Horror movies aren’t just for Halloween anymore. They’re year-round extravaganzas of bloody gore, crazy villains and high-concept stuff that’ll freak you out and make you think about the world around you.
There’s also some absolute dreck, but, hey, you take the good with the bad.
The world’s plenty scary with viral outbreaks and uncertainty about theaters reopening amid the current pandemic, but streaming services thankfully have maintained a steady dose of the creepy stuff. The latest definitely will stick with you in our current state of things: Writer/director Amy Seimetz’s “She Dies Tomorrow” is a contagion thriller, imagining an ideological belief that spreads among humans rather than a virus.
This year, we’re taking on the task of definitively ranking every new horror movie. Here’s how “She Dies Tomorrow” stacks up with what’s come out thus far:
The horrid adaptation of Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw” stars Mackenzie Davis as a governess hired to take care of a young girl who’s driven nuts seeing ghostly figures and hearing things that go bump in the night. Way more frustrating than freaky, the film also has one of the worst endings in recent memory.
Give Blumhouse credit for casting Michael Peña in Ricardo Montalban’s old Mr. Roarke role and wanting to make the old TV concept fresh again. Yet so much else fails in this convoluted retread with guests being put through their individual hells and one huge forced plot twist after another. It’s just a checklist of bad horror tropes by the end.
There’s a strong sense of style in this noir horror fantasy, thought not much resembling a cohesive narrative, with a renowned trumpet player (Stephen McHattie), the hitman (also McHattie) hired to bring back one of the musician’s fingers, and a bonkers plot involving psychics, jazz, pedophilia and vampires.
In the latest (and forgettable) redo of the Japanese horror movie, a couple of cops and others come to face-to-face with a vengeful phantom that attaches itself to houses and people and haunts them until their unavoidable doom. The film offers nonlinear intertwining story lines, ghosts coming out of bathtubs and little else.
37. ‘The Sonata’
Freya Tingley plays a gifted violinist whose composer father (the late Rutger Hauer) dies extremely violently. She inherits a Gothic castle and an unpublished masterwork – filled with weird symbols courtesy of dad’s dark interests – in a movie with cool classical music but no real scares.
36. ‘Brahms: The Boy II’
Katie Holmes is a mom whose family moves to the English countryside after a violent break-in and Christopher Convery plays the young boy who finds and befriends the freaky doll Brahms. Brahms is plenty unnerving, but the sequel frustratingly undermines what made the first film’s twist ending cool and instead falls back on boring horror tropes.
35. ‘The Dark Red’
The indie psychological thriller hinges on a psychiatric patient (April Billingsley) who insists her newborn baby has been kidnapped by a secret cult collecting folks of her rare blood type. Its “Is she crazy or not?” narrative takes a goofy third-act turn into a revenge flick better at showing Billingsley’s pull-up prowess than doling out chills.
34. ‘Behind You’
Two young sisters move in with their very strange estranged aunt, all the mirrors in the house are covered up (for a reason, naturally), and when one of the girls uncovers one, she releases a nasty demon that’s haunted the family before. The few highlights are undone by a convoluted mythology, plenty of clichés and a lack of scares.
33. ‘The Room’
A European couple buy an old house and in the midst of spiffing the place up discover a hidden room where whatever they wish for comes true. It’s pretty standard “Monkey’s Paw” material for much of it, though the movie shows some depth when it finally gets personal with its main characters and their deepest desires.
32. ‘Sea Fever’
On one hand, it’s hopelessly derivative. On the other, it’s got an exploding eye that’ll leave you squirming. The sci-fi horror centers on a marine-biology student who boards a European fishing trawler that’s invaded by an otherworldly organism, which infects the sailors and turns them mad. Maybe not the best flick if you’re weirded out by worms.
31. ‘After Midnight’
In the down-home indie horror romance, a small-town bar owner’s forced to deal with a vicious monster that attacks his front door every night. As the creature’s appearance coincides with the disappearance of the dude’s girlfriend, “Midnight” deftly explores the push-pull between expanding your horizons and remaining comfortably complacent.
The “Alien” influence isn’t at all subtle in the action-packed thriller starring Kristen Stewart as a mechanical engineer on a doomed drilling team seven miles below the ocean surface. There are lots of claustrophobic escapes, crushing deep-sea dangers and neato monsters, plus Stewart does a decent job rocking a modern Ripley vibe.
29. ‘Disappearance at Clifton Hill’
Playing a quirky podcaster, horror legend David Cronenberg is a scene-stealer in the film about a young woman (Tuppence Middleton) who returns to her Niagara Falls home still traumatized by a tragedy she witnessed as a girl. The immersive narrative is convoluted in its resolution, yet offers a few well-crafted moments worth the watch.
28. ‘We Summon the Darkness’
In the middle of a satanic panic with murderers on the loose in their 1980s-set Midwestern locale, a pack of girlfriends go to a rock show, befriend three dudes and things get bloody when the pentagrams and chainsaws come out. You can see the twists coming, though “Darkness” takes a horror-comedy stab at cults of personality.
Suburban madness is real for the main couple (Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots) when they’re trapped in an otherworldly identical neighborhood, especially as a baby is plopped in front of them with the message “Raise him and be released.” There’s a creepy kid to be had as well as a larger metaphor about life and parenting.
26. ‘You Should Have Left’
Kevin Bacon stars as a middle-age dude with a mysterious bit of infamy and a much younger actress wife (Amanda Seyfried) whose Welsh getaway turns sinister when dark forces keep him trapped in a modern house that defies time and space. There are some eerie moments but they should have made a less predictable flick.
In one of 2020’s biggest swings, comedian Kevin James sports a shaved head with a huge swastika tattoo in this revenge thriller, a twisted take on “Home Alone” featuring a rebellious teen girl (Lulu Wilson) fighting back against a pack of escaped convicts led by their sadistic neo-Nazi leader (James).
24. ‘Scare Package’
With a 1980s-style video store as a framing device, the horror-comedy anthology unleashes seven tales gleefully sending up various subgenres – for example, three girls are possessed by a demonic lollipop in one story and an unkillable slasher gets the spotlight in another – and putting a clever meta spin on a trove of tropes.
23. ‘Extra Ordinary’
In this small-town Irish charmer full of spooks and satanic pacts, Rose (Maeve Higgins) is a driving instructor and reluctant psychic who has to save a virgin from the devil-worshipping shenanigans of a pop-music has-been (Will Forte). The film intriguingly digs into the loneliness of ghosts and has a fun but gross running gag involving ectoplasm.
22. ‘Come to Daddy’
Noir and comedy mix in this kooky outing that begins with quotes from two luminaries: Shakespeare and Beyoncé. A privileged dude (Elijah Wood) travels to see the estranged father who left him behind when he was a child, their reunion is a disaster, and a crazy reveal forces our man-child hero to survive a series of bloody predicaments.
21. ‘Body Cam’
Starring Mary J. Blige as an officer investigating the gruesome murders of fellow cops, what seems at first an ordinary law-and-order drama turns very supernatural with interesting themes involving revenge and police brutality, a twist on the found-footage model in cool ways, and plenty of exposed organs for gore hounds.
A recent LA transplant (Nicole Brydon Bloom) scores a sweet Hollywood pad with seemingly nice neighbors who cook out. Only too late does she realize the bizarre reality of her new surroundings. “1BR” is aces at tackling the ideology behind community and cults and goes to some fairly unnerving places in its brutality.
In director Romola Garai’s devilish horror flick, an ex-soldier (Alec Secareanu) moves in to help a young woman (Carla Juri) with the upkeep of her decrepit house. The weirdness lies upstairs, though, where her elderly mother lives and some freakiness willl be revealed during a slow-burn chiller that messes with your expectations.
Shot and produced remotely during COVID-19 quarantine, the clever film taps into timely circumstance and successfully tweaks the found-footage model in a lean-and-mean fashion with the story of locked-down friends who attend an online seance via Zoom and some aggressive spirits don’t maintain appropriate social distancing.
Haley Bennett stars as happy-on-the-outside housewife Hunter who becomes pregnant and develops pica, leading her to compulsively swallow pins, screwdrivers and other objects that’ll make you squirm. However, the “Oh, please don’t eat that” situations switch to more hopeful ones as Hunter reclaims her identity and deals with a dark past
16. ‘Dogs Don’t Wear Pants’
The Finnish thriller, which played at last year’s Cannes and Toronto film festivals, is surprisingly as endearing as it is disturbing. A widowed heart surgeon is a cold fish with sexual hangups when he meets and forms a strong connection with a BDSM dominatrix whose strangulation methods prove addictive, freeing and oddly cathartic for him.
“Booksmart” meets “Shaun of the Dead” and “Gremlins” in the teen horror comedy centered on a teen girl who loses her virginity and gives “birth” to an alien baby. Come for the gruesome shenanigans of a monstrous critter that attaches itself to people’s heads, stay for estranged childhood pals reuniting to become creature-hunting BBFs.
Exploring folk terrors with intriguing depth, the Indonesian flick stars Tara Basro as a woman who travels to a remote village to investigate a residence that belongs to the parents she never knew, and she learns of the locale’s bloody history and an old curse that has the residents wanting to kill her.
13. ‘The Hunt’
“The Hunt” takes no partisan prisoners in imagining cold warfare between the left and right taken to ultra-violent ends. It struggles to find balance between clever metaphor and comedic splatter-fest, but you’ll still revel in watching Betty Gilpin star as a Bible Belt car-rental employee with a very particular set of hidden skills.
12. ‘The Other Lamb’
Taking on gender power dynamics and toxic masculinity, the coming-of-age story stars Raffey Cassidy as a teen born into an all-female flock that worships a strange messianic figure (Michiel Huisman). Transitioning to adulthood, she begins to see the awful truth around her in a film full of artistic imagery and pervasive unease.
11. ‘The Beach House’
Feeling a little cabin fever from being cooped up with a pandemic outside? This nasty little piece of cosmic horror probably won’t help: A young couple (Liana Liberato and Noah Le Gros) venture to a beach house but their sandy getaway turns into ground zero for a supernatural force rising from the water and infecting the locals.
10. ‘Blood Quantum’
Tired of the same old zombie movies? Canadian director Jeff Barnaby’s horror film carves out a place in the undead subgenre by focusing on timely issues of contagion, with a Canadian tribe of First Nation people who are immune to a terrifying virus but have to weigh morality vs. survival, even among their own family.
9. ‘The Platform’
The gory Spanish satire imagines a tower-esque prison where the incarcerated are fed via a platform filled with high-end vittles, and prisoners on lower levels have to eat the scraps from those above them. The class metaphor is fairly obvious, but salient points are made in the extreme lengths people will go to hold their status over others.
Director Natalie Erika James infuses a dread-filled twist on the haunted-house movie with an emotional undercurrent about the effects of dementia. An old woman (Robyn Nevin) goes missing from her dilapidated country home, turns up behaving oddly and worries both her daughter (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter (Bella Heathcote).
7. ‘Color Out of Space’
In this trippy, slow-burn gore-fest based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story, a New England alpaca farmer (Nicolas Cage) and his family discover a meteorite’s landed in their yard and they’re taken over by an alien presence. The invasion creates stunning visuals, and Cage going absolutely bonkers never gets old.
6. ‘The Wretched’
Those who adored Reagan-era coming-of-age flicks like “The Goonies” and “The Lost Boys” will appreciate the love and care – plus unnerving visuals and dread – directing duo Brett and Drew T. Pierce inject into their tale of a teenage boy sent to live with his divorced dad in a coastal town who discovers a deadly forest witch is living next door.
5. ‘The Rental’
Dave Franco’s impressively sinister directorial debut is an unnerving tale of Airbnb guests ready for a weekend of relaxation – and perhaps a little molly – that’s instead chock full of tension, infidelity and, yep, some bloodshed. Paying more attention to character than shock value, the film also deftly weaves in modern issues – secret surveillance, racist microaggressions – for maximum effect.
4. ‘Gretel & Hansel’
In this fairy-tale reimagining, Gretel (Sophia Lillis) and little brother Hansel (Samuel Leakey) find a super-weird house and are enticed by an elaborate feast inside, where they meet the witch (Alice Krige) who runs the place. The film features wonderfully unnerving sights, a nuanced narrative and an intriguing empowerment story.
3. ‘The Lodge’
Like your horror super-duper bleak? “The Lodge” is full of despair as Grace (Riley Keough), who’s still haunted by her childhood being the only survivor of a religious death cult, gets trapped with her fiancé’s kids in a remote house. But that’s just the start of the twisty terrors that grip the place in this beautifully shot, slow-burn chiller.
2. ‘She Dies Tomorrow’
Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) believes she’s going to die tomorrow, and it’s a doom-ridden thought that proves contagious as it metastasizes among a group of people including her friend Jane (Jane Adams) and Jane’s brother (Chris Messina). Trippy and dark, the well-crafted film evolves into absurdist comedy for an experience that’s equally unnerving and stunning.
1. ‘The Invisible Man’
The impressive combo of social consciousness and inspired scares modernizes an old-school monster for the #MeToo era. Elisabeth Moss’ heroine finds no one believes her when she insists her sociopathic ex faked a suicide and haunts her as an unseen antagonist. It’s a satisfying film as much about domestic abuse and gaslighting as it is freaking you out.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Amy Seimetz’s ‘She Dies Tomorrow’: Every horror movie of 2020, ranked