2020, to say the least, has been a complete shitshow. The year has been weird, long, depressing, anger-inducing, and frustrating. But that dumpster fire has made the shiny parts shine bright in a way that made all the crap disappear for a few moments or hours at a time. And for that, I am grateful.
In a year that showed us that time actually has no meaning whatsoever, I know I’m not remembering half of the stuff that I watched and loved, but here are just some of the things that gave me joy, comfort, awe, or just some time away from what has become “the norm.”
Gretel & Hansel
The films of Osgood Perkins are so totally my jam. Gretel & Hansel is no exception. His fantastically creepy and twisted take on the story of two children getting lost in the woods is also a decidedly feminist piece that puts a thought-provoking spin on a well-told classic fairy tale. Beautifully acted and intentionally told, this film haunts as much as it enchants.
Color Out of Space
If this list was ordered, Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space would be in the number one spot. A brilliant film and a fantastic adaptation of one of H.P. Lovecraft’s most celebrated stories, this film is my favorite of the entire year. It really nails the bigger, cosmic nature of the terror found throughout Lovecraft’s work, while effortlessly bringing the story into a modern setting and correcting some of Lovecraft’s more problematic elements. It is a beautiful, frightening, and perfectly executed film that I will revisit with renewed awe upon every watch.
I seriously wonder sometimes what I would do without Shudder. They have been KILLING it this year. Not only have they delivered an incredible slate of older films (tons of Italian horror, for example), they are also premiering and showcasing some incredible newer films. In a year where I spent 99% of my free time on the couch watching stuff, it was great to have a steady stream of quality horror films to check out. Scare Package, Anything for Jackson, Scare Me, La Llorona, The Mortuary Collection, The Last Drive-In… Shudder just keeps giving.
The Ghoul Boys
2020 was the year that I discovered the YouTube shenanigans of Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej. From their fantastically entertaining Buzzfeed: Unsolved series to their newer works on Watcher (looking at you, Too Many Spirits), their videos have become a part of my recent viewing habits, and I can’t tell you the amount of joy that they have injected into my day. If you need a short break from the mundane, I highly recommend.
The Dark and the Wicked
One of the greatest gifts this crap year gave us was a new film from Bryan Bertino. And boy, did he deliver. The Dark and the Wicked is a stark tale of grief and the inescapable fear that comes with death. He creates a monster that is innately familiar, even if you have never faced death as closely as his characters have. It’s a film that works its way under your skin and is one of my recent favorites.
Nightstream Film Fest
As much as I missed going to film festivals, the teams at the Boston Underground Film Fest, the Overlook Film Festival, Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, Popcorn Frights Film Festival, and North Bend Film Festival joined forces to make a super epic virtual film festival called Nightstream. And it was amazing. The festival showcased a number of amazing horror films—some of which have seen release (Anything for Jackson) and others that will hopefully find a home soon (Darkness). Definitely keep these titles on your list for the coming year—the teams behind these united film festivals worked hard to put together something amazing and to ensure that these films would be seen by horror-loving audiences like us.
Some of the best horror comes from stories that incorporate the personal experiences and trials of their characters, and in that, His House is a rousing success. A story focusing on a couple who are trying to find their footing after immigrating to the UK from Africa, they find that they are unable to leave behind some of their past experiences. Those experiences and the guilt they carry manifests as something sinister as they try to acclimate to their new home. It’s a film that is both terrifying and moving, and I highly recommend it if you haven’t caught it yet.
I loved Host because, even though the in-screen storytelling mechanism isn’t anything new, Rob Savage made great use of it in his pandemic-set film. Not a moment was wasted, and he made excellent use of the technology at play. I love this film because it was made during lockdown, using what he and the cast had on hand, and the result is a tense, tight film that utilizes the creativity of the people involved.
Sometimes you need a silly, but heartfelt movie about ghosts, mediums, and a jackass has-been singer from yesteryear. Extra Ordinary more than delivers on each of these. Super funny and always sweet, the film tells the story of a retired medium who goes back into action to save a teenage girl from the clutches of the sad-sack singer who would perform a virgin sacrifice to the devil in exchange for his return to chart-topping success.
The Invisible Man
Remember when this came out? This came out in 2020! Yeah, I can’t believe it, either. It was one of the last movies that I got to see in a theater. It scared the living hell out of me. Elizabeth Moss is amazing, and though I enjoyed Leigh Whannell as a director before this project, he has seriously upped his game on this one. A well-constructed, tightly paced and smart film.
Fright Rags and Cavitycolors
I wear jammies all the time now, and the good folks at Fright Rags and Cavitycolors have kept me comfy and looking good all year long. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I have to put on hard pants and a normal shirt to go into an office, but until I have to deal with that problem, I’ll be over here in my Every Day is Halloween jogger pants and my Michael Myers t-shirt, the way the dark lord intended.
Friends Like You
If you are reading this, following horror, watching movies, nerding out over the latest releases, casting news, and crazy collectables, we are friends. I am so thankful for the conversations, for you reading my articles (which, admittedly, have been fewer since the pandemic started) and hanging out with me on Twitter. You have been a wonderful source of support during a truly difficult time, and I wish you all the best in 2021.
Check back here for more Favorites of 2020 lists from the Daily Dead team!