The Best Horror Movies of 2011 [The Top 10 Released and Top 5 Unreleased]

Posted by Peter Hall - December 8th 2011 @ 3:28 am

2011 was a really shitty year for horror. There’s no reason to dance around it; it just sucked. Sure, some good movies managed to find release, but not nearly enough. You know it’s been a bad 12 months of genre when it’s a struggle to assemble a Top 10 filled with films that leave any kind of a significant mark– and even then, several are just unreleased films from 2010. But such is the genre these days…


The Best Horror Movies of 2011

10. The Woman

The latest from May director Lucky McKee isn’t for everyone. Not just because its content is often rough to watch, but because it’s an increasingly specific movie; the kind where what McKee is going for either works or doesn’t work for you. And honestly, I’m not entirely sure it does work for me, but there’s no denying that it’s unique and memorable and I really respect that.


9. Fright Night

I’ve taken a lot of flak for defending the hell out of Fright Night, but I’ll take everything the haters have got if it means at least one more person gives this smart, unique remake a shot. Yes, it has the exact same structure as the original, but it’s a damned sight more complicated under the hood than people are giving it credit for. I wish the CGI had been stronger, but that’s a complaint that can be registered against any other flick on this list.


8. Seconds Apart

Seconds Apart is the most interesting flick After Dark Horror films has ever been involved with. And though their roster isn’t the strongest on the block, saying that isn’t being charitable, either. It falters a bit crossing its own strange finish line, but overall it’s a well made chiller that ranks high in the admittedly small niche of scary twin movies.


7. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Troy Nixey’s directorial debut isn’t a grand slam (only the top two films on this list are), but it’s a creepy, freaky little funhouse filled with slick camera work and devilish blend of macabre fantasy. Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes are both miscast, but Bailee Madison and the sharp-fingered crawlies from deep within the Earth make up for it.


6. I Saw the Devil

Jee-woon Kim’s I Saw the Devil is one of the most brutal movies you’ll see this or any year. It’s one of the most savage serial killer movies ever made, is nearly without moral compass, and features two of Korea’s finest actors battling it out like the titans they are.


5. Undocumented

It’s a shame that Undocumented didn’t become the hit it deserved. It should have paved bigger and immediate paths for first time feature director Chris Peckover. It’s bold, it’s uncompromising and it leaves an imprint. I’ve actually only seen it the one time back in 2010 (when it ranked high on my unreleased list), but it’s still more memorable than every single studio-produced horror film this year.


4. We Are the Night

Even though this is a straight-up but unofficial remake of Near Dark but with the gender roles reversed, it’s still one of the coolest, most seductive horror flicks to hit US shores this year. If you’re tired of tepid vampire movies, and I’m not talking about just Twilight, this is the bloodsucking shot in the arm you need.


3. Insidious

Insidious is just a creepy movie, plain and simple. It could end stronger, but it’s got a great cast and, more importantly, a unique take on the family-moves-into-a-haunted-house formula that I’d practically written off for dead. Plus, it’s a movie that’s held up surprisingly well on repeat viewings, which is always a welcome bonus.


2. Attack the Block

The most fun I’ve had in a movie theater all year was attending the world premiere of Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block, one of the best alien invasion movies around. I’ve written about it extensively already, so there’s nothing more to say than see this movie as soon and with as many like-minded genre fans as possible.


1. The Innkeepers (read my four-part interview with Ti West here)

Ti West does not fuck around. Not only is The Innkeepers the scariest movie of the year, but it’s also one of the funniest. It features the finest female performance of the year (if you weren’t already taking Sara Paxton seriously, this will make you), a script that absolutely nails what it’s like spending long hours with a close co-worker at a dead-end job, and an unfailing understanding of how to build nerve-wracking tension without overdosing on violence. It’s a brilliant, inspired film that proves better than anything else on this list that fantastic horror is indeed not dead.


The Top 5 Unreleased Horror Movies of 2011

5. The Divide

When Frontiere(s) came out and buzz pegged Xavier Gens as one of the genre’s new directors to watch, I just didn’t see it. However, The Divide makes a much stronger argument for that case. If anything, it’s almost too unchained of a film, but even though I prefer the sanity of the first half of the film over the last half’s batshit insane moments, it’s still a worthwhile piece of genre filmmaking. Plus, I’m just a sucker for films set in a single-location.


4. Rabies

The duo of filmmakers behind Rabies contend that it’s Israel’s first horror movie, though I’d counter that by saying I’m still not sure Israel has ever produced a real horror movie. Don’t get me wrong, Rabies is a good movie and an even greater watch with a group, but it’s a horror movie in the same sense that Tucker & Dale vs. Evil or Shark Night 3D are horror movies. Sure, its characters and the violence that happens to them demands to be taken more seriously, but it plays off of an audience’s knowledge of horror movies with the same twisted smile.


3. Sleep Tight

Sleep Tight is the kind of movie will seed a dark species of thoughts about what happens when you sleep, especially if you’re an attractive girl who lives in an apartment building on her own. Luis Tosar is fantastic as the creepy mofo behind it all, and Jaume Balaguero (one half of the team behind [Rec]) ratchets it all together with minimal stumbles.


2. You’re Next

Not to over hype You’re Next or anything, but Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s film is so infectiously entertaining, were it an actual disease, the CDC would have to contain it. It has a pitch-perfect cast filled with familiar faces (AJ Bowen, Barbara Crampton) and some new faces that just kill it (Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci). This is the kind of movie that you need to just read about once and then see at your earliest convenience. Don’t test the waters with trailers, just file it away in your brain and show up the second it’s available at a theater near (or far) from you.


1. Kill List

Kill List is the kind of movie that burrows into your brain. It’s haunting, it’s original and it clips along like a seamless, unwinding nightmare. The less said about it the better. Not because it’s filled with twists and turns, but because the second Neil Maskell takes the screen, you’re going to be so drawn into his dark world that you’re not even going to remember these words, anyway. See it.


The Top 5 Genre Films of 2011

Note: For the purposes of this list, “genre” is a catch-all term for anything that’s not strictly horror, but that fans of horror movies will undoubtedly enjoy.

5. The Prey

There were a number of French crime thrillers that got a lot of buzz this year, but for some unknown reason The Prey wasn’t one of them. Yes, it’s directed by Eric Valette, the guy who made Hybrid and the One Missed Call remake, but trust me when I say it’s a taut, kick-ass little thriller that deserves the spotlight stolen by the lesser Point Blank.


4. The Skin I Live In

I can understand the argument of calling The Skin I Live In a full-blooded horror movie, but I think the tone and structure of it makes it hard to pin down as such. Either way, it’s one of the most evocative films of 2011, it’s immaculately crafted with gorgeous cinematography and features an indelible mad doctor scenario captained by one of the finest performances of Antonio Banderas’ career.


3. Headhunters

If I’m praying for anything on this list to get a US release as quickly as possible, it’s Headhunters. It’s already on the remake chopping block (technically it’ll be a re-adaptation of the book Headhunters is based on), and with good reason: It’s lean, it’s got great characters, worthwhile pay-offs, and energy to spare. It’s one of my favorite films of the year.


2. The Yellow Sea

The Yellow Sea is by far my favorite Korean movie of the year, ranking higher than even I Saw the Devil. It’s long, but if you like thrillers about an underdog getting in over his head just to make a buck, it is well, well worth the chunk of your day it’ll take to watch it. The chase scenes are jaw-dropping, the knife fights legendary. As with Headhunters, it’s one of my favorite films of the year regardless of genre.


1. Redline

Even if you’re not into anime, I beg that you watch Redline (yes, it came out in 2009 in Japan, but it’s just now releasing in the US). This movie is like a candy-coated shot of ecstasy and adrenaline all mainlined straight into your heart. If it doesn’t get your ticker ticking, your internals are brizoke.

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  1. December 8th, 2011 | 6:01 am | #1

    Thanks for the lists Peter, Hope all is well in Texas! -Jeremy

  2. Brian
    December 8th, 2011 | 8:26 am | #2

    Whoa, you’re right, 2011 has been a crap year for horror. I haven’t seen them, but I was under the impression ATTACK THE BLOCK and INNKEEPERS were comedies — and those are your top 2!

  3. December 8th, 2011 | 10:17 am | #3

    They’re both definitely funny, Brian, but they’re both very much so horror. Also, why the hell have you still not seen ATTACK THE BLOCK?

  4. Brian
    December 8th, 2011 | 10:44 am | #4

    I’m waiting a couple years for my expectations to die down.

  5. noahphex
    December 8th, 2011 | 12:02 pm | #5

    Good list, sir! I still need to see Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark, The Divide and La Proie.

    I don’t think my list will agree with this one necessarily but I like all of those films. Yes, even Fright Night which I personally had a damn blast with. I thought Farrell had an unadulterated blast with the material and you could see it on screen.

  6. melissa
    December 8th, 2011 | 2:56 pm | #6

    wait.. The Yellow Sea and the Skin i live in were both released…… why is it in the unreleased list? i saw both in theaters this year

  7. December 8th, 2011 | 3:00 pm | #7

    Those are released, I just don’t count them as strictly horror movies.

  8. Jason
    December 8th, 2011 | 3:04 pm | #8

    So I hope I don’t get flamed for asking, but I’d really like some advice on finding some of these films, especially unreleased ones. I love horror and would love to see more of the smaller studio releases (since big studio horror is often so disappointing). Any suggestions other than the obvious Netflix, iTunes, etc? Thanks!

  9. December 8th, 2011 | 3:32 pm | #9

    Hey Jason, here’s the availability:

    The Woman – DVD/BD Jan 24, 2012
    Fright Night – DVD/BD Dec 13, 2011
    Seconds Apart – Already on DVD
    Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark – DVD/BD Jan 3, 2012
    I Saw the Devil – Already on DVD/BD/Netflix
    Undocumented – Already on VOD, on DVD Jan 17, 2012
    We Are the Night – On DVD
    Insidious – Already on DVD/BD
    Attack the Black – Already on DVD/BD
    The Innkeepers – On VOD 12/30

    The Divide – In theaters Jan 13, 2012
    Rabies – On DVD Feb 28, 2012
    Sleep Tight – No US Release Date
    You’re Next – Fall of 2012
    Kill List – VOD Jan 4, 2012

    The Prey – No Release Date
    The Skin I Live In – Currently in Theaters
    Headhunters – No Release Date
    The Yellow Sea – On Import DVD
    Redline – On DVD/BD Jan 17, 2012

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    […] The Innkeepers Platz 1… __________________ Meine Moviebase & Meine IMDb-Votes Last seen: A Nightmare On Elm […]

  11. sdaveak47
    December 11th, 2011 | 4:49 am | #11

    Good list – nice to see Attack the Block get its due i get the impression most American horror fans really couldn’t care less about this film.

    Here’s my 10

    1. Attack The Block 8/10
    2. Tucker & Dale Vs Evil 8/10
    3. Insidious 7.5/10
    4. Kidnapped 7.5/10
    5. Bedevilled 7/10
    6. Final Destination 5 7/10
    7. Sint 7/10
    8. The Dead 7/10
    9. Troll Hunter 7/10
    10. The Woman 7/10

  12. elve23
    December 13th, 2011 | 12:48 pm | #12

    Not that it really matters but wasn’t Wir sind die Nacht a 2010 film?

  13. December 18th, 2011 | 9:58 am | #13

    Don’t be Afraid of the Dark is a terrible, terrible horror. The little creatures were laughable, the horror was almost there, but in the end it was ludicrous.

    Insidious was amazing though.

  14. December 19th, 2011 | 11:48 pm | #14

    Interesting set of lists, Peter. I’m getting geared up for the 4th Annual Cyber-Horror Awards, so I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the best of 2011. Hoping to have you on-board as a voter again this year!

  15. pingback

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  16. LaraP
    December 28th, 2011 | 4:36 pm | #16

    Excellent list and analysis – thank you. I’ve GOT to see ‘The Innkeepers’ soon. Very soon. So far I think my favorite horror movie of 2011 is ‘Insidious,’ but I’m about to watch ‘I Saw the Devil’ so we shall see. I agree that ‘Attack the Block’ was fantastic! It’s a shame that more people in the U.S. haven’t seen it. Hopefully now that it’s a rental they will. Found a handful of additional horror movies from 2011 that people seemed to like on this list:

    I just don’t get the whole ‘Red State’ as horror thing. Obviously I’m in the minority…

  17. Paul S
    January 10th, 2012 | 1:25 pm | #17

    Pretty good lists there dude. Of the one’s I’ve seen so far (The Woman, Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, I Saw the Devil, Insidious, Attack the Block, The Innkeepers, Kill List, The Skin I Live In) I’d say only Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark shouldn’t be here….shouldn’t be on anyone’s list of anything tbh, except maybe films to avoid cos they’re dreadful, n not in a good way.

  18. Mike K
    January 10th, 2012 | 10:09 pm | #18

    I literally just finished watching The Innkeepers. HUGE letdown. I’m a big horror movie fan and I have got to wonder why you’ve so highly rated it. Nothing–NOTHING–happens in the first 45 minutes. That is unfair to the viewer; that is not “slow build-up” — that’s laziness. And lots of unanswered questions at the end. As far as Kill List goes…way too ambiguous of an ending.

    Insidious was by far the best haunted house movie of the year. NOT The Innkeepers.

  19. J
    February 27th, 2012 | 12:22 am | #19

    Not only was The Innkeepers not scary, it was not funny either. It was positively one of the worse borefest films I’ve watched in quite a while. Avoid this film unless you particularly like sleeping through hipsters bullshiting for 2/3s of the film and then watching the director try to cram the rest of the shit story into the last 1/3 and fail. I wouldn’t recommend this film to anyone over the age of 12.

  20. March 23rd, 2012 | 1:03 am | #20

    Not sure why I keep seeing The Innkeepers rated so highly on 2011 horror lists. Does that just say how bad the year was for these types of movies. The movie was boring the entire time. I was waiting for something to happen, and it never did. And then the credits rolled and I felt like I just wasted a lot of time.

    I thought Stake Land was one of the best along with Insidious. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark seemed like a fun movie to watch, but I could see why someone would think the creatures seem really stupid.

  21. July 29th, 2012 | 1:18 pm | #21

    Ive seen only a few of these…the rest I must see them! With lights on!

  22. ELBSeattle
    August 7th, 2012 | 5:11 am | #22

    I know lists like this are highly subjective. But I have to chime in. ‘The Innkeepers’ was one of the worst movies I’ve seen. Ever. I loved Ti West’s ‘House of the Devil’ – it was on the strength of that that I rented ‘The Innkeepers.’ Wow. What a lot of nothing.

  23. September 10th, 2012 | 3:55 pm | #23

    Great movies list …. like it :)

  24. sherlockzz
    September 26th, 2012 | 2:58 pm | #24

    Count me among the “Innkeeper” haters. It was much ado about nothing. Although the acting was ok to fine in some places, there were scenes, especially near the beginning of the movie, where I was appalled at how amateurish the dialogue recitation was. I thought I was at a high school play.

  25. pingback

    […] I first heard about this Norwegian film way back in December 2011 when it made an appearance on Peter Hall’s wrap-up of the best horror and horror-y films of 2011. Several commenters here have recommended it since then, as well. As the article points out, […]

  26. March 4th, 2013 | 12:43 pm | #26

    I love horror but for me the best movie this moment is fright night 2011 i have watched the earlier versions but didn’t see why anybody but old people that can’t get a grip on this new age would like them especially since The guy playing Jerry (Colin Farrel)in the newest version is way hotter then the guy from the old version and the whole vampire thing seemed way more realisticif you liked this movie too i would recommend 30 days of night which is something i found to be a bit similiar when it comes to the scary parts

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