Welcome to our Mid-Year Report, a series of lists in which we break down the best movies and shows we’ve watched so far in this astronomically strange year, 2020. In this article, Rob Hunter walks you through the best horror movies we’ve seen so far.
2020 will go down as a horror story of its own that we’ll all wish had only been a movie, but while it’s a whole new world out there we still have the joys, thrills, and terrors of fantastic cinema. Fewer movies have been released this year, obviously, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some great ones for horror fans.
A few of this year’s official releases made our list of 2019’s best horror including Boyz in the Wood, Come to Daddy, Extra Ordinary, Snatchers, and We Summon the Darkness (due to their festival appearances). They’re all worth seeking out, but we’re starting fresh at 2020’s mid-point with newer releases vying for a spot on our year-end list. Keep reading for a look at an alphabetical listing of the best horror movies of 2020, so far.
Blood Quantum (Canada)
“The dead are coming back to life outside the isolated Mi’gMaq reserve of Red Crow, except for its Indigenous inhabitants who are strangely immune to the zombie plague.”
Zombie movies are as ubiquitous as the undead in a zombie movie and typically as indistinguishable, but sometimes a film goes the extra mile to mark itself as a unique voice in a crowded field. Writer/director Jeff Barnaby’s tale of a zombie apocalypse in rural Canada ticks plenty of the expected genre boxes with its basic story and beats, but it goes above and beyond with the specifics turning its horrors into a commentary on race, colonialism, and the ongoing mistreatment of Native peoples in North America. Happily, the gory beats are great too.
The Closet (South Korea)
“After Sang-Won’s daughter Yi-Na goes missing in their new home, a mysterious man approaches him and tells him to look for her in the closet.”
I love the simplicity of that synopsis despite disliking the title itself — it’s just too generic and lacking in menace — but the film transcends both to deliver some great scares and enough heart to squeeze some moisture from your eyes. There’s a supernatural terror at the heart of the tale, and as it unfolds we’re gifted with dead kids, a terrifying exorcism set-piece, and more horror goodies.
“Miriam, Derek, Ian, and Jenny are overachieving high school students doing everything by the book. Straight A’s, sports, yearbook, band, and – when coursework allows – planning and executing elaborate murders.”
This is a fairly nifty little slasher that feels confident enough in its story to avoid ever tipping too far towards the meta. The teens are well aware of horror cinema and its tropes, and they use that knowledge to comment on and improve their kills. It’s fun without ever feeling obnoxious, and the kills and set-pieces offer enough thrills to carry viewers forward.
“Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don’t know where they are, or how they got there. They don’t know they’ve been chosen – for a very specific purpose – The Hunt.”
Craig Zobel’s stupidly controversial thriller may only be borderline horror — both because it’s a riff on “The Most Dangerous Game” and because it’s even more of a comedy — but it’s horror enough. It’s also pretty damn great thanks to some sharp writing that throws shade towards liberals and conservatives alike in the form of both obvious jokes and scathing barbs. The commentary is smart, and the bloodletting is frequent and occasionally glorious starting with an opening slaughter delivering laughs and a body count.
The Lodge (UK)
“A soon-to-be stepmom is snowed in with her fiancé’s two children at a remote holiday village. Just as relations begin to thaw between the trio, some strange and frightening events take place.”
This grim as hell slow-burn has left more than a few viewers cold, and I get it, I do. It opens strong, settles into pure dread, ramps up the crazy, and then goes out heavy, and I love it every step of the way. Madness, paranoia, cruelty, tragedy, and more play into this wintry nightmare, and it hits like a ton of frozen, blood-covered bricks.