So many great intentions. This here podcaster was going to smash, crash, and rush to the theater to see all the latest spooky offerings Hollyweird had to offer. I “intended” to give a careful and thoughtful look at Halloween Kills (delayed to 2021), Antebellum (not willing to throw down for its initial streaming price), St. Maude (weirdly delayed a bunch of times, but available for streaming overseas), and I’m Thinking of Ending Things (I saw this! But it was pretty so/so).
2020 was peculiar on SO many fronts. You know most of the reasons why, so we won’t bore you here with the sneezy details. While 2020 lacked crammed-packed theaters filled with every last bozo screaming “DON’T GO IN THAT ROOM”, it was fully compensated by a gang of online horror film festivals. Sounds weird, cumbersome, password-ridden, and janky — but they WEREN’T! The festivals killed it (pun intended) this year. Great price points, flexible time slots, and all the offerings that you’d expect from a spooky spookfest. While we miss the smell of greasy popcorn, the panicked rush of missing the first five minutes of the film, and the aforementioned bozos, the online horror festivals filled the blackened soul of this horror podcaster.
2020 was far from perfect, but despite all its real-world horrors, it brought a respite in the form of gaggle of scares, shrieks, and ghouls.
With out further ado…these are the BEST horror films 2020 had to offer!
1. Blood Quantum. Directed by Canadian Mi’kmac tribal member Jeff Barnaby, Blood Quantum is a bleak and hyper-realistic depiction of life on a tribal reservation in the face of a zombie pandemic. Proving that a) the zombie genreis NOT dead (no pun intended), and b) native peoples don’t always have to be portrayed as grizzled old spooky witch doctors. Barnaby constructs a meaningful tapestry of life through characters that embody all of humanity. Police officers, nurses, drunks, assholes, troubled youth, and heroic protagonists are all on display as the pandemic gets really real. Thanks to Blood Quantum for keeping the zombie on life support! 🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪
2. Uncle Peckerhead. Good music. Good friends. Good beer. Good gore. GOOD TIMES! Pulling off a feature length film takes some serious gumption. Pulling off a film that balances impeccable comedic timing, a fully realized soundtrack, empathetic characters, complicated friendships, and a heaping dose of spatter gore — well, that’s a whole different story. Directed by horror short filmmaker Matthew John Lawrence, Uncle Peckerhead hits every single note and simultaneously manages to bang out a gory film that would make Herschell Gordon Lewis blush. 🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪
3. The Queen of Black Magic. Indonesia REPRESENT! The importance of the family unit, the perceived family unit, modesty, the fragility of children, and personal relationships all come to pass in a dismal and sorrowful way. Even though the black magic part is largely left to your imagination, you’ll be hard pressed to find a scarier film in 2020. You can try to find a scarier film, but we guarantee it’ll have a lot less bugs in it. 🔪🔪🔪🔪.5 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪
4. Impetigore. MORE from Indonesia and more from Joko Anwar! Ghosts, doomed villages, tortured family dynamics, the blackest of black magic, and thousand year old Javanese curses all come home to roost in the latest spookfest from Joko Anwar. Possibly (read: possibly) the best horror film director out currently, Anwar knows his way around a story, cinematic shots, and the creation of truly sympathetic characters. 🔪🔪🔪🔪.5 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪
5. The Isolation Horrors. It’s real! As we’ve all come to learn as part of this global nightmare, there are very poor choices we all make in contending with this nasty disease. Spending 25 minutes and watching The Isolation Horrors wouldn’t be one of those poor choices. If you’re a regular listener to the Scariest Things Podcast you know that 1) we love our horror shorts, and 2) we love our horror anthologies. This one’s the perfect and efficient mix of horror joy. Go wash your hands, stay at home, and if you happen to wander outside, DON’T pick up any bloody masks! 🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪
6. Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist. Seriously! Start watching Alexandre Philippe’s horror documentaries. They’re brilliant! There exists that great space in documentaries that take place decades after the event occurred. It’s this beautiful melange of revisionist history, lucid thoughts, purposeful sleepwalking, and repressed memories. All answers are correct and infallible when the documentary is filtered through the iconic lens of a single and thoughtful directorial darling. THE William Friedkin is the ultimate bridge between Hollywood’s glorious beginnings and the revolutionary young guns of the 1970s. It should come as no surprise the Friedkin has some rather insightful things to say about one of the greatest films of the 1970s, possibly the greatest horror film of all time, and in some camps, THE greatest film ever put down on celluloid — the Exorcist. 🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪
7. 32 Malasana Street. Remember what the Conjuring franchise used to be like? Remember the scares that it once wrought? Well, this ghostly chiller brings all those fears flooding back in to your fragile conscious! A young Spanish family. A new city. 1972. GHOSTS! As Joseph Perry noted in his review “32 Malasaña Street may not be a wholly unique offering in the haunted house subgenre, but it is beautifully shot, superbly directed, wonderfully acted, and most importantly, unnerving and plentiful in the nail-biting suspense department.” 🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪
8. Scare Me. How’d you like a little Chekhov with your Texas Chainsaw? A little Edward Albee with your Conjuring? Or even a dash of Ibsen with your Insidious? Sound too good to be true? Well it’s not. Shockingly and we do mean shockingly, Scare Me is a legitimate film. One that horror fans can fawn over and upright theater going know-it-alls can lovingly dissect. It’s a film that really has an interesting bit of everything, but unfortunately gets marketed as run-of-the-mill horror comedy. 🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪
9. His House. Proving again the horror genre is a bottomless well of frights and a simultaneous reflection of society’s worst attributes, along comes His House. It’s not bad enough for South Sudanese refugees to escape the horrors dictator-driven genocide, but now the refugees are forced to contend with the questionable projects in London’s suburbs. Giving voice and complexities to persons and stories that haven’t really been heard before in the horror genre, director Remi Weekes gives us a lot to chew on — while scaring our pants right off of us! 🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪
10. Host. Don’t be fooled! Zoom calls are REALLY scary! Really scary. Packed in to the amount of time it takes for a “free” Zoom call, Host is a non-stop 45 minute fright fest! As Joseph Perry indicated in his review, the moral of the story is “Don’t try holding a seance over the internet, especially during lockdown.” 🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪