Horror is a fascinating genre that dares to examine society’s darkest fears or tackle the taboo topics that are constantly left unexplored. They can have the wackiest plots yet convey the deepest truths. They have the power to reflect our narrative traditions and folklore, or they can birth their own, sometimes utilizing amazing practical effects, abstract editing and experimental cinematography to achieve their vision; a creative freedom that is hardly matched in other genres.
It might be the only place in cinema where the supernatural battles between good and evil are taken seriously, though it is still a genre wrought with problems on an ethical level. For every film that aptly represents an issue or fear worthy of discussion, there are several that are blatantly exploitative.
So for the final Black Friday (or Friday 13th) of the decade, and in the spirit of the newly-released Black Christmas, I’ve decided to have a look at what 2019 had to offer for the genre. It’s not a comprehensive list; obviously I can only comment on the ones I’ve seen. Notable ones I’ve missed are Child’s Play (haven’t watched the originals and it was too much homework for me), and The Lighthouse (which is a February release for poor little Australians like me, which is a shame because I’ve heard nothing but good things, with many saying it’s a contender for the top spot for the best horror film of the year). This list is ranked from what I personally deem as worst to best, though keep in mind it is merely my opinion and that horror is very subjective; what may scare me might barely terrify another.
To qualify for this list, the movie must:
- Have their main USA theatrical release (whether national or limited, not including film festival premieres) in 2019 (sorry Bird Box, you just missed out).
- Be classified as a “Horror” on IMDB (Greta, Hotel Mumbai, Glass? Not horrors!).
Keep in mind that this list will contain only short reviews, whereby only the most prominent content issues are mentioned. Assume every film contains a little bit of blood and swearing (however if they are mentioned, then they are considered excessive). If you suspect a certain film may contain elements which will be the deciding factor as to whether you’ll watch it or not, then consider cross-referencing with IMDB’s content guidelines or Common Sense Media which will go more in-depth than what I am offering here (unless there’s also a full review of the movie available on GUG).
So without further delay, let’s see what nightmares there are on offer before wholeheartedly flinging ourselves towards Netflix’s sudden influx of Christmas flicks!
#36. The Haunting of Sharon Tate
What’s it about? Pregnant with director Roman Polanski’s child and awaiting his return from Europe, 26-year-old Hollywood actress Sharon Tate becomes plagued by visions of her imminent death. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Amazon Prime Video
There is an uneasy tackiness to this film. It takes the real life murder of Sharon Tate and her friends and turns it into a slasher movie. This distasteful subject matter is dragged out, with most of its runtime insensitively dedicated to Tate’s constant worries as she receives premonitions about her death. Before Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood came out, this film was labelled exploitative. Now after Tarantino’s hit, director Daniel Farrands’ vision is a little clearer as both films feature the same themes, though Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood handles the subject matter ten times better and more respectfully. Even if one understands Farrands’ direction, it’s still a poorly shot and pitifully scripted movie, with every actor struggling to make their stilted lines work. It’s an amateur production that leaves a sour taste. Just watch Tarantino’s film instead.
Who is it for? No one, really. Unless you really, really, really love true crime dramas and are looking for a bizarre retelling of the Manson Family Murders, or are a huge Hilary Duff fan and will watch everything she is in.
Watch out for: Exploits a real life crime for entertainment. Multiple stabbings depicted.
# 35. The Wind
What’s it about? A plains-woman faces the harshness and isolation of the untamed land in the Western frontier of the late 1800s. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Xbox, and Google Play.
An awesome concept that’s marred by odd narrative choices. Is Lizzy going mad from her isolation on the desolate ranch? Or is she really seeing demons on the prairie? Unfortunately the story is unnecessarily told in a non-linear fashion, forcing all of the viewer’s focus on simply comprehending what is going on, as opposed to emotionally investing on the protagonist’s plight. This sense of detachment makes this film frustrating (and a little boring) to watch, sucking away any potential scares, and ultimately landing this horror towards the bottom of this list.
Who is it for? If you like slow burns, suspenseful pieces, and don’t mind a mental challenge. It may require a second watch to fully appreciate it.
Watch out for: Demons, spiritual horror.
What’s it about? When a single mother accepts the help of a mysterious woman after her daughter is bitten by a rattlesnake, she finds herself making an unthinkable deal with the devil to repay the stranger. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Netflix
We’ve seen this premise before: will you kill a stranger in order to save the life of a loved one? With a ticking time bomb woven into the plot, along with its classic conundrum, Rattlesnake had promise. Yet the entire concept behind adding a time limit is to raise the stakes and to prompt action from the protagonist. Either Katrina decides to do the evil deed, or doesn’t. Instead she sits on the fence, where viewers watch as she frustratingly finds ways to procrastinate, having time to sit down for a coffee and a chat, and practice shooting a gun. Then she acts shocked when other characters remind her what she’s supposed to be doing. As a result, this story feels dragged out with its pacing, losing its tension when we scream with impatience at the screen.
Who is it for? It’s a light, brainless horror, for those who are more intrigued by moral quandaries as opposed to feeling scared.
Watch out for: Gun violence, domestic abuse… and rattlesnakes.
What’s it about? Disturbing and mysterious things begin to happen to a bartender in New Orleans after he picks up a phone left behind at his bar. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Netflix
This is a film that struggles with its own premise. Will is a shallow, selfish and directionless man, and while the film reveals these character traits to be intentional, he is still a painfully obtuse and ultimately unenjoyable protagonist to follow. Maybe it deserves a second watch, as it’s a story that hints towards something deeper, as though it has something deeply intelligent to say, though it muddles its delivery. Part of the fun of watching horror films is experiencing their crazy, off-the-wall bonkers third acts, though Wounds never dials it to eleven. Instead the pace and stakes remain fairly mellow, as though it’s driving around Miss Daisy. There’s some creative use of editing which creates a bit of creepiness, though your time is better spent elsewhere.
Who is it for? If you can handle body horror, then Wounds offers a mellow yet non-traditional narrative (it avoids a lot of clichés) which may please people who are looking for something a little bit different.
Watch out for: Pagan/Gnostic rituals. Cockroaches. Severed heads, gore, body horror.
#32. The Silence
What’s it about? When the world is under attack from terrifying creatures who hunt their human prey by sound, 16-year old Ally Andrews (Kiernan Shipka), who lost her hearing at 13, and her family seek refuge in a remote haven. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Netflix
The first silly-yet-entertaining entry on this list. This is the budget version of A Quiet Place. Several aspects of the film’s story are ill conceived, to the point that instead of being scared, you’re too busy devising multiple plans on how to kill the movie’s monsters, before wondering why no one else is riding the same train of thought. In addition to this, Ally’s hearing ability is hilariously inconsistent, whilst the entire film derails in the final act, switching subgenres without properly establishing the sudden change. Suffice to say it’s flawed, but it still manages to captivate its audience.
Who is it for? People that liked A Quiet Place, or those wanting a creature feature.
Watch out for: Piranha-like flying monsters that maul people to death. Threats of rape.
#31. Girl on the Third Floor
What’s it about? Don Koch tries to renovate a rundown mansion with a sordid history for his growing family, only to learn that the house has other plans. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Apple TV, Google Play, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Movies Anywhere, Microsoft, FandangoNow
One needs to give credit where credit is due. This is a haunted house flick that at least tries something different when it comes to presenting its ghosts. With its past set within the confines of a brothel, the plot is sexually charged, yet the film remarkably manages to have little in the way of nudity despite its subject matter. While it’s slightly refreshing, it still has its flaws, ranging from contrived plot points to the cinematography containing an amateurish vibe.
Who is it for? Those who love the haunted house subgenre.
Watch out for: Body horror, gross fluids, animal brutality. Overtly sexual scenes (S&M, choking), though nudity mostly contains bare backs, thighs (possibly quick shot of a breast).
#30. The Curse of La Llorona
What’s it about? Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother suspected of child endangerment, a social worker and her own small kids are soon drawn into a frightening supernatural realm. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? HBO Max, Apple TV, Google Play, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Movies Anywhere, Microsoft, FandangoNow
A classic Mexcan folklore tale that’s now part of the Conjuring universe (though this movie works as a standalone, where the other films in the franchise don’t need to be seen in order for this one to make sense). There are some clever sequences littered throughout this film, but ultimately it’s very bland. It doesn’t really offer anything new, following the standard haunted house sub-genre beat for beat. For those familiar with the layout of these types of narratives, then the scares are very predictable.
Who is it for? For beginners of the horror genre that aren’t as familiar with the typical haunted house scenarios. Also for people who love the tale of La Llorona.
Watch out for: Ghosts, supernatural horror, jump scares.
#29. The Dead Don’t Die
What’s it about? The peaceful town of Centerville finds itself battling a zombie horde as the dead start rising from their graves. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? iTunes, Amazon Prime Video
This is more of a comedy with horror elements. Both Bill Murray and Adam Driver offer a vast array of deadpan humor when they encounter the … dead! It’s a quirky film that loves to make random turns, even taking delight in breaking the fourth wall. Yet it’s a bit of a hit and miss. Some moments are wonderful, whilst others don’t work as intended. It gets a little too wacky, with director Jim Jarmusch affronting the audience with his on-the-nose message. It’s a fun but flawed ride.
Who is it for? Those looking for a quirky, off-kilter, fun-natured zombie tale. The film is rather experimental.
Watch out for: Zombies and their related blood and gore.
#28. In The Tall Grass
What’s it about? After hearing a young boy’s cry for help, a sister and brother venture into a vast field of tall grass in Kansas but soon discover there may be no way out … and that something evil lurks within. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Netflix
This story starts off ridiculously goofy, but stick with it, and you’ll find yourself entwined with an ever-deepening plot with sci-fi elements. It shares a commonality with 2018’s The Endless in this regard, although In the Tall Grass isn’t as refined with its storytelling, and it is light on the scares. It does leave the viewer with a lot to unpack, and it’s fun to mull over this film long after the end credits roll. Yet ultimately it doesn’t marry its internal and external conflicts too well, and the lack of exposition makes things a little messy.
Who is it for? Stephen King fans, people looking for mind-bending sci-fi twists, and for those that like a thought-provoking but light horror.
Watch out for: Anti-Christian themes (although they aren’t clear), cannibalism, squashed head, corpses, non-consensual sexual suggestions.
#27. Black Christmas
What’s it about? A group of female students are stalked by a stranger during their Christmas break. That is until the young sorority pledges discover that the killer is part of an underground college conspiracy. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Currently in cinemas.
Barely considered a remake, Black Christmas spends most of its runtime examining society’s current views on the MeToo movement, new wave feminism and the gender wars. To say this film pits man against woman is an understatement. Its message is so bold that it starts to cross into parody, though the film never embraces this potential direction, instead muddling the tone of the narrative. As a slasher, it is weak. Characters are poorly developed whilst the movie never slows down enough to create a few moments of suspense. Yet it still manages to be light and entertaining, with its short runtime breezing by.
Who is it for? People that can’t handle gore but enjoy jump scares. Or those wanting a modern day horror covering recent topics.
Watch out for: Jump scares, misogynistic attitudes, sexual assault is a major plot point.
#26. Pet Sematary
What’s it about? Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play, Microsoft, FandangoNow.
The second Stephen King adaptation in our list. This one fixes up a lot of the issues presented in the original 1989 film. However, like an inflating balloon, it masterfully builds tension throughout the first half, only to rapidly deflate in the second, rushing its pacing and losing its carefully crafted suspense along with it. It acts as a competent slasher flick, though it’s rather average in quality.
Who is it for? Stephen King fans, people who haven’t been spoiled by the original, those looking for a light slasher flick.
Watch out for: Elements of Native American folklore, irresponsible portrayal of chronic illness, slasher gore, maine coons.
#25. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged
What’s it about? Four teen girls diving in a ruined underwater city quickly learn they’ve entered the territory of the deadliest shark species in the claustrophobic labyrinth of submerged caves. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Amazon Prime Video
As a certified PADI scuba diver, I would love to pick apart this film in depth. How are they hearing each other underwater? How do they manage to still have air!? …WHY ARE THE FISH SCREAMING?? It’s a deliriously silly film with a stupendously gobsmacking final act. Is there character development? No. Not at all. I’m unsure what the characters learn, if anything. Will you really care? Not really. It doesn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel like the Sharknado series, but it does embrace its identity as a shallow creature feature.
Who is it for? Shark horror fans, people that love movies featuring lethal animals.
Watch out for: Jump scares, sudden shark attacks (bite wounds), claustrophobia, misconceptions about sharks and scuba diving, screaming fish.
What’s it about? A lonely woman befriends a group of teenagers and decides to let them party at her house. Just when the kids think their luck couldn’t get any better, things start happening that make them question the intention of their host. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? AT&T Uverse, Spectrum, Xfinity, Cox, Dish on Demand, Optimum
Never thought I’d see the day where Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer lends her talents to a schlocky horror film. She has a blast acting in this. There are creepy moments because Ma is hard to read as a character, leaving the viewer in the dark during the runtime as to her devilish motivations. Though there comes a moment where in order for the plot to progress, the scenarios become more and more contrived, in order to keep the protagonists and Ma within the same social circles. Fun, but the writing dips in quality.
Who is it for? For those wanting a different brand of horror film, one that’s more disturbing than your traditional scares.
Watch out for: Sexual assault, underage drinking, torture sequences, nudity, and non-consensual sexual acts.
What’s it about? On Halloween, a group of friends encounter an “extreme” haunted house that promises to feed on their darkest fears. The night turns deadly as they come to the horrifying realization that some nightmares are real. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? iTunes, FandangoNow, Vudu
For those that love the horror movie format where a number of people enter an enclosed environment and get killed off in gruesome ways one by one, then this is for you. It’s gory. It’s brutal. It’s scary. Personally I shy away from this type of horror film, as it’s more on the sadistic spectrum of horror. There’s no deeper theme here. No message to be learned. Just violence. The viewer is entertained by watching people get tortured. There are also one too many dumb decisions from the characters which make this film feel contrived in its action. But for those that aren’t bothered by these factors, then this is a strong entry for this particular sub-genre of horror.
Who is it for? Gore hounds, horror fans looking for something in the same vein as the Saw franchise.
Watch out for: Extreme gore, scary clowns, sadistic killings with no higher meaning.
#22. Wrinkles the Clown
What’s it about? In Florida, parents can hire Wrinkles the Clown to scare their misbehaving children. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Amazon Prime Video, AT&T Uverse, Spectrum, Xfinity, Cox, Dish on Demand, Optimum
The only documentary horror on this list. Wrinkles the Clown offers a fascinating insight into the role of horror and folklore in a modern age. It questions whether it’s ethical to terrify children, explores the psyche behind scare acting, covers that weird “scary clown” phase we went through a few years back, and even takes the time to have a swipe at organized religion. Sadly it covers too many topics too broadly, and even undermines itself at its midpoint. As a past scare actor and a criminology student, this documentary held my interest, and will no doubt attract those in the field of psychology. However if you’re in the market for a recently released documentary that offers a spine-tingling experience, then I recommend Missing 411: The Hunted (though it’s oddly not classified as a horror, despite its creepy content).
Who is it for? Horror nerds, or geeks that like to research modern Internet-related folklore. Documentary lovers. For those that enjoy analyzing horror but not experiencing it.
Watch out for: Tales of children experiencing psychological torment. Swearing. An accusation that Christianity’s teachings are the equivalent to child abuse.
#21. Annabelle Comes Home
What’s it about? While babysitting the daughter of Ed and Lorraine Warren, a teenager and her friend unknowingly awaken an evil spirit trapped in a doll. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Apple TV, Movies Anywhere, Vudu, Google Play, Prime Video, Microsoft, FandangoNow
These Conjuring universe spin-offs are starting to outstay their welcome. Granted, this is one of the better ones. What it lacks in character development, it makes up for in creative setups. This time we’re introduced to the anti-jump scare, where the film at least attempts to be a little more unpredictable as to when a ghostly creature will pop out. There’s an endless parade of evil characters here, which will either please due to its variety, or make the inner cynic groan, as it feels all too much like it’s busy setting up yet another spin-off. It’s a shallow film, but it does the job. Surprisingly, it does feature strong Christian themes.
Who is it for? People that like their traditional jumpscare films, fans of the Conjuring films, and for those looking for a haunted house flick.
Watch out for: Jump scares, occult references, demons, ghosts.
What’s it about? A boy receiving treatment for his auto-immune disorder discovers that the house he’s living in isn’t as safe as he thought. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Netflix
Eli is an entertaining film that frequently reinvents itself during its runtime. As soon as the audience starts to gain their bearings, the story changes tack and shifts into a different subgenre. There are some truly creepy sequences on display here, albeit sometimes it’s slightly repetitive. It contains a fitting final reveal, though any subsequent watch will be devoid of the surprise of the first. It’s simply not deep enough to satisfy multiple viewings. Therefore the less you know about this film before seeing it, the better your experience!
Who is it for? Haunted house fans.
Watch out for: Ghosts, demons, spiritual battles, body horror (contortion and graphic head trauma).
What’s it about? After returning to his childhood home, a disgraced children’s puppeteer is forced to confront his wicked stepfather and the secrets that have tortured his entire life. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? iTunes, Sky Store, Rakuten TV, Prime Video, BFI Player, Google Play, Talk Talk TV Store, Microsoft.
An experimental film from the UK, this certainly isn’t your traditional horror movie. It’s slow and ponderous, exploring a bleak world full of sepia tones and derelict buildings, despite being set in modern times. It’s the atmosphere that gets under your skin. Grimy and dirty, it urges you to take a shower after watching it. The problem is that this story could easily be told in an hour, though that’s the no man’s land for runtimes; too long for a short, and too short for a feature. So it’s dragged out to a more marketable length, though this is a tale that all comes together in the final five minutes, meaning that the audience have been left in the dark for far too long. But what a final reveal! Gag-worthy, this is something that will haunt your mind for days.
Who is it for? Those who can appreciate a slow burn, along with atmospheric horror.
Watch out for: The creepiest humanoid spider puppet you’ve ever seen, child abuse.
#18. Little Monsters
What’s it about? A washed-up musician teams up with a teacher and a kids show personality to protect young children from a sudden outbreak of zombies. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Hulu
Little Monsters cheekily manages to combine two of our greatest fears: zombies, and supervising a kindergarten field trip. The protagonist, Dave, is a painfully immature man-child that must learn to undertake some responsibility should he wish to survive. He is an extremely unlikeable hero, though this film keeps its tone light, presenting more of a caricature rather than a serious character study. While this is an Australian production, even I found the language to be too vulgar at times. The humor has a mean streak, lashing out at the many doe-eyed children in the cast; it’s mostly cringy, though it does land a few times. Despite its raunchy content, it is occasionally a wildly entertaining ride, offering a light-hearted small-scale story amongst the overloaded zombie subgenre.
Who is it for? Fans of the zombie subgenre, people that enjoy blunt, crude humor.
Watch out for: Extreme language, extreme nudity and sex scenes, zombie related violence (though it isn’t as gory compared to others of its ilk).
What’s it about? A young woman, while attempting to save her father during a category 5 hurricane, finds herself trapped in a flooding house and must fight for her life against alligators. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Apple TV, Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play, Microsoft, FandangoNow.
Yes, the premise is a little on the stupid side, but if you can park your brain long enough, it’s an enjoyable crazy ride. It sells exactly as advertized–it’s a big dumb killer animal flick. It’s tense, slightly wacky, though there are a few too many dumb decisions. Yet sometimes you just desire a fluffy horror piece that requires little to no brain cells to partake in the fun, and if that’s the case, then this film will hit the spot.
Who is it for? If you’re looking for a slightly crazy, big, loud killer animal action flick, then you’ve found it!
Watch out for: Animal attacks, gore associated with mauling injuries.
#16. The Hole in the Ground
What’s it about? A young mother living in the Irish countryside with her son suspects his increasingly disturbing behavior is linked to a mysterious sinkhole in the forest, and fears he may not be her son at all. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Microsoft/Xbox, FandangoNow
A creepy atmospheric horror that taps into that old nugget of medical gaslighting, along with the fear of no longer understanding one’s child. It’s a premise that isn’t seen too often, so the plot feels fresh and unpredictable. It has a magnificent build up, but it stumbles in the final act, providing an ending that lacks just that little bit of exposition and closure in order to end on a more satisfying note.
Who is it for? Horror fans that like the more subtle, creepy things in life. For those who are looking for something different, though this isn’t too far off-kilter.
Watch out for: Light in scares, but there are some broken bones, creepy crawlies, and images of being buried alive.
#15. Zombieland: Double Tap
What’s it about? Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock move to the American heartland as they face off against evolved zombies, fellow survivors, and the growing pains of the snarky makeshift family. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? If you’re quick, you may still find it in cinemas.
Like The Dead Don’t Die, this one’s more of a comedy with horror elements. A sequel to Zombieland, as it is very focused on continuing the story of the main cast, viewers will gain more enjoyment having seen the first film. There is little in terms of internal conflict, making this film a lightweight with its themes, but it does present yet another delightful romp through the zombie post-apocalyptic wasteland of the United States. The characters are stereotypical, but delightfully so. It may not be spooky, but it is entertaining.
Who is it for? It’s a tongue-in-cheek zombie flick; a comedic horror. For those that can handle gore but not jump scares.
Watch out for: Gore, gun violence, over the top brutality, sexual discussions.
#14. Escape Room
What’s it about? Six strangers find themselves in a maze of deadly mystery rooms and must use their wits to survive. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu, Microsoft/Xbox, FandangoNow, Movies Anywhere, Playstation Store, Verizon Fios, Xfinity.
Okay, so this is my guilty pleasure horror flick for 2019. It’s schlocky, but there are a lot of intricate details to admire in the production design. The film starts strong; the first three rooms are creative and mentally stimulating. But like many other films in this list, everything starts to go downhill after the midpoint. It still maintains some of the intrigue, but it loses the suspension of disbelief as it tries too hard to be clever, all while painfully trying to set up the next horror franchise instead of just finishing the story that it’s currently telling. It’s a shame it all falls apart and devolves into silliness, but it still manages to be entertaining, taking up residence in the mind long afterwards.
Who is it for? For those wanting a house of horrors with a creative kill count. It has the veneer of being smarter than your average slaughterhouse flick.
Watch out for: Drug usage, sadistic games.
#13. Extra Ordinary
What’s it about? In an Irish town you call Rose, the driving instructor, if you have ghost etc. problems. Martin’s deceased wife bothers him, so he calls Rose, who’s single. A levitating daughter makes him call again. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Currently stuck in that awkward time period between its theatrical release and home distribution.
This bubbly Irish comedic horror is a delight from start to finish. Its small town scale is cheerfully quaint, as Rose deals with ghosts that haunt garbage bins and toasters, feeling like the horror equivalent of Hot Fuzz. It’s a very charming film, which makes it all the more disappointing when it gets too bogged down in discussions of a sexual nature. Given that the plot centers on the hunt for a virgin, vulgar jokes unfortunately begin to take over, whittling away at the film’s initial sense of innocence. It is a fun film, though some will find its brand of humor detracting.
Who is it for? People that want a light-hearted comedy with supernatural undertones, that don’t mind moderate sexual references.
Watch out for: Sex jokes and sexual references (one sex scene though no nudity), vomiting, demon/Pagan worship, Irish accents.
#12. Happy Death Day 2U
What’s it about? Tree Gelbman discovers that dying over and over was surprisingly easier than the dangers that lie ahead. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? FandangoNow, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft/Xbox, Amazon Prime, Verizon Fios, Vudu, Xfinity.
Sequel to Happy Death Day, it’s essential to watch the first film before seeing this one, unless you want the ending of the original movie spoiled. A horror film with a sci-fi twist, this slasher flick keeps things a bit lighter this time around. Comedic and silly in nature, it does still manage to deliver emotional punches at the right spots. It’s not a particularly scary film, but it’s wrapped up in a lot of fun regardless.
Who is it for? Slasher fans, and for those looking for a sci-fi crossover, particularly if they adore a Groundhog Day premise.
Watch out for: Suicidal behavior, slasher subgenre, sexual discussions.
#11. Ready Or Not
What’s it about? A bride’s wedding night takes a sinister turn when her eccentric new in-laws force her to take part in a terrifying game. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? iTunes.
A witty film that offers a spin on the killer-in-the-house trope. Ready Or Not features a superb cast that never fails to entertain. Naturally the plot establishes a few boundaries in order to contain the action within its gorgeous mansion set, and while they’re obvious and slightly frustrating, it never feels particularly contrived. However the film does begin to wear out its welcome in the last third, as it begins to feel repetitive. Yet this is a classy, amusing little slasher.
Who is it for? This may suit people who enjoy murder mysteries, but can handle a bit more savagery. Also for those looking for a lighter-toned slasher, that isn’t necessarily compromising on its level of violence.
Watch out for: Blood (explosions, fatal wounds), corpses, demon worship, board games.
#10. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
What’s it about? On Halloween 1968, reclusive Stella and her two friends meet a mysterious drifter, Ramón, and uncover a sinister notebook of stories. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Amazon Prime Video
This was pleasantly better than expected. This anthology of sorts was in danger of being too diverse to keep everything effectively tied together. Indeed, the spine of the film is cliché, but it does its purpose, coming across like a young adult version of Goosebumps. The result is a gateway horror film–it genuinely builds moments of tension, and the practical effects are incredibly creepy, though it’s still not too extreme, meaning it’s a nice stepping-stone should someone want to move on from the lighter horror movies. Enjoyable, gruesome, and it even features characters we care about!
Who is it for? Medium content–it’s a step up from a light horror, but the plot still has a childish air of innocence about it.
Watch out for: That spider scene… Body horror, monsters, and gruesome practical effects.
#9. It Chapter Two
What’s It about? Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Amazon Prime Video
Another sequel that’s not a lot of fun to watch unless you see the original film first. Although as the title suggests, this is less of a full-blooded sequel than it is a continuation. The horror version of Endgame, this movie does get tedious with its numerous McGuffin hunts. While the plot and the themes aren’t as strong as It, part one, what holds it together are the characters, their chemistry with each other, and their internal conflicts. Horror aficionados will find this film’s scares too predictable, but its varied setups are worth a look regardless.
Who is it for? Stephen King fans, lovers of the first film, people looking for a solid, traditional jump scare horror flick.
Watch out for: Blood (currently challenging the world record for bloodiest film), homophobic and domestic violence, gory critters, slasher-type scares, Pomeranians, clowns…
#8. Come to Daddy
What’s it about? A man in his thirties travels to a remote cabin to reconnect with his estranged father. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Currently doing the film festival circuit.
This bizarre indie horror film starring Elijah Wood is hard to define in terms of genre. Its three-act structure is bold and definitive, with each part tonally different to the next. What starts as a creepy family drama turns into a dangerous crime film, before morphing into something reminiscent of Bad Times at the El Royale. The narrative is witty and self-aware, perfectly balancing its comedy with serious stakes, all of it grounded with a burgeoning father and son relationship. It’s unique, not reliant on jump scares, but does feature a considerable amount of gore.
Who is it for? For those looking within the horror genre for a dark comedy, or looking for something more off-kilter than the usual fare.
Watch out for: Gore, violent criminal behavior, nudity.
#7. Velvet Buzzsaw
What’s it about? A satire set in the contemporary art world scene of Los Angeles, where big money artists and mega-collectors pay a high price when art collides with commerce. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Netflix
It’s odd. At face value, Velvet Buzzsaw is your standard pick-‘em-off-one-by-one horror flick. However, this is a film with a high level of symbolism, where you can spend hours analyzing the correlation between a character and their death. Admittedly, it’s more fun to pick this film apart and discuss its themes, than it is to watch. This separates it from more shallowly plotted stories, which is no doubt why Velvet Buzzsaw has attracted a high profile cast. Like its central focus of the art world, this could be described as either an artful masterpiece or pretentious trash parading about as something highfalutin. The beauty of it will be in the eye of the beholder, dependent on how much time one decides to spend on it.
Who is it for? Those that like to dig a little deeper and analyze the themes and messages of a film. Horror fans with a background in the art industry.
Watch out for: Supernatural forces, gore (blood), sex, and nudity.
What’s it about? What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister? (IMDB)
Where can you find it? iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu, Microsoft/Xbox, FandangoNow, Movies Anywhere, Playstation, Verizon Fios, Xfinnity.
No one asked for an evil Superman movie, but it’s an interesting ride nonetheless. While it’s incredibly predictable as to what will happen, Brightburn uses it to its advantage, developing a gut-wrenching sense of dread throughout its runtime. Centralizing on the viewpoint of the parents, it taps into the same fears seen in The Hole in the Ground of losing control over one’s child, along with the idea of inadvertently creating a monster. It can be seen as a simple gore fest, or the subverted superhero tropes can be analyzed with fervor; either way it’s an easy watch.
Who is it for? Those on the hunt for a different kind of superhero film, gore hounds.
Watch out for: Extreme gore, unwanted advances towards a young girl.
#5. The Perfection
What’s it about? When troubled musical prodigy Charlotte (Allison Williams) seeks out Elizabeth (Logan Browning), the new star pupil of her former school, the encounter sends both musicians down a sinister path with shocking consequences. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? Netflix
No boundaries. No filter. This is an unashamedly bonkers horror film. It starts heading in one direction, and just when you believe you have a handle on the plot, it changes tack. It is glorious how many times the penny drops in this film; those moments where the clues in the setup finally click into place and another revelation is made. However this is a fairly gruesome horror film at its core–only those with a strong stomach should have a peek.
Who is it for? More hardcore horror fans due to the extreme content. Music fans with strong stomachs.
Watch out for: Extreme body horror/gore, disturbing homosexual and non-consensual sexual acts, some nudity, child abuse.
What’s it about? French dancers gather in a remote, empty school building to rehearse on a wintry night. The all-night celebration morphs into a hallucinatory nightmare when they learn their sangria is laced with LSD. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu, FandangoNow, Microsoft/Xbox
The most experimental out of the indie horror films on this list. Director Gaspar Noé toys with traditional movie structure, placing credits throughout the film and even includes the cast’s audition tapes. Most impressively, Climax features long dance sequences and camera shots upwards of forty minutes in length. This is more a piece of art as opposed to a simple film. The dance numbers have a mesmerizing quality, where the horror exists as we watch it become more primal and animalistic. The characters – who once boasted about their passion for dance and the desire to let loose with their sexual proclivities – soon have their wishes granted against their will. It’s a film that demonstrates the importance of order, sensibilities, and civility by showing the horrific chaos that results without it.
Who is it for? We’ve had art fans (Velvet Buzzsaw), music fans (The Perfection), now it’s time for the dance fans. People who are looking for something completely out of the box; no jump scares, but the horror comes from the analysis of the experience.
Watch out for: Heavy drug usage, vulgar sexual behavior and language, physical assault.
#3. Midsommar + Director’s Cut
What’s it about? A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown’s fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu, FandangoNow, Microsoft/Xbox, Redbox.
After experiencing Midsommar for the first time, I knew I was down for watching the extended Director’s Cut when it rereleased in cinemas. Ari Aster is incredibly detailed and symbolic, creating an entire culture that’s wonderful to explore and unpack. The first time you watch this film it is as a visitor; like the main characters, you stumble around, lost, guffawing at the things that are culturally different. When revisiting the film, the viewer takes on the role of an anthropologist–the horrific elements slide away, all while appreciating the analysis of toxic relationships, and the village’s role in centering the character’s grief. Sure, it’s not much scarier than The Wicker Man, but it’s a beautiful, brutal experience that uses its horrific moments to highlight its important message.
Who is it for? People who appreciate slow burns (the original cut emphasizes the horror, whilst the director’s cut explores more of the foreign culture and the relationships between the characters).
Watch out for: Heavy drug usage, Pagan cult practices, extreme gore, lots of nudity (male and female), and a heavy sex scene.
What’s it about? A family’s serene beach vacation turns to chaos when their doppelgängers appear and begin to terrorize them. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? AT&T Uverse, Spectrum, Xfinity, Cox, Dish on Demand, Optimum, Verizon Fios.
Jordan Peele has done it again! Although his use of symbolism is not at the same masterful level of his previous Oscar-nominated movie, Get Out, this latest film is definitely more within the realm of the traditional slasher horror genre. That said, the premise of evil doppelgangers is hardly ever seen throughout cinema, making this a fairly unique experience. The characters are relatable, and there are lots of lovely little moments of set up that pleasingly pay off further down the track. It’s not an easy plot to predict, furthering the viewer’s sense of unease, though the final reveal is a little on the silly side.
Who is it for? Accessible mid-range horror. People looking for a slasher film with an unique twist.
Watch out for: Slasher-style violence. Blood. Disturbing consumption of raw meat.
#1. Doctor Sleep
What’s it about? Years following the events of “The Shining,” a now-adult Dan Torrance must protect a young girl with similar powers from a cult known as The True Knot, who prey on children with powers to remain immortal. (IMDB)
Where can you find it? If you’re quick, you may still find it in cinemas.
No project was more doomed than Doctor Sleep – a sequel to Stephen King’s The Shining. Kubrick ignored the ending of King’s novel in his iconic film, whilst the author has famously announced his continual dislike of Kubrick’s adaptation. Yet Mike Flanagan managed to expertly combine the two texts, resolving the unanswered questions of the original film, while also staying true to the written material. He expertly crafts a satisfying tale that develops several of the main characters, offering more depth than Midsommar, and a smoother ending than Us. Some might not find this film scary, while others may find it too long. Regardless, Flanagan must be congratulated on a job well done.
Who is it for? Stephen King fans, lovers of Kubrick’s The Shining, and those who desire psychological horror.
Watch out for: Supernatural themes, violence towards children, gun violence.
Was there a film not on the list that you recommend? What horror movies impressed you in 2019? Let us know in the comments, and enjoy your little nightmare before Christmas!
The Bottom Line