Scott McDaniel: Top 5 horror titles of 2021

Another year of COVID has been frightening enough, but 2021 has also offered some memorable scary movies if you’re in the mood this Halloween. The best new horror releases of the year are quite different from one another and, in my opinion, are as follows:

‘Saint Maud’

In this British psychological horror film, an ultra-religious nurse decides it’s her duty to “save” a dying woman’s soul, which isn’t as generous as it may sound considering the nurse is insane.

What’s more chilling than monsters and evil spirits? Sometimes the answer is people. Especially when they lose track of reality and dip into unpredictable madness. The tone is eerie throughout. Something feels off about the nurse from the start, and that builds to a haunting conclusion. It freaks me out, because it feels too real. Some people may look to be following society’s rules on the outside, but on the inside they’re in another world.

‘A Quiet Place: Part II’

A sequel, this film follows the Abbott family as they search for more survivors in an alien-invaded world of necessary silence.

Intense. When the audience is on the edge of their seats, afraid to move or make a sound, it’s exhausting in the best way horror can be. The addition of the newborn baby adds an extra element of anxiety, because babies don’t know the rules of this new world and inevitable crying could mean death.

Emily Blunt is one of the best actresses out there, but this one is more about the kids filling the void left by their deceased father, played by John Krasinski.

‘Fear Street’

This Netflix trilogy spans a timeline of centuries and breathes new life into a repetitive slasher genre. Loosely based on the works of R.L. Stine, the movies take place in 1994, 1978, and 1666, and track a group of teenagers determined to end their town’s deadly curse.

It pays its respects to the classics, while taking surprising turns to feel fresh. It’s well-acted, and while not really that scary, it’s as much fun as horror can be.

‘The Night House’

Stunned by her husband’s suicide, a widow tries to process what happened but instead finds more questions. Something isn’t right in the lake house he built for her, and it’s there that she learns her husband was more of a mystery than she knew.

Rebecca Hall is incredible, single-handedly turning what could’ve been a B-movie into an excellent horror movie that scares the bejeezus out of you early then leaves itself open to interpretation to haunt you long after its over. It could frustrate viewers who need a clear cut meaning, but I love the fact that viewers can get different things from it.

‘The Power’

Set in 1974 Britain, a labor strike means the city’s power is shut off at night. A new nurse is forced to work the hospital’s night shift in that darkness. If that’s not scary enough, the dark also brings back the suppressed trauma of her youth. Not to mention, the trauma of others who have passed within those walls.

The atmosphere of the pitch-black hospital is hair-raising. Rose Williams excels in the lead role, truly transforming in the blink of an eye from a sweet nurse to being possessed. I got daytime goosebumps watching her. Beyond that, the story is thoughtfully crafted with a lot to say. The darkness symbolizes the many abuse victims who keep their trauma locked away in the dark, often because “The Power” (see what they did there) of our society doesn’t want those truths to come to light. It’s the best feminist horror film of the year.

Honorable Mention: ‘Host’

Though released in 2020, it’s still timely with its Zoom-based computer production. Locked down due to COVID-19, a group of friends decide to connect for an online séance. What starts as a playful waste of time takes a turn when strange things begin to happen in each of their homes.

The interactions make it feel like genuine friends getting together virtually. That layer of realism adds to the horror when they can only helplessly watch one another’s video boxes. It’s chock-full of delightful jump scares, so many in fact that a friend I was watching with pulled a muscle from one of the startles.

Scott McDaniel is a journalist who lives with his wife and three kids in Bargersville. He is an adjunct professor of journalism courses. Send comments to [email protected]