Think of the universe and all the individual stories that keep it moving, those of the past and the ones still unfolding. Typically deemed a ‘franchise’, horror films have notoriously built off of one another forming chains of sequels, trilogies, and series’. From 2014 to today, we’ve seen the ongoing release of Insidious, Conjuring, and Cloverfield installments. Spinoffs and ‘re-tellings’ took over the later half of the past decade’s genre heavyweights, but still individuality reigns supreme among fans.
As horror continuously gains traction, attracting both novice and hardcore audiences, growth is easily seen in these saturated universe expansions. However, new discussions are being had and the lesser marketed releases are becoming the center of attention in our diverse community. These recent films, void of any sequels, remakes, or adaptations round out our list of The Decade’s Best Standalone Horror Films.
The Babadook (2014)
As horror creates a niche circuit for relevant social metaphorical expression, Jennifer Kent (The Nightingale) stood proudly on her platform with The Babadook. Kent aligns this terrifying tale of a mom and son with the internal struggle against depression methodically and with intense purpose. Leaving viewers with just enough wonder, the story itself is singularly open to interpretation.
It Follows (2014)
Like Kent, David Robert Mitchell (Under The Silver Lake) decided to utilize his metaphorical toolbox and a time when audiences derived more meaning from their horror films with It Follows. Its obscure tone and odd storyline intrigued audiences and opened up a line of communication between creator and viewer that still goes on within the community. Mitchell never had to run from this single, but carefully left it in its place of success.
The Devil’s Candy (2015)
As much as we want more eye-candy, Sean Byrne’s The Devil’s Candy played its role as an emotional interlude on the possession theme as a well-made-one-and-done. Byrne continues to draw fascinating, alternative characters surrounding them in the best horror elements the genre has to offer. While it’s a glorious medley of terror, color, and hardcore metal, this is one story that is a classically leveled solo.
The Witch (2015)
Granted that period pieces are often standalone films, Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse) fueled the power of festival screenings with his premier film The Witch. This delicious tale has a way of grabbing viewers within the first few seconds, but magically increases its grip all the way through to the end. The final scene is wickedly delicious with no consolations of a follow up or explanation.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
André Øvredal (Trollhunter) decided 2016 would be the year a new era of B-list films would take on the genre and impress audiences of all predilections. While sequels, remakes, and big budget projects shone in the limelight, this spooky sleeper laid all preconceived notions of the B-List movies to rest and expertly told a story with all elements of horror heightened with ease and simplicity. Sequels to The Autopsy of Jane Doe would cheapen it beyond the point of no return. Let the dead lay.
Train to Busan (2016)
Zombie flicks are a dime a dozen, especially following some of the genre’s greatest classics already being well-established among longtime fans. Yeon Sang-ho (Seoul Station) proved the zombie threat was far from dead as his modern, taut and terrifying Train To Busan caught viewers off guard. While this ending is pretty devastating to begin with, no one wants to wallow in the post apocalyptic fallout of loss and rebuilding. This left the station comfortably between horror and drama.
Coralie Fargeat’s powerful female-led triumph, Revenge, is accompanied with tons of blood and good old fashioned vengeance. It is as tasty as it is rib-sticking with plenty of bite for a (mostly) one woman show. When the dish is finally served that means the meal is done. Fargeat fearlessly left no room for unnecessary second helpings.
Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele (Us) sits comfortably on the throne of success stories with easily the biggest horror hit of 2017, Get Out. Peele smartly added layers to a solid, topical structure complete with a unique, clever plot, characters full of substance and odd charisma, and an expert amount of wit and humor splashed with sharp, contemporary terror. While Peele is still showing us what he has to offer, he emerged prominently out of the gate with an unmatched style and knack for heart pounding, eloquent social commentary.
Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) gave true style and life to the meaning of originality with his instant cult hit, Mandy. While we would love to see more of Red post-vengeance crying in his underwear, it’s okay with leaving the story as is. Romance and revenge, as we’ve learned, is always represented best as a one-and-done deal. Mandy just happens to be a superior elite form of both.
If you don’t think I’m tired of adding Hereditary to almost all of my lists, think again. I hate to beat a dead horse, but the fact that Ari Aster’s debut film has been on the top of almost all categories when we looked back at 2018 simply means it’s something special. It’s undoubtedly strong enough to stand on its own, giving audiences more than enough to chew on in one sitting. I don’t need anything more or anything less from Hereditary. I don’t even know how Aster could even get to “more” following this one.
While it’s never too late for a universe to expand, or a sequel or a reboot to make its way into the industry, as of now these films stand alone. Yes, we’d like to see more about the films we love, the ones that have not doubt shaped horror to be what it is today, but it’s best to leave history in the past. Moving in succession of progressive ideas and creativity while maintaining the influence of those we praise has always been the genre’s leading drive. With so many strong, single, stand alone films just listed here (and trust me, there are more) released just within the last ten years, it’s easy to see that horror is far from reliant on remakes and franchises. Originality, while hard to grasp, never goes out of style.
What are your favorite standalone horror films from the past decade? Which would you give a sequel or have remade? Let us know over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!