There has been no shortage of scares over the last couple of years.
Most of them, of course, came from the real world — as COVID-19 put all of us, to some degree or another, in very real danger.
Yet, there’s also been a fair share of spooky things coming from the movie world. And those are the type of ones we’re looking for during the Halloween season.
Much of the entertainment industry was shut down for over a year due to the pandemic, yet the horror film machine just kept right on pumping out ghastly good offerings during that time period. Indeed, 2020 and 2021 have been great years for horror releases — some of which hit the big screens (often the drive-ins) and others went straight to streaming platforms.
Here is a look at 10 of our favorite releases from the past two years. All of them are widely available to stream/rent/purchase right now. So, pick one (or all 10) and have yourself a happy Halloween!
Nobody is doing better work these days in the horror-comedy genre than Christopher Landon. Having given the world the wonderful “Happy Death Day” and the solid sequel “Happy Death Day 2U” — which are both built on a “Groundhog Day”-esque storyline — the director hits another one out of the park with this film that can be considered a kind of horror movie version of “Freaky Friday.” Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton are brilliant as a serial killer and high school student who end up switching bodies through the usual dark evil spell mumbo-jumbo.
It’s a chilling supernatural horror film, with a few scenes — is that a monster crawling out of that deer carcass? — which could end up keeping you up at night. The film stars John-Paul Howard as Ben Shaw, who suspects that there is something wrong going on with his neighbors. (Spoiler alert: He’s right.) “The Wretched” is truly a movie that lives up to its name, yet in all the right ways, and it’s highly recommended for anyone who likes witch stories.
Wait a second – a horror movie starring Kevin James? Kevin James from those goofy “Zookeeper” and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” flicks and “The King of Queens” TV sitcom? Yes, that Kevin James. And he’s very convincing in his cinematic turn to the dark side, playing an ex-con who might just have bitten off more than he can chew when he tangles with 13-year-old Becky (Lulu Wilson) in this home invasion tale.
“Saw” has been one of horror’s most consistently entertaining franchises, beginning with the stone-cold classic first film in 2004 and continuing through several well-directed sequels. This 2021 offering is a worthy addition to the legacy as well as a plausible reboot, delivering plenty of new avenues to further explore in the “Saw” storyline for years to come. Chris Rock stars in the film and adds a sense of humor to the mix — something that the franchise has never really had before.
How safe are you really when you jump into that rideshare vehicle? You might be thinking twice about using an app to arrange your next ride after seeing this Canadian thriller, which tells the story of a woman who simply needs a lift from the airport to see her father one late night and instead ends up on a nightmare journey involving a supernatural creature known as the “Toll Man.” (Note: This is not to be confused with the 2021 film of the same name starring Michael Smiley.)
Two forest rangers encounter more than they bargained for when they enter into the woods in this entirely engrossing South African eco-horror film, which had its world premiere at the South by Southwest film festival in 2021. One of the rangers runs across two survivalists — a father and son, who are living way, way off the grid — but it becomes increasingly hard to survive as some kind of evil draws steadily closer. The movie’s folklore-horror vibe should please fans of “Midsommar” and “The Witch.”
Rupert Friend — whose spin as CIA operative Peter Quinn helped make the Showtime political thriller “Homeland” one of the best TV shows of all time — is on top of his game in the role of graphic novel artist Jeff Vahn, who must battle dark forces in order to save his daughter. The jumping off point of the film is a bad marriage and impending divorce, and the horror that follows serves to underscore how damaging these situations can be for the children.
We loved Megan Fox in the 2009 horror-comedy “Jennifer’s Body” and then managed to go 10-plus years without seeing her in another movie. (We’re not “Transformers” fans and somehow managed to miss 2016’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.”) Yet, we’re back on the Fox bandwagon after catching the actress in this (quite literally) chilling survival tale of a wedding anniversary celebration gone oh-so very wrong. Feel free to join us, but note that the bandwagon is already getting crowded with all the people cheering Fox on for this “comeback” role.
This is the movie that affirms all of those parental fears about kids spending way too much time on their iPads, smart phones and other screens. So, in other words, kids might want to persuade their parents to watch something else lest they face some stiff screen-time limitations, because this chilling release tells the tale of a monster that preys on a young boy through his smart device. Yes, in this movie, there’s an app for that.
Let’s just state the obvious here: Nicolas Cage has been the single greatest thing about the movie business over the past few years, always coming across as pure, unadulterated Nicolas Cage no matter what a particular role calls for. He once again shines brightly, in a very stoic kind of way, in this delightfully ridiculous movie that could lead to nightmares for all of us who grew up celebrating our birthdays at Chuck E. Cheese.
Bonus pick: ‘Malignant’
James Wan is the greatest — and certainly most successful – horror filmmaker of his generation, having masterminded the “Saw,” “Conjuring” and “Insidious” franchises. The director has yet another winner on his hands with “Malignant,” which takes viewers on a thrill ride of unexpected twists, convincing scares and over-the-top action as it unravels the tale of a troubled woman and the mounting number of gruesome deaths surrounding her.
“Malignant” isn’t widely available to stream, but we’re still including it on our list because it’s the best horror movie of the last two years. It was released simultaneously in theaters and HBO Max earlier this fall, although it’s since been pulled from the Max. “Malignant” will reportedly be available for digital purchase beginning on Oct. 22, with Blu-ray and DVD versions to follow on Nov. 30. But keep your eyes open for its return to streaming at some point.
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