Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
It’s the last week of the month AND of the year so we all know what time it is. Time to Google the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne so we can finally sing the damn song beyond the first verse! Just kidding, it’s that time of year reviewers put out their Best and Worst choices and in this reviewer’s case the focus is going to be on the genre we all know I love, horror.
So with a mild spoilers warning and an All the Best for the New Year, here are my choices for BEST AND WORST HORROR/THRILLER MOVIES OF 2021:
#5 Worst – Demonic
Cool cinematography and a solid score is not enough to make me forget how forgettable Neil Blomkamp’s (District 9/Chappie) Demonic was. It is similar to Jennifer Lopez’s movie Cell (2000) where one person goes into the mind of a comatose patient to find answers. And I never thought I would find myself saying this but Cell did it better and that movie looks like it was written by monkeys on acid. Neil Blomkamp needed a win but sadly, Demonic was a swing and a miss.
#4 Worst – Voyagers
I wanted space horror, instead I got a bunch of whiny oversexed kids with no self-control. Basically Lord of the Flies but bad.
Like Demonic, the cinematography is good and the setting does evoke a sense of claustrophobia to go with all the paranoia, but it’s all just SO BORING! Every character is thinly written and one dimensional and besides a strong opening the rest of the film drags. It’s a solid premise but the lack of likeable characters and uneven pacing makes Voyagers nothing more than a one and done viewing for me.
#3 Worst – Things Heard and Seen
What Lies Beneath did it better, much better. While this movie has a talented cast and some solid eerie moments nothing else resonates or feels remotely original. Don’t get me wrong; they do try and spice things up with the history repeating itself trope. But the story is predictable which makes for an overall bland experience.
I had actually rewatched What Lies Beneath recently (I was on a bit of a thriller genre bender) so while watching this I just couldn’t stop comparing the two. If you haven’t seen that movie I recommend skipping Things Heard and Seen and checking that one out instead. Trust me, you’ll have a much better time watching Catwoman outsmart Indiana Jones than you will with anything found here.
#2 Worst – Hypnotic
Possibly my biggest disappointment of the year, Hypnotic stars Kate Siegel in the lead role but unfortunately wasn’t directed by her husband and frequent collaborator Mike Flanagan. I’m not saying Siegel is only at her best when working with Flanagan, who in my opinion is one of the greatest modern day horror directors; quite the opposite as her performance here is solid. Even the ridiculous premise of a man using hypnosis to control his patients and make them see and do whatever he wants works for me. The issue at hand is they just didn’t do more with it.
This should’ve been an over-the-top sort of thriller that didn’t take itself too seriously; instead what we got was something I would expect to see on Lifetime. I wanted In the Mouth of Madness meets Silence of the Lambs and instead I got a by-the-numbers thriller that had a lot of potential that was sadly wasted.
Dishonourable Mention – Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin
I’ve never been a fan of these movies; I think they’re overrated and mostly terrible. This latest entry hasn’t changed my mind.
#1 Worst – Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City
I should’ve taken my editor’s word (check out his review of this mess) and just not bother to watch this one. But being a big fan of the games and even the Milla Jovovich movies (guilty pleasures they are) I had high hopes for this supposedly “more like the games” take on Resident Evil. Hopes that were ripped apart like if a zombie horde got a hold of it.
This has got to be the worst horror movie I’ve seen this year. While it gets points for delving deeper into the horror elements of the story and for the set pieces that most definitely will have fans of the games taking notice, the complete lack of energy, terrible pacing and editing, and totally lacklustre and one dimensional characters completely drag this film down into the muck. The longer it went the more I hoped; the more I hoped the worst it got.
Funny enough my hubby thoroughly enjoyed this flick, so maybe there are those out there who thought it was great. I happen to think he’s insane and besides, he’s never played the games so as I told him as he watched it again for the third time (I’m dead serious about that), “You don’t get a vote”.
Now that we’ve got those stinkers out of the way…
#5 Best – The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
I wish this one could be higher on my list as The Conjuring Part 1 and especially Part 2, are my absolute favourites of this modern day horror franchise. Sadly, while James Wan had a hand in writing this story, he wasn’t behind the lens, and that lack of direction gave us a good Conjuring movie but not a great one.
Luckily we have Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson once again returning to their roles of paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren respectively. Their chemistry and performances go a long way in keeping you invested. And while the horror isn’t quite as effective as their previous forays, there’s still a lot to enjoy here. Most importantly, I want to see them return and I’m still having fun with these stories. If that isn’t a good sign and don’t know what is.
#4 Best – A Quiet Place II
Not quite what I hoped for but still, A Quiet Place II managed to bring the magic once again with said magic being tension galore. The story itself doesn’t expand much more beyond the boundaries of the Abbott family but we do get a glimpse into how others are handling the seemingly unstoppable force of creatures who can hear a pin drop.
I do enjoy a good tease though and Part 2 did a solid job of leaving me wanting to know more, especially what the fate of not just the Abbots but of this world John Krasinski and Bryan Woods have created.
#3 Best – Fear Street 1978
What an unexpected treat the Fear Street Trilogy turned out to be! You know you have something special on your hands when even non-horror fans are watching and eagerly awaiting the next chapter of a movie trilogy to unfold.
For those who may have missed out, Fear Street is basically the story of a group of teens trying to break a curse that causes innocent people to turn into depraved killers, the kind of killers seen in slasher flicks like Friday the 13th and Halloween. A premise unlike any other I can remember seeing the trilogy spanned decades, specifically the years of 1994 (Part One) 1978 (Part Two) and 1666 (Part Three).
I’m a fan of the classics and while I enjoyed all three it was Fear Street: 1978 that stood out like a flood light bouncing off a blood-soaked machete. It embraced the era and the slashers born of it with both hands and ratcheted up the kill count while also being a superbly strong follow up to the opening chapter. I had a blast with the Fear Street Trilogy, so here’s hoping the writers of this fresh take on the slasher genre brings us something just as good in the upcoming year.
#2 Best – The Night House
Whittling this list down to just five wasn’t easy. I had a few choices for the runner up like Don’t Breathe Part 2, Blood Red Sky and Werewolves Within just to name a few, but I just had to give it to the one that left the biggest impact on me and completely caught my attention with its atmosphere and refreshingly original take on a ghost story, and that’s The Night House.
I would hate to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t seen it and I also recommend staying away from trailers or any details about it that might spoil the experience, as The Night House is beautifully directed, has a great performance in its lead Rebecca Hall, a small but well-developed supporting cast and utilises special effects and its cinematography to create a genuinely creepy tale. It also doesn’t treat you like a child and spoon-feed you a bunch of exposition or narrative. and instead leaves it up to you the viewer to figure out exactly what’s happening on your own.
If you love a good old-fashioned ghost story that doesn’t waste your time with ineffective jump scares and cheap antics The Night House is definitely worth checking out and is easily one of the best genre flicks of the year.
Honourable Mention – Malignant
I need to watch this one a couple more times to truly figure out where I stand, but I have to admit, as crazy and plot-hole ridden as it was, Malignant was a fun ride.
#1 Best – Candyman (2021)
I wasn’t sure they could pull it off but dagnabbit (old timey speak was weird) Nia DaCosta and Jordan Peele’s spiritual sequel to one of the best horror has to offer was truly inspired. Blending the story of the original Candyman legend from 1992 while creating their own was not only smart but also respectful and never once did I feel like they were relying on nostalgia alone. I’ve seen the negative reviews of this movie, calling it woke and PC and whatever. And while everyone is entitled to their own opinions, mine is to simply point out the first movie was also trying to point out the societal ills, racism and poverty, the “horrors” if you will that plague the African Americans that live in America, specifically Cabrini Green. Horrors that take on a life of their own in the form of Candyman.
DaCosta and Peele (as well as others) simply modernised the story and in my opinion their version was HIGHLY effective. The actors, the cinematography, the cool visuals with utilising shadow puppetry and mirrors to bring Candyman to life in a whole new way.
Candyman (2021) creatively balances the original story that the fans love while delivering an intelligent and thought provoking take all their own. And for that it wins the top place on my list of the best horror movies 2021 had to offer.
So that’s my list. What do you think was the best and worst horror/thriller of 2021? And you can check out more great horror content below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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