It’s that time of year again! The time of year where I show off my acute lack of good taste and my bad memory in equal measure. How did that movie make it to the Top 10? How could you forget about this movie?? Oh, the humanity!
But seriously, folks. This is what’s been stewing in the cauldron all year long. After watching a shocking number of genre films throughout 2021, these are the ones that managed to stick with me for one reason or another.
Given that 2021 was still pretty wonky there were a number of films with delayed releases, extended festival runs, or any number of other pandemically related weirdnesses that made it tricky to find a place to see them. So, qualifying for this year’s Top 10 has more to do with when the movie was easily watchable and less to do with the (often foreign) festival debut date listed in IMDB.
Entonces and without further ado, let’s dive in. If this list inspires you to watch one of these little gems, I’d love to hear what you thought of it!
10. Werewolves Within (USA)
Written by Mishna Wolff
Directed by Josh Ruben
Way back in 2016 Red Storm Entertainment made a VR game which was published by Ubisoft. That game was called Werewolves Within. Fast forward to 2021 and you’ve got a fun, quirky film about a postal worker and a forest ranger trying to protect their town from a mysterious creature. Happily, the Powers That Be gave this video game adaptation to the director behind last year’s Scare Me and Uwe Boll had nothing to do with it.
9. Howard’s Mill (USA)
Written/Directed by Shannon Houchins
I’m a sucker for a good blurring of the line between reality and make believe and there’s no better style for that than a fictional documentary. If you’re a fan of spooky documentaries similar to what the fine folks at Small Town Monsters put out, Howard’s Mill would be right in your wheelhouse. While it’s more horror-adjacent than straight up frightening, what starts out as a standard true crime investigation of missing people in Tennessee soon spins off into paranormal oddity.
Howard’s Mill is currently available for streaming on Tubi.
8. Fear Street: Part One – 1994 (USA/Canada)
Directed by Leigh Janiak
Talk about “gateway horror”! Based on the Fear Street series of young adult horror novels by R. L. Stine, Netflix’s Fear Street movie trilogy screams gateway horror and just keeps on screaming. A group of teens stumble on their town’s darkest secret that goes back to founding days of the town itself. Great writing and some disturbing bad guys make this a fun starting point for anyone looking for an intro to horror.
7. Wrong Turn (USA)
Written by Alan B. McElroy
Directed by Mike P. Nelson
Creator of the series and the pen behind the very first Wrong Turn (2003), Alan McElroy, returns, fires all the cannibalistic hillbillies, and reboots the franchise. The new movie is smart, full of beautiful scenery, and ambitious. And the fun just keeps going, rolling right on through the end credits. Here’s to more Wrong Turns in the future.
6. Candyman (USA)
Written by Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Nia DaCosta
Directed by Nia DaCosta
The sophomore directorial effort by Ms. DaCosta exploded onto the genre scene. With the golden touch of Jordan Peele behind it, how could it not? This sequel to the 1992 movie of the same name took us back to the now-gentrified Cabrini Green area in Chicago for another frightening visit with Clive Barker’s hook-handed revenge-driven legend.
5. The Vigil (USA)
Written/Directed by Keith Thomas
First time writer/director Keith Thomas gives us a refreshing alternative in the fight between Good and Evil. In this case, Yakov Ronen is a more or less lapsed Orthodox Jewish man who’s dealing with a crisis of faith. At the same time, he discovers that a decidedly malevolent entity has made itself comfortable in the very home where Yakov is sitting overnight watch for a recently deceased member of the Jewish community. What follows is a tense battle of wills made all the better by Dave Davis‘ dynamite performance as Yakov Ronen.
4. Saint Maud (United Kingdom)
Written/Directed by Rose Glass
Another first timer, Rose Glass, blasts onto the scene with another religion-heavy psychological horror/drama. Morfydd Clark shows everyone how it’s done with her spectacular portrayal of Maud, the damaged nurse who’s been hired to provide in-home care to a retired dancer. Through a series of events both real and hallucinatory, Maud is convinced she’s there to save the soul of the woman in her care. As you’d imagine, things spin off the rails from there.
3. Psycho Goreman (Canada)
Written/Directed by Steven Kostanski
Instant classic! From one of the minds behind The Scariest Things favorite, The Void (2016), comes Psycho Goreman. It’s just as much an experience as it is a movie. It’s like the barely acknowledged lovechild of GWAR & Troma. Hardworking make-up + prosthetics artist Steven Kostanski mixes all of his professional skills with his insane imagination and presents the story of two young siblings who stumble upon an ancient artifact capable of controlling a millennia-old evil being intent on destroying the Universe.
2. Last Night in Soho (United Kingdom)
Written by Edgar Wright & Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Directed by Edgar Wright
Genre favorite, Edgar Wright, returns with a script he put together in collaboration with Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Krysty Wilson-Cairns. What the duo have to offer may well be one of the most stylishly haunting movies of the decade. While not astoundingly original story-wise, the sets, lighting, cinematography, costuming, and performances are all top tier. A young fashion student obsessed with the 1960s begins having dark visions of yesteryear London that start to bleed over into her reality. With the ever popular Anya Taylor-Joy and rising star Thomasin McKenzie sharing the limelight, the story leaps right off the screen.
1. The Feast (United Kingdom)
Written by Roger Williams
Directed by Lee Haven Jones
Folklore, mythology, the stories people everywhere tell around a campfire to freak out their friends. That right there is the good stuff. Normally a writer for TV, Roger Williams created a phenomenal slice of Welsh folklore which his friend and fellow TV-guy, Lee Haven Jones, brought to life. Beautifully atmospheric, The Feast is a slow-burning masterpiece of storytelling. Lead actor, Annes Elwy, easily carries the film with her mesmerizing, minimalist portrayal of Cadi, the helper girl from the local pub who’s been hired to lend a hand at a wealthy family’s private party. Avoid the spoilers. Just enjoy.
Overall, it was a decent year for our favorite genre. Thanks to you, our Scariest Friends, for hanging out with us for another year! Enjoy the holidays, stay safe, and let us know if you find anything truly spooky!
Article by Robert Zilbauer.