Craig's Top 20 '21 Horror Movies
Updated: Jul 12
Wow. Has it been a year already?
Similar to last year, life for everyone hasn't been the best, but our beloved Horror genre certainly dished out a load of titles to keep us all from going a little mad (sometimes).
My list, similar to last year, will differ from many others, 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.
So here are the movies I got to see and my mini reviews on the ones that have made it into my TOP 20 this year, 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 man with a mysterious past flees the country to escape his own personal hell - only to arrive somewhere much, much worse.
Director - Alister Grierson / Writer - Robert Benjamin / Stars - Ben O'Toole, Meg Fraser, Caroline Craig
Funny, Crazy, OTT and just plain Bloody fun! I definitely found this to be quite unique and original, and I think it would go well as a double feature with last year's Why Don't You Just Die!
Ben O'Toole, playing both Rex and his alter ego, is a bloody brilliant tour de force performance.
The movie shifts tone as quickly as it mashes up genres, keeping things fresh and highly entertaining.
Bloody Hell will give genre fans something to have fun with, and it surprised me in a major way.
Do yourself a favour and go into this movie blind - and enjoy the insane ride!
Families were terrorized at the orphanage. Someone wants them dead, apparently with black magic that is very deadly. She has a grudge and she was also born because of the sins of the orphans who formed her into the Queen of Black Magic.
Director - Kimo Stamboel / Writer - Joko Anwar Stars - Ario Bayu, Hannah Al Rashid, Adhisty Zara
Indonesian Horrors are killing it right now! May The Devil Take You and Impetigore are two major highlights for me, and whilst this film didn't quite reach the same heights, it is a pretty damn solid film. A slow start offers an interesting and well written bunch of characters (although there are too many of them) , but when the action starts in the middle of the second act, it grasps you by the throat and doesn't quite let you breathe until the final reel. A collaboration between Dread Out's Kimo Stamboel and Satans Slaves Joko Anwar the film offers a creepy atmosphere and a credible amount of gore, but I found the storyline a little simple in comparison to how well executed the movie itself was.
When a possessed pair of jeans begins to kill the staff of a trendy clothing store, it is up to Libby, an idealistic young salesclerk, to stop its bloody rampage.
Director - Elza Kephart / Writers - Patricia Gomez, Elza Kephart / Stars - Romane Denis, Brett Donahue, Sehar Bhojani
To read my FULL REVIEW click HERE.
1974: a young nurse is forced to work the night shift in a crumbling hospital as striking miners switch off the power across Britain. But inside the walls lurks a terrifying presence that threatens to consume her and everyone around her.
Director / Writer - Corinna Faith / Stars - Rose Williams, Mark Smith, Emma Catherine Rigby
Newcomer Writer / Director Corinna Faith seems to have a good grasp on how to deliver a British Period Haunting. Whilst the story itself isn't overtly original, it is delivered with fantastic performances, brilliant cinematography (from Amulet's Laura Bellingham) and an abundance of creepy atmosphere. Faith really uses her location to excellent effect; the crumbling hospital becomes a character of its own, evoking the 'bad place' like many famous 'Haunting' movies.
The Power's plot does strain some credibility, and for most of the movie we're thrown into the dark without much exposition, so by the time the story is realised all within the last 15 minutes it does turn the effective film into a more standard horror. But I didn't mind, as most of the ingredients served me a pretty strong supernatural movie.
A social media prankster and his fiancée find their idyllic country weekend turn into the ultimate video prank where the stakes are life and death.
Directors - Justin Harding, Rob Brunner / Writer - Justin Harding / Stars - Alana Elmer, Tim Loden, Jonathan Craig
Going into Making Monsters blind was a good choice as it just made the whole film seem that much more original. The way the movie jumps from genuine suspense to a bit of light humor is no easy feat as well as successfully mixing a handful of different sub-genres! For an indie film I was expecting to be average, the film did pack some hard punches. I had no idea it was going to be this intense, bloody, and all-around well crafted.
Whiton University unravels the night a star-athlete is murdered, kicking off a spree of social media slayings that force students to uncover the truth behind the school's hidden secrets and the horrifying meaning of an exclamation point.
Director - John Berardo / Writers - John Berardo, Lindsay LaVanchy, Brian Frager / Stars - Isabella Gomez, Lindsay LaVanchy, Froy Gutierrez
Initiation delivers old school Slasher vibes with a 21st Century twist. Strong feminist undertones and lots of male eye candy, cleverly positioning the men into the sexualised roles for a change - we see a male character undress in his dorm room, showing his peachy buttocks (before masterbating and then getting drilled in the neck post orgasm!)... I digress.
With plenty of social and subtle commentaries on the Slasher sub genre, this is the kind of 'woke' messaging that's well written, and not jammed down our throats (BLACK CHRISTMAS '19!!), exploring lots of issues facing contemporary youth culture.
The cast were really good, I loved seeing the stunning Isabella Gomez in a horror and Froy Gutierrez gave good victim.
The acting definitely stands out, which is down to the script which examines its characters beyond their surface level tropes and deals with the fallout that comes from a serial murderer - and talking about the killer, I very much enjoyed the drill weapon, paying homage to Slumber Party Massacre, sealing that homage lovingly with a cameo from Debra DeLiso.
My biggest issue with the film is that it doesn't fully explore the plot points it sets up, leaving us with more questions than answers, which is highly frustrating, as it drags the film away from being an almost perfect viewing experience.
The film is a pretty unique indie Slasher, blending in Thriller and Drama sub genres, which only helps ripen the screenplay, and it's the kind of mature teen style Slasher that I want to see more of.
It's almost as if Promising Young Woman and Scream had a baby, on a modest budget.
Joel, a caustic 1980s film critic for a national horror magazine, finds himself unwittingly trapped in a self-help group for serial killers. With no other choice, Joel attempts to blend in or risk becoming the next victim.
Director - Cody Calahan / Writers - Cody Calahan, Christopher Warre Smets, James Villeneuve / Stars - Evan Marsh, Amber Goldfarb, Ari Millen, Julian Richings
Vicious Fun was an absolute blast! I had fun from the opening scene right up to the final frame, and I'm totally hoping for a sequel to continue the adventures of Joel and Carrie. The cast is a little too male heavy but I found the whole group of killers to be super fun, especially Julian Richings' Fritz.
The film being set in the 80's didn't really advance the story, but it definitely gave us a fantastically stunning neon intro, and a great soundtrack. Would certainly make a great double feature with Bloody Hell alongside the Xmas episode of Creepshow.
Following the events at home, the Abbott family now face the terrors of the outside world. Forced to venture into the unknown, they realize the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats lurking beyond the sand path.
Director - John Krasinski / Writers - John Krasinski, Bryan Woods, Scott Beck / Stars - Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy
I thought the first Quiet Place was freaking awesome... literally did not give 2 shits about the plot holes, I just thought it was genuinely intense, well written, brilliantly acted and very well Directed, considering it was Krasinski's first foray into Horror.
I eagerly awaited the sequel... which (obviously) took a lot longer to get into my eyes (fuck you Pandemic!), so needless to say, expectations were hiiiiiigh - and, to my surprise, my expectations were moderately met. I thought this was a very well presented follow up.
I really enjoyed seeing the beginning of the invasion, the opening set piece was one intense ride. Unfortunately the rest of the film doesn't quite hit that level of intensity, nor is it on the same level as Blunt giving birth in the bathtub from the previous installment - but that didn't take away any of my enjoyment.
I do kinda wish the whole sequel upped the ante in similar fashion to T2 or Aliens ( because I think it could easily have), I felt like it was holding back... which I guess it is; holding back for the 3rd film.
But, considering we had to wait the whole Pandemic for this sequel, and as far as I'm aware, Krasinski hasn't even started to pen the 3rd film - I have no idea when this will come to an explosive end - and I just want it now to be honest.
I know there's a spin-off in the works by Pig 's Michael Sarnoski - which, yeh, ok - cool - but I want a finale and closure of the current storyline before any spin-offs. Considering Sarnoski's' film isn't due until 2023, it just means a longer wait to see the Abbott family again, which just makes me sad 🙍🏻♂️
1994 - A circle of teenage friends accidentally encounter the ancient evil responsible for a series of brutal murders that have plagued their town for over 300 years. Welcome to Shadyside.
1978 - School's out for summer and the activities at Camp Nightwing are about to begin. But when another Shadysider is possessed with the urge to kill, the fun in the sun becomes a gruesome fight for survival.
1966 - The origins of Sarah Fier's curse are finally revealed as history comes full circle on a night that changes the lives of Shadysiders forever.
I honestly couldn't pick one over the other, I immensely enjoyed many aspects of all 3 films - and all 3 movies only takes ONE position within my list.
Based off of R L Stine's popular YA Fear Street Series, the Trilogy Event was well thought out, well executed and surprisingly pretty gnarly - they definitely went in harder than I expected.
However, this may be a Rated R Slasher event with some fantastically over-the-top and gory kills, but the Young Adult vibe from the books is very much evident, so prepare and expect for teenage drama and a moody emotional core.
Each segment boasts highbrow cinematography, competent storytelling, an array of great actors within the cast, inventive kills and a playlist of songs I've been Spotifying all year!
Netflix's decision to air one film a week was genius as there seem to be a lot of unity within the horror community as we all tuned in each week for the next new slashing.
Check out my review of 1994 HERE.
It's a soaking wet day with rain pouring down and one of the best things to do is to go seek refuge in a great old cinema. There's just one problem: a murderer is on the loose and he also has taken refuge there.
Director - Maximiliano Contenti / Writers - Maximiliano Contenti, Manuel Facal / Stars - Ricardo Islas, Luciana Grasso, Franco Duran
Al Morir La Matinée / The Last Matinee (or Red Screening which is my preferred title) is an overtly sexy Giallo inspired Uruguayan Slasher which has a synth score to DIE FOR, and at times is quite brutal and nasty. The film can be quite slow in parts and we do have to wait almost half an hour for the first kill - but it's hella worth it. Vicious. The film's theatre/cinema setting is both gorgeous and genius - giving me The Last Showing vibes, and for some reason, the killer gave off Philippe Nahon vibes from Switchblade Romance.
The kills are lavishly gory and creative, and once you realise the Killer's endgame 👁 👅 - it's all the more brutal.
Reeling from the unexpected death of her husband, Beth is left alone in the lakeside home he built for her. Soon she begins to uncover her recently deceased husband’s disturbing secrets.
Director - David Bruckner / Writers - Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski / Stars - Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Evan Jonigkeit
I went into The Night House trepidatiously as I'd heard of it's ambiguous ending... and if you guys know me, I hate at least 60% of films that end in such a manner. But to my delightful surprise, the ending was pretty straight laced. On surface level, it was a possession story with ties to a Flatliners plot with shades of What Lies Beneath meets The Invisible Man. But, as an afterthought, you could peel back the layers and deduce most of the film was a metaphor for grief, loss, depression and the outcome of finding out your deceased husband's secrets... But in my opnin, whilst those elements are stitched into the atmosphere of the plot, I saw enough evidence to steer my mind on the path of possession from a vengeful demon.
David Bruckner, follows his absolutely brilliant film The Ritual with this well directed, intense and aesthetically stunning modern Ghost Story. Rebecca Hall carries the film to emotive effect, with a very complex and layered character. An effective and engaging psychological horror, Bruckner is proving to be a match for the likes of James Wan, and I am fully engaged and excited for his vision of Hellraiser.
Something lurks off the coast of Block Island, silently influencing the behavior of fisherman, Tom Lynch. After suffering a series of violent outbursts, he unknowingly puts his family in grave danger.
DirectorS / Writers - Kevin McManus, Matthew McManus / Stars - Chris Sheffield, Michaela McManus, Neville Archambault
The Block Island Sound seemed to come out of nowhere back in March. I went in totally blind and came out pleasantly surprised. Quite a genre bending anomaly - a family drama/conflict, presented as a horror with otherworldly dread throughout, culminating in a Sci-Fi Thriller whilst swinging between elevated and cosmic horror AND still leaving room for ambiguity as to whether this was a paranormal movie, or a metaphorical story about inherited diseases. Low budget but certainly not low quality - the acting was great and the directing style gave us constant tension filled atmosphere, which helped with the pacing within a slow burn presentation. The ending could be either lacklustre or impactful, it really depends if you were paying attention throughout and if you'd consider yourself a critical thinker, or not. With a foreboding atmosphere and psychological intent this film won't be for everyone.
Columnist and author Femke is flooded with anonymous nasty messages and death threats on social media. One day she is completely done and decides to take revenge.
Director - Ivo van Aart / Writer - Daan Windhorst / Stars - Katja Herbers, Harry van Rijthoven, Achraf Koutet
The Columnist is Dutch provocative satire that I had a lot of fun with. The premise is both relatable and alien; I think we all wanna be a Carey Mulligan lookalike and slaughter some Internet Trolls 💻 🔪 🩸
Katja Herbers gives a mesmerising turn as Femke and definitely brings new meaning to the term 'journalistic hack'!
Think Serial Mom for the Social Media age with lashings of a Revenge Thriller.
Madison is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities.
Director - James Wan / Writers - James Wan, Ingrid Bisu, Akela Cooper / Stars - Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White
I absolutely loved this imperfectly unique wild ride!
The bonkers 'cold open' gave me Dark Castle vibes, then as the movie continued, the first 40 mins gave us a pretty traditional James Wan movie. I recognised his (now) stereotypical set ups, colour palette, camera movements and infusing dramatic situations for his characters (abusive husband) into the horror story. I could see elements of Saw, Dead Silence and The Conjuring and I was cleverly lured into a false sense of security that this would be a Wan film, through and through.
But then the clever little fucker pulled the rug and this film went balls to the wall, bat-shit crazy - all whilst delivering a love-letter to the bygone era of Italian Horror - paying homage to Argento, DePalma and even Cronenberg - I could even see some inspiration from the more recent Mirada De Cristal.
Playing out like some Giallo infused, demented gender-swopped version of Basket Case the story kept me on my toes, but I did clock the (SPOILERS) birth Mother and twin storyline, I just had no idea how twisted it would become.
There's quite a few flaws and plot-holes that I'm choosing to ignore, I just think it comes with the territory on such a uniquely crazy story, and I didn't love how Madison 'defeated' Gabrielle; I would have ended on a darker note and killed them both...
I love how Wan has used his time on his DC movies and brought a bit of what he's learned back into the horror genre... I'm not sure we would have had some of the insanely gory action sequences if he hadn't gone on to direct outside of the horror genre, and that's something to be applauded.
I must admit, I wasn't expecting this from Wan, creativity and originality were evident here, and it's very rare to see a Hollywood budget behind a kind of film that would usually be classed as Indie. It was refreshing to see a movie that isn't bogged down with social commentary or elevated horror which seem to flood the genre at the moment. It was just ridiculous fun.
Whilst it seems most of the horror community has embraced Malignant, there's quite a few disappointed sour-pusses, so the movie might not be a major hit right away, but it will certainly become a Cult Classic down the line.
Sidenote: Loved seeing 90's Horror babe Paula Marshall (Hellraiser 3 / Warlock 2) return to horror!
What did YOU think of 2021's most polarizing film?
A schoolteacher is forced to confront a brutal act from his past when a pair of ruthless drifters take his family and him on a nightmare road trip.
Director - James Ashcroft / Writers - Eli Kent, James Ashcroft, Owen Marshall / Stars - Daniel Gillies, Erik Thomson, Miriama McDowell
Coming Home In The Dark is a surprisingly very tense, and violent film from New Zealand. I went in blind and was pretty shocked at the 20 minute mark where a particular scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
Whilst I've seen many films of similar premise and intensity, this one stands out due to being able to sympathize with the villains, which places the viewer in the precarious position of not knowing who to root, or care for more.
The plot has a few holes, but the developing story of accountability, guilt and revenge really propel the action and I was on the edge of my seat. In the middle of this mean-spirited narrative, and beyond all the brutal violence you'll find a truly heartbreaking story that I know some people are going to be able to relate to.
Dark and unpredictable, this movie swiftly slides into my Top 2021 and Daniel Gillies is definitely on my watchlist from now on - from handsome and suave Elijah in The Originals, to homicidal maniac who seems to embody a mix of The Hitcher's John Ryder and Wolf Creek's Mick Taylor.
Dwight and his sister Jessie reach a crossroads over what to do about their little brother Thomas, a sickly child with a mysterious affliction.
Director / Writer - Jonathan Cuartas / Stars - Patrick Fugit, Ingrid Sophie Schram, Owen Campbell
As if the title wasn't enough to warn me... ten minutes into this movie I began to roll my eyes as the realization I was in for (yet another) drawn out, slow burn horror... but, god damn, did this bleakly depressing oddity suck me in.
Siblings Dwight and Jessie are trapped in a toxic codependent relationship with one another as the only guardians to their younger brother Thomas - whose sickness/condition can only be described as a kinship with George Romero's character, Martin.
Whilst the 'vampirism' is a catalyst for the plot, the main focus of the film is this twisted family dynamic and the length they would go to to keep Thomas alive as well as the domineering Jesse who uses psychological abuse tactics to keep the family together - which is all as harrowing as it sounds.
The cinematography is highly emotive with its melancholically dreary cold and washed out colors and the script and actors do an amazing job at pushing this depressive aesthetic with a lot of emotional depth.
This little Indie horror definitely surprised me, but I do wish we were given a bit more history to Thomas' condition and how the family dynamic came to be - which is a pretty minor gripe to a very well crafted movie.
In this gruesome suspense film, strangers traveling in southern Italy become stranded in the woods, where they must fight desperately to get out alive.
Directors - Roberto De Feo, Paolo Strippoli / Writers - Lucio Besana, Roberto De Feo, Paolo Strippoli / Stars - Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Francesco Russo, Peppino Mazzotta
To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from A Classic Horror Story, I mean, this is Netflix, not Shudder... but fuck me, did I LOVE this movie!
I was really enjoying all the homages and 'rip-offs' of other horrors, but when the film flipped and went all META, giving genuine reasoning behind the homages, I was pretty blown away.
It was great to see a modern Italian Horror, I can't even remember the last time I watched an Italian Horror that wasn't from the #DarioArgento hey-days - which the film quite cleverly refers to itself.
Even as a rip-off movie I thought it was genuinely suspenseful and really well done, so along with the twist in the story, I just had a really great time watching this.
There's a few plot holes that I'm choosing to ignore because I think the writers and directors delivered a solid pseudo-satire horror with a really likable cast (albeit cliche and stereotypical for all the right reasons) and Revenge's Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz is once again, absolutely fantastic - give her ALL OF THE HORROR ROLES!
A predictably unpredicted modern horror.
A single mother's business of a locust farm isn't doing so well. She discovers by accident that blood makes them thrive, and does her best to hide her secrets.
Director - Just Philippot / Writers - Jérôme Genevray, Franck Victor / Stars - Suliane Brahim, Sofian Khammes, Marie Narbonne
French film The Swarm / La Nuée presents B-Movie meets a dysfunctional family drama.
I was NOT expecting this kind of movie - I guess in the guise of an 'Elevated Horror' - this must be an 'Elevated B-Movie', with some added Body Horror to boot!
There is a feeling the movie is holding back, it could have gone full throttle on the B-Movie side, but I'm assuming it's because of budgetary constraints, OR the Director didn't deem it necessary for this film's particular style.
The acting within the family dynamic is very good and taute as the story develops and we understand this broken family is grieving. The horror is slow-burn with a growing sense of dread throughout, helped by the unsettling score and gnarly imagery and close-ups of the locusts - all this before the blood begins to flow!
A vastly surprising but slightly predictable atmospheric horror, which delivers some good chills in a pretty disturbing way. The anxiety that mounts will make your skin crawl and the ending is both effective and slightly underwhelming.
I'm not sure if it was an actual homage, or if I'm just reaching - but there's a scene at the end which is taken straight out The Birds 2: Lands End. I applaud this 👏
Dana, daughter of the only survivor of a massacre in 1993, is going on a weekend trip with her friends. After their car breaks down in the very same town where her mother once fought the Driller Killer, Dana and her friends must come face-to-face with the man who has haunted her mother’s life for the past 30 years.
Director - Danishka Esterhazy / Writer - Suzanne Keilly / Stars - Hannah Gonera, Frances Sholto-Douglas, Mila Rayne, Alex McGregor
'I Love You...'
Director Danishka Esterhazy and Writer Suzanne Keily knew EXACTLY what kind of film they were making and the kind of fanbase to aim for. Camp, Meta, Brutal and Hilarious - the mixture of tones are not inconsistent as everything was intended, and written well - think The Final Girls or even Cabin In The Woods.
The original is quite often viewed as a feminist horror, BUT through Roger Corman's producing gaze - here, this seems like the perfect feminist horror for the 21st Century - the kind of movie 2019's Black Christmas could have been.
I loved the movie opening in the early 90's then time jumping to modern day - within 15 mins the story and its characters have history on which to build. I really liked the group of girlfriends, they were a joy to watch and the actresses managed to successfully navigate between the horror and the satire. The new drill-wielding killer is 50% hilarious and 50% the right amount of creepy, and at times it felt like the original actor had possessed his body.
There were many easter eggs and homages to the original franchise such as Breanie's 'Space Baby' shirt, the red guitar that Sean finds, even the implied flirtation between Dana and Maeve which seems to be inspired by the lesbian subtext between Trish and Valerie in the original film.
And I wouldn't be an Out and Proud Gay if I didn't mention the very welcomed pillow fight between the hunky boys. You 👏 knew 👏 your 👏 audience!
The 3rd act brings in an unexpected twist, which some may find polarizing, but I thoroughly enjoyed and thought that it enabled this version to exist on its own merits without the confines of the original.
Loved, Loved, Loved.
When a young boy contracts a mysterious illness, his mother must decide how far she will go to protect him from terrifying forces in her past.
Director / Writer - Ivan Kavanagh / Stars - Andi Matichak, Emile Hirsch, Luke David Blumm
Ivan Kavanagh’s Son is a creepy and suspenseful slow burn with not much payoff. But it's damn good.
I found the story rather compelling and well directed. It doesn't offer anything new to the table per ce, BUT I was never quite sure which direction the story was taking and what exactly the 'Son' was becoming... could have been many of our beloved Horror incarnates, the fun was finding out which.
Andi Matichak was great in this leading role, and it's quite a clever step to star in a well Produced indie horror alongside her journey in Haddonfield.
The very ending is pretty lacklustre, which is a shame as the build-up was so great, but at least it's not ambiguous. So I'll take the win.
So there we have it, My TOP 20 / '21 HORRORS! And just for a little extra fun, here are my Top 6 Honourable Mentions -
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