Supernatural lore surrounding early settlers in New England is nothing new, but writer/director Robert Eggers managed to breathe something unique into 17th-century witch panic with The Witch. After a family is banished from their village due to their conflicting religious beliefs, they quickly succumb to one horror after the next that may or may not have to do with a local witch residing in the woods. The family ultimately suspects oldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) of practicing witchcraft, which rapidly reaches a deadly boiling point.
It Follows is very much a back-to-basics style of horror that replaces fast-paced torture porn, made popular in the 2000s with movies like Saw and Hostel, with the slow-burning tension of movies like Halloween and Let the Right One In. It centers around a group of teens who are preyed upon by a mysterious demon-like creature who possesses people through sexual intercourse. Taking the form of slow-moving strangers, the embodied curse attempts to kill them one-by-one as the teens concoct a number of strategies in order to survive.
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After defining an entire era of horror with Saw in the early-2000s, director James Wan replaced body horror with supernatural horror in The Conjuring. Based on real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively), The Conjuring follows the married couple as they attempt to rid a family's home of a demonic presence. Only, what begins as a routine case ends up evolving into one of the Warrens' darkest experiences dealing with the paranormal. The movie spawned a direct sequel, as well as a number of spinoffs, including two Annabelle movies and The Nun.
To paraphrase Johnny Depp in Sleepy Hollow, The Invitation manages to be a horror movie "without benefit of ghouls and goblins." When Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend are invited to a dinner party by Will's ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard), awkward tension is unavoidable. However, said tension takes a horrific turn when Will suspects that Eden and her new husband (Michiel Huisman) aren't nearly as innocent as they seem. Whether or not his suspicions prove to be valid depend on his efforts to unravel their ambiguous intentions.
Creep and Creep 2
In Creep, Mark Duplass stars as a peculiar individual named Josef who puts out an online ad requesting that someone film him for an entire day. He claims that the footage is for his unborn child, but Josef's motives seem less and less straightforward to Aaron (Patrick Kack‑Brice), the man who responds to the ad, the longer he's with him. Though Creep is slow-moving, its obscure tone makes for an overall unsettling viewing experience. And, if nothing else, it's paid off expertly with a wholly unexpected ending. Its sequel, Creep 2, plays on the same homemade aesthetic, but replaces an unsuspecting videographer with an eager video artist.
Train to Busan
Zombies have invaded rural neighborhoods, cities, underground facilities, and apocalyptic landscapes, but in Train to Busan, the setting is far more contained. When Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo) travels with his estranged daughter to Busan, they discover that they are in the midst of a zombie outbreak. The movie marries survival horror with a creative spin, in which the passengers on the train desperately attempt to find their way to safety, without leading the zombie horde with them. With a 96 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Train to Busan has been heralded by many as one of the best zombie movies ever, and James Wan even announced that he will produce a remake.
The third film by Mike Flanagan on this list is Oculus, a tense supernatural thriller that highlights much of the director's trademark elements that would eventually show up in movies like Hush and Gerald's Game, as well as his TV series The Haunting of Hill House. In Oculus, sister and brother Kaylie and Tim (Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites, respectively) attempt to destroy a mirror that they believe manifests a well of demonic powers - powers that ultimately possessed their mother and father when the two were children. However, despite their seemingly fool-proof plan, the mirror manages to make their mission a near-impossible feat, with potentially deadly consequences.
While some horror movies are effective when the the central threat is obvious from the get-go (i.e. Pennywise in IT, Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street), The Wailing benefits from a completely mysterious antagonist. Police officer Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) investigates a series of deaths that just so happened to begin soon after the appearance of a stranger in a small Korean village. As he attempts to discover the truth behind the situation, the local death toll (as well as unbridled mania) continues to rise. The film received a near-perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes with a 99 percent rating, and Ridley Scott has considered producing a remake.