Sharai Bohannon ranks her top 10 horror movies of the year.
Top 10 Lists are hard. I did better than in previous years about keeping up with newer horror movies but I still missed so many. While I am not the easiest audience member, I did find quite a few gems this year. Not only did I find a few movies that I love, but a few of them surprised me. I just realized that my least favorite sub-genre makes up most of my list. So, yay for good surprises in this hellish year.
The Old Ways
I put this movie off for so long because I hadn’t been that impressed with Netflix this year. This ended up being my favorite horror movie that snuck up in 2021 though. I could go on for days talking about the generational trauma and owning all parts of our identity to be the best versions of ourselves. The serotonin I got from the line “I’m a motherfucking bruja” will sustain me through this Minnesota winter. We never know how much we need to see some movies until we see them. This was that movie for me as it touched on a lot of things I’m working through in my own way.
I didn’t know this horror movie was based on a video game when I hit play. However, finding that out afterward made me love it even more. This movie was creepy, haunting, and had the nerve to have quite a few jumpscares. It even has one particularly anxiety-inducing chase scene. I found myself being reminded of Silent Hill and having such a good time. It also gave me a history lesson that led me down a research rabbit hole. It was easily the most unexpected gem to find its way into my email. I look forward to tracking this game down and seeing if I love it as much as the movie.
My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To
Writer/director Jonathan Cuartas’s film took me by surprise and I wish more people would see it. It’s just the right amount of family drama and monster movie cooked to perfection. I feel like it strikes a nerve with people who have felt the weight of familial obligations. We have all wanted to bring someone back and think we would do anything to make it happen. This movie finds two siblings going above and beyond for their brother. It punched me in all of my feels. I want more movies that paint monsters and ill people with morally grey support systems.
Slumber Party Massacre
As someone with a history of hating horror-comedies, and always bored with a TV-14 rating for horror, I did not expect to love this movie. However, it handled trauma, flipped outdated stereotypes, and paid tribute to what the original movie could have been. I found myself laughing out loud both times I watched and appreciated the high body count. I feel like this was the feminist horror-comedy I spent most of my life waiting for. Really happy Syfy gave it to me seeing how no one else wanted to. This was the reimagining that made me less judgmental of reboots and remakes. I will now reserve judgment until I check them out.
This movie felt like it was made specifically for me. We have Sam Richardson FINALLY getting a leading role in a werewolf murder mystery whodunnit. The movie was also directed by Josh Ruben who understands the delightfully creepy aesthetic that I live in. I doubt there is a stronger ensemble this year and I know this was the hardest I laughed in 2021. Every time I rewatch it I see new bits in the background that crack me up. I also love that within this zany fun found in Mishna Wolff’s script we also get a timely message. The theme of being a good neighbor and sense of community hits real hard this year. If only all of us could be trusted to do our part in this ongoing pandemic. What a world it would be.
The Free Fall
The Free Fall is my kind of a mindfuck of a movie. I was lucky to catch it at FilmQuest and will be handing over money when officially opens next year. I love that Andrea Londo is our lead without any racial trauma (which seems to be all we get as POCs). We also get to see Shawn Ashmore giving the best performance of his career. I love that this movie creeps us out by giving us monsters that use more subtle tactics than a lot of us encounter in our everyday lives. I’m as excited to write pieces about this movie as I am to rewatch it. You can catch me throwing so much money at whatever Adam Stilwell’s next movie is because this one is such a gorgeous experience.
When the Screaming Starts
I thought I was done with mockumentaries until I caught this movie at FilmQuest. A documentary about an aspiring serial killer was what that genre needed though. I have a dark sense of humor and this movie hit all of the notes for me. Watching Aidan Mendle (Ed Hartland) assemble his murder family as Norman Graysmith (Jared Rogers) documents it is one of the highlights of my year. It was so nice to laugh out loud with strangers after these last two years. It’s as if What We Do in The Shadows and Parks and Rec had a horror movie baby just to cheer us up.
Promising Young Woman
This movie is one of my favorites but is on my list because so many men told me it is not horror. With all of the sloppy rape-revenge movies told through the male gaze in this genre, it seems weird this is the one that upset so many. Horror is anything that scares us and I find rape culture terrifying. Therefore, this is a horror movie. If we don’t want it to be a horror movie then we need to fix this broken society that makes this movie necessary. On top of my rants, the performances are great and the arguments made are smart. Because it’s not told for the male gaze, we also don’t have to suffer through a gratuitous assault scene. I also love that a lot of nice guys are cast as these varying levels of creeps because that is also far too realistic.
There was not a wilder movie than what Akela Cooper wrote for us. This movie was a journey that had all of us talking even if we couldn’t agree on it. I loved it because no matter how much of it I figured out, I never could have predicted a person bending backward and shutting down a whole police station. I have seen a ton of James Wan films but this was the first one that I called a friend and went back into immediately. Hopefully, anything next year makes me feel even half as alive as this movie made me feel.
Nia DaCosta’s Candyman is the only Candyman I will be acknowledging from here on out. Not only is this movie visually stunning but it also captures that tense but artistic aesthetic of the 70s movies people keep trying to convince are still bops. I also love that the themes it hits are relevant for most Black artists, as well as the history of the Candyman films. We need to start asking who gets to tell these stories and what do they lose when the wrong people tell them. On top of that, it gave us a new excuse to stare wistfully at Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as he gives another powerhouse performance.
You can catch me nerding out about movies @missharai. You can also point me in the direction of some movies I might have missed there this year, too.