This past decade was a time of great change for the horror genre. We saw a wave of fresh and diverse voices and new kinds of horror films, from new directors from all over the globe. The proverbial gates were opened up wide for anyone to come through and use the genre to tell their stories, which birthed what many fans refer to as the second “golden age” of horror. It was a decade that saw an MCU level crossover universe from James Wan, a massively successful Carpenter and Spielberg influenced TV show that created an 80s horror nostalgia boom, tons of independent and foreign gems, and more King adaptations than you can shake a stick at. We, unfortunately, lost a ton of masters of horror within this decade but with all the gold these new directors are churning out, it looks like the baton is in safe hands. This list chronicles the end of an era but more importantly, provides a small glimpse of the future of horror.
This is The 50 Greatest Horror Films of the 2010s.
40. Baskin (2015)
Much like how Lovecraft is near impossible to adapt properly, hell seems to be too big a hurdle for directors to cross. Some lean into the surreal, others focus on the torment of isolation, and a brave few risk repelling their audience by going as extreme as possible. Event Horizon’s scenes of torture pushed the R rating to its limits and were apparently so grotesque, a good chunk of it was removed. The only other film that I can think of that doubled down on its extremely graphic depiction of hell, is Baskin.
Five Turkish police officers explore an abandoned apartment building with a sinister reputation only to find that it’s actually a portal into Hell. Gone are the lakes of fire, the giant cauldron for cooking humans alive, the red devils with pitchforks, and every other Dante inspired cliche, and in their place: blood. And lots of it. Severed body parts, buckets of viscera, mutilated corpses, and poor souls roaming the grounds who have been abused beyond belief. When the imagery is this powerful, the characters and plot become irrelevant. You’re buying a ticket to see some fucked up shit and the film delivers.
39. Tigers Are Not Afraid (2019)
A dark fairy tale about a gang of five children trying to survive the horrific violence of the cartels and the ghosts created every day by the drug war. Terrifying, poignant, and emotionally devastating, Tigers are Not Afraid is a mashup of Pan’s Labyrinth and City of God but scarier than the former and as brutal as the latter. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to show children in peril, not for the shock value ala Troma films but because for many, death is an everyday occurrence. With terrific performances from the five leads and a sense of dread that permeates throughout every frame, Tigers are Not Afraid is a devastating piece of cinema not to be missed.
38. Under the Shadow (2016)
After Shideh’s building is hit by a missile during the Iran-Iraq War, a neighbor suggests that the missile was cursed and might be carrying malevolent Middle-Eastern spirits. At first, Shideh dismisses the neighbor as superstitious but eventually becomes convinced a supernatural force within the building is attempting to possess her daughter and she has no choice but to confront these forces if she is to save her daughter and herself. This is the film The Babadook wishes it could be. It tackles the same themes but in a far more nuanced and intelligent way. Plus, the kid in this doesn’t make you want to slit your fucking throat. It’s subtle horror done right.
37. V/H/S/2 (2014)
What do you get when you let some of the best and freshest names in horror do whatever the hell they want with a budget big enough to accomplish their vision? You get one of the best horror anthologies and one of the most under-appreciated horror sequels ever. Sitting smack dab in the middle of a trilogy made up of one ok entry and one unwatchable piece of garbage, V/H/S 2 is head and shoulders above both and is unfortunately saddled with a legacy of shit because if this was a stand-alone film, horror fans would never stop singing its praises.
With segments directed by Timo Tjahjanto (The Night Comes for Us, May The Devil Take You), Gareth Evans (The Raid 1 & 2, Apostle), Adam Wingard (The Guest, You’re Next), Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun) and Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project), the film has a little something for everyone. There’s a segment involving ghosts, one about zombies, another about aliens and the best one (Safe Haven) is about a creepy ass death cult. It’s a buffet made up of nothing but the finest cuts of meat and the sweetest desserts. The meats just happen to be spooks and jump scares and the desserts are blood and guts.
36. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
The Office meets Interview with a Vampire but with better acting and less melodrama. What We Do in the Shadows takes us on a behind the scenes documentary-style look at the daily routine of a group of vampires. We see the vampires, ranging from 183 to 8,000 years old, squabble over daily chores, picking on local werewolves, cruising for ladies, and struggling with new technology. WWDITS is a fresh take on the vampire sub-genre that turns out some good laughs. Even though writer/directors Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement poke fun at vampires, you can tell there is a lot of respect and love here for the bloodsuckers. It is one of those films that even non-horror nuts can enjoy and gain a new perspective on the genre.
35. The Final Girls (2015)
A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom’s most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film’s maniacal killer. As good as this film is (and it’s pretty damn good), if it was rated R, it would’ve been an instant classic. You can’t make a faithful homage to slashers without the excessive bloodshed and copious amounts of unnecessary nudity the genre is known for. But, knowing what I know about the making of the film, they made the right decision.
The script was originally optioned by New Line Cinema but the studio wanted a more conventional slasher with zero character moments and the central theme removed. The creators said no and it eventually went to Sony, who had no problem with the film’s emotional center but wanted a PG-13 rating to get more asses in the seats. It was either neuter the blood or lose the heart and they made with the right decision. Besides the unique premise, the mother-daughter plot is the one thing that separates it from every other slasher. While this film suffers from a lack of tits ‘n blood, every other horror film desperately needs this film’s soul.
34. Happy Death Day (2017)
Easily one of the best films to use Groundhog Day‘s premise of reliving the same day over and over again. When you break it down, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is similar to Bill Murray’s character. They both thought highly of themselves and it’s only after repeatedly reliving the same day that they begin to change their perspective on life. What sets this film apart is its use of horror. There are some really inventive kills and a plot that will have you guessing who the real killer is up to the last second. If you’re a fan of time travel, well-made horror films, and a final girl that will never die(?), Happy Death Day is the perfect treat for you.
33. Annihilation (2018)
If you were to put Annihilation‘s highs and lows on a piece of graph paper, it would look like an erratic heart monitor. The film has some of the best sci-fi concepts and horror sequences in recent memory but it also has some of the dumbest characters and weakest plot machinations to appear in a big studio film in awhile. The characters are all either Einstein level intelligent or slasher movie character stupid, there is no In between. They can sell exposition and fake sci-fi mumbo jumbo like nobody’s business but when it comes to making narrative decisions that make sense, they all fall frustratingly short.
The biggest problem with this film is that it’s a smart sci-fi film stuck in the body of a really dumb horror movie, or rather, the characters of a horror movie are stuck in the plot of a sci-fi movie. Because setting aside whatever problems I or anyone else has about it, there’s no denying how good the horror elements are. The characters might be dumb and the sci-fi convoluted but the horror is on point. The eerie atmosphere mixed with the pulsating score along with the unexplainable world equals an unforgettable experience. And that’s not even mentioning the infamous bear scene or the creepy-ass finale. Annihilation might be flawed but it excels where it counts.
32. Under the Skin (2013)
I have no idea whether or not Glazer was inspired by the film The Man Who Fell to Earth or if its themes of loneliness and isolation and what it actually means to be human are merely coincidental or accidental but either way, the parallels between the two films is undeniable. And while the same could also be said about Species (due to the fact that both films involve incredibly good looking female aliens who lure men to their deaths with the promise of sex), it’s presented in such a wildly different manner, any similarities are incidental. There are tons of films about extraterrestrials and while this one feels similar to others (like a couple of the films previously mentioned), it’s unlike any other in history.
Mostly due to the fact that it feels like it was made by one. As much as Johansson’s character is inhabiting the skin of a human to blend in, Under the Skin is inhabiting the shape of celluloid to pass as a film. The film is an alien masquerading as a movie. And a weird as hell alien at that. It is a psychedelic mind fuck that baffles as much as it mesmerizes. With unforgettable imagery and a score that’ll stay with you forever, Under the Skin is a film whose title is earned, in more ways than one.
31. Julia’s Eyes (2010)
Whilst investigating the mysterious death of her twin sister, a woman (Belén Rueda) slowly starts to lose her vision. Structured similarly to a Giallo with its methodical pace and twisty narrative but without the genre’s over the top pulpy quality and their grand guignol exuberance, Julia’s Eyes is a thriller that could’ve used a little more cheese on them nachos. The chips are great (the acting), the meat is top-notch (the tension) and the jalapenos es muy caliente (the kills) but it’s lacking that cheese to pull it all together. It either needed a memorable scene-stealing killer like Wait Until Dark (which this film is clearly modeled after) or less twists to be more effective. Essentially what I’m saying is, it needed to be worse to be a more faithful homage to thrillers past, and when the only negative about your film is that it’s too good at what it’s doing, that’s saying something.
What do you think of the selection so far? What are some of your favorite horror movies from the past decade? Maybe they will show up further on the list!