My Top 20 Scares of 2020: #20

2020 as a year was a lot like 2012’s inexplicable JLaw horror travesty HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET: way too much whining from unwatchable sadboys and not nearly enough of Katniss Everdeen stabbing those boys in the throat.

If I could’ve experienced 2020 the same way I experienced that movie (fast-forwarded to the climax and then watched the last 5 minutes) I would’ve. That didn’t happen, but like many a final girl I survived! (so far…)

To celebrate the conclusion of a dreadful year, I’m going to spend the next 20 days highlighting the 20 best horror films I watched in 2020! I decided what movies were the “20 best” as neurotically as I know how: by creating a spreadsheet. I rated every single horror movie I watched this year on a 20-point scale, subdivided into four 5-point categories. These were the categories:

  • How scary was it?
    • 1 = Totally not scary, like GREMLINS (1984) or BEETLEJUICE (1988).
    • 5 = An all-time top scare. I was scared during and also in retrospect. Only one 2020 movie earned a 5 (I can’t reveal which one yet!) but a movie that would have earned a 5 if I watched it in 2020 is IT FOLLOWS (2014), because it gave me multiple nights of nightmares.
  • How memorable was it?
    • 1= Movies so similar to other things I’m sure I’ll immediately forget it, like TRUTH OR DARE (2018; 2017; 2012; 1986…there are a lot of these and they are…not a franchise??) Also movies I literally forgot about. Examples not forthcoming because I have forgotten them.
    • 5 = Movies that haunted me, like ARACHNOPHOBIA (1990) and also movies that I am still thinking about how good (THE BABADOOK, 2014) or bad (THANKSKILLING, 2009) they are.
    • Note: I worried this would skew the results with memorably bad movies scoring too high, but it did not affect the top 20.
  • Was it a Quality Film?
    • 1 = Maybe there were some good scares in this movie, but it was basically just a series of murders with no plot. Example: TERRIFIER (2016).
    • 5 = This was an effective scare but it was also successful at doing one or more of the following things:
  • How about Those Women?
    • 1 = There are very few women or they all die quick grisly deaths. Example: THE RITUAL (2017) has a couple women but they do little and die fast.
    • 5 = It passes literally all of my tests for gender representation in film! Example: US (2019).
    • Note: This is the only category where a movie can actually score 0. If there are no women ever onscreen, the movie gets a zero.

In addition, a movie could earn UP TO 3 BONUS POINTS for original/fun gross-outs, jump-scares, and deaths.

Here is what my spreadsheets looked like:

Color-coding is important to me.

A couple notes before we begin:

  1. These are the 20 best movies I watched this year…NOT my all-time faves or the best movies released in 2020.
  2. When two ore more movies ended up with the same score (which happened often), I weighted the scores in the same order as the questions above. So if two movies scored a 15/20, I gave the higher position on the list to the one with the better “scary-ness” score. If they provoked equal terror in me, I chose the one with the highest “memorable” score. Etc.

OK I THINK YOU GET THE GIST.

My #20 favorite movie of 2020 is…

#20. A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (2003)

(C) A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (2003)

This Korean-language scare, written and directed by Kim Jee-Woon, has a lot going for it. It’s an environmental psychological thriller set in an idyllic rural environment. It’s spooky and mournful and sweet and strange and a tiny bit hard to follow, although that didn’t really bother me. The reason it’s not higher on my list is that it didn’t stick with me nearly as much as I expected it to–I actually completely forgot I had watched it until I was adding movies to the spreadsheet. Plus, it’s more of a creepy mystery than an outright terror-fest, so the scary score isn’t super high. Still, it’s overall a really solid flick and I highly recommend you go watch it on Shudder!

How Did It Score
  • How scary was it? 2/5
  • How memorable was it? 1/5
  • Was it a Quality film? 3.5/5
    • Points for being a very pretty movie. Points for a good use of the medium that tricks us about what’s real. Points lost because that bit also ended up being confusing.
  • How about those women? 5/5
    • Here is how A TALE OF TWO SISTERS scores on each of the gender tests:
      • Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass
      • Sexy Lamp Test: Pass
      • Willis Test: Pass
      • Ko Test: Exempt. Nobody in this film is white, but also nobody speaks English. Because it’s a South Korean film. I think Ko would agree with me on this.
      • Roxane Gay Test: Pass! In addition to the two sisters there are several other complex women in this film.
      • Carie-Burns Test: Flying colors!
  • Total points: 11.5/20

Have you seen this stellar film? Where would it rank on your top 20?

Check back in tomorrow for #19!

Published by Brandy N. Carie

Playwright. Director. Producer. Dramaturg. I like coffee and Whisky and dogs and talking in person.

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