The impressive evolution of the horror genre can be tracked by following its ever-changing trends. Combined with innovative filmmakers that continue to produce horror, it is the trends and the people bringing them to the big screen that have formed an intrinsic part of the genre over the past decade. Whilst in the early years of horror, it was the adaptations from Gothic literature that made the biggest impact on the film scene, icons such as James Whale, Jacques Tourneur and William Castle were soon amongst the first big names that understood and spoke intelligently about the framework of horror as a genre.
We would have to wait until the 1970s for the real revolution to hit and change both style and content of cinema as we know it when both Hollywood and European cinema opened their arms to modernity and let themselves be led by directors such as George A. Romero, Roman Polanski, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Joe Dante, Tobe Hooper and Wes Craven; filmmakers that are now considered to be the founding fathers of this new sort of cinema that completely revolutionised everything that had came before. And yet, it has taken 40 years for the horror genre to finally shed the stagnant clichés it has been burdened with for years and become something that is once again recognised by the prestigious Academy in Hollywood. Due to the abundance of praiseworthy titles released over the past ten years, we've complied a list of 20 of the most important horror films to hit our screens this decade.
Trends of the 21st Century
Over the past few years, directors such as Jordan Peele, Ari Aster and James Wan have won their crowns as the undisputed masters of the genre. From this formidable trio, we also would have happily included films such as 'Us', 'Midsommar' and 'Insidious' but, as were were eager to shine a light on some less familiar faces, we've opted for just one title per director.
In decades gone by, it was the slasher and monster flicks that dominated the genre, trends which then gave way in the new millennium to torture porn, the horror boom in the Asian film industry, and fads such as the New French Extremity. As the world entered the 2010s, the horror genre was increasingly infused with a similar sort of solemnity to that of the films that thrived in the 1970s. The genre gave rise to a new wave of filmmakers that we could go so far as to consider auteursthat are more than capable of becoming the new touchstone for the next generation of horror content creators. Furthermore, it was long overdue but horror films directed by women are finally beginning to gain the recognition and respect that they deserve, with many of these films paving the way for future female directors to take the genre by storm.
Evidently, the following list does not - and cannot - represent every excellent horror film that the decade has to offer, but our 20 chosen ones clearly demonstrate the high quality that horror films are now consistently reaching. Even when they weren't in fashion, horror films were always something else to behold.
Director: Paco Plaza.
Based on the infamous Vallecas Case, the only instance in Spanish history that the police force have ever attested to the apparent existence of some supernatural presence, 'Verónica' introduced us to Sandra Escacena, the gifted actress who portrayed the titular character, Verónica, a young woman who, after carrying out an Ouija session with her school friends on the outskirts of Madrid in the 1990s, must confront the ominous threat that clings to her wherever she goes.
Director: Adam Robitel.
Shot in the mockumentary fashion, 'The Taking of Deborah Logan' follows a film crew that set out to film a documentary about Alzheimers but are instead caught up in the unravelling of a mystery so ludicrous it appears to defy all logic. As the plot continues to unfold, both Deborah's family and the crew begin to wonder whether Deborah is truly ill or whether she's sick in an entirely different sense. 'The Taking of Deborah Logan' also boasts one of the most grotesque and terrifying scenes shot in recent years.
18'Megan is Missing'
Director: Michael Goi.
It would be impossible to understand Goi's film without the existence of a generation whose lives are intertwined with the internet and social media. In this case, we watch as a collection of archival images connect in a sort of twisted jigsaw puzzle surrounding the disappearance of the titular Megan, a teenage girl who is pursued by her best friend after she seemingly disappears from the face of the earth. Parents with children about Megan's age, be warned - this might not be the one for you.
Director: Julia Ducournau.
After the New French Extremity was already obsolete, audiences were gifted with one of the most visceral cinematic experiences in recent years from Ducournau, the young filmmaker who burst onto the scene with a film that, though told vaguely in the fashion of a coming-of-age tale, is as much a film about cannibalism as it is a brutal example of body horror and psychological drama in which a woman who was raised a vegan arrives at university only to discover that she possesses an insatiable appetite for human flesh.
Director: Jeremy Gillespie & Steven Kostanski.
Alongside the line of the the B-Horror and cosmic horror sub-genres and filmed after a successful crowdfunding campaign, 'The Void' transports audience to a fateful night at an abandoned hospital where the lives of several people are intertwined when they have to go up against a mysterious and ruthless sect that is set to unleash terror on a truly epic scale. 'The Void' fuses the styles of Carpenter and Fulci along with a distinctly Lovecraftian spirit.
15'The Love Witch'
Director: Anna Biller.
Filmed in Technicolor and exuding 70s style, 'The Love Witch' serves as the definitive thesis on the archetype of the witch. In 2016, director Anna Biller brought us one of the most accomplished films about witchcraft in the history of cinema, a movie that was not only extolled as a manual for any coven in the making, but was also impossible to understand without fully immersing oneself in the thoroughly feminist concept at the heart of the film.
Director: James Wan.
Simply for the fact that 'The Conjuring' kickstarted this cinematic universe in which we have already seen a wealthy of malignant beings, demons, folkloric creatures and cursed dolls, the first story following the Warren family deserves all of the recognition it can get. Not just because it has transformed commercial horror into something that 21st century viewers embrace with open arms, but also because with 'The Conjuring' Wan was crowned the best (and most widely imitated) creator of horror set pieces that are carefully designed to play the public's nerves like a violin.
Country: South Korea.
Director: Hong-jin Na.
Filmed like a rewriting of the witchcraft films that populate the Asian horror canon, 'The Wailing' is a monumental work that walks the line between a thriller, a crime drama and horror in its purest form when a group of hundred-year-old beings come to life in what seems to be a more serious and overwhelming version of classic B-Horror movies such as the Indonesian picture 'Mystics in Bali'. 'The Wailing' is a gem in the treasure chest of Korean horror films.
Director: Robert Eggers.
Inspired by the legends of witchcraft that swept through New England at the start of the 17th century, 'The Witch' was pitched as the film of a mastermind creator who intended turn the foundations of the genre on their head. A champion at Sundance, an indie darling and one of the sensations of the year, this period tale about belief systems and the fear of a family banished to a woods inhabited by witches brought folk horror back in fashion and ensured that the figure of the enchantress arrive in the 21st century, where she is now here to stay.
Director: Joe Begos.
With a film that was written from the heart after a rough patch in his personal life, Begos (one of the most important names in modern indie cinema in the USA today) harnessed the catharsis experienced by the main character 'Bliss' as a means of talking about his own demons. Embracing the ultra-gore sub-genre, filmed on 35mm and accompanied by an intense soundtrack that sends us straight to the heart of hell, the creative crisis experienced by the artist is transformed into a bloody and vampiric tale in which the excess of drugs and metal music are protagonist Dezzy's only allies.
In a film that evokes the most disturbing Haneke flicks, 'Goodnight Mommy' is a perverse tale about the loss of identity and pressure-filled relationships between mothers and children. Two siblings fear for their lives when they start to suspect that the person who has returned from the hospital disguised by facial bandages after an aesthetic operation may not be their real mother.
Director: Jordan Peele.
One of the most sincere and satirical takes on Trump's America came from a film that embodies the horror genre through and through, shot through with a political edge was just as blatant as it was hair-raising. 'Get Out' shows the viewer the world through the perspective of a young back man who goes to meet his girlfriend's parents, a terrifying band of bourgeoisie white people who seem to have racial discrimination constantly on their minds.
Director: Jennifer Kent.
'The Babadook' sees motherhood examined from the most traumatic angle possible, or perhaps questions how one can cope with the trauma of losing a loved one alongside a child who is weighed down by new-found fears and anxieties like the sort born in Amelia's son Sam following the arrival of a book that that predicts the arrival of a monster known as The Babadook. The titular Babadook, a dark reimagining of the mythical Bogeyman, comes to represent the horror and fear of a mother and child who have a lot of internal demons of their own that need exorcising.
7'Across the River'
Director: Lorenzo Bianchini.
'Across the River' is almost certainly the most little known film on this entire list. It is also probably the most terrifying of them all. A low-budget movie about an Italian entomologist that gets lost in an abandoned village in the mountains of Italy where local legends speak of two cursed twins whose wickedness rotted the place away only for their spirits to still roam free through the remains. None of these storytellers would ever have imagined that this poor entomologist would end up seeing the cursed girls for himself.
Director: Karyn Kusama.
Once again, loss and the overcoming of trauma are the main themes of this story which transports us to the dreamlike (or, perhaps more aptly, nightmarish) neighbourhood of Hollywood Hills, where a seemingly pleasant reunion of old friends begins to show signs of an underlying corrupt and strained atmosphere. Everything comes to a head with sudden, shocking violence in its devastating climax.
Director: Rob Zombie.
Some love it and and some hate it, but whatever you feel about the most personal project from Rob Zombie, 'The Lords of Salem' is undoubtedly one of his most unacknowledged works. 'The Lords of Salem' tells another witch story (which, as you can see, is shaping up to be one of the trends of the decade) connected directly to the infamous Salem Witch Trials, featuring one of the best covens that we have ever seen in the horror genre.
Director: David Robert Mitchell.
Serving as another example that Detroit has become known as an unquestionably haunted city, this coming of age story focuses on something as simple and yet as frightening as a force that seems to be constantly closing in on you. It is both a supernatural tale about teenagers living in residential sea and a metaphor for STIs, a concept taken from J-Horror and reformulated to become one of the most timely teen horror movies of the past few decades.
Director: Darren Aronofsky.
Natalie Portman winning the Oscar for one of her best performances of all time is only one of the many examples of Aronofsky's critically-acclaimed film marking a cultural before and after. 'Black Swan' is often included within the psychological thriller canon but it is also a perfect example of horror as its use of doppelgängers, false appearances and the core principal of someone doing everything and anything they can to achieve their dream unite in one of the apocryphal remakes of Argento's 'Suspiria'.
Director: Ari Aster.
When it seemed as though the horror genre already had all of its cards on the table, in 2018 Ari Aster brought us one of the most acclaimed films of the genre in recent years that he labelled as a family drama first and a horror movie second. 'Hereditary' is more than either of those things, however, with Aster's debut delving into a world of sects, demonic incantations and mental instability whilst also painting a very genuine portrait of schizophrenia and anxiety.
Director: Drew Goddard.
The decade had just begun when Goddard gifted us with what would go on to become one of the most important horror films of all time in this key example of the sub-genre revolving around a "cabin in the woods". This Goddard-directed flick went on to become a cornerstone and manual for understanding and satirising the so-called rules of horror, creating a movie that is at once a parody and a critical reflection the likes of which we have rarely seen before and are never likely to see in quite the same way again.