This article is part of our 2020 Rewind. Follow along as we explore the best and most interesting movies, shows, performances, and more from this very strange year. In this entry, we tread carefully into the shadows to find the best horror movies of 2020.
There’s an argument to be made that horror movies aren’t needed in a year like this where every day has been a nightmare to one degree or another, but I’d suggest that makes horror even more necessary. Like all movies, they offer a release outside of our actual day to day pains, and while some use those real-world pressure points to ramp up the horror they remain a reassuring fiction. If you can take a break from the news and instead settle in for a tale of monsters, demons, microbes, killers, aliens, vengeance, and an extremely large phallus — why wouldn’t you?
Before we hit the list, a few notes. Some films were officially released in 2020, but I previously included them based on their 2019 festival runs so I’m not adding them again below. Rest assured, though, that all five — Come to Daddy, Extra Ordinary, The Mortuary Collection, The Pool, and We Summon the Darkness — are worth your time. This year’s list only features films released in the US (including streaming) in 2020.
Also, I had to cap this list at 20 titles, but consider the following to be a mix of honorable mentions, also-rans, and hot garbage (but I’ll let you decide which is which): After Midnight, Amulet, Antebellum, The Beach House, Becky, Blood Quantum, Color Out of Space, The Deeper You Dig, Freaky, Gretel & Hansel, Hunter Hunter, Impetigore, The Invisible Man, Kindred, La Llorona, Love and Monsters, Monstrum, Scare Me, The Siren, Sputnik, Triggered
Now keep reading for the 20 best horror movies of 2020!
20. Deep Blue Sea 3
I know what you’re thinking — “Rob, you have lost your goddamn mind putting a direct to video killer shark movie on a list of the year’s best.” Fair, but hear me out here as Deep Blue Sea 3 is absolutely worthy of inclusion on this list. It can’t touch the original, and we’re pretending part 2 doesn’t exist, but this DTV effort is its own entertaining tale of super predatory sharks and the people they’re eating. It’s great fun and at times surprising, it takes strong advantage of its floating island locale, and it deserves recognition for delivering far more than DTV sequels typically manage. Give it a spin, look past the questionable CG effects, and just enjoy the wet and wild ride. Available to rent.
19. The Wolf of Snow Hollow
Not quite half of this list consists of horror films that are also comedies to one degree or another, and that includes writer/director Jim Cummings’ follow-up to Thunder Road (2018). He claws his way into genre fare with his latest tale about a small town cop facing off against his father’s mortality, his own anger issues, and a savage murderer who might just be a werewolf. The film applies genre tropes and character beats in unexpected ways to mine laughter, both bold and uncomfortable, from situations that at any moment could turn bloody. It’s an awkward but entertaining look at the monster within us all, some of whom are more voracious in their appetites than others. Available to rent.
Ray Xue’s nifty little slasher feels confident enough in its story to avoid ever tipping too far towards the meta, but there are still tinges of Tragedy Girls and the like to be found. The story follows a group of killer teens — we stay with them rather than follow around a final girl — who 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 toward its violent conclusion. (Read my review.) Available to stream on Amazon Prime and to rent.
17. Get Duked! (UK)
First things first — this is a terrible title, and they should have never changed it from the original Boys in the Wood. Whatever you call it, though, rest assured the movie is an extremely funny Scottish yarn about four teens on a camping expedition who get caught up with some masked murderers. It’s a delightful takedown of class distinctions and filled with imaginative deaths and killer jokes. That it’s all headlined by four fast-talking young Scots with a complete and utter disregard for authority and good behavior makes it all the more entertaining. Think some unholy concoction of Hot Fuzz and Attack the Block, and you’ll have an idea what tone and energy to expect. (Read my review.) Available to stream on Amazon Prime.
16. Sea Fever (UK)
This little Irish thriller hit the screen in the middle of a pandemic, and that couldn’t have been more fitting for a story about an infectious illness in the form of a previously undiscovered life form. The setting, a fishing trawler out at sea, gives an isolated feel to the terror as paranoia, violence, and death become the norm, and it adds a tease of John Carpenter’s The Thing to the film’s atmosphere. It’s a smart, science-oriented approach that adds thrills, horror, and a plea for humanity in the face of impending death, and the effects are both nifty and eye-catching. Wink wink. (Read my review.) Available to stream on Hulu and to rent.