HomeHorrorLex Briscuso's Top 10 Horror Movies of 2021

    Lex Briscuso’s Top 10 Horror Movies of 2021

    Dread’s social media manager Lex Briscuso looks at her top 10 favorite horror movies from 2021.


    I’ll admit it. I have a really hard time picking favorite anythings, let alone movies, my favorite thing in the whole world. There are too many great horror films in the world — aren’t we lucky? — to narrow it down to a top 5, 10, or even more than that. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll do it. But the chances of me forgetting a gem is pretty high. That’s just who I am — so I’m apologizing for that in advance.

    That said, hi! I’m Lex, head of social media for Dread Central, Dread Presents, and Epic Pictures Group. I saw (and reviewed) a lot of horror movies this year. There are honestly way too many good ones to include on this list. I narrowed it down and made some crucial cuts. Despite not being able to highlight everything I loved this year, I think my final list reflects my tastes as well as a nice mix of mainstream and independent projects (which is always my goal).

    Without further ado, my selections!

    10. Silent Night

    SILENT NIGHT 18 1024x683 - Lex Briscuso's Top 10 Horror Movies of 2021[L-R]Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Lucy Punch, Kiera Knightley, Matthew Goode and Annabelle Wallis in the drama/horror SILENT NIGHT, an AMC+ and RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of AMC+ and RLJE Films.

    A few years ago, you wouldn’t catch me making it a point to watch a holiday horror film. But last year, I decided to broaden my horizons and found some excellent Christmas terrors I’d wish I’d seen sooner. Because of that exposure, my ears pricked up when I first heard about Silent Night. The Kiera Knightly star vehicle is a pitch-perfect British black comedy that puts Christmas Day on the day of the global apocalypse that will end mankind.

    I was pleasantly surprised with the film’s incredibly witty dialogue and vivacious characters alongside a plot that keeps you guessing until the last frame. I was particularly impressed with how the script slowly leaks clues about what’s really going on — much like a poisonous gas would seep through every crevasse — until the reality of the film falls into place during a horrific holiday dinner. When it comes to Christmas horror, this one is really unique and worth the watch.

    9. I Blame Society

    REVIEW I Blame Society 1 1024x508 - Lex Briscuso's Top 10 Horror Movies of 2021

    Writer-director Gillian Horvat stars as a frustrated filmmaker in this meta-comedic found footage horror show. Here, she decides to prove her friends right, friends who say she would be an extremely good murderer. She gets a camera set up going and gets to work. In turn, we are brought into her biting, sarcastic, and ridiculously funny world of perfectionism and unhinged gonzo-ism. This movie dives into unsettling territory quicker than you’ll realize, and its comedy only exists to serve that end.

    Horvat’s autofiction lead is so compelling. The story is wholly unique and specific to her while also being something all filmmakers can relate to. I know I did. As a found footage piece, it also employs a great satirical element where it goes full meta about the way the sub-genre tends to be shot, which tends to be a topic of discussion with naysayers and antis. All in all, it’s certainly a worthy entry and proves that Horvat is a smart filmmaker to watch.

    8. Malignant

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    During the opening sequence of James Wan’s Malignant, I thought I was going to have to get up and leave. The film’s initially dated and outlandish tone made for a strange first impression for me. But by the time the film progressed to the halfway point, I was totally invested. When the big reveal happened? Don’t even get me started on how down I was. The stakes of Malignant are high, and Wan meets the moment by introducing us to a new horror icon for a new era. The character of Gabriel really sealed the deal for me with the film and made me sure of how I felt about the piece as a whole. I reviewed the movie for Paste Magazine and called it a return to form for Wan, known for his work with the Saw and The Conjuring franchises. And it is. Not only does the film bring him back to the same tone employed in his torture porn roots, but it also proves that the best artists are always building on their past work somehow.

    7. The Scary of Sixty-First

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    I definitely didn’t expect the Red Scare podcast feature film to work for everyone. But host-slash-filmmaker Dasha Nekrasova’s debut, The Scary of Sixty-First, is pretty much as divisive as they come. I (clearly) happen to be one of those people the movie really worked for. It probably has a lot to do with its clear giallo roots and Rosemary’s Baby nods, as well as its petulant mumblecore style. It’s a clear-cut satire, which makes its outlandish premise all the more compelling in the confines of the world the writer-director-star creates. The movie follows two best friends who move into a too-good-to-be-true Upper East Side apartment. One of the girls is soon informed by a mysterious girl (played by Nekrasova) that the apartment was owned by Jeffrey Epstein. Yeah, see what I mean? From there, one friend ends up spiraling down the rabbit hole of Epstein trutherisms, while the other seemingly falls victim to a demonic curse put upon the apartment, potentially by Epstein himself. The film takes the risk of being wholly itself. That is something I will always like in a film. Once I clued into the satirical element of the film, those two concepts really sold this one for me. It’s certainly one of the most weirdly delightful surprises of the year. 

    6. Cockazoid

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    I found writer-director Nick Verdi’s grim, gripping character study through some subversive horror fiction writers on Twitter. I was intrigued by what I’d seen about it for several months. Then I slid into Verdi’s DMs and asked how I could get my eyes on the feature. In true indie fashion, he sent me a Google Drive link and I haven’t been the same since. The Massachusetts native’s bold debut follows a brooding and delusional loner who returns home to the suburbs of Boston to go on a murderous rampage in an effort to fulfill his ultimate goal: wiping out all white men. It’s an interesting concept and calls a lot of big themes into question, namely racism, white guilt, and self-hatred, which deserve a nuanced conversation all their own.

    But I was really taken by the film. It plays like a horrific dream during which you’re just following this one person the entire time and you don’t want to keep learning these terrible things about them, but you can’t wake up. Lead actor Jimmy Laine, who plays that brooding and delusional loner named Andrew, was the glue that made the concept stick. His performance is heightened and effective, bringing you along with him on this spiral. It’s hard to take your eyes off him. If you’re looking for an underseen (and bizarre) gem from 2021, this is it. I’m already planning my next watch. 

    5. Bloody Hell

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    Speaking of underseen gems, I was fortunate enough to first catch the Australian horror-comedy-action-thriller Bloody Hell at Nightstream Festival in 2020. It quickly became the standout of the fest for me. The film debuted in America in January 2021, so I’m thrilled to be able to highlight it on this list. The movie follows a Wade Wilson-adjacent criminal who up and ditches his small-town life to find solace and a new life in Europe after finishing his latest prison stint. However, he ends up somewhere much worse than his previous setup, much to his chagrin. Something to know about me: I’m even more picky about horror-comedies than I am about holiday horror. But when I tell you this movie has it all, like a Stefon-reviewed NYC club, I am truly not joking.

    Alister Grierson’s direction has all those fun superhero affectations we love. But they become new and unique when used within this story. Robert Benjamin’s script is uproariously funny — plus, at times, it’s pretty scary. It’s anchored by an impeccably suave, sexy, and nuanced performance from Ben O’Toole as the Deadpool-esque Rex. I fell hard for his character extremely quickly. It’s a testament to O’Toole’s range as an actor that he can build a wholly new identity in the image of Ryan Reynolds’ gold standard and not be overshadowed by that influence. To say more about the movie would do a disservice to the joy of seeing it blind for the first time, so just find it. You’ll be glad you did. 

    4. V/H/S/94

    vhs94exclusiveofficialtrailerblogroll 1631733969413 1024x576 - Lex Briscuso's Top 10 Horror Movies of 2021

    I don’t think I’m the only one who was foaming at the mouth for a new V/H/S installment this year. But V/H/S/94 came in guns blazing and surprised us all with how top notch it was. At least, that’s how it seemed when it arrived in the world. It was met with much fanfare and excitement it ended up clocking in as the No. 1 most-watched new movie of the year on Shudder. You already know the game with these movies, a common thread tying together a series of horror stories recorded onto found VHS tapes. This one followed in tradition’s footsteps while dialing them up to 11.

    In my opinion, this film starts with a bang — “The Storm Drain” was my favorite of all the vignettes, and how could it not be with that creature design — and doesn’t let up. Having been into the V/H/S franchise from the first film, I had high hopes. I also didn’t foresee the latest movie going quite this hard. I was thrilled to be proven wrong. 

    3. Censor

    Censor 1 - Lex Briscuso's Top 10 Horror Movies of 2021

    Usually, if I see a lot of hype about a film before I watch it, it tends to influence my feelings about the work in a slightly negative way. I’m usually less impressed by the piece as a whole, and truthfully, who knows if I would’ve been anyway. But something about it all feels like a bias to me. With the smash hit that Censor was, I expected to be one of the naysayers. But I really don’t think I could’ve loved this film more. Writer-director Prano Bailey-Bond crafts such a captivating descent into madness (one of my favorite horror tropes) and one of the most satisfying finales in recent memory, two big feats for a feature debut. Lead actress Niamh Algar does an excellent job of letting herself go completely in service of the story. I was impressed with what a perfect pair she and Bailey-Bond appear to be together. The film is big, it’s bold, and it lives inside an era of oppression that truly called into question how we are influenced by the world around us. On top of everything, it’s also a visual marvel. If you haven’t seen it yet, make it a new year’s resolution. 

    2. Sator

    Sator 3 jpeg 1024x429 - Lex Briscuso's Top 10 Horror Movies of 2021

    In 2019, I covered Brooklyn Horror Film Festival for the first time. It was my first fest as press and it was a good year for it. I was introduced to countless incredible movies during the fest and I still champion many of them to this day. That’s why I was pretty eager to put Jordan Graham’s Sator high on my list, as I’ve been a fan of it for a couple of years now. I had the writer-director-and-everything-else (yes, he did pretty much everything on the homegrown feature that took six years to shoot) on my radio show, YOUR NICHE IS DEAD, during the festival.

    To my delight, Graham revealed to me that his grandmother — who plays the family matriarch in the film — had a connection with an entity called Sator, who was supposedly tasked with looking after his family. She communicated with him, and even created automatic writings with details about him and his connection to her kin. Yes, that means what you think it means: Graham took a very real family legend and parlayed it into a deeply eerie, atmospheric, and terrifying film. It’s a labor of love in so many ways, and it deserves to be on every horror head’s watchlist. 

    1. Titane

    Titane Banner 1024x576 - Lex Briscuso's Top 10 Horror Movies of 2021

    In my eyes, there’s no way to not pick Julia Ducournau’s sophomore feature as the best of the year. In Titane, the French writer-director — who blew me away with her debut feature, 2017’s Raw — capitalized on the gruesome horror elements she has become known for while weaving those tropes into a deeply emotional story about family and identity. The film follows Alexia (Agathe Rouselle), an exotic dancer and serial killer who has to go on the run after one too many kills and a sexual tryst with a car. After disguising herself as a runaway and reuniting with the boy’s father, she grapples with the consequences of her sexual encounter. She also tries to maintain the illusion of her identity and the bond that is assumed through that.

    Throughout it all, she starts to realize what it means to have a family and how that love can change a person. Not exactly what you’d expect from a body horror opus, right? But that is the beauty of this film. It really does it all and succeeds in each category: horror story, family drama, an uplifting tale about love and acceptance. If you know any people who are unconvinced of the catharsis horror can bring, have them sit down with you for this one. They will be forever changed. 

    PS: Find me on Twitter (@nikonamerica) and let me know if you agree with my picks!

    Tags: Best of 2021

    Categorized: Best of 2021 News

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