With Halloween right around the corner, what better time for a list of my favorite horror films from the past 10 years? But before you chastise me for omitting your favorite, let’s be clear that I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill slasher flick or “scary” movie that goes for cheap thrills. I’m talking get-in-your-head-and-stay-there, gripping-your-seat horror films. Or maybe some that just defied expectations. Regardless, these films made me remember why I love movies.
1. “A Quiet Place” (2018) — Actor John Krasinski’s thoroughly riveting directing debut has a premise that’s pretty far out there — a family tries to survive in silence to not attract monsters that are attracted to sound — but it’s also beautifully simplistic at the same time. And none of it would have worked were it not for the wrenching performance by Krasinki’s wife, Emily Blunt, who (spoiler alert) gives birth to a baby almost without uttering a sound (I shriek if I get a hang-nail). But the film is at once original, heart-pounding and heartbreaking.
2. “Hereditary” (2018) — This film literally made me afraid of the dark again, about an artist (Toni Collette, never better) who suspects her misfortunes are tied to the death of her recently deceased mother, a woman who dabbled in witchcraft, secrecy and odd cults. Writer/director Ari Aster (in his feature debut) takes the story in chilling, tragically surprising ways and delivers a new horror classic that will make you shudder.
3. “Let the Right One In” (2008) — This Swedish standout is all about atmosphere and mood, eerily conveying a somber, almost mournful tone, but it befits the story beautifully, about the budding friendship between a 12-year-old boy and the vampire girl who lives next door to him. Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography is downright hypnotic, and the film’s genius final confrontation will win a movie lover’s rightful appreciation. The film was remade in 2010 for an American version starring Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz, but the Swedish version is far superior and in a class all its own.
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4. “Get Out” (2017) — This is part horror, part satire, all smarts, and Jordan Peele won an Oscar for his screenplay about a young black man (Daniel Kaluuya) who meets his white girlfriend’s parents at their country home where things are very, very uncomfortable. It’s an exploration of white hypocrisy and black paranoia told with equal parts comedy and tension. And for such a simple setting, it’s visually vibrant.
5. “It Follows” (2015) — Absolutely terrifying and set in a strangely timeless era (there are no cell phones but everyone holds a device that glows in their faces), this follows (see what I did there?) a young woman who is stalked by an unknown supernatural force that is transferred to her after a sexual encounter. Much like John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” this boasts a pulsating musical score that is so vital to the film that it’s almost a character unto itself.
6. “It” (2017) — This big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s novel – about a creepy clown who preys on children – has at its core a friendship of kids that gives the film an emotional connection (much like “Stand By Me” or “Stranger Things”) that is as strong as the scares. And there are some pretty chilling scares (I’ve always been afraid of clowns).
7. “Hidden” (2015) — Before the aforementioned Netflix smash hit “Stranger Things,” the wonderfully crazy Duffer brothers delivered this little-seen but brilliant tale of a family that takes refuge in a bomb shelter to avoid a mysterious, dangerous outbreak of some sorts. To give too much away would rob the viewer of the film’s creepy delight, but it takes surprising turns, and boasts strong performances by Alexander Skarsgard and Andrea Riseborough and an utterly astonishing one from young Emily Alyn Lind, who plays their bewildered daughter.
8. “Black Swan” (2010) — Natalie Portman won an Oscar for playing a mentally unraveling ballerina in director Darren Aronofsky’s sometimes baffling but bracingly intense, passionate and wildly melodramatic tale that became a $329 million hit and earned four other Oscar nods, including best picture and best director.
9. “Split” (2016) — A young woman (Anya Taylor-Joy) is kidnapped by a mentally ill man (James McAvoy, brilliant) who has 23 personalities. It was a sort of surprise comeback for director M. Night Shyamalan, who previously stumbled through quite a few commercial and critical failures. The film also emerged as a secret sequel to Shyamalan’s 2000 hit “Unbreakable,” and has now spawned another sequel to that film, of sorts, “Glass,” due in January.
10. “The Girl with All the Gifts” (2016) — What’s Glenn Close doing in a zombie movie, you might ask? Well, this is no no ordinary zombie movie, but one with a new twist on the genre that posts thought-provoking questions without skimping on the scares, and pays creepy homage to George A. Romero, Danny Boyle and the best of the genre.