Updated: Feb 10, 2021
Hello everyone, gather round as I bunch together a random top ten, of stuff.
You don’t need me to tell you what a shit-show 2020 was, so to lead us into the new year I’m ditching my usual grumpy persona, and looking back on the positive things from the year.
Naturally, all of them will be horror related.
Oh, and these are just my personal preferences as I’ve not had the time to experience absolutely everything the year has had to offer - well, apart from covid 19 but that wasn’t enjoyable at all and would be on a ‘worst of’ list.
So, if your favourite thing isn’t here, don’t get mad at me, and instead, feel free to message us with your top horror stuff from 2020.
If there’s anything that you highly recommend, then maybe we’ll find the time to check it out and share our thoughts on it too.
Ok, that’s enough of me waffling on, let’s get to it.
So, to start things off in a predictable fashion here is my number 1 film of 2020.
There was a lot to like about Host, and although I was hoping to keep this list covid free, it would be wrong of me not to include this film.
For those not in the know, the film is about a group of friends (all in lockdown) having a Zoom chat when spooky things start happening.
At its best, the movie is a cleverly crafted work of tension, with a likeable cast – even if my favourite character was that of Caroline's dad - aka Patrick Ward.
I have no idea if his presence was scripted, or just an ad-libbed moment, but he was great, even though his screen time was brief.
At its worst, the movie was nothing more than one of those, prank, supposedly spooky, videos. You know the ones; where you're watching a random bit of footage, and then suddenly, a face appears along with a screaming sound effect.
Despite that, the film was a treat, although, to add to the confusion of my list, it was my number one film of the year; however, it wasn’t my best film of the year.
Bear with me, I’ll explain.
See, I thought that Invisible Man was a better film than Host. It was the first time I realised what a creepy notion it truly is for someone to be invisible, and it was a well crafted modern take on an old classic.
However, Host is my number one film of the year, because it was a movie that couldn’t have worked at any other time. At least in terms of relevance, impact and relatability.
The fact it was filmed during the lockdown, combining with how most of us were experiencing that very same thing ourselves, just made the movie work extremely well.
It was something that everyone could relate to.
How it will stand up in later years when (hopefully) this situation is far behind us, remains to be seen, but as a whole, the movie was a real treat that encapsulated something viewers could relate to more than they could with most other films.
If you’ve not seen Host, you can find it here
OK, so hopefully that mess gives you an idea of how this list is going to work.
No wonder I don’t make them very often.
Next up, is my number 1 novel of 2020.
THE MIDWIVES – DUNCAN RALSTON
This was an easy choice for me.
I read quite a few books last year, and when it came to making a decision on which one would rise to the top, The Midwives was the first thing that came to mind.
To see my review of The Midwives, simply click here
Just before the release of The Midwives, Duncan posted the opening chapter as a freebie/teaser, and I was hooked immediately. Well, that and the evocative cover art by Francois Vaillancourt, depicting an old lady holding a baby and a large pair of scissors, helped too.
At the time of reading it, I just kept thinking to myself that Duncan had knocked it out of the park with, not only the story, but his writing too, and that The Midwives would be the novel that people would sit up and take notice. It would be the novel that even casual horror readers, the type of folks who pretty much only read titles from King or Koontz would also enjoy.
For me, that’s how good the book is.
It’s a title that you should pick up and read if you haven't already.
Of course, Duncan has recently released the second instalment of Ghostland, in the form of Afterlife: Ghostland 2.0
I preordered it when it was announced, and it's been sitting in my 'to read' list ever since.
Hopefully, I will settle down to read (and review) it, soon.
Ok, time for something a little different as we dip into the world of anime and check out my number 1 horror anime show of 2020.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere; this top ten (ish) list is going to be a bit of a mess at times, and so it is with my anime choice.
There were plenty of hot new releases this year with the likes of Darwin’s Game, season five of Food Wars, Tower of God, season four of Attack on Titan, Jujutsu Kaisen and a whole slew of other titles, that I’ve not yet gotten around to watching.
Whilst not only being way behind on pretty much every anime that came out in 2020; I’m way behind on the horror anime of the year too.
So, simply by default, as it’s the only horror anime that I’ve seen this year, Dorohedoro is my number one pick.
Luckily, it’s also bloody good.
Set in a dystopian town known as The Hole, Dorhedoro features a guy named Caiman, an ordinary chap who just happens to have the head of a lizard.
That might sound strange, but it’s nothing unusual in The Hole.
You see, sorcerers have a habit of entering The Hole and practising their arts on the town’s denizens, which is how Caiman gained his reptilian visage. To make matters worse, he has no memory of who it was that changed him or what he looked like before.
Oh, and there’s a man, living inside his throat.
To top it all off, Caiman and his friend Nikaido, a lady who runs a local restaurant, and certainly doesn’t have any dark secrets at all (yeah, right) are trying and track down the sorcerer who changed Caiman’s features. This usually involves them killing any sorcerer they encounter. All that murder brings them to the attention of a sorcerer known as En.
En, not only sends assassins after the duo but, also has a habit of using his power to turn people into mushrooms.
He will then serve the mushrooms up to his dinner guests.
Yes, it’s weird, but it’s also entertaining.
The artwork and soundtrack are great, and it’s a series that I’ll be trying my best to keep up with if another season is released.
Judging from the show’s ratings, and the fact it’s based on a manga series that ran for just over 160 issues, more episodes seem certain.
You can find it on Netflix right here
Let’s switch things up again and visit the medium of sound as I take a look at…er, listen to, my album of 2020
CODE ORANGE - UNDERNEATH
I very nearly had a different choice for my album of the year. In fact, up until just a few days before writing this article, it would have been the self-titled album by Oceans of Slumber.
Since that particular title first wriggled its way into my eardrums, I’ve been listening to it quite a bit. The music and vocals are great, and I was content that I had found my number album of 2020.
That was until I chanced upon Code Orange.
Just describing the type/style of music is difficult as they take varying metal genres, tear them apart, mix them in a blender and then let loose with something that, in theory, sounds like a clumsy mish-mash of styles, but in reality, is an audio delight.
They’re a mixture of metal, hardcore, sludge and mathcore, with a few other things thrown in there too. Hints of punk and industrial emerge from the darkness, and the album is something very special indeed.
The musical style won’t be to everyone’s taste, and if growling vocals and the heavy stylings of metalcore aren’t your things, then you won’t enjoy this. But for everyone else, this is an album well worth picking up which is why it's my number one album of the year.
You can find it on amazon right here
Let’s dive into the world of books again as I give you my number 1 short story of 2020.
REANIMATION CHANNEL - MARK CASSELL
OK, I’m cheating a little bit here, and it won’t be the first time I do this either, but I’m sure you’ll all be fine with that.
The reason this is a bit of a cheat; is because the story itself was released back in 2018 as part of The Black Room Manuscripts Vol. 4.
However, it was re-released this year, alongside another of Mark’s stories, in his book Monster Double Feature.
I reviewed that a short while ago, and you can find that review right here
Reanimation Channel was a great story that I thought was initially going to go in one direction before then shifting into a nightmarish amalgam of flesh and metal.
If you imagine what would happen if you took Tetsuo’s transformation scene from Akira and mixed it with the fate of the lead character in Tetsuo: The Iron Man (what’s with people called Tetsuo merging with stuff?) then that’s kind of where the story went.
It delivered a hefty dose of body horror as it conjured up visual imagery that Mark’s writing conveyed wonderfully.
Also, if you have read it, then you’ll probably be pleased to know that Mark is planning on revisiting the mysterious company known as CellCore (and their fucked up experiments) in an upcoming Cyberpunk Horror novel. Watch this space, and hopefully, we’ll review it once it’s released.
To check out Monster Double Feature, and in turn Reanimation Channel, you can find it here
Next up is my pick for the best horror TV series of 2020
THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR
Whilst things like Lovecraft Country still sit unwatched in my playlist, and the excellent season 2 of The Mandalorian doesn’t qualify as horror, therefore I can’t add it to this list; the only horror series that I remember watching last year was The Haunting of Bly Manor.
So, just as with Dorohedoro, it wins by default.
, it wasn’t as good as the previous Haunting of Hill House, but it had enough interesting things going on to keep it entertaining and engrossing.
It added a few new things to ghost-lore, for want of a better word, and dealt more on the ghosts, their personalities and the nature of them, instead of just having them as creepy, vapourous entities.
All in all, it was a series that was perfectly splendid.
Bubbling just below the surface - and I suspect what would be my real top series of 2020 if I’d watched it, was season 2 of What We Do In The Shadows.
To be honest, I’d forgotten all about it, so with a bit of luck, I’ll be settling down to watch (and review) it very soon.
Best horror comic of 2020.
BASKETFUL OF HEADS
OK, I’m cheating again here just a little bit, as the first issue was released in October of 2019, but it ran into the start of 2020, so, I’m including it.
Another reason that I’m including it on this list is that it’s bloody fantastic.
The story centres on June Branch, whose boyfriend gets kidnapped by a gang of local criminals, leaving June to fight for her life. Luckily for June, she finds an old Viking axe that has the power to keep someone’s head alive, even when it’s been removed from their body. Written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Leomacs, Basketful of Heads is a fantastic read.
It’s one of those titles that I couldn’t stop reading, and just sat and read from cover to cover in one sitting.
It’s also one of those titles where I don’t want to say too much about, as I don’t want to spoil anything, as there are a few little twists and turns in the story.
A great title with fantastic artwork.
There were 7 issues in total, which you can now find gathered together in a stunning hardcover edition and you can find it here on amazon
Right, let’s head back towards music, as I give you my top horror soundtrack from 2020.
UNDERWATER (BUT REALLY DOOM ETERNAL)
It’s no secret that I didn’t enjoy the movie Underwater. It was a tepid experience that just squatted in the shallow end of the pool, hampered by a very rushed feel to the story, and Kristen Stewart's gormless mouth breathing. However, the soundtrack - which I completely overlooked when watching the film, is actually pretty good.
Sure, it’s nothing iconic, but to be fair, I can’t think of a single movie soundtrack from last year that really stood head-and-shoulders above the rest.
It is, however, a nice ambient mix.
Understated; yet creepy, with enough to keep it from sounding too similar to other soundtracks that have been released lately.
I’ve started to notice a bit of a trend creeping and for those of you that can remember Inception and its recognisable ‘Bwaarp’ audio cue; well, there seems to be an increase in a sound I can only describe as ‘Vreeeeow.’
I don’t know when it first started being used, but it was quite prominent in the Becky soundtrack, and I’ve noticed it raising its head here and there a little bit more over the past year.
Luckily, that particular noise was absent from Underwater, and it’s a soundtrack that I’ve occasionally played in the background when writing.
You can find the soundtrack here
There is, however, one non-movie soundtrack from this year, that stands proudly on the corpses of the others; having ripped and torn, until it was done.
That, of course, is the soundtrack to Doom Eternal.
Mick Gordon knocked it out of the park with his soundtrack to Doom 2016, but the Doom Eternal soundtrack sends the ballpark into the flaming pits of hell.
The expected metal riffs are still there, but there a few extra touches this time around that really elevate things.
For example, he gathered a group of vocalists from various metal bands and formed a heavy-metal choir for parts of the soundtrack.