There has been a steady theme over the last ten years or so, saying that the horror genre is a dying breed. Almost every scary movie to get a wide release was ravaged by critics, but paid for by audiences. A trend of cheap jump scares ruled box office numbers, and it seemed as though horror had taken a turn for the worse. While there's still a lot of garbage being produced, the last couple of years have shown us that great horror flicks still have a place in our world. While some say horror is dead, I say nay! I say that horror as a whole is the strongest it's ever been. While superheroes may rule the box office, I feel like ghouls and goblins are finding new and unique ways to give us all the creeps. Not only that, but they're doing it with some incredible art and quality while they're at it. With that being said, let's take a look at the top five horror movies from the last three years.
Honorable Mention: You're Next (2011)
This film only drops to honorable mention on a technicality. You're Next was released in theaters in August of 2013 but, technically, it was originally screened for audiences in 2011. If we go by the release date, however, this movie easily graces the top five. A new take on a very worn-down concept, family members come from all over to reunite at a remote cabin. Once settled in, people start dying, and the chase is on. This movie, along with Cabin in the Woods, showed horror how to be fun again. It took a lot of the great things we loved about films like The Evil Dead, and brought them into a modern light. Fantastic camera work and a great twist put the icing on an already incredibly thrilling cake.
5. Oculus (2013)
Nothing is more terrifying than your mind. I've mentioned in many of my articles that imagination is the key to real horror, and Oculus helped to hammer that point home. A brother and sister haunted by a childhood memory try to utilize a powerful mirror to discover the secret to their late mother's insanity. In the process, however, their own sanity comes into question. We watch as the two start to lose sight of what's real, and what's all in their heads. Karen Gilliam (yes, the one and only Amy Pond) brings life to the insanity and leaves our eyes glued to the screens until it's final moments. This is one psychological thrill ride that only gets better.
4. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
An Iranian art-house vampire western? Inspired by Quentin Tarantino? Sounds like the most random assortment of film elements ever assembled, and it is. The crazy thing is, it actually works. It works really well. This black and white film tells the story of a young, female vampire stalking the inhabitants of a place called Bad City. What follows is a tasteful take on what a vampire would look like in some kind of modern society, and not in a world of fantasy. The vampire even has a kind of Jigsaw mentality, preying on those who deserve their fate. It's easy to be skeptical of this movie but, trust me, you won't regret watching it. The best part? It's on Netflix. Seriously, go check this movie out. Like, right now.
3. The Babadook (2014)
If we forgot lessons we learned from old horror movies, The Babadook makes one very clear. Children and their stories are terrifying. Not only that, this film is great at helping us internalize the harm of grief. After losing her husband, a young mother has to cope with raising a depressed child, AND protecting him from his haunted children's book. We watch as Elle Davis dives into depths of despair we didn't know existed, and Mr. Babadook brings more and more terror on the broken family. The scariest part of the film is what it tells us about our own lives. It shows us what grief can actually do to a broken person, and helps put all of us into the young mother's shoes. You know what else this movie uses to really bring out fear? Yup, you guessed it. Our imaginations.
2. The Conjuring (2013)
This is one of the scariest films I have ever seen, and easily one of the scariest to get a wide theatrical release. James Wan (Saw, Insidious) took us inside the true story of the Warrens, a married team of exorcists, attempting to free a family from a possessed farm house. Even after the positive reviews and terrifying trailer, I was still skeptical - mainly because it was another exorcism movie. There have been too many terrible exorcism flicks in the last ten years, and I was just worn out. I'm so glad I was wrong about this one. There was no terrible cinematography, no cheesy dialogue, and the acting didn't make me feel like I was watching Latin soap opera. Unlike most modern exorcism movies, it was all fantastic. There were very tense moments and some incredibly well-timed scares. The strongest part of this film, however, was its acting. Patrick Wilson has shown time and time again he can lead a horror franchise, and Vera Farmiga took the entire film to another level. I thought for sure she would get some kind of award recognition for the role. Another big step this film took was positively relaying a message of faith that most horror films fail to do, even with a premise based in religion. If you want to watch something scary, I mean truly scary, watch The Conjuring. You'll have a tough time recovering from this one.
1. It Follows (2014)
While it made festival rounds in 2014, most audiences weren't able to get out and see this horror classic until earlier this year. To be honest, this is a film like no other. After an ill-advised one night stand in the backseat of a car, a young woman is informed that she now has something following her. It will always come in different forms, and it's always walking, but it won't ever stop following. The only way to get rid of it is to pass it along to someone else. The catch is, if they die, it follows you again. I know this sounds like the most terrifying STD of all time, but it's so much more than that. The cinematography alone is enough to raise It Follows to classic status, but it doesn't stop there. This film makes you scared of what you can't see. It makes you scared of what could be around you at any moment, even if no one else around you can see it. It also proves that terror can come in many different shapes and sizes. Whether it's following you in the form of your best friend on the beach, or an armless woman in your kitchen, It Follows shows you that fear can literally be coming from anywhere. Between the perfect use of dialogue and the brilliance of dead-pan horror, It Follows will follow your thoughts for years to come.