By Naomi Roper
When I’m feeling down nothing peps me up more than a horror movie. Whether it’s a silly splatter filled horror-comedy, a scary slasher or a dread-inducing nightmare, horror films have this incredible ability to transport me from the petty trials of everyday life. I’m not sure why horror movies have the ability to entrance me so but there is nothing better than watching some brave final girl fighting a masked mad man from the safety and comfort of my sofa.
This year I have been lucky enough to attend more horror festivals than ever before. I covered Fantasia Fest, Fantastic Fest and Grimmfest remotely, attended Frightfest (back for the first time in person after last year’s virtual event) and attended Celluloid Screams and the wonderful Soho Horror Film Festival for the very first time. It’s been a rough year (again!) but the inclusive and welcoming horror community that I have discovered through these events have been a very bright light in the darkness.
Below is a list of my top 30 horror films of the year. The list doesn’t include King Knight or Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes which despite screening at a number of the festivals listed above are categorically not horror but are two of my favourite films of the year.
Honourable mentions include:
When the Screaming Starts – a documentarian follows a wannabe serial killer in an amusing Brit horror-comedy.
The Beta Test – featuring a world-class performance by Jim Cummings in an uneven Hollywood satire.
The Righteous-very slow but handsomely shot cosmic horror with a fine performance from Henry Czerny.
Last Night in Soho – wildly overpraised and a total narrative mess especially in the third act but Anya Taylor-Joy is luminous.
#blue_whale – Russian screen life saga featuring a group of teens playing an online game that ends in tragedy
30 – Gaia – Two not very bright forest rangers come across father and son survivalists who are devoted to something ancient that lives in the forest. Visually arresting and decidedly camp folk horror. There’s something rather endearingly daft about Gaia. The female lead gets her (very fine) breasts out continually for no reason and her relationship with the son (who is the male version of the “Born Sexy Yesterday” trope) is distinctly uncomfortable. Features mushroom people that bear a strong resemblance to creatures from The Last of Us and trippy visuals Gaia is both earnest and silly with an ending that has more than a whiff of Twelve Monkeys about it.
Gaia can be rented or purchased on Amazon Prime
29 – Agnes – Mickey Reece’s film is a tale of two halves. The first is a baroque, fun look at demonic possession in a convent. The second is the tale of a grieving woman trying to find her way in a world she doesn’t understand. Molly C. Quinn is haunting in a movie that grips you with a quiet sadness. One of those movies that pop unbidden into your head long after you’ve watched it.
Agnes is available on VOD in the US
28 – The Advent Calendar – Who doesn’t love a Christmas horror movie! This French-Belgian confection features Eva (Eugénie Derouand) a former ballerina who is now a paraplegic following a terrible car accident. Her truly terrible best friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier) nicks a fancy wooden advent calendar for her from a German market. Inscribed on the back is a dire warning “dump it and Ich will kill you”. Inside the calendar are tasty treats and the rule is that if Eva eats one she has to eat them all. But the chocolates have special powers. As the days go by the calendar asks more and more of Eva and if she refuses to play ball well then Ich (a terrifying Jinn like creature that is bound to the calendar) will have something to say about it.
I love a slick horror romp but the reason this is so far down the list is that it features an unpleasant sexual assault sequence which is completely unnecessary and has the tired trope of having a person in a wheelchair magically walking. Somewhat fatally from a storytelling perspective, the movie is way too easy on Eva. The terrible choices Eva faces as the calendar demands sacrifices is made simpler by the fact that she is (mostly) surrounded by really awful people. Her best friend seems connected to her purely by guilt and immediately steals the guy Eva is interested in, her evil step-mother is straight out of a Disney cartoon, her boss is a lech and her new co-worker is dreadful. The version of this film I want to see is the one where Eva is surrounded by lovely, supportive people and has to make truly terrible decisions if she wants to achieve her dream of walking again. Has Hollywood remake written all over it.
The Advent Calendar is a Shudder exclusive and is streaming now.
27 – Night at the Eagle Inn – The Inn Keepers meets Scooby-Doo by way of The Twilight Zone as twins journey to the inn their parents died in shortly after their birth. Camp, spooky, unsettling and with cracking performances this is a scary delight.
26 – The Sound of Violence – A young woman develops synesthetic abilities after the brutal murder of her family. Having lost and re-gained her hearing she embarks on a journey of self-discovery through the healing music of brutal violence.
The Sound of Violence is essentially a feature-length Criminal Minds episode told from the killer’s perspective. Features a striking performance from Jasmin Savoy Brown as the killer who fearing she is losing her hearing is desperate to complete her concerto of death. Alex Noyer (writing and directing) features some memorably unpleasant sequences (the harp! Oh my god the harp!) and the sound design is as incredible as you would expect. It’s ever so slightly silly (the cops in this are hilariously bad – Hotch and Reid would have nabbed her in seconds) but good fun.
The Sound of Violence is available to buy or rent now
25- We’re All Going to the World’s Fair – Jane Schoenbrun crafts a beguiling screen life tale in which Casey (newcomer Anna Cobb) films herself taking the “World’s Fair” challenge – an internet horror game. We watch Casey and her online escapades as her mental health begins to spiral. Schoenbrun uses ASMR techniques to hypnotic effect to draw us further into Casey’s world. The movie is non-judgemental about Casey’s relationship with JLB (Michael L Rogers) a rich loner living in gilded insolation. Is he a predator or just a lonely old man seeking a connection with a girl he’s worried about? The movie leaves it to you to decide. Ambiguous, sensitive and heartfelt.
24 – Offseason – Writer/director Mickey Keating delivers a proper slice of American Gothic as Marie (Jocelin Donahue) is called back to the desolate island town her mother Ava grew up in. Ava (Melora Walters) escaped becoming a hugely successful film actress who made Marie promise never to return her there. But when Ava’s grave is vandalised Marie has to return to the island just before the offseason – when the bridge to the island is raised and closed for months. A creepy little number Offseason is immense fun as Marie quickly realises that there is something very very wrong with the good folk on the island. Walters camps it up to the max while Donahue is really hard to warm to meaning you’re not entirely rooting for Marie. The ending is a spine-tingling vision of Eldritch horrors. Extra bonus points for the sequence where Marie learns how to operate the bridge by watching an ancient training video. Practical and suspenseful.
Offseason will premiere on Shudder in 2022
23 – Antlers – Director Scott Cooper’s long-delayed wendigo horror finally made its debut this year. Antlers’ horrors are both supernatural (the slow transition of a loving if flawed father into a Wendigo) and socio-economic as we watch a small town in Oregon slowly dying from a blight of addiction and high unemployment. Keri Russell gives a soulful, nervy performance as a high school teacher forced to move back into her childhood home with her brother (Jesse Plemons). Child actor Jeremy T Thomas knocks it out of the park as Lucas, the poor kid who has to cope with his whole family turning into Wendigos. It’s a bit earnest, a bit too on the nose (how do we know Russell’s character is a recovering alcoholic? Possibly the endless shots of her staring wistfully at bottles of booze in her local shop). Slightly unforgivably they trot out Graham Greene to explain the First Nations mythology of the wendigo in scenes that are a little too “mystic native” for my tastes. There isn’t much here that wasn’t covered in old X-Files episodes on the subject but there is no denying the creature work is hugely impressive and you’ve gotta love a movie that’s not afraid to kill kids. Jesse Plemons steals the entire thing without even trying (which is pretty much his modus operandi).
Antlers is available to buy on Amazon Prime now
22 – Slapface – A modern-day Grimms’ fairytale as a grieving boy casts a spell for his dead mother to return and inadvertently conjures a protective witch. A searing look at child abuse and bullying featuring a stunning performance from young lead August Maturo.
Slapface will premiere on Shudder in 2022
21 – For Roger – A fascinating movie with found footage elements in which the grieving Roger looks back over tapes of his holidays with his fiancee and discovers that their relationship was very different to how he remembered. A sombre, unsettling film about the terrible ways we can treat those we love and the selectiveness of memory. Cleverly turns every slasher trope on its head.
20 – Midnight – Wi Ha-Jun is a riot as a charismatic serial killer who becomes entangled with a deaf mother and daughter in director Kwon Oh-seung’s tense thriller. Oh-seung throws away some of his best scares early on and the foot chases (of which there are many) quickly become repetitive. But if you can overcome the distastefulness of this being a thriller about deaf people played by hearing actresses it’s worth it purely for the sheer star quality of Wi Ha-Jun’s performance.
19 – Ultrasound – Ultrasound is the sort of movie where it is almost impossible to give a precis without giving something away. Glen (Vincent Kartheiser) meets Cyndi (Chelsea Lopez) after his car breaks down in the rain. Strangeness ensues. Director Rob Schroeder crafts an unsettling narrative querying whether we can really believe what we see in terms of the world around us. You really are best going into this one cold. One key actor (not named here) is nowhere near as strong as the rest of the cast which does undercut the power of some of the later scenes. But Kartheiser is memorably confused, Lopez heartbreakingly vulnerable and Bob Stephenson terrifying as Bob. Clever and more upsetting the more you think about it.
18 – Bigfoot Hunters – Ignore the horribly generic title – this is really funny. A mockumentary done in the style of a Vice guide (the original title was The Vice Guide to Bigfoot which I imagine was changed after Vice didn’t play ball). It follows Brian Emond – a reporter fed up with his culture beat at a Vice style outfit who dreams of bigger and better things. Assigned by his network to do a fluff piece on Bigfoot he heads off with his producer Zack to Bigfoot country where he goes in search of the beast with a local hunter. It is very very silly but made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions. Delightfully daft.
I watched as part of Soho Horror Fest’s excellent lockdown horror series. Bigfoot Hunters can now be rented on Amazon
17 – The Medium – Writer Na Hong-jin follows up The Wailing (a movie about demonic forces which beset a small town) with The Medium an unsettling found footage film. The movie features a documentary crew following a shaman, Nim, who believes herself to be possessed by the spirit of Bayan. Director Bangjong Pisanthanakun keeps things slow and measured at first as we become swiftly entranced by Nim and her rituals. But then Nim begins to suspect that her niece Mink may be possessed by a demon. The first half of the film is arguably stronger beguiling us with Nim’s world of faith and superstition. Once the demonic possession takes the centre stage it falters a little – there are only so many night vision shots of Mink scurrying around on all fours that a person can take. But the last 20 minutes. Holy god the last 20 minutes. The Medium fully goes for it in a blood-drenched cavalcade of carnage. A finale featuring scene after scene of unending horror that wouldn’t remotely get past a Western studio. It’s a wildly downbeat ending and utterly nihilistic but you have to respect the audaciousness. The coda with Nim speaking about faith has haunted me for weeks.
The Medium is a Shudder exclusive and is streaming now.
16 – The Trip – Imagine a live-action Tom and Jerry with ultra-violence. Noomi Rapace and Aksel Hennie play a married couple who have decided to kill each other on a weekend away. When a bunch of escaped criminals gatecrash their murder attempts they have to band together to get rid of them. Rapace and Hennie are funny and charming and the slapstick violence will make you wince. Never watched a movie before where you feel every single hit. Huge fun.
The Trip is streaming on Netflix
15 – Slumber Party Massacre
A brilliant remake of the original as a driller killer stalks a group of teens on vacation. Director Danishka Esterhazy and writer Suzanne Keilly turn every Friday the 13th style slasher trope on its head. We get all the daft scenes these films normally include – the utterly indulgent naked shower scene, the pillow fight, the girls sprawled around in tiny outfits but each of these tired, sexist tropes is turned around in a delightfully subversive manner. It’s clever and feminist and done with a light enough touch that it never feels preachy. It helps that it’s really really funny. And when people start dying it’s hard to watch as these are characters you’ve really grown to like. Clever, brutal and hilariously funny with moments of gut-punch emotion this is a remake to get on board with.
Slumber Party Massacre is out to buy in the US now and on VOD
14 – Freaky – Who doesn’t love a body swap comedy? Serial killer The Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) swaps bodies with high school student Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton) after he stabs her with an ancient dagger known as La Dola. Vince Vaughn (known for being something of a po-faced straight-laced Republican type) is an utter revelation here. It is hilarious to watch a man built like a brick shit house running delicately with his hands flapping and doing cheerleader moves to prove to Millie’s doubting friends that it really is her. Beyond the hilarity of Vaughn channelling his inner teenage girl, the movie is surprisingly subversive in the very tender scene in which Vaughn as Millie meets cute with Millie’s crush Booker. The scene in which they kiss is played utterly straight (no pun intended) with no cheap sniggering as an enlightened Booker decides that as David Rose would say “he likes the contents, not the bottle.” Kathryn Newton gets very little to do as the Blissfield Butcher other than vamp around but her standoff with Succession’s Alan Ruck is a hoot.
Features my favourite Hollywood trope that of Millie becoming a bombshell knock out by… putting on a black strap top and some red lippie.
Freaky is out to buy on dvd and blu ray now
13 – Hellbender – A bewitching coming of age story as a young woman living alone in the mountains with her mother learns the truth about who she is. The ridiculously talented Adams family (not that one) have crafted a story about motherhood, power and nature v nurture. Cosy cottage core aesthetics couple with a rock sensibility to produce a dread soaked tale about ancient monsters.
Hellbender will stream on Shudder in 2022
12 – The Maid – This screened last thing at night at Frightfest meaning many missed it for the last train home. Boy did they miss a treat. Joy (Ploy Sornarin) is hired as a housemaid by a wealthy family. She’s excited to be working in such a fancy house and is taken by the family’s young daughter Nid. Nid is considered unwell by the family because she sees things. This is because the house is haunted by the ghost of Joy’s predecessor, Ploy. The first half of The Maid is pure jump scare palooza as Ploy appears everywhere scaring the life out of Joy (and the audience – I am hardened to jump scares but they got me). The haunted house story then gives way to an absolutely gonzo revenge tale with a Grande Guignol finale with rivers and rivers of blood. It is ridiculously OTT and I loved every second. Bonus points for the fact that the wife in this tale dresses like she is on the front cover of Vogue at all times.
The Maid can be viewed on Netflix in certain territories (if you have a VPN it’s currently on Netflix Japan)
11 – No Man of God – Two things are true – we don’t need any more movies, podcasts or true crime books breathlessly discussing the disgusting void of humanity that is Ted Bundy and No Man of God is a really good film. Elijah Wood is surprisingly perfect cast as the FBI investigator Bill Hagmaier who befriends Bundy while trying to prise out of him the full details of his killings so Hagmaier can give the families the peace they deserve. Wood portrays Hagmaier as a beacon of goodness, his faith in his god quietly evident in everything he does. He’s polite and green and canny enough to play off it. Luke Kirby is horrifyingly accurate as Bundy capturing his preening narcissism. After watching him talk for long enough you want to take a shower in bleach (sorry Luke). Director Amber Sealey turns their cat and mouse interrogation sessions into a series of intimate conversations which become increasingly desperate as Bundy tries to save his miserable life. The movie captures the disgusting spectacle of Bundy’s execution while never judging either those who revelled in his death or the misguided advocate trying to save him. Upsetting.
10- To Freddy – Freddy is going on one last camping trip with his closest friends. Before the trip he finds a box filled with letters addressed to him which claim to tell the future. And the future they depict is a grim one. They carry a dire warning – one of his friends is going to kill Freddy.
Writer/director Viljar Boe crafts a nasty little tale about friendship, male bonding and free will versus fate. Nicolai Narvesen Lied is great as the increasingly unhinged Freddy. The movie is one long slow-motion car crash as Freddy tries to escape his fate.
I watched To Freddy as part of Soho Horror’s Fest’s Shockdown Saturdays
9 – Werewolves Within – Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) is the new forest ranger in the small town of Beaverfield. A proposed gas pipeline is causing deep divisions amongst the residents some of whom want to cash in the generous checks the gas company is offering them and move and others who feel that the pipeline is a natural disaster waiting to happen. This powder keg environment ignites when the dog of one of the residents goes missing. As the power goes out and everyone congregates in the local guesthouse people start to wonder is there a werewolf in Beaverfield?
Part murder mystery, part creature feature Werewolves Within is an adorable horror comedy/monster movie. The movie rests squarely on Sam Richardson’s shoulders. Fresh from being the best thing in dull actioner The Tomorrow War by a country mile Richardson is pure megawatt charm here. Finn is sweet, kind and fundamentally decent and hey that’s his superpower. Strong support is provided by Milana Vayntrub as Cecily the kooky postal worker who is quickly smitten by Finn. Cheyenne Jackson and Harvey Guilllen have delightful cameos as a rich hipster gay couple who oppose the pipeline. Huge fun.
Werewolves Within is available to buy now
8 – Candyman – Nia Da Costa’s sparse, searing horror reframes the Candyman mythos from a black perspective. Yahya Abdul- Mateen II is heartbreaking as the fated artist who falls down a rabbit hole investigating the Candyman myth while Colman Domingo is blistering as a walking incarnation of trauma. A rallying cry for racial justice. I’m not sure it will live as long in my memory as the original – the kills are perhaps a little too quiet and clinical but it’s a fierce piece of work.
Candyman is out on blu ray and dvd now
7. Sweetie You Won’t Believe It – If you had told me that hands down one of my favourite films of the year would be an exceptionally silly horror-comedy from Khazakstan I’m not sure I would have believed you. But dear god I love this film. I have watched it at every horror fest it has played at. A group of idiot men (including one who is about to become a father) go away on a fishing trip. They witness the accidental murder of a criminal by a group of local gangsters. And if that wasn’t bad enough the whole group becomes the target of a one-eyed psychopath who seems more terminator than man. It is very very very silly but that’s its charm. It pokes fun at all these terminally immature men and their very limited concept of masculinity. I laughed like a drain at one of the idiots using a group of blow-up sex dolls as a raft. The actors are good fun and very game (one seems to be doing constant impressions of The Rock). It’s also incredibly violent and surprisingly gory. One of those movies that is a delightful surprise. Everyone I know who has watched it has come away thrilled.
101 Films has picked up the rights to Sweetie You Won’t Believe it in North America and the UK.
6 – Fear Street Trilogy – The publishing juggernaut that is R.L. Stine passed me by. I was a Christopher Pike girl. I was too old for Goosebumps. So I had never heard of the Fear Street books until Netflix announced they had hired director Leigh Janiak to produce an X rated trilogy based on the books. The trilogy (which was released by Netflix on subsequent weeks) starts in 1994 skips back to 1978 before flashing all the way back to 1666 before coming full circle. The films plot centres around Shadyside – a town supposedly cursed centuries ago by an evil witch called Sarah Fier. A series of brutal killings have taken place in Shadyside over the years.
Fear Street 1994 features Deena (Kiana Madeira) devastated after splitting up with her girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) who has moved to the neighbouring (richer) town of Sunnyvale which is presided over by the Goode family including town Sherriff Nick Goode (Ashley Zukerman). The movie starts with a brutal killing at the local mall. With tensions high a game between Shadyside and Sunnyvale erupts in chaos and when a car accident occurs and Sam unwittingly disturbs Sarah Fier’s grave all manner of killers start stalking Sam, Deena and her friends.
Fear Street: 1994 is the Scream pastiche of the trilogy starting with the movie killing off its most famous star (don’t get too attached to Maya Hawke guys). For someone in their late teens at the time the film is set it’s fun watching all the terrible 1990’s fashion choices (Maya Hawke wears shoes I owned). The plot featuring an array of long-dead serial killers being sent after Deena and her friends is strong and the killers unsettling. When the finale results in some gory deaths I found myself really upset. Fear Street: 1994 features characters you really like, who turn out to be incredibly brave and still die horrible deaths. It’s affecting in a way most teen slasher films are not.
Fear Street: 1978 is the Friday the 13th rip off as a group of teens at Camp Nightwing are hunted down and killed by a crazed killer. This movie swaps out the 1994 cast for a capable group of teens (including Stranger Things Sadie Sink). The new cast is decent but not quite as strong as the 1994 cast which means you don’t care quite so much when the bloodletting starts. By far the most brutal of the three the last 20 minutes is fairly harrowing even to hardened slasher fans.
Fear Street: 1666 is the strongest of the three. Starting off back in olden times the 1994 cast is back as Deena finds out what truly happened to Sarah Fier. If you can get past the fact that 1666 features some of the worst Oirish accents ever committed to celluloid (only Ashley Zuckerman escapes with dignity intact) the first hour of 1666 is incredibly strong. An emotionally devastating look at homophobia (I may have cried quite a bit) it left me wanting to take to the streets and raise up arms against the patriarchy. After the flashback, the movie zips back to 1994 as Deena has to fight the true villain of the piece. The key revelation in this features some on the nose wordplay that had me groaning out loud. But this was initially written for children remember – 11 year old me would have been wowed.
Each of the films is a good 20 minutes too long and is slightly too languidly paced. But how could I not love a barnstorming horror trilogy helmed by a woman and featuring at its centre a beautiful love story between two teen girls. Good for Netflix spending a ton of money to create queer teen horror. More please.
The Fear Street trilogy is streaming worldwide on Netflix
5. Coming Home in the Dark – Another late night Frightfest marvel there is a point early on in this when I found myself looking with blank comprehension at the screen going “Wait..what???… You can’t do that”. But oh yes. Yes they can.
A tale of a family holiday that goes very very wrong when the poor family in question crosses paths with Mandrake (Daniel Gillies) and his friend Tubs (Matthias Luafutu). James Ashcroft’s movie is beautiful, brutal and downright harrowing to watch. This movie really does not fuck around. Gillies is brilliant. In a world in which horror had any respect, we’d be looking at acting awards for him. Equally superb is Luafutu who gives a fearsome performance of very few words. A superb but distressing watch. Fun fact – this movie is exec produced by Mike Minogue – the lovely cop from Wellington Paranormal.
Coming Home in the Dark is currently streaming on Netflix UK.
4 – The Empty Man – A victim of the Disney buy out of Fox The Empty Man has gained a new audience since being unceremoniously dumped on Disney +. Eerie, unsettling and packed with images that won’t leave your head David Prior’s movie about an ex-cop searching for a missing girl is a bona fide cult hit. One of the most haunting films of the year.
The Empty Man is streaming on Disney +
3- Titane – Dear god, how do you even begin to describe Titane? Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winning film features Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) who has a metal plate in her head after a childhood accident. After a series of horrifying events, Alexia has to go into hiding and does so by pretending to be the long-missing grown-up son (Adrien) of Vincent (Vincent Lindon). As you do.
Ducournau’s film is brave, bold, boundary-pushing cinema. It’s raw (no pun intended), tender, intimate and beautiful. The first 25 minutes (which I loved) feature high octane thrills and a hilariously brutal murder sequence. As the movie switches gears, it becomes a relationship drama about the transgressive nature of love and the true overwhelming desire to be seen as we truly are and loved for it anyway. Vincent Lindon is spectacularly brilliant as the brash fire captain who falls deeply in love with “Adrien”. Rousselle gives an incredibly assured performance in her first-ever role.
And yes she fucks a car. But’s it’s a testament to Titane’s brilliance that that insanity barely even registers.
Titane is released in UK cinemas on Boxing Day – 26th December 2021
2- Lamb – A childless couple in Iceland is blessed with the birth of a rather unusual lamb, Ada. Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snaer Guonason) enthusiastically welcome Ada as their own child and take her from her mother. As desperation causes Maria to do a terrible act Ingvar welcomes the arrival of his waster brother Petur (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson). But can their happiness last?
Playing out like an old Icelandic folk tale Lamb (from director Valdimar Jóhannsson (who also co-wrote the screenplay)) has downright haunted me ever since I watched it. More than any other movie on this list I’ll be doing something and find myself thinking of Maria and Ingvar and poor little Ada. Noomi Rapace in her second appearance on this list is exceptional in a nearly wordless role as Maria. Maria is so desperate to be a mother that she’s prepared to take that which is not hers and to commit the unspeakable to keep her. She’s the false mother and yet as you watch Rapace crying over the graves of Maria’s dead children you can’t find it in your heart to judge her. Like all good fairytales, you know from the moment Ada arrives that there isn’t going to be a happy ending and yet you find yourself rooting for this strange, loving little family and the light that Ada brings to them.
The inevitable bleak ending is completely devastating. Moving and deeply distressing once seen Lamb is never to be forgotten.
Lamb is out in UK cinemas now and is available to rent/buy on streaming services in the US.
1 – The Night House – It was a photo finish between Lamb and The Night House but the sheer hurricane force of Rebecca Hall’s performance sealed the deal. Fresh from directing one of the best films of the year (Passing – on Netflix now) Hall single-handedly carries every single frame of The Night House, David Bruckner’s follow up to the well-received horror The Ritual. Hall plays Beth, a woman whose husband of several years has unexpectedly committed suicide leaving a cryptic note behind. Staying in their beautiful, bleak glass box of a house she comes to believe that she is being haunted by his spirit. But when she finds a picture on his phone of a woman who looks remarkably like her Beth realises that maybe she didn’t know her husband at all.
The Night House is the sort of movie you watch from behind a tightly gripped cushion held in front of your face so you can only peek at the screen. Horrendously tense every second of it oozes utter menace as Beth is relentlessly pursued by something in the darkness. You will find yourself screaming for her to leave that awful glass box of a house the second she starts receiving phone calls from her dead husband and sees muddy footprints leading up out of the water and towards her house. And don’t even get me started on her bringing a weird creepy totem into the house. Honestly, the sense of overwhelming dread that Bruckner skilfully evokes builds and builds to completely unbearable levels.
Hall is superb as Beth a woman suffering from a maelstrom of emotions. Grieving, scared, jaded and so so angry that she can barely contain it Beth is a woman coming apart at the seams. Forget all the terrifying scenes of a spectral presence bothering Beth in the night the three most horrific scenes in The Night House are down to earth horrors of Beth telling a mother going into bat for her loser kid about her husband’s death, Beth confronting her husband’s mistress and the scene where drunk off her arse she reads her husband’s suicide note to her colleagues. The later scene is complete agony to watch as a devastated Beth unleashes her rage and grief on her horrified colleagues.
Sarah Goldberg is excellent in support as Claire – Beth’s friend who may be in love with her (well that was my take on it anyway). Sure like many films on this list it’s a smidge too long, genre fans will be far ahead of Beth when it comes to the suicide note and towards the end, it becomes less scary as it shows a little too much. But it’s a killer vehicle for Rebecca Hall and is hands down the scariest film of the year (and I really do not scare easily).
The Night House is now streaming on Disney +