It’s been a crazy year for a great many things, and to add to that, 2020’s horror directorial debuts have somehow managed to be mesmerizing standouts that shook long time fans to their core and brought fresh new eyes to the genre.
While the film industry took a major financial hit from the lack of blockbusters making their way to the big screen which often consists of sequels or remakes, this year has seen a wave of original features that not only stunned audiences but also paved a way for a number of new faces to shine in front and behind the camera.
There are often complaints that modern filmmakers lack the originality to create new stories, which sometimes leaves the industry to peddle out not-so-spooky fodder that lacks the shocks and scares diehard audiences crave.
While the social lives of everybody are currently in flux and you can only doom-scroll online for so long before even that loses its luster, these three movies are certain to rock your senses, twist your brain, and leave you shaken by the expert level scares by the first time feature film directors.
Available on Amazon Prime & VOD
Directors: Gerard Bush & Christopher Renz
This controversial film was met with less than stellar reviews right out the gate and despite the fact that critics found various reasons to poke holes through the plot or badger its message, as a horror fan, I found it to be both refreshingly original and utterly terrifying.
If you can try your best to avoid all spoilers on this film and go into it completely blind, it’s an experience unlike any other in recent memory.
There are elements similar to other racial based genre films, but none are as on the nose on their approach of addressing the horrific nature of slavery, while also pointing out the systematic racism that is alive today.
For some, the subject matter may be a bit much as it does go into a detail that is usually more fit for a dramatic movie, but the almost Twilight Zone-like approach to the story is expertly crafted despite its reception it received right out the gate.
It’s a modern mash-up of genres and originality that is daring, bold, and carried heavily by yet another stand out Janelle Monáe performance, so despite the flack, I’m more than excited to see the next feature by the writing and directing team of Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz.
Bush and Renz bravely pushed the envelope with this original material, they took elements from a modern classic 12 Years a Slave and amalgamated it with another genre game-changer Get Out, which ended up standing alone in a year filled with horror films that weren’t as heavily packed with a social message.
Again, it’s one of those movies that is best seen without reading any spoilers and going in blind to really come to your conclusion of which side you stand on with the love it or hate it critique that seems to be fitting of any film that dares to be this openly fearless.
Black Box (2020)
Available on Amazon Prime
Director: Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour
Fresh out of the Welcome to Blumhouse series of films comes an ambitious horror/sci-fi that brilliantly exemplifies the skillful directing talents of Emmanuel Osei-Kuffoour.
If you’re like me and there is a void in your heart where new episodes of Black Mirror used to fill, producer Jason Blum is stepping up to hold us over with this new anthology of films written and directed by up-and-coming original filmmakers. Which will have to do while we wait…
This mind-hacking cautionary tale is a barrage to the senses and with a limited TV budget, it not only manages to be eerie at times and downright stifling at others, but at the core of the whole ride, there is a beautifully touching family story.
Osei-Kuffour and a strong cast elevate this indie thriller to a height that matches some of Blumhouse notable films and even surpasses others. Mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t stick to the usual aesthetic that is expected from the production company and instead forges its own mark among the dominant horror powerhouse.
His House (2020)
Available on Netflix
Director: Remi Weekes
This is a probable candidate for the best horror film of the year and it rightfully deserves any/all the accolades for absolutely everything it did as close to perfect as possible.
First off, this is a breathtakingly well-done immigrant story that is unnerving and powerful before any ghostly elements make their way on the screen… but then it seriously fucking doubles down on all fronts when a spectral presence is introduced in a way that doesn’t at all cheapen the dramatic elements.
Please pardon the explicit language, but honestly, there is no way to talk about this movie and not get excited by this masterclass of tension that is amplified to scare the life out of us with some haunting African mythology and chilling true to life aspect of the global refugee crisis.
Remi Weekes should be on everyone’s immediate watch list, as this is one of the directorial debuts that is easily on par with other greats like Jordan Peele, Jennifer Kent, Ari Aster, and the other new class of modern horror icons keeping the genre thriving against stagnant industry craving fresh blood.
Weekes deserves an Oscar nomination for this movie, but he isn’t alone, the two lead actors who have additionally had a helluva 2020 TV breakout year in the shows Lovecraft Country (Wunmi Mosaku) and the British thriller Gangs of London (Sope Dirisu) are beyond as much award recognition as the director in this culture clash masterpiece.
Mosaku and Dirisu’s acting in this film differs so much from their 2020 TV character counterparts and staples them both as future household names with a stunning display of range, vulnerability, and just sheer memorability anytime they step on screen.
For all that there is on your streaming services, this movie is a must-watch for everyone whether you’re a casual horror fan, dramatic cinephile, or gory purist loving glutton for punishment. It truly does pull off ticking all the boxes and satisfying on all levels, which is likely why it boasts a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this article.
What the future holds for these directors is anyone’s guess, however, based on these movies it does seem like they are off to an explosive start that hopefully expands to a long career of other cryptic features.