Chad Collins’ Top 10 Horror Movies of 2021

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Chad Collins shares his top 10 favorite horror movies of the year.

midnight mass horror MIDNIGHT MASS (L to R) HAMISH LINKLATER as FATHER PAUL in episode 103 of MIDNIGHT MASS Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

2021 was no less a treat to genre fans than 2020. In several ways, it might have actually been better. Though still constrained by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it was the year of resurrection. Michael Myers, Chucky, and Candyman returned, alongside teasers for next year’s revivals of both Scream and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Horror that’s dead never stays dead.

The horror scene, though, continued to probe and interrogate, remaining the most consistent respite in a world that, at times, feels as if it is quite literally on fire. The forthcoming movies are my picks for the best of what 2021 had to offer. It’s worth noting that several horror releases I caught this year, most notably We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, have not yet had a wide release, and thus, remain ineligible for inclusion here. These run the gamut from micro-indies to blockbuster sequels. This year, there was something to scare everyone.

10. We Need to do Something

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We Need to do Something is sensational. It’s genuinely scary and features Pat Healy doing what Pat Healy does best. Directed by Sean King O’Grady and written by Max Booth III, adapted from his novella of the same name, We Need to do Something follows a family trapped in their bathroom during a tornado, soon finding themselves unable to leave. It’s a wildly unpredictable experience, one predicated on ever-increasing insanity and paranoia. It’s fresh, original, fun, and subversive where it counts most. You need to do something and watch this movie.

9. Antlers

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Antlers might be the grimmest horror movie you see this year. It’s dour, depressing stuff, and that’s long before the wendigo even shows up. Scott Cooper’s shocker follows Julia Meadows (Keri Russell), a schoolteacher in an Oregon hellscape who must contend with myth head-on when she suspects student Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas) is in danger from something of legend. Featuring stellar monster effects, ferocious gore, and Keri Russell in one of her best performances, Antlers is a terrifying, mythic tapestry that lingers long after the credits end.

8. Candyman

Candyman still - Chad Collins' Top 10 Horror Movies of 2021

A filmic casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Candyman finally blessed the world this August, over a year after it was poised to release. Fortunately, the anticipation did nothing to blunt the impact of Nia DaCosta’s subversive reworking of the Candyman legend. With updated commentary, oodles of gore, and a committed Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in the lead, Candyman was the rare case of a quasi-reboot carving an identity of its own without maiming the flesh of the original. It’s scary, funny, and deeply affecting. Say his name.

7. Silent Night

SILENT NIGHT 3 1024x683 - Chad Collins' Top 10 Horror Movies of 2021Roman Griffin Davis in the drama/horror SILENT NIGHT, an AMC+ and RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of AMC+ and RLJE Film

Silent Night matches only Antlers as this year’s most depressing horror output. For as fun as the early antics are, Silent Night soon reveals its true intentions. An apocalyptic horror fable, it follows a family as they celebrate their last Christmas together before the literal end of the world. It’s deeply distressing and thoroughly terrifying. Unconventional in both form and style, it’s a brightly lit descent into hell. With Roman Griffin Davis delivering one of the year’s best performances (regardless of genre), Silent Night burrows its way inside and never lets up. It’ll haunt you for days. And don’t even get me started on that ending. It’s a doozy.

6. Coming Home in the Dark

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Not since Wolf Creek (I saw that way too young) has a movie rattled me with its austere brutality quite like Coming Home in the Dark. The story of a New Zealand family targeted by two psychopaths with personal grudges, Coming Home in the Dark starts with the year’s grisliest killing and never lets up. At times, it feels less like a movie and more like an assault. It is absurdly cruel and probes the worst recesses of the human mind. It’s dark, miserable, and hopeless, and the few smatterings of violence hit hard enough to hurt. Little has matched its raw, visceral impact this year, and in all likelihood, nothing will for quite a while. While not for everyone, for those who can handle it, it’ll cement its place as one of this century’s most brutal outputs.

5. The Night House

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The Night House is terrifying. Full stop. Horror movies can haunt, disturb, and entertain, though they’re not always capable of truly scaring. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of overexposure and overconsumption– watching hundreds of horror movies a year is bound to do that. But The Night House is the real deal. Rebecca Hall has never been better as Beth, a widow grieving her husband, Owen (Evan Jonigkeit) after he dies by suicide. Soon after, she begins to suspect his presence remains in the house, though this being a horror movie and all, it almost certainly isn’t. Director David Bruckner delivers gangbusters scares, many of which occur one after the other. The audience is consistently on edge, mesmerized by Hall’s rapturous performance and Bruckner’s subversive reworking of haunted house tropes. It’s not just one of the year’s best, but one of the best haunted house movies in years.

4. Vicious Fun

VF Delivery Stills 0008 Layer 78 RT 1024x427 - Chad Collins' Top 10 Horror Movies of 2021Evan Marsh as Joel, Ari Millen as Bob; Photo Credit: Shudder

Vicious Fun is, and excuse me for saying this, viciously fun. One of 2021’s unsung gems, it’s a ferociously funny and genuinely inventive slasher-hybrid. It’s a cinematic wink to the pleasures of the genre, a gorgeously crafted and earnest love letter to horror. Evan Marsh stars as Joel, a horror journalist who, after a late-evening bender, stumbles into a support group for serial killers. Though he pantomimes as one long enough to stay alive, his true identity is revealed, and he is soon thereafter on the run from not just one, but several prolific slasher killers. With gonzo gore and Amber Goldfarb delivering a truly iconic performance, Vicious Fun is one of the best meta-horror-comedies since Scream. The little killer that could, Vicious Fun shouldn’t be missed.

3. A Quiet Place: Part II

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Another COVID-19 casualty, A Quiet Place didn’t necessarily scream sequel, but the money gods spoke, bewitched by the remunerative nature of silent monsters, and greenlit one. Director John Krasinski returned for a direct follow-up. Following his death at the end of the first, Emily Blunt and company flee their farmstead for ostensibly greener pastures, driven by grief and a desperate desire to survive. After a first-act close call, they encounter Cillian Murphy’s Emmett, an old family friend whose rapport with daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) might hold the key to humanity’s survival. Wisely eschewing the “more is more” approach most sequels take to their detriment, A Quiet Place: Part II is only marginally larger in scale, its best moments emulating the first’s quiet, tense encounters. Additionally, it makes Simmonds’ Regan the de facto lead to its credit. An unconventional horror hero, Regan is a phenomenal character with an arc certain to elicit tears and applause in equal measure. Whether this franchise can sustain a third remains to be seen, but if the sequel is any indication, the world will be a quiet place for a little bit longer.

2. Last Night in Soho

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Last Night in Soho is camp. It’s bloody, swinging, stylish camp. Edgar Wright’s long-anticipated return to genre filmmaking was as intoxicating as a few drinks too many at a Soho nightclub. Thomasin McKenzie’s– one of this generation’s most talented actors– stars as Eloise “Ellie” Turner, an aspiring fashion design student who moves to London and soon finds herself trapped in a nightmarish dreamscape featuring the appearance of a beguiling Anya Taylor-Joy. While never exactly scary, it’s sensationally entertaining, featuring this year’s most gorgeous production design and best licensed soundtrack (an Edgar Wright staple). While it didn’t land with the impact some audiences expected. It’s a deeply human ghost story, one that never lets its style overwhelm the genuine substance.

1. Midnight Mass

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This is cheating, I’m aware, but if you conceptualize Midnight Mass as a seven-hour movie, it works. Considerably shorter than most of director Mike Flanagan’s Netflix outputs, Midnight Mass is the horror property to beat this year. Flanagan has never disappointed, though Midnight Mass might be his most deeply personal work to date. Genuinely scary and profoundly human, Midnight Mass scares and awes in equal measure. It’s a distressing yet ultimately hopeful descent into Hell, a scathing indictment on righteousness and fury. Flanagan, though, never lets Midnight Mass become one note. It’s a nuanced, dense, and exceptionally poetic work, one that cements Flanagan as this generation’s preeminent horror filmmaker.

Honorable mentions must be given to The Medium– a truly shocking found-footage effort– The Queen of Black Magic– a gory good time– and Werewolves Within– a murder mystery that keeps you guessing and laughing. What were your favorite horror movies this year? Did I miss anything? Let me know on Twitter.com/Chadiscollins.

Tags: Best of 2021

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