Not all was lost in the 2020 shit show, as we continue to live in a golden era of horror. Here are my Top 10 from 2020, and a bonus round of films I still haven’t seen that may alter the list.
#10 The Cleansing Hour
The possession trope goes full YouTube in this updated take on exorcism stories. I enjoyed the modernization here: a fake preacher with a gazillion followers performs fake exorcisms live on whatever streaming channel he’s using. This is clearly the natural step for mega churches, right? Actually, this probably EXISTS. I didn’t even look into this. Everything exists on the internet, right? No way there isn’t some Justin Bieber pastor out there selling merch and exorcising the demons on TikTok. Excuse me while I investigate. *Two minutes later* Um, no, I will not be subscribing to Christianity Today to read an article about Jesus TikTok. But I did find this: https://www.inbeat.co/top-influencers/tiktok/gospel/ … Not the millions of followers I suspected but I only did less than 3 minutes of research. OKAY back to The Cleansing Hour. Like The Last Exorcism before it, the Cleansing Hour’s pastor learns that the exorcism that he’s doing during the film is actually real, and hell breaks loose. That in itself was enjoyable enough, barring the very formulaic exorcism plot devices. What I *REALLY* enjoyed was the film’s finale. They should DEFINITELY do a sequel exploring that concept. I’ll save the spoilers – for now.
You can read all about my love for Underwater here. It was delightful. The surprise hit that January of 2020 needed, and the nice, normal creature feature we could enjoy before the world went to hell in March. I MISSED SEEING THIS ONE IN THEATERS AND I SORELY WISH THAT I HAD. What I will add, though, is that 2020 was the year I actually started reading HP Lovecraft stories. I mean, I get them. I pop-culture very well, and I knew the premises and Cliff’s Notes version. This was the year I read the full short story of Cthulhu. I also read Reanimator, the Colour of Space, and several other Lovecraft works. Holy shit was he a racist (I knew this, but didn’t know).
#8 The Mortuary Collection
Ayyyy! Clancy Brown in a great horror anthology! You love to see it. Really a surprise horror hit of 2020. Great production value, great variety of stories, and an EXCELLENT umbrella arc about a peculiar mortician named Montgomery and his seemingly innocent new staff member. I really loved how this one progressed, twisted, and wrapped up. Fantastical and tons of fun. I loved all of the short stories, but was cheering by the end of the second one. Check it out on Shudder.
#7 The Babysitter: Killer Queen
How hilarious and good was this sequel? It exceeded every expectation I had going into it. The characters in this series are campy and entertaining and the sequel really amps up all of their quirks and buffoonery. I absolutely lived for Bella Thorne’s self-aware entrance in the movie and how she basically played a caricature of herself. So good. The plot isn’t thick but I didn’t need it to be. I wanted to laugh, have a lot of fun with the characters and feel like everything was wrapped up by the end. I was not disappointed.
#6 The Platform
The complete opposite of a fun movie, but an important one. The Platform illuminates the dark sides of capitalism, caste systems, survival, and working together to beat a common enemy. It starts out sort of like a Black Mirror episode but quickly goes south. By the end, I wasn’t exactly sure how it would wrap up. But I really appreciated the brutality and depiction of what humans will do to survive. The hallucinatory scenes were excellent as well, and wondering who would be introduced next kept me invested. A great horror entry from Netflix. Keep your subtitles bitching to yourself, please and thank you.
Not much for me to add to all of the praise for 2020’s biggest horror hit. Timely, well executed and packed with scares. The Zoom horror movie we didn’t know we needed, and could have NEVER predicted five years ago. Whew.
#4 Anything for Jackson
What an awesome entry into the ritual/dark arts horror realm. This one was punchy and did not go into any direction I expected. The supernatural characters were legitimately terrifying, especially one dental related monstrosity. Great main character development had me rooting for the anti-heroes at times, or at least sympathizing with them, while still wanting their prisoner to get the justice she deserved. I still feel adrenaline fatigue after completing the Walsh’s journey. Woo, what a rush. A must watch on Shudder.
#3 Deep Blue Sea 3
Yeah, we are going there. Put your life vests on. Look, I’m not saying this one is winning any awards. I’m just saying I’ll watch a thousand movies about genetically enhanced sharks and this one happened to be not awful. The cinematography looked great to this viewer and it was nice to have some closure from the horrible relationship we had with Deep Blue Sea 2, which sucked. This one wasn’t as awful! I love a mindless popcorn horror and this it it, folks. Get drunk with friends and have fun supporting aquatic creature feature horror. My only complaint is that there needed to be more sharks.
#2: The Invisible Man
Remember horror in 2020 from pre-Covid times? Underwater was a surprise hit and The Invisible Man renewed our hope for stellar Universal monster reboots. This is a superb horror film with enough legs to appeal to broad audiences and one that will definitely give leeway to more blockbuster type horror films (hellllooooo Dr. Strange!) I also really appreciate the fact that domestic violence is the true terror in this film. That shit is real life scary and too relatable for so many women (and men, too). The special effects were fantastic. It was just a damn good thriller.
#1 The Dark and the Wicked
Every couple years or so I’m reminded that movies can still scare me. The last time this happened was in 2018 when I watched Terrified and had an actual nightmare. Before that, it was The Autopsy of Jane Doe. This year, it was The Dark and the Wicked. This movie is BLEAK. And let me commend Bryan Bertino for being a MASTER at effectively using sound, setting and lighting to create a supremely nerve wracking scene. The performances are great, the scenes progressively scary, and an ending that left me feeling just generally unsettled. I liked that the characters in this story were very logical and pragmatic about religion and demonic forces (or skeptical depending on your perspective). Minor spoiler but I very much enjoyed that the mother was not religious. That small detail increased the horror of what was happening in the farmhouse. I really recommend this if you’re someone who, like me, enjoys the feeling of nervous anticipation about how a scene will play out. Bertino’s skillfully built tension and sense of dread will get ya!
That’s it for 2020!! The movies I haven’t watched yet that could change this list:
The Wolf of Snow Hollow