Happy Halloween! Favorite horror of the past 5 years

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes modern horror (Part 1)

Halloween weekend is upon us — the perfect time to hunker down with a scary movie.

We all know the horror classics like “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Exorcist” and “Halloween.”

Elder millennials grew up with “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Scream” and “The Sixth Sense.”

But what are the best horror movies and TV shows in recent times?

Here are my personal favorites from the past five years:

List Criteria

In order to qualify for this list, each movie or show had to be released within the past five years (2016 or later), excluding masterful films like “Prisoners” (2013) and beloved TV series like “The Walking Dead” (2010).

Entries also had to be completed works, excluding ongoing shows such a”Stranger Things” (2016-present), because we can’t truly judge their greatness until we know how they end. Note to Hollywood: Please make more limited series with a tightly-told beginning, middle and end that don’t overstay their welcome.

Didn’t Make the Cut:

Before we start the countdown, here are a few that didn’t make the cut:

  • “Don’t Breathe” (2016) – Killer blind premise ruined by a turkey baster
  • “Life” (2017) – Daniel Espinosa’s underrated space horror recalls “Alien”
  • “Black Mirror” (2017-2020) – See “Black Museum” and “Striking Vipers”
  • “Midsommar” (2019) – Ari Aster’s anticipated follow-up to “Hereditary”
  • “Doctor Sleep” (2019) – Ewan McGregor stars in “The Shining” sequel
  • “Halloween” (2018) – Solid reboot of the Michael Myers slasher franchise
  • “The Haunting of Hill House” (2018) – Mike Flanagan is killing it on Netflix
  • “Us” (2019) – Genius premise, sloppy script, unforgettable Lupita Nyong’o
  • “Parasite” (2019) — Not a horror movie, but a Best Picture worthy thriller
  • “The Lighthouse” (2019) – Hated it, see Robert Eggers’ “The Witch” instead
  • “Pet Sematary” (2019) – Better-than-expected Stephen King remake
  • “Antebellum” (2020) – Janelle Monáe could have used a tighter script
  • “Spiral” (2021) – Chris Rock stars in the latest in the “Saw” franchise
  • “Candyman” (2021) – Fans of 1992 classic might like Nia DaCosta’s reboot
  • “Malignant” (2021) – James Wan’s latest is bonkers but rather predictable
  • “Titane” (2021) — Haven’t seen it yet, but it won Palme d’Or at Cannes
  • “Lamb” (2021) – Valdimar Jóhannsson tracks childless couple in Iceland
  • “Antlers” (2021) – Scott Cooper explores ancestral creature in Oregon

Now, on with the list!

10. ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ (2020)

Creator: Mike Flanagan

After “The Haunting of Hill House,” Mike Flanagan delivered a nine-episode Netflix miniseries about a gothic mansion similar to the Manderley estate in “Rebecca,” featuring precociously creepy kids who rival “The Others” and “The Orphanage.”

9. ‘Ready or Not’ (2019)

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett

If you can buy into the absurd hide-and-seek premise, you’ll find this a consistently intense, comedically campy and ultimately surprising addition to the genre with a killer turn by Samara Weaving’s bloody bride.

8. ‘It’ (2017)

Director: Andy Muschietti

Stephen King purists will hold onto Tim Curry’s 1990 classic, but Bill Skarsgård was absolutely chilling as Pennywise the Clown holding red balloons and saying, “You’ll float too” with standout child stars Finn Wolfhard and Sofia Lillis.

7. ‘Host’ (2020)

Director: Rob Savage

No film better captured our pandemic reality than “Host,” featuring a group of friends holding a Zoom seance that invites evil spirits into the frames of their virtual “Brady Bunch” panels in the next evolution of the “found footage” genre.

6. ‘Alone’ (2020)

Director: John Hyams

This underrated gem follows a widow (Jules Willcox) driving across the Pacific Northwest when a road rage incident sparks a “Deliverance” survival journey evading a sadistic stalker (Marc Menchaca).

5. ‘Hereditary’ (2018)

Director: Ari Aster

Classroom freak-outs. Dollhouse omens. People bursting into flames. Monsters crawling on ceilings. These are some of the unforgettable images by Ari Aster, exploring a grieving family haunted by disturbing occurrences as Toni Collette delivers an award-worthy performance.

4. ‘The Invisible Man’ (2020)

Director: Leigh Whannell

“Saw” creator Leigh Whannell revived H.G. Wells’ tale with a powerhouse performance by Elisabeth Moss, who believes her abusive ex is transparently stalking her. Is she going crazy? Or is it something supernatural?

3. ‘Midnight Mass’ (2021)

Creator: Mike Flanagan

Mike Flanagan’s miniseries of Biblical proportions starts out as slow-burn suspense, making us think we’re watching an ex-con rehab show like “Rectify” only to become the best spiritual existentialism since “The Leftovers.”


2. ‘A Quiet Place’ (2018)

Director: John Krasinski

John Krasinski (“The Office”) delivered a refreshingly original creature feature with a silent-but-deadly premise, in which a family must survive by not making a sound to avoid the attacks of blind, audio-fueled monsters. Emily Blunt delivered a hushed bathtub birth for the ages, then cocked a shotgun before a brilliant cut to black.

1. ‘Get Out’ (2017)

Director: Jordan Peele

To laugh off “Get Out” as a mere genre exercise in horror/comedy is a profound mistake that will leave you on the wrong side of history, not just socially but cinematically. Jordan Peele paints symbolic racial commentary in every shot with deer antlers, cotton picking and American-flag wardrobe, while his Oscar-winning script repays on repeat viewings with new meaning to lines like “We couldn’t bear to let them go.” Not only is it the best horror movie in years, it’s one of the best movies of all time, period.

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes modern horror (Part 2)

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