Best Horror Movies 2019

January 6th, 2020

First of all, you’ve got to love a list that features an above-the-headline image of the Mashit demon from Nightmare Cinema. But beyond that (and the fact that NC comes in ranked among the top 20), the year’s-best-horror list at Rotten Tomatoes confirms that 2019 was a banner year for the genre.

For the record, here are RT’s top 20 horror titles, based on reviews from the website’s top critics:

  1. TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID (VUELVEN) directed by Issa López
  2. HARPOON directed by Rob Grant
  3. HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN’S CURSE (HAGAZUSSA) directed by Lukas Feigelfeld
  4. US directed by Jordan Peele
  5. THE LIGHTHOUSE directed by Robert Eggers
  6. BLISS directed by Joe Begos
  7. READY OR NOT directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
  8. THE GOLEM directed by Doron Paz, Yoav Paz
  9. DEPRAVED directed by Larry Fessenden
  10. EVER AFTER (ENDZEIT) directed by Carolina Hellsgård
  11. BRAID directed by Mitzi Peirone
  12. THE HOLE IN THE GROUND directed by Mitzi Peirone
  13. LUZ directed by Tilman Singer
  14. MIDSOMMAR directed by Ari Aster
  15. CRAWL directed by Alex Aja
  16. THE WIND directed by Emma Tammi
  17. GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR directed by Travis Stevens
  18. SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK directed by André Øvredal
  19. NIGHTMARE CINEMA directed by Alejandro Brugués, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryuhei Kitamura, David Slade
  20. DOCTOR SLEEP directed by Mike Flanagan

That’s quite a list, and it includes a number of titles that I consider some of the best horror films that I have seen in recent years.

One of those is the list-topper Tigers are Not Afraid, which though not released in the States until 2019 has been wowing audiences on the festival circuit since 2017. I caught it in 2018 at Grimmfest in Manchester, UK, where it stunned a packed theatre with its timely blend of magic realism social commentary.

Directed by Mexican filmmaker Issa López, Tigers tells the story of a band of homeless children forced to survive on the mean streets of an unnamed Mexican town. Though not professionally trained, the young actors deliver riveting performances, with Juan Ramón López winning an Ariel (Mexico’s equivalent to the Academy Award) for his performance as El Shine.

The thing that impresses most about the film is the way it blends magic realism with social commentary. It’s a combination that gives fantastic cinema an edge over other genres, and one I have written about in a previous review of Rusty Cundieff and Darrin Scott’s Tales from the Hood 2 (2018).

Another film that blends horror and social commentary is Us, Jordan Peele’s multi-layered followup to his critically acclaimed debut Get Out. Here, Peele expands on the concept of the “sunken place” that he introduced in his first film, and along the way engages in ambitious world-building that gives the movie a freshness not found in the trope-laden plots of less successful horror stories.

You have to pay attention to this one, as incidents and images that seem random at first come together in a subtext that rewards re-watching. US is one of those movies that fuels conversation about the plot as well as the issues it raises.

A recent article in IndieWire calls horror “the most profitable genre [and] one of the most exciting vessels for filmmaking talent, a means of entertaining and terrifying audiences while tricking them into thinking deeply about the world around them.” The list above certainly supports that claim.

  1. This entry was posted on Monday, January 6th, 2020 at 9:14 am and is filed under 21st-Century Scop. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.

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