It’s always a bit surprising to look back and realize how many genre movies and TV series you’ve managed to squeeze in over the past year. This is especially true in 2021, where nothing was normal and time was fluid. Even the PopHorror writers have fallen victim to this blip in the Matrix, and we’ve all found something to love in the list. Check out our list of favorite horror movies from the past year.
PG: Psycho Goreman
After unearthing a gem that controls an evil monster looking to destroy the Universe, a young girl and her brother use it to make him do their bidding.
Directed by Steven Kostanski, starring Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre, Matthew Ninaber
*I couldn’t get enough of this ironic love letter to rubbery monsters and ‘90s kids programming (that’s definitely not for kids). — Michael Cavender
*PG: Psycho Goreman was hysterical, and probably my favorite horror film of the year, simply because it was such a good time. I was smiling from the word “Go,” and that smile didn’t leave my face until the credits rolled. Heartfelt humor, with gore to boot. How can you go wrong? — Kenn Hoekstra
*Psycho Goreman is a delightful, bloody, hilarious, heartfelt. Mimi is a sociopath after my own heart. — Rebecca Rinehart
The saga of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode continues in the next thrilling chapter of the Halloween series.
Directed by David Gordon Green, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak
*I have to go with the movie I was (not so patiently) waiting for since its 2020 delay – Halloween Kills! I loved the return of legacy characters like Tommy Doyle and Lindsey Wallace. I also love the fact that Michael seems to be getting crankier with age, making his kills more creative and violent, though my heart still mourns for Big John and Little John. — Samantha Bambino
Secluded in a desolate forest, a broken family is observed by Sator, a supernatural entity who is attempting to claim them.
Directed by Jordan Graham, starring Michael Daniel, Rachel Johnson, Aurora Lowe
*In my years of watching films, I have seen movies with incredible dialogue, great stories, and fantastic special effects. But I have never seen a movie fully radiate a mood of isolation, terror, and impending dread like Jordan Graham’s brilliant Sator. — Christine Burnham
A sequel to the horror film Candyman (1992) that returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the legend began.
Directed by Nia DaCosta, starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
*I didn’t watch many newly released movies in 2021. Still, it feels safe to say Candyman was one of the best horror flicks from 2021. It found an impressive way to not only pass the torch to a new Candyman, but to other… Candymen? I’m not saying it’s the greatest movie ever, but it can provide food for thought while still dishing out brutality, and (at least in my opinion) builds substantially off the original film. It’s not a remake, and I don’t think a modern sequel could have been written much better. — Wade Wainio
Anne, married to a small-town minister, feels her life has been shrinking over the past 30 years. Encountering The Master brings her a new sense of power and an appetite to live bolder. However, the change comes with a heavy body count.
*For the first time that I can remember, Larry Fessenden plays the straight man…. witnessing an overweight, neatly combed Fessenden is like seeing a tear in the space time continuum. This film is a bloody, tense yet humorous throwback to gothic horror films of yore. The chemistry between Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden is crystal clear, making for a fun, gory throwback of a film. — Tracy Allen
*Jakob’s Wife features two of my favorite genre actors: Larry Fessenden and Barbara Crampton. Their wonderful performances and great on-screen chemistry take the modestly budgeted Jakob’s Wife to the next level. — Kenn Hoekstra
*Jakob’s Wife provides the balance that any horror comedy should. It manages to take body horror seriously while still delivering a progressive and empowered societal statement. — Jason Burke
Follows a pious nurse who becomes dangerously obsessed with saving the soul of her dying patient.
Directed by Rose Glass, starring Morfydd Clark, Caoilfhionn Dunne, Jennifer Ehle
*Saint Maud may have technically come out before 2021, but I was only able to see it this year, so I’m going to count it. I absolutely loved this movie. It’s a great-looking film that’s so well done: perfectly scripted and acted with an ending you’ll never forget. Wonderful. Haunting. — Kenn Hoekstra
*This film is disturbing but drew me in right away. It is a slow burn, this isn’t a jump scare horror flick. It’s definitely a psychological thriller with an ending I didn’t see coming. — Jennifer Bonges
Sound of Violence
Alexis recovered her hearing during the brutal murder of her family when she was ten. The visceral experience awakened synesthetic abilities in her and started her on an orphaned path of self-discovery through the healing music of brutal violence. She goes on to pursue a career teaching and experimenting to find new sounds. She is supported and loved by her roommate Marie who is unaware of the dark secrets behind Alexis’ unique music and the part she unknowingly plays. Faced with the likelihood of losing her hearing again, Alexis escalates her pursuit of her masterpiece through gruesome sound experiments and devastating designs. She won’t let anything stop her not even love.
Directed by Alex Noyer, starring Jasmin Savoy Brown, Lili Simmons, James Jagger
*Debuting in March at SXSW 2021 was Sound of Violence, filmmaker Alex Noyer’s dynamic first feature based on his short, Conductor (2018). With a stellar performance from star Jasmin Savoy Brown that creates an unnerving level of both fear and empathy, we witness her uncommon and violent means to remedy a lifelong trauma and auditory impairment. Unique, engaging, and delivering some truly fantastic kills, Sound of Violence rightfully earned its spot on the top of my ‘Best Of’ list for the year. — Danni Winn
After the apocalypse, a grieving recluse is visited by a desperate woman who draws him out of his home and forces him to confront his inner turmoil.
Directed by Lewis Leslie, starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Andrew J. Katers, Charles A. Baird
*As the credits rolled on the end of Strange Company, I realized that I am completely enamored with this film. Thinking back to all of these things that seemed so strange at first, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it wrapped itself up in a neat, hallucinogenic bow. A surreal mind twist of a film. I love how it all tied up in the end, creating a unique and timeless film. — Tracy Allen
A quiet drifter is tricked into a janitorial job at the now condemned Willy’s Wonderland. The mundane tasks suddenly become an all-out fight for survival against wave after wave of demonic animatronics. Fists fly, kicks land, titans clash — and only one side will make it out alive.
Directed by Kevin Lewis, starring Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Beth Grant
*What can I say? This movie is hit or miss with people. It is a hit for me. It’s just a fun B movie. Nicholas Cage is great in it too along with the rest of the cast. — Jennifer Bonges
A young couple trying to reunite amid a city ravaged by a plague that turns its victims into deranged, bloodthirsty sadists.
Directed by Rob Jabbaz, starring Ying-Ru Chen, Ralf Chiu, Wei-Hua Lan
*I was very fortunate to watch some truly incredible movies in 2021. The Sadness started as one of my most anticipated films, and it exceeded all of my expectations. It’s… wow. That’s all I can say. Just wow. The gore, the dialogue, the utter vulgarity… I. Fucking. Loved. It. A beautiful steelbook has been announced for overseas so crossing my fingers for a similar US release in 2022. Don’t sleep on The Sadness! — Tiffany Blem
Feature adaptation of the video game where werewolves attack a small town.
Directed by Josh Ruben, starring Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, George Basil
*Josh Ruben’s Werewolves Within was the most pleasant surprise of 2021. It’s a humorous, whodunnit werewolf film with a few scares and a very likable cast. I really enjoyed this one a lot. – Kenn Hoekstra
*This year has been a weird year for me and I haven’t watched as many movies as I normally would. When I was racking my brain for my favorite movie, IFC’s Werewolves Within kept popping up in my head so I’m going to go with this one. Werewolves Within is such a fun whodunit story layered with suspense, mystery, and comedy. The characters are fun. It’s like Clue meets Fargo. — Tori Danielle Romero
Peter the Penguin
Nigel is on his way to meet his partner’s daughter, Emily, for the first time and he hopes to make a big impression.
*This disturbing horror short is, without a doubt, one of the most fucked up films of 2021. It’s sick, twisted, and seriously unsettling. What happens when a child’s affection for her giant stuffed penguin turns to obsession? Just how far is a mother willing to go to please her baby girl? — Donovan Smith
Friends hiking the Appalachian Trail are confronted by The Foundation, a community of people who have lived in the mountains for hundreds of years.
Directed by Mike P. Nelson, starring Charlotte Vega, Adain Bradley, Bill Sage
*I also really enjoyed Saban’s Wrong Turn. I didn’t have I hopes for it, but I loved what they did with this story. It was dark and brutal. It didn’t necessarily feel like it should belong to the Wrong Turn franchise, but as a standalone it was perfect. — Tori Danielle Romero
What remains when Brexit happens?
*A Twilight Zone-esque political monster flick, loosely based upon Brexit, the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on January 31, 2020. All hell breaks loose when a college student returns home on the day of the EU Referendum to find her hometown overrun with mutant pig monsters. Who will survive in this politically charged horror thriller? — Donovan Smith
A refugee couple makes a harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan, but then they struggle to adjust to their new life in an English town that has an evil lurking beneath the surface.
Directed by Remi Weekes, starring Sope Dirisu, Wunmi Mosaku, Malaika Wakoli-Abigaba
*I hadn’t heard about this film and I was browsing through Netflix and decided to watch it. I am so glad I did. Imagine being a refugee in a new country and afraid to live in your new home. It is a slow burn but it is worth it. — Jennifer Bonges
In the Barrio of Oak Springs live a strong and stubborn group of elderly friends who refuse to be gentrified. Their leader, Lupita, keeps them together as a community, a family. But little did they know, their beloved Bingo hall is about to be sold to a much more powerful force than money itself.
Directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero starring Adriana Barraza, L. Scott Caldwell, Joshua Caleb Johnson
*I didn’t catch Bingo Hell until the end of the year, but I’m glad I did. Writer/director Gigi Saul Guerrero took a real problem – the gentrification of entire neighborhoods by money-hungry developers and well-meaning Gen Z-ers who think they need to make everything “better” – and created a unique horror story around it. The people who remain are left surrounded by empty businesses and hopelessness. That is, until the local Bingo hall finds itself under new management by someone a bit too good to be true. Such a fun, satisfying film! — Tracy Allen
It’s 1987. Two years after the initial college murder spree by Carnie the Killer Clown, one of the survivors–Kris McNeil (Jess Uhler)–tries to put her life back together. However, as a new series of killings begins, she must decide to either run from her nightmare or stand and face Carnie once more.
Directed by Mark Cantu, starring Felissa Rose, Dave Sheridan, Shawn C. Phillips.
*Massacre Academy will go down as the biggest local indie gem of 2021 for me. Every character gets a story, and the script feels fresh amidst a blitz of nostalgia and callbacks to the 80s slashers we were brought up on. — Jason Burke
After a man loses his child, he begins a campaign to destroy the white collar criminals behind the opioid epidemic, and reluctantly embraces his anti-hero status.
Directed by Mark Savage starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Tom Parnell, Michael Pare
*Painkiller shows a true horror of our society, one which almost anyone has been touched by in their every day lives. This is much more than a revenge tale. It’s more than a vigilante Death Wish wannabe film. It’s an important story that needs to be told, and people need to listen. — Tracy Allen
A Quiet Place: Part II
Following the events at home, the Abbott family now face the terrors of the outside world. Forced to venture into the unknown, they realize the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats lurking beyond the sand path.
Directed by John Krasinski, starring Emily Blount, Millicent Simmons, Cillian Murphy
*A Quiet Place: Part II marked my first trip back to the theater since the pandemic started. It felt good to be out and feeling “normal” again, if only for a few hours. That could be part of why I loved the movie so much. Personal, feel-good nostalgia aside, Emily Blunt and Cillian Murphy are wonderful here, and I feel Part II surpasses the original in pretty much every way. I really hope we get a Part III! — Kenn Hoekstra
Why Women Kill, Cruel Summer, I Know What You Did Last Summer
*I would also like to mention some great horror related series that came out this year. There was several but the three that stand out to me are Paramount Plus’s Why Women Kill season 2, Freeform’s Cruel Summer, and Amazon Prime’s I Know What You Did Last Summer. Each series is completely different but fun, mysterious, and centered around chaos and murder. I can’t recommend them enough! — Tori Danielle Romero