With all of the horrors Americans are facing daily — a gun crisis, attacks on women’s rights, a Supreme Court hell-bent on legislating back to the olden days — it can be a difficult to engage with the artificial terror of scary movies.
Fittingly, many of the year’s best titles tapped into this anger and fear. Themes of environmental decay (“Crimes of the Future”), the oppression of women (“Men”), toxic internet culture (“Scream”), surveillance (“Watcher”) and sexual repression (“X”) loomed large, linking fantastical scares to very real fright.
Before the countdown, some honorable mentions:
*Parker Finn’s “Smile” is the best crowdpleaser of the year, filled with effective jump scares, a spooky score, twists and suspense that is tailor-made for date night.
*Joseph and Vanessa Winter’s “Deadstream” skewers YouTube culture with a charming and funny haunted house tale which takes several cues from the handmade charm of Sam Raimi’s early films.
*Ti West’s “Pearl” is a chilling sequel to his other film this year, “X,” and feature’s the year’s best horror performance from Mia Goth, which demands awards attention.
*Mariama Diallo’s “Master” doesn’t deliver the scares, but it’s a compelling haunting tale which explores big ideas, held together by a strong lead performance from Regina Hall.
*Toby Meakins’ “Choose or Die” has some compelling imagery and a charming throwback premise, but the killer video game script can’t sustain a feature-length runtime.
*Though overlong and in need of a script doctor to punch up the jokes, “Studio 666” is a fun romp for rock fans — and a charming showcase for the Foo Fighters’ late drummer Taylor Hawkins.
*David Blue Garcia’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was a disappointment, but featured one of the year’s best gore scenes, courtesy of Leatherface invading a party bus.