16. X (2022)
A full decade passed before horror auteur Ti West felt the inspiration to return to his genre of choice on the big screen. Perhaps that’s why in his first collaboration with A24, he wound up making an entire trilogy of nightmares starring Mia Goth. X is the first of the threesome, and perhaps the most immediately provocative. Set during the 1970s in the Texan sticks (by way of New Zealand), this movie unapologetically invites comparisons to the paterfamilias of slasher movies, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).
However, X has more on its mind than the splatter or smut implied by the title (though the young people who foolishly leave the safety of debauched civilization here are aspiring pornography filmmakers). With subject matter as lurid and inescapable as a billboard in the San Fernando Valley circa ‘75, X entices viewers to enter what is actually a surprisingly poignant rumination on age, death, and the fleeting heavens of the flesh. West then turns those respites into a hell alongside his muse, Ms. Goth. We suspect this entry would be higher on the list, too, if not for what the pair made next… – DC
15. It Comes at Night (2017)
The exact nature, origin, and spread of the grisly infectious disease that shreds society to pieces in It Comes at Night is never deeply examined; the movie is not interested in exploring the end of the world on some epic scale. Instead the effect it has is on a very small, very frightened group of people–two families that include Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough, and Carmen Ejogo among their dwindling ranks—who are trying their best to stay alive and sane.
In that sense, the title of the movie (and, to a degree, the way it was marketed) is somewhat misleading. What comes at night is not some rampaging horde of flesh-eating walking corpses but rather the cold, insidious effect of fear, grief, and distrust. These two invisible threats eat away at what’s left of our civilized selves.
Director Trey Edward Shults (Waves) spares nothing and no one in this grim fable; by the time it reaches its inconsolably bleak conclusion, the cumulative effect of this quiet, bare bones film is devastating. – DK
14. Climax (2018)
One could argue that every one of the five feature films directed by Argentine filmmaker Gaspar Noe, including such controversy-courting titles as I Stand Alone, Irreversible, and Enter the Void, has been a horror film in some way. Noe’s movies are often filled with nihilism, despair, and existential dread, with even the act of sex portrayed as an often violent invasion instead of an expression of love.