As a genre, horror has never been as popular and artistically varied as it is today. The era of streaming and VOD has led to a boom in horror content at every level of budget and ambition, and the best 2021 horror movies reflect that diversity of voices and approaches. From blockbusters to indies, reboots to original concepts, the gruesome to the comedic, here are the best horror movies of 2021 for viewers to catch up on.
The Night House
Rebecca Hall gives a powerhouse performance as a woman suffering from crippling grief in this slow-burn haunted house story. Hall’s Beth is grieving the loss of her architect husband to suicide, and still living in the house that he designed for them. She feels a strange presence in the house, leading her to discover horrific secrets about her late husband, and to confront her own history with what lies beyond death. If you liked this, consider reading Ghoster.
The title character of Rose Glass’ Saint Maud is no saint, although in her religious fervor, she may believe that she is. Maud (Morfydd Clark) works as a home health nurse for a renowned dancer and choreographer (Jennifer Ehle), an atheist who’s terminally ill. Maud believes she’s communing with God, which drives her into a violent frenzy, in a disturbing demonstration of her dangerous delusions. If you liked this, consider reading The Seven Visitations of Sydney Burgess.
Despite its title, this stylish new Candyman movie isn’t a reboot of the 1992 horror classic. It’s a direct sequel, building on the urban legend of the hook-handed killer inhabiting what used to be a poverty-stricken Chicago housing project. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays an artist with a connection to the original Candyman, who becomes consumed by the story and finds himself re-enacting the cycle of violence. If you liked this, consider reading Old Country.
A Quiet Place Part II
The blind aliens with super-sharp hearing return in A Quiet Place Part II, John Krasinski’s follow-up to his surprise sci-fi horror hit. Krasinski himself appears only in a tense, fast-paced opening flashback, as the movie focuses on the family of his late character, led by Emily Blunt as a fierce matriarch. She and her children continue to evade the deadly aliens, while searching for a larger community of survivors. If you liked this, consider reading Wonderland.
Filmmaker Prano Bailey-Bond meticulously recreates the style of 1980s “video nasties” in this surreal period-horror movie. Niamh Algar plays a woman working for the British government’s censorship office who discovers something distressingly familiar in one of the movies she’s assessing. That leads her down a disorienting path, in which the real world and the film’s world blur together into a single nightmarish vision. If you liked this, consider reading Imaginary Friend.
A pair of travel vloggers (played by Osric Chau and Sara Canning) trying to salvage their floundering YouTube channel get more than they bargained for at a vacation rental house in this energetic horror-comedy from Brandon Christensen. Gracie Gillam gives a hilarious, mesmerizing performance as the “superhost” who terrorizes the couple, all in the name of scoring that elusive perfect review. If you liked this, consider reading Who is Maud Dixon?.
The Wrong Turn franchise may have lost its way over the course of multiple straight-to-video entries, but this reboot tweaks the concept just enough for a fresh take. It’s still about young people getting lost on back roads where they’re stalked and attacked by deranged weirdos. But this installment adds a demented cult angle that provides for some intriguing twists along with the requisite kills. If you liked this, consider reading The Noise.
What if your jeans tried to kill you? That’s the concept of Elza Kephart’s surprisingly sophisticated horror comedy, which takes place almost entirely within a trendy clothing store. Kephart delivers a satire of consumerism alongside a funny, ridiculous story about possessed pants that murder their wearers in absurdly gruesome ways (and also participate in a dance number). If you liked this, consider reading The Other Black Girl.
A Canadian horror movie about dreams that is itself dreamlike, Anthony Scott Burns’ Come True stars Julia Sarah Stone as a young woman who signs up for a sleep study with obviously sinister undertones. Burns combines a retro-futuristic aesthetic in the waking scenes with some truly unsettling images in the dream scenes, and then he slowly obliterates the line between the two, for both the protagonist and the audience. If you liked this, consider reading Dead Water.
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Josh Bell is a freelance writer and movie/TV critic based in Las Vegas. He’s the former film editor of Las Vegas Weekly and the former TV comedies guide for About.com. He has written about movies, TV, and pop culture for Syfy Wire, Polygon, CBR, Inverse, Crooked Marquee, and more. With comedian Jason Harris, he co-hosts the podcast Awesome Movie Year.