My 10 favourite genre films of 2020

Aidil Rusli
·8-min read
Aidil Rusli
Aidil Rusli

DECEMBER 26 ― 2020 is the year that movie theatres were shut for almost three quarters of the year because of Covid-19, which understandably affected Hollywood blockbusters the most because those are the sort of movies that attract the largest number of people into cinemas in the first place.

If this was the year that cinemas lost, this has also been the year where streaming and VOD saved much of the movie industry’s bacon.

However, since genre movies have always been VOD and streaming staples even before this, the arrival of Covid-19 did not really hit the scene that hard.

So in a year where very few blockbusters were released, there’s still a hell of a lot of genre films, especially horror flicks being released on VOD and streaming platforms, and being the genre fan that I am, I’m most definitely not going to say no to that kind of bounty, as you can probably guess from my list below.

Check these movies out if you haven’t already!

His House

A majority of horror films streaming on Netflix, especially those of the indie and lower budget persuasion, are quite forgettable, or fairly typical of the genre.

You definitely won’t be able to say the same about His House, the arresting, suspenseful and unforgettable feature film directing debut of Remi Weekes.

It's a wondrous blend of the European arthouse refugee/immigrant films that have been staples of European film festivals in the last few years (think Dheepan, Le Havre, Fire At Sea) and the nightmarish horror of Lucio Fulci’s Gates Of Hell trilogy, that will mentally scar you and break your heart, all at the same time.

The Hunt

Originally planned for release last year, before online controversy (joined by none other than US President Donald Trump) led Universal and Blumhouse to shelve the film indefinitely, the arrival of Covid-19 finally led to this uproarious satire of both sides of the US political divide to be released on VOD.

A film about a bunch of rich liberal types hunting and killing working class conservative types, the film is pure, naughty, genre fun, helped immensely by Betty Gilpin’s thrillingly badass performance, and if you can only choose one entertaining horror film to watch this year, this one will not disappoint you.

Butt Boy

Discovering a bonkers but well-executed genre film is a little hobby of mine that pays incredibly satisfying dividends when the search turns up results as glorious as The Greasy Strangler, Father’s Day and The FP.

I can now add Butt Boy to that list, a film with as much lunacy as its title suggests ― about a loser guy drifting through life and marriage, until a routine prostate exam leads to the discovery of the delights that can be found by shoving objects up his butt.

He becomes obsessed with reproducing that sensation he felt during the examination, at first with small objects and later on bigger ones like a bar of soap and the television remote, until even dogs and babies are added onto the list!

Where writer-director-star Tyler Cornack takes this one, I’ll leave it for you to find out, if you’re brave enough to do so. What I can definitely say though, is that it’ll be one unforgettable and deeply satisfying cinematic experience.

Possessor

The second feature film from Brandon Cronenberg, son of horror legend David Cronenberg is, like leading lady Andrea Riseborough’s relatively recent genre standout Mandy, a bit of a hallucinatory mind-bender.

The film is high concept, revolving around an agent who works for a secretive organisation that uses brain implants in order to inhabit other people’s bodies to carry out assassinations is given a full emotional workout, thanks to Cronenberg’s visual and aural audacity (a face melting set-piece is a particular highlight) and Riseborough’s absolutely electric performance.

If you’re willing to let yourself be immersed in the film’s quite frankly disturbing aural and visual aesthetics, you’ll be handsomely rewarded with a disturbingly haunting film that will linger in your mind for days afterwards.

The Lodge

A superb horror flick that’s a bit forgotten and underrated when it comes to 2020’s year-end horror lists, probably because it was released very early on in the year before history was split into before-Covid-19 and post-Covid-19, the new film from writers-directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (of Goodnight Mommy fame) is a spellbinding emotional shocker that will leave a long and lasting mark on you.

Pitting a pair of kids against their dad’s new fiancé in a secluded mountain cabin while being snowed in, Fiala & Franz are clearly having a whale of a time provoking the audience into debating whether the insidious things happening are all just in the head of the new fiancé, a result of some supernatural manifestation, or the kids playing a cruel prank. Watch it and find out.

The Rental

One of the few films that I got to watch in the cinema, when cinemas briefly reopened in July this year (before getting shut again due to the spike in cases), I simply did not expect this feature directing debut by Dave Franco (James Franco’s younger brother, who can be seen acting in films like Neighbors, The Disaster Artist and Now You See Me) to be this damn good.

A story about two couples renting a fancy house for the weekend, the neatly and ingeniously structured screenplay effortlessly sets up multiple precarious situations that slowly builds up in inescapable tension, paying it all off beautifully in the third act.

Scare Package

I’m always a sucker for a fun anthology horror flick and Scare Package gives you exactly that ― seven really fun, tongue-in-cheek short films from seven different directors that focus more on the comedy-horror-gore side of things, with a healthy dose of meta-horror magic dust sprinkled onto most of the stories.

Probably only two out of the seven segments can be considered weak or merely okay, but that leaves us with a pretty good hit rate when compared to a lot of horror anthologies out there.

Providing plenty of laughs, twisty meta-surprises and some of the most over-the-top gore set-pieces you’ll see this year, there really is a lot to love with this one.

Antebellum

This unlikely mashup of Get Out and 12 Years A Slave probably flew under most people’s radars this year, even though it did play in local cinemas some time in September before cinemas got shut again.

Boldly going the Mandingo way by making its thesis about racism and slavery explicitly woven into its narrative instead of going for allegory, Antebellum walks a very fine line between real and cartoonish violence/hate, and this is one of those cathartic genre films that will both make you angry and then cheer once the comeuppance arrives.

Sebelum Iblis Menjemput: Ayat 2

If ever a horror film can be described as a rock 'n' roll one, it’s this sequel. The basic plotting is still the same as the first film ― it’s still a movie about a bunch of people encountering evil in a big old house ― but the real reason to see this, and why horror fans and critics worldwide went nuts for the film during its festival run, is in the shocks, the scares and the bloodletting gore that will make Sam Raimi and the Evil Dead films really proud.

It even possesses (pun intended) what I think is the most outstanding and unforgettable horror set-piece you’ll see all year, which happens in the aftermath of the film’s first possession.

It is such a wondrous feat of horrific violence and thunderous sound design, that I still feel thankful that I got to see it in the cinema to experience it loud and proud, just like a great rock 'n' roll concert.

Lake Artifact

Writer-director Bruce Wemple is fast becoming a name that I’ll always be on the look out for, as he’s delivered another piece of mind-melting high concept lo-fi sci-fi with Lake Artifact, the first of three films that he released in 2020.

Not as neatly executed as his earlier film Altered Hours (which was on my list of favourite genre films of 2018), Lake Artifact is one of those knotty time loop films, which plays a bit like Coherence courtesy of the narrative setup of a bunch of people gathering together in a single house, but with a killer on the prowl and actual deaths and bloody gore on offer.

I’m still not sure if I did manage to solve the film’s puzzle by the end, but it sure is pretty fun trying to do so throughout the film!

Honourable mentions: Spiral, VFW, Gretel & Hansel, Relic, Rent-A-Pal, The Wolf Of Snow Hollow, Alone, Run, Skylines, The Grudge, Blood Quantum, Color Out Of Space

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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