EJ Moreno with ten essential modern horror classics…
Horror has hit a different level in recent years. While the genre has always been solid, we have mainstream audiences embrace horror just as much as the diehard fans. That’s led to quite a few genre entries becoming bonafide classics.
We’ll look at ten of the most notable recent horror films, diving into what made them so special and why they’ve stuck with us since their release.
For placement on this list, we need to see cultural impact, we need to see box office success, and we need some genuine good scares. Also, to keep up with the “modern” title, the film must have been released post-2010.
Check out our top ten and let us know your favorite modern horror classics…
Titane – The genre ambiguity would drive horror snobs up the wall, but never has shock horror felt so prestigious. It deserved even more awards love.
You’re Next – Slashers are impossible to nail post-Scream, but this one feels the most unique and fresh. Adam Wingard gets the genre.
Train To Busan
By 2016, it was safe to say that zombies were out as the horror trend. It was hard to find examples of the sub-genre that felt refreshing and new amongst all the new day 28 Days Later copycats. That’s where the Korean masterpiece Train To Busan comes in to shake things up.
Director Yeon Sang-ho took everything that made zombie movies great, like the violence, fast-paced action, and wild set pieces, but found a new way to present it. All that was missing was some actual heart and soul, and that’s what our heartbreaking story about a father and daughter’s fight for survival on a high-speed train offers. The story hits you hard and deep, sticking with you for days after.
Not since George A. Romero’s seminal classic Night of the Living Dead has a zombie film played with our emotions this profoundly. Train To Busan has all the bloody fixings for a genre classic, but the film’s softer moments allow it to stand the test of time.
What We Do In The Shadows
Horror comedies are hard to nail, so only two appear on this list. Sprinkle some overplayed vampire story, add on the additional gimmick of a mockumentary, and it’s hard to believe all of this came together to make What We Do In The Shadows one of the best of its kind.
Much like most of Taika Waitii’s work, this film feels unique in tone and story, but you can’t deny how much of a love letter it is to the world of vampires. It knows its reference points and may go for the obvious joke at times, but there’s also a deep appreciation for what shaped these beloved horror creatures. The laughs and scares are genuinely done with passionate care for both genre spectrums.
What attests to this film’s impact and legacy is its long-running television series, which perfectly expanded on the wild universe crafted in the movie. Much like Waititi’s impact on modern-day film, it’s safe to say he’s made his mark on horror comedies for years to come.
It took some time for A24 to gain its horror street cred, and films like The Witch were those early building blocks. The period piece devilish delight introduced the world to director Robert Eggers, and genre fans will be forever grateful for that moment.
Not to say that the other films included on this list don’t have immaculate craftsmanship, but the work Eggers, along with the cast and crew, did is something out of this world, especially when you consider that this is a debut feature film and a low-budget one at that. Then add the horrific atmosphere and religious horror overtones, and you have the recipe that makes The Witch a stand-out movie.
Also, while her talent would’ve landed into our lives sooner or later, The Witch gave us the debut of Anya Taylor-Joy, who has been such a bright spot since playing the witchy Thomasin in 2016. Revisiting her work here shows how strong she’s always been.
A Quiet Place
This is one of those money-maker horror films I mentioned earlier; A Quiet Place is not only a success within the horror community but has also found love within the mainstream. We saw an actual pop culture moment, which took many by surprise, which is no shade to its filmmakers.
We all know comedy filmmakers could make strong horror helmers, but no one expected John “The Dude from The Office” Krasinski to become a titan within the genre in a short period. With one film (and a slightly less good sequel), Krasinski stripped away notions of what to expect when someone entered horror for the first time and gave sci-fi horror fans a modern classic to liken to some of the classics.
A Quiet Place took so much from The Thing and Aliens but kept it unique with its “we must be silent” gimmick. That trickled down to the viewing experience, with audiences trying to keep things as quiet as possible for the atmosphere. We all were united in silence: Thank you, John Krasinski.
Horror fans are some of the most infamous “tape traders” in the film world; they’ll pass around and trade horror suggestions even when no one is asking. Back in 2014, everyone was talking about It Follows, passing around this like the plague at the center of the movie.
It was a haunted film done differently, giving a spooky/ghostly vibe to something unexpected. It was also in the middle of the virus horror trend picking up steam, already twisting what you’d expect about a transmittable death sentence before we knew what to do. It was so innovative and fresh, ultimately becoming the indie horror film of the 2010s, not without steep competition from everyone.
It Follows has also aged surprisingly well, and it was hard to duplicate, which has hindered some of its peers from the time. The Babadook came out the same year, and we’ve seen countless copycats that hurt it. That, in turn, dilutes the original. There is truly only one It Follows.
What a moment A24 was having by the time 2018 rolled around. The studio and distributor had a few Oscar runs, even winning Best Picture. And for horror fans, it was also the haven for horror. That was solidified by the time Hereditary came around and changed the game.
The Ari Aster pièce de résistance came like a hurricane and blew everyone out of the water with its power. Not only with its twisted horror delights or the fact it’s the fourth highest-grossing film for A24, but we all remember where we were when we saw Toni Collette give that insane dinner-time monologue. It changed Aster’s career, cemented A24 as the place to be, and gave us a Collette push.
Sadly, the actress wouldn’t land a Best Actress nomination at the Academy Awards, but it did bring into the conversation why we need more horror love during awards season. Hereditary is simply a turning point in modern horror, and even if you hated it, you can’t deny its impact to this day.
The Cabin In The Woods
Meta commentary in a horror film? If you’ve seen it once, like we did in the classic Scream, can it be done well again? The Cabin in the Woods answered that question with a solid yes, giving us a look at what it takes to make a horror film in a twisted new way.
Coming during the heyday of reality television, the idea of a group of young adults being placed into a controlled environment and watched by many was genius. Then you add in the meta-ness about slashers and various horror tropes, and it becomes not only a treat to watch but a dense treat that offers you plenty to enjoy the more you sink your teeth into. It’s one of the rare horrors that got better on repeat viewings.
This played like a blockbuster in many ways: a bit larger than life and action-packed, but it never lost its roots in horror. As mentioned, horror comedy is hard as it often becomes “comedy horrors.” Not this one, though. The Cabin in the Woods is as classic as classic gets.
SEE ALSO: Revisiting The Cabin in the Woods
In all honestly, we could make a list dedicated to the masterful work of James Wan. As the modern horror master, the filmmaker has given us plenty to enjoy. His 2021 film Malignant could’ve easily been placed here, but The Conjuring is too imposing of a franchise to ignore.
With over $2 billion scared up at the worldwide box office, the entire Conjuring Universe plays more prominent than the modern era of DC movies. And it all started with this 2013 entry that nailed the perfect balance between classic haunts and modern sensibilities. It’s a total throwback to the “they don’t make them like this” days of horror, but it brought in a new generation of fans raised on these.
Wan’s The Conjuring started the biggest modern horror franchise and plays so well even today. While the sequels and spin-offs have watered down this first film slightly, a quick revisit to the original Warrens adventure reminds you why this is so important.
It Chapter One
When discussing recent horror films that played a big part in the box office conversation, look no further than 2017’s It. The Andy Muschietti-helmed adaptation of the iconic Stephen King novel was no easy task, but everyone involved knocked it out of the park for this first entry.
The sheer amount of talent on display from the younger cast, mixed with the career-defining turn as Pennywise from Bill Skarsgård, put this on a new level. Everything came together, a perfect storm in horror that allowed it to work perfectly for longtime genre fans, but it also became this mainstream experience like no other. Consider yourself lucky if you don’t remember the It madness from 2017.
Sitting as the highest-grossing horror film (unadjusted for inflation), the movie doesn’t just need its numbers to prove its worth. Pennywise has become a part of pop culture like never before, becoming as American horror as Jason, Freddy, or Michael.
For something to be considered classic, we must have cultural impact and undeniable facts of its success. Look no further than Jordan Peele’s debut film as a perfect example of “classic.” By every definition, Get Out could and should be labeled a modern classic.
From its Oscar win to its box office, we saw Get Out dominate horror in 2017, which is notoriously one of the best recent years for the genre. Peele’s work of bringing real-world social commentary to an elevated horror setting captivated us, giving viewers something we hadn’t seen in decades. Also, we got a rare acting nomination for a horror film, with Daniel Kaluuya landing a deserved nom.
What’s even wilder is Jordan Peele hasn’t left up with his other films. Us and Nope were brilliant explorations of what we could do in horror, but nothing hit as hard as Get Out. The scares were there, the acting was top-notch, and a horror-directing legend was born.
What are your favourite modern horror movies? What have we missed from this list? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…