When you dredge up and/or tap into collective nightmares for the screen, how do you compete with the real-life terrors going on past the theater’s walls? For the horror movies of 2019, the answer was: You don’t. With one extremely notable exception, the best the genre had to offer this year didn’t try to conjure up specific issues or examples of The Fucked-Up World We Live In Today; instead, the class of ’19 channeled the kind of free-floating anxiety and center-can’t hold dread that characterizes what it’s like to log on or look outside your window.
And while there were some decent franchise sequels (Annabelle Comes Home) and the now-requisite Stephen King adaptations — from Pet Sematary and the superior, if still kinda lackluster It: Chapter Two to the Kubrick cosplay of Mike Flanagan’s admirable Doctor Sleep — 2019 will mostly be remembered as the year that the recently crowned “next wave” names of horror beat the sophomore slump. Jordan Peele, Ari Aster and Robert Eggers all delivered solid second movies and confirmed their staying power (as did The Babadook‘s Jennifer Kent, who stellar revenge movie The Nightingale is required viewing regardless of what genre you’d categorize it as). A host of next-gen writer-directors also stepped in to fill in the gap as well. There’s the sense that we’re about to see a whole lot of fresh blood start to spill some fresh blood at the movies.
Here are extremely subjective picks for the 10 best horror movies of the year. Shout-outs as well to Japan’s ingeniously meta One Cut of the Dead; I Trapped the Devil, the impressive debut of filmmaker Josh Lobo; Larry Fessenden’s riff on the Frankenstein legend, Depraved; and the goopy, giddy take on the popular YA-lit series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.