We all know 2021 can’t magically promise anything. Yet it still brings hope to know a new year is here. 2020, a year unlike any, other didn’t have much to praise. But some things thrived. Like Zoom, pets, and women in horror. In fact, the women of 2020 horror movies had a pretty good year.
This year was an unprecedented one in film. But it surprisingly still saw lots of new horror movies. Including one shot entirely in quarantine that’s already a fan favorite.
The women of 2020 horror are strong protagonists (or in some cases antagonists) who exude confidence and strength. A more nuanced woman whose soul purpose isn’t to just be the girlfriend or final girl of a film.
Here’s why 2020 horror belonged to women.
12 greatest women of 2020 horror:
Norah Price – Underwater. The sci fi horror was released in January of 2020, which feels like a million years ago. I’ve watched a lot of movies since then. One of which was Underwater. I wasn’t prepared however for how much I fell for Kristen Stewart after watching. Norah Price is a Ripley style heroine who puts her oceanic crew above all else. She commands the screen and holds the entire movie.
Cecilia Kass – Invisible man. Leigh Whannell’s horror also came out in early January; a lifetime ago. But a year later it remains memorable. Mainly due to Elisabeth Moss and her portrayal of an abused woman taking her power back from villainous husband, scientist Adrian Kass. Set against the backdrop of an Invisible Man story. What results is one of the greatest women of 2020 horror.
Cassie Thomas – Promising Young Woman. The film has been making headlines with film lovers bickering over its controversial subject matter and conclusion. On top of that, star Carey Mulligan made news for telling off Variety. After their review essentially insulted the actress’s looks. Despite the chatter, or perhaps because of it, lots of people (including myself) will flock to it when it eventually hits demand and blu ray.
Millie Kessler – Freaky. Director Christopher Landon has a knack for transforming classic comedies into horror movies. The successful Happy Death Day gave us asshole turned anti hero Tree Gelbman. One of my favorite horror protagonists. Freaky’s female lead is different in personality but possesses a similar relatable quality. In her case however, the transformation is reversed. Actress Kathryn Newton convincingly takes Millie from mousy, bullied student to confident killer (literally) badass.
The women of Host. Shot in quarantine over twelve weeks, Host got the attention of horror fans with its inventive filmmaking. Taking place entirely over a Zoom chat, with all actors completely separate, the Shudder original was able to take its limitations and turn them into strengths.
It also proves that a cast comprised of (almost) entirely women can do well with audiences. (It has a covetable 100% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.) Something that Hollywood and society still hasn’t quite embraced. If Birds of Prey, Widows, and Terminator: Dark Fate are any indication.
Sarah – 1 BR. When Sarah moves into the Asilo Del Mar Apartment complex she’s excited to start fresh. Unfortunately, it turns out her neighbors are cult members and they quickly work to indoctrinate her into their group. Mostly with aggressive measures. As victim, and eventual agitator, we lose sympathy for Sarah. But she provides enough emotion to keep us invested, and hoping for her eventual escape.
Fanny – Scare Me. Fanny (Aya Cash) and Fred (Josh Ruben)’s storytelling inside a snowy cabin is the entire essence of Scare Me. It relies on sharing scary stories more than any real on screen horror. But Cash’s over the top presence is the crux of the Shudder film. And enough to make her one of the more memorable women of 2020 horror.
Holda (and Gretel) – Gretel and Hansel. The early 2020 horror went under the radar all year. As did its sneaky villain Alice Krige. One of my favorite horror moms who is virtually unrecognizable in the role.
The eerie and modern retelling of the classic fable has a darker edge. It also switched the title of the names, giving more weight to Gretel (Sophia Lillis) as the stronger sibling. Meant to protect her younger brother. Gretel and Holda play well off each other and this psychological horror deserves a bigger audience.
Diane Sherman – Run. Sara Paulson has made herself a fixture of the horror genre in recent years. This year alone she starred in the TV series Ratched and Hulu’s Run. Paulson plays Diane Sherman. A controlling mother who has kept her daughter in isolation since birth. Though predictable, Paulson’s portrayal of a sick mother is both captivating and engrossing.
Bee – The Babysitter: Killer Queen. There are some seriously good sequels, but Killer Queen isn’t one of them. The Netflix film picks up two years after the inventive original. While Bee, a babysitter slash murderous wanna be witch is a big part of what makes the first film so fun, she’s a much smaller character here. But though she’s not the star, she still has a presence. Even if it’s a much sillier one.
Alexis – We Summon the Darkness. Similar to the Babysitter, the horror film features beautiful women hiding homicidal tendencies. Set in 1988, Alexis and her two best friends head out on a road trip to a heavy metal concert. There, they met a group of young rockers, and their motivations soon become clear. The women (lead by Alexis) set off on a satanic inspired killing spree.
Daddario is building her presence in horror, and in We Summon the Darkness she drives both the action and the fun. Watch the horror movie on Netflix now.
Edna, Kay & Sam – Relic. What makes the women of 2020 horror so great is how varied they truly are. There are no one note characters and each one brings their own level of depth to the story.
Relic is a slow burn psychological horror that showcases three generations of a family. When matriarch Edna goes missing, her daughter and granddaughter return to her house to find her.
What evolves is a story that mixes a ghost theme with the harsh realities of life. Driven by its female stars whose powerful performances give the film its depth.