From visceral horror stories to real-world dramas that are terrifying for other reasons, 2020 has given us enough scary stories beyond the daily news cycle.
For much of the world, 2020 epitomized the exact characteristics of a well-made horror film: twisted, uncompromising, and something that no one really saw coming. Last but not least, the unsettling nature of a year ravaged by both a global pandemic and a divisive election cycle (eerie twists and turns) is a reminder that scarcity comes in many forms and the traditional horror formula many of us celebrate on Halloween is only part of the equation. Many of the films released this year are scary in unexpected ways, either because they address current fears or they illustrate the exact nature of terror in these uncertain times.
Here are 13 current disturbing highlights. Don't look at them alone.
Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz's feature film debut may not be subtle, but it often makes up for it with a boneless terror that suggests everything on screen is very real. The Janelle Monae film is based on a relatively simple story that is partially obscured by chopped up storytelling (once you've seen "Antebellum" it's relatively easy to rearrange the pieces on a cohesive timeline, although the film itself doesn't such Favors) and a handful of annoying sequences that serve to throw both the audience and Monae's character for big loops.
Its twists and turns are best discovered in this context, but suffice it to say that the film follows Monae as two characters (maybe …?), One of whom is an enslaved woman in the deep south and the other a modern nerd, a successful career and a wonderful family. How these two sides of the same role intersect is the movie's big trick and makes the movie as a whole unsettling. The past never seems very far away, a lesson Monaes Veronica literally needs to learn. While that might be a blunt thematic tool, Bush, Renz, and their stars never shrink back from the concept; When deep in a world where slavery is not just the reality but the chosen one, the horror is visceral. – KE
Kitty Green & # 39; s first narrative contains all the details of their documentaries that get under their skin and is backed by the shared knowledge of their audience that what they see on screen is not exactly a true story, but real parallels are unmistakable. The youngest Emmy winner Julia Garner plays Jane, the very young assistant to a powerful film manager (nobody ever says the name "Harvey Weinstein", but the goal is clear) in an increasingly troubled work environment.
Green and Garner lull their audience into the mundane, everyday life, while Jane spends a seemingly normal day in her new job, although it quickly becomes clear that something is very wrong. It's not just that everyone treats her as if she doesn't exist (though that's true), or that the two senior assistants who claim to be very on their side aren't, or even that it's a steady one Stream of beautiful young women gives guide you through the office. Nobody seems to care. As Jane (and the audience) begin to realize the true nature of her position and profession, she tries to engage in the slightest coup. The result is a terrifying real life revelation. – KE
Justin Simien's "Dear White People" sequel doesn't always add up, but there are enough adventurous tone shifts and somber satirical implications to make the bizarre journey worthwhile. The plight of black women and their hair has generated enough cinematic investigation to spawn its own subgenre, from Chris Rock's astute 2009 documentary, Good Hair, to the 2020 Oscar-winning animated short, Hair Love. Simien's supernatural '80s B-movie is about a demonic web and the poor young executive assistant (Elle Lorraine) obsessed with it, but it's truly a high-minded corporate satire with a lot on her mind – the sexism of the music video industry the ghost of slavery that casts a shadow over modern work culture.
Roll with the unusual twists and turns and Simien's passionate Brian De Palma homage carries the film with it as the harrowing agenda of the tissue overtakes the unfortunate young woman's life. As ridiculous as that premise sounds, "Bad Hair" ultimately gives up its sillier notions and attacks and leads to a troubling finale suggesting that the plight of black women – and the blackness in popular culture – continues to be of a dire kind of Is exposed to oppression that few just understand well enough just put. That is enough revelation to make the strange journey worthwhile. – EK
"Black Box" has a twist so good it saves the cheesy B-movie that led to it. This Blumhouse-produced debut directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour blends the psychological turmoil of an amnesic's plight with the crushes of a mad scientist, and the full premise suggests a clever combination of Total Recall and Get Out. Missing the inspired madness of the former and the fiery social commentary of the latter, but Osei-Kuffour (who co-wrote the film with Wade Allain-Marcus and Stephen Herman) constructed an enigmatic lo-fi thriller with just enough mind complicated games to make the scary trip worthwhile.
Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) survived a debilitating car accident in which his wife was killed and he was constantly confused. He kept forgetting details about his everyday life as his young daughter Ava (Amanda Christine) did her best to remind him to get through the day. Nolan keeps seeing strange signs that he's still not himself, nothing more shocking than a hole in the wall that suggests he's prone to power outages and spirals of anger. Finally, he turns to an experimental neuroscientist (a happily overdone Phylicia Rashad) to help clear out his confusion as she uses VR-like technology to guide him through memories that may or may not be his own. The eventual revelation sets the stage for a new kind of identity crisis, a thrilling meditation on fatherhood, and a disturbing immersion into the shadows of the subconscious that Hitchcock would be proud of. – EK
"Come to Daddy"
"Come to Daddy" begins by quoting Shakespeare and Beyoncé in the same frame, and it only gets worse from then on. But Kiwi director Ant Timpson's wild, unpredictable debut manages to deliver a bloody father-son reunion saga with a surprising level of confidence in the silly-weird nature of the material – a sentimental tale of death and rediscovery that explodes into violent chaos , even if it maintains a serious connection to the puzzle at hand. It's an absurd game that turns into a river of tears. Timpson, whose producing credits include the grotesque midnight whatsit “The Greasy Strangler,” certainly has his garish material under control, but star Elijah Wood helps give him the heart.
As a stunned pariah named Norval, the actor delivers one of his most lovable characters in recent times: a hipster with big eyes and a mustache who disguises his insecurities with high fashion and fancy lies. When Norval shows up in his estranged father's remote seaside villa, he finds a very different person than expected. When tragedy strikes, "Come To Daddy" opens a spooky new chapter when Norval finds himself alone in a house full of secrets and menacing threats that he cannot fully understand. As a metaphor for the roller coaster ride of the mourning process, “Come to Daddy” builds a shocking finale that is both poignant and disturbing at the same time. – EK
Even before 2020 became the most traumatic year of this young century, American discourse was aimed at disaster. With the country spread across virtually all major issues, extremist views dominate the news cycle and internet conspiracy theories dictate belief systems. All this noise often obscures the harsh truth, even well-meaning progressive viewpoints sometimes get a little carried away. This is the bloody reveal of "The Hunt", director Craig Zobel's anarchic story about liberal maniacs who kidnap the right and kill them for sport. While co-writers Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof certainly have fun poking fun at the madness of the redneck victims who believe every crazy word Fox News and Alex Jones give them, the movie's central villains are the ones bogus leftists led by a shamed executive (Hilary Swank) whose murderous instincts were caused by annoying the other side so much that it was destroyed.
The movie's ironic approach to all-inclusive satire was a little too subtle for right-wing media to understand, and when the movie's word leaked early on, the confused backlash culminated in nothing less than an angry Trump tweet and a plan to delay the release of even two mass shootings in Texas last summer, all of which served to improve the sense of a film designed to reveal the very real dangers of a mob mentality. The irony of "The Hunt" comes from its skillful heroine Crystal (a wild Betty Gilpin), who is literally caught in the crossfire of a mad world in which she never wanted to choose either side. At the end of the film we feel their pain and it's terrifying to ponder how the state of the country inspired a horror comedy with ridiculous and all familiar social commentary. – EK
"I'm thinking of ending things"
"I Think of the End of Things" may not be easy to classify as a horror film (or anything else), but in its own knotted and wacky way it illustrates how everything Charlie Kaufman has ever written and / or directed is absolutely in soaked in existential fear. From "John Malkovich" to "Anomalisa", Kaufman's work has always dealt with the broken echo chamber of human consciousness. His characters stand out for their (often literal) attempts to break free from their own shells and bridge the gap that isolates us all in islands. He's not Cronenberg, but Kaufman is still a master of body horror himself.
Told from the uncertain perspective of a woman (Jessie Buckley) whose soon-to-be ex-boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) drives her through a bad snowstorm to meet his parents for the first time: "I think about the end of things" is another bizarre one and Kaufman's remorseful journey into the divide between people, but this is not about someone trying to overcome it – it is about the divide itself. Kaufman's latest take is a surreal, unpredictable, and strangely moving experience that revolves around a realization that cannot be put into words. It traces the invisible boundary where one person ends and another begins, hoping to possibly even capture it on screen. Just a moment, as if someone were conducting a séance for all of the dead space between us. The idea that we all exist in each other's heads is scary enough, but Kaufman turns that abstract idea into skin-tingling terror by filtering it through the lens of a ghost story that includes a haunted house, rotting animal bodies, and even a creepy basement full of old secrets. You will never see your friend's parents like this again. – DE
"The Invisible Man"
Invested less in the classic universal monster the film is named after and better than “Gaslighting: The Movie! The New One !, "Leigh Whannell's finely tuned thriller is both a disturbing parable of domestic violence and a damn good" Gotcha! Horror film. Elisabeth Moss shows another predictably great performance as Cecilia, a woman trapped in a relationship with the easy-to-speak abuser Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who has long been caged because of his deep fate. Cecilias Attempts to break free – very "Sleeping with the Enemy" – are exciting enough, but the scariest moments in the film come from what happens next.
Every moment of relief is repulsed by another terrifying revelation – like the apparent suicide of Adrian, which only leads Cecilia to believe that his vengeful spirit haunts her – that no one else seems to accept. As the details of the "haunt" become more alive, Adrian's tricks also come to life, as they wear down Cecilia and drive home the legitimate horrific notion that the scariest forces in life are those we can't see coming straight towards us. Whannell is having a hell of a long time playing with Adrian's "invisible" character, from a fight sequence in the hallway where he takes almost everyone out to a particularly unfortunate dinner that turns into an act of violence that is both heartbreaking and also stomach ache is in its implications. – KE
The first thing you need to know about Jayro Bustamante's "La Llorona" is that this calm and trembling phantasmagoria about the ghosts of the Guatemalan Civil War has practically nothing to do with Michael Chaves' "The Curse of La Llorona", the flaky jump, has to do. Fear Machine, which Warner Bros. released in 2019. Aside from their common roots in the same Latin American folklore, these two films couldn't have less in common. Much like Bustamante's masterly "Tremors" (and "Ixcanul" before), "La Llorona" is a slow-burning séance of a film that shudders with spiritual trauma. This time, however, the remaining pain comes for the guilty, and the guilty know very well that it is coming for them.
General Enrique Monteverde (Julio Diaz), one of the men responsible for the genocide of the Maya population in Guatemala, has avoided prison for technical reasons and is returning to his family's villa in the face of public outcry. Meanwhile, an indigenous woman named Alma (María Mercedes Coroy) begins her new job as a maid on the Monteverde estate. When the rest of the staff flee after a series of ghostly events, Alma only feels at home. Settlement is imminent, and this time we're looking for the dead. Bustamante's viciously buried native chiller uses familiar genre tropes in a number of fascinating ways. With all the heartbreak at its core, “La Llorona” could be seen as the rare feel-good horror film: Even if human justice is neglected, monsters like Monteverde always have to respond to a higher authority. – DE
Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz's “The Lodge” may not do justice to the creepy creepiness of their outbreak “Goodnight, Mommy”, but this wintry story of a woman (Riley Keough) who is snowed in with her fiancé's children in a remote hut is convincing proof of that that the Austrian filmmaker duo are experts in atmospheric horror. The first 10 minutes of The Lodge, in which Alicia Silverstone makes a damn good impression as the tortured mother of the children, is an unforgettable master class on how to instill a deep sense of fear in the stuff of everyday life and the rest of life lets The film is always at its best when it makes the fear of its ambience talk.
The plot gets a little goofy over time (and the big twist is a total moan), but the tension Fiala and Franz can milk from this house on the tundra is more than enough to keep up at night. Sometimes watching a well-made horror movie can be such an experience that it almost doesn't matter if it doesn't hold up in retrospect. – DE
"Possessor" is a queasy and fascinating techno thriller in which Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott are embroiled in a bloody psychological war for control of the body in a future in which assassins can hijack their targets à la "Ghost in the Shell" . Brandon Cronenberg's second feature in particular offers by far the biggest gonzo body horror of the year (David Cronenberg's son keeps the family brand strong). "Possessor" is best when you viscerally peel a soul out of its body, and Cronenberg has a lot of fun visualizing the absolute mind fuck of two ghosts fighting for control of just one shell.
Whatever logistical issues may be raised by the implantation of Riseborough in Abbott's body, the raw spectacle of it all ruins it, while Cronenberg's transfiguration into a cruel symphony of camera light tricks and nightmarish practical effects courtesy of Prosthetic Supervisor Daniel expands Martin. Bodies melt into liquid flesh; a thousand faces scream a single primal scream; The camera zooms through a tunnel of pink organs. It is the digital experience of our own avatarized society made excruciatingly physical and the poetry of seeing that the transmission in motion is expressive enough to remove any flaws in the plot of the film. As with all the best scary movies, the most terrifying thing about Possessor is the fear of not knowing what kind of madness will hit the big screen next. – DE
When it comes to the affairs of monstrous relatives, modern horror films tend to turn on the "bad seed" corner and look at demonic or murderous children through the eyes of their feeble parents. But seldom do we see the opposite – the displacement of an older parent into insanity by the eyes of their adult brood. Enter "Relic", Japanese-Australian filmmaker Natalie Erika James' feature film debut, co-written by Christian White, which shows the descent of an 85-year-old matriarch into otherworldly madness from the perspective of her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer). and granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote).
"Relic" exists firmly in the field of allegory. If you're looking for answers to the creepy ambiguities and creepy set pieces of the movie, you won't find them. James is more concerned with creating an atmospheric rumination about generational trauma, death and dying, which is also a noticeable horror film. In this sense, "Relic" stands next to "The Babadook" and "Hereditary" as high-profile, women-run horror films on the shelf that linger in the slow burn. The film ends with one of the most disturbing, enigmatic, and strangely touching final scenes that you are likely to see year-round. A real show stopper where mother, daughter and granddaughter come together to fill an indescribable gap. It is a tacit way of embracing the transformative power of death and what is waiting on the other side. – RL
Cold War paranoia may have subsided after the 1980s, but the specter of Russia's ambition to become the leading global superpower never really waned. "Sputnik" offers a new entry point to explore this fear. Director Egor Abramenko's first feature is a nifty and creepy "alien" tribute that combines B-movie chills with legitimate conspiratorial fear. It's 1983, and after a trio of cosmonauts hit Earth under dubious circumstances in the dark of night, one ends up dead, another in a coma, and a third cannot remember what happened. This is Konstantin Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov), who is locked up in a laboratory where the young doctor Tatiana Yurievna (Oksana Akinshina) is being brought to the secret military compound for gloomy reasons.
Once there, she gets the creepy picture: During the day Constantine sits in quarantine, confused about his experiences outside the planet and why he was imprisoned; At night, the truth comes out – literally – when a slimy, spindle-shaped creature climbs out of its body and grinds its sharp teeth in search of a nightly snack. This is just the first reveal in an annoying saga that continues to reveal new levels in its plot as it evolves. Eventually, "Sputnik" transforms into a run-and-gun routine that feels normal, but not before it captures the shadows of a government that is less inclined to rely on its scientists to get their jobs done, than to use them for personal gain. This is a real fear that extends well beyond Russia's borders, especially now. – EK