• Maxwell J.

2020 Honorable Mentions

Updated: Dec 29, 2021

2020 Year in Review Posts:

Best Horror of 2020

Best Movies I Missed in 2019



2020 has certainly been an interesting year, huh? With too many cultural, political, and social moments to identify, this year has been characterized by uncertainty and intensity. Threats of World War III, a burgeoning plea to rectify racial injustice, and a global pandemic, and much more have marked a year fraught with turbulence.


They say that in times of great distress, great horror emerges from the shadows. Due to the particular nature of the year, however, the film industry has had to adapt to the changes in the market, causing many anticipated films to be shelved for a more profitable release. Regardless, I will contend that 2020 has been a solid year for horror. 2017, 2018, and 2019 were all excellent years for horror, so any decline may seem apocalyptic to the short-sighted fan. I’d put 2020 slightly above par with 2014 and 2015, two very solid years without too many hits.


There were so many great genre entries this year that I could not make a top ten list in good conscience without mentioning some of my other favorites. Some of these films will have made it onto other’s best of the year lists and others may be out of left field for you. Either way, I want to ensure that you are made aware of their existence, so you know where to look once you have sat through the essentials.


So, what’s first? Let’s find out! Scroll down to see what made my honorable mentions list for 2020, out of the 107 horror films I watched, and which films I included that make you either celebrate, question, or discount my taste in horror!


Guidelines:

1) Film genres are fluid. Movies can fall into multiple genres. Individuals can have different interpretations. That is okay!

2) Official film release dates are difficult to pinpoint due to rising popularity in movie festivals. A film’s release date will be considered its first wide release in any country.


Black Box (Director: Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour; United States)

An invasive medical experiment may be the key to restoring a single father’s memory and curing him of his amnesia after a tragic car accident that took his wife’s life. As he proceeds with the trials, he finds himself falling deeper and deeper into a mystery about himself that leads him to question his reality. Black Box is a beautiful horror story about family, loss, and science. Mamoudou Athie gives an exceptional performance, one of my favorites of the year, as the persistent and loving Nolan. While a little too light on the horror in some instances, Black Box creates a visceral Black Mirror-like experience for viewers angling for a bit more science fiction in their horror films.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here


Blood Quantum (Director: Jeff Barnaby; Canada)

Only the inhabitants of the Mi’kmaq reservation find themselves immune to the apparent zombie outbreak unfolding in their area. As survivors seek refuge in their fortified land, the Indigenous community take in the refugees and try to defend their home from the ravenous invaders seeking to destroy it. Blood Quantum is a smart and well thought out metaphor for the conditions the Indigenous community face in a society that is built off the horrors of colonialism in Canada. Bold direction and writing pay off by giving the film a unique edge that most modern zombie films fail to cut. Beautifully shot, stocked with great characters, and packed with zombie carnage, Blood Quantum is hands down the year’s best zombie movie.


Full Review: Unavailable

Where to Watch: See Here


Come to Daddy (Director: Ant Timpson; Ireland/Canada/New Zealand/United States)

A man attempts to reconnect with his father by journeying to his remote home only to discover that things are not as they seem. Something is off with his father and the house, but he only has so long to figure it out before things get messy. Come to Daddy is one giant misdirect that rewards a patient and shrewd viewer. Elijah Wood delivers a delightfully anxious and unhinged performance as Norville, a burnout merely trying to find approval in an absent father figure before being flung into a zany mystery. The laughs are hearty, the violence is surprisingly brutal, and the payoff is altogether satisfying in the year’s more bizarre theatrical releases.


Full Review: Unavailable

Where to Watch: See Here


Get Duked! (Director: Ninian Doff; United Kingdom)

A group of teenage boys is tasked with traversing the Scottish Highlands to earn a wilderness survival certificate. Along the way they will discover the merits of hard work, true friendship, and the importance of evading the mysterious huntsman that has been stalking them throughout their journey and is hellbent on murdering them. Get Duked! is a great genre mishmash of comfort horror that caters to many different audiences in its quest to deliver a sweet coming-of-age story of four delinquents and outcasts. While it is as uproariously funny as it is action-packed, Get Duked! packs in some neat commentary on both the generational and geographic divides in the modern era. If you want to watch a horror movie that somehow combines psychedelic animal droppings, a bread thief, and barnyard rap music video into its plot, Get Duked! is for you.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here


His House (Director: Remi Weekes; United Kingdom)

Bol and Rial are offered a flat in a small English town after escaping a war-torn South Sudan. Once there, however, they discover that the horror from their journey is far from over and that something has been awakened in their new home. His House is an absolute force of a film. Some of my favorite shots from the year come from this imaginative and haunting supernatural chiller, including the one pictured just above this review. I’m still in awe of how grief and trauma are handled with such care in this film while still showing the messiness and guilt behind it all. Its unique premise, excellent characters, and bold social commentary solidify His House as one of the most intriguing and daring horror film of the year.


Full Review: Coming Soon

Where to Watch: See Here


La Llorona (Director: Jayro Bustamante; Guatemala/France)

A war criminal is acquitted of the atrocities he committed and is holed up inside his home while protestors vow to make his last days on Earth as uncomfortable as possible. Unfortunately for him, and his unsuspecting family, something may be haunting him from beyond the grave to make him pay for the genocide he instigated. An unusual and brooding horror drama, La Llorona seeks to unsettle its viewer through its depiction of haunting. While the family is complicit to various degrees, Director Jayro Bustamante allows for sufficient growth in doubt of their patriarch’s character in their minds. Dripping with political commentary and cultural observations, La Llorona dissects the horror of war and the lasting effects of trauma by mirroring it onto the oppressor.


Full Review: Unavailable

Where to Watch: See Here


Random Acts of Violence (Director: Jay Baruchel; United States/Canada)

A morbid comic book writer on a road trip notices similarities between his work and the string of homicides following his posse across the countryside. Is the serial killer merely taunting them by using his work as inspiration or is something deeper happening? For the life of me, I cannot understand why this slasher film did not get the love it deserved. Yes, it is not a perfect film by any means, but it does its job very well. The action is brutal, the tension is unbearable, and the chase scenes are well choreographed. Memorable characters and a distinct visual and artistic direction make Random Acts of Violence the most enjoyable straight slasher of the year.


Full Review: Unavailable

Where to Watch: See Here


Relic (Director: Natalie Erika James; Australia/United States)

Edna’s daughter and granddaughter travel to her home for a welfare check after her neighbors report concerning activity, or a lack thereof, from the house. What once started as concern for Edna’s growing dementia morphs into a fear of something far more sinister infecting the house and their lives. An existentially upsetting film, Relic tackles the fear of aging, death, and what it means to all who lay witness. What is most encouraging about Relic is actually something I did not personally experience but saw in others. Many who are fond of Relic have experienced loss in their life and can connect with the film’s stark portrayal of that process. Obviously, one doesn’t have to experience something to understand its gravity, but I think outside of the film’s, many, merits that is an important element to share. Otherwise, Relic is just a really solid horror film with a great moody atmosphere and fully fleshed-out characters.


Full Review: Coming Soon

Where to Watch: See Here


Sea Fever (Director: Neasa Hardiman; Ireland/United Kingdom/Sweden/Belgium)

A ship's crew is stuck out at sea by a strange bioluminescent creature attached to the hull. Upon further investigation it is discovered that the beast is a parasite, infecting the ship’s water supply and turning people’s bodies against themselves in violent and grotesque ways. Tensions emerge as the grim reality of their situation becomes clearer. Stay on the ship and they will all die; leave, and they will potentially infect thousands more. An uncanny and on-the-nose horror drama, Sea Fever really digs into themes of personal responsibility and sacrifice for the greater good. While Neasa Hardiman never sidesteps good character work or story for schlock, she still does an excellent job of escalating the tension and terror of a seemingly impossible situation. Fans of moodier and more muted horror will likely find reasons to be onboard with this wavy sci-fi film.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here


Snatchers (Director: Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman; United States)

Sara loses her virginity to her dumb but popular high school boyfriend and wakes up the next morning nine months pregnant. Unsure of how this came to be or what exactly is inside her, Sara enlists the help of her former bff to help her figure out what to do. As the film progresses, it becomes clear to each friend that it’s up to them to save their friends, their family, and the world. Part sci-fi horror, part teen comedy, Snatchers is a non-stop thrill ride of sex, jokes, and extraterrestrial carnage. Mary Nepi and Gabrielle Elyse have wicked chemistry which makes their characters more endearing, especially when they irritate the other with their typical teen banter. The story is slick with plenty of gags and syrupy sweet teen drama that keeps the film firmly in the young adult lane. This riff on alien films of the past will keep a smile on your face and a laugh in your belly.


Full Review: Unavailable

Where to Watch: See Here


Spiral (Director: Kurtis David Harder; Canada)

A gay Black man, his partner, and his partner’s daughter move to a small suburban town where something isn’t right. At least, something isn’t right to Malik. He feels the heavy stares, the awkward silences, and the anxiety behind the unwelcomeness. But is it really happening or is he unable to separate himself from the trauma he experienced as a kid? Spiral is an unsettling film that never really sets out to scare you more than it does to make you extraordinarily uncomfortable. A poetic metaphor for the lived experience minorities feel when entering a homogenous community and the fears that come with daring to be different, Spiral expertly tells a unique and satisfying story for those who have felt an outcast in Everytown, USA.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here


The Beach House (Director: Jeffrey A. Brown; United States)

A young couple hopes that a trip to the family beach house will help mend their strained relationship. Upon arrival they find the house occupied with unanticipated guests before a quiet and creeping unimaginable horror descends on the isolated home, one that they have no way of suspecting or fighting. The Beach House is a reserved and metaphorical science fiction horror film about the cycle of life. Mirroring the delicate nature of life with the fragile truth of relationships, it dives into the uneasiness of parting ways with a familiar life for one more chaotic and uncertain. Fraught with beautiful oceanic cosmic horror and drearily hazy cinematography, The Beach House presents deeply uncomfortable atmospheric terror that latches on, infects, and doesn’t let go of its host.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here


The Cleansing Hour (Director: Damien LeVeck; United States)

A successful social media influencer live streams himself performing exorcisms on various clients. Fortunately for him, he has nothing to worry about because his guest’s performances are convincing along with his hard-working production team, so viewers everywhere think another evil is vanquished from the world. That is, until a real demon steps into the ring threatening to expose the star and everyone in his circle. Will they defeat evil for real this time or are they destined for something far more sinister? Another severely underrated film, The Cleansing Hour is an incredibly well-done demonic horror film. For a subgenre stretched as thin as exorcism horror, the entire team here deserves credit for tweaking the formula and offering up great scares, memorable characters, and a fantastic modern twist to the genre.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here


The Mortuary Collection (Director: Ryan Spindell; United States)

A charming anthology film that revels in classic storytelling and gothic aesthetics, The Mortuary Collection has four stories for unsuspecting viewers to enjoy. While conducting a job interview with a young woman a mortician recalls several tales of terror: a young thief finds her comeuppance in a bathroom, a fraternity brother is acquainted with the consequences of not being truthful with a sexual partner, and a man reaches his breaking point caring for his ailing wife. And, of course, that’s not all there is to discuss. Traditional morality tales wrapped up in the veneer of creepy campfire stories, The Mortuary Collection is a delightful example of re-telling old fables with a modern twist. I found myself laughing and smiling as much as I was covering my eyes in anticipation and suspense. For a year plagued with so many disappointing anthologies, look no further for one that actually gets it right.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here


The Wolf of Snow Hollow (Director: Jim Cummings; United States)

A serial killer is afoot in a small Utah mountain community. Bodies are being found left and right and the only thing that seems to connect them are signs of an animal attack and the waning of the full moon from the night before. Wait, is it really a serial killer or is a werewolf attacking the good people of Snow Hollow? That’s the question in this quirky yet tense indie horror-comedy. The Wolf of Snow Hollow is a fun mystery peppered with colorful characters, a unique premise, and a beautiful winter setting. Viewers will enjoy piecing together the mystery that has puzzled the tiny town and the law enforcement officers tasked with serving justice for the ever-growing list of victims. If anything, stay for the excellent performance of Jim Cummings walking the tightrope as the easily agitated son of the sheriff who nearly destroys himself trying to find the one responsible while also writing and directing the feature.


Full Review: Coming Soon

Where to Watch: See Here


The Wretched (Director: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce; United States)

A troubled teenager is sent away for the summer to live with his father in a quaint lake town upstate. As he is adjusting, he starts noticing increasingly bizarre things happening at the house next door and becomes convinced that one of his new neighbors is a witch. He must figure out how to stop her from her reign of terror while protecting his dad, his new friend and her sister, and anyone else who crosses the ancient evil’s path. The Wretched is a surprisingly great teen horror film that, while littered with some cliched moments, gifts viewers plenty of shocks and surprises throughout its go. I think my biggest praise to gift Brett and Drew Pierce is the stylistic choice to never wade into comedy or sink to shallow conventions that typically befall teen horror, namely trying to make the audience invest in horrible people. The characters are genuine and so are the scares. The Wretched delivers far more than its detractors will say and keeps a straight face the entire time, which is sorely needed in the subgenre nowadays where trendy dialogue and social media references still reign largely unchallenged.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here


Vampires vs. the Bronx (Director: Osmany Rodriguez; United States)

Three young boys in the Bronx are tasked with fighting the ongoing threat of vampires (and gentrification) from destroying their neighborhood in this horror-comedy for (most of) whole the family. Vampires vs. the Bronx melds classic vampiric tropes with the story of Miguel, a passionate kid trying to save his favorite bodega from going out of business. Things get tricky when a bunch of property starts being bought up by a faceless corporation and beloved people from their neighborhood start going missing. A razor-sharp satire on the gentrification done in “hip” neighborhoods by largely white developers, Vampires vs. the Bronx pontificates on the importance of family, culture, and supporting your friends, something that cinephiles of all ages can relate to, assuming they can handle the fangs of course!


Full Review: Unavailable

Where to Watch: See Here


VFW (Director: Joe Begos; United States)

A young woman is on the run from a powerful drug dealer and his army of drug-controlled punks. She seeks shelter in the VFW across the street where tensions immediately rise between her and the men of the post. Some feel it is their duty to protect her and fight back against the gang, while others distrust her and question what she took from the gang and why it is worth endangering all of their lives. A throwback to grindhouse films, this grimy indie horror pulls no punches with its relentless pacing and wild action sequences. While I’m sure some political commentary might bubble beneath the surface, VFW is largely a straightforward action horror film with plenty of gore and suspense to keep horror fans satiated.


Full Review: Unavailable

Where to Watch: See Here


We Summon the Darkness (Director: Marc Meyers; United States/Canada/United Kingdom)

Three friends meet three musicians at a heavy metal show before heading off to one of the girl’s homes to keep the party going. From there, things go south very quickly, and it becomes a fight to stay alive through the night full of metal, mayhem, and murder. We Summon the Darkness is a fun and quirky period piece set against the satanic panic in the summer of 1988. Alexandra Daddario and Maddie Hasson absolutely deliver this film with their gleefully over-the-top performances along with a delightful appearance by Johnny Knoxville. Heavy on the laughs, the scares, and, of course, the metal, We Summon the Darkness is a hell of a good time for any genre fan.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here


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