A collage featuring some of the best modern horror movies (clockwise from top left): 'Get Out,' 'The Witch,' 'Hereditary,' '28 Days Later,' and 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night'

The Best Modern Horror Movies

I don’t watch anything made before Shrek.

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I don’t care if this excludes some of the best horror movies ever made. I don’t even care if some of those old movies are awesomely gay. If it wasn’t made after that green ogre kicked open the door to his outhouse to the soundtrack of “All Star” by Smash Mouth, I’m not interested.

I also don’t listen to the opinions of anyone born before the year 2000. Including my own. What’s that? My doctor says I should get a mole looked at? If they don’t look like Doogie Howser, I won’t listen. I also won’t listen to the opinion of anyone who knows who Doogie Howser is. If that’s you, then take it to the comments section. I’m not gonna read it. Now, in honor of spooky season, I’m gonna list the best modern horror movies of the post-Shrek world.

It Follows (2014)

A girl tied to a chair looks at something offscreen in horror as a boy with a flashlight stands behind her in "It Follows"
(RADiUS-TWC)

Made in 14 AS (After Shrek) David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows is about a teenage girl who hooks up with a guy and finds herself subsequently haunted by a malevolent entity that no one else can see. The entity follows her slowly, and will catch and kill her unless she passes it on by having sex with someone else. Why is this film good? Because although sex and horror go to together like peanut butter and chocolate, It Follows was the first film to center the horror around sex itself! And an STD-like curse that comes from it.

28 Days Later (2002)

A man in scrubs stands alone on a bridge in London in "28 Days Later"
(20th Century Studios)

28 Days Later was made by Danny Boyle in 2 AS. The film is about a young man (Cillian Murphy) who awakens in a hospital bed to find the world overrun by zombies. And not the slow zombies, either. These zombies—humans infected by the “rage” virus—are FAST, and will cause anyone exposed to even a drop of their blood to turn into a killing machine in less than a minute. Film critics say 28 Days Later redefined the zombie genre, but most film critics are pre-Shrek and are not to be taken seriously. Even so, the film is credited for inventing the “running zombie,” and without it there would be no I Am Legend or The Last of Us. Maybe that would have been a good thing, we’d all be living with less trauma.

Hereditary (2018)

Milly Shapiro in Hereditary (2018)
(A24)

Ari Aster’s Hereditary was partially responsible for the irritating film-school term “elevated horror,” but that’s not the movie’s fault! It’s just too good! Hereditary is about a woman (Toni Collette) dealing with her family’s complicated history following the death of her mother, which only brings more tragedy to her own family. While the film features some absolutely heart-numbing scares, it is a poignant (and deeply disturbing) exploration of generational trauma, and how the legacy of long dead relatives can tear a modern family apart.

The Witch (2015)

A young woman covered in blood stars into the light of a fire in "The Witch"
(A24)

Robert Eggers’ feature debut The Witch takes place several hundred years before Shrek, in New England. After being excommunicated from their village, a Puritan family struggles to survive the brutal wilderness. To make things worse, a witch living in the woods has designs on their family. While folksy horror films existed before this one, many credit The Witch for the current popularity of the term “folk horror.” The all-too-familiar folktales and legends of witchcraft in early America are rendered in chilling, beautiful detail by this film.

Let the Right One In (2008)

Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar Lina Leandersson as Eli in "Let The Right One In". Eli stares into the camera, covered in blood.
(Sandrew Metronome)

Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In is about a bullied boy living in a desolate town in Sweden who befriends a young girl with a dark secret. She’s a vampire. (She was also born WAY before Shrek.) While not short on scares and gore, Let the Right One In truly shines as both a romance and coming-of-age story. A really f*cked up coming-of-age story. But puberty is a mess for everyone, no?

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

The vampire girl about to bite off a man's finger in "A girl walks home alone at night"
(Vice Films / Kino Lorber)

Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night takes place in a fictional city in Iran, where a young vampire woman walks the streets at night. She seeks out men who try to take advantage of her, then devours them. One night, she meets a sweet drunk man walking home from a Halloween party, and begins a romance with him. For a post-Shrek couple, they’re pretty adorable. The film’s eerie black and white atmosphere render it a love letter to vampire flicks of old, taking the torch from favorites like Dracula and Nosferatu.

Train to Busan (2016)

A group of people covered in blood on a train in 'Train to Busan'
(Next Entertainment World)

Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan is about a little girl who is having the worst day of her life. Her parents recently divorced, and she has to talk her workaholic father into taking her on a train ride to see her mother, who lives in another city. To make things worse, a zombie infection has broken out in the city, and there’s an infected woman onboard the train. And to make things even WORSE, it’s the little girl’s BIRTHDAY. While the film is heavy on scares, Train to Busan really distinguishes itself as horror title due to its capacity to make you ugly-cry.

The Babadook (2014)

Amelia (Essie Davis) and Samuel (Noah Wiseman) sit opposite each other at a dinner table in 'The Babadook'
(IFC Films)

Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook is about a mother who resents her son. Some would say it’s because her son’s birth indirectly caused her husband to die in a car crash on the way to the hospital, but it’s probably because her kid was born after Shrek came out and she’s jealous. This resentment manifests into a murderous apparition from a creepy children’s book called The Babadook, which drives the woman to try and kill her son. The only way she’ll be able to defeat the Babadook is if she does the inner work necessary to reconcile with her husband’s death, before it ends up destroying what little family she has left. Although thrills and chills abound, The Babadook is fundamentally a poignant study of grief.

Rec (2007)

Manuela Velasco as Angela Vidal in 'REC'
(Filmax Entertainment)

Short for “record,” Rec is a Spanish-language film directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza. Presented as found footage, Rec follows an investigative journalist who enters a quarantined apartment building along with her cameraman. Inside the building, she finds that the residents have become infected by a strange disease that makes them murderously hostile. Unlike some of the other titles on this list, few things are “elevated” about this film. It’s just a good ol’ fashioned found footage fright fest, and that’s why we love it.

Get Out (2017)

Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington in the horror movie Get Out. (Image: Monkeypaw Productions.)
(Universal Pictures)

Jordan Peele’s Get Out tells the story of a Black man who is visiting his white girlfriend’s family for the first time. After experiencing a series of racial microaggressions, he soon realizes that the few Black people he’s encountered in the family’s neighborhood are behaving strangely. He begins to suspect they have been brainwashed by some sort of malevolent force. Get Out made history as one of the first horror films to tackle themes of racism and prejudice in the modern world, to chilling effect.

(featured image: Universal Pictures / A24 / 20th Century Studios / Vice Films / Kino Lorber)


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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.