The 50 Best Horror Movies on Hulu Right Now Ranked

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The 50 Best Horror Movies on Hulu Right Now Ranked

In terms of comparing the major streaming services, it’s easy to think of Hulu as “the TV-focused one,” but that’s not entirely fair—the service also has a healthy number of movies at any given time, although its overall library is nowhere near the size of Netflix’s or (especially) Amazon Prime’s. When you think of good horror movies on streaming, Hulu might not be the first thing you think of. When you think of good horror movies on streaming, Hulu might not be the first thing you think of. Still, horror geeks who happen to have a Hulu subscription actually have access to a surprisingly large library of quality films.

Kudos to Hulu for eventually creating a horror-specific subcategory instead of “horror and suspense” jumbled together into one category that contained the likes of both The Babadook and Snowden. Now at least everything you see when you visit the “horror” tab makes sense being there. It’s also made our search for the best scary movies on Hulu possible. They’ve also added a considerable number of worthwhile titles to the library since last we checked, drawing into a dead heat with Netflix. Unfortunately, as we progress through 2020, Hulu has also lost some classic titles they had access to fairly recently, including Hellraiser, The Monster Squad, Let the Right One In and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

After reading about the top horror movies on Hulu, you may also want to consult the following horror-centric lists:

The 100 best horror films of all time.
The 100 best vampire movies of all time.
The 50 best zombie movies of all time.
The 60 best horror movies on Amazon Prime
The 50 best movies about serial killers
The 50 best slasher movies of all time
The 50 best ghost movies of all time
The 50 Best Horror Movies Streaming on Netflix
The 50 best horror movies streaming on Shudder
The 50 Best Movies About Serial Killers

So without any further ado, here are the 50 best horror movies streaming on Hulu:

1. Jaws

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Year: 1975
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
Rating: PG (PG 13 didn’t yet exist)
Runtime: 124 minutes

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Because someone is sure to ask: Is Jaws a horror film? For those who worry that it’s “not safe to go back in the water,” then most certainly it is. But regardless of how you’d classify it, there’s no denying that Jaws is anything but brilliant, one of Spielberg’s great populist triumphs, alongside the likes of Jurassic Park and E.T., but leaner and less polished-looking than either, which actually works in its favor. Much has been made over the years of how Jaws as a film really benefits from the technical issues that plagued its making—the story originally called for more scenes featuring the mechanical shark “Bruce,” but the constantly malfunctioning animatronic forced the director to cut back, which ended up maximizing each appearance’s impact. The first time that Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) sees the literal “jaws” of the beast while absentmindedly throwing chum into the water is one of the great, scream-inducing moments in cinema history, and it’s a shock that has literally never been matched in any other shark movie since. Likewise with the death of Quint (Robert Shaw), whose mad scramble to avoid those gnashing teeth is the kind of thing that created its very own sub-genre of children’s nightmares. Ultimately, Jaws is made into a great film via memorable characters, but it’s made into the scariest movie on Hulu by novelty and perfect execution. —Jim Vorel


2. 28 Days Later

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Year: 2002
Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns, Brendan Gleeson
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

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The classical zombie film was effectively dead by the time 28 Days Later came along in 2002 and completely reanimated the concept. (And yes, we all know that the “infected” in this film aren’t technically zombies, so please don’t feel that you have to remind us.) The definition of “zombies” is fluid, and always expanding. Here, they’re living rather than dead, poor souls infected by the “rage virus” that makes them run amok, tearing through whatever living thing they see. It’s a modernization of the same fears that powered Romero’s ghouls—unthinking assailants who will stop at nothing and are now more dangerous than ever because they move at a full-on sprint. It’s hard to overstate how big a quantum leap that mobility was for the zombie genre—the early scenes of 28 Days Later where Jim (Cillian Murphy) tries to navigate a deserted London in hospital scrubs, chased by fast-moving zombies, did for this genre what Scream did for the slasher revival, sans the humor. Indeed, 28 days Later is a dead-serious horror film, marking a return to seeing these types of creatures as a legitimate, frightening threat. It’s indicative of another trend of the 2000s, which was to reimagine the classic rules of zombie cinema to fit the needs of the film. The Zack Snyder Dawn of the Dead remake replicated a lot of this film’s DNA when it was released two years later, although it marries the concept with the more traditional Romero ghoul. Together, those two movies gave birth to the concept of the 21st-century serious zombie film. —Jim Vorel


3. Annihilation

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Year: 2018
Director: Alex Garland
Stars: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac
Rating: R
Runtime: 115 minutes

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Annihilation is a movie that’s impossible to shake. Like the characters who find themselves both exploring the world of the film and inexplicably trapped by it, you’ll find yourself questioning yourself throughout, wondering whether what you’re watching can possibly be real, whether maybe you’re losing it a little yourself. The film is a near-impossible bank shot by Ex Machina filmmaker Alex Garland, a would-be science fiction actioner that slowly reveals itself to be a mindfuck in just about every possible way, a film that wants you to invest in its universe yet never gives you any terra firma on which you can orient yourself. This is a film that wants to make you feel as confused and terrified as the characters you’re watching. In this, it is unquestionably successful. This is a risky proposition for a director, particularly with a big studio movie with big stars like this one: a movie that becomes more confusing and disorienting as it goes along. Garland mesmerizes with his visuals, but he wants you to be off-balance, to experience this world the way Lena (Natalie Portman) and everyone else is experiencing it. Like the alien (I think?) of his movie, Garland is not a malevolent presence; he is simply an observer of this world, one who follows it to every possible permutation, logical or otherwise. It’s difficult to explain Annihilation, which is a large reason for its being. This is a film about loss, and regret, and the sensation that the world is constantly crumbling and rearranging all around you every possible second. The world of Annihilation looks familiar, but only at first. Reality is fluid, and ungraspable. It can feel a little like our current reality in that way. —Will Leitch


4. Day of the Dead

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Year: 1985
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joe Pilato, Richard Liberty
Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Although Dawn will probably always have more esteem, and is significantly more culturally important, Day of the Dead is my personal favorite of George Romero’s zombie films, and I don’t think it ever quite gets the respect it deserves. It comes along at a sort of sweet spot for the director—bigger budget, more ambitious ideas and Tom Savini at the zenith of his powers as a practical effects artist. The human characters this time are scientists and military living in an underground bunker, which for the first time in the series gives us a wider view of what’s been going on since the dead rose. This film reintroduces the science back into zombie flicks, finally making one of the main characters a scientist (Matthew “Frankenstein” Logan, played by Richard Liberty) who has had some time to study the zombies in the relative safety of a lab. As such, the movie redefines the attributes of the classic Romero ghoul—they’re dumb, but not entirely unintelligent, and some of them can even be trained to use tools and possibly remember certain aspects of their previous lives. That of course brings us to “Bub,” (Sherman Howard) maybe the single most iconic zombie in Romero’s oeuvre, who displays a unique level of personality and even humor. Day of the Dead ultimately takes a monster that audiences thought they knew pretty well at this point and suggests that perhaps they were only just scratching the surface of the subgenre’s potential. —Jim Vorel


5. An American Werewolf in London

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Year: 1981
Director: John Landis
Stars: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne, John Woodvine
Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes

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Few directors have ever displayed such an innate tact for combining dark humor and horror the way John Landis does. At the height of his powers in the early ’80s, one year removed from The Blues Brothers, Landis opted for a much dirtier, grittier, scarier story that stands as what is still the best werewolf movie of all time. When two travelers backpacking across the English moors are attacked by a werewolf, one is killed and the other infected with the wolf’s curse. Haunted by the simultaneously unnerving and hilarious visions of his dead friend, he must decide how to come to terms with the monster he has become, even as he strikes up a relationship with a beautiful nurse played by Jenny Agutter. The film lulls you into comfort with its witticism before springing shocking, gory dream sequences on the viewer, which repeatedly arrive unannounced. The key moment is the protagonist’s incredibly painful, traumatic full transformation, set to the crooning of Sam Cooke doing “Blue Moon,” which is still unsurpassed in the history of the genre. Legendary FX and monster makeup artist Rick Baker took home the first-ever Academy Award for For Best Makeup and Hairstyling for creating a scene that has given the wolf-averse nightmares ever since. – Jim Vorel


6. The Descent

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Year: 2005
Director: Neil Marshall
Stars: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, MyAnna Buring, Nora-Jane Noone
Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes

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True camaraderie or complex relationships between female characters isn’t so much “rare” in horror cinema as it is functionally nonexistent, which is one of the things that still makes The Descent, nominally about a bunch of women fighting monsters in a cave, stand out so sharply all these years later. But ah, how The Descent transcends its one-sentence synopsis. The film’s first half is deliberately crafted to fill in the personalities of its group of women, while slowly and almost imperceptibly ratcheting up the sense of dread and foreboding. As the characters descend deeper into the cave, passageways get tighter and the audience can feel the claustrophobia and dankness creeping into their bones—and that’s before we even see any of the resident troglodytes. Neil Marshall’s screenplay makes masterful use of dubious morality, infusing its protagonists, particularly the duo of Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) and Juno (Natalie Mendoza), with numerous shades of gray. Not content to simply paint one of the two as flawed and the other as resourceful and ultimately vindicated, he uses a series of misunderstandings to illustrate human failing on a much more profound and universal level. Ultimately, The Descent is as moving a character study as it is terrifying subterranean creature feature, with one hell of an ending to boot. —Jim Vorel


7. Baskin

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Year: 2016
Director: Can Evrenol
Stars: Mehmet Cerraho?lu, Ergun Kuyucu
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 97 minutes

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It is telling that the single scariest image in Baskin emphasizes creeps over carnage. It’s a shot of a boy standing alone in his living room, illuminated only by the static glow of his family’s television set, which has inexplicably turned itself on in the middle of the night. Nothing about the scenario is overtly terrifying—at least until he shuts the TV off—but it is memorably real in a film where it’s difficult to distinguish what is and isn’t imagined. Grand guignol-level spectacle where every character in the frame is streaked with viscera? That’s one thing. Domestic peculiarities that invoke nocturnal aberrations, though, are another thing entirely. The film evokes the artistic sensibilities of both Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento with its lurid color palette, but it carves a gore-streaked path all its own. —Andy Crump


8. The Canal

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Year: 2014
Director: Ivan Kavanagh
Stars: Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Rupert Evans, Steve Oram
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 92 minutes

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This indie Irish horror film announces Ivan Kavanagh as a serious talent and remarkably skilled director—it’s the kind of film you might watch on a streaming service with zero expectations, only to be completely blown away. Nominally a “ghost story” of sorts about a man who discovers a century old grisly crime that occurred in his house, it’s actually much more of a psychologically intense minefield—the sort of film that Polanski would have made, if there actually were ghosts in Repulsion. Combining elements that remind one of The Shining’s superb sound design with the surrealist, red-and-blue color palette of a film by Dario Argento, it is impeccably put together and beautiful to look at. The story, unfortunately, gets just a little bit too literal and wraps things up a bit neatly in the last 15 minutes, but the movie crafts an extremely effective web of dread and genuine fear through its entire runtime. Here’s hoping that we see another horror film from Kavanagh at some point. —Jim Vorel


9. The Cabin in the Woods

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Year: 2011
Director: Drew Goddard
Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Sigourney Weaver
Rating: R
Runtime: 95 minutes

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The gag here is that a group of young people—who loosely fall into a variety of slasher movie archetypes such as “the virgin,” “the fool” and “the athlete,”—are manipulated into a life-or-death scenario that also serves as a proxy battle for all of humanity. This “ritual,” we come to understand, is orchestrated from an underground bunker full of comically unsympathetic white collar workers who bend the rules of this contest as far as they possibly can, and for good reason: If the hapless protagonists “upstairs” manage to survive, the entire world will be devoured by ancient gods who will rise from below. Only the appeasement of horror film cliches will keep the ancient evil below slumbering for another year. That framework is an excuse to pick apart the silliest (and most beloved) aspects of horror movie tropes. The monsters and antagonists likewise draw inspiration from countless horror franchises: Evil Dead, Hellraiser, It, Chopping Mall, The Wolf Man. It’s a loving assembly of sinister, familiar cinematic imagery that has been corralled and controlled in a way that paints mankind as the ultimate evil above all others, due for extinction. The Cabin in the Woods remains a high bar against which horror genre parodies are judged. —Jim Vorel


10. Southbound

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Year: 2016
Directors: Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath
Stars: Chad Villella, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Fabianne Therese, Hannah Marks, Larry Fessenden
Rating: R
Runtime: 89 minutes

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Tricksters and demons, vengeful spirits and serial killers, the hope of salvation and the lingering presence of Satan: These are the things that anthology film Southbound is made of. The film has a single vision but is built on a wide variety of grim and ghoulish horror tropes, all the better to satisfy the hungers of even the most niche genre connoisseurs. Best of all, though, the wild variations from one section of the picture to the next enhances rather than dilutes the viewing experience. It helps that there are common themes that run across the film—loss, regret and guilt make up a repeated refrain—and that the sum of its parts adds up to an examination of how people unwittingly architect their own suffering. But Southbound is first and foremost a work of velocity, a joyride through Hell well worth buckling up for. —Andy Crump


11. Castle Rock

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Year: 2018
Director: Various
Stars: Andre Holland, Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgård, Sissy Spacek, Lizzy Caplan, Tim Robbins
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 20 episodes

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Castle Rock is easy to love if you’ve already given yourself up to Stephen King’s brand of campfire story, with all the hokey chuckles and midnight palm-sweating that comes with it. I know I have—I just finished enjoying King’s latest, The Outsider—which makes me a prime target (though, I suspect, not the only target) for Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason’s Hulu original series, based on King’s mythos. Michael Uppendahl directs the solid pilot, which pushes artistry and literary fidelity into its compellingly sketched mystery, and the hooks only sink in deeper over the rest of season one. The plot and environment (because one is inevitably entangled with the other) use the stories of Stephen King as their knitting fiber, intertwining both meta- and textual characters and themes into the afflicted town of Castle Rock (home of Cujo and The Dead Zone). Along with It’s Derry and the oft-abbreviated Jerusalem’s Lot, Castle Rock makes up the Bermuda triangle of fictitious Maine haunts that King keeps coming back to. King’s work loves a polluted system, and towns work just as well as prisons or hotels. The atmosphere works because the series’ thematic and artistic construction do each other plenty of favors. For example, the show treats religion and the supernatural as forces that aren’t necessarily on equal footing, but are certainly enabling each other, like a father pushing his child higher and higher on the swing set. Which is which never stays the same. There’s misguided righteousness, dangerous excitement, and legitimate goodness caught up in the battle for Castle Rock’s soul, which is an exciting spin on the conventional Exorcist-like binary questioning of faith. —Jacob Oller


12. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

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Year: 2010
Director: Jalmari Helander
Stars: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila, Per Christian Ellefsen, Tommi Korpela, Rauno Juvonen
Rating: R
Runtime: 82 minutes

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Of all the films that have attempted to tackle Christmastime mythology through the lens of horror, none have done it with half the gonzo weirdness of Finland’s Rare Exports. Although the subject of Krampus became popular horror fodder in the back half of this decade, the Fins were definitely laying some foundations here, dredging up the figure of Joulupukki, the so-called “Christmas goat” of Scandinavian folklore, who like Krampus punishes wicked children for their sins instead of dispensing candy and gifts. We see this particular story through the eyes of rural Finnish kids and their destitute parents, their livelihoods trampled by the engine of economic progress and consumerism, in a message that reflects the cynicism of Joe Dante’s Gremlins. It seems fitting, then, that it’s a government research team that dredges up horrors from beneath the crust of the Earth, representing the greed of adult children as they do. With a magical Nordic setting that perfectly suits its fantastical vibe, Rare Exports settles in alongside chilly, Scandinanvian horror contemporaries such as Let the Right One In or Dead Snow, although it never strives for the emotion or gravity or the former. It does, however, build to a formidable conclusion, giving us perhaps the most oddly unique origin story for Santa Claus that has yet been brought to the horror genre.


13. The Tenant

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Year: 1976
Director: Roman Polanski
Stars: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, Jo Van Fleet, Rufus, Shelley Winters
Rating: R
Runtime: 126 minutes

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Of the three films in Polanski’s so-called “Apartment Trilogy,” The Tenant likely has the lowest profile. Structurally, it’s somewhat similar to his previous Repulsion, taking place largely within protagonist Trelkovsky’s (played by Polanski himself) dwelling spaces, but unlike Repulsion, the character’s disconnect from reality is far more social in nature, as he comes to believe that all the people within his life are joined in some kind of discriminatory cabal against him. The film has been theorized to capture the real-world anti-semitism experienced by Polanski’s Jewish family, who were subject to intense scrutiny for all their activities, exactly as Trelkovsky is perpetually harangued by his neighbors for seemingly minor greivances. So too does the film bear some psychic resemblance to Hitchcock’s Rebecca, in the sense that Trelkovsky is always being compared to the apartment’s previous tenant, and found wanting, eventually adapting his life into another person’s image, against his own will. It doesn’t always feel like a “horror” film during its entire runtime, but with sequences such as its infamous scream, The Tenant can lay claim to some suitably unnerving material. —Jim Vorel


14. The Clovehitch Killer

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Director: Duncan Skiles
Stars: Dylan McDermott, Charlie Plummer, Samantha Mathis, Madisen Beaty
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 110 minutes

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Life in small-town Christian America can have a stultifying effect on a person, sucking out all personality and vitality, replacing all individual identity with better living through dogma. In The Clovehitch Killer, director Duncan Skiles replicates this bait-and-switch through cinematographer Luke McCoubrey’s camera. The film is shot stock-still, the camera more or less fixed from one scene to the next, as if affected by the vibe of routine humming throughout its setting of Somewhere, Kentucky. Almost none of the characters we meet in the movie have a spark; they’re drones tasked with maintaining the hive’s integrity against interlopers who, god forbid, actually bother to be somebody. Caught up in this dynamic is Tyler (Charlie Plummer), awkward, quiet and shy, the son of Don (Dylan McDermott), a handyman and Scout troop leader, which brings no end of unexpressed consternation to Tyler as a Scout himself. On the surface, Don looks and acts like an automaton, too, with occasional hints of humor and warmth in his capacity as father and Scoutmaster. Beneath, though, he’s something more, at least so Tyler suspects: The Clovehitch Killer, a serial killer who once tormented their area with a horrific murder spree long completed. Or maybe not. Maybe Don just has a real kink fetish and keeps rope around for fun in the bedroom. Either way, fathers aren’t always who or what they appear.

Horror movies are all about the squirm, the nerve-wracking build-up of tension over time that, done properly, leaves viewers crawling out of their skin with dread. In The Clovehitch Killer, this sensation is wrought entirely through craft instead of effects. That damn camera, motionless and unstirred, is always happy to film what’s in front of it, never one to pan about to catch new angles. What you see is what it shows you, but what it shows you might be more awful than you can stomach at a glance. This is a devilish movie that does beautifully what horror films are meant to—vex us with fear—through the most deceptively simple of means. —Andy Crump


15. The Beyond

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Year: 1981
Director: Lucio Fulci
Stars: Katherin MacColl, David Warbeck, Sarah Keller, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar
Rating: R
Runtime: 87 minutes

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It’s hard to describe Fulci’s The Beyond in absolutes. Some would contend that it isn’t a “zombie movie.” Which isn’t to say there aren’t any zombies in it, but it’s not a Romero-style zombie movie, as Fulci pulled off in Zombi 2. The Beyond is the middle entry in Fulci’s “Gates of Hell” trilogy, and takes place in and around a crumbling old hotel that just happens to have one of those gates to hell located in its cellar. When it opens, all hell starts to break loose in the building, in a film that combines a haunted house aesthetic with demonic possession, the living dead and ghostly apparitions. As with so many of the other films in this mold, it’s not always entirely clear what’s going on … and honestly, the plot is more or less irrelevant. You’re watching it to see zombies gouge the eyes out of unsuspecting innocents or watch heads being blown off, and there’s no shortage of either of those things. Thinking back to Lucio Fulci movies after the fact, you won’t remember any of the story structure. You’ll just remember the ultra gory highlights, splattering across the screen in a way that continues to influence filmmakers to this day. Modern horror films such as We Are Still Here show heavy inspiration from Fulci, and The Beyond in particular. It’s one of the most stylish of the Italian, zombie-featuring horror flicks.


16. Little Monsters

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Year: 2019
Director: Abe Forsythe
Stars: Lupita Nyong’o, Alexander England, Kat Stewart, Diesel La Torraca, Josh Gad
Rating: R
Runtime: 94 minutes

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As Lupita Nyong’o was picking up her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2013, one probably wouldn’t have expected that she would be starring in not one but two different critically acclaimed horror films in 2019, but here we are. Most of the horror attention on Nyong’o last year was understandably derived from her scintillating turn in Jordan Peele’s Us, but Little Monsters feels sadly overlooked. This is a frequently uproarious zombie comedy, set in Australia, starring actor Alexander England as a slacker uncle to a precocious young child, and Nyong’o as the kid’s supremely dedicated and charming kindergarten teacher. And wouldn’t you know it—the class field trip to the farm/petting zoo just happens to be interrupted by a massive outbreak of the undead, leaving Nyong’o to shepherd her little flock to safety, all while concealing from them the seriousness of these events. She pulls off a performance that is both touching and generates the occasional belly laugh, while also showing off such a consistent talent for musical performance that you can’t help but wonder if the film was calculated as the launching point for yet another side career. Josh Gad also shows up as a children’s entertainer that takes full advantage of his irritating talents, but the film really belongs to Nyong’o. —Jim Vorel


17. A Quiet Place

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Year: 2018
Director: John Krasinski
Stars: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 90 minutes

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A Quiet Place’s narrative hook is a killer—ingenious, ruthless—and it holds you in its sway for the entirety of this 95-minute thriller. That hook is so clever that, although this is a horror movie, I sometimes laughed as much as I tensed up, just because I admired the sheer pleasure of its execution. The film is set not too far in the future, out somewhere in rural America. Krasinski plays Lee Abbott, a married father of two. (It used to be three.) A Quiet Place introduces its conceit with confidence, letting us piece together the terrible events that have occurred. At some point not too long ago, a vicious pack of aliens invaded Earth. The creatures are savagely violent but sightless, attacking their prey through their superior hearing. And so Lee and his family—including wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and children Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe)—have learned that, to stay alive, they must be completely silent. Speaking largely through sign language, which the family knew already because Regan is deaf, Lee and his clan have adapted to their bleak, terrifying new circumstance, always vigilant to ensure these menacing critters don’t carve them up into little pieces. As you might expect, A Quiet Place finds plenty of opportunities for the Abbotts to make sound—usually accidentally—and then gives the audience a series of shocks as the family tries to outsmart the aliens. As with a lot of post-apocalyptic dramas, Krasinski’s third film as a director derives plenty of jolts from the laying out of its unsettling reality. The introduction of needing to be silent, the discovery of what the aliens look like, and the presentation of the ecosystem that has developed since their arrival is all fascinating, but the risk with such films is that, eventually, we’ll grow accustomed to the conceit and get restless. Krasinski and his writers sidestep the problem not just by keeping A Quiet Place short but by concocting enough variations on "Seriously, don’t make a noise" that we stay sucked into the storytelling. Nothing in his previous work could prepare viewers for the precision of A Quiet Place’s horror. —Tim Grierson


18. My Bloody Valentine

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Year: 1981
Director: George Mihalka
Stars: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Don Francks, Cynthia Dale
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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Practically every holiday of note got their own quasi-slasher film in the wake of Friday the 13th, but it’s the Valentine’s Day entry that stole our hearts. This film is the archetype for just about every early ’80s slasher from top to bottom: “Anniversary of the day it all happened” setting, wronged antagonist returning decades later, masked killer, horny teens, and red herrings aplenty. It was infamous at the time for its gore, but audiences never knew the half of it in 1981—if you watch this film today, it’s imperative that you obtain the 2009 uncut version (not the 2009 remake), which adds back in a ton of footage from the gory death scenes, especially the bit in the showers when one particularly unfortunate girl gets her head impaled by a spout, which then gets turned on. Suffice to say, it’s not pretty. Beyond the gore, there’s something inherently likable about My Bloody Valentine’s particular brand of familiarity—it feels like the cinematic equivalent of a letter in the mail from an old friend. This is basically slasher comfort food—the good kind. —Jim Vorel


19. Oculus

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Year: 2013
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane
Rating: R
Runtime: 103 minutes

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When one hears that the central focus point of Oculus is a haunted mirror, you may expect a fairly self-contained ghost story, but this film proved to be a surprisingly ambitious concept from a promising horror director, Mike Flanagan. It simultaneously juggles accounts of the mirror’s evil influence in two timelines, following the same characters as children and adults. The segments as children feel a tad by-the-books, but the pleasantly over-the-top performances in the adult portion are particularly enjoyable, as a young woman (Jumanji’s Karen Gillan, now much better known) attempts to scientifically document and then seek revenge upon the source of her family’s misery. The film begins to peter out just a bit by the end, as the two stories become intertwined to the point of confusion in an attempt to blur the lines of reality, but in general it’s a stylish, creepy horror flick that goes out of its way to defy conventions. Look no further than the soul-sucking ending, which leaves the door wide open to all sorts of future possibilities if Flanagan ever wants to revisit the concept. —Jim Vorel


20. Grabbers

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Year: 2012
Director: Jon Wright
Stars: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 94 minutes

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A surprisingly well-acted Irish/British indie sci-fi horror flick, Grabbers is unabashedly goofy but wholly professional and charming in spades. The story follows an alcoholic police officer who has to face a new threat to a sleepy seaside community when octopus-like aliens begin emerging from the sea and killing townspeople. These “Grabbers,” as they’re quickly dubbed, have only one weakness: Human blood is fatal to them if it’s over a certain percentage alcohol. Therefore, to combat the monsters and make themselves unpalatable, the police and townspeople have an obvious choice to make: Get totally hammered and grab a bunch of weapons. That may sound rather close to the summary of a direct-to-video movie by The Asylum, but Grabbers is surprisingly intelligent, witty and well-written in such a way that it easily escapes a fate in DVD bargain bin hell. —Jim Vorel


21. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2

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Year: 1988
Director: Tony Randel
Stars: Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Kenneth Cranham
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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Hellbound is a somewhat divisive sequel among horror fans, but we can all at least agree on one thing: It’s much, much better than any of the approximately 57 additional Hellraiser sequels that followed, most of which will make you wish the Cenobites were gouging your eyes out with their rusty hooks. It’s actually a more ambitious, somewhat less intimate film than the first Hellraiser, greatly expanding upon the mythos of the series as Kirsty must journey to the hellish dimension of the demonic Cenobites to oppose an evil doctor whose dreams of power transform him into a Cenobite himself. The lovely Ashley Laurence returns as the protagonist, along with a young, emotionally disturbed girl who is adept at solving puzzles, which almost gives it the feel of a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel such as Dream Warriors. The Cenobites themselves get a little bit watered down from their nigh omnipotence in the original film, but the settings and effects are great for the meager budget and do as good a job as anyone could reasonably do of translating the twisted vision of Clive Barker to the screen. —Jim Vorel


22. Antiviral

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Year: 2012
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Stars: Caleb Landry Jones
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 108 minutes

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When you’re the son of David Cronenberg, you have a lot to live up to in a horror film debut, and Brandon Cronenberg does an admirable job in his cerebral and icky horror flick Antiviral. Although it can be a little slow and portentous, the setting and ideas are spectacular. The film imagines a near-future, sci-fi tinged world where obsession with celebrity lives has replaced nearly every other facet of the arts. People are so celebrity-obsessed, in fact, that a booming genetics business has developed to cater to disease hounds—people who literally want to be injected with specific strains of diseases, such as STDs, that have been harvested from various starlets. Elsewhere, people stand in line at meat markets to buy muscle tissue grown and cultivated from celebrity donors. Cronenberg may lay the social commentary on a little thick, but the results on screen are chilling. If the characters were a little bit more vivacious and interesting to follow, Antiviral could have been a modern classic, but it’s still an impressive debut for the younger Cronenberg. —Jim Vorel


23. We Are What We Are

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Year: 2010
Director: Jorge Michel Grau
Stars: Carmen Beato, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Paulina Gaitán
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 90 minutes

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This 2010 Mexican horror thriller was remade in the U.S. in 2013 by the talented Jim Mickle—and I have to admit, the American remake is the stronger of the two stories. Still, the original We Are What We Are sows the seeds of a compelling film. It follows a close-knit family of cannibals secretly maintaining their way of life in an urban setting. When the patriarch of the family drops dead, presumably from the cannibalism-related disease kuru, the family unit is thrown into disorder and the two teenage sons suddenly inherit the responsibility of obtaining fresh meat for the family’s ritualized cannibalism. What follows is a somewhat awkward, very dour and morbid series of misadventures as they try to maintain their way of life. The film is both creepy and gory, but it lacks the strength of characters and relationships that are established in the American version, which delves deeper into the psyche of each family member. You can see why Mickle took an interest in the premise, though. —Jim Vorel


24. Tales from the Hood

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Year: 1995
Director: Rusty Cundieff
Stars: Clarence Williams III, Rosalind Cash, Rusty Cundieff, David Alan Grier, Corbin Bernsen, Paula Jai Parker
Rating: R
Runtime: 98 minutes

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Transferring the formula established by Tales From the Crypt and other adaptations of classic EC Comics series to the inner city, Tales from the Hood was always bound to stand out as a unique entry in the horror genre. African-American horror has never been particularly common or accessible to most American cinemas, which also served to make Tales from the Hood something of a 1990s touchstone of the genre for Black horror fans. The film is stylishly executed, with delightfully over-the-top performances from pretty much everyone involved, including Corbin Bernsen as a racist Southern senator devoured by living dolls, or Clarence Williams III as the cock-eyed, hilariously sinister mortician who relates the film’s four stories. The visual effects, likewise, are often top-notch for the era despite its relatively low budget, the highlight being when an abusive character played by David Alan Grier (it’s strange to see him as a villain) has his body crumpled up into a ball via magical ritual, with disgustingly effective results. With clear commentary (not subtle, but undeniably relevant) on everything from police brutality and the war on drugs to gang violence and the stigmatization of mental illness, Tales from the Hood succeeds as both populist “scary” entertainment and genuinely impassioned social satire. —Jim Vorel


25. Mimic

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Year: 1997
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Josh Brolin, Giancarlo Giannini, Alexander Goodwin, F. Murray Abraham, Charles S. Dutton
Rating: R
Runtime: 106 minutes

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It’s so very tempting to want to write a revisionist history of a film such as Mimic, 20 years after it was initially released to mixed and negative reviews. Just about any film from Guillermo del Toro, after the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water, will attract a few impassioned defenses as a “lost classic” if you look hard enough—even this one, about giant, mutated cockroaches in the New York sewers who have evolved to blend in among humans. The truth is, though, that Mimic does not represent a fully formed del Toro as the auteur we know him today—the film contains some of his stylistic flourishes and fascination with the macabre, but he was by no means given free rein to create the derelict insect society that no doubt haunted his dreams. Mimic is a studio potboiler, and a decent little thriller, with a better than average cast who are let down by a script that feels like its first priority is appeasing the multiplex crowd, wrapping itself up in a neat little package in the process. If you let del Toro produce the same film today, it would surely have ended up as something far more esoteric, and ultimately more memorable. —Jim Vorel


26. WolfCop

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Year: 2014
Director: Lowell Dean
Stars: Leo Fafard, Amy Matysio, Jonathan Cherry, Sarah Lind, Jesse Moss
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 79 minutes

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Wolfcop is full-on horror comedy, and delirious good fun. When an alcoholic small-town Canadian cop (Leo Fafard) gets cursed and turned into a werewolf, he retains all of his human faculties—above all, a respect for the LAW. Using his newfound werewolf superpowers, he opposes the local cabal of reptilian shapeshifters. Yep. That’s your film. It’s one of those carefully calculated, modern, indie horror-comedies that was created explicitly in the hopes of someday being labeled “cult classic,” but it does its job better than most, dipping a bit into the neo-grindhouse aesthetic of Hobo With a Shotgun, perhaps thanks to the gore effects, although it’s nowhere near as nihilistic. More than anything, you will undoubtedly feel a very genuine love for the utter ridiculousness of the premise. —Jim Vorel


27. I Trapped the Devil

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Year: 2019
Director: Josh Lobo
Stars: A.J. Bowen, Scott Poythress, Susan Burke, Jocelin Donahue, Chris Sullivan
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 82 minutes

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Merry Christmas! Have some family dysfunction and possibly an untimely visit from the Prince of Darkness. The man locked up in Steve’s (Scott Poythress) basement might well be Satan himself. He might also be an innocent man, or at least a man innocent of being the devil, but Steve’s brother, Matt (AJ Bowen) and sister-in-law Karen (Susan Burke) don’t really know what to make of Steve’s situation. Is he deluded, or still grieving a loss that at first goes unspoken and later is made explicit? Or does he really genuinely have Old Scratch imprisoned in his home? Director Josh Lobo toes the slow-burn line, doing very little at the start to meaningfully terrify viewers, but he rapidly layers I Trapped the Devil with mood and dread, his finger looped through the pin of a grenade in every interaction Steve has with Matt and Karen, as if at any moment their tentative atmosphere could descend into straight-up chaos. The film’s central question hangs over all until, at long last, Lobo gives an answer, but the answer is so chilling that we might wish he’d kept us in the dark all along. —Andy Crump


28. Lifeforce

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Year: 1985
Director: Tobe Hooper
Stars: Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Mathilda May
Rating: R
Runtime: 101 minutes

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Even though he’s a classic horror director, Tobe Hooper of Texas Chain Saw Massacre fame isn’t really the guy most would have expected to produce a kooky, ’80s sci-fi-infused vampire film. That is of course provided that you recognize the aliens of Lifeforce as vampires. Hooper ditches the grimy aesthetic of his earlier work and cleverly plays with the old vampire genre conventions, keeping a few bat references but ditching the blood-sucking. Rather, the “space vampires” have been updated into more cerebral, aloof killers who drain people of their life energy. Oh, and by the way—the lead “space girl,” gorgeous French actress Mathilda May, spends pretty much the entire film nude, so be ready for that. What you’re left with is a unique, sexually charged sci-fi horror mash-up, equal parts mystical and pseudo-scientific—like a feature-length Twilight Zone episode as presented by USA Up All Night in the mid-’90s. I once saw it screened as part of a 24-hour B-movie festival, and that strikes me as exactly the way to consume Lifeforce: In a half-awake haze full of nudity and desiccated victims exploding into dust. —Jim Vorel


29. Halloween II

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Year: 1981
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

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Halloween II is a film with a lot of things working in its favor, and a few things consistently working against it. It can’t claim the direction of John Carpenter, although he was there in some capacity behind the scenes, and he did write the script (he’s been less than kind to his own effort here in modern interviews). Likewise, it has the strength of a returning Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode (in a sadly goofy wig), and the built-in continuity bonus of following on the same fateful evening as the original Halloween. The presence of the great Curtis as the consummate Final Girl counts for a whole lot, but she’s let down a bit by the lack of solid supporting characters to play off. You wouldn’t think that you’d be missing the presence of P.J. Soles in this movie, but somehow you do. The hospital setting, likewise, has its ups and downs. At times, the weirdly deserted building features some of the series’ most memorable and tense cinematography and ambiance, but other times it can come to feel downright entropic, sucking all the energy out of the room. The kills at least are memorable; in the wake of Friday the 13th, the series had gained a bloodier and more overtly gory edge, as in the hot tub scalding scene, or the instantly iconic shot of blood dripping from the eyes of Michael’s mask. The conclusion, likewise, is a classic showdown between Loomis and Myers, and would have served as a perfectly fitting end to both characters, had Halloween proven successful as an anthology. In general, Halloween II hasn’t aged quite as well as the original, but the two still make for an obvious Halloween night double feature. —Jim Vorel


30. High-Rise

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Year: 2015
Director: Ben Wheatley
Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss
Rating: R
Runtime: 119 minutes

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High-Rise begins with the past tense of Wheatley’s traditional mayhem, settling on tranquil scenes of extensive carnage and brutal violence inflicted before the picture’s start. Dashing Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) wanders waste-strewn halls. He goes to have a drink with his neighbor, Nathan Steele (Reece Shearsmith), who has enshrined a dead man’s head within a television set. Seems about right. But the film’s displays of squalor and viscera are a ruse. Spoken in the tongue of Wheatley, High-Rise is a tamer tale than Kill List or Sightseers. That isn’t a bad thing, of course, but if you go into Wheatley films anticipating unhinged barbarity, you may feel as though the film and its creator are trolling you here. High-Rise is based on English novelist’s J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel of the same name, a soft sci-fi dystopian yarn fastened to a through line of social examination. In context with its decade, the book’s setting could be roughly described as “near future England,” and Wheatley, a director with a keen sense of time and place across all of his films, has kept the period of the text’s publication intact, fleshing it out with alternately lush and dreggy mise en scène. If you didn’t know any better, you might assume that High-Rise is a lost relic of 1970s American cinema. —Andy Crump


31. Stir of Echoes

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Year: 1999
Director: David Koepp
Stars: Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Dunn
Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Stir of Echoes is one of those movies where any discussion of it always tends to revolve around another film from the same year that received far more attention—in this case, The Sixth Sense. Because it had the misfortune of hitting theaters a month after M. Night Shyamalan’s ghost thriller set box offices ablaze, and because it contains several of the same elements—including a young boy who can communicate with the dead—Stir of Echoes was widely derided at the time as knowingly derivative, but that assessment was never really fair. Unlike The Sixth Sense, which leans so heavily on atmosphere and tension, Stir of Echoes is more of a true popcorn thriller, a supernatural whodunit that sees Kevin Bacon descending into frothing hyperactivity after having the doors of his perception thrown wide open during a botched hypnosis session. Today, the film’s growing fandom seems to be trying to reclaim its status as an underrated horror classic, but the reality is that Stir of Echoes is an effective potboiler full of themes that have been common in ghost movies for as long as we’ve had ghost movies, complete with the warm likability of Kevin Bacon. —Jim Vorel


32. The Blair Witch Project

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Year: 1999
Directors: Eduardo Sánchez, Daniel Myrick
Stars: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard
Rating: R
Runtime: 81 minutes

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Where Scream reinvented a genre by pulling the shades back to reveal the inner workings of horror, The Blair Witch Project went the opposite route by crafting a new style of presentation and especially promotion. Sure, people had already been doing found footage movies; just look at The Last Broadcast a year earlier. But this was the first to get a wide, theatrical release, and distributor Artisan Entertainment masterfully capitalized on the lack of information available on the film to execute a mysterious online advertising campaign in the blossoming days of the Internet age. Otherwise reasonable human beings seriously went into The Blair Witch Project believing that what they were seeing might be real, and the grainy, home movie aesthetic captured an innate terror of reality and “real people” that had not been seen in the horror genre before. It was also proof positive that a well-executed micro-budget indie film could become a massive box office success. So in that sense, The Blair Witch Project reinvented two different genres at the same time. —Jim Vorel


33. Halloween III: Season of the Witch

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Year: 1982
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Stars: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy
Rating: R
Runtime: 98 minutes

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No entry in the Halloween series has seen more of a divisive reception, then and now, than Season of the Witch. Upon its release in 1982, the third entry in the series was initially derided by many for the decision to experiment with making Halloween into an anthology that would explore various aspects of the holiday, sans Michael Myers, who was intended to be dead after Halloween II. This was a bitter pill for slasher fans to swallow, and their displeasure was easy to understand, but the modern assessment of Halloween III has transformed the film’s reputation, labeling it as a misunderstood masterpiece of transgressive terror. As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Halloween II is an odd, misanthropic and at times ugly film, but nevertheless one that contains some truly frightening and disturbing imagery. Its plot revolves around an evil corporation’s plans to massacre families via both witchcraft and science on Halloween night, and its cold-hearted tone and visuals conjure up comparisons to dystopian sci-fi dramas such as Soylent Green and Logan’s Run. It’s more cerebral than the Michael Myers-fronted entries in the series, with much to say in critique of consumer culture, but what really stands out is just how grim the whole thing is—especially the fates befallen by the characters who perish, including the taboo of violence toward children. It’s a truly unique horror film in general, and one that no doubt would have been better received if the name wasn’t Halloween III, but being “fun” isn’t anywhere near the top of its priority list. —Jim Vorel


34. The Frighteners

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Year: 1996
Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Michael J. Fox, Jeffrey Combs, Trini Alvarado, Peter Dobson, John Astin, Dee Wallace Stone, Jake Busey
Rating: R
Runtime: 110 minutes

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The Frighteners, along with films such as Dead Alive and Heavenly Creatures, make one wonder what kind of career Peter Jackson would have continued having had he not been tapped to bring The Lord of the Rings to life, becoming Hollywood royalty in the process. Few directors have had such a weird knack for horror and gross-out humor as early career Jackson—he’s in a company shared by the likes of early career Sam Raimi in that regard. The Frighteners was his first major film for the North American market, and it’s a weirdo blend of fantasy, horror and comedy that would likely find admiration from the likes of Guillermo Del Toro. Michael J. Fox was a blessing for Jackson to land as the lead; he gives protagonist Frank Bannister his typical charm and inherently likability in what ended up being his last feature-length leading role. It’s a tale of supernatural revenge, and one that benefits from some frenzied character acting from the likes of Jake Busey and a supremely twitchy Jeffrey Combs as an FBI agent who has been pushed far over the brink. If you do watch The Frighteners, be sure to check out the blooper clip of Michael J. Fox repeatedly calling the “Judge” character “Doc!”, to his chagrin. It’s perfectly adorable. —Jim Vorel


35. Child’s Play 2

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Year: 1990
Director: John Lafia
Stars: Brad Dourif, Alex Vincent, Jenny Agutter, Gerrit Graham, Christine Elise
Rating: R
Runtime: 84 minutes

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Child’s Play 2 was released in theaters toward the tail end of an era when horror sequels (especially slashers) had become such an inevitability that they were almost uniformly regarded with derision by critics, if not by the horror geeks. As a result, contemporary assessments of the franchise’s first sequel have a tendency to harp on the fact that it exists at all, while ignoring much of its impeccable craftsmanship. Rest assured: Child’s Play 2 is pretty awesome—in some ways superior even to the first film. It sequelizes in the old style, taking the formula of the original outing and simply making everything bigger and more bombastic—especially the FX, which are truly impressive throughout. Chucky has never looked better than he does here, articulated to convey a harmlessly cherubic face one moment, and a snarling, swearing psychopathic visage the next.

The plot of Child’s Play 2 picks up where the first left off, although we sadly don’t get a return from Catherine Hicks as Karen Barclay. Instead, Andy (Alex Vincent) is now living with a foster family, where he bonds with his older adoptive sister Kyle (Christine Elise McCarthy). Chucky returns as well, reforged in a new doll body and replacing another Good Guy doll in the household that Andy doesn’t have explicit reason to fear. Compared to the original film, the sequel is a bit less tense, a bit less atmospheric—it gets less mileage from the mystery element of who is committing these murders, but that’s to be expected. Instead, it leans heavily into Brad Dourif’s profane, slavering characterization of Chucky, which is a joy to behold. The way the doll howls in human pain as he’s repeatedly outsmarted through the 20-minute toy factory finale—the best sequence in franchise history—is a testament to how simultaneously disturbing and hilarious Dourif manages to make this odd little character. —Jim Vorel


36. mother!

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Year: 2017
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
Rating: R
Runtime: 121 minutes

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Try as you might to rationalize Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, mother! does not accept rationalization. There’s little reasonable ways to construct a single cohesive interpretation of what the movie tries to tell us. There is no evidence of Aronosfky’s intention beyond what we’ve intuited from watching his films since the ’90s—as well as how often Aronofsky loves to talk about his own work, which is usually worth avoiding, because Aronofsky likes thinking the movie is about everything. The most ironclad comment you can make about mother! is that it’s basically a matryoshka doll layered with batshit insanity. Unpack the first, and you’re met immediately by the next tier of crazy, and then the next, and so on, until you’ve unpacked the whole thing and seen it for what it is: A spiritual rumination on the divine ego, a plea for environmental stewardship, an indictment of entitled invasiveness, an apocalyptic vision of America in 2017, a demonstration of man’s tendency to leech everything from the women they love until they’re nothing but a carbonized husk, a very triggering reenactment of the worst house party you’ve ever thrown. mother! is a kitchen sink movie in the most literal sense: There’s an actual kitchen sink here, Aronofsky’s idea of a joke, perhaps, or just a necessarily transparent warning. mother!, though, is about everything. Maybe the end result is that it’s also about nothing. But it’s really about whatever you can yank out of it, its elasticity the most terrifying thing about it. —Andy Crump


37. Overlord

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Year: 2018
Director: Julius Avery
Stars: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro
Rating: R
Runtime: 110 minutes

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Overlord generated a fair bit of attention during its production due to reports that it was meant to be an entry in the Cloverfield cinematic universe, but the WWII zombie actioner was eventually shunted off into its own self-contained realm, likely for the best. This is a solid, if unremarkable, piece of genre workmanship, often feeling familiar for anyone who played Wolfenstein as a kid, or watched other Nazi zombie movies like Dead Snow. Here, a squad of hardy American G.I.s is attempting to sow chaos behind enemy lines in advance of the D-Day invasion, before they run up against superpowered Nazi soldiers who threaten to tip the balance toward the Axis powers. Similar in vibe to Frankenstein’s Army but lacking its memorably nutso production design, Overlord compensates with a quick pace, easy to digest story and no shortage of blood and guts. Not particularly inspired, perhaps, but a competent popcorn muncher for those who love either zombies or WWII movies. —Jim Vorel


38. The Field Guide to Evil

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Year: 2018
Directors: Ashim Ahluwalia, Can Evrenol, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franza, Katrin Gebbe, Calvin Reeder, Agnieszka Smoczynska, Peter Strickland, Yannia Veslemes
Stars: Birgit Minichmayr, Claude Duhamel, Jilon VanOver, Fatma Mohamed, Niharika Singh
Rating: R
Runtime: 117 minutes

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Most horror anthologies benefit from having some kind of unifying theme tying their stories together, and The Field Guide to Evil can boast an attractive central conceit: It’s a set of eight tales that are all grafted together from folklore and the campfire warnings of eras past, in locations all around the globe. It makes for a haltingly effective assembly of pastoral folk nightmares, unfortunately undone to some extent by its inconsistency. Still, there are properly unnerving sights here, as well as some beautifully cinematic ones. In Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s “The Sinful Women of Höllfall,” the Austrian countryside is itself a star, as the dark and morose short (which really describes this anthology as a whole) features some incredible forested scenes, benefiting greatly from some superb location scouting in the telling of its tale of a conservative society punishing aberrant attractions among the local youth. So too is Can Evrenol’s minimalist “Al Karisi” segment likely to stick in one’s mind, as a young woman fears her newborn child will be abducted by a Turkish childbirth demon. Shockingly brutal in spurts, in violence both overt and implied, the dread induced by “Al Karisi” feels very much like the product of the same mind that gave us Baskin. —Jim Vorel


39. NOS4A2

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Year: 2019
Stars: Ashleigh Cummings, Zachary Quinto, Jahkara J. Smith
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 10 episodes

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With a plot that includes mediums, supernatural happenings and a place called “Christmasland,” I was surprised NOS4A2 was even adapted from Joe Hill’s novel of the same name. The book felt almost too weird to make into a TV show, where you can’t leave a world to the imagination and it must be shown on screen. But summertime is the perfect time to premiere a genre show with a slightly complex mythology that reminds people to be grateful for warmth instead of a lifetime of winter. And NOS4A2 is a solid TV show that’s ripe to watch when you need a day inside to take a break from the heat. It’s refreshing in a TV landscape full of complicated antiheroes that the characters with the most interiority in NOS4A2 are the good guys. The hero of this story is Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings), and she has a big heart, and big sad eyes. She has complicated relationships with her family and friends, and her choices and relationships are treated with surprising nuance. In her personal life, there is no one who is all good or all bad, and yet she loves them anyway. —Rae Nudson


40. Odd Thomas

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Year: 2013
Director: Stephen Sommers
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Willem Dafoe, Addison Timlin, Nico Tortorella
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 93 minutes

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2016 was a year we lost numerous Hollywood icons, but the loss of Anton Yelchin is especially bitter, as he was only 27. The Star Trek star had already put together one hell of an incredible portfolio, and he radiated an innate likability that could well have made him an A-list leading man in Hollywood. With that said, Odd Thomas isn’t exactly his best film, but Yelchin is most definitely the best thing in this movie, playing the title character of “Odd,” a young man with abilities to both see and fight restless ghosts and malevolent spirits. The script is jumbled and has a tendency to loop back in on itself repeatedly, but Yelchin is charming, and it’s buoyed by a fun supporting role from Willem Dafoe as the unusually open-minded town sheriff—refreshing, given that this type of character almost never is helpful to the protagonist. It’s not without its problems, but it deserved better at the American box office than the “bomb” status it earned. —Jim Vorel


41. Jaws 2

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Year: 1978
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Stars: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
Rating: PG
Runtime: 116 minutes

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Jaws 2, even more than most sequels, suffers in comparison to the original classic it follows despite being a competent film in its own right. It was a different time in film promotion—even for a blockbuster, a sequel wasn’t a forgone conclusion, and even then you weren’t likely to be working with a comparable budget. Jaws 2 didn’t hurt for funding, but it did miss the presence of Steven Spielberg, whose empathy and pathos for everyman characters can’t quite be replicated, even by the returning cast. Too many aspects of Jaws 2 simply ring hollow—would it really be THAT hard to convince local government and law enforcement that another shark was around, only a couple of years after the events of the first film? Must we really spend our time with the townspeople demonizing poor Brody for trying to bring this shark business to the forefront once again? Still, the grisly shark attack scenes of Jaws 2 (especially the iconic waterskiing bit, or the shark-destroyed helicopter) are much closer to being on par with the original, and they vastly outstrip the shoddy, budget-limited dreck in Jaws 3-D or Jaws: The Revenge. On its own, Jaws 2 is perfectly serviceable … but it’s the last entry in the series you could ever describe as such, and the last worthwhile “shark movie” released for a decade or more. —Jim Vorel


42. Anna and the Apocalypse

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Year: 2017
Director: John McPhail
Stars: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Marli Siu, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux
Rating: R
Runtime: 98 minutes

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This sometimes confusing, sometimes endearing genre mish-mash is one part zombie comedy and one part high school musical, but has a tendency to throw itself entirely into one or the other until you’ve forgotten quite what it is you’re watching. Anna (Ella Hunt) is a British teen looking to toss her “uni” plans aside and live abroad for a while—plans that are derailed by the sudden holiday arrival of what certainly seems to be a zombie apocalypse. Peppered with hyperkinetic song-and-dance numbers that have a decidedly Broadway vibe, the film starts a bit slow, feeling for all intents and purposes like a lost entry in Disney’s High School Musical series before it blooms in its second and third acts into a surprisingly satisfying (and plenty gory) zombie-slaying farce. Capable of more pathos than you’d give it credit for, Anna and the Apocalypse tosses most character archetypes aside and can boast a few genuinely toe-tapping numbers, especially once the world has gone to hell. It’s a film you may need to warm up to, but Game of Thrones fans will enjoy the presence of Paul Kaye, one Thoros of Myr, as the school’s draconian principal. —Jim Vorel


43. Mom and Dad

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Year: 2018
Director: Brian Taylor
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur
Rating: R
Runtime: 83 minutes

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In Mom and Dad, Nicolas Cage whimpers, explodes, hollers, spasms, grins, gurns and weeps. Each line he lets escape from his mouth as if he’s exploring every crevice of every word, ultimately settling on an emotion or tone somehow slightly off from the way any typical person would use language. He brandishes power tools (“Sawzall…saws…all,” he repeats, mantra for no one) and breaks out in stab wounds like he’s solely composed of rubbery flesh and blood; he is an anthropomorphic double-take; he is finally embracing his male-pattern baldness. Though, with the exception of Mandy, Cage’s appearance in a film is never as rare or as compelling as it was when last he worked with writer-director Brian Taylor on 2012’s Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance—he is a punchline to a good joke we’ve willingly forgotten—Cage is still an American (er, National) treasure, a Hollywood actor who no longer makes any sense as a Hollywood actor. Mom and Dad does nothing to refute that. About a case of mass hysteria breaking out in an upper class suburb, causing parents to viciously attack and murder their children, the film is surprisingly tame considering the pedigree it promises. Cage plays Brent Ryan, an office drone suffering a mid-life crisis, spending most of his time avoiding his wife Kendall (Selma Blair), falling asleep while watching porn at work and refusing to sell the Trans Am gathering dust in his garage. Their daughter, aimless rebel Carly (Anne Winters), steals money from her mom to buy designer drugs, generally hating everything about her family despite her mom’s pleas to be more thoughtful. Carly’s younger brother Josh (Zackary Arthur) is of indeterminate age, young enough to idolize his dad but old enough to seemingly understand that Brent is probably one beer away from snapping and murdering everyone at his office. Being a parent is hard: You love your kids, you hate your kids, you repress your dreams and desires so completely that they metastasize, primed to destroy your life from the inside out. You do the Hokey Pokey, turn yourself around, and then you smash the pool table you just built to bits with a sledgehammer. —Dom Sinacola


44. Freddy vs. Jason

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Year: 2002
Director: Ronny Yu
Stars: Robert Englund,
Rating: Monica Keena, Kelly Rowland, Jason Ritter, Chris Marquette, Lochlyn Munro
Runtime: 98 minutes

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Freddy vs. Jason really isn’t much of a movie. The plot is a convoluted mess of contradictions to previous films in both series (Jason is afraid of water now?), and the human characters in the center of it are uniformly unmemorable. In fact, the film manages the odd feat of being considerably more Freddy-centric in terms of plot, while feeling much more like a Friday the 13th entry in terms of characters and kills. The early 2000s time period doesn’t do it any favors in the nostalgia or visual department, and it takes a while to put all of its pieces into motion.

HOWEVER. Once the promised “Freddy vs. Jason” interactions actually get going in earnest, many of the film’s other failings begin to seem inconsequential. The battle between these two slasher kingpins is awesomely, titanically stupid—and it truly is the very best kind of “stupid.” From its beginnings in the dream realm, where Freddy obviously holds the upper hand, to its eyeball-stabbing, arm-ripping conclusion in reality, the last 20 minutes or so of Freddy vs. Jason represents some of the best horror movie wish-fulfillment you’re ever going to see in a feature film. There’s nothing complex or particularly triumphant about it from an artistic standpoint; it’s more like the contents of a fanfic come to life, the slasher movie equivalent to a kaiju movie with two giant monsters trampling Tokyo. It’s impossible not to chuckle with bemusement, at the very least. It’s almost enough to make us wish we saw the Round 2 sequel promised by the cheekily winking decapitated head of Krueger in the final scene—the last time that Englund has portrayed the character to date. If he never does return, it was at least a better ending for Freddy than Final Nightmare, that’s for sure. —Jim Vorel


45. Proxy

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Year: 2013
Director: Zack Parker
Stars: Alexia Rasmussen, Alexia Havins, Kristina Klebe, Joe Swanberg
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 120 minutes

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If the measuring stick for a “horror film” is that it makes you feel vaguely unnerved the entire time it’s playing, then Proxy is certainly successful. Zack Parker’s unconventional debut feature feels in brief stretches like some kind of bizarre masterwork of squirm-inducing, uncomfortable imagery, but it eventually unravels into an overly confusing, portentous morass. It’s a film about many things—motherhood, relationships, mental illness and concepts that are almost too abstract to grasp in a conventional horror movie plot. The acting is uneven, but there’s some really disturbing, fascinating stuff in there, all beginning with the shocking opening scene, which I won’t spoil for you, but it’s one a hard-to-watch sequence that will stick with you for a long time. —Jim Vorel


46. Children of the Corn

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Year: 1984
Director: Fritz Kiersch
Stars: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

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It’s not often that the adults should be the ones afraid to watch a horror movie with kids, but it would be hard not to look at kids differently after 1984’s Children of the Corn, one of the higher-profile entries in horror’s “kids kill all the adults” subgenre. The film focuses on a cult in a fictional Gatlin, Nebraska, led by child preacher Isaac, who is convinced by an entity called He Who Walks Behind the Rows that all adults over 18 should get the axe. We see Burt and Vicky (played by Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) struggle to escape the small town after driving through and hitting a young, dying boy with their car. There’s plenty of slasher scares and creepy visuals, but like any good horror movie, it’s a commentary on society, man, and like Lord of the Flies before it, this Stephen King-based story looks toward our kids to point out the oddities of our culture (including an obsession with religion). —Tyler Kane


47. Captain Kronos—Vampire Hunter

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Year: 1974
Director: Brian Clemens
Stars: Horst Janson, John Carson, Caroline Munro, John Cater
Rating: R
Runtime: 91 minutes

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Another latter-day Hammer horror film worthy of rediscovery, Captain Kronos follows the adventures of the titular character—a swashbuckling vampire hunter with exemplary sword skills and a very Nordic face. Accompanied by his hunchbacked assistant, Kronos acts as a Van Helsing-type figure, serving as a dispatcher of his bloodsucking nemeses. It’s certainly a shame this film didn’t result in the kind of B-grade franchise afforded to other Hammer productions, as the company shuttered shortly thereafter. Still, as the lone entry to the series, Captain Kronos is a fun bit of vampire-centric escapism. —Mark Rozeman


48. Ghost Stories

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Year: 2017
Director: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Stars: Martin Freeman, Andy Nyman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 98 minutes

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Ghost Stories, a joint directorial effort by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, who adapted the movie from the successful stage play they wrote together back in the late 2000s, isn’t workaday horror hackery. For most of its duration, it’s confidently made, atmospheric and deliciously macabre, a movie that feels like a throwback to yesteryear’s horror without consciously acting like a throwback. Those acquainted with horror history might detect echoes of Nicolas Roeg, Robin Hardy, Michael Powell and the productions of Hammer Films, that beloved British outlet of all things gothic and spooky, but even knowledgeable horror geeks must trace Ghost Stories’ influences on a molecular level. They’re ingrained instead of inserted. It’s the difference between knowing homage and unconscious referencing. Nyman and Dyson love horror. You can sense that love in Ghost Stories’ embrace of classic multi-narrative structure, wrapping a triptych of horror subcategories around the labors of its lonely hero, Professor Phillip Goodman (Nyman), a man who tasks himself with exposing paranormal charlatans. (Think John Edwards, Theresa Caputo, or Ed and Lorraine Warren.) It’s tough being the guy who charges the stage during televised psychic readings to rain on the audience’s parade, but that’s Goodman’s life. Then he gets a letter from Charles Cameron, a famed paranormal investigator and Goodman’s boyhood idol. Now decrepit and living alone in a van by the ocean, Cameron challenges Goodman to explain three supernatural cases he couldn’t solve himself. We’re off to the races, but we always come back to sad sack Goodman, who throughout his investigations can’t help noticing weird phenomena in between visiting subjects (notably recurring and increasingly abrupt encounters with an ominous parka-clad figure). He’s haunted, too, but mostly by his memories of growing up with his rigid, borderline abusive and presently deceased father. That’s the hook on which Ghost Stories hangs its ghastly musings, the thing we expect the film to circle back to once Goodman completes his inquiries and renders his verdict on the authenticity of each incident. As an abstraction, that sounds like a stairway leading to Frank Capra levels of sentimentality: By wrestling with his skeptical biases, Goodman will confront his buried feelings about his dad and reconcile with his past. Maybe it’s for the best that the movie never goes there. —Andy Crump


49. The Amityville Horror

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Year: 1979
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Stars: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Murray Hamilton
Rating: R
Runtime: 118 minutes

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The original Amityville Horror might be one of the least striking or unique films to ever inspire more than a dozen follow-ups—seriously, there are to date 16 films that have been made with “Amityville” in the title. Its story is basic and primordial—family moves into a new house, but things go bump in the night. Every haunted house trope is well-represented, from secret rooms and unseen hands to disembodied voices and spiritual possession. If anything, the film overloads itself with concurrent, dueling reasons for the haunting, ranging from “Indian burial ground” to “site of Satanic rituals,” never really settling on a central theme. It’s just a pure popcorn haunting picture, famous for its blood-oozing walls but otherwise merely competent as your standard bit of October distraction. Perhaps it was the iconic shape of the house itself that seared itself into the cultural consciousness? No matter the reason, The Amityville Horror has been hard to shake, and has given us five new “Amityville” films in the last three years alone. —Jim Vorel


50. What We Become

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Year: 2015
Director: Bo Mikkelson
Stars:Mille Dineseon, Troels Lyby, Benjamin Engell, Marie Hammer Boda
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 90 minutes

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The thing that limits a film the likes of What We Become is its familiarity. A tight-knit family drama zombie movie, it follows a single family unit as they experience the tropes we’ve seen in nearly every “serious” indie zombie film of the last 15 years. Even the title is taken directly from one of the trade paperbacks of The Walking Dead comic, whose modern, Romero-esque outlook feels like heavy inspiration for the film. It’s not to say that it isn’t effective—it’s just a question of what still remains to be said with a film about a small family trapped inside their home by zombies that hasn’t already been said. What We Become is well shot and handles its minimal story effectively, but it struggles somewhat to justify its own existence. Its third act, thankfully, does ratchet up both the tension and action, paying off in some effective bloodletting, though it takes a bit too long to arrive. It’s a film that is very indicative of the state of modern indie zombie films, both in the U.S. and abroad: competent, fairly entertaining, but struggling for purpose. —Jim Vorel

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