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10 Stellar Original Horror Movies

Nothing wrong with being original, right?

Bobby and a nod to The Shining in The Boy Behind the Door

Snobbery from horror fans isn’t uncommon. Some horror fans are rude towards folks who enjoy slashers, for instance. Then there are the horror fans who only like to watch “elevated horror” (a term that continues to insult the genre at large). 

What’s become very common is when folks claim there are no original horror movies. That everything these days is a sequel, remake, requel, or a reboot. But while it can feel like we’re awash in remakes, there have been plenty of original horror movies that have come out in recent years. 

Listing all the good ones would take me ages, if I’m being honest. This is why it’s best to offer you a small plate, so to speak. All of the movies (none of which are A24 or Blumhouse because there are other lists for them) on this list fall into different horror subgenres. Essentially there’s something for everyone, whether you love horror comedies, flat-out scares, or movies that twist you up inside.

The Strangers (2008)

dollface and kristen in The Strangers
(Universal Pictures)

The cult status that this film has is absolutely deserved! Call it boring all you want, but it’s an exercise in building tension and suspense in horror. There’s almost nothing more terrifying than people breaking into your home. The Strangers tackles that uneasiness that almost any of us would feel in Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman)’s situation. And if you’re looking for a more ’80s-esque slasher then I recommend also checking out The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018).

The Invitation (2015)

will looking exhausted in The Invitation
(Drafthouse Films)

It’d be an understatement to say that Karyn Kusama understands horror. She directed the feminist-queer cult classic Jennifer’s Body, after all. The Invitation is an entirely different beast, though. It’s a slow-paced beast that pounces on you after taking its time. And damn, does the movie create such disturbing suspense. Not only that, but it explores the realities of anxiety, cult mentality, avoidance of processing grief, and even gaslighting, to some degree. The movie on the outside seems so simple—the plot is about a group of friends that gather together after two years, only the intention of the gathering isn’t what it seems. 

Cam (2018)

Lola with a broken nose in Cam

Depicting sex work in film is very touch and go. Filmmakers don’t always provide that much-needed education on sex work, sex workers, or anything surrounding it. Thankfully Cam dives into the world of camming, exploring the misconceptions, the dangers that sex workers often face, and the empowerment of their work. The ways in which sex workers are treated as disposable is partially what this movie is about. It also tackles how nefarious the internet can be. Knowing that screenwriter Issa Mazzei was a camgirl absolutely contributes to why the film works. The plot follows camgirl Alice/Lola (Madeline Brewer), whose account is hijacked by a clone. Brewer’s performance is absolutely perfect and she really makes you care about what’s happening to her character.

Ready or Not (2019)

Grace laughing while covered in blood in Ready or Not
(Searchlight Pictures)

Rich people and the lengths they’ll go to in order to maintain their status! In this horror-comedy, Samara Weaving is the modern final girl of our dreams. She absolutely kicks ass, screams like there’s no tomorrow, and does it all in her wedding dress. Who does that? Grace does that! The film follows Grace as she marries into an obscenely rich family that happens to perform satanic rituals to stay rich. That’s the simplified version, of course. When her new family makes her play a card game, she pulls the “Hide-N-Seek” card, which means she must hide until they find her—only to discover her life is in danger. The performances are top-notch, and Ready or Not is one of those horror comedies that you can rewatch. It’s a guarantee you’ll love it.

Host (2020)

Friends on a Zoom call on Host
(Vertigo Films)

Don’t judge a horror movie by its style. Horror movies absolutely can be shot on phones—or Zoom calls, in this case. Having horror movies come out during the beginning of the pandemic was interesting and broadened the medium into new possibilities. And having the characters address the pandemic also makes it harder to watch; it’s great when horror mimics social experiences, but in more drastic ways. This plot follows a group of friends who make a mockery of seances, only to deal with the consequences of their actions. One would think the scares would suck as it was all filmed remotely, but Host is the exact opposite: a carefully crafted horror movie.

Scare Me (2020)

Fanny and Carlo being weirdos in Scare Me

Aya Cash owns this movie. No ifs, ands, or buts. The plot almost sounds too silly: it’s about some writers and a pizza delivery man who are telling each other scary stories all night. There’s a chilling atmosphere that builds up to the end, leading to a very wild climax that leaves certain intentions up to the imagination. This makes Scare Me even more unsettling, even though nobody is getting stalked or murdered by an unknown stranger. The setting is the kind that would naturally be ideal for a home invasion or a classic slasher, but instead, the movie turns expectations upside down and takes you on a different type of ride—one where toxic masculinity is very present. It’s best not to go into this movie expecting typical jump scares or anything gory.

The Boy Behind the Door (2021)

Bobby being terrorized in The Boy Behind the Door

Rarely will you find a horror movie that has a Black boy protagonist depicted as soft and as courageous as Bobby (Lonnie Chavis). This movie is about a nightmarish situation in which two best friends are kidnapped by disgusting people. It’s incredibly uncomfortable in terms of subject matter, as the kidnapper is clearly running a child sexual abuse operation. And is also racist. There’s a lot of social commentary to unpack when the kidnapper turns out to be a white woman. This proves how white women can be just as monstrous as white men, who are so often the bad guys in horror films. The performances from the boys are impressive and the movie maintains that creepy atmosphere. And the nods to other horror movies, like The Shining, are nice treats. Just don’t jump into this movie if anything mentioned above makes you too uncomfortable. 

Malignant (2021)

madison and gabriel in Malignant
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

The chaos and the twists we get throughout Malignant are still worth discussing. Who doesn’t love a campy horror movie that keeps you guessing? Not to mention how this film gave us the icon that is Gabriel (physically performed by Marina Mazepa)! The twist in this film is very clever and subverts expectations (a cliché horror movie would turn the twist into mental illness) because the villain has already been exhaustively explored. It’s safe to say that this is one of the most original horror movies to come out in the 2020s.

Fresh (2022)

Noa and Steve dancing in Fresh
(Searchlight Pictures)

Modern dating can be a real shit show. Not that it’s been easy until now, but this movie just proves that being hesitant about people (especially cis men) isn’t necessarily being too paranoid—since you never know if the person you’re seeing is actually a cannibal who sells and eats women’s meat. Too far? Maybe this movie won’t be for you. Fresh follows Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), who, after a string of bad luck, meets Steve (Sebastian Stan), who she thinks is right for her. Only … he turns out to be a cannibal running a human meat-selling operation! For the ultra-rich, of course. It’s a movie that takes an extreme turn 30 minutes in, and that’s got to be one of the most enjoyable parts. Hands down, it’s one of the best horror movies to come out this year. 

Barbarian (2022)

tess struggling up the stairs in Barbarian
(20th Century Studios)

This horror hit has more twists than I personally expected upon first viewing. Dare I say it, Barbarian does next to nothing wrong as a horror movie. It’s nearly flawless and that’s because it dares to do a lot of wacky shit (the performances and pure nuttiness of this film are factors, too). Regardless of how many times you watch it, your responses are always the same—with the main response being “get out of that fucking house!”

What are some of your favorite original horror movies?

(featured image: Shudder)

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Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.