10 Critically-Acclaimed Modern Horror Films

10 Critically-Acclaimed Modern Horror Films

Horror has always been a divisive genre. Some people love a good scary movie while others avoid them completely. While it isn’t usually usually a genre that attracts mainstream audience and critical acclaim, there have been a few examples over the years that are considered not just good for a horror movie, but all around quality film making. For example, Jaws and The Exorcist were both nominated for a Best Picture Oscars. Silence of the Lambs became the first horror film to win Best Picture and also pick up Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Horror has evolved a lot since then and writers, directors, and actors are all interested in making films in the genre that are more than a thin plot line full of gore and jump scares. And critics and audiences are taking notice. Last year, the remake of It was met with positive reviews and holds an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The John Krasinski-directed A Quiet Place is doing better than expected, and the upcoming Hereditary is highly anticipated after getting great reviews at Sundance. Horror movies aren’t for everyone, but if you can manage it, here are a few must-see modern horror films that won’t leave you rolling your eyes.

The Witch
More unsettling and ominous than in-your-face terrifying, The Witch is a slow-burning period piece that focuses on a family that was banished from their Puritan plantation because of a different interpretation of the New Testament. Alone on a farm near a secluded forest, the family falls victim to what may or may not be witchcraft. While some audiences felt the movie was “boring” because of its lack of jump scares and typical horror movie tropes, it was called “tense and thought-provoking” by critics and compared to horror classics like Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen. It’s worth a watch for a change of pace in the genre.

The Babadook
With a 98% score on Rotten Tomatoes, The Babadook was one of the best reviewed movies of 2014, let alone horror movie. It portrays a widow, her young son, and the growing presence and influence of a creature from a children’s book called the Babadook. The creature grows increasingly threatening, influencing the woman’s behaviour towards her son. As a metaphor for grief, the Babadook is a presence that can take over if you let it, but together, a mother and son can figure out a way to keep it under control.

It Follows
With a decidedly 80s vibe to the cinematography, It Follows takes tropes from horror franchises like Friday the 13th and Halloween and creates something more modern and sinister. After main character Jay sleeps with her new boyfriend, she finds out he has passed a “curse” on to her that causes a slow-moving, but deadly, monster to pursue her relentlessly. The monster looks like a normal person but changes appearance in order to get close to her, and the only way she can escape it—if only for a short time—is to pass the curse to someone else. The minimalist horror story got rave reviews and was called “ a classical horror masterpiece” by critics.

Let the Right One In
There’s no shortage of vampire films out there, but with Let the Right One In, we get away from the sparkly versions of Twilight fame and back to the bloodthirsty killers. When Oskar, a 12-year-old boy who is mercilessly bullied meets Eli, the new girl next door, he thinks he’s finally found a friend. But Eli isn’t a normal girl—she’s a vampire. Their friendship develops anyway and while Eli never hurts Oskar, she has no issues with killing others for blood. With a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Let the Right One In successfully manages to mix intelligent storytelling with plenty of scares.

Get Out
Unlike anything else in the genre, Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele, was loved by both critics and audiences. Peele even won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay—the first African American ever to do so. When Chris goes to meet his girlfriend Rose’s parents for the first time, he’s nervous about how they’ll react to their daughter being in an interracial relationship. Turns out, he’s right to be nervous. Get Out is both a comedy and a horror film in the way it approaches racism and white privilege. Whether you’re a horror fan or not, it’s definitely a must-watch.

Cabin in the Woods
Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods starts out looking like it’s going to be a typical slasher film about a group of teenagers who are picked off one by one during a weekend at a remote cabin. But it ends up being a little more complicated than that. Turns out, the cabin is the setting of an ritual that purposely sicks a number of different horror movie-esque monsters on the group of unsuspecting young adults. The ritual requires a very specific group of archetypes, similar to characters in traditional horror films. Both critics and horror fans loved the plot’s meta style and dark comedy calling it a welcome commentary on the genre.

It Comes At Night
Opinion between critics and audience isn’t always the same, which was definitely the case with It Comes At Night. It was marketed as a horror film complete with creepy jump scares, but in reality it was more of a slow-burning thriller—and critics loved it. After an outbreak of some kind wipes out much of the world’s population, Paul and his wife and teenage son are left to fend for themselves in a remote house in the woods. They come across another family who they invite to come live with them but Paul’s extreme distrust and paranoia causes the whole arrangement to unravel quickly. Turns out the real horror is about never knowing who you can trust.

Don’t Breathe
The premise of Don’t Breathe involves a couple of young thieves who decide to break into an elderly man’s house because they heard he keeps a bunch of cash on hand (as old men do). But the old man in question, who happens to be a blind veteran, isn’t as helpless as they expected and it turns out he has a few secrets he’d do anything to keep hidden. There are jump scares, tense moments, and shocking twists galore—exactly what you want in a fast-paced horror movie.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe
There’s something inherently creepy about a morgue full of dead bodies. You might know logically that they’re just bodies, but it’s easy to let your imagination run away from you. In The Autopsy of Jane Doe, a Jane Doe arrives at a morgue, and a father and son team of coroners is baffled by how her body could seem so well-preserved and free from anything resembling trauma or a cause of death. As they start to piece her story together—and weird things start happening—they come to the realization that despite not having a pulse, the girl might not actually be dead.

The Conjuring
While The Conjuring might not stray too far from the ubiquitous supernatural horror movie style that is popular today, it somehow manages to be a lot more terrifying than the rest of them. Telling the true story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the film focuses on a family, their haunted farmhouse, and the evil presence that is doing its best to take over their lives. Directed by horror mainstay James Wan, the film attracts comparisons to other demonic possession movies like The Amityville Horror and The Exorcist. It’s full of jump scares, if that’s your thing, but it’s still a lot less predictable than movies like that often end up being.

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared on AmongMen.com, 29secrets.com, therichest.com, and ELLECanada.com.  When she isn’t writing about relationships, and the best TV shows and books you should really already know about, she is working on her novel. She hopes to have it published by 2025. You can follow her on Twitter @Courtooo.

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