Despite the limitations that the pandemic has had on the entertainment industry, there have still been some fantastic horror features and shorts released in 2021.
Instead of a Top 5 or Top 10, we have just decided to put all of our recommendations in one place and let you devour them.
Following the polarising 2016 ‘third’ film in the series, Jason Reitman took the Ghostbusters series back to what made it special. Brimming with nostalgia plus a star turn from McKenna Grace and the trilogy was finally completed. There is some genuine emotion to the piece too, especially during the finale of the film.
A perfect gateway horror for youngsters too.
Slumber Party Massacre
One of the most welcome surprises of 2021, was Danisha Esterhazy‘s clever and gory reboot of 80s favourite The Slumber Party Massacre. Esterhazy fully embraces the absurdity, litters it with slasher easter eggs whilst crafting a truly feminist slasher film.
The long-awaited return of Michael Myers set the worldwide box office on fire once again, bagging over $130 million, a total not to be sniffed at during pandemic times.
Halloween Kills felt like a throwback to the swashbuckling 80s slashers where often spectacle would triumph over story. We also saw Michael Myers at his most brutal, with another stellar performance from James Jude Courteney plus those gorgeous 1978 flashback scenes. Bring on Halloween Ends!
Moll and Alfie are on the verge of falling in love after a few years of friendship – but she has a secret that threatens not only their budding romance, but also his life.
This sexually charged short tackles what its like to potentially fall in love with someone who may be a vampire. Aftertaste plays with its concept from the outset and uses the Hitchcock ‘bomb under the table’ approach regarding its tension. Two solid performances including Joe Dempsie of Game of Thrones fame plus a surprising finale. Great stuff.
A mother visits her reclusive adult son in a last ditch effort to convince him to come to the hospital to say goodbye to his dying father, but his resentment has a life of its own
Rancour is quite possibly one of the best short films I have seen in quite some time. While it seems like a heartbreaking tale of an estranged son who is given a chance to see his dad one last time, there is a body horror element going on here plus a monster that is up there with the recent work of Steven Kotanski for The Void.
Incredible sound and production design makes this such an immersive experience which is much deeper than it should have been. Incredible.
Shot in the Dark
Keena McRae’s Shot In The Dark is a visceral experience with a rural town haunted by a potential serial killer.
We follow on from a spree of killings, with all signs pointing to one of the victims’ ex-lover’s who has become withdrawn and distant since the incident. For much of the film the killer’s identity is shrouded in mystery but once the curtain is pulled back the results are even more devastating than you can imagine.
Shot in the Dark does not pull its punches, with its violence certainly not for the squeamish amongst us. Its unsettling, twisted but so compelling.
While the screening of The Sadness came with certain expectations, I must admit I wasn’t quite prepared for what I actually saw.
Picking the very topical theme of a pandemic, the virus detailed in the story has two effects on people – they either want to kill you or have sex with you – and nothing in out of bounds.
I can’t give away too many particulars but there is some quite depraved dialogue and also one scene that could have viewers either switching off or walking out. But if you can stick it out, this is easily one of the boldest, depraved and visually stunning films of the year.
The directorial debut of Mark O’Brien, shot in black and white sees a couple take in a mysterious man after he sports a leg wound near their home in bad weather.
Slowly they discover there is more to him than initially suspected and they could be in mortal danger. Even though O’Brien directs his character of Aaron is the best in the film, as he oozes dread and almost makes you want to grab through the screen to throttle him as he toys with this couple.
Be careful what you wish for, be certain what you pray for.
It’s quite difficult to describe the whacky and balls-to-the-wall Happy Times without spoiling some plot strands.
Think of this as the ultimate work dinner party gone wrong. I suppose you never really know your colleagues until you drink with them.
We get offbeat commentaries on anti-semitism, a wannabe Chuck Norris and potentially drug poisoning – and that’s just for starters.
One of the best off-kilter genre comedies of the year easily.
We follow a deaf woman and her mother, who accidentally interrupt a serial killer stalking the streets, only to become his next potential victims.
While some horror serial killers slowly stalk their victims our killer here is like a wild animal who will sprint at full pelt to get his next kill and he just doesn’t stop.
Midnight is like the most intense cat and mouse game put to screen in some time. Our killer doesn’t discriminate with weapons and will just grab whatever is around to get the job done.
Midnight was an adrenaline rush like no other film being shown on the festival circuit this year.
Night at the Eagle Inn (words by David Dent)
Fraternal twins embark on a pilgrimage to a remote Vermont inn to investigate the last known whereabouts of their father, who mysteriously disappeared the night they were born. Not ones to leave any stone unturned, their exploration leads to shocking revelations as the property’s dark secrets ensnare them in a hellish labyrinth that they must escape before dawn.
While some have mentioned the haunted hotel vibes of ‘The Shining’ in this movie its quirky, darkly humorous feel reminded me of Ti West’s 2011 flick ‘The Innkeepers’. Like most of Bloomquists’s movies it doesn’t outstay its welcome; the light comedic touch would probably wear in a longer film. But its humour is deceptive; there’s some disturbing imagery on display here and Schweers’ unhinged performance keeps things very spiky.
Jeremiah Kipp’s Slapface takes the idea of the imaginary friend and takes it to complete new and chilling levels.
In the opening reel we see a pair of brothers playing a game of happy slap, but it turns out this game could have deadly consequences if anyone messes with younger brother Lucas.
Slapface is very much about the ideas that crossed the minds of children and teenagers without thinking about the consequences.
The two central performances from Lucas and Tom are fantastic and really drive the film forward until a truly gut-wrenching finale. A harrowing but essential watch.
The Barcelona Vampiress
The Barcelona Vampiress feels like it was plucked straight out of the peak-Tim Burton era of the late 1980s, with a fairytale aesthetic which often hypnotises the audience.
With some David Lynch imagery thrown in, The Barcelona Vampiress is a work of art with some truly stunning scenes that feel plucked out of an art gallery. The film asks questions of society and whether believing in fantastical theories instead of believing the harrowing truth is more cathartic.
This film has the potential to be this year’s Tigers Are Not Afraid.
Family History (short)
We open with Sam, a teenager who is about to tell his mother he is gay at their summer lake home, with this short dealing with the aftermath of this decision.
While ‘Family History’ plays very cloak and dagger with its plot, there is some real resonance to be gained from the plot threads.
Ultimately this is a short that begins fairly innocently but has a really visceral underbelly. Also, make sure you watch it right until the end.
Synonymous With (short)
Pitched as a pseudo documentary, Thom Hilton’s Synonymous With really hits at the core of what makes a horror fan.
Many of us will see a lot of ourselves in this story, as a filmmaker interviews a former horror host about his struggles with his identity, being someone outside of what is seen on screen and the loneliness his role has potentially contributed to.
This is very much a love letter to the ‘otherness’ of being part of the horror community and is a commentary on a work life balance, even when you a doing something you love.
Catfish Killer (short)
This short film sees three friends trying to reconnect by taking a trip to a log cabin for the weekend, but Howey can’t stay off those damn dating apps.
Things turn deadly when the boys start catfishing with someone who clearly doesn’t take too kindly to it.
It is clear that the cast are having a ball plus a razor sharp script to play with. Catfish Killer also has a surprising amount of heart to it, with the three friends banding together when danger strikes.
What’s Left Inside (short)
Genre creative Michael Varrati is back with some lockdown commentary that is strikingly different in tone from his previous effort, the award-winning Unusual Attachment.
Broken up with on the eve of a global lockdown, Max finds the subsequent solitude to be almost more than he can bear.
The central performance from Danny Plotner is excellent and you really feel the character beats and the heartache he is feeling. Andrew J Caperley’s score is also superb and ambitious and feels befitting a blockbuster with its scope.
Ultimately, What’s Left Inside shows us that loneliness as well as ghosts from the past can also be a killer.
The Last Matinee
The Last Matinee, is quite possibly a modern-day, slasher classic.
Clearly, director Maxi Contente knows the genre well and wears his reverence for the Giallo and slasher films on his sleeve, creating some excellent and gory set pieces.
Here we have a mysterious killer, much like the height of the 80s slasher boom, who turns up at a location and just goes to work. Slashers don’t need to be complicated and Contente knows this, and instead focuses on victims, creating interesting side plots for us to follow.
If you thought the slasher film was dead, think again, The Last Matinee is one show you will be dying to get a ticket for.
Nia DeCosta’s delayed return to Cabrini Green was well worth the wait, as the Candyman returned to the big screen for this stylish quasi remake/sequel.
While it pays respect to the lore established by Bernard Rose and Tony Todd in 1992, this Candyman is about creating its own lore and infusing it with relevant social commentary of 2021.
Beautfully shot and not scrimping on the gore, Candyman offers treats for everyone, just don’t say his name five times in the mirror.
What were your favourite horror films of 2021? Let us know in the comments.