The 1930s had Dracula and Frankenstein. The 1980s had Freddy and Jason. The 2010s had quite a mixed bag. It’s hard to say what horror films defined this past decade, but let’s take a look back on those it offered. This writer offers his humble picks for the Top 10 Horror Films of the 2010s.
10. ‘It Follows’ (2014)
A young woman relies on help from her skeptical friends, as she fights off a supernatural entity unseen by any of them. It was a cliché in classic slasher films for promiscuity to lead to death.
Well, this film drops all subtlety. You’ll know how if you’ve seen it. We get a lot of eerie images of the scariest looking people slowly walking towards our protagonists, as this thing can take many forms. Often watching it from their point of view, it’s even more disturbing as this creature creeps towards the camera.
9. ‘Hush’ (2016)
A deaf writer’s simple life in the woods is interrupted one night, as a masked attacker begins stalking her home. This is a great survival story and Kate Siegel’s performance is to be applauded.
“The Man,” as he’s called, is also very intimidating, but it’s largely due to the scary mask. Siegel is the star here and her work is remarkable, seeing how she had to play the part mute. Her fear and resourcefulness shine through, despite the lack of speech.
8. ‘Train to Busan’ (2016)
Passengers on a train in South Korea do whatever they can to survive a zombie virus that spreads before their eyes. Here’s a film that packs a lot of emotion into the story.
The original Night of the Living Dead was a character piece disguised as horror and this is a family drama disguised the same way. You’ll feel for the relationship between the father and daughter characters and may leave this one more heartbroken than scared. Still, there’s plenty of suspense built with the zombie attacks too.
7. ‘Insidious’ (2010)
A young son apparently falls into a coma after this family moves into their new home, but strange occurrences convince his parents that something evil may be at fault.
Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell set out to do a homage to both the haunted house and possession sub-genres of horror. Additionally, they created the new “astral projection” sub-genre, as they call it. The father and son both travel to the spirit world and we see an Argento inspired environment that helps this film stand out from other ghost stories.
6. ‘The Witch’ (2015)
A seventeenth-century family faces tragedy and turn on each other as forces of wickedness begin to plague them and their village. Admittedly, I questioned how this one could work.
You’d think it would be hard to relate to characters in such an unfamiliar time. However, the setting of the period is creepy in itself and the limitations of the time only make the characters more vulnerable. What I thought would be a challenge turned out to be the film’s biggest strength. Furthermore, witches aren’t a commonly seen monster anymore, so it’s certainly refreshing.
5. ‘IT’ (2017)
Based on the novel by Stephen King, six youths are faced by an evil entity that comes to feast in their town every twenty-seven years. The biggest strength this film has is the characters. Too often do horror movies give us unlikeable characters we don’t care about
These kids are sincere and funny and we cheer for them. We’re invested in them and the scares work because we care about their well-being. Add Bill Skarsgård’s animalistic take on Pennywise and this rendition is a real step above the TV miniseries.
4. ‘The Babadook’ (2014)
A widowed mother reads a mysterious children’s book to her misbehaving son but ultimately finds that the book’s main character may be more sinister than originally thought.
If you go into this movie thinking you’ll get a spooky monster haunting the house, you’ll be disappointed. The true horror of this story comes from grief and how that looms over the mother. The creature does make occasional creepy appearances but it’s the many emotions portrayed by Essie Davis that leave you most disturbed.
3. ‘The Conjuring’ (2013)
Allegedly based on true events, Ed and Lorraine Warren investigate the haunting of the Perron family. James Wan does another great job in building tension and a haunting atmosphere; probably the best example being the “hide and clap” segment.
The storyline switching between the family and the Warrens’ household helps the sense of dread, as well. It’s worth mentioning that this film has no nudity, no real gore, and minimal swearing. This is a horror film that got the R-rating for being scary and ultimately launched a cinematic horror universe.
2. ‘Get Out’ (2017)
As Chris meets his girlfriend Rose’s family for the first time, he finds their behavior peculiar before learning their secret motives. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut brings back an old horror trope we haven’t seen in a while; the mad scientist plot.
Without giving too much away, their crazed plans involve brain surgery and an auction. Given his history in comedy, Peele understands timing well and this is implemented in building tension until the climax of the story. The plot points are well layered with homages and social commentary, earning Peele the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay that year.
Honorable mentions: Creep, The Cabin in the Woods, Sinister, Don’t Breathe, A Quiet Place, Midsommar, IT: Chapter Two
1. ‘Hereditary’ (2018)
After a devastating loss, a family is left broken, desperately trying to hold itself together as dark secrets are uncovered. This is a film that gets under your skin like no other. A big part of that is the time spent focusing on family drama.
There are plenty of haunting, ghostly moments; but the thing that makes you most uncomfortable is the dynamic between family members. In this way, director Ari Aster masterfully blends the horrors of real-life with the paranormal. Toni Collette gives an outstanding performance that earns both sympathy and apprehension from the audience.
What are your favorite horror films of this past decade? Share your thoughts in the comments below!