I think I speak for many of us when I say that 2020 has not been a year without its challenges. Many of us have struggled just to make ends meet. And trying to maintain a shred of sanity has been a task in and of itself. But one of the high points of 2020 has been all the great (filmic) horror that we were gifted with. On that note, I want to take a moment to genuinely thank the talented directors, writers, actors, producers, and everyone else involved that worked their ass off to keep us sane and entertained this year. I don’t think I could have made it through 2020 in one piece without being able to escape via film and television. The titles that follow represent some of my favorite horrors of 2020. Read on to see what made the cut!
The Invisible man
I didn’t get to The Invisible Man until the end of 2020 but I wish I’d seen it sooner. I was so blown away with the creativity of the screenplay, the standout performances, and the fact that it somewhat slyly works as an always relevant reminder to believe women when they speak. Moreover, it offers an insightful and terrifying look at the dangers of toxic masculinity. Also, it’s really entertaining.
Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street
This doc is heartfelt and special. It’s a glimpse inside Mark Patton’s (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge) world that offers a sincere look at a difficult and painful series of events in the actor’s private and public life. Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street tells a story that I wish could have been told long ago but I am grateful it exists at all. Actors like Patton have helped pave the way for a more accepting and inclusive approach to the casting of LGBTQ+ performers. And we owe him and those that came before and after him a debt of gratitude for that.
The Dark Red
I suspect this film may not have found its audience yet, given that it was released at the onset of a global pandemic. But it’s never too late to discover something great. If you missed this one during its VOD and home video bow earlier in the year, I would strongly suggest giving it a look. The film’s denouement is gripping and wholly satisfying. And the build to the conclusion takes its time to allow the audience to get to know the film’s dynamic lead (April Billingsley of The Walking Dead). The Dark Red marks another great flick from director Dan Bush (The Signal). Don’t sleep on this one if you missed it.
Host is dripping with atmosphere and shows that creativity can thrive even in the most unlikely circumstances. Director Rob Savage deserves credit for making one of the best horror films released in 2020 and doing it during lockdown. Host would have been a standout effort at any point in time but the fact that it used the pandemic to its advantage just blows me away. Such ingenuity on display with this one.
I wasn’t expecting Freaky to be half as good as it is. On the surface, it looks like light, fluffy fun. But, in reality, it is a body swap horror comedy for the #MeToo era. It’s ‘woke’ and respectful of gender identity and it reminds us that who we are stems from the inside and not from our physicality. Also, Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn each turn in terrific performances that elevate the film to the level of excellence.
Spiral is noteworthy for many reasons but the first thing that stood out to me is that it’s one of the first horror films I can think of where being gay is primarily just a fact of life for the main characters. It’s not their sole reason for being on screen and that made me happy. Sure, their sexual preference plays into the storyline but it’s in the service of warning viewers of the dangers of fearing that which they don’t know or understand.
This feature is like a punch to the gut. And it manages to make that kind of impact mere minutes into the film’s runtime. Every minute of The Lodge is haunting and terrifying. It boasts impressive sound design and a really effective score that got under my skin. The cinematography is beautiful but eerie and bleak at the same time. Kind of like the film itself. The Lodge is an impressive and visually stunning feat of filmmaking that left me wrecked when I finished watching it.
The Dark and the Wicked
This flick is an atmospheric, spooky, and a thoughtful examination of the destructive nature of grief and the grieving process. Even if the subject matter is a bit of a departure from Bryan Bertino’s previous efforts, his fingerprints are all over the finished product. The Dark and the Wicked is slow burn, unsettling and highly effective.
Hunter Hunter really got to me with its sincere characterizations and its intense and gritty narrative. The film is thrilling and horrifying in equal measure. It also boasts strong and impressive female characters that are anything but damsels in distress. Not to mention, the ending surprised the hell out of me.
12 Hour Shift
12 Hour Shift is full of deadpan humor and gruesome gags. This dark horror-comedy is as witty as it is gruesome. The characters are dynamic, well written, and strange. Each of them felt like they could almost be someone I actually know. David Arquette is gleefully maniacal in his turn as Jefferson and Angela Bettis is pitch-perfect as the disaffected Mandy. The film is dark, campy, and all kinds of over the top.