As 2019 comes to an end, horror fans look back at the films they were given over those 12 months and they have a lot to be thankful for. Some of the biggest trends in the genre were unconventional and unexpected horror stories, with audiences being given a wide variety of terrors to endure. While fans were given sequels in iconic franchises and new takes on genre classics, the films that ultimately stood out were those that seemingly came out of nowhere or provided audiences with memorable and unique journeys. No matter what your interests were in the genre, horror movies in 2019 had you covered.
One thing that has become clear over the past year is that filmmakers will have to pull out all the stops when it comes to impressing audiences, as they stopped settling for the conventional horrors we've grown accustomed to over the years.
Scroll down to see our picks for the best horror movies of 2019!
Back in 2017, filmmaker Jordan Peele delivered audiences the cultural sensation Get Out, which managed to not only be a compelling horror film, but also offer allegories to racism in our society. While his follow-up film managed to recreate a similar balance of horror and social commentary, it wasn't anything like audiences were expecting.
When a family visits their vacation lake house, they become the unwitting targets of a group of violent intruders. Making matters all the more frightening is that the intruders are near-identical doppelgangers, igniting a perplexing and violent mystery.
Ultimately serving to the theme of discovering the true nature of those in your community, Us offered audiences more universal horrors than Peele's previous film, with Lupita Nyong'o giving one of the best performances of the year as both the family's matriarch and the unsettling leader of the invading imposters.prevnext
In 2018, audiences were horrified with filmmaker Ari Aster's debut feature film Hereditary, with his sophomore effort Midsommar offering audiences another unsettling experience.
After the death of her family, a woman travels with her boyfriend to a remote Scandinavian community to witness their traditional summer rituals, only to discover that "primitive" would be a better description of the events that begin to unfold.
While Midsommar featured its fair share of traditional frights, what truly took the experience to another level were the depictions of emotional horror, from abuse to neglect to manipulation. Few films were as bizarre and ambitious this year as Aster's folk-horror experience, cementing himself as one of the genre's most compelling contemporary filmmakers.prevnext
Off the coast of New England in the 1890s, two men are tasked with maintaining a lighthouse, only for their isolation and the potential otherworldly capabilities of the island to result in a complete descent into madness.
Anchored by rivetting performances by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, the film made for both an experience that was difficult to witness while also being one we couldn't look away from. Eggers previously delivered audiences The Witch in 2016, proving with a follow-up that he's a master of tone and atmosphere, capturing aesthetics that none of his contemporaries are even attempting to convey.prevnext
'Ready or Not'
A release date can often tell audiences a lot about a movie, with late August not being known for delivering viewers exceptional experiences, with Ready or Not proving that theory entirely wrong.
On the night of her wedding, a new bride is subjected to the absurd traditions of her new family, which includes participating in a seemingly innocent game that proves to be a deadly test to see if she has what it takes to stay in the family, and to stay alive.
Actress Samara Weaving gave genre fans a star-making performance as the bride who was in over her head, as the film itself took a bizarre concept and injected it with enough self-reflexive humor and heart to become one of the more surprising successes of the year.prevnext
'Happy Death Day 2U'
For some horror fans, seeing an impressive body count is what matters most, resulting in the dismissal of anything rated PG-13. As proven with Happy Death Day in 2017, a strong premise appeals to fans more than the number of victims, with its sequel proving that approach just as strongly.
While the original film saw Tree (Jessica Rothe) being murdered repeatedly, only to come back to life to relive the same experiences over and over, the sequel saw a timeline rift that resulted in her surviving in an alternate existence. This new reality had some advantages, yet posed a threat to reality as the world knew it, forcing her to repeatedly die in pursuit of correcting the rift.
Despite some audiences being frustrated with the lack of blood and gore, Happy Death Day 2U more than made up for its tamer rating with its messages regarding destiny, regrets, and the choices we've made in our brief time on earth. In this regard, the sequel inspired a deeper emotional impact within some audiences than any other genre efforts this year.prevnext
'Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark'
For decades, the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series of books have horrified young readers, while also igniting a passion for the macabre. The bar was set high for how the film could possibly capture the feeling of consuming those books, a challenge which the movie more than met.
A group of friends investigates a supposedly haunted house, only to discover a book of creepy tales crafted by the home's former resident. When the invaders leave the house with the book, they discover that new stories begin to appear, with the ghastly occurrences taking place in the real world as they become characters in the doomed stories.
Not only did director André Øvredal effectively capture the perfect blend of humor and horror of the original stories themselves, but he also managed to bring to life the book series' iconic illustrations with visuals that were unsettling without ever being gruesome.prevnext
'Tigers Are Not Afraid'
Following in the footsteps of a film like Pan's Labyrinth, Tigers Are Not Afraid leaned more into the realms of fantasy while still managing to convey a number of disturbing, real-world horrors.
After a young girl's mom disappears in the midst of violent drug wars in Mexico, she falls in with a gang of young criminals who go to drastic lengths to keep their "family" safe on the streets. Sadly, the violence of the community doesn't spare anyone, with the girl finding escapism among otherworldly creatures.
Grounded by charming performances, Tigers Are Not Afraid manages to be both a devastating depiction of the terrible events that orphans face in crime-riddled communities, while also managing to serve as hopeful inspiration for those facing a depressing reality. Both in its real-world horrors and ominous fantastical elements, writer/director Issa López proved herself a force to watch with her film.prevnext
Another unconventional horror experience for 2019, Starfish proved that few horrors are as effective as our memories, as there's little we can do to escape them.
As if the death of her best friend wasn't horrible enough, a woman awakens to an apocalyptic event having unfolded in her town. Luckily, her best friend left her a series of clues and mixtapes that could hold the answer to salvation for herself and the rest of the world.
Of the many effective trends of horror in 2019, one of the more effective ones has surely been the infusion of emotional horrors permeating otherworldly events, with Starfish being another powerful example of the concept. The film offered audiences a number of traditional frights, but what was truly shocking was its depictions of the monsters that live within us and what it takes to defeat them once and for all.prevnext
Gaspar Noé is easily one of the most provocative and boundary-pushing filmmakers of his time, with his latest, Climax, being no exception. The filmmaker has regularly embraced a variety of genres for his stories, with Climax being his most accessible, and unsettling, horror experience yet.
At a remote dance school, a troupe rehearses its many impressive routines as they all bond with one another. When it is revealed that the wine they've all been drinking was spiked with LSD, the night turns into complete mayhem, plunging all the performers into a hallucinatory paranoia full of sex and violence.
In true Noé style, Climax delivers audiences some of the most visually impressive sequences from a horror movie this year, matched by frenzied performances by real-life dancers, embracing all of their skills to unnerve audiences.prevnext
'Hagazussa: A Heathen's Curse'
Witches have long been a part of the horror genre, with a recent embrace of such stories resulting in a number of interpretations of the archetype, though none are as visually stunning as Hagazussa.
Set in a remote mountain village in the 15th century, a young woman is targeted by her neighbors as being a witch, due to the acts of her mother. Rather than refute these claims, the woman embraces her destiny to seek vengeance against her tormentors.
What the film assuredly lacks an action-packed narrative, it more than makes up for with its lush visuals of the Alpine surroundings, serving as an immersive experience that is hard to escape, yet you might not want to leave.prev