2020 movies: The best horror films of the year

·Contributor
·10-min read
The Wretched, His House, and Relic all make the list.
The Wretched, His House, and Relic all make the list.

We know what you’re thinking, the whole world’s been a horror show in 2020. But that didn’t stop some truly stunning spook-fests from landing in cinemas and on streaming in the UK this year. Against the odds, it’s been a banner twelve months for horror.

Before we get started, let’s be clear – this is a list of full-blown scare flicks released in the UK in the last 365 days, so arthouse dramas that hover on the edge of the genre (stuff like The Lighthouse and Parasite, both great movies with scary moments, but they’re not really horror) didn’t make the brutal cut.

Instead, what follows is a blood-dripping selection of the kind of pure adrenaline-spikers that have been distracting us from the real-life screams outside our windows this year.

Read more: The best films of 2020

If you need some chilled catharsis this Christmas, you should get yourself in front of this lot – but maybe make sure the doors are locked first.

10) Bliss

Released straight to Blu-ray by Eureka in a sold-out limited edition in February, Bliss combines arthouse with grindhouse to follow a troubled painter as she attempts to complete her masterpiece – while possibly turning into a vampire.

Shot on glorious 16mm film, Bliss sees director Joe Begos combining grainy beauty with intense ugliness, on a mission to imagine what it would be like if Abel Ferrara directed Vampire’s Kiss. That’s a compliment, by the way!

Bliss is available on Blu-ray and PVOD.

9) Color Out Of Space

Madeleine Arthur and Nicolas Cage in 'Color Out of Space'. (Credit: Studiocanal)
Madeleine Arthur and Nicolas Cage in 'Color Out of Space'. (Credit: Studiocanal)

After a successful stint on the festival circuit last year (including a stop-off at the London Film Festival), Color Out Of Space arrived in UK cinemas in February.

The release saw legendary British director Richard Stanley (Hardware, Dust Devil) returning to the silver screen after a twenty-four year feature gap (watch the documentary Lost Souls for an explanation).

Read more: Richard Stanley: 'Audiences don't know if they should be utterly horrified by Nic Cage'

It was well worth the wait. Stanley teamed with the makers of Mandy to make a similarly shaded piece of purple prose, combining a less racist HP Lovecraft with a crazed Nicolas Cage; a marriage made in Hell (or heaven if you love wild special effects movies with strong women, black leads, and weird monsters, which we most definitely do).

Color Out of Space is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

8) His House

Wunmi Mosaku and Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù in 'His House'. (Credit: Aidan Monaghan/Netflix)
Wunmi Mosaku and Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù in 'His House'. (Credit: Aidan Monaghan/Netflix)

A late contender for this list, His House landed on Netflix in the autumn without much hype. But it’s been steadily gathering a passionate fanbase, thanks to its deft mixture of social commentary with genuinely shuddersome set-pieces.

It’s the story of an immigrant couple struggling to settle in Britain, desperate to fit in, but thwarted at every turn. It probably doesn’t help that the council house they’re not allowed to move from is probably haunted - but were the ghosts already there, or did they bring the spooks with them?

Beautifully shot, with two superb central performances from Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù and Wunmi Mosaku (as well as a great supporting turn from Matt Smith), this is definitely worthy of moving into your watch list.

Watch: The His House team talk to Yahoo about the film

His House is streaming on Netflix.

7) Death Of A Vlogger

2020 has been a benchmark year for inventive UK horrors (just wait until you get to our number one film) and this Scottish haunter is no exception.

But don’t take our word for it, it’s also recommended by Host producer Jed Shepard: “If you love #HOST you’ll love DEATH OF A VLOGGER. It’s on Amazon Prime right now and makes a great found footage double bill!”

We can totally see why Jed would love it – it’s a similarly intense / fun rollercoaster ride, following a YouTuber who happens to be living in a haunted flat. But is everything what it seems?

A big J-horror influence throws a Queen-sized sheet of class over this low-budget masterpiece, with genuinely terrifying moments, including a masterful (and memorable) jump scare.

And if low-budget British scares are your bag, Charlie Steeds’ chilling ghost story An English Haunting, and his more recent horror-comedy A Werewolf In England, both performed absolute miracles on truly tiny budgets this year.

Both went straight to DVD in 2020, and you can probably pick them both up at your local supermarket. Recommended if you want to support future talent.

Death Of A Vlogger is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

6) Possessor

'Possessor'. (Credit: Signature Entertainment)
'Possessor'. (Credit: Signature Entertainment)

Gore-heads, welcome to your new favourite entertainment experience. Possessor’s astonishing practical effects are the clear highlight of this cerebral sci-fi horror flick, which sees its assassin lead taking over the minds and bodies of those close to her targets, so she can kill them in the most gruesome ways possible.

But there are other reasons to love this intricate thriller, not least its unforgettable ending.

Read more: Possessor star Tuppence Middleton on shooting 2020's weirdest movie sex scene

Trippy, complex, and very, very dark – we wouldn’t expect any less from director Brandon Cronenberg, son of David. If you’ve got a strong stomach, and an even stronger mind, this is a major recommendation, and it also made our list of the best films of 2020 overall.

Possessor is in cinemas and on PVOD now.

5) Relic

'Relic'. (Credit: Signature Entertainment)
'Relic'. (Credit: Signature Entertainment)

Dementia is a delicate topic at the best of times, let alone in a movie designed to make you jump, but Natalie Erika James used her own real-life family experience to deliver a special debut with Relic.

The story sees Kay (Emily Mortimer) and her daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) returning to the family home after Kay’s mother Edna (Robyn Nevin) goes missing. But it’s when she comes back from hiding that the scary stuff really starts.

Read more: Relic director reveals the unusual film that scared her as a kid

Relic is a horror film that moves your emotions as much as it makes you shift in your seat. But as powerful as the emotional experience is, it delivers the dread you’re expecting from a film in which darkness seems to seep from every wall. The movie it reminded us most of was David Fincher’s Se7en, which is clearly very high praise.

Relic on Digital HD 8 January and Blu-ray & DVD 18 January, 2021.

4) The Wretched

You may have missed this, as the poster made it look like a cheap folk horror that was probably shot in some woods.

But don’t sleep on it: The Wretched combines the Amblin-esque perspective of Stranger Things with the fun thrills of Fright Night for a film that most definitely does not look (or feel) cheap. No wonder it was a drive-in hit during the pandemic.

Following a teen boy as he stays with his divorced dad and discovers there’s a witch living next door, The Wretched feels like a fairytale half the time – and, as in all the best fairytales, people die.

Combining a very likeable cast with a truly excellent script (just wait until you see how the third act unfolds), this is exactly the kind of movie no-one really makes anymore: an ‘80s influenced feature set in the present day, that isn’t afraid to put its child leads in extreme (and scary) peril.

The Wretched is streaming on NOW TV with a Sky Cinema pass.

3) The Invisible Man

Elisabeth Moss plays a domestic abuse survivor in 'The Invisible Man'. (Credit: Mark Rogers/Universal)
Elisabeth Moss plays a domestic abuse survivor in 'The Invisible Man'. (Credit: Mark Rogers/Universal)

Remember that Dark Universe announcement photo? Remember The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise being thrown around in a plane? Yeah, sorry to remind you of both of those things – this year’s been tough enough.

But we have to remind you of how bad Universal’s monster movie franchise relaunch got, in order to help you fully appreciate just how brilliant Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man was.

Taking the base chemicals of the 1933 original (bad man gets worse when he finds a way to turn himself invisible) and sprinkling an exploration of misogyny into the thematic mixture, Whannell created a potion that improved on what came before to an extraordinary extent.

Watch the filmmakers behind The Invisible Man talk to Yahoo

Feeling classic and fresh at the same time, led by a never-better Elisabeth Moss as gaslit victim Cecilia, trying to escape her invisible abuser, Whannell’s take on the Dark Universe achieved the impossible: it made us want to see more.

The Invisible Man is streaming on NOW TV with a Sky Cinema pass.

2) Saint Maud

'Saint Maud'. (Credit: StudioCanal)
'Saint Maud'. (Credit: StudioCanal)

A debut so astonishing we’ll still be talking about it at the end of the decade, writer-director Rose Glass’ deeply scary exploration of loneliness combines a complex character study with influences from some of the best horror films ever made (The Exorcist, Carrie, Rosemary’s Baby - take your pick!), while maintaining her own distinct voice.

It follows titular hospice nurse Maud as she attempts to care for a charismatic dying patient, trying to save her soul in the process. But is it Maud who’s in need of rescue?

Read more: Saint Maud director Rose Glass says 'elevated horror' is a 'snobby' term

It all leads up to a sting in the tale so sharp, you’ll be thinking about it for months afterwards. All hail Saint Maud, we’re praying Glass follows it up with another masterpiece sooner rather than later.

Saint Maud will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, Limited Edition steelbook and Digital platforms on 1 February, 2021.

1) Host

Host (Vertigo Releasing)
Host (Vertigo Releasing)

So, Saint Maud is a true masterpiece, but it’s still not our number one horror film of the year.

Instead, Host gets that precious accolade, partly because it’s a film that really shouldn’t exist. And it definitely has no right to be this GOOD.

Conceived and shot entirely during the first lockdown, Host isn’t so much a movie as it is an example of British invention. Only one country made a jaw-dropping instant horror classic during the worst pandemic of our global lifetime, and it was the UK.

More specifically, it was director Rob Savage and producer Jed Shephard, alongside producer Douglas Cox and writer Gem Hurley, who are all being recognised for their brilliant work with BIFA nominations. Let’s hope they bring them all home.

Read more: How new horror film Host was made on Zoom in lockdown

As a result of their talent, Host went viral and spread around the world, adding significant subscriber numbers to the horror streaming service Shudder, before embarking on a cinema run at the end of the year (it’s in cinemas now). Sam Raimi was also a fan, he’s set to produce the gang’s next feature.

Watch a clip from Host to get a taste of the terror

And it all started on Zoom (like so many other things this year), with the film following a group of friends who decide to conduct a seance on the video conferencing software, only to find things start to go very wrong (like so many other things this year).

Let’s face it, there hasn’t been much good news to come out of the UK in 2020, so you’ll forgive us for fully embracing one of the biggest success stories. Host is fresh, fun, genuinely terrifying, and you can experience it in under an hour.

As 2020 approaches its end (THANK GOD), you should definitely fit this one in, right before you never want to look at a Zoom screen again.

Host is in UK cinemas, on PVOD, and streaming on Shudder now.

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