It’s not the end of 2020 yet, but as any genre fan can attest, we’ve already seen a wealth of outstanding horror films this year. The following list of 10 titles rates and ranks what have so far been Taste of Cinema’s favorites, but it’s worth pointing out that the months ahead will unleash several anticipated fright films (Aneesh Chagnaty’s Run, Michael Chaves’s The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Scott Cooper’s Antlers, Nia DaCosta’s Candyman, Rose Glass’s Saint Maud, and James Wan’s Malignant, amongst them) that are sure to be added to our year end horror roundup later on.
A few shoutouts also deserve going out to some excellent genre films that didn’t make this list but are still mentioned in the “Honorable Mention” section just below the following top 10, all of which are worth a watch for horror junkies.
And now, without further ado, here are the films, and be sure to join the conversation in the comments section below (be nice!). Enjoy.
10. The Invisible Man
Writer-director Leigh Whannel follows up 2018’s ultra-violent sci-fi sleeper Upgrade with a revisionist take on the H.G. Wells 1897 classic, “The Invisible Man”. Straight up, several aspects of this new iteration of the Invisible Man are flimsy and entirely predictable. The villain, who we both literally and figuratively see very little of isn’t that scary at all, and that’s gotta be why Elisabeth Moss is here; to overcompensate the plot’s many holes, and there are far too many convenient design flaws (and not just in the silly top secret invisible suit) before we even get to the ridiculously unstoppable evildoer trope, his neglected yet well-fed dog and eye-rolling/face-palming cheat in the third act.
But let’s face it, Whannel has a lot of ruthless fun as Cecilia (Moss) tries to convince the world at large that her abusive piece of human garbage ex (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is after her beyond the grave because, you know, he staged his suicide so he can zip around in his invisible underoos.
Moss pulls you in, makes you care, makes you mad at the hand she’s been dealt, and definitely makes you marvel at many startling setpieces (or at least the one jailbreak scene that really is the movie’s topper) and, despite the smoke and mirrors, makes you curious if an Invisible Woman sequel might be in the cards because, hey, Cecilia deserves a better turn, and after two hours of this, so do we. But despite the snarkiness here, this damsel in distress detour is familiar fun, and for a mainstream movie, Whannel proves his mettle.
9. The Lodge
This American-British horror film from writers-directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala had genre fans pumping their fists in anticipation thanks to their previously well-played full-on psychological freakout from 2014, Goodnight Mommy. And if you’re a fan of deep dark terror of the slow-burning variety, The Lodge does not disappoint.
Catalyzed by grief and the ghost of suicide, this twisted tale focuses on two siblings, Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) who are still reeling from the loss of their mother when their father (Richard Armitage) too swiftly pulls them into a new relationship with his new bride-to-be, Grace (Riley Keough, excellent).
Brace yourself for an unsettling stay in the titular abode as Grace and her stepchildren have it out in the most macabre of ways as the biggest and baddest disturbances and reveals are saved for the brutal and bitter end.
8. The Mortuary Collection
Writer-director Ryan Spindell’s latest creation, The Mortuary Collection, is that too rare a genre treat: a horror anthology that is consistently creepy, creative and most importantly for this kind of movie, it’s also a shit ton of fun.
In fact, in all these sordid little tales, framed around a young woman, Sam (Caitlin Custer) being interviewed for a position at a local mortician’s office that evolves into a series of scary stories being shared with pep and panic, and there ain’t a stinker in the bunch. The tales, each displaying layered and lush production design, gruesome practical effects, and suitably ironic and ruthless narrative twists, are as memorable as they are macabre.
Bonus points for the scenery-chewin’ Clancy Brown, who easily gives the Cryptkeeper a run for his menacing monster-hosting money. For fright fans, The Mortuary Collection will easily stand shoulder-to-shoulder with similar omnibus terror tales like Creepshow (1982) and Trick ‘r Treat (2007), and like those genre mainstays, this one comes highly recommended.
7. Color Out of Space
If you want to see Nic Cage go full freak frenzy, Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space delivers the goods. If you’re coming around the other side of things as an H.P. Lovecraft fan (and I must interject to say that his 1927 short story that inspired this film is the most terrifying thing he ever wrote) you won’t find this to be the most faithful of adaptations. But you will find that Stanley taps the weird fiction vein and cosmic terror nerve better than most who’ve approached Lovecraft’s work, and you probably won’t mind the liberties taken with the material.
Nathan (Cage) and Theresa Gardner (Joely Richardson) are a happily married couple in rural America with three kids and a farm where they raise alpacas and grow juicy tomatoes. Their ridiculously precious domestic bubble is about to burst most brutally when a glowing meteorite lands on their front lawn. Their bliss blooms to a kaleidoscopic nightmare in no time flat as space madness consumes the family in viciously personalized ways (even the alpacas aren’t spared the cosmic lash), and of course Cage goes Force 10 shitstorm.
It’s nice to see Stanley confidently calling action again after a lengthy absence (his output was famously stymied after the Island of Dr. Moreau fiasco in 1996, with his scant work since then being inconsistent and substandard), but given Cage’s Nic Cage-iness, one wonders if he took much direction at all. His reactions, or rather, his overreactions, never seem to match the matters at hand. But space mania will do that to you so here he gets a solid pass.
6. Zombi Child
Provocative French filmmaker Bertrand Bonello (Nocturama) resurrects the dead, or rather the undead, for this slow-burning but deeply rewarding exploration of colonialism, slavery, and voodoo mythology, with a little teen angst added for extra zip.
A much more literate horror film than most, Bonello, ever the iconoclast, here channels Jacques Tourner, weaving an intricate, naturalistic tale that also pays tribute to such diverse genre benchmarks as Victor Halperin’s White Zombie and Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow.
Bouncing around from Haiti in 1962 to Paris in the present day, Zombi Child’s main thrust is with Melissa (Wislanda Louimat), a Haitian teenager at a prestigious all-girls boarding school who harbors a family secret that her new clique of friends are keen to unriddle.
Carefully combining an outsider perspective of awesome beauty and the corporeal existence of voodoo, Zombi Child not only permeates the present, but the past as well.