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Mike’s Top 10 Horror Films of 2021!


Scary DVDs! Woo!

In 2020, the global pandemic gave us an interesting dynamic in film. Stripped down productions. The re-rise of independent horror. Big budget films either shelved, delayed, or cancelled all together. Last year’s horror scene definitely had a peculiar and, well, dystopian quality. 

Enter 2021! The big budget films that coldly sat on the shelves for the last year, or in some cases years, or in other cases almost a half century, are now out in the theaters for us all to enjoy. And enjoy them we did! It shouldn’t be a terrible surprise that (often) the more money, time, energy, and talent you ply to your project the better quality you’ll receive in return. Mostly. 

This is not to say 2021 was devoid of smaller more thoughtful independent films. Au contraire. This year gave us some absolute shockers, chills, and probably some of the most horrifying scenes that we’ll NEVER unsee. Here’s some of the best from another spooky year…

10. The Censor. Directed by Piano Bailey-Bond.

Much like this year’s Last Matinee, the Censor pays deep homage to sleazy days of yesteryear. The video nasties! The most brutish, repugnant, and otherwise despicable images ever filmed in the name of grindhouse glory. The censor follows an actual censor as she blindly meanders from film to film in a blood soaked daze. That is until she discovers one particular gory gross-out that may have a real-world connection to her trauma filled upbringing. 

🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

9. Red River Road. Directed by Paul Schuyler.

It’s fair to say that we might not know the full impact of the global pandemic tragedy for years or even decades. Some have been tragically impacted by the pandemic, some have wandered in a face-covered fog, and others have irresponsibly stuck their heads in the sand. Everyone has had choices to make during the pandemic and those choices have manifested in the horrible, but they’ve also been used for creativity and good. 

The new film, Red River Road, is decidedly parked in the good and creative camp.  In probably the shortest credit sequence you’ll ever see, Red River Road was entirely created, shot, acted, and edited by the Schuyler Family — Paul (Dad), Jade (Mom), Quinn (son), and Shaw (son). Seriously, this was the ultimate soup-to-nuts experiment. Could a family create a film, tangentially about the pandemic, during the pandemic? The short answer is a resounding YES.

🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

8. The Amusement Park. Directed by George Romero.

Unearthed after many years, George Romero’s the Amusement Park, comes back to life and discusses the very real and melancholy impacts of age. Romero hailing from a commercial and corporate film production world, was hired by Lutheran Services to develop a film that looked at the darker and often underreported nature of senior citizen discrimination. What Romero handed in was a far more dark treatment, of this already dark subject, that no one was ready to contemplate. And it was subsequently parked in neutral for nearly 50 years.

🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

7. The Last Matinee. Maximiliano Contenti.

The Last Matinee is a loving homage to film. More to the point it’s a loving homage and exploration of Argento, Fulchi, grindhouse cinema, slashers, grimy movie theaters, and quite possibly the great Lamberto Bava film Demons. Don’t be fooled though. While The Last Matinee pulls from many of the classics, it’s got its own unique style and flavor, and it’s cram-packed with EYEBALLS. 

🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

6. Wrong Turn. Directed by Mike P. Nelson.

The Wrong Turn franchise has rightfully been the subject of much ridicule and haranguing. There’s too many, they’re too much, and while each is it’s own little imaginative world, it’s a franchise that could have easily called it quits a long time ago. All these things were rather true until 2021 when the Wrong Turn reboot aggressively moved all the pieces around the board and gave us a clean reimagining in the same vain as 2018’s masterpiece, Halloween. Hollywood great Matthew Modine is in the saddle and prepped to do battle hillbilly cannibal mutants, but be forewarned, the might not be quite as weird as their predecessors in the series. 

🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

5. The Forever Purge. Directed by Everado Gout.

The Forever Purge sits smack dab in the middle of the perfect movie-going Venn diagram. Action? Check. Horror? Check. Gore? Check. Protagonists you really pull for? Check! A prescient and timely villain? Check. Truly, the Forever Purge is a film that offers something for everyone and you don’t even have to be a horror fan to love it! This perfectly timed and executed (pun intended) slice of social commentary hits all the right notes and delivers in a way that several of its predecessors didn’t. But where the film really delivers is the casting.  

🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

4. Halloween Kills. Directed by David Gordon Green.

With deepest apologies to my podcasting partners, I LOVED Halloween Kills. Sure it’s not Fellini or Kurosawa, but it is Michael Meyers and that’s pretty damn satisfying in my book. Halloween Kills is act two of the David Gordon Green opus. Tucked in between 2018’s Halloween and 2022’s Halloween Ends, this trip the cinema is filled with violence and blood. Lots and lots and lots of blood. 

🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

3. St. Maud. Directed by Rose Glass.

Sure, technically this is a 2019 film, but thanks to the global pandemic no one could see it until 2021. Thanks global pandemic. St. Maud is the perfect blend of insanity, religious fanaticism, and the ongoing battle between the ID and the Ego. Stick around until the very end because you’ll be treated to one of the most shocking scenes in the last decade. Scratch that…maybe the most shocking scene ever!

🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

2. The Conjuring III. Directed by Michael Chaves.

They got the band back together to unearth the real secrets behind the well trod path of Arne Cheyenne Johnson who was the first person in U.S. history to try and use demonic possession as his defense for…MURDER! The Warrens are back in the saddle to fight demons, creepy nuns, and maybe the Devil himself. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It) starts with an absolutely explosive scene and never really takes its foot off the gas for the entire 112 minutes. There’s very little time to breathe as Michael Chaves takes the audience on an absolute thrill ride. 

1. The Feast. Directed by Lee Haven Jones.

Don’t. Turn. This. Movie. Off. Seriously, it’s a slow burn in the grand tradition of slow burn horror films, but the payoff off is so deliciously evil and filling. If you stop after the aspic and the salad course you’ll miss a rather grisly desert. 

Set in the buccolic Welsh countryside, 2021’s The Feast, pokes and prods at the frayed family dynamic, interpersonal foibles, and mid-life hubris.  All of the worst aspects of the family and their compelling need to lavishly display their station in life are viewed in third person by an oddly placed outsider, Cadi.

🔪🔪🔪🔪.5 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

Well, there you have it. A hell of terrifying year for horror! I’m giving the 2021 a 4 out of 5, because, well, every single film i picked for my top ten list was…4 out of 5. Now stop reading end-of-year horror lists and go buy a ticket to a film, stop by your local video store, and if you have to, stream some horrifying horror!

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