The year 2021 has seen a great variety of horror films released. Horror helped lead the charge back to theaters as they gradually started to reopen throughout the year. That meant a return to big-budget horror which wasn’t really seen in 2020. Also, the public’s ever-growing reliance on streaming meant that an increasing number of scary movies were coming out on various online platforms.
Horror is back in a big way in 2021. It can be difficult to keep up with all of it, so collected here, in no particular order, are the very best horror movies and series of 2021. Expect this list to be updated as more movies get released and as more movies get watched!
Many people predicted the demise of movie theaters during the worldwide shutdown in 2020. It was this fear of losing one of cinema’s great joys that partially inspired Uruguayan filmmaker Maximiliano Contenti while directing his fantastic homage to slasher and giallo films, The Last Matinee.
The film takes place in the 1990s and is set inside an old movie theater. There’s a monster movie screening, and the theater is sparsely populated by a collection of diverse individuals. As the movie plays, a mysterious man clad in a black raincoat and gloves systematically murders the movie-goers in very bloody ways. There’s really not much more to the story than that. The Last Matinee is a horror movie that strips the slasher subgenre to its foundation and gives fans of retro-style horror a simple and wonderfully atmospheric experience.
Though technically three movies, Fear Street is best considered as one story told in three parts. Fear Street is loosely inspired by the series of teen horror novels of the same name by R.L. Stine, and the films each serve as tributes to different eras and subgenres of horror movies. In order, Fear Street Part 1: 1994 feels like a teen slasher in the vein of Scream (1996), Fear Street Part 2: 1978 is a campground-based slasher like Friday the 13th (1980), and Fear Street Part 3: 1666 is a witchcraft movie kind of like The Crucible (1996).
The story involves the town of Shadyside and a curse that has claimed the lives of many people (mostly teenagers) over the past few centuries. A group of teens set out to end the curse when they discover they might be the next victims. That propels the trilogy on a course that involves supernatural killers and lots of flashbacks as the history of the town is explored. The movies are teen horror at their heart, but in a fun, R-rated kind of way.
Suki Waterhouse stars as Camille, a new student at the Edelvine Academy for Girls. Camille quickly gets on the bad side of the private school’s mean-girl clique, but they form a tentative truce when members of their group wind up missing and/or dead. Is there a killer in their midst, or are the spirits of the school involved in the deaths? Seance blends a typical teen slasher with supernatural elements, creating a fun mashup of genres that holds together surprisingly well. The finale has multiple revelations that come to a conclusion with some fun and bloody violence. Even if the mystery isn’t terribly mysterious (which it isn’t), Seance is an entertaining film that feels like an homage to the late-90s/early-2000s era of teen horror.
Censor tells the story of Enid Baines (Niamh Algar), a conservative woman whose job is to view obscene and repulsive movies so she and her coworkers can recommend what cuts need to be made before the films can be released to the public. When one of the movies Enid screens contains a scene way too close to a tragedy that occurred in her real life as a child, past traumas begin to rise up in Enid’s mind. Enid goes on a hunt for the truth behind the movie and its filmmakers, a hunt that leads to mental collapse and murder. Censor is a superb psychological horror movie with a wonderfully unreliable narrator that makes viewers question what is real and what is make-believe.
Set in 1970s London, The Power is a supernatural horror movie about a young nurse forced to work the night shift in a hospital with its power shut off. The nurse, Val (Rose Williams), begins to see and feel things in the darkness, and she and the few other people working in the building are in for a night of terror inspired by the hospital’s dark history. While the premise might sound rather conventional, the film’s execution is what makes it stand out. Val has a dark history of her own, and viewers experience the haunting from Val’s increasingly fractured perspective. As histories are unraveled, it becomes clear that the reasons behind every fright resonate with a meaning that transcends a typical haunted-house narrative.
Midnight Mass is a 7-episode Netflix miniseries written and directed by Mike Flanagan, the creator of the beloved series The Haunting of Hill House, also on Netflix. While the first few episodes are pretty slow, they set up a solid foundation for the horror to come. A man named Riley Flynn returns to his hometown, a small fishing island, after serving a prison sentence for a drunk driving accident in which he killed a woman. A former altar boy, Riley has lost his faith and is at a low point in his life. Meanwhile, the island’s visiting priest stirs up a new religious fervor, and cats, dogs, and eventually people start to go missing. Results may vary, but many find the last episode in particular to be one of the most beautiful works of fiction in recent memory.
This movie is just really weird and that makes it great. It’s not a sequel to anything and there are no tropes we’ve seen a million times before. It’s about a family of four who take shelter in their home’s large bathroom during inclement weather only to find themselves trapped by a fallen tree outside the bathroom’s door. The family fight each other and try to break down the door. Eventually, it becomes apparent that someone should have come for them by now. Something is going on out there.
Till Death is about a woman who wakes up after a romantic night with her husband handcuffed to him as he commits suicide. At first the horror is that he has removed their phones and she is just stuck at their isolated cabin handcuffed to his dead body. Then, she discovers her late husband had even worse plans in store for her. Be aware that if you’re not here to watch Megan Fox carry a movie with sarcastic jokes, there is really no way you will like this movie. However, if you are an enlightened individual, it is really suspenseful and fun. It’s a cross between Gerald’s Game (2017) and Jennifer’s Body (2009), but with a really scary (and really human) bad guy.
Directed by Julia Ducournau (who burst onto the worldwide horror scene in 2016 with Raw), Titane is a French film that defies conventional genre distinctions. Part body horror, part crime thriller, part family drama, Titane is a film about Alexia, a woman who had a titanium plate implanted in her skull as a child after a car accident involving her father. Alexia grew up to be a troubled woman who has issues connecting with people, especially her parents.
It’s best if no more is said about specific plot and story details though, because Titane is best experienced knowing next to nothing about it. It’s an often surreal motion picture that touches on topics including loss, family, gender, and identity. It can get quite graphic and uncomfortable, and Julia Ducournau takes viewers on a trip that can be difficult to put into words. Anyone who sees Titane will have their own interpretation about what’s going on and what it does or doesn’t mean, which is truly a sign of a remarkable film.