2020 has already been a horrific year, but that doesn’t mean we need to ignore the horror genre this Halloween season. This October, many of us want to continue our spooky traditions and escape the real-world plagues, disasters, and evils of humanity – with films about the same thing.
Despite the pandemic shutdown, we still have many good horror movies to binge while quarantining ourselves with personal stashes of candy. There were a few that came out this year (via streaming services), while some were from last year but are only just hitting shelves (and sites) now.
So, here are five of my favorite recent horror movies that I think audiences should check out as they may have been missed. Hopefully, they’ll take your mind off of the actual horrors and bring back some semblance of October chills & thrills.
I’m beginning to think that South Korea does zombie films better than us in the United States, in the same way that Japan does ghost stories better. This year, they copied the success of 2016’s Train to Busan with #Alive.
Whereas Train to Busan was a never-ending escape story, #Alive is a more sedentary tale, detailing the life of someone trying to survive in one of South Korea’s massive apartment complexes. It’s no less horrific, however, and has great moments of tension, jump-scares, and non-stop bad situations.
Director and writer Il Cho uses a similar formula of fast-moving zombies, but I’ve enjoyed the Korean take on them better than the style seen in 2002’s 28 Days Later. Their disjointed, bone-snapping movement is more akin to Asian stories of hungry ghosts, and they behave more like something that’s been taken over by a virus or fungus than merely “rabid” humans.
Initially, I wasn’t sure what the premise of 1BR was, other than the story of a woman who moves into a community-based apartment complex in Los Angeles in order to start a new life. What went from a presumed haunting or slasher flick quickly took a turn into something unexpected.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot twists and turns, so I’ll try to keep my summary short. Our protagonist begins to experience strange events that become more terrifying as she discovers a horrific truth from which she can’t escape.
Director David Marmor makes excellent use of tension and psychological trauma to make audiences uncomfortable and keep them on edge. 1BR builds to a satisfying finale, albeit with one last curveball thrown at you.
Color Out of Space
It’s tough to translate the works of H.P Lovecraft accurately, because of how much they rely on the reader’s imagination to describe the horrors within. This problem is more prominent for a story about a “color” that has no match in our visible spectrum.
Despite this obstacle, not only does Richard Stanley find a way to replicate the color (using a mixture that gives off an otherworldly feel), but he also duplicates the horror of the original short story. Color Out of Space is one of the more accurate adaptations of Lovecraft that I’ve seen to date, and it was thoroughly enjoyable.
I shouldn’t forget to mention the cast, as they were all essential to the success of this film. Nicholas Cage‘s typical manic performance is a perfect fit, but we shouldn’t overlook his daughter’s (portrayed by Madeleine Arthur) occult descent, and the attempts of the investigating hydrologist (Elliot Knight) to hold on to his sanity.
The Invisible Man
I’ve tried to avoid movies that have already been in the spotlight (like 2019’s Midsommar and It: Chapter Two). However, please bear with me as I say that 2020’s The Invisible Man is a must-see horror film that deserves far more attention than it’s received.
The attempts of Universal Studios to reboot their classic monster franchise have been, to put it mildly, less than successful. Despite the previous two failures, Leigh Whannell created an excellent horror film by straying entirely from the original concept.
The Invisible Man isn’t about a chemist-turned-thief, but is instead a story of abusive relationships and gaslighting. Focusing on the victim (who quickly figures out what’s going on), the horror is how she contends with a world that treats her claims with the same “invisibility” as the villain stalking her.
I’m a glutton for “found footage” films, and Host was a much-appreciated addition to the sub-genre. Rob Savage uses everyday technology and low-budget scares to create a horror film relevant to our current situation.
Host takes place over a Zoom chat, as a group of friends tries to perform a séance while remaining in quarantine. Unfortunately, the usual shenanigans unleash something terrifying, that doesn’t care how socially-distanced its victims are.
What sold me on this film was the use of Zoom – including background effects, filters, etc. – to create moments of horror that are unique to that technology and our new “normal” of virtual socializing. The fact that the director maintained proper quarantine and directed everyone through virtual communication makes me appreciate this film all the more.
I won’t lie: there are many other films I’ve enjoyed, but I didn’t have the room to list them all here. I’ve already mentioned newsworthy films like Midsommar and the new It movies, but there are also films like Spiral and The Lighthouse.
There’s plenty out there to keep the thrills, chills, and scares going this quarantined Halloween season, so keep an eye on your favorite streaming service(s) or for online releases of what would normally be in the theaters. There’s undoubtedly more to come.