May, a self-help author, faces off against an unwelcome visitor every night at the exact same time. Regardless of the security measures, this mysterious man always manages to sneak inside. Even if she bludgeons him to death, he finds a way back into her home, completely unscathed. The worst part? Nobody believes her.
That’s the basic premise of Lucky, a kinda-sorta time loop movie with more than a few tricks up its sleeve. See, at its core, this is another variation of the Groundhog Day formula. The big difference is that the audience doesn’t see the time loop from the protagonist’s point-of-view since the protagonist isn’t the one facing the time loop. Sure, she has to face the same murderous intruder every night, but the calendar moves forward for her.
There’s a reason for this; the time loop isn’t the most important part of the story. It exists to push the themes forward, but it never strives to be the center of attention. The same can be said about the home invasion thrills. They’re ever-present, but they aren’t meant to keep you fully invested.
Instead, viewers are meant to focus on the way people react to the main character’s struggles. Why are so many people shrugging this off? What makes her such an untrustworthy source? These questions really push the narrative forward even if they’re never directly answered.
Although there are some lingering questions, the big revelation at the end mostly brings things around. Lucky is, by definition, a horror movie, but like Get Out and The People Under The Stairs, it has a message that it wants to spread. As a scathing piece of social commentary, it’s massively successful. Viewers looking for something akin to Happy Death Day, however, will find themselves frustrated and confused.
7. My Heart Won’t Beat Unless You Tell It To
Like a lot of films on this list, My Heart Won’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is more about the horrors of the real world than it is about ghosts and goblins. There are fantastical elements, sure, but these function as a catalyst for something more steeped in reality. This is a family tragedy disguised as a horror movie, and it will knock your socks off.
Those expecting legitimate scares will need to find something else. This isn’t going to make you jump out of your seat by any means. Instead, it’s going to keep you up for other reasons. My Heart Won’t Beat Unless You Tell It To gives viewers something to chew on, and that’s what makes it memorable. It’s haunting in its own way, but it’s haunting nonetheless.
6. The Night House
It’s hard to talk about The Night House without spilling all of its many secrets. The trailers are intentionally vague, and most of the summaries you’ll read online give readers the bare minimum. We know there’s a woman grieving the death of her husband. We know there is a mysterious “reverse house.” That’s about it, and that’s a good thing.
The Night House needs to be a mystery because the big reveals are so inspired. This is a film that strives to catch viewers off guard at every opportunity, but that doesn’t mean the twists are cheap. In fact, The movie successfully finds a way to catch viewers off guard at any given opportunity.
It also finds a way to keep folks biting their fingernails. The unpredictability of the storytelling should be lauded, but so should the scares. The Night House is legitimately unnerving thanks in large part to David Bruckner’s skills as a director. In short, this is a haunting and audacious movie that shouldn’t be missed.
Rape-revenge films have always been risky because, more often than not, they wind up being more exploitative than thought-provoking. This makes sense, given the fact that the goal has always been horror rather than social commentary, but we’re living in a different era now. With certain films, you need a mix of both; this brings us to Violation.
Violation is a slow-burn rape-revenge movie that really focuses on the victim’s trauma. The more gruesome horror-tinged moments are put on the back burner while the protagonist is put front and center. It’s refreshing to see such a multilayered character in a movie that owes so much to soulless, exploitative features like The Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave. This is a revenge movie for the twenty-first century, and it feels like such a necessary upgrade.
Obviously the added intelligence helps a lot, but Violation also benefits from exquisite performances, first-rate editing, and pulse-pounding suspense. Simply put, it’s an all-around well-made movie that’s deeper than it has any right to be.
4. Last Night in Soho
It’s always fun to see what directors are capable of when they escape their comfort zones. Edgar Wright, known for his quirky comedies, attempted something different with Baby Driver back in 2017. Although this was in a different genre, it still featured the quick-witted dialogue and comedy people had come to expect. Last Night in Soho, on the other hand, is a different entity entirely.
The director’s latest is a bleak horror movie about real-world issues. The heavy themes linger throughout the runtime, but the stylish storytelling remains entertaining. This even mix of intelligence and fun makes for a movie that’s worth watching regardless of what mood you’re in. There’s obviously a message here, but Last Night in Soho can be enjoyed as a straightforward murder mystery as well.
3. A Quiet Place Part 2
Since its debut, The Office has had a forceful grip on the cultural zeitgeist, and because of this, many of the stars were basically required to make big moves in an effort to move past the iconic sitcom. Some of these career choices were unsuccessful; certain cast members continue to be associated with NBC’s landmark mockumentary to this day. Some of these career choices, however, have proven to be very worthwhile.
A few years ago, John Krasinski was synonymous with Jim Halpert. Then 2018 came and so did two popular intellectual properties – Jack Ryan and A Quiet Place. As easy as it would be to sing the praises of Amazon’s big budget Tom Clancy adaptation, that’s not really the purpose of this list. We’re here to talk about horror, and that means we’re talking about A Quiet Place.
Krasinski’s blockbuster horror film earned rave reviews when it debuted in 2018. With a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, it stands tall as one of the best reviewed horror films of the 2010s. This success led to a sequel, and more importantly, it led to a sequel that rivals the quality of its predecessor.
A Quiet Place Part 2 is bigger and louder than its predecessor. That might rub people the wrong way considering the premise of the series. However, the sequel manages to remain smart in spite of an uptick in dialogue and action.
It doesn’t take the exact same approach as the first film, and that proves to be a blessing. Krasinski avoids replicating the same story beats; it avoids copying and pasting the various bits and pieces. This leaves us with a movie that feels like it’s within the same universe even if it’s not telling the exact same story. It is very much its own movie, and it’s a damn good movie at that.
2. Saint Maud
What would you do to get over immense feelings of guilt? Some people try therapy; others try drinking. In Saint Maud, the protagonist changes her identity entirely. After failing to do her previous job successfully, she switches careers, converts to Catholicism, and begins her life anew. Maud, the titular protagonist, gives herself a second chance, but things go awry when her new Christian lifestyle clashes with the world around her.
This is especially true when it comes to her new job. Maud is tasked with taking care of Amanda Kohl, a terminally ill choreographer who sins like it’s her job. Kohl is a proud atheist who doesn’t really care how she spends her last days, as long as she’s enjoying herself. This obviously doesn’t make Maud happy.
Initially, Saint Maud focuses on more psychological horror. Especially in the first, Maud and Kohl mostly just exchange passive aggressive comments. Unfortunately, things get far more severe as the film starts to wind down. By the end, Saint Maud is full-blown body horror, complete with gag-inducing blood and gore.
However, that psychological aspect remains ever-present. The film wants viewers to understand the various characters and their motivations. This is an intelligent horror flick that also happens to make viewers wince. As is the case with most A24 horror films, you’ll likely think about it long after the credits roll.
How do you top something like Raw? Julia Ducournau’s daring cannibal movie garnered rave reviews when it first debuted. Critics were impressed by the subtle blending of different genres. Raw wasn’t just a violent horror movie; it was also a coming-of-age film and a psychological character study. More importantly, it blended the genres well.
Ducournau’s latest, Titane, succeeds largely because of the same reasons. Like Raw, it refuses to sit comfortably in one genre. Most people will be quick to label it a body horror film, and while that’s an accurate label, it’s not the end-all-be-all genre.
For those who haven’t read up on the Palme d’Or winning movie, Titane focuses on a young woman named Alexia who moonlights as a serial killer. In addition to her violent night time activities, she also has an unusual attraction to cars. Her mechanophilia leads to an out-of-this-world pregnancy, and if that isn’t enough, people start to pick up on her serial killer flavored breadcrumbs. That’s when she creates a new identity and Vincent comes into the picture.
With a premise like that, it’s no wonder Titane can’t stick to one genre. Thankfully, every individual piece fits together to form a surprisingly cohesive movie. It’s the body-horror meets found-family film you didn’t know you needed. The various parts, combined with confident direction and a stellar lead performance, add up to a crowning achievement that proves Ducournau is here to stay.