We looked at ‘90s horror and ‘00s horror films, so now it’s time to look for the best of the most recent: the top ten best horror films of 2010 to present day. Yes, it’s only six years, while the other two had ten, but still. Those six years have packed a wallop.
First, a few honorable mentions. Mainly because I didn’t have time to see them: The Babadook (2012), The Final Girls (2015), The Conjuring (2013), The Conjuring 2 (2016), Goodnight Mommy (2014), What We Do in the Shadows (2014), Cub (2014), and Train to Busan (2016). Although I wouldn’t recommend watching them back to back — you might get some whiplash going from the disturbing Goodnight Mommy to the hilarious What We Do in the Shadows.
Now let’s begin!
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
We’ll start with my favorite: this horror film, directed by Drew Goddard and written by Goddard and Joss Whedon, was shelved for three years because of MGM’s financial difficulties. Finally, LionsGate released it in 2012 and presented the world with a puzzle box of a horror film.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: five friends decide to take a vacation out in an old cabin in the woods. They accidentally end up unleashing an evil that kills them one by one.
Except as the very first scene of the movie shows, this isn’t that at all: two technicians by the name of Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) are assigned to make sure that everything goes “smoothly.” They have cameras set up all throughout the cabin and have worked to make sure each person fits neatly into a stereotype. Why? What is this for? It all makes sense in the end and boy does it end bloody.
If you want to see a movie that completely deconstructs the horror genre, this is it.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Often, the most interesting horror films take a sideways look at the genre. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night takes the vampire genre and runs in through the language and culture of Iran. The director, Ana Lily Amirpour, called it a “Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western.”
The film is about Arash, a young Iranian who works hard to provide for himself and his drug-addicted father, until one evening, after a Halloween party, he comes across a young woman and falls in love with her. Except the Girl, as she is called, is actually a vampire and must feed on blood.
What follows is a love story wrapped in a horror story, about the loneliest of creatures. It also features an amazing soundtrack.
It Follows (2014)
In horror films, everyone knows that the ones who have sex are supposed to die first. But...what if you took this literally? What if the reason someone is targeted by the monster is because they had sex?
It Follows is a film about an Sexually Transmitted Disease. Or, rather, a Sexually Transmitted Creature. Jaime (Maike Monroe), a young girl, has sex with her boyfriend, Paul...and then Paul reveals that he has been followed by a creature that can look like anybody and cannot be stopped and can only be passed on by having sex. The creature will follow its victims with a slow and steady walk and you might only know its there because nobody else can see it.
As a concept, it’s interesting; as a movie, it’s terrifying. It’s pure paranoia and it never stops.
John Dies at the End (2012)
Okay, so it’s not as good as the book, but what adaptation is? It’s still a damn good horror comedy. Any movie that begins with two guys trying to fight a monster made of meat is awesome.
John Dies at the End was a cult horror book turned into a cult horror movie by cult horror director Don Coscarelli. It’s about David Wong and his friend John. You might think that the title spoils the end, but that’s just one of several twists about the story. You see, David and John can see things now because they encountered a drug called Soy Sauce. At some point, you have to realize that perhaps this entire movie was made by people on drugs, because it’s so balls to the wall insane. But it all still works — held together not only by the dry wit of its writing, but by the amazing acting.
You will believe two stoners can fight off demons. Not well, mind you, but they can still fight.
Crimson Peak (2015)
Sometimes you have to give a movie credit for just looking amazing. Man, I am really glad I saw this film in theaters because yes, it was gorgeous.
Guillermo del Toro returns to the realm of ghosts, this time to tell a gothic horror tale of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), who is wooed and then marries Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a British baronet who owns a large mansion called Allerdale Hall, which lies on top of a large deposit of red clay, thus earning it the nickname of “Crimson Peak.”
This movie is creepy, yes, but aside from the gorgeous visuals and colors, the movie is owned by Jessica Chastain, who plays Thomas’s sister Lucille. Everything about her is just kind of off. And did I mention the amazing visuals? Okay, good. You should probably watch it in HD.
Animation is a great medium for horror, which is why it’s a shame that there aren’t more animated horror films. But animation tends to be the domain of children’s movies, so we have to wait until there’s a children’s horror movie to get some animated horror.
Thankfully, ParaNorman is both for children and a great horror film. Done by the animation company Laika (who also did the amazingly creepy Coraline), ParaNorman tells the tale of eleven-year-old Norman, who can see and talk to the dead, and what happens one day when the town’s past comes back to haunt it and the dead begin to rise.
There is something inherently unsettling about stop motion (if you don’t believe me, watch this), but this movie manages to balance that with lots of comedic moments and a lot of incredible pathos. If you want to watch a horror movie with a little kid, this is the one to watch.
The Guest (2014)
At first, this might not seem like a horror movie: a family is visited by the friend of their son, Caleb, who died while serving in the army. This friend, David (Dan Stevens), says that he also served alongside Caleb and was there to fulfill Caleb’s last wishes and make sure his family knew that he loved them.
Now, that all seems like this should be a nice drama, right? And even when David starts helping Caleb’s brother Luke at school with bullies by beating the bullies, it still seems like this is one of those movies from the ‘80s or ‘90s where David is just trying to help the family adjust without Caleb. Except there is still something wrong with David. He doesn’t appear to sleep. At all.
It’s only when the daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) calls the army base David said he came from that she learns “David” isn’t who he says he is. What this leads to is a spree of blood and bullets and explosions, an orgy of violence that takes place, of course, on Halloween.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)
So, hey, remember when I said that Cabin in the Woods deconstructs all horror movies? Well, this one doesn’t quite do that. It just manages to parody all those movies about Evil Hillbillies, like Deliverance or all those Wrong Turn movies.
Because Dale (Tyler Labine) and Tucker (Alan Tudyk) are hillbillies on their way to their new vacation home. It’s a bit of a fixer upper (in fact, it looks exactly like the cabin from Cabin in the Woods), but they are determined to enjoy themselves, so they go fishing. And happen to spy upon some college kids swimming, one of whom (Katrina Bowden) accidentally hits her head and falls into the water. Dale rescues her and then calls to the other kids “WE GOT YOUR FRIEND!” Of course, the college kids all run away in panic.
What follows is an amazingly gruesome and bloody series of accidents and misunderstandings. Seriously. It’s gruesomely hilarious. And you will never look at hillbillies again the same way.
The Witch (2015)
This falls with Crimson Peak into the “gorgeous visuals” category. However, it also includes some of the creepiest scenes ever.
The Witch is about William (Ralph Ineson, using his best deep scratchy voice), who is banished from a Puritan plantation for the way he worships. Along with his family, he moves to a farm on the outskirts of a large wood. One day, however, while the daughter Thomasina (Ana Taylor-Joy) is playing peek-a-boy with the baby, the baby disappears, kidnapped by a witch who lives the woods. What follows is a very realistic look at the Puritan religion, trying to live on a farm, and mind numbing creepiness.
Even though the dialogue is hard to understand at times, this movie still is riveting and the atmosphere is oppressive until it finally reaches a boiling point and then explodes. Watch it in HD with the lights out.
The horror genre has been around so long that you have to really reach to find a nice twist on an old standard. Hush, however, finds that twist in having a deaf protagonist, Maddie (Kate Siegel), who becomes targeted in her home by a nameless serial killer (John Gallagher Jr.).
Much like 1967's Wait Until Dark (about a trio of thieves and killers targeting a blind woman), Hush uses its premise wisely: Maddie’s deafness means that the killer can sneak up on her at any time and she wouldn’t know it. She never talks, but we can see every emotion she has on her face, every injury she receives, every bit of courage when she resolves to fight back.
Yes, the plot is a bit cliche — this is, after all, the standard “home invasion by masked killer” plot that’s been kind of done to death. But this manages to still squeeze blood out of that stone, turning in an intense movie that grows in intensity as it goes on.
If you enjoy any horror or slasher movie, you should definitely watch Hush. Especially since the director, Mike Flanagan, currently has another film out, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and is currently doing an adaption of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game.
And that’s it. We still have three more years for the 2010s. Hopefully, we will get lots more excellent horror films.