Ghost Stories is all over cinemas right now and is already being hailed as one of the best British horror movies in years, with 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Being the best in British horror is no small feat, as the U.K. has produced some of the most iconic horror films of all time, from the influential Hammer horror to classics like The Omen or The Wicker Man.
With a history that rich, we decided to narrow things down and look at the best British horror films from 2000 to today…
28 Days Later (2002)
What hasn’t been said about 28 Days Later? Its impact is felt everywhere, from fast zombies to the zombie resurgence itself, from launching the careers of writer Alex Garland and star Cillian Murphy, and, most notably, from having its score aped in every horror movie/thriller/suspenseful TV show that’s come out since.
28 Days Later takes place in a post-apocalyptic London when a man (Cillian Murphy) wakes up 28 days after an outbreak wipes out the country and turns everyone into rage beasts. (They don’t use the z-word). The rage virus and the fast zombies completely updated the genre into something new and terrifying, and even with the influx of zombie media, this one still holds up. 28 Weeks Later, not so much.
No, not the Mark Duplass film. This Creep takes you deep into the London underground, and shows what horrors await if you miss the last train.
A young German woman falls asleep at a tube station and wakes up to realize she’s missed the last train, and is seemingly locked in for the night. At first she tries to find a way out and then finds herself being stalked by a creature that lives in the tunnels. The titular creep is disturbing and mysterious, and in one absolutely horrifying scene demonstrates an interest in medicine.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Yes, it’s a comedy. But it’s absolutely brilliant, and every horror fan loves it, and it belongs on this list.
Shaun of the Dead, the first of Edgar Wright/Nick Frost/Simon Pegg’s Cornetto Trilogy, is a ‘zom-rom-com,’ sending up the zombie genre while simultaneously telling the story of every 20-something who hasn’t quite got their life together yet. There are multiple references to classic zombie films (“we’re coming to get you Barbara!” is a favourite) and one of the greatest exposition sequences of all time — instead of the newscaster explaining the epidemic as our characters watch, horrified, Shaun absentmindedly flips through the channels as they spell out the chaos, and none of it registers with him. I watch that scene at least once a year, it’s so ingenious.
The Descent (2005)
Neil Marshall’s The Descent is straight-up a horror masterpiece. Part of its brilliance comes from how tense and heart-pounding the film is before the monsters even show up. Sarah crawling through a tight space and thinking she’s trapped, the girls climbing across the ravine using only their upper body strength — you’ll be holding your breath throughout half the film just over some intense spelunking.
The movie also boasts an unfathomably bleak ending, one of the best antagonists in Juno, and one hell of a jump scare.
Eden Lake (2008)
The movie that proves all teenagers are scary and shouldn’t be trusted! Well, maybe not all teenagers, but definitely this one.
An idyllic weekend away is ruined when a young couple butt heads with a gang of teens, and things continue to go downhill from there. ‘Scary things happening in the woods’ is a well-worn genre, but Eden Lake skips monsters and maniacs for a tense, cat-and-mouse style thriller with a great performance from Jack O’Connell. No spoilers, but the ending – grim yet ambiguous – is one that stays with you.
The Children (2008)
2008 was a good year for horror! While the U.S. had the Strangers, Sweden had Let The Right One In and Canada had Pontypool, the U.K. had a pair of winners in Eden Lake and The Children.
A family spending the holidays together when all of the children fall mysteriously ill. They turn violent and unpredictable, and bloody mayhem takes over. The kids are creepy in the way of demon children like Damien from the Omen or the Children of the Corn, but The Children is more about violent, unpredictable destruction than ominous kid-like creatures.
Kill List (2011)
Ben Wheatley’s Kill List is the kind of slow burn where you know something is amiss, and nothing will end well, but you don’t really know the what or the why as you watch.
Two former soldiers have taken a job as contract killers, and have to kill three marks. As they go through their mission, things get stranger and stranger — the victims seem to know and are expecting them, there are mysterious symbols, and our main character Jay (Neil Maskell) seems to be losing grip. This movie isn’t for the faint of heart, considering Jay bashes in a man’s skull with a hammer and that isn’t even the climax of the film, but horror fans will
Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
Berberian Sound Studio is a creepy and unsettling film that pays tribute to the creepy and unsettling genre of Italian giallo films — think Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, etc.
Gilderoy (Toby Jones) is a sound engineer working on an Italian giallo film that is infinitely more disturbing that he expected. While he watches the disturbing scenes play out, he begins to lose his grip on reality and may or may not be slipping into the world of the film itself. The movie works best by holding back — the audience never sees the disturbing images Gilderoy does, but we can hear them and let our minds fill in the messed-up blanks.
Under the Skin (2013)
Under the Skin may not be a typical horror movie — there’s no jump scares, or bad guy really, but it is one of the most unnerving films you’ll watch. Scarlet Johannson plays someone (or something) travelling the UK, picking up strange and lonely men, and doing… something to them.
Her purpose isn’t clear, but the image of her walking her unsuspecting victims into a pool of blackness from which they won’t return is amazingly creepy.
The Ritual (2017)
Set The Tape has already reviewed The Ritual, but to sum up: it’s cool, scary, has amazing special effects and is one of the best horror movies of last year.
Did we miss any of your favourites? What’s the best British horror of all time? Let us know what you think in the comments!