Shudder Filmmakers’ Favorite Horror Of The Decade
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The Bite #90
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Shudder Filmmakers’ Favorite Horror Of The Decade

December 26, 2019

In this Issue:


As we say goodbye to 2019 and the 2010s, and all those “Best Of…” horror lists keep coming in, the Shudder team thought we should contribute some of our favorites of the last decade. Well, our filmmakers’ favorites, that is. That’s right, as a special year-end Bite for all our devoted readers, we decided to ask some of the filmmakers on Shudder to share their favorite horror films of the past decade.

The rules were simple – we asked five filmmakers to tell us their top five horror films of the last decade. Some wrote about the films that scared them the most, others listed their favorites, or the most rewatchable flicks. The result is a deeply personal list of some of the best and brightest landmarks in horror from the past ten years that we hope you’ll want to seek out and enjoy as you ring in the new year.

Ashlee Blackwell co-wrote and produced the Shudder original documentary Horror Noire: A History Of Black Horror. She is the creator of Graveyard Shift Sisters, a website dedicated to the work and achievements of Black women and women of color in genre. Her written work has also appeared in outlets such as Birth.Movies.Death., Rue Morgue, and Fangoria Magazine. Starting in January, she will be teaching a class at St. Joseph’s University titled “Resistance Through Terror: Aught Horror Films”.

The Girl with All the Gifts (2017)

Directed by Colm McCarthy, Written by Mike Carey

British author Mike Carey’s novel-turned-film shows an ominous dystopia that insists what we fear is that human erasure is inevitable. After a fungal infection has zombified nearly the entire population, Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) believes she has finally found the key to saving humanity in Melanie (Sennia Nanua). She is a persistently polite young girl yet also a “dangerous” fungus-human hybrid imprisoned her entire life. But when Ms. Justineau’s (Gemma Arterton) hand touches Melanie’s head, this gesture of compassion let’s her know that she’s alive, and she alone decides the fate of evolution.

The Invitation (2016)

Directed by Karyn Kusama, Written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi

Director Karyn Kusama said, “sometimes for some of us, the worst thing has to happen so the best thing can happen.” Will (Logan Marshall Green) faces this painful revelation with his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) during and in the aftermath of a golden-toned dinner party-turned-hellscape hosted by Will’s ex and her new husband, with an intimate group of friends and peculiar strangers. The visage of spatial familiarity, politeness, and comfort do not assuage Will’s suspicions. Is his grief clouding his judgment? Or does his emotional bareness sharpen his intuition? This worst thing helps him begin to heal.

Lead #90 - The Bite Holiday Special - Ashlee Blackwell The Blackcoats Daughter - The Bite

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017)

Written and Directed by Osgood Perkins

Thankfully swerving left from the flamboyant model that exorcism movies often follow, The Blackcoat’s Daughter dares to have a jarring emotional impact on its audiences. Kat’s (Kiernan Shipka) parents don’t arrive at her boarding school for winter break, so she’s left with unconcerned adults and a self-absorbed peer (Lucy Boynton’s Rose). Figuratively alone, she finds warmth from the frost outdoors in a force that alters her behavior. Writer/director Oz Perkins has quickly become a storyteller to watch. Using mute pacing with the precise balance of visual exposition and dialogue, the heart of his empathetic art is the sorrow in isolation.

Starry Eyes (2014)

Written and Directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer

There’s no shortage of occult themes and their hives in horror. Creating that perfect formula of originality, conspiracy, and welcomed predictability, Starry Eyes is the brutal outcome of a person’s one, all-consuming goal. Fame is Sarah’s (Alex Essoe) target. Her job, snippy peers, numerous acting auditions, and quirky coping mechanisms with failure all result in anxiety that a pair of offbeat casting directors sniff out. With their interests grander than making a horror flick, Sarah struggles, yet dives completely into the carnage of doing whatever it takes to be the star she’s always wanted to be.


Us (2019)

Written and Directed by Jordan Peele

Us seems popularly discussed as an emblematic picture about society, familial relationships, and class. A story that binds its audience to a known tale as old as civilization, wrapped in an intriguing yet vague, dark science. But for me, what raised the stakes even more was that this was a black family grappling with a more intimate terror and fighting for survival. The untamed, post-Get Out Peele sent the melanated images into his genre work that I’ve been craving. And young Adelaide (Madison Curry) was, pun intended, like looking into a mirror. Plats and all.

Lead #90 - The Bite Holiday Special - Sam Wineman - The Bite

Sam Wineman is the writer and director of multiple short films including the award-winning The Quiet Room and the segment “Milk and Cookies” in the Christmas horror anthology Deathcember. He has been recording music since 2006, and recently released a remastered version of his 2018 holiday album “Right In Front Of My Christmas”. He’s currently directing the upcoming Shudder original documentary on queer representation in horror.

Final Destination 5 (2011)

Directed by Steven Quale, Written by Eric Heisserer

Why is Final Destination 5 the top-rated entry in the franchise? Because it spends 95 minutes earning its Lisa Loeb reference. Nicholas D’Agosto, Miles Fisher, and Arlen Escarpeta star in what is essentially an impossible game of FMK. If you didn’t already have enough reasons to love Emma Bell, watch her steal the show as a caffeine pill addict in costar Miles Fisher’s “New Romance” music video… in which the entire FD5 cast unites for a Final-Destination-style spoof of Saved By The Bell.

Lead #90 - The Bite Holiday Special - Sam Wineman Raw - The Bite

Raw (2017)

Written and Directed by Julia Ducournau

I prefer my coming-of-age tales with a touch of cannibalism. Pair that with the queer themes present in Raw and I’ll gobble it up faster than a rabbit’s kidney on hazing day. Speaking of queer, director Julia Ducournau gets 10 out of 10 severed fingers for Adrien, the hunky roomie who serves as the object of our heroine’s sexual desire (a rarity when it comes to portrayals of gay/bi men). It’s refreshing to see such a nuanced approach to LGBTQ+ representation in horror.

The Invitation (2016)

Directed by Karyn Kusama, Written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi

There’s Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation, and then there’s what Logan Marshall-Green’s beard did to me while watching it. Both left me absolutely wrecked. Both left me wanting more. The Invitation‘s storytelling is complex and suspenseful, and the performances are masterfully directed. When I left the theater after my first viewing, I immediately felt compelled to walk back in and start again. Good writing rewards a second viewing, and this film does exactly that.

Lead #90 - The Bite Holiday Special - Sam Wineman Get Out - The Bite

Get Out (2017)

Written and Directed by Jordan Peele

Get Out didn’t just leave an impact on the horror genre; it reshaped it. It was a movie so monumental, our children will talk about it (well, your children will talk about it – hard pass on the whole “kids” thing). Get Out satisfied genre fans and progressives alike. Hell, even my Fox-News-loving stepdad saw it. And best of all, it was a big middle finger to play-it-safe executives who had long been peddling fears about what types of representation will and won’t be profitable. Because of that, as a queer director, I felt especially inspired.

Tammy and the T-Rex: Gore Cut (2019)

Directed by Stewart Raffill, Written by Stewart Raffill and Gary Brockette

My #1 film of the decade may have been shot in 1994 but it wasn’t until 2019 that it was finally released … and boy was it worth the wait. It’s got everything I want in a movie: crop tops; Denise Richards; a queer lead of color with agency. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely bonkers: Paul Walker gets his brain transplanted into a mechanical T-Rex whose baby-arms make calls on payphones and slay at charades. But it’s the earnestness in its execution (and the killer performances by its cast) that make it a must-see.

Lead #90 - The Bite Holiday Special - Issa Lopez - The Bite

Issa López is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and director from Mexico City. With seventeen writing credits and seven directing credits to her name, her prolific work has been met with resounding acclaim from publications such as VarietyThe Hollywood Reporter, and The Los Angeles Times. Her critically acclaimed film Tigers Are Not Afraid (Vuelven) attracted the attention of horror legends Stephen King and Guillermo Del Toro, who is now working to produce López’s next feature film.

Under The Skin (2014)

Directed by Jonathan Glazer, Written by Jonathan Glazer and Walter Campbell

How to describe the indescribable? A movie that explains nothing, shies away from nothing, has no pity for us or its characters, feels colder than fake, un-living skin, that brought us visual nightmares to haunt us, and sound design and an original score to influence many filmmakers to come. The film was years in the making … and you can tell.

Lead #90 - The Bite Holiday Special - Issa Lopez Spring- The Bite

Spring (2015)

Directed by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, Written by Justin Benson

This movie is the absolute opposite of Under The Skin, but just as brilliant. Warm, loving, funny, touching, and human … while dealing with monsters. Spring is, very much like Skin, about a seductive siren that will eat you up. But unlike Glazer’s film, this movie leaves you full and hopeful, the specialty of Benson and Moorhead.

What We Do in the Shadows (2015)

Written and Directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi

Horror and comedy are the hardest, and the least respected genres to make. How difficult is it to combine them? Not difficult at all, if we are to judge by Shadows. Just grab a camera and point it at a band of vampire flatmates; not particularly brilliant, tidy, or generous, just coexisting their nights in Wellington, NZ. How deceptive. This movie being made is a feat, and it is an instant classic of gory silliness.

Lead #90 - The Bite Holiday Special - Issa Lopez Under The Shadow - The Bite

Under the Shadow (2016)

Written and Directed by Babak Anvari

I’m particularly inclined to the type of horror that mixes with reality. When it touches directly on the things that are monstrous in our world. Like when women are forced to cover their heads when a regime comes back into power, or when bombs fall on our characters’ homes at the same time as they try to break a very, very scary demonic spell. This is exactly my type of horror; the one where you don’t know where the monster ends and you begin.

Terrified (2017)

Written and Directed by Demián Rugna

Over the past ten years, I’ve been tempted to leave the theatre (on the basis of the movie being scary, mind you) only once. This is the film that scared me that much. It spooked me for weeks after watching it. It’s like nothing else out there, almost a genre on its own. I will not tire of telling horror fans to go watch it. Go. Now.

Lead #90 - The Bite Holiday Special - Scott Beck And Bryan Woods - The Bite

Scott Beck and Bryan Woods have been making films together since childhood. They shot multiple shorts and their first feature-length films in highschool, and started their production company, Bluebox Films, in 2001. Since then, they’ve written multiple films including the John Krasinski-directed A Quiet Place and co-directed their haunted house slasher, Haunt. The duo is currently attached to adapt and direct The Boogeyman from Stephen King’s short story of the same name, as well as sci-fi feature Sovereign, and an episode of the upcoming Sam Raimi-produced anthology series, 50 States Of Fright.

Lead #90 - The Bite Holiday Special - Scott Beck And Bryan Woods Midsommar - The Bite

Midsommar (2019)

Written and Directed by Ari Aster

It’s always dangerous to announce a recent film as one of the best of the decade. The paint is still wet on the canvas. The final picture of what it means to you hasn’t crystalized. It’s the honeymoon phase. But holy hell did Midsommar take us on a journey. Shot in stark daylight, but as terrifying as anything that has happened in the shadows, Midsommar isn’t a film so much as an experience. In only two films, Ari Aster has announced himself as a major horror auteur. We just hope he doesn’t leave the genre behind for “loftier” ambitions.

Fright Night (2011)

Directed by Craig Gillespie, Written by Marti Noxon

So we’re being a little rebellious. Is the Fright Night remake better than game-changers like Get Out, or It Follows, or Don’t Breathe, or Shudder’s own Tigers Are Not Afraid? Maybe not. But you’ve seen those films. Have you seen this overlooked gem? Craig Gillespie directs the hell out of an excellent script by Marti Noxon that makes for an Amblin-style film that’s light and fun. The kind of studio movie that was probably greenlit for all the wrong reasons but everyone showed up with lots of heart. Sometimes the most memorable movies are the ones you never expected to love.

The Visit (2015)

Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

We originally had this spot pegged for the other M. Night Shyamalan comeback film, Split. That film was the brilliant stealth-sequel to Unbreakable that we never knew we needed, and perhaps a less controversial pick for best of the decade. But what The Visit attempts is much riskier; an intimate character study about abandonment and letting go of resentment, told in the least fashionable horror sub-genre of the decade, found footage. We saw a sold-out screening in Iowa opening night and were in awe of how the film played 200 strangers like a piano. Its success is an argument for the power of the communal experience.

Black Swan (2010)

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, Written by Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz, and John McLaughlin

Aronofsky’s Black Swan puts the world of New York ballet under a microscope and studies it so intensely that everything captured inside the grainy 16mm starts to burn. Natalie Portman’s career-best performance starts as something recognizable and literal, before becoming metaphor – becoming dance and poetry and movement and… swan? She becomes a SWAN!! A trippy, exhilarating journey into a dark Polanski-esque nightmare that somehow leaves you feeling uplifted.

Lead #90 - The Bite Holiday Special - Scott Beck And Bryan Woods Green Room - The Bite

Green Room (2016)

Written and Directed by Jeremy Saulnier

A punk rock siege film that drags the audience kicking and screaming into a Nazi compound and asks them to fight their way out. The film sweats style and bleeds atmosphere. Every shot is meticulously composed and yet each scene feels immediate, urgent, and alive. We referenced this masterpiece while making Haunt as much as the more obvious, beloved slashers of the 70s and 80s. This is Assault On Precinct 13 Carpenter-style horror at its very best.

Lead #90 - The Bite Holiday Special - Adam Egypt Mortimer - The Bite

Wildly imaginative and deeply into pastels, Adam Egypt Mortimer co-wrote and directed his first feature film, Some Kind Of Hate, alongside writer Brian Deleeuw in 2015. His next feature film, Daniel Isn’t Real, based on co-writer Deleeuw’s novel, In This Way I Was Saved, stars Patrick Schwarzenegger, Miles Robbins, and Sasha Lane. The film hits Shudder in 2020. He’s currently working on his next film, Archenemy, co-written by Lucas Passmore.

Raw (2017)

Written and Directed by Julia Ducournau

I love this movie for how beautifully shot it is, how natural the performances feel, and how complex and subtle the relationship between the sisters is drawn. I love the two party sequences, each set to an incredible needle drop, one depicting chaos and confusion within a brilliantly-choreographed single shot, the other immersing us into a feeling of hunger and compulsion — a hunger for flesh in both the literal and the erotic sense. Raw is the next generation of the New French Extremity, taking the fusion of disturbing horror and euro-drama realism that defined the movement and blasting it into the next decade through youth culture energy. I remember seeing this in the theater at Fantastic Fest and regretting that I had a plate of queso in front of me, but at the same time I can’t think of a more seductive horror film from the past few years.

Lead #90 - The Bite Holiday Special - Adam Egypt Mortimer John Dies At The End - The Bite

John Dies At The End (2013)

Written and Directed by Don Coscarelli

Is this even a horror movie? It’s got interdimensional demons and all kinds of horrific violence, but it’s so fun and structurally inventive that my overall emotion every time I watch it is excitement, not fear. The opening 5 minutes alone are a masterpiece of weird, nonstop action and the whole movie takes place in a realm somewhere between Buckaroo Banzai and Takashi Miike. It’s the kind of genre movie made for people who have a deep experience with genre, so it can toss out all the rules and create a sense that anything could happen. It sticks the landing with every wild turn, relying on pitch-perfect performances and a visual clarity that allows all the craziness to feel believable and real. It occurs to me as I think about it now that this film’s title may have had an influence on my own movie’s title, in several distinct ways.

A Horrible Way To Die (2011)

Directed by Adam Wingard, Written by Simon Barrett

When I watched this movie, a bomb went off in my head. The combination of a deeply personal, emotional story with the sensibility of an extreme horror film completely redirected my brain. Clearly owing a huge debt to Larry Fessenden as well as the previous decade’s French horror, A Horrible Way seemed to be ushering in a whole new wave of American horror. Like Cassavettes with a meat hook, Wingard’s style suggested that the genre was ready to open up the psychic wounds that had previously been exposed in different forms. Like an elevator opening up to unleash a tsunami of blood straight to the lens, this movie had a radical influence on me personally and, I suspect, the genre as a whole.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017)

Written and Directed by Osgood Perkins

This movie scared the fuck out of me. There is a moment in the movie where Kiernan Shipka gets a phone call in the basement from literal Satan and it feels so deeply dreadful and dark. The coldness of the winter setting, the bleakness of the situation, the quiet aliveness of the central relationship, and the creeping, unrelenting sense that MURDER is on its way is an altogether unnerving experience. There is a fruitful comparison to be made in how both this movie and Raw depict the relationships of two young women through a world of blood, hunger, and death.

Lead #90 - The Bite Holiday Special - Adam Egypt Mortimer Cabin In The Woods - The Bite

The Cabin In The Woods (2012)

Directed by Drew Goddard, Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard

I couldn’t quite decide which movie to end this on — the surprising wildness of The Loved Ones, the traumatic scares of The Babadook, the future-slasher brilliance of Ex Machina, or the sublime satanic brutal dance of Suspiria — so I decided on Cabin in the Woods, which puts every movie and every monster into a single story. Like John Dies at the EndCabin creates surprises that work even, and maybe especially, for an audience of genre experts. Like Martyrs, it explores the question of how and why horror and horror movies derive their value from the depiction of trauma and violence on young women. But while it doesn’t have that film’s medievalist, transcendent value, it does have an unhinged escalation that treats us to a maximalist conclusion of the highest order. In the wake of this post-genre genius, I don’t know how anyone could again make a movie about people in the woods being killed. Cabin throws down a gauntlet that should continue to challenge genre filmmakers into the next decade.