Now that we’re almost halfway into the Halloween month, you’re no doubt looking for some more of the very best horror to slake your thirst for the macabre! Without further ado, here (and in no particular order) is the second instalment of our top 31 horror films of 2020.
A proper, old-fashioned zombie film with all the gore and gruesomeness that you would expect, Blood Quantum also makes some important points about colonialism and the treatment of First Nations people. By giving indigenous people an inherited immunity from the zombie plague, writer/director Jeff Barnaby subtly inverts some of the expectations of indigenous cinema. Now it’s the white colonisers that are stripped of their territories and possessions, forced to trek cross-country and throw themselves on the mercy of the natives. It doesn’t stop them from yelling at them to speak English, of course.
This film also features scenes of zombies being eviscerated by a giant… Snow blower? Harvesting machine? Whatever it is, it’s badass.
The Cleansing Hour
As we said in our recent review, this one doesn’t have two original ideas to rub together, but boy does it throw what ideas it does have at you with an infectious sense of fun. An exorcist with an online following has a staged digital deliverance go awry when a real-life demon gets involved. What follows is a slew of violence and supernatural silliness. Some impressive physical effects and an engaging central dynamic between the two leads make this an excellent Halloween viewing experience.
The Beach House
Although it was conceived and shot way ahead of the pandemic, there’s something that feels very 2020 about this enigmatic offering. It’s probably the eerie sense of isolation that the remote setting lends it. A couple have headed to a secluded beach house for a getaway, but soon they discover not only that they are sharing their hideout with another couple, but that a deadly alien fog is creeping towards them. With very little dialogue and a chillingly tense ambient soundtrack, The Beach House is a fantastic example of lo-fi, minimalistic indie horror. The film keeps things tight and conveys so much with so little. Filmmakers who wonder whether it’s truly possible to adapt Lovecraft should take notes. Even before the true cosmic horror kicks in, The Beach House really nails that sense of insignificance in the face of an indifferent universe.
Be very careful if you’re choosing to watch these films in order. Jumping from the low-key tension of The Beach House to the aggressive, confrontational excess of Bliss is likely to give you severe whiplash. A struggling artist begins experimenting with a new psychedelic street drug in order to explore new creative directions. As well as improving her work, the drug plunges her into a life of hedonism and brutality. As much a film about spiralling addiction and self destruction as it is about vampirism and violence, Bliss is an uncompromising and aesthetically exhausting experience. Director Joe Begos cites Gaspar Noe as an influence, and there’s something about his relentless, punishing visual style that certainly backs that up. Fortunately, Begos has creative flair that prevents the film’s shocks, as thick and fast as they come, from becoming stale.
In this exploration of domestic purgatory, a young married woman is hemmed in by oppressive gender expectations. Relegated to the role of ornament in her lavish but stylistically minimal home, she craves control and finds it in an unusual form: swallowing objects ranging from marbles to pushpins. The film unfolds itself into a twisting, mesmerising tale of rebellion and the struggle for control and agency. An extraordinary central performance from Haley Bennett makes this film unmissable.
Drawing comparison with Hereditary, this icy thriller is a tense familial drama with deadly repercussions. Trapped in a lodge with the mistrustful children of her new boyfriend, a young woman is suddenly confronted with a past she thought she had left behind. At twelve years old, she was the only survivor after her father led his doomsday cult into a mass suicide. Now the past is refusing to stay buried. From the directors of Goodnight Mommy, this is a film with an astonishing mastery of mood. Consistently tense and oppressive throughout, the way that the filmmakers establish horror in mundane domestic spaces is incredibly impressive.
We Summon The Darkness
This heavy metal horror movie has a real attitude about it. While its central twist might not be too hard to predict, the charisma and chemistry of its central band of mischief-makers is impossible not to warm to. A group of girls hook up with a like-minded trio of guys following a metal concert. They head back to one of their parent’s houses for a night of drinking and debauchery, not thinking about the slew of ritual murders that have made recent headlines. Set against the backdrop of ’80s rock and the alarmist milieu of the satanic panic, this movie is a riotously good time.
The Honeymoon Phase
Financially struggling couple Tom and Eve lie their way into taking part in a science experiment for the promise of £50,000. All they have to do is stay in a state-of-the-art house with every futuristic luxury they could possibly want. While they do so, the house monitors their behaviour and brainwaves to see how they navigate what (they are pretending) is their first month of marriage. Things take a turn for the worse when Eve notices changes in Tom’s behaviour. Soon, the situation devolves into paranoia and terror as Eve comes to suspect that the experimenters may have something sinister in mind. A taut thriller with some genuine insights into how we view relationships, this film was an accomplished debut from Phillip G. Carroll Jr.
With shades of Alien, The Andromeda Strain and even The Thing, this sci-fi horror has some familiar ideas. However, the execution really sets Sputnik apart from its more boisterous American cousins. In this Soviet-era tale, a cosmonaut has returned to Earth with an uninvited biological stowaway. The production design is restrained, the pace slowed, and the result is a sombre experience with plenty of gravitas. There’s also a depth to the characterisation, with all of the players (not just the one with the slithering alien coming out of his mouth) having something to hide.
12 Hour Shift
This bloody female-focused heist film is a joy to watch unfold. When a drug-addicted nurse and her crazed cousin mess up on an order for a blackmarket organ trafficker, they’re on the hook for one fresh kidney. Pretty soon crises are piling upon crises, and bodies are stacking up too. With her cousin embracing her sociopathic side, it’s up to our protagonist to do her best to keep a handle on the chaos, while still getting her regular fix and doing her actual job. The film is anarchic and blood-spattered, constantly upping the ante and ratcheting up the tension. Darkly comic and boldly insane, it’s a real experience.