2020 has been plenty scary enough: I imagine in years to come, kids will dress up in Covid-19 masks just to see the shivers run down their parents’ spines. But horror is about more than just the jump scares: it’s also about the collective release that comes after. So for everyone looking to let out some of that built-up fear and stress from the worst year in recent memory, Showmax has a monster line-up full of things that go bump in the night.
US | Movie
Kenyan Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o (Black Panther, 12 Years A Slave)) stars as Adelaide Wilson, a woman returning to her beachside childhood home with her husband, Gabe (Black Panther’s Winston Duke), and their two children. But their idyllic summer getaway turns to chaos when their doppelgängers begin to terrorise them.
Directed by Jordan Peele, Us was the 31st biggest box office hit of 2019 globally, won 73 awards, and appeared in numerous Best of the Year lists for 2019. The horror has a 93% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, who listed it at #1 on their list of the best-reviewed horror movies of all times and #2 behind Black Panther on their list of The 100 Best Black Movies Of The 21st Century.
“I was drawn to this idea that we are our own worst enemy,” says Peele. “That’s something we all know intrinsically, but it’s a truth we tend to bury. We blame the outsider; we blame ‘the other.’ In this movie, the monster has our faces.”
As The Wall Street Journal says, “It’s compulsory seeing for everyone who loves the horror genre, the movie medium and the notion of saying sage things about contemporary life without straying from entertainment’s twisty path.”
LOVECRAFT COUNTRY S1 | Series
In the 1950s, Atticus, a young African-American, sets out on a road trip with his friend and uncle to find his missing father. This catapults the three into a struggle for survival against the dual terrors of Jim Crow-era America and terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a paperback written by pulpy horror author HP Lovecraft.
Based on the cult novel by Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country is a collaboration between Misha Green (creator of Underground, named Best New Cable/New Media Show of 2016 by the African-American Film Critics Association) and Oscar winner Jordan Peele (Us, Get Out), executive produced by JJ Abrams (Star Wars, Star Trek, Lost, Super 8, Westworld).
The fantastic cast includes Black Reel nominee Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Da 5 Bloods), Teen Choice nominee Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Birds of Prey, Friday Night Lights), four-time Emmy nominee Michael Kenneth Williams (When They See Us, The Night Of), Golden Globe nominee Courtney B Vance (The People Vs OJ Simpson, Law & Order), Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Neon Demon), and Nigerian BAFTA winner Wunmi Mosaku (Luther, The End of the F*ing World, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them).
Lovecraft Country is currently the sixth most popular horror series on IMDb and has a 90% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As Newsday put it, “To call Lovecraft Country ‘wildly original’ seems almost a quaint understatement. But it is wild. And original. Little doubt about that.”
HEREDITARY | Movie
When Ellen passes away, her daughter’s family begins to unravel increasingly terrifying secrets about her life. The more they discover, the more they find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited.
Winner of 45 awards, including Best-Wide Release Film and Best Kill at the 2019 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards, Hereditary stars Oscar nominee Toni Collette (Unbelievable) and Alex Wolff (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), who both won Chainsaw Awards for their roles. Golden Globe winner Gabriel Byrne (Vikings), Golden Globe nominee Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Broadway child star Milly Shapiro (Matilda) co-star.
The eleventh best reviewed horror movie of all time on Rotten Tomatoes, where the film has an 89% score and the critics consensus says, “Hereditary uses its classic setup as the framework for a harrowing, uncommonly unsettling horror film whose cold touch lingers long beyond the closing credits.”
AMERICAN HORROR STORY | Series
Currently the ninth most popular horror series on IMDb, American Horror Story has the first eight seasons available on Showmax. The horror anthology moves each season, from a house with a murderous past to an insane asylum, from a witch coven to a freak show circus, from a haunted hotel to a possessed farmhouse, and from a cult to the apocalypse.
Co-created by TV heavyweights Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (Pose, American Crime Story, Glee), American Horror Story has won over 100 awards, including a Golden Globe and two Emmys for Jessica Lange, a Golden Globe for Lady Gaga, and an Emmy each for Kathy Bates and James Cromwell. It’s also been nominated as Outstanding Limited Series at both the Golden Globes and the Emmys.
With an 8/10 rating on IMDb, American Horror Story was renewed for another three seasons in January 2020.
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS S2 | Series
From multiple Emmy nominee Jemaine Clement (Flight Of The Conchords) and 2020 Oscar winner Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok), the hit mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows is a look into the daily (or rather, nightly) lives of three vampires who’ve lived together in New York for over 100 years – plenty of time to get on each other’s nerves.
This year the magnificently silly mock-doc series showed its teeth with eight Emmy nominations for Season 2, including one for Best Comedy Series and three for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. It’s at #11 on Rotten Tomatoes’ Best TV of 2020 (So Far) list, with a 100% critics rating, and has been hailed as “TV’s best comedy” by The Hollywood Reporter, among others. It’s at #10 on IMDb’s list of the top-rated horror series of all time, with an 8.5/10 rating.
What We Do In The Shadows stars BAFTA winners Kayvan Novak (Four Lions) and Matt Berry (The IT Crowd, Toast of London) as Nandor the Relentless and Laszlo respectively. Sketch comedian Natasia Demetriou is Laszlo’s sultry sire, Nadja, while Mark Proksch (The Office, Better Call Saul) plays energy vampire Colin Robinson. But while the vamps flap and fuss in the foreground, it’s downtrodden little Guillermo, Nandor’s familiar, played by Harvey Guillén (The Magicians), who swoops into the spotlight this season, having discovered he’s descended from the famed vampire slayer van Helsing.
THE ADDAMS FAMILY | Movie
The 2019 reboot of The Addams Family is currently at #12 on IMDb’s list of the most popular horror movies. The world’s kookiest family is coming to town and this poor little New Jersey suburb has no idea what’s about to hit it. When Wednesday Addams befriends the daughter of reality TV host Margaux Needler, who’s hell-bent on building the perfect planned community, the Addams family find themselves way out of their league when it comes to “assimilation.”
The all-star voice cast is led by our own Oscar winner Charlize Theron as Morticia Addams; Golden Globe winner Oscar Isaac (Star Wars’ Poe Dameron) as Gomez; Teen Choice and Joey Award winner Chloë Grace Moretz (Greta, Kick-Ass) as Wednesday; and People’s Choice and Teen Choice nominee Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) as the death-defying, gene-pool-skimming Pugsley.
Emmy-nominated comedian Nick Kroll (Big Mouth) voices Uncle Fester, Emmy nominee Snoop Dogg is It, and Oscar nominee Bette Midler plays Grandma. The Needlers are voiced by Oscar winner Allison Janney as Margaux and Golden Globe nominee Elsie Fisher (Despicable Me’s adorable Agnes) as Parker. Also listen out for Emmy-winning comedy legends Catherine O’Hara (Schitt’s Creek, Beetlejuice) and Martin Short (SCTV, Three Amigos, Inner Space) as the voices of Grandma and Grandpa Frump.
The Addams Family is rated 10-12 PGVH.
RAGE | Movie
In Rage, a group of school-leavers descend on a tiny coastal town for a celebration of their freedom. Roxy, Sihle, Kyle, Leon, Tamsyn and Neo party on the beach and drink themselves silly every night. The townsfolk, Hermien and her son Albert, are welcoming – too welcoming. During a psychedelic trip on the beach, the friends witness a disturbing birth ritual, which could be a hallucination, or not. Soon fertility figurines start to appear at random places, and what is supposed to be the best holiday of their lives turns to horror as the teenagers are picked off one by one.
Nicole Fortuin, whose previous film, Flatland, opened the Berlin Panorama, stars as Tamsyn, with The Girl From St Agnes’ breakout stars Jane de Wet (Moffie, Still Breathing) and Tristan de Beer (Alles Malan, Doctor Who) as Roxy and Kyle. The cast also includes two-time Silwerskerm winner Carel Nel (Dwaalster, Hum, Slaaf); two-time Vita winner Linda Botha; Shalima Mkongi (Isithembiso, Nkululeko, Keeping Score); Fiesta, Kanna and Fleur du Cape nominee David Viviers (Kanarie); and Sihle Mnqwazana, who co-wrote and acted in The Fall, a New York Times critic’s choice play.
Rage is directed by Jaco Bouwer, a multi-award-winning theatre director who was SAFTA-nominated this year for Dwaalster. His short film, this country is lonely, premiered at International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2018 and he also directed Die Spreeus, one of the 10 most-watched local series on Showmax in 2019 – and another good local option.
Rage has been hailed as ‘briljant’ (Son), “hair raising” (Daily Sun), “gripping” (IOL), “scary as hell” (9Lives), “quite stunning and brilliantly filmed” (Channel24), and “genuinely creepy… one of the best attempts at the genre ever made in this country” (Fortress of Solitude), with Daily Maverick saying it will “scare the living daylights out of you.”
Other local horrors on Showmax include Beer Adrianse’s Parable and Darrell Roodt’s Siembamba | The Lullaby, which both picked up international awards, and Jerome Pikwane’s The Tokoloshe, which opened the 2018 Durban International Film Festival.
INTO THE DARK S1 | Series
In this horror anthology from Oscar-nominated producer Jason Blum (Us, Get Out, The Purge, Paranormal Activity, and more), each episode is inspired by a holiday, from Thanksgiving, Christmas to New Year’s Eve.
Look out for the likes of Emmy nominee Jimmi Simpson (Westworld), Teen Choice Award winner Josephine Langford (After), Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding, August: Osage County), and Harvey Guillén (Guillermo in What We Do In The Shadows).
Into The Dark was nominated as Best Series at the 2020 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards and hailed as “a spooky Halloween treat” by Rotten Tomatoes.
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark | Movie
From the dark imaginations of Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) and acclaimed director André Øvredal (Trollhunter) comes Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, based on the iconic book series.
It’s 1968 in America. Change is blowing in the wind but the small town of Mill Valley seems far removed from the unrest in the cities. For generations, the shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large there. In their mansion on the edge of town, Sarah, a young girl with horrible secrets, turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories, written in a book that has transcended time – stories that have a way of becoming all too real for a group of teenagers who discover Sarah’s terrifying home…
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark won Best Horror/Thriller Film at the National Film and Television Awards in the USA in 2019, as well as Best Creature FX at the 2020 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards.
THE PRODIGY | Movie
“Mommy, will you always love me, no matter what I do?” asks Miles, at the end of the viral hit trailer for The Prodigy. But Miles is not like other children, so we can forgive his mother for not answering straight away…
Jackson Robert Scott (Georgie in It) earned a 2020 Fangoria Chainsaw Award nomination for his chilling performance as Miles, while Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Taylor Schilling (Piper in Orange Is The New Black) plays his increasingly terrified mother.
The Los Angeles Times hailed The Prodigy as a “tense and gripping, persuasively acted horror-thriller that evokes such evil-child flicks as The Omen, The Exorcist, The Bad Seed and The Good Son.”
CHILD’S PLAY | Movie
Chucky’s back. Even better, he’s now a smart home assistant, and voiced by Mark Hammil (Luke Skywalker in Star Wars).
From the producers of It, Child’s Play cleverly updates the 80’s horror icon for the Internet of Things era – and as RogertEbert.com says, the result is “nastier, more playful, and just as good if not better than the original film.”
Nominated for a 2020 Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Creature Effects, Child’s Play also stars Gabriel Bateman (Outcast, Lights Out) as Max and MTV Movie and TV Awards nominee Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation, Legion) as his single mom, Karen.
Octavia Spencer (The Help, The Shape of Water, Hidden Figures) kicks her Oscar-winning actress mould to the curb and stomps on it in this bonkers horror flick, with a little help from her best friend and former housemate, BAFTA-nominated writer/director Tate Taylor (The Help, The Girl on the Train), who hand-picked the stereotype-smashing role at her request.
MA | Movie
Ma centres on a group of teens who luck out when middle-aged single Sue Ann (aka Ma) offers them her basement to hang out and party in. But just as it seems things couldn’t get sweeter, they begin to suspect there’s something a little off about Ma…
Produced by Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning producer Jason Blum (Get Out, Us, BlacKkKlansman), Ma was nominated at both the Teen Choice and Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film awards last year.
The cast includes Oscar winner Allison Janney, Oscar nominee Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear, Natural Born Killers), Teen Choice winner Luke Evans (Shaw in Fast & Furious 6, 7 and 8, and Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston) and Diana Silvers (Space Force).
“Audiences will walk out with that good chiropractor feeling,” says San Francisco Chronicle, “the one that says, ‘Yes, I have been manipulated. I have been nothing but manipulated and pounded on for the last 90 minutes. And it was a very satisfying thing.’”
PET SEMATARY | Movie
Dr Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, move to rural Maine with their two young children. When their daughter Ellie discovers a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home, Louis is quick to put her at ease. But these woods belong to something else. Something that brings things back from the dead.
This 2019 adaptation of the Stephen King novel stars Oscar nominee John Lithgow (The Crown, 3rd Rock from the Sun), Jason Clarke (John Connor in Terminator Genisys), and Amy Seimetz (Eleven’s aunt Becky in Stranger Things), with Jeté Laurence (Sneaky Pete) as Ellie.
Pet Sematary was the 66th biggest box office hit of 2019, grossing over $112m worldwide. The horror was also nominated for three 2019 Saturn Awards from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, for Best Horror Film, Best Supporting Actor (John Lithgow) and Best Make-Up.
“The movie honours King by raising fresh hell for a new generation,” says Rolling Stone. ”It will make you jump out of your seat, but what matters are the provocations you take home and can’t shake. That’s the stuff of nightmares.”
CRAWL | Movie
If the storm doesn’t get you, the alligators will…
Following a Category 5 hurricane, competitive swimmer Haley and her estranged father, Dave, find themselves trapped in the flooded basement of their run-down house, where every shadow conceals the waiting jaws of a brutal apex predator.
Four-time Teen Choice nominee Kaya Scodelario (Maze Runner and Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge) and Golden Globe nominee and Emmy winner Barry Pepper (Maze Runner, The Green Mile) co-star as Haley and Dave.
This excellent schlock creature-feature horror is a 2020 nominee for both Best Horror Film at the Hollywood Critics Association Awards and Best Wide Release Film at the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards. It’s directed by Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes) and produced by the legendary Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, 30 Days of Night and Spider-Man).
The 71st biggest box office hit of 2019, Crawl has an 83% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics consensus describes it as “an action-packed creature feature that’s fast, terrifying, and benefits greatly from a completely game Kaya Scodelario.” Vulture called it “a perfect horror film for the summer, as much an ode to the cataclysmic, humbling aspects of Mother Nature as it is a love letter to father-daughter relationships.”
OVERLORD | Movie
From Emmy-winning super-producer J.J. Abrams (Star Wars, Star Trek, Super Eight, Lovecraft Country), Overlord follows a group of American paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines on the eve of D-Day. As the soldiers approach their target, they soon begin to realise that there’s more going on in the Nazi-occupied village than a simple military operation. Making their way to an underground lab, the outnumbered men stumble upon a sinister experiment that forces them into a vicious battle against an army of the undead.
Overlord has an 81% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the consensus says, “Part revisionist war drama, part zombie thriller, and part all-out genre gorefest, Overlord offers A-level fun for B-movie fans of multiple persuasions.”
Starring 2020 Emmy nominee Jovan Adepo (Watchmen) and Teen Choice nominee Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street, The Good Lord Bird), Overlord was nominated for a 2019 Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Wide-Release Film and for a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.
HELLBOY | Movie
It takes a brave director to take over a dearly loved franchise over from Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water, Pan’s Labryinth).
Enter Emmy nominee Neil Marshall (Game of Thrones, The Descent), who inherits the Hellboy franchise from the two-time Oscar winner. He’s brought in an all-star cast as backup, including Golden Globe nominee David Harbour (Stranger Things) in the title role; Teen Choice nominee Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, Resident Evil) as Nimue, The Blood Queen; and the likes of Golden Globe winner Ian McShane (Deadwood, Pirates of the Caribbean, John Wick) and Oscar nominee Thomas Haden Church (Sideways, Easy A, Spider-Man 3).
Anything based on Mike Mignola’s graphic novels will always be worth watching for us, but just be warned: this one got more love from the Razzie Awards than critics…
THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS | Movie
Ten-year-old orphan Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with his strange uncle in a creaky old house whose walls contain a mysterious tick-tocking magic. When Lewis accidentally disturbs the dead, the sleepy town comes alive with dark witchery.
Based on John Bellairs’ children’s book, The House With A Clock In Its Walls stars Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and Golden Globe nominee Jack Black, as well as Golden Globe winner Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks).
It’s the first younger-audience film from gore maestro Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever), who’s called it a “starter horror movie.” Slate calls it “a bullseye… perfectly balanced between funny and scary.”
Rated 10-12PGVH, The House With A Clock In Its Walls was the 54th biggest box office hit of 2018, grossing over $130m globally.
THE STRAIN S1-4 | Series
Created by Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water, Pan’s Labyrinth), The Strain opens with a mysterious outbreak on a plane, which escalates to the entire city of New York falling prey to a viral strain of vampirism.
Nominated for eight Saturn Awards from The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, including Best Horror TV Series, The Strain stars Golden Globe nominee Corey Stoll (Ant-Man, House of Cards), BAFTA winner David Bradley (Walder Frey from Game of Thrones, Filch from Harry Potter), Oscar nominee Sean Astin (Stranger Things, Lord of the Rings), and Kevin Durand (Wolverine).
Also nominated for a Critics Choice Award for Most Exciting New Series, The Strain has a 79% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, with BuzzFeed calling it “some of the most intense and disturbing scenes ever on television.”
THE PURGE | Movie
In an America wracked by crime and overcrowded prisons, the government has sanctioned an annual 12-hour period in which any and all criminal activity – including murder – becomes legal. The police can’t be called. Hospitals suspend help. It’s one night when the citizenry regulates itself without thought of punishment. On this night plagued by violence and an epidemic of crime, one family wrestles with the decision of who they will become when a stranger breaks into their gated community.
Four-time Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke earned his first and only MTV Awards Best Scared-As-S**t Performance nomination as the father, with Golden Globe nominee Lena Headey (Cersei in Game of Thrones) playing his wife.
The #1 box office hit spawned another three movies, The Purge: Anarchy (2014), The Purge: Election Year (2016), and The First Purge (2018) – all of which are available on Showmax – and a TV series. A fifth movie, The Forever Purge, is expected in 2021.
The opening credits of the first movie date the opening credits to 2020, making this the perfect year to revisit this modern horror classic.