Simon Rother’s top 50 horror movies of 2020



50. Dark Forces – 3/10

I wasted my time so you didn’t need to waste yours, and trust me; “Dark Forces” (from its original Spanish title “Fuego Negro”) is just that. Mixing horrible fight scenes with cringe-inducing CGI horror, along with characters nobody will relate to nor care about, this artsy-attempted film is definitely, and unfortunately, the worst horror film I viewed in 2020.


49. Mark of the Devil – 4/10

There are TONS of exorcism movies out there, with only a few standing out. The Mexican “La Marca Del Demonio” on Netflix is well under acceptable with idiotic character decisions and repetitiveness in its “demon manifestations”. While it does attempt in bringing a little novelty into the over-used exorcism concept, it fails to deliver in terms of scares, shock or entertainment.


48. U-Turn – 4/10

Talk about a snoozefest riddled with annoying characters that we never grow to like. U-Turn tells the tale of a journalist pursuing unexplained deaths in her town while setting herself in the obscure force’s path. We never actually connect with the protagonist, nor seem to care much for her destiny. Although the storyline is somewhat well put-together, there are so many flaws with this film that it cannot be recoverable.


47. Castle Freak – 4/10

Remakes are often a touchy subject within the horror community. “Why would you touch that film?!” is a commonly heard sentence. I, for one, don’t mind them at all. I enjoy witnessing a moviemaker’s reimagining of a former tale and how it is adapted to its new era. Numerous remakes of the horror world have been extremely entertaining and impressive. Unfortunately, “Castle Freak” is not one of them. Obnoxious characters; unpleasant acting; ridiculous storyline; topped off with an odd ending. Its only silver linings would be its remarkable practical special effects and a hilariously disgusting and ridiculous sex scene.


46. Fantasy Island – 4/10

With an interesting plot that overflowed with horrific potential, “Fantasy Island” turns into a much below-average action/comedy on a supernatural island. Littered with idiotic characters, half of an over-acting cast, mediocre directing and cliché dialogue that just makes you roll your eyes, this one should be a sure pass for most. Hey, nobody said “Fantasy Island” was gonna be an all-out horror film. Then again, nobody said it was gonna be good movie, either.


45. Bleed with Me – 5/10

Slow burners can sometimes be cold and merciless in the atmosphere that they create and intimidate you with. Recent examples of great ones could be “Hereditary”, “Midsommar” and “The Lodge”. “Bleed with Me” made a modest attempt at being the latest slow burner to tear its way on the movie festival scene. Unfortunately, it fell short; way short. With an interesting start, forcing us to witness awkward conversations within a small cottage, it quickly slips into boredom, turning in circles to little or no surprise or grand revelation.


44. Ghost Stories – 5/10

A horror anthology (available on Netflix) comes to us from India, displaying the work of 4 different directors. Ironically, not all the stories have to do with ghosts, and the best one actually involves zombie-ish creatures. The first and last tales are quite boring and much of a letdown, while the remaining account falls in between both extremities of the spectrum. Some interesting, yet poorly exploited, storylines for the most part, making it a very forgettable anthology.


43. Brahms: The Boy II – 5/10

With Katie Holmes taking over the lead female role, following in the footsteps of Lauren Cohan from the first film, the acting is at par with its predecessor. Unfortunately, this second chapter falls short in terms of suspense and chills. While it’s a barely tolerable movie at best in the sub-genre of children in contact with possessed dolls, it brings nothing new to the table and will leave you disappointed much before the final credits appear onscreen.


42. The Grudge – 5/10

With a promising trailer (aren’t they all?), I was anticipating this reboot, having enjoyed the original American remake from 2004. With interesting names like Lin Shaye, John Cho and Andrea Riseborough, it couldn’t be bad, right? Unfortunately, most of the film is a hypnotic (and not in a good way) snoozefest, with typical spiritual jump-scares here and there. One or two scenes did surprise me, including the very final one, but they don’t succeed in saving the disappointment that was the first theatrically released horror movie of the 20s decade.


41. Hunted – 5/10

Starting the film off with a typical “guy meets girl; guy’s a dick; girl blows him off; guy preys on girl” concept, “Hunted” seemed rather auspicious with a charismatic antagonist and despicable behavior. Unfortunately, the storyline spirals out of control in a turmoil of confused series of events and lack of credibility. Definitely below par in the “cat and mouse” subgenre.


40. The Dinner Party – 5/10

A couple is invited to a secret dinner at an expensive mansion with the hopes of getting the husband’s play accepted for production. Unfortunately, the hosts have much more sinister plans. The circle of “friends” welcoming the guests are quite peculiar and eccentric, but their numerous tales in regards to artists and ancient legends become redundant and tiresome after a while and the characters simply become obnoxious. The practical effects are decent, but some turn of events in the script are sometimes sketchy, at other time, predictable. A disappointing result in comparison with 2015’s dinner party in “The Invitation”.


39. Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight – 6/10

From Poland comes a tale of a technology-detox camp for teens, adventuring out into the woods, attempting to reconnect with the real world. Unfortunately, they’ve stumbled upon the path of a set of deformed, murderous twins who show absolutely no mercy. Although the antagonists’ backstory is somewhat interesting and the make-up and special effects department is quite impressive, we can’t avoid the fact that half of the film’s kills seem to be brutally plagiarized from other movies (without spoiling the kills, I can nonetheless state that they were “inspired” by “Friday the 13th Part VII”, “Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil” and “Wrong Turn 2”). While the film is still enjoyable (thus the passing grade), it would be simple enough to summarize as a cross between the “Hatchet” and “Wrong Turn” series.


38. 12 Hour Shift – 6/10

Mixing dark humor with gangster crime, “12 Hour Shift” follows a nurse who’s having a horrible night shift while helping her ditzy cousin find a new organ to sell to her mob leader since she lost the last one. While there are some decent dark jokes and violence scenes, we do not necessarily get attached to any character nor care for any of them. Note that there are some cameos from David Arquette and WWE Hall of Famer, Mick Foley.


37. Kriya – 6/10

Intertwining sexual attraction with dark, Indian funeral rituals to bring back the dead, there’s a bundle of sinful vices at hand in “Kriya”. With some ups and down in terms of acting, a heavy, creepy ambiance, and perhaps too much focus on the details of rites and not enough on their supernatural consequences, the UK/India collaboration of a dramatic horror film still deserves to be seen.


36. Sanzaru – 6/10

If you were nursing an elderly woman with a behavior that kept getting stranger, in addition to bizarre noises coming from the house’s intercom system, how long would you stick around? At times disturbing visuals mixed with a credible cast and an intriguing storyline result in a slightly above-average horror film.


35. Cadaver – 6/10

This European film takes us into a post-apocalyptic Norway where survivors are struggling, stealing and killing to feed themselves on a daily basis. A small family of three, along with others, accept the invitation to a theater representation which will include a meal. Unfortunately, things are more macabre than they seem. With audience members roaming freely through the hotel to witness a spectacle of their choice, no theater stage involved, it reminded me faintly of 2015’s “Hell House LLC” premise, while adding a sort of “Hostel” aspect to it, minus the enormous amount of torture porn. Doubtful decisions by clueless characters will unfortunately put in doubt the veracity of the script. However, you should nonetheless give “Kadaver” (original spelling) a look.


34. The Undertaker’s Home – 6/10

With an interesting premise involving an undertaker’s house being attached to his morgue and living with some of the spirits of his former “clients”, this Spanish film was filled with potential in terms of scares and creepiness. It does involve some eerie visuals and a credible cast, yet dissolves into a generic ghost film, including the usual “psychic who can communicate with the dead tries to help the family and things go wrong”. It’s average, just nothing memorable.


33. Vampires Vs. The Bronx – 6/10

A group of pre-teens battling evil has been a winning formula for numerous films and series in recent horror history (“It” remakes; “Stranger Things” series; “Summer of ‘84”). That formula is once again used in the Netflix-exclusive “Vampires Vs. The Bronx”; a light-heartedly entertaining film about some Bronx-raised youngsters who witness a band of blood-thirsty vampires overtaking their depraved, yet beloved, city. It contains its share of light chuckles without any explicit violence or gore, which may make it an acceptable gateway horror film if you’re looking to introduce your kids to the genre.


32. For the Sake of Vicious – 6/10

A tale of revenge for a suspected sick crime goes awry in this horror-thriller. An interesting plot unravels layers of complexity, yet not going all-out in terms of gore and violence in a way that it could have. A decent set of actors keeps you interested enough to watch until the end, yet without necessarily wanting more.


31. The Turning – 6/10

Fantastic acting from a cast involving Mackenzie Davis (Terminator: Dark Fate) and Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things; It (2017, 2019)) is combined with a somber, creepy environment of a typical haunted house, resulting in a storyline that fades away (slightly) due to a confused series of events. With an underwhelming final scene, you’ll walk away scratching your head… or angry.


30. His House – 6/10

Beautifully acted and with a heart-wrenching plot, “His House” explains the tumultuous experience of a couple finding their freedom in an unknown country and neighborhood, intimidated by its local residents and haunted by ghosts of their own past. It has a moment or two of creepiness without necessarily leaving a last impression on you. I’d certainly describe this Netflix-available movie as a gloomy horror film.


29. Gretel & Hansel – 6/10

When a cinematic experience gives its take on an old folklore tale, it’s always interesting to see if the moviemakers will simply modernize it and demonstrate what they have visualized for it, or if they give it a certain twist on what we know about said-tale. “Gretel & Hansel” certainly does have its own spin on things with brilliant performances from the young Samuel Leakey and Sophia Lillis (whom we know from the “It” remakes), without forgetting Alice Krige who portrays the eerie witch. Without necessarily giving any spine-tingling scares, it is a beautifully shot film worth a watch, if only to see this film’s vision on the classic tale.


28. #Alive – 6/10

I love zombie movies, no matter how much people claim that it’s an exhausted genre, which I suppose it is. The living dead, whether they stumble and drag their feet, or sprint and jump, has always been a guilty pleasure sub-genre of mine. South Korea brings us “#Alive” where a young video game streamer is suddenly trapped in his apartment as hellacious chaos breaks out in and around his building. While it certainly doesn’t reinvent the zombie concept, it is nonetheless entertaining, and at times even touching. Reminiscing the 2018 French film “La nuit a dévoré le monde” (“The Night Eats the World”), its important variant would definitely be “Train to Busan”-style zombies.


27. Antebellum – 6/10

Mixing eras of confederation-dominated slavery with modern days with a surprising twist of fate, “Antebellum” is more of a tale of social criticism sprinkled with the nasty horrors of human nature. The performances are spot-on with an interesting storyline, yet many plotholes remain, leaving you shrugging at how grand it really is.


26. Host – 6/10

Filmed through a Zoom meeting during the Covid-19 quarantine (very 2020-ish), “Host” tells the tale of 6 individuals who, with the aid of a psychic medium (also present in the Zoom chat room), decide to hold a séance to contact the dead. Of course, everything goes awry and they get picked off similar to 2014’s “Unfriended”. Despite its run time under an hour, it still succeeds in obtaining successful chills and scares in addition to relating to the 2020 era (quarantine, masks, selfie-stick, video filters, etc.). Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite impress just as much as “Unfriended”, with no clear storyline or purpose. It isn’t a waste of time at all, for that matter, and definitely deserves a watch.


25. The Binding – 6/10

A woman meets her boyfriend’s mother at his childhood house. Accompanied by her daughter, she notices that something is wrong with the elderly woman and her friend, as they seem to be casting dark spells on the young girl. A tale of twisted love, possession and black magic is at hand in this decent Italian horror film (available on Netflix).


24. Ghosts of War – 7/10

In a World War II context, a unit of 5 American soldiers hole up in a giant mansion to escape nearby Nazi militias. Within the building, however, lies lurking souls who have not yet moved on and are set on terrorizing the men. The script is quite interesting (although perhaps a little farfetched, in the end) and you quickly get attached to the 5 charismatic characters. The CGI is a bit of a letdown, although some jump scares are decent. A pleasant mix of historical war and the supernatural.


23. Relic – 7/10

A mother and daughter search for their missing grandmother who mysteriously reappears in her own home a few days later. However, they both suspect that something sinister has overtaken the elderly woman’s body. Some fantastic performances from all three actresses in this dark, Australian Netflix-available film with some gruesome effects when you least expect them, sprinkled with some more-than-decent scares. A cross between 2014’s “Honeymoon” and “The Taking of Deborah Logan”.


22. Detention – 7/10

If you prefer an intricately woven dramatic storyline with a hint of scares, then “Detention”, straight out of Taiwan, is the right movie for you. Set in 1962 (and based off of a video game of the same name), the movie will plunge you into a seemingly haunted school, cluttered with spirits and odd Resident Evil-like creatures. You won’t be scared out of your wits nor is there necessarily any interesting practical effects or gore, but it definitely deserves a look nonetheless.


21. The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw – 7/10

Just as the film preceding it in this list, “Detention”, you’ll be served another intriguing plot with some horror aspects blossoming here and there. A tale of suspected witchcraft and hidden pregnancy await you in a community still living as if they were in the 19th century, yet taking place in the 70s (don’t ask why; I don’t know either). Certainly not the film of the millennium in terms of witchcraft, yet certainly not the worst, either.


20. Fried Barry – 7/10

If you’re looking for bizarre, “Fried Barry” is the strange film you’ve been searching for. An alien takes over a man’s body to observe humans and their interactions. Unfortunately for this otherworldly being, he overtook a man who’s been living quite a rough life in an even rougher neighborhood, and that alien is in for the night of its life. With lots of odd humor and even some life lessons to take away, “Fried Barry” is definitely in the running for oddest horror/sci-fi/comedy/experimental movie of the year.


19. The Reckoning – 7/10

Taking place in the midst of a great plague in England in the 17th century, Neil Marshall (director of “Dog Soldiers” and “The Descent”) brings forth a tale of witchcraft accusation (like “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw”, above), except this one implies numerous torture techniques in addition to some creepy Devil hallucinations. Add the always-excellent Sean Pertwee (“Dog Soldiers”, “Event Horizon”, “Equilibrium” and the “Gotham” series) as the head villain and you should be in for a decent time.


18. Alone – 7/10

In typical cat-and-mouse films, we’ve seen it all. However, “Alone” finally brings us a protagonist who makes the right decisions when we’ve been used to yelling at the screen: “No! Don’t do THAT!” Even though things still go way south for her, we can’t help but cheer her on as levels of stress and anxiety keep rising throughout the movie. While it doesn’t re-invent the wheel in terms of prey-chasing-predator concept, its creepy kidnapper (equipped with the usual eerie glasses and slick mustache) should keep you on the edge-of-your seat, nonetheless.


17. Come True – 7/10

If you’re looking for a retro-feel with a mystifying soundtrack involving dreams and “Shadow People” spilling out from them, then “Come True” is the film for you. Some credible performances are brought forth while the mystery of the sinister shadows will raise the hair on the back of your neck. Even though the filmmakers could’ve definitely exploited their concept a little further, “Come True” is still very much worthwhile.


16. Freaky – 7/10

Vince Vaughn stars alongside Kathryn Newton in a serial killer’s take on 2003’s “Freaky Friday”. What would happen is a teenage girl switched bodies with a serial killer who has been on the prowl in her town? Comedic situations and gruesome murders, obviously. With Vaughn allowing his inner-girl to blossom and Newton channelling the darkness within her, you’re sure to have an entertaining time.


15. Don’t Listen – 7/10

From Spain comes a typical tale of a tragic loss and paranormal activity. A man is struggling to cope with a terrible tragedy and understand what is going on in the old house he just bought as strange occurrences are plaguing his home. It doesn’t necessarily bring anything revolutionary to the concept of ghosts, yet it does hold its fair share of frights. Think of it as a Spanish, toned-down version of “The Conjuring” that shouldn’t be overlooked.


14. The Day of the Lord – 7/10

Yet another storyline revolving around demonic possessions. However, this one has a pleasant twist to it, implicating a priest who does his exorcisms in an unorthodox manner. Gruesome violence is on the menu, in addition to some psychologically and emotionally challenging moral torture. A very surprisingly difficult possession film to watch, indeed (and on Netflix).


13. Unearth – 7/10

Something unnatural is brewing beneath the properties of two farms and their inhabitants are about to find out its devastating consequences. Although the first hour of the film is mainly a slow burning drama, the last half hour of “Unearth” is quite worth it with some disturbing practical effects, a harrowing soundtrack, and a downward spiral of fear. Starring “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series’ Marc Blucas and the legendary Adrienne Barbeau, this movie will slowly creep up on you just like the toxicity crept up through the soil to the unfortunate souls above it.


12. Peninsula – 7/10

After the modern-day masterpiece that was “Train to Busan”, we unavoidably had high expectations for its sequel. Fortunately, it still brings a ton of action and flexible actors selected as zombies. They also succeed at tugging at your heart strings early on into the movie, something they were very good at in the preceding chapter. Unfortunately, part 2 doesn’t bring as much originality and innovation as “Train to Busan” with some typical post-apocalyptic characters and predictable outcomes.


11. The Hunt – 7/10

If you’re looking for a real good time, “The Hunt” is sure to keep you entertained. Having you on the edge of your seat from the beginning, keeping you guessing, and with a fantastic performance by Betty Gilpin, don’t miss this thriller that’ll make you laugh and root for more, while lacking a little on the gore, despite the brutal violence.


10. Underwater – 7/10

Claustrophobic; dark (literally); stressful; and with amazing performances from Kristen Stewart and a personal favorite of mine, Vincent Cassel, “Underwater” is déja-vu with a little something new. The majority of the film is more of a survival film than a creature feature, but a great build-up to the creatures’ revelation is well worth it, without showing too much of them. An underwater “Cloverfield” with a hint of “Alien”, while lacking the dramatic and horrific finesse of Ridley Scott’s classic.


9. The Block Island Sound – 8/10

When a low-budget film succeeds in making you believe that something terrifying and threatening is present without actually showing it, then you know that the director has done a great job. The acting is on point and the suspense is nail-biting. Some horrifying sounds and a creepy score are sure to leave a mark on you. If other psychologically frightening independent films are your thing, be sure to check out 2015’s “They Look Like People”.


8. #ShakespearesShitstorm – 8/10

If you’re a Troma fan, then their latest film from 2020 is surely a “can’t miss” movie for you. Directed and starring the Troma godfather himself, Lloyd Kaufman, this film blends in the usual gore, vomit, feces and absurdity that you love and are used to with today’s “snowflake” mentality of people being offended by everything. Find this film at all costs for a great laugh.


7. The Babysitter: Killer Queen – 8/10

“The Babysitter” from 2017 was a pleasant surprise on Netflix with an incredible performance from the hypnotizing and always-excellent Samara Weaving. To follow it up was a big feat, as any sequel is, and despite many critics disliking it, I was quite impressed by its 2020 “Killer Queen” sequel. Succeeding at making us laugh with its usual dark humor, numerous twists and turns, and an impressive combination of practical and CGI effects, McG’s sequel to his own film is surely an entertaining comedy-horror.


6. Possessor – 8/10

From Brandon Cronenberg comes a complex tale giving off vibes of “Inception” and “The Matrix” at once, wrapped in a much shadier tone. Starring the ever-so-excellent Andrea Riseborough (“Mandy”; 2020’s “The Grudge” (also on this list)) and Christopher Abbott (“It Comes At Night”), this multifaceted storyline will impress you with its concept, its performances, its special effects, as well as its twists and turns. Do not miss.


5. The Columnist – 8/10

In this day and age where trolls roam the internet to hide behind their screen and be the tough keyboard warriors that they are, we’ve all wanted to exact some revenge on those who attack us professionally and personally. This Dutch film allows us to live vicariously through its protagonist, a journalist who has had enough of online trolls and decides to take matters into her own hands and make them pay. The results do not disappoint.


4. The Call – 8/10

In one of this year’s most original scripts with countless twists and turns at every corner (and available on Netflix), South Korea brings forth “The Call”, based on 2011’s “The Caller”. Its complex storyline involves two women speaking to each other over the phone, in the same house, at the same time, yet 20 years apart. However, one of them is continuously tortured by her stepmother and needs desperate help. You will be on the edge of your seat throughout most of the film, be amazed by Jong-seo Jun’s performance as Young-sook, and be riveted to your screen through emotions of all kinds. If you don’t have Netflix yet, subscribe now.


3. The Mortuary Collection – 8/10

Who doesn’t enjoy a good horror anthology? After rolling our eyes right out of our sockets with 2018’s “Tales from the Hood 2”, we were in dire need of a campy compilation of great horror stories. Writer/director Ryan Spindell brought us just what we asked for with some creative tales of different genres, mixing a great dose of practical effects with a hint of well-timed CGI. Add the legendary Clancy Brown as your cryptkeeper and you’ve got a recipe for success.


2. The Dark and the Wicked – 8/10

After his success with 2008’s “The Strangers”, Bryan Bertino was back with an intense horror film, sprinkled with scares around every corner. It will grab you by the neck and force you to witness its terrors, only to wrench your heart as it culminates to its horrifying ending. You are not physically and emotionally ready for this visceral film.


1. The Invisible Man – 8/10

A story that had been reinvented numerous times, I wasn’t expecting too much out of Leigh Whannell’s take on the concept. Plus, the idea of watching “nothing” and having the moviemakers make us believe that something was actually going on was making me hesitate, to say the least. Well, I cannot deny that Whannell did a fantastic job with his writing and directing, because “The Invisible Man” was a nail-biting, original thriller with an incredible performance by Elizabeth Moss, meriting the top spot on my top 50 this year.


Written by SIMON ROTHER.

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