The Best Horror Movies of 2021 (So Far) – Thrillist

'The Queen of Black Magic' | Shudder

'The Queen of Black Magic' | Shudder

Welcome back! It's our fifth consecutive ongoing "best of horror" annual here at Thrillistcheck out our 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 entries hereand we're excited you're another run. Horror cinema is tracking to have a banner year in 2021, partly because so many promising genre films got pushed back for pandemic reasons, and also because let's face it: When we're living in scary times, filmmakers make scary films. And sometimes they're really good films. So let's dig in already.

(As always, please remember that the "rankings" are mainly for fun. The top films may have something extra special about them and are truly must-sees if you have limited time, but I firmly recommend every movie on this list. Thanks.)

Release date: March 12Cast: Sawyer Spielberg, Malin Barr, Barbara KingsleyWriter: Devereux Milburn, Dan KennedyDirector: Devereux MilburnWhy it's good: It's a touch overlong and more than a little familiar, plot-wise, but there's still something viscerally intense and memorably creepy about this one. It's basically just an artsy take on the stuff we've seen (repeatedly) in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wrong Turn franchisesclueless city folk arrogantly stumble across a small, disturbing community deep in the woodsbut there's still something undeniably effective about its creepiest moments.Where to watch it: VOD

Release date: March 18Cast: Romane Denis, Brett Donahue, Sehar BhojaniWriters: Elza Kephart, Patricia GomezDirector: Elza Kephart (Graveyard Alive)Why it's good: There's always room for another good absurdist horror comedy, and this unholy mixture of So Fine (1981) and Exte: Hair Extensions (2007) is frequently a fast-paced, funny little hoot of a movie. The plot is just a framework on which to hang the flick's willfully silly premiseyes, it's about denim jeans that slaughter lots of peoplebut the cast is game, the writing is fun, and the carnage is pretty kooky.Where to watch it: Shudder

Release date: February 12Cast: Nicolas Cage, Beth Grant, Emily TostaDirector: Kevin LewisWhy it's good: Nicolas Cage locked inside an abandoned arcade with a menagerie of massive murderous monsters? Sign me up. There's also a rudimentary slasher flick structure tossed in to keep things moving, but this flick is at its best when it's just Cage beating the holy hell out of Chuck E. Cheese-style animatronic aggressors and/or a vintage pinball machine. Obviously not much of this is meant to be taken all that seriously, but it still works in a tongue-in-cheek midnight movie sort of way.Where to watch it: VOD

Release date: March 1Cast: Brea Grant, Najarra Townsend, Laura KirkWriters: Jill Gevargizian, Eric Stolze, Eric HavensDirector: Jill GevargizianWhy it's good: There is no shortage of compelling horror films that are essentially dark character studies of their main villain, and this nicely shot, dryly amusing slasher flick is the latest addition to the canon. Imagine Maniac (1980 or 2012) only this time around the killer is a highly disturbed hair stylist who likes to collect various souvenirs from her victims. Benefits from a disconcertingly classy visual motif as well as a fantastic lead performance from Najarra Townsend, whom horror fans will know from Contracted (2013).Where to watch it: VOD

Release date: January 22Cast: Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre, Adam BrooksWriter-director: Steve Kostanski (The Void)Why it's good: It's a gleefully goofy (and frequently gory) 1980s throwback flick in which a pair of kids befriend (enslave?) a monstrous alien killer. It's all very gory and silly and fun, like a sardonic yet affectionate mockery of Harry and the Hendersons that lands a lot of good laughs through amiable shock value and unapologetic weirdness. The Astron-6 vibe may not work for everyone, but it sure does for me. (Check out Manborg, The Void, and/or The Editor!)Where to watch it: VOD

Release date: TBDCast: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Nick CassavetesWriters: Aaron Hendry & Reza Sixo SafaiDirector: Sion Sono (Cold Fish)Why it's good: Nicolas Cage leads an eclectic international ensemble in an equally bizarre casserole of sci-fi, western, horror, and dark comedy. Here, Cage is tasked with venturing into a violent netherworld in an effort to rescue an insane kingpin's granddaughter. This movie, which screened at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, might be 10% too "gonzo" for most mainstream viewers, but those who appreciate Cage's current brand of genre insanity will find much to like here.Where to watch it: TBD

Release date: January 29Cast: Ario Bayu, Hannah Al Rashid, Adhisty ZaraWriter: Joko Anwar (Impetigore)Director: Kimo Stamboel (Macabre)Why it's good: A group of old friends gather at the creepy old orphanage in which they were raised, and all hell pretty much breaks loose from the jump. It's a remake of a 1981 film, and one of the coolest, craziest Indonesian horror films of the past several years. If you enjoy this one, you should also check out Satan's Slaves, May the Devil Take You, and May the Devil Take You Too.Where to watch it: Shudder

Release date: March 2Cast: Brandy Edmiston, Larry Fessenden, Katie GroshongDirector-writer: Chad Crawford Kinkle (Jug Face)Why it's good: This low-key shocker deals with a former cult member who begins to worry that her disturbing past is about to catch up with her and spill over into her new role as a caregiver. Backed by some excellent performances and some very disturbing themes, it's one of the year's strangest (and best) indie horror releases.Where to watch it:VOD

Release date: April 23Cast: Lauren Beatty, Greg Bryk, Katharine King So, Michael IronsideWriters: Wendy Hill-Tout, LowellDirector: Amelia Moses (Bleed with Me)Why it's good: A talented young singer gets the chance to work with a renowned (but creepy) producer, but of course his studio is located somewhere isolated and very creepy. And of course she goes anyway. But this woman is carrying a secret of her own, and it might be even worse than her new patron's. Like lots of very clever horror movies, Bloodthirsty starts out in one somewhat conventional direction before heading off in some more creative ones.Where to watch it: VOD

Release date: January 29Cast: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily KnightWriter-director: Rose GlassWhy it's good: Call it a low-key character study, a "slow burn" psychological thriller, or just a deeply fascinating tale of religious fervor, but there's no denying that this debut feature from Rose Glass is something special. It's about a young caretaker who is dealing with a crisis of faithand a crisis of mental health at the worst possible time. To say more would ruin the joy of discovery.Where to watch it: VOD

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The Best Horror Movies of 2021 (So Far) - Thrillist

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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero
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