10 Horror Movies from the Past Decade that Prove Horror Doesn’t Need to “Come Back”

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Recently, in a discussion about movies, someone mentioned that horror needs to make a comeback. I did a Scooby-Doo doubletake. A comeback? Were they kidding? (Alas, they were not.) I rattled off a dozen or so titles from the past decade without even hesitating. These are artistic, powerful, well-made horror movies that have deeper meaning and high quality scares. I’ll spare you the free-for-all that conversation descended into, but, naturally, I wanted to share my list here.

These are my favorite ten horror movies from the last decade, explaining why each made my list. What criteria did I use? Mostly my own taste and opinions, so this list will certainly be debatable. I did limit myself by release date, of course, and simply because it’s important to me as a movie viewer, I didn’t include any remakes, sequels, reboots, adaptations, or spin-offs (that I know of), because I like new stories. Here they are.


1. 'Insidious' (2010)

Though not the deepest film on my list, Insidious has several significant things going for it. First, its scariness is earned through tension and build-up. There are little to no jump scares. The characters turn the lights on when they walk into a room where weird things are happening. (I’m side-eyeing you, Sinister.) All of the foreboding is extremely well built. Second, the characters matter. They aren’t set pieces for gore. Hell, there’s very little gore. There’s just well-acted characters trying to save their son. Heart, story, and so much dread.

Insidious [Blu-ray] ()

 

2. 'The Cabin in the Woods' (2011)

You want smart? Cabin in the Woods is smart as hell. Like all the best parodies, this one walks the line between what it makes fun of it and making fun of it. Is it a horror or a comedy? Yes. Such insightful criticisms of the horror genre as a whole would be plenty to make this film worth your time, but on top of that they actually manage to tell a story that’s unique and worth watching.

Cabin In The Woods [Blu-ray + Digital Copy] ()

 

3. 'The Babadook' (2014)

Holy hell, I love this movie. This is definitely one of the deepest ones on my list. It’s a gut-wrenching exploration of grief and how it changes us, how we cope, and how we can never truly escape it. It’s brutal and raw, extremely well-acted, and utterly compelling. Not to mention it’s genuinely scary, and those scares, too, are earned through careful setup rather than blood or startles. Plus, I just love a movie with something to say, especially if it leaves you thinking for a long time after, which Babadook did.

The Babadook [Blu-ray] ()

 

4. 'Goodnight Mommy' (2014)

Not every film has to say something “larger” than the film itself to carry meaning. Goodnight Mommy (Ich seh, Ich seh in its original German) derives its power from wire-tight tension between its three main characters—and leaves it up to the viewer to interpret each’s actions. In fact, it’s that room for inference, supposition, and interpretation that makes it work. Without giving it away, I’ll say that the about-face is one of the most compelling, horrifying twists I’ve ever seen in a movie, and that despite the ending, the midway twist alone makes Goodnight Mommy well worth watching.

Goodnight Mommy [Blu-ray] ()

 

5. 'It Follows' (2014)

I like smart movies. It Follows is smart and thoughtfully made. The concept is stellar, and the acting and pacing are great. There’s an unerringly persistent quality to not just the antagonist(s), but to the movie itself. It follows you around like its titular bogie. Its refusal to ground itself in time or place creates an unsettling effect I really enjoyed. And of course, it practically begs you to interpret the theme.

It Follows ()

 

6. 'The VVitch' (2015)

The Witch is so good as a historical film that it’d be worth watching even if it wasn’t also horror. Luckily for us, it’s also horror—and what horror! This film defines dread. It’s infused with it. From the get-go, I was tense beyond reason. Exquisitely shot and wonderfully acted, the dread never lets up. There are very few startles to alleviate the built-up tension, too, so the ending really pays off.

The Witch [Blu-ray + Digital HD] ()

 

7. 'Hush' (2016)

What I love about Hush is that it isn’t pretentious. It doesn’t really go for “art,” per say—just a really solid story done exceptionally well. It’s a slasher flick updated for modern quality. It doesn’t depend on tropes and tricks, which is refreshing, and the lead heroine is deaf and entirely capable—which is even more refreshing. All the cards are on the table; we just watch them play out in their inevitable, thrilling game.

(Available only on Netflix.)

Buy Taking off the Mask from Amazon.com

 

8. 'Get Out' (2017)

Horror as social commentary? Yes, please. Get Out is terrifying because it’s all too real. The realities of being black in America, facing prejudice that is not just hurtful but potentially deadly, the insidiousness of inequality, and the deep ugly root of slavery all build a level of power behind this film that many movies never even approach. The fact that it’s brilliantly written, acted, and directed make it a juggernaut, and perhaps my favorite horror movie from the past decade.

Get Out [Blu-ray] ()

 

9. 'Hereditary' (2018)

Hereditary has one scene in it that I will never forget for the rest of my life. The acting in that infamous scene is so good that I want to shake people when I tell them about it. That alone makes the movie worth seeing. And although the second half derails into cliché land, the first half is so damn good that I barely care. It’s unique, unnerving to the point of discomfort, beautifully shot, and brilliantly acted.

Hereditary [Blu-ray] ()

 

10. 'A Quiet Place' (2018)

What I love about A Quiet Place is the heart. Yes, when you think about it later you see all kinds of logical holes in the concept. But for me, the movie was so good that I didn’t care about that while I was watching it. If a movie is so well done that it can make an entire theater go silent to the point of people chewing softly, that movie deserves to make my list. But even better than the fun concept and the tense scenes, for me, was the shameless lack of grittiness. This is not a movie of torture, anti-heroes, or grungy despair. (Not that those don’t have their place.) This is a movie about family, love, and hope, and it’s still wonderfully tense and frightening. Cool.

A Quiet Place [Blu-ray] ()


You might notice that these ten films don’t even include It, which is the number one grossing horror film of all time. That’s because It is a remake of a movie and/or an adaptation of a book. (Also I wasn’t a big fan.) Nor does the list include popular films that I don’t happen to like as much, such as The Conjuring, Sinister, or Don’t Breathe, which could easily make someone else’s list. Hell, it doesn’t include any films I haven’t scene yet, such as The Wailing, The Invitation, or The Purge, or whatever excellent less-distributed movies I might not know about. Clearly, it’s not intended to be an exhaustive list.

My point is simply this: horror doesn’t need to “come back.” Horror never went anywhere. If anything, it’s been doing better than ever. Many of the horror movies on the top-grossing lists are from the past decade. The impression that it needs a comeback is just a result of the constant reluctance from consumers, marketers, and the media to call a spade a spade. (Need a refresher on what makes horror horror? Check out this infographic I made all about the genre.) So don’t talk to me about a comeback.

What’s your favorite horror movie from the past ten years?

Annie Neugebauer

Column by Annie Neugebauer

Annie Neugebauer likes to make things as challenging as possible for herself by writing horror, poetry, literary, and speculative fiction—often blended together in ways ye olde publishing gods have strictly forbidden. She’s a Bram Stoker Award-nominated author with work appearing and forthcoming in more than a hundred publications, including magazines such as Cemetery Dance, Apex, and Black Static, as well as anthologies such as Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 3 and #1 Amazon bestseller Killing It Softly. She’s the webmaster for the Poetry Society of Texas, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and in addition to LitReactor, a columnist for Writer Unboxed. She’s represented by Alec Shane of Writers House. She needs to make new friends because her current ones are tired of hearing about House of Leaves. You can visit her at www.AnnieNeugebauer.com for news, poems, organizational tools for writers, and more.

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Comments

cshultz81's picture
cshultz81 from Oklahoma is reading Best Horror of the Year Volume 8 July 27, 2018 - 10:06am

All great films here (haven’t seen Insidous or A Quiet Place yet, but they’re on my watch list). 

I’ll play this a bit looser and go with the last decade OR SO, and add only movies not on your original list (for the sake of variety). These are all original, non-rebooted, non-adapted stories.

1. Noroi: The Curse — fantastic found footage film from Japan. This one will make you a believer in the possibilities of the horror subgenre.

2. We Are Still Here — this one’s definitely style over substance, more in the vein of Fulci and Argento. I hated it upon first viewing, but I’ve seen it a few more times and its plotless goings-on, absurdity, and gore have grown on me. More a candy horror movie, but those types of films have their place.

3. Prevenge — the horrors of pregnancy laid bare in a blackly comedic way. Ending get a bit rushed but writer/director/star Alice Lowe is clearly having a blast, and it’s infectious.

4. The Rambler — The perversely charming love child of a three way between Lynch, Cronenberg, and Lovecraft. This one’s somewhat hard to find, but worth seeking out.

5. The Awakening — Wonderful movie in the gothic horror tradition. Creepy and icy with great psychological overtones.

6. Crimson Peak — Another gothic film, more of a gothic romance, a love letter to supernatural love stories. Lots of people hated this one, but I thought it was fantastic. Visually stunning.

7. The Void — Another love letter to films from the 80s, especially Fulci’s The Beyond (its damn near a remake of that film, but just original enough not to be). Awesome practical effects here.

8. Starry Eyes — yes, Dennis Widemer and his work partner Kevin Koelch made this one, and no, I don’t include here because of that fact. I include it because it is a fucking great film, period.

9. Late Phases — a really solid werewolf drama about family, masculinity (often to a toxic degree) and the isolationism of the ideal American man—the lone wolf, if you will.

10. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil — horror comedy works best when it displays a love for the genre while also taking the piss out of it, and this film definitely does that. It’s a simple inverse of the cliche of backwoods killers preying on sexy teens, and features a surprisingly astute conversation about preconceived notions and the labels we put on people. It’s also goofy and gory as heck.

AnnieNeugebauer's picture
AnnieNeugebauer from Texas is reading Suspended in Dusk II July 28, 2018 - 6:36am

Man, I've only seen a handful of these! Thanks for the awesome recs--they sound amazing. My to-view list just doubled. :D

Ashley B. Davis's picture
Ashley B. Davis from California is reading In the Woods July 28, 2018 - 2:59pm

Don't talk to ME about a comeback! 

This list has me swooning hard. Agree x10!!!

Also, checking out the stuff in cshultz81's list. 

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life July 30, 2018 - 5:33am

I watched "The Rambler" on Chris's recommendation in another column. Not for everyone, but I loved its unapologetic weirdness.

AnnieNeugebauer's picture
AnnieNeugebauer from Texas is reading Suspended in Dusk II August 5, 2018 - 7:27am

Thanks, Ashley! Me too! :)

Josh-- I love unaplogetic weirdness. I'll bump that one to the top of my list to check out!

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman September 12, 2018 - 12:43pm

I thought Bone Tomahawk was great. It might be horror-adjacent, but I thought it contained a lot of horror elements, and in an atypical western setting. That one did it for me. I think it also felt kind of open-ended in terms of how things would turn out, where a lot of movies are pretty much going to end one of a couple ways. 

I feel like the only person in Earth who didn't dig The Witch. I honestly walked away feeling like "I don't get it." That feeling is a pretty big turnoff for me. It felt artsy and important, but I got really fatigued by the question "Just what is going on here?" long before the end.