For the past couple of years, I’ve taken it upon myself to compile a list of some of the best things that horror had to offer. I am not an authority on the matter whatsoever, and when it comes to 2020, the first thing we all think about isn’t “the best” of anything. Still, I think it is important to look back on the year and try to remember all of the good that us genre fans were given.
As I warn every year, I am only presenting things that I’ve had time to digest throughout the year; this is by no means a “these are the ONLY things from 2020 that were good” compilation. There were quite a few movies, television series, books, albums, etc. that I missed out on that I’m sure if I did consume would have made the cut.
Bearing all of this in mind, lets get to what I think were some of the best things horror had to offer in 2020…
The Invisible Man – It doesn’t even feel like this movie was released this year. The Invisible Man was the last movie I was able to see in an actual movie theater (you guys remember those?). I admittedly love everything Leigh Whannell is ever attached to, so it is no surprise that this one made my list. His take on this classic modernized things quite a bit and while it may never be part of a more fully developed “Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe” like was once promised, I would certainly be happy to see a sequel or two in the near future.
Underwater – I wasn’t able to catch this PG-13 flick right away, finally getting a chance to do so only last month, and while I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, it was still a fun creature feature that takes place miles below the ocean’s surface. Sci-fi and horror combine as a crew of engineers, scientists, etc. are trapped underwater fighting for their lives against huge monsters. The CGI wasn’t the best at times, but overall, this one is still worth at least one watch.
Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight – This movie came out of nowhere for me, found mindlessly scrolling through Netflix one day. On a whim, I decided to throw it on and boy, I can’t remember ever making a better decision. This foreign backwoods-cannibal-meets-slasher flick is a blast from start to finish with tons of gore and even a few laughs. I highly recommend checking this one out, as I have even thought of revisiting it myself a few times.
The Hunt – Another movie on the list that actually feels like it was released years ago as opposed to only 9 months ago. The Hunt is one that I’ve actually watched multiple times and is another fun one. Maybe not as straight up horror as some of you guys may like, but with plenty of action and lots of bloodshed, this is definitely one you don’t want to continue skipping out on. Not to mention, it has an awesome performance from Betty Gilpin, as well.
Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula – This Train of Busan sequel was one I was looking forward to immensely. It is not really anything like its predecessor, so if you can get past that, you will have a great time with this one, as well. Less of a claustrophobic zombie horror, Peninsula plays out like a shoot ’em up zombie arcade game with tons of action, while still managing to keep the heart and soul of what writer/director Yeon Sang-ho was able to create with his 2016 film.
His House – Directed by Remi Weeks, His House is another that I knew nothing about before jumping into it. I had heard a few rumblings across social media, Reddit, and the like, but nothing in great detail other than “this movie is so good!” I generally stay away from films that seem to have an overwhelming and unanimous opinion because I generally tend to be pretty damn disappointed upon actually watch said film. I figured I’d give this one a shot nevertheless. About halfway through, I decided this movie actually was quite good and did, in fact, deserve the praise it was receiving. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory here, so if you want to see a modern day horror film that isn’t quite like anything we’ve been offered by the genre before, definitely give this one a watch.
Possessor – Brandon Cronenberg is an intriguing filmmaker and even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of his 2012 foray, Antiviral, I wanted to see what he came up with for this follow-up feature film. Heavily influenced by science fiction, Possessor blends the best of that genre with some pretty explicit kills, all executed with practical effects mind you, and of course, like his daddy, some pretty wild body-horror elements. I have heard nothing but good things about this one, so chances are, like me and the rest of the horror fan community, you’ll dig it, too.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow – I’m so glad I secured a copy of this flick and was able to squeeze it in before the dastardly 2020 ended. Written by, directed by, and starring Jim Cummings, The Wolf of Snow Hollow isn’t your by-the-numbers werewolf movie. There are many layers to it, developing a lot of the characters along the way, but it is still very deeply rooted in horror. The amount of bloodshed and ripped apart bodies will see to that. I loved every single thing about this movie and cannot recommend it enough.
Considering I’ve been quarantined, like most, for the majority of 2020, you would think I’d have been able to binge plenty of television series. You would not be wrong in that assumption, but thinking back to the things I’ve actually watched, there aren’t very many that would fall into the horror category.
Again, like the films listed above, or more accurately, the ones not listed, I know there are tons that I’ve simply not had the chance to get to. Continue to bear that in mind, as I dive into the shows that do work here.
Locke and Key – I binge read the comic series, created by Joe Hill (you know, the son of Stephen King) late last year, in order to prepare myself for the forthcoming release of the Netflix series. While the show did stick to the source material for the most part, there were of course some changes made here and there. I don’t think any of them really changed my opinion of the series overall, and still would recommend it for someone who is looking for a new horror series to get involved with. I remember flying through this one rather quickly and don’t see why you couldn’t do the same.
The Haunting of Bly Manor – To say I was excited for this Mike Flanagan follow-up series is an understatement. Like many others, I absolutely loved what he did with The Haunting of Hill House and couldn’t wait for more of the same beautiful gothic horror. If you’ve watched Hill House and/or any of Flanagan’s other projects, you’ll be happy to see a ton of familiar faces, as well as some new ones. For me, this was almost like a family reunion, and although I can’t say that I liked this series as much as the first, I can still recommend it for fans and newcomers alike. It is a bit more romance than horror at times, but if you are okay with that kind of thing, definitely give the 9 episodes a watch.
Lovecraft Country – I had put off watching this show once it started for a couple of reasons. One of them was that, even though it was getting high praise, I didn’t really know many details about it. Another, more important reason, was because I did not have access to HBO Max. After a buddy of mine gave me his login to the streaming app, he made it a requirement for me to finally give the show a watch, hoping we could discuss it. I am happy that I did because with the mix of science fiction and horror, time travel, alternate dimensions, and giant monsters, this series, based on Matt Ruff’s novel of the same name, is one hell of a ride. It is pretty damn heavy at times, dealing deeply with issues of racism and other social injustices, but that is also a huge part of what makes this show great. The cast, which features Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollet, Courtney B. Vance and many others, is extremely talented and although each episode is directed by a different individual, Lovecraft Country is executive-produced by a whole slew of big names. Among them are J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele. Rest assured there is plenty of trademark Peele creepiness sprinkled throughout the 10 episodes.
The Outsider – Another HBO Max series and another that seemed to be receiving nothing by praise, The Outsider is also based on a novel. That one happens to be written by Stephen King himself. This is another that I familiarized myself with prior to watching the show and while that proves to be a mistake sometimes, I was pretty pleased with how my order of operations turned out this time around. The show’s 10 episodes are, again, pretty loyal to the source material and while some of the changes were not to my liking, I would say that overall, this one is certainly worth your time. It is another that isn’t just straight horror, as it ties in many other sub-genres — sci-fi, crime, drama — but there is definitely something here for everyone, whether you’ve read the book or not.
My entire life is pretty much consumed by horror. Film and television take up a huge portion of that, of course, but those are not the limits to which my love reaches. Comics, books, and even the music I listen to always fall deep within the horror category.
A lot of the books I read this year were not actually from 2020, so I won’t go too in-depth. There are a couple worth mentioning, however. The first of which is The Fear by Spencer Hamilton.
Written entirely in 2020 and published in August, this one is actually about being quarantined during the current pandemic. Of course there are other horror elements thrown into the normal mix of anxiety and paranoia you’d expect from a story of this nature, but it is certainly one that I think everyone can relate to on a number of levels.
Another book I’d like to discuss briefly is one that many people were talking about, influencing my decision to pick it up greatly. I am referring to Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare. This one is a great read for different reasons from the ones I mentioned above; It is considered a YA book (Young Adult), so I’m not really sure who the target audience is, but if you are a fan of slasher flicks and/or love clowns in your horror, Clown is definitely something you’ll want to check out. It is a quick read and has plenty of bloody good fun for all.
In terms of music, I am a huge metal and underground hip hop head. In terms of the rap I listen to, it’s mostly horrorcore. If you are not familiar with what that is, you can give my other website a visit and learn all about it. If you are a fan of the genre yourself, there is no denying that we got some pretty awesome album releases this year.
I know I am going to miss some, of course, so I will only list ones that are fresh in my head. Long time horrorcore genre fans couldn’t help but be excited about new releases from the likes of Scum (“Out with the Old, Vol. 1: Soloz” and “Out with the Old, Vol. 2: Collabz”), Alla Xul Elu (“Maxuleum”), Twiztid (“Revelashen” and Halloween release “Songs of Samhain”), and Dark Half (“Chapterz: The Lost Pages of Eibon”).
An entire camp you really can’t go wrong with is Shrunken Head Entertainment who released a whole slew of bangers, pretty much back to back. Among them, most notably were Dieabolik the Monster “Ashes,” Don Orias “Sovereign,” Serpentines “Serpentines,” Ritual of Ether “7th Circle Serpents,” Hoax “Save it for the Faceless,” and most recently, Razakel “Even in Death.” Every artist on the label, including the ones I have not named specifically, is extremely talented and I’ve enjoyed every single album released by this collective this year.
This year was also a huge one in terms of returns and comebacks. Artists like Shy One aka xshy361x (“The Door”), Bloodshot (“Wendigo” and “Buried”), SyckSyde (“Vengance of the Dead”), and Kreepy X (“Bazkit Kase”) all devastated fans with new albums after [too many] years away. Whether you’re a longtime lover of the wicked sh*t or a new fan all together, there is plenty the genre has to offer that will impress you.
Like I did last year, I have to thank you if you’ve made it this far. I know these “Best Of” articles can be very long-winded. If you’ve reached the end, you are incredible and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. If you gave up somewhere in the middle, that’s okay, too, even though you’re not seeing this part, of course!
This year has not been easy for anyone, but I hope that, if you are a horror fan, you were able to receive some sort of escape or solace from the films, TV, books, and more that we all love so much. If there were some you missed out on, it is never too late to jump into them and I hope this list offers some sort of insight, no matter how large or small, into some things that you were maybe wondering about yourself.
Here’s to a way better 2021 and to all of you guys… thanks again and have a great one!