/DVD in January, because this one is worth adding to you personal film collection.

Related Article: Check Out Our Exclusive Clip from Hoo-doo Horror SPELL Releasing 10/30

His House

Directed by Remi Weekes

A refugee couple makes a harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan, but then they struggle to adjust to their new life in an English town that has an evil lurking beneath the surface.

His House stars Sope Dirisu, Wunmi Mosaku, and Malaika Wakoli-Abigaba

As spooky and suspenseful as it is harrowing and emotionally devastating, His House is a film unlike anything else I experienced in 2020. Admittedly, I walked away from His House more depressed than shaken. But it’s sticks with you long after the credits roll, and those brave enough to give the film a spin on Netflix will likely get an uncomfortable if enlightening window into the refugee experience. Ghosts abound in His House, but the dead pale beside the real-life trauma endured by our protagonists. Survivor’s guilt, cultural exile, and immigrant identity are the major themes explored in this bleak and impactful film.

What do you think of my picks for the Top 10 Horror Movies of 2020? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @josh_millican.



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