Well, 2020’s been an absolute shocker, but we’ve managed to claw our way to October, everyone (with taste)’s favourite month! While we may not be able to look forward to a big costumed blow-out any time soon, we can at least enjoy some of the fantastic horror that 2020 has served up so far. This is Part 1 of Vampire Squid‘s 31 days of Halloween, our guide to the 31 best horror films released so far this year. Check out the first 10 below!
The Mortuary Collection
We love horror anthologies here at Vampire Squid. From Amicus to Creepshow, a good portmanteau movie just represents more bang for your buck. Set in a mortician’s studio, The Mortuary Collection boasts an excellent campy host in Clancy Brown. With its bright, Creepshow-esque colour palette, the whole project exudes a fun, exuberant energy that makes it a perfect light watch. It’s rare to find an anthology horror with consistency between segments, but The Mortuary Collection is solid throughout.
The Other Lamb
This coming-of-age revenge story takes place in a cloistered cult community. So secluded from the outside world are the players that it creates a profound sense of dislocation, lending the film a dreamy, fable-like quality. A young woman teeters on the verge of womanhood in a cult in which women are essentially enslaved to ‘The Shepherd’, a remarkably sinister leader who evokes Jesus, Rasputin and Dracula all at the same time. With repeated slips into surreal fantasy, this film is heavy-handed with its allegories, but no less powerful for it.
Playing like the bastard love-child of The Cube and J.G. Ballard’s High Rise, The Platform is a film with a simple premise. Prisoners are held captive in a series of vertically aligned cells. A platform containing food is lowered through the complex. The people at the top will have the pick of the food, while those at the bottom will be lucky if there is anything left at all once the platform reaches them. It’s a perfect parable for the obscene inequality of our cultural moment. It is concerned not only with condemning those at the top, but also with examining how their conditions cause those at the bottom to turn on each other. Are solidarity and rebellion possible when hunger gnaws?
Gretel and Hansel
Having established himself as one of horror cinema’s most exciting talents with The Blackcoat’s Daughter and I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in The House, Osgood Perkins returns with a sumptuously dark fairy tale. Pitched at a YA audience, it’s a healthy reminder that horror need not be visually explicit to be horrifying. Expect ambience, atmosphere and chills from this fable. It does justice to the grimness of the original tales, and would make a terrifying introduction to the genre for younger viewers.
She Dies Tomorrow
Creeping existential dread is the order of the day in this slow-burn horror-drama. When a depressed woman becomes convinced of her impending doom, her family and friends are concerned, but soon her conviction begins to spread to them, almost like a virus. Written and shot before the COVID19 pandemic, this film nevertheless feels like the first commentary on the global zeitgeist. It speaks to our current paranoia, isolation and a numbness in a way that few other films do. Fascinating and occasionally frustratingly vague, this is a film more concerned with tone than plot. Some horror fans will be captivated by its charms.
The Deeper You Dig
How far would you go to find a missing loved one? For a mother who suspects that her daughter’s disappearance was no accident, it’s never too far. Soon the mother, daughter and murderer are flung together as the boundaries between the living and the dead begin to collapse. With echoes of The Lovely Bones and The Tell-Tale Heart, this film has a visual flair all its own, made all the more impressive by its minimal budget. The sequences that take place in other realms, or in which the dead are present to exact their revenge, are aesthetically inventive. The simplicity of the central revenge tale serves as a fantastic skeleton for some bold storytelling.
From Brandon Cronenberg, whose debut Antiviral proved that he had inherited his father’s eye for visceral body horror and biting social commentary, this science fiction nightmare is utterly captivating. A female assassin takes control of other people’s bodies in order to neutralise her targets. When one of her patsies is able to fight her for control, things quickly spin into chaos. With the kind of minimalist dialogue more reminiscent of a Pinter play than a futuristic epic, the film is disorienting, surreal and terrifying. It’s one of the most captivating sci-fi visions we’ve seen on film in a long time.
Romola Garai’s debut feature Amulet sees a homeless man welcomed into a tottering building by a strange old woman. It soon becomes clear that the tenant on the top floor may be something other than human, and strange goings on become more and more sinister as the film progresses. Marked out by a kind of brooding dread, the film is a confident first feature. It has a lurid visual sensibility that it shares with films like The Babadook, and is not afraid to heighten the reality to excess in service of metaphor. Also like The Babadook, it features strong performances that keep the madness grounded.
After Midnight (Something Else)
With The Battery, director Jeremy Gardner proved himself more than adept at blending genres together into unique offerings. Where The Battery took the zombie formula and inserted a family drama into it, After Midnight takes a tragic romance and inserts monsters. A man is dealing with the disintegration of his relationship while a strange creature appears to be laying siege to his house. Like Gardner’s previous offering, this movie is dialogue-driven but still boasts some impressive monster effects.
The Dark and The Wicked
Two estranged siblings return to the family homestead to wait on their ailing father, who is not long for this world. What follows is an atmospheric and grimy southern gothic tale with a supernatural twist. From Bryan Bertino, director of The Strangers, The Dark and The Wicked is an eerie experience. Visually rich and dripping with tension and atmosphere.