Craig's Top 20 / '20 Horror
2020 has been a year. The less said about it, the better. And despite many big titles being torn from release, we did see a plethora of horrors being released on to VOD, Netflix or Shudder.
Now, each and everyone's TOP 20 / '20 will differ, not just from opinion, but whether you were able to catch the film in the cinema, if you live in the Country of its VOD release, or even if you caught a movie at a Film Festival, in person at the beginning of the year, or at a virtual event. So some of these films people saw in 2020, and some of them people wont see until 2021.
So here are the movies I got to see and my mini reviews on the ones that have made it into my TOP 20, presented in no particular order.
Click each title to check out the film's trailer, and be warned, some of these reviews have major spoilers whilst others have none.
'A soon-to-be stepmom is snowed in with her fiancé's two children at a remote holiday village. Just as relations begin to thaw between the trio, some strange and frightening events take place.'
Despite no logo appearing on the film poster or promos, The Lodge is a Hammer Horror movie. I'd completely forgotten about the fact until the lovely logo flashed up on screen at the beginning of the film.
To me, it felt more like an A24 flick, which had me slightly worried throughout, filling me with the anxiety that I was gonna get some ambiguous, arty and disappointing ending. Thankfully, that is not the case, even if the evil fucker in me wanted them to push the boundaries of that ending, it was still a strong finish.
What I feel works well for the movie is its delivery of style and atmosphere. There is plenty of symbolism and metaphors to keep any A24 fan happy, but the film also delivers a strong cohesive and linear narrative. So it seems to cater for both kinds of modern audiences, and I didn't have to throw the remote at the TV in frustration. Heck, even if the audience didn't crave a linear storyline, there's enough throughout the movie to kinda make up your own mind as to whether the characters are actually stuck in purgatory or not! Which I think is pretty damn clever.
The Lodge has great performances all round; Alicia Silverstone did a great job of setting up the tone of the movie, Aiden Hall (IT) and Lia McHugh (American Woman) were fantastic as the bratty evil fuckers and Riley Keough (aka Elvis' Granddaughter!) was great as naive and tortured Grace.
I went into the movie relatively blind and with low expectations and came out very pleasantly surprised, albeit slightly disturbed.
'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.'
A feature directorial debut from British filmmaker Remi Weekes, His House keeps you in the dark for the most part, and plays out like a socially political tale. Bol (SopeDirisu) and Rial (WunmiMosaku) are refugees from South Sudan who fled sectarian violence only to meet the cold, unfeeling bureaucracy of the British immigration system. Slowly the film turns supernatural and begins the mystery of why this is happening. But what does seem evident very quickly, whilst most houses in horror movies were already haunted before characters moved in, Bol and Rial have brought their ghosts with them. About the midway point, Rial recounts a story of a man desperate to escape poverty, and proceeds to steal from an Apeth, a NightWitch. This story is the key to understanding the mystery of His House, which is seethed into the characters' culture. A Dinka folklore, Night Witches are the most malicious wielders of magic since their main intentions are always to harm others, consuming the good fortune of its victims, leaving nothing but misery in its wake. From here, the supernatural elements ramp up as the mystery unravels with well constructed scary scenes, metaphors galore, and a twist which reveals a disturbing truth. The more I think about the film, the more I like it. Whilst the film plays out like an embodiment of survivors guilt, the hard hitting themes, introduction to a Dinka mythology and brilliant acting all package together to create a very good film, especially for a debut! THIS is definitely the kind of modern horror I enjoy, a happy balance of great storytelling and using metaphors to bring to light underlying themes, which I find far more effective than a film filled to the brim with such ambiguity that you sit there through the end credits, wondering what you had just watched (LOOKING AT YOU, AMULET! ).
'When Cecilia's abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.'
The first big movie to be released onto VOD at the beginning of the pandemic, there's not much I can say that hasn't already been said about Leigh Whannell's The Invisible Man, but I thought it was a great little film. I was slightly underwhelmed, but that's to the fault of expectations, so on 2nd view, I'm sure I will love it even more. I also felt the ending didn't pack THAT punch it should have, which is maybe down to editing, or score. But 'something' was missing.
The film felt more akin to 2000's Hollow Man VS 1944's Gas Light than the 1933 version of HG Wells 1897 novel but I liked that it didn't go all 'Hollywood' and head in the direction of overblown action, like the recent Mummy film.
After several sequels, and many films 'inspired' by the novel, it was nice we saw a different version to the story, albeit Hollow Man did touch on the same ideas way back when. I'm also very glad that the film didn't become part of that Universal Monsters Universe which was (in my opinion) deemed for failure.
Overall, it was a great suspenseful flick, with fun little easter eggs nods to the original movie but very much it's own film, delivered with a passionately brilliant performance by Elizabeth Moss.
'A modern slasher about a young woman who gets a graveyard shift at a gas station situated in the middle of nowhere. She informs her boss that she has done time in prison for burning her serial killer boyfriend, who survived the burns but is in prison. She didn't tell the boss or her parole officer about her delusions. Things get very complicated on her very first night as the line between reality and delusion quivers.'
To read my full review click HERE.
'A family find themselves terrorised by their eight-year-old son's imaginary friend.'
Brandon Christensen's Z was a really fun and effective little horror. Playing out like a horror version of Drop Dead Fred, the film offers very well constructed scares and a creepy AF performance from Jett Klyne (The Boy). Final Destination 2 's Keegan Connor Tracy delivers a strong performance as the film twists and turns and doesn't quite turn out as you'd expect.
This film seems to be a HIT or MISS with audiences, but I love Evil Kid movies and I found this one to be quite creative.
'A defiant teenage boy, struggling with his parents' imminent divorce, faces off with a thousand year-old witch, who is living beneath the skin of and posing as the woman next door.'
In my opinion, going into a movie blind (without watching the trailer or reading up on the film) is the best way. It eradicates any pre-conceived expectations, and you can sit back and enjoy a film on its own merit. It's in these circumstances that a film can catch you off guard and that's what happened to me. The Wretched is a well executed PRACTICAL EFFECT focused throwback horror story by the Pierce Brothers (Deadheads). For lovers of movies about an evil witch, this movie will definitely scratch that itch and I can't see anyone being disappointed with the final look of the witch (pictured above). So glad to see a 2020 film utilising good Make-Up and SFX over CGI.
Despite the feeling of formulaic structure and clichéd moments, the directors really worked well with a low budget, and delivered on the many aspects that us 80's horror fans will appreciate.
Fright Night meets Disturbia with an 80s vibe - what's not to love!
'In the starving aftermath of a nuclear disaster, a family of three attends a charitable event at a hotel, which takes a dark turn when people start to disappear.'
Jarand Herdal's Kadaver is a Norwegian movie seethed in moody atmosphere, stunning cinematography and fantastical set design. Not totally an original story but the execution and delivery of its mystery gives the film fresh flavour and whilst very on the nose in regards to its themes and messages, this post-apocalyptic, philosophical horror is rather unique, helped by great performances from its cast, especially Gitte Witt.
'Buenos Aires, 1985. It's the first anniversary of the death of Alexis Carpenter, the unstable supermodel who died tragically when she was set on fire while closing a runaway show. Lucia L'uccello - Editor-in-Chief of the most important magazine in Buenos Aires - chooses supermodels Eva Lantier and Irene del Lago to honour Alexis on the cover of the anniversary issues dedicated to the famous model. The night before the photo shoot, Alexis's original dresses that were going to be used by the models are stolen. From that moment, members of the important fashion magazine and the agency begin to disappear, one by one, at the hands of a stealthy, sinister female silhouette in a long black leather raincoat. Is someone seeking revenge? Or has Alexis returned from the grave?'
They say to not judge a book by its cover, and yet, much like the beautiful artwork of the 80's, I was lured to this film by its stunning poster back in 2018. And then nothing! Where did the film go? Similar to many independent films that go into the Film Festival circuit, they can disappear into the ether for many years. I was hoping to catch it at Fright Fest, but unfortunately unable to attend.
Thankfully, due to a free trial with Arrow Video and it's recent update of new movies, I was finally able to check out Crystal Eyes!
What the film lacks in plot, it makes up in stunning aesthetic and homage to Giallo. The film, set in the 80's, has a very rocky start, but as soon as the 'mannequin' shows up, with it's fetishised leather jacket, sequins and high heels, the fun really begins! Colourfully camp with an hypnotic score which falls somewhere between Goblin and John Carpenter. All done on an extremely modest budget!
Great work from directors Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano.
'A man providing overnight watch to a deceased member of his former Orthodox Jewish community finds himself opposite a malevolent entity, in writer-director Keith Thomas' electrifying feature debut.'
Whilst the 3rd act is slightly lacklustre, this atmospheric Jewish occult mysticism based film is pretty damn solid. Amulet meets The Possession, the movie is a nice twist on the haunted house story. I personally love Supernatural films, and even more so, movies based around Cultures I'm not familiar with, as it creates this element of the unknown.
Dark and unsettling, The Vigil does a great job of creeping under your skin and staying with you.
'A bereaved Satanist couple kidnap a pregnant woman so they can use an ancient spell-book to put their dead grandson's spirit into her unborn child but end up summoning more than they bargained for.'
To read my full review click HERE.
'An eccentric mortician recounts several macabre and phantasmagorical tales that he's encountered in his distinguished career.'
Being a massive fan of Anthology Horror I'm always on the look out for new titles, and there have been quite a few over the past few years, especially within the indie sector. Whilst there have been some great ones like XX, Holidays and Nightmare Cinema, it always seems to be the case of 1 or 2 segments being a lot weaker than the rest, or the wrap around segment failing to impress; it's quite hard to live up to the classics like Creepshow, Tales From The Hood or Trick 'r Treat, but The Mortuary Collection is a damn good contender.
Whats stands out to me, is each segment, including the wrap around, are all written and directed by the same person, Ryan Spindell. So the movie has an overall style that pulls everything together as if it were a cohesive linear film. That's some feat for an anthology. Fans of EC Comics and Tales From The Crypt should especially enjoy this very entertaining throwback, filled with fun horror clichés and homages set to an outstanding cinematography. Clancy Brown as our 'Cryptkeeper' of sorts really shines in this film, and I can now see why people are eager to see him take on The Tall Man's role if there were a Phantasm remake!
'Another successful "exorcism" streamed online - or so it seems. Can the "exorcist", producer and their team bring the ratings up? Ratings skyrocket, when a real demon gets involved.'
Like Supernatural and Evil Kid movies, Possession films are another favourite of mine, so I'm usually easily pleased. Yes, a lot of them are carbon copies of one another, but I don't really care,
I like what I like and I can't get enough of them.
But, every once in awhile we get something a little different on the table, such as 2005's Exorcism of Emily Rose or 2014's The Taking Of Deborah Logan and Damien LeVeck's The Cleansing Hour definitely breathes some new life into the genre. Whilst it's not massively innovative, what it does, it does very well. It's 50% over the top silliness and camp (with a HOT Priest to boot ;-) ) and 50% excellent acting, pacing and SFX. And more so than anything, it's just a damn good time! Based on a short film of the same name (link below), The Cleansing Hour is most certainly above the curve!
Only check out the short if you have seen the movie!
'An evil spirit that changes faces infiltrates one family placing one brother in danger while the other tries to save him.'
From one Possession movie to another, but this time, Korean style! Now, this one won't be for everyone, mainly due to the film length of almost 2 hours, and we all know what attention span many modern audiences have. But I lapped this film right up, every frame was filled with so much atmosphere and excitement that time really wasn't an issue.
I thought Hong-seon Kim's Metamorphosis was really fantastic; brilliantly acted and surprisingly very gory and action packed; elements you rarely see in this kind of movie. With great set pieces the film seeps with dread by offering an element of paranoia within the family unit amongst all the craziness; an angle with certainly helps deliver something a little different to the genre.
'A monster named Larry manifests itself through smart phones and mobile devices. Feature film version of the 2017 short film.'
Now, back to one of my other favourite genres, and the second of its kind on this list; Come Play. Whilst not as dark as Z, this offering does pull on the heartstrings a little more. On the surface it's just another cliché offering aimed at teenagers, but Jacob Chase's movie has a deeper emotional core with some very well constructed scares. Creepy and suspenseful Come Play presents a pretty damn cool monster, packaged with its own lore and rules and the ending will likely melt the coldest of hearts.
Come Play is also based on a horror short, Larry.
'Six friends hire a medium to hold a seance via Zoom during lockdown, but they get far more than they bargained for as things quickly go wrong.'
To read my full review on the most discussed Horror Movie of 2020 - click HERE.
'After swapping bodies with a deranged serial killer, a young girl in high school discovers she has less than 24 hours before the change becomes permanent.'
FREAKY (Friday The 13th) was a pure blast! I watched it twice over the course of the opening weekend. The opening segment is strong and I knew I was in for a fun ride.
Above anything else, the KILLS in this movie are epic - far superior than most Slashers, especially newer ones.
The first kill had me gagged - deep throating a vintage bottle of wine until climaxing into shards of glass and blood spurting from the victim's throat. Genius!
On first watch I didn't love Kathryn Newton's portrayal of The Butcher, but oddly it worked better for me on 2nd viewing. Vince Vaughan was so funny as Millie (even tho his portrayal wasn't reeeeeally Millie's character - but that's just splitting hairs.)
The ending was also pretty damn good. After 'defeating' The Butcher and swapping back into their correct bodies, I loved that the killer came back for a nice Slasher Vs Final Girl(s) finale, with the 3 women taking on The Butcher, reminiscent of the Strode women in Halloween H40.
Only little issue I had with the film was the Mother's 'alcoholism' - She passes out on the sofa after drinking 3/4 of a bottle of Chardonnay - she's a pretty lame alcoholic, nothing like the hardcore Marge Thompson swigging from a big bottle of vodka and singing to herself on the sofa in Nightmare On Elm Street. Now THAT's high class Final Girl Mom alcoholism!
'An orgy of blood, violence and fun in which a young couple travel to a shabby Eastern European hospital for plastic surgery. Once there, things unravel.'
Lars Damoiseaux's Yummy is a gore-tastic Dutch movie and I totally ate it all up! Completely over the top and ridiculous, it feels like a love letter to 80's zombie and Troma movies, so if you're a fan of those, you know what you're getting into. There are many great moments from laughing out loud comedy to maniacal glee at the over abundance of gore and silliness.
A secluded farm is struck by a strange meteorite which has apocalyptic consequences for the family living there and possibly the world.
Having read the H.P. Lovecraft story and seen 1987's The Curse (staring Wil Wheaton), I was very excited for Colour Out Of Space, and, very surprisingly, it exceeded my expectations. I could even overlook my hatred towards Nicolas Cage, which is some feat!
I believe the 80's was a high point for Lovecraft adaptations with the likes of ReAnimator, The Unnamable and From Beyond and although a modern take, Richard Stanley's version definitely harks back to that Golden Era, bringing with him the spirit of 80s horror and serving it on a platter for modern audiences. Everyone in the film does a fantastic job but I will never be able to look at Joely Richardson the same way ever again. A lot of Cosmic Horror came from 2020 (The Beach House, Underwater, What Lies Below) but Colour Out Of Space proudly sits on top of the pile.
'A daughter, mother and grandmother are haunted by a manifestation of dementia that consumes their family's home.'
Similar to the movies of Ari Aster, Natalie Erika James' Relic has a specific target audience. I wasn't entirely convinced I would be a part of that audience, but on reflection and after 2 viewings, I very much am.
A slow burn film which fills each and every frame with meaning and subtext; talk about mise-en-scène!
The acting from our three protagonists, Emily Mortimer, Bella Heathcote and Robyn Nevin, was phenomenal, especially from the latter. The cinematography oozed with anxiety filled dread creating a sense of unbearable atmosphere and the score plus sound design were the exact calibre of quality I expect in a really well made film.
The whole film and everything that happens is a metaphor for dementia. So much so that you're never quite sure what is grounded in reality. Similar to Babadook, this film is filled to the brim with symbolism and metaphors but also delivers a damn good story. Both have aspects of a linear story with both feet dipping in and out of reality, cleverly twisting in the metaphors of mental health and trauma.
Although, in my opinion, if you don't have any personal experience in dealing with dementia or alzheimer's, it will be harder to understand the film. So much so that by the end you could very well be tearing out your hair alongside the tearing of skin and flesh of our character. This film is very much a disturbing and unsettling experience.
'Follows a pious nurse who becomes dangerously obsessed with saving the soul of her dying patient.'
Similar to Relic, this movie is very much an experience, and piecing together the plot and motivations of the main protagonist is very much intellectually challenging but somewhat rewarding.
Saint Maud is Rose Glass' debut and it delivers one hell of a gut-punch, which like most modern horror, will divide audiences. The film exuberates psycho-religious chills which is helped by an astonishing performance from Morfydd Clark; expressing an impressive range of joy, pain and despair, sometimes in even just one sentence. Jennifer Ehle is also fantastic in the film and even Scarborough, the Yorkshire seaside town feels like a fleshed out character within the film, creating the perfect pathetic fallacy energy for Clark's character, Maud.
Emotionally ambiguous and thematically complex, Saint Maud will definitely stay with long after the end credits, and you will most certainly wonder whether God truly does speak in Welsh... Or maybe that was just me!
So there we have it, My TOP 20 / '20 HORRORS! And just for a little extra fun, here are my Top 6 Honourable Mentions -
Craig Fisher - follow me on IG to check out what I'm watching - @FisherFilms82