With the world currently dealing with a global pandemic, many people are stuck inside their homes with nothing to do. While the film industry has been obviously hit, there are still some solid movies out there for horror junkies. Whether it’s one entirely made on Zoom or a slick retelling of a classic monster, the horror genre continues to innovate and thrive. So if you’ve been itching for a good scary story, here are our picks for the best horror films of 2020. Keep in mind, there are still a few months left in this God-awful year, so we will update our list with any new movies we feel are contenders.
The Best Horror Movies of 2020
The Invisible Man
- Director: Leigh Whannell
- Starring: Elisabeth Moth, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Harriet Dryer
- Release Date: February 28, 2020
- Where to Watch It: VOD (Video-on-Demand)
Let’s start our list with perhaps the most well-known horror film of 2020. The Invisible Man tells the story of Cecilia Kass, a woman who escapes her sociopathic abuses boyfriend only to have him stalk her after his supposed death. It’s a great twisting of H.G. Wells’ original novel, with the audience following one of the Invisible Man’s victims instead. This adds a real level of danger to the titular killer, as you’ll find yourself frantically staring at the negative space looking for clues of his existence. All of this culminates in some supremely clever scares and moments that keep you guessing until the credits roll.
- Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
- Starring: Ivan Massagué, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan
- Release Date: March 20, 2020
- Where to Watch It: Netflix
While Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s The Platform may not be a traditional horror film, it’s perhaps one of the most foreboding and dread-inducing films on our list. The film follows a young man who enters a towering prison where a single platform of food is lowered from floor to floor. Each floor can eat as much food as they want, so those on the lower platforms (of which there is literally a couple hundred) typically starve. It’s a terrifying concept that is only amplified when you learn every month the prisoners change platforms. There’s a horrific unpredictability to The Platform which is amplified by the superb acting from Ivan Massague and Zorion Equileor. If you’re looking for a film that’s less about jumpscares and focuses more on atmosphere than The Platform is for you.
- Director: William Eubank
- Starring: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, Mamoudou Athie, T.J. Miller
- Release Date: January 10, 2020
- Where to Watch It: VOD
In the mood for a creature feature? Underwater focuses on a deep-sea drilling team that ends up encountering a mysterious, deadly race of monsters. Embracing the same aesthetic as films like Alien, Underwater’s creatures are truly menacing despite their minimal appearance throughout the majority of the movie. Director William Eubank masterfully builds the suspense, with the dark crushing sea serving as the perfect backdrop for all manner of horrors to hide in. This builds into a bonkers finale where Underwater throws everything but the kitchen sink at viewers in a visceral, awe-inspiring display. Even though the movie has a few issues, Underwater is an excellent monster movie that gives us another reason to never go deep-sea diving.
- Director: Rob Savage
- Starring: Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb
- Release Date: August 17, 2020
- Where to Watch It: Shudder
The shortest film on our list, Host is about a group of friends who partake in a seance via the internet application, Zoom. Shot entirely on this social app, the Host boasts a unique style that doubles as a social commentary on our world’s current global pandemic. Clocking in at just under an hour, Host is a brisk movie that trims that fat and needless exposition found in most supernatural flicks. What’s left is a concise, clever, and at times claustrophobic story quickly ratchet ups the intensity. If you have an hour to kill then consider watching the Host on Shudder. For a more detailed review, make sure to listen to our horror podcasts, You Love to Scream It.
Gretel & Hansel
- Director: Oz Perkins
- Starring: Sophia Lillis, Samuel Leakey, Alice Krige
- Release Date: January 31, 2020
- Where to Watch It: VOD
Out of the crushing sea and into a dark fantastical world we go. Gretel & Hansel is (somehow) a more macabre retelling of the original fairy tale where two siblings happen upon an evil witch who’s trying to eat them. Even though Perkins’ film doesn’t exactly reinvent this familiar story, he does a superb job of establishing an oppressive, moody atmosphere. Alice Krige’s performance as the witch is especially creepy, as her mannerism is just subtle enough to suggest an almost otherworldly quality to her. Sophia Lillis and Samuel Leakey have great chemistry, with the former doing a remarkable job carrying a lot of the more emotional moments. It may be a little rough around the edges at times, but Gretel & Hansel is a wonder Grimms’ fairy tale brought to life.
- Director: Jeff Barnaby
- Starring: Michael Greyeyes, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Forrest Goodluck, Kiowa Gordon
- Release Date: April 28, 2020
- Where to Watch It: Shudder
Yes, technically Blood Quantum released in 2019 at the Toronto International Film Festival, but the film wasn’t widely available until 2020 so we’re still counting it. Zombies have always served as a way for filmmakers to discuss social, cultural, or political issues and Blood Quantum is no exception. In a world where a virus infects everyone and turns them into flesh-hungry ghouls, the local Indigenous tribe is oddly immune to this disease. What follows is not only a biting social commentary on the Indigenous people’s relationship with the rest of society but a gory, at times emotional horror film. Director Jeff Barnaby expertly weaves these themes of colonization and oppression, without compromising the story or terror of the undead. In a genre that is absolutely overcrowded, Blood Quantum is a refreshing breath of fresh, blood-tinged air.
- Director: Lorcan Finnegan
- Starring: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Senan Jennings
- Release Date: March 27, 2020
- Where to Watch It: Amazon Prime
From the familiar to the surreal, Vivarium is a mind-bending journey about a young couple that gets trapped in an idealistic suburb. Forced to raise a child they are given to earn their freedom, Vivarium will constantly have you questioning where the plot is going. There are some strange twists that would normally buckle under the weight of Finnegan’s bold direction, but Poots and Eisenberg’s performances elevate the script. Vivarium is also pretty funny, with plenty of dark humor that pokes fun at the weirdness of it all. For those wanting something a bit more cerebral, Vivarium is a film you shouldn’t miss this year.
- Director: Brett Pierce & Drew T. Pierce
- Starring: John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones, Azie Tesfai
- Release Date: May 1, 2020
- Where to Watch It: Hulu
Currently, a top contender for one of my favorite horror films of the year, The Wretched is about a teenage boy visiting his soon be divorced father. However, he soon realizes that his neighbor may not be who she claims to be, sparking his obsessive investigation in the hopes of uncovering the truth. This is a truly creepy movie that worries less about gimmicks or elaborate special effects; instead it chooses to hone in on Zarah Mahler’s unsettling performance that will send chills down your spine. Saying anything more would ruin some great story twists and turns, so just give this film a try.
- Director: Sang-ho Yeon
- Starring: Dong-Won Gang, Jung-hyun Lee, Do-Yoon Kim
- Release Date: August 7, 2020
- Where to Watch It: Theaters (Then Shudder)
The follow-up to the smash-hit Train to Busan, Peninsula is set several years after the events of the first film with the zombie plague already decimating all of Korea. With the survivors now refugees living in Hong Kong, one man agrees to go back in order to steal a literal truckload of money. Of course, things go awry once ha arrives as he finds himself in the crosshairs of a dangerous faction of marauders. Peninsula embraces the Aliens mentality, as it ditches the claustrophobic horror for zombie-fueled action sequences that are equal parts 28 Weeks Later, Mad Max, and Escape from New York.
This may sound like a negative, but Sang-ho Yeon continuously delivers terrific set-pieces that are both harrowing and thrilling. Supporting this is sharp writing and great performances that are just over-the-top enough to fit into this dark, zany world. Plus you get to watch a young girl embrace her inner Fast and the Furious by driving around a destroyed Korea while hordes of zombies chase her. It’s silly, blockbuster fun that compliments the moody original film.