The Best Horror Films of 2011

An author, filmmaker, and journalist working in the horror genre, Jovanka Vuckovic is Revolver‘s resident fright-flick guru, the writer of each magazine’s “Splatter Matters” column, which kicked off in the new, 100th issue. She was recently named one of the top 10 most important women in the history of horror. For more, visit jovankavuckovic.com and follow her at @JovankaVuckovic on Twitter.

What better way to ring in the New Year than with a little godless onscreen violence? As always, last year there were plenty of pointless-yet-entertaining big-budget remakes (The Thing, Fright Night 3D, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Straw Dogs), sequels (Paranormal Activity 3, Scream 4, Wrong Turn 4, Final Destination 5), and other genre-bending fare at the multiplexes (127 Hours, Super 8, Attack the Block, The Darkest Hour, Contagion). Then there were the big misses (Season of the Witch, Priest, The Rite, Red Riding Hood, Apollo 18, Dream House), which came and went like a fart in the wind. The original horror films–the ones that made this list anyway–lurked around the independent scene. Of course, that, too, is a mixed bag. There were movies I really wanted to like but didn’t (Red State, Burke & Hare, The Ward) and others I wish I could un-see (The Human Centipede 2, A Serbian Film). Then there was the abysmal straight-to-DVD drivel, which you should take care to avoid entirely (Hellraiser: Revelations, The Howling: Reborn). I’ve waded through the good, the bad, and the ugly to bring you a list of the year’s finest genre films. Here they are, in no particular order. Happy New Year!

The Skin I Live In
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Spain
Antonio Banderas stars as a research scientist who has developed a synthetic skin that he’s using on a guinea pig whom he alters to look like his dead wife. Obvious comparisons to Eyes Without a Face aside, The Skin I Live In is a unique, melodramatic art-house horror film that reveals its shocking secrets slowly. Not since David Cronenberg have surgery, sex, and violence frolicked in the same stained bed so skillfully. A must see.

Martha Marcy May Marlene
Directed by Sean Durkin
USA
Elizabeth Olsen (yes, the younger sister of the Olsen twins) walks the line between sanity and madness in a breakthrough performance as Martha, an ex-cult member who tries to re-enter polite society after having been brainwashed to ignore social values. Told in a style that’s reminiscent of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, Martha Marcy May Marlene divided critics at festivals due to its ambiguous ending. Powerful and unsettling.

I Saw the Devil
Directed by Jee-woon Kim
Korea
A serial killer (played by Old Boy’s Min-sik Choi) gets more than he bargained for when he kills the fiancée of a prominent special agent in this highly stylized, savage thriller from the director of A Tale of Two Sisters. Seeking vengeance, the grieving cop kidnaps his wife’s murderer, tortures him a little, then frees him only to track him down and torture him over and over again. Worth the price of admission for the wildly creative (and brutally bloody) taxicab scene alone. Merciless, uncompromising, and unforgettable.

The Woman
Directed by Lucky McKee
USA
Feminist filmmaker Lucky McKee (The Woods, May) examines the horrors of misogyny is this incendiary intellectual revenge film (co-written with Jack Ketchum) about a handsome family man and successful lawyer who kidnaps a feral woman and chains her up in the cellar. Beautiful, bizarre, and barbaric. As a primer, you can watch this video of a viewer’s extreme reaction to The Woman at the Sundance Film Festival.

Troll Hunter
Directed by André Øvredal
Norway
What do you get when you combine Cloverfield with Nordic Trolls? This very funny monster mockumentary. I know what you’re thinking: Trolls? Really? Just see it. And when you do, watch it with Norwegian subtitles lest you miss some great voice performances in this foreign creature feature. Great fun.

Cold Fish
Directed by Shion Sono
Japan
A teenaged girl takes a job at a fish store owned and operated by a couple who turn out to be much more than fish mongers. If you’re familiar with Shion Sono’s work (Suicide Circle, Love Exposure), then you already know what to expect from Cold Fish. This is totally bent Asia extreme serial-killer cinema at its best–equal parts disturbing and blackly comic. Make time for it, though, because like Sono’s other films, it’s overlong.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Directed by Eli Craig
USA
In this, the Three’s Company of horror comedies, two redneck buffoons run afoul of a gaggle of teen partygoers on spring break who misjudge the hillbillies as a threat. Grave misunderstandings give way to fountains of unintended violence. Hilarity ensues.

Amer
Directed by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani
Belgium
This film has been doing the festival circuit since 2009 but became available on Blu-ray this year, and, boy, is it ever a doozy. If the films of Mario Bava and Dario Argento could make a love child, Amer would be it. A dizzying, non-narrative, near dialogue-free art-house experiment in avant-garde filmmaking, Amer shares as much in common with Un chien andalou as it does Strip Nude for Your Killer. Lush eye candy or psychosexual nightmare? You decide.

Stake Land
Directed by Jim Mickle
USA
Director Jim Mickle (Mulberry Street) retrieves the vampire’s balls from the Twilight franchise with this gory apocalyptic road movie. It’s about an orphan who travels through a vampire-ravaged America with a hunter known only as “Mister” on their way to find the last place of possibly unspoiled humanity. Imagine The Road meets True Grit meets I Am Legend on a very low budget and you’re sort of there. (Read Revolver‘s interview with Stake Land actor and co-writer Nick Damici here.)

We Are What We Are
Directed by Jorge Michel Grau
Mexico
An impoverished family of cannibals struggles to find new meat when their patriarch dies. Sound familiar? Although obviously reminiscent of Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jorge Michel Grau’s We Are What We Are is its own beast. A thoughtful but flawed exploration of the collapse of familial roles amidst a landscape of social decay in Mexico, We Are What We Are is more than the sum of its, er…parts.

Snowtown
Directed by Justin Kurzel
Australia
One of the many feel-bad movies of the year, Snowtown is a true crime film that centers on the unusual relationship between sixteen-year-old Jamie and his newfound father figure, John Bunting, who happens to be Australia’s most prolific serial killer–bodies in barrels and all. This is his Jamie’s harrowing story.

The Dead
Directed by Howard J. Ford and Jonathan Ford
UK
Following a zombie outbreak in Africa, Lt. Brian Murphy tries to make his way home in this beautifully shot, slow moving road movie. The Dead evokes classic George Romero with its political commentary and pacing, but most importantly, it succeeds at making slow moving zombies scary again. Great visuals.

The Innkeepers
Directed by Ti West
USA
Ti West’s lighthearted spookfest about two employees (and amateur ghost hunters) putting in their last shift at a century old haunted inn was a crowd-pleaser on the film festival circuit last year. It isn’t actually being released in theatres until February 3, 2012, but it hit VOD on December 30th so I encourage you to order it. Support independent filmmaking. Please don’t torrent.

We Need to Talk About Kevin
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
USA
OK, so it’s not a horror movie per se, but it’s by far the most depressing film of the year. Tilda Swinton stars as a grieving mother who has raised a misanthropic sociopath (played by Ezra Miller) who tortured her and her family before going on a killing spree at his high school. A deeply disturbing dramatic thriller not for the faint of heart.

Honorable Mentions: Rubber, Absentia, The Last Circus, Wake Wood, Hobo with a Shotgun, Black Death, Insidious.

*All films were released in North America in the 2011 calendar year.

 

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  • http://www.criticizethis.ca Criticize This!

    Great list. Glad to see We Need to Talk About Kevin on it. That movie is scarier than most true horror films I’ve ever seen.

  • Fact Man

    Let’s see, Stake Land, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, The Troll Hunter, I Saw The Devil, Cold Fish, The Dead, We Are What We Are, and Amer were all released in 2010. Otherwise, nice list. Except for the extremely boring Snowtown,  

    • Cheerios

      All of these films had either a theatrical release or DVD release in North America in 2011, except for Amer, which only came out on Blu-ray in the UK last year. So they qualify to be on the list.

  • http://www.facebook.com/miss.gory.rae Miss.Gory Rae

    Honorable Mention: WAKE WOOD…(I am SO very glad we also agree on this…Definitely a film which goes right into you, and you have an easier time believing it, Than not.

    (And? I LOATHED HC2…*gag*, I hated it about 13 minutes in…And SERBIAN FILM? I feel a tad ‘sick’ whenever I hear people praising it…You want to ask ‘Why?’…then, immediately realize you actually do NOT want to know. Actually was a huge factor in learning from minor experience with minor minded people.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1028928341 João Vicente

    “please don’t torrent” ahah xD Great list!

  • Kane

    I know that this was not an independent movie, but I still think “Insidious” deserves an honorable mention. It’s fucking awesome.

    • http://www.facebook.com/erson115 Gerson Poliño

      many people fucking dislike insidious.. they just dont really know what a real horror movie is 

    • EvanX

      Uhhh.. Insidious DID get an honourable mention. Look again. 

  • RemyCarreiro

    Insidious was good until Darth Maul showed up and jumped the shark

  • lambofdog

    wow… these all look awesome. trollhunter was dope

  • tpb support

    don’t torrent? it’s not like i’m gonna waste my money on this. thxs for the list XD

  • http://www.facebook.com/erson115 Gerson Poliño

    insidious

  • http://www.facebook.com/erson115 Gerson Poliño

    my God… the innkeeper’s trailer freaked me out

  • Ghanahams

    TUCKER AND DALE VS EVIL WAS AWESOME AND HILARIOUS !!!!

  • parg

    plz upload tucker and dale vs evil on torrent…

  • http://twitter.com/TheRenzination Renzo Q

    No Human Centipede 2? By far the most fucked up movie since Serbian Film.

  • Jason

    Dang!Lookin for something scary to download.2011 doesn’t have much to offer as far as scary movies it seems  :(

  • Ruemorgueguy

    I have to disagree with The Dead. It was so slow and monotonous. The best zombie movie of the year?, not quite.

    • http://www.facebook.com/wazzuk3000 Jeff Aidan Moore

      Well seeing as it was up against; Asylum’s Zombie Apocalypse, Quarantine 2: The Terminal, World of the Dead: Zombie Diaries 2, George: A Zombie Intervention & Bloodlust Zombies. I would say it fares pretty darn well.

  • Gabomorava

    The Dead and mainly the Innkeepers shouldnt be here .The Innkeepers is absolut senseless rubish ,all scary moments include the trailer ,but if you watch it in context with the movie its not even scary.It lack any story ,its pathetic attend to horror movie ,with it dramatic music graduating into nothing ,becouse it is whats happening most of the movie .The end seems like a joke ,you aret left with a feeling why you spend time watching it whole ,and mainly why people made the affort making it? WHY? 

    • Demonic

      Learn our language before you try using it :) Please and thank you.

  • Bert

    GRAVE ENCOUNTER IS THE MOST SCARIEST FILM OF 2011 FOR ME. JUST TRY  TO WATCH IT…..

    • Megser

      yes its AMAZING i love the bit with the girl n her mouth and eyes gos all weerd but its sad when matt kills himself , the ending was good too!….lobotomies are creepy :L

      • Mistress

        Seriously. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the class?

      • I hate Megser

        your an asshole.. i was just about to watch this.. think before you write something

    • badalo

      u wac u self in mirror

  • David

    The Innkeepers wasn’t scary, it was fun. The girl kind of had me smiling throughout the movie because her hair was so cute. Sort of a Ghostbusters feel to it. The Troll Hunter? *face-palm* Either Im a total sociopath or people are frightened by the silliest films ever made. The only half-decent horror movie I saw 2011 was Kill List and I seriously doubt normal people would like it, doesn’t have CGI video gamey ghosts or unexpected LOUD noises at opportune moments for cheap thrills, my god… If thats all it takes to make a blockbuster these days… I Saw the Devil was awesome too, its just not a horror movie, its like the director intentionally set out to make a movie that crosses damn near every genre. But even with that said it does a better job of catching that horror element better than 99% of the other movies that came out in 2011 which were supposed to be a full on horror films. The Woman is a great movie as well. Its like everyone just wants the visual minus the psychological, the visual style never scares me. I need an actual plot with actors that can act, something that lingers long after watching it. Otherwise I might as well just google freaky images for an hour and a half. Zombies have been done to death, its getting retarded. I have to ask…. When were zombies ever scary?!? And vampires… Seriously? Its like telling the same joke over and over just changing the names and locations, same punchline. American movies are so idiotically predictable, no respect for the audience. As soon as you figure out who the good guy is and who the bad guys are, just expect an arc in the storyline which is always a struggle (escape/chase) and eventually the good guys wins in typical fashion. IF the director thinks he’s being clever you can always pick up on it early on because the cinematography gets all distorted for no reason with flashbacks and imagery you can expect the ending to be depressing where everybody dies.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Luke-Stammen/1431480235 Luke Stammen

      seems like you’d mention marcy martha may marlene

    • SHHH….

      yo momma

  • PIGSBY

    i hope this page was made as a joke cause those are not that good of horror movies. there are way better out there then that 

    • http://www.facebook.com/wazzuk3000 Jeff Aidan Moore

      In that case I dread to think what you would think appropriate for a list of the best horror films released in 2011.

  • Demonic

    Stake Land was the Sh*t. I put it above The Avengers and I had never even heard of it before.

  • Alexis93

    David many of the things I’ve heard about the cast in troll hunter are around the subject area of (the horror movie is a piss take of the shit what Hollywood are currently putting out) Admit paranormal activity after the first one is just getting worse and worse and many films with CAM filming are shit,the film wasn’t actually meant to get so popular it was only meant as a piss take.

  • Alexis93

    Okay guys if you want a real laugh seriously watch tucker and dale,watched it last night has to be the funniest shit I have seen in a long time 

  • Essenceclinecole

    Not all scary movies have zombies in it…

    • http://nosheep.org.ua Алексей Раю

      Scary movies never have zombies in them.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/H5NR6C4DUKMQ65XXCNWLZR26F4 Jennifer

         the 1st & original “night of the living dead” late at night, like 3am, big quiet house, no lights. scared the crap out of me. the fact that it is in black and white just makes it scarier.

    • Brendan D

      but its good when they do

  • Paul S

    Excellent list, the best I’ve seen so far and trust me I’ve seen a lot. Only down side is I’ve seen all of the movies on it so my search for a decent movie to watch tonight continues :p

  • RhiaW

    The Woman was awful.  B-movie with terrible acting.  Don’t waste your time on it.

  • Redroseloves

    Snow Town is a very harrowing tense film, where you breath a sigh of pent up stress at the end of it. Excellent acting. Great dramatic film if you want something deep and interesting to watch… but not for the faint hearted.

  • You Tube

    You have wonderful taste and I like the fact your definition of horror isn’t limited to zombie and slasher flicks. Some really good recommendations here, thanks.

  • Judfg

    You need to learn the difference between “Horror”, “Suspense”, and “Thriller” as genres.

    • Twatwollop

      You need to learn the definition of synonym.

  • Count Gripsnatch

    Martha Marcy May Marlene was NOT a horror movie and not even a thriller. Worse off, it was not a good movie. The performances were good. That’s it. It’s Manson Family lite, and of course if you were part of something like that, you would be scarred for life. I wasted two hours on this cinematic turd.

  • Gatoverde

    Kevin’s the best.

  • :D

    Insidious. <3

  • tiffany

    to me there not really horror movies

  • Lame

    The Woman is on this list because its Lucky McGee – that’s it that’s all – When you think you have friends in the industry your judgment is easily clouded……so sad….And I agree with JUDFG….

  • rETAREDO

    fa
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    OF
    FF
    RETAR
    MOOVW
    ISSSSSSSSS

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003237395212 Rajat Singh

    man who the heck made this playlist i dont this any of a movie is horror in this playlist wtf man worst playlist