The horror genre has always been one of the greatest cinematic innovators and a place to find new, visionary talent. The past few years have been especially rewarding when it comes to horror’s contributions and the wild risks that movies have been willing to take.
The past five years have included the revival of dormant franchises, the birth of new ones, and plenty of unconventional projects that blend genres and establish new traditions. It’s easy to celebrate the evergreen horror titles that still stand out after several decades, but there is also a new breed of horror that’s just as worthy of attention and accolades.
Updated January 22, 2023 by Daniel Kurland: It frequently feels as if nothing is off limits in a horror movie. These bold genre experiments can go to fantastical places or focus on deeply human and psychological fears. There’s no blanket definition for what horror needs to be and this has led to some especially ambitious and groundbreaking movies emerging in the past few years. There have been incredible horror movies from both established filmmakers and budding newcomers, not to mention passionate franchise revivals and legacy sequels that return to old terrors with a modern perspective. There’s no end in sight when it comes to horror and there are some special movies from the past five years that deserve endless accolades.
15 Sputnik Turns An Alien Attack Into An Intense Interrogation
Sputnik is the directorial debut of Russian filmmaker Egor Abramenko, who presents an incredibly polished freshman film that feels like Alien meets Silence of the Lambs. A cosmonaut returns from space and the government has reason to suspect that an extraterrestrial danger has made their pilot into a host.
A tense interrogation plays out where it’s unclear if a parasite is actually present and what should be done with it. There are traces of Cloverfield and an exceptional design for Sputnik‘s alien passenger make sure that the film is visually intense as it is psychologically intimidating. It’s proof that an alien story can succeed in a small-scale, low-budget setting.
14 Possessor Empowers Assassins With Terrifying Tech
Brandon Cronenberg, the son of body horror savant, David Cronenberg, has started to effectively follow in his father’s footsteps. Possessor is Cronenberg’s follow-up to Antiviral, but this time around he heads deeper into science fiction with a tale of assassins who execute their targets through a temperamental form of body swapping.
Possessor thrives on the audience’s confusion, which mirrors that of its displaced characters. Bold, bloody spectacles bookend scenes as a perpetual sense of tension festers. It’s a terrifying look into humanity’s growing reliance on technology and our increasingly slipping grip on identity and a sense of self.
13 Prey Sends The Predator Series Goes Back To The Basics
Predator is a foundational action, sci-fi, and horror hybrid that’s been around since the 1980s. Unfortunately, it has struggled to find its footing through modern sequels, reboots, and even crossover showdowns with Alien‘s Xenomorphs. Dan Trachtenberg has finally done the monster franchise justice through Prey, which turns the clock back a couple of hundred years. Prey truly understands how less can be more as it pits the Yautja against a Comanche Nation tribe.
Amber Midthunder excels as Naru, a female warrior who uses a lifetime of survival training to subdue these extraterrestrials and their advanced technology. Prey delivers in every regard and audiences are ready for another hunt.
12 Hellbender Is A Chilling Coming-Of-Age Story With Supernatural Consequences
Shudder has become an essential home for independent horror that has helped foster some filmmakers who are on the cusp of their big break. Hellbender is a family affair that’s made by and starring the Adams family, which immediately gives the horror movie an unconventional and off-kilter quality. An isolated teen girl who yearns for more faces a terrifying crossroads as she recklessly experiments with black magic.
Hellbender presents a haunting story about motherhood and codependency, but it’s also full of slick and scary visuals once Izzy’s magic gets released. The Adams family will hopefully have a rich career ahead of them as they deconstruct more domestic dangers.
11 Host Is A Timely Tale That’s Told Through Modern Technology
The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the world and it’s fascinating to see how movies, especially horror films, quickly incorporated the concept into their storytelling. Host is one of the first big pandemic horror movies, but it also tells an evergreen story about community, identity, and cultural appropriation.
Host is told entirely through a series of Zoom windows, a sight that was prevalent for many during the pandemic. It effectively uses these stylistic trappings to the movie’s advantage. A clever story about paranormal activity gets told in an extremely modern fashion.
10 A Quiet Place Is A Tense Story
The past decade has turned into an encouraging time for comedic talents to successfully transition over to horror, both in front of and behind the cameras. John Krasinski proves himself to be a triple threat as he directs, co-writes, and stars in the incredibly tense 2018 movie, A Quiet Place.
A struggling family goes above and beyond to stay together and survive against an extraterrestrial threat with super-sensitive hearing. Both A Quiet Place and its sequel are fun modern horror films, but the original has the most to say both cinematically and thematically.
9 Barbarian Is An Out-Of-Hand Airbnb Mix-Up
Barbarian was easily one of 2022’s biggest horror movies. Zach Cregger successfully channels his experience in comedy with a pitch-black horror hybrid that’s as unpredictable as it is disturbing and hilarious.
A simple misunderstanding regarding a double-booked Airbnb slowly unravels a sinister tale that needs to be seen to be believed. Anchored through strong performances by Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, and Justin Long, Barbarian is a testament to experimental storytelling and straying from a formula.
8 The Night House Is Emotionally Exhausting
There are an increasing number of emotionally exhausting horror films that turn to phenomenal actors who commit to their tortured characters. Rebecca Hall stars in The Night House as a raw widow who’s still numb to her husband’s suicide, and her performance is a tour de force in pain.
Beth’s attempts to mourn her husband reveal an unsettling piece of architecture and a supernatural entity that’s more alarming than any secrets from her husband. Director David Bruckner has gone on to channel the heavy grief that’s omnipresent in The Night House into his reboot of the Hellraiser series.
7 Possum Is A Tale Of Repressed Trauma
Matthew Holness’ Possum is a British horror film and a delicate meditation on repressed trauma that’s expressed through a troubled man’s return home and the grim object that he embraces. There are shades of The Babadook in Possum as this pained puppeteer is psychologically tortured by one of his creations and the memories of his past.
There are a lot of horror films like Possum out there. However, it’s rare that they actually stick the landing, let alone with Possum’s level of intensity and impact.
6 Midsommar Is Intense, Despite Being Set In The Day
Ari Aster has only completed two feature films, but they’ve already proven him to be one of this decade’s most exciting voices in horror. 2018’s Hereditary is an aggressive ordeal that’s too much for some. 2019’s Midsommar is still an intense experience, but it’s also thematically deeper and more palatable than Hereditary.
Florence Pugh stars as Dani, a woman within a group of friends who celebrate a community’s midsummer festival, only to learn that they’re the sacrifices for the terrifying cult. Midsommar excels through tone, world-building, and performances, and it’s the rare horror film that plays out almost exclusively during the day.
5 Nope Is Another Amazing Jordan Peele Movie
Jordan Peele made major waves with his feature film directorial debut, Get Out, but after 2022’s Nope, he’s proven himself to be three-for-three when it comes to his cinematic efforts. Get Out and Us are both effective socially-minded horror films, but they feel indebted to other genre classics and filmmakers. Nope, on the other hand, is a truly original idea.
There are endless horror and sci-fi movies that deconstruct the concept of aliens and man’s desire to communicate with and control the unknown. Nope grounds itself in authentic characters and dreams, all of which become just as essential to the film’s success as its chaotic spectacle of a finale.
4 X Is Good, But Pearl Is Better
Ti West has always been fascinated by style and genre, which is particularly prevalent in X and Pearl. Both function as heightened slashers, but X functions as a gritty grindhouse exercise in 1970s exploitation while its prequel is a throwback to the Technicolor musicals of the early 1920s.
X is a more mainstream slasher with a higher body count, but Pearl is arguably the overall better film for the risks it takes and Mia Goth’s performance in the titular role. MaXXXine is on the way in 2023 and Ti West will extend his 2020s horror hit into a full-on trilogy.
3 Anything For Jackson Focuses On A Reverse Exorcism
Exorcism and possession stories are among the most popular ideas in horror so it’s always exciting when a film pushes these classic plots to genuinely new places. Anything for Jackson looks at a “reverse exorcism” where grieving grandparents hope to combine black magic and a pregnant woman for a volatile ceremony.
There’s a real sense of heart in Anything for Jackson. That being said, the film also unleashes deeply upsetting ghosts and demons that are on par with any of the big-budget boogeymen to come out of The Conjuring.
2 The Invisible Man Is A Creepy Story About Gaslighting
The Invisible Man is a horror figure who has fascinated audiences for more than 100 years, but Leigh Whannell’s 2020 update of H.G. Wells’ famous novel finds tremendous strength by telling a story about gaslighting. Elisabeth Moss’ Cecilia Kass applies a feminist slant to this story where she feels invisible and helpless when she believes her husband is invisible. In actuality, he possesses invisible stealth technology.
It’s a terrifying perspective that takes this archetypal character and makes it feel genuinely fresh. The special effects, storytelling twists, and aggressive score all give The Invisible Man extra bite.
1 Scream Revives The Slasher Franchise
The fifth entry in the self-aware Scream slasher franchise is aptly titled just Scream, instead of “Scream 5,” as a way to emphasize its criticism toward legacy sequels and reboots. The Scream films have a good track record when it comes to consistency.
However, 2022’s Scream feels incredibly rejuvenated as a new cast of up-and-coming actors, which includes Jenna Ortega, lead the way while series staples like Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox take a bit of a step back. 2022’s Scream is both a passionate revival of the iconic series as well as an effective slasher film in its own right.
NEXT: 10 Best Slow-Burn Horror Films
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