Another year has come and gone, and it is now time to help spread the word of some of the best that the horror genre had to offer in film, television, and more.
I actually somewhat dread making these lists year after year because there are plenty of things that I’ve either missed out on or just haven’t had the time to consume. I’m sure this list would look much different if I had actually gotten around to watching things like Darren Lynn Bousman’s Spiral, Scott Cooper’s Antlers, Valdimar Jóhannsson’s Lamb, or even M. Night Shyamalan’s Old. Keep that in mind as you read ahead — this is only a list of my favorites from the year; I am well aware that everyone’s opinions will differ from mine. This is all meant to be fun and to offer a recap of the horror of 2021!
Candyman – The trend of ignoring all previous sequels and creating one that is directly connected to a film from 20+ years ago seems to be one that is going to stick around for a quite a while in the horror genre. Hell, there are even going to be multiple of those [or ones like it, at least] on this very list. The first, of course, being Nia DaCosta’s Candyman. I actually didn’t have high expectations going into this one, but in the end, was blown away. I loved everything about it from the cinematography to the performances all around. Dare I say, I even enjoyed this direct sequel more than the 1992 original.
Halloween Kills – I know for a fact that this is going to get me the most hate out of everything on my list. Believe me, I, too, think there was some pretty big flaws with this one. After liking Halloween in 2018 quite a bit, I had very high expectations for this one. My excitement was through the roof and while I was let down by a huge portion of this, I still think it had its redeeming qualities. Michael will always be one of the most iconic slashers of all time and I am happy that in 2021 [and beyond] we are still getting more installments into the franchise. Here’s to hoping that Halloween Ends ups the ante and gives us a proper finale to the new age trilogy.
Censor – One that I finally watched just the other day, there was no way I could omit this from 2021’s Best Of list. Censor, written and directed by Prano Bailey-Bond, is a must-watch for any fan of the Video Nasties era of horror. A love letter to those films, this one is slowly paced overall, but does have a few shocking moments. I loved the kills, one in particular that I won’t spoil here, and the originality of this one cements its spot on the list this year, for sure.
Malignant – This is another very polarizing one, for reasons I’ll never truly grasp. It’s no secret that I love everything James Wan touches, horror or otherwise, but that’s besides the point here. This could have been directed by anyone. It doesn’t change the fact that this is one of the wildest rides I’ve ever been on while watching a horror flick. An ode to Giallo films, take the best parts of Argento and mix them with Frank Henenlotter, and you’ll come close to what Malignant turned out to be.
There’s Someone Inside Your House – Patrick Brice’s There’s Someone Inside Your House came out of nowhere for me. I have not read the novel that it is based upon, but I randomly came across this flick on Netflix and decided to click ‘play.’ I was pleasantly surprised — the cast of youngsters was impressive, but not as impressive as the kills exhibited in this modern-day teen slasher. I had a great time with this one and may even be re-visiting it sooner than later to have that same fun all over again.
Without going into much detail, there are definitely others that I enjoyed immensely and would like to list as honorable mentions. They are all certainly worth your time in one way or another:
Boys from County Hell
Fear Street [trilogy]
PG: Psycho Goreman
Blood Red Sky
Like the film releases of the year, I am not going to pretend to have watched every single television series that was offered in 2021. The list below is merely the ones that I got around to and that I enjoyed.
You – This series has been a pretty entertaining one from the start and while I found season 3 to be pretty sluggish at times, I enjoyed it overall. I admittedly was pretty upset with how things ended, but it looks like we’ll be getting another season eventually… will it make up for killing off some of the characters that I loved so dearly?!
Chucky – The Child’s Play/Chucky franchise has seen a bit of a resurgence the last few years with original writer Don Mancini at the helm. The reboot was fun in its own right, but Mancini’s return to a darker side of Chucky in Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky was a good sign for series loyalists. The television series that aired on both the USA Network and the Syfy channel in 2021 was an even deeper dive into the Charles Lee Ray and Chucky lore, seeing the return of some very awesome franchise alumni. I won’t go into spoilers of just who showed up throughout the eight episode season, but I strongly recommend that you give it a watch to find out on your own.
Midnight Mass – Like James Wan who is mentioned above, one of my favorite filmmakers is Michael Flanagan. We all know what huge successes both of his The Haunting of… series were, but I actually enjoyed Midnight Mass more than those others. Without getting into spoiler territory, the horror here was much more my speed compared to the gothic romance route that the other series took. While the first few episodes started things off slowly, I was very deeply hooked by the middle of episode three. In fact, I wished that there were more episodes because I was not ready to finish up with what was going on. I can’t say that much about other shows that I’ve invested time in.
Dexter: New Blood – I guess this can technically be included in next year’s list since there is still one more episode left at the time of me writing this, but either way, I could not write a list of the Best of 2021 without including the Dexter resurgence series. I was always a huge fan of the original eight season series, but hated the ending just like everyone else. When they announced that this comeback was finally happening, I was beyond excited. The entire season has lived up to the hype for me personally, and I have loved everything they’ve done here so far. I can’t wait for this week to be over, just so I can get to the season finale.
Horror is present in all facets of entertainment, not just stuff that you can watch. I didn’t necessarily read any horror books that were in fact written in 2021, so I can’t share any horror reads with you guys, but I can at least share some horror-related tunes.
For fans of the rock and metal persuasion, there is no one better at horror-themed content than Ice Nine Kills. Even if their brand of “metalcore” isn’t your style — I know metalheads are very picky with their genres and sub-genres — there is no denying these guys live and breath horror. Their new album entitled The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood is great from start to finish and one of my favorites from their discography.
If rap and hip hop are more your style, you know I’ve got plenty of horrorcore recommendations for you. Of course there are certain artists who crank out music non-stop. A couple that were mentioned in last year’s list make a return here. You can never go wrong with the likes of Scum and his latest releases, Dying World Chroniclez: Red Groundz and Dying World Chroniclez: Grey Skiez, or iconic duo Twiztid, who released multiple projects this year including a Halloween release of Songs of Samhain 2: Haunted Record Player.
Like they did in 2020, the entire roster of Shrunken Head Entertainment killed it once again in 2021. My favorite releases from the camp were definitely Underlords by the team of Dieabolik the Monster and Ritual of Ether and the second release from Razakel and The Slice Girls, Sliceylvania.
You can’t have a list of the best in horrorcore releases without mentioning legends like Insane Poetry or Komatose who both graced us with new releases in January of 2021, Wicked Killagraphy and The Uglier, respectively. Another legendary emcee in the wicked underground who dropped some more music this year is none other than Bloodshot. He graced fans with Reap What You Sow and I know he has a lot more planned for 2022.
Other releases worth checking out for exposure to the best in the horrorcore genre are Belial by the group Illtrix, Double Dragon by Bukshot and Kung Fu Vampire, Oh! the Horror Meets Blaze by, you guessed it, Blaze Ya Dead Homie and the boys of Oh! the Horror, The Watchers by Cabal (more Bukshot, this time teaming with Lo Key and Mr. Grey), and of course, the latest from the Godfathers of the Wicked Shit, Yum Yum Bedlam by Insane Clown Posse.
I know there are tons more releases I’m forgetting, but this is definitely a good start, especially if you’re new to the genre as a whole.
Every year we are treated to some pretty horrendous stuff. Politics, poor treatment of our fellow man, etc. always create a huge divide among all of us. Hopefully, for those of us looking for a “healthy” escape, you were able to find some comfort in the genre we all love so damn much… horror!
I appreciate you if you made it this far and thank you for your time. Again, I know we all have differing opinions and your Best of 2021 list may look much different to mine. Hell, your Worst of 2021 list may have the same films that I have here, as my favorites! That’s the great thing about the genre though; we all have different tastes, yet there is something for everyone.
I hope you all had a great 2021 and here’s to an even better 2022!