100 Years of Horror (Part 1)

For each decade, I present: the main baddie, a few thoughts, and a book and film rec.

2020s

We’re only in 2022, so it feels early to pick a monster to represent this tumultuous decade. Check back in 2030.
The remake (or requel, thanks Scream 2022) train kept right on going with Candyman in 2021 and a reboot of Texas Chainsaw Massacre upcoming. We also got some new (and weird) stuff, with Malevolent and Last Night in Soho. The 2020s started strong, and I’m excited to see where they’ll go.
What to read:
My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
What to watch:
Gretel & Hansel

2010s

This decade’s boogeyman was Slenderman. Technically, Slendy showed up on the Something Awful forums in 2009, but he was a solid part of the 2010s zeitgeist, with his game and (terrible) film occupying dropping during that decade.
A season of high-budget remakes, the 2010s were a horror renaissance. Nostalgia alone wouldn’t have carried the decade, but there was plenty of new blood (and not the Friday the 13th kind). From The VVitch to Hereditary, horror movies that were genuinely good films abounded—often thanks to A24 studios. Horror on the small screen flourished as well, with American Horror Story establishing TV horror and streaming services like Netflix giving us gems like The Haunting of Hill House and Marianne. The big franchise of the decade was the thoroughly-enjoyable Conjuring universe, which is still going strong.
What to read:
The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
What to watch:
Midsommar

2000s

Jigsaw is the face of 2000s horror…but I can’t comment much on him because the Saw franchise is one I haven’t actually started. I’m hesitant, because even horror buffs have their “HELL NOPE” categories, and the films hit that niche for me. Still, the guy has a fabulous design and a respectable franchise.
My lack of involvement in Jigsaw’s games doesn’t mean I don’t love the 2000s. (As a ’96 baby, how could I not?) Bad 2000s horror would be my guilty pleasure if I was the least bit guilty about it, but I’m absolutely 0% repentant for my love of films like The Glass House. We had a lot of overly dramatic and tropey horror, and several franchises that did well but weren’t extremely memorable. There are a lot of hidden gems in the 2000s, so don’t disregard this decade just because not that many blockbusters jump out.
What to read:
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
What to watch:
The Others

1990s

Who could be the face of 1990s horror but Ghostface? Self-aware, twisty, still alive and well in 2022? Scream is the cream of the ‘90s crop.
Low budget ‘90s horror often stood the test of time, with gems like the IT miniseries. Classics like Misery (the adaption of the Stephen King novel of the same name) and Silence of the Lambs are also mainstays of the decade. Plus The Blair Witch Project solidified found-footage horror as a genre, forever giving fans something to argue over. (For what it’s worth, I’m team “Found Footage Is Overrated.”)
What to read:
Welcome to Dead House (Goosebumps 1) by R.L. Stine
What to watch:
Sleepy Hollow

1980s

Jason Voorhees leapt through a window and onto the scene in 1980. Then, he terrorized us for the rest of the decade (and beyond, but he somewhat lost his touch along the way). Arguably, he shares the title with Freddy Krueger, who first appeared in our dreams in 1984.
We were spoiled for choice back then—the 70s and 80s were the years of huge, sprawling horror franchises, and where quality was lacking, there was definitely heart. This was a big growth decade for the genre, and there are a lot of great picks.
What to read:
Ghost Story by Peter Straub
What to watch:
A Nightmare on Elm Street

1970s

Michael Myers is the face—or rather the Shatner mask—of the 1970s. Escaping from prison busses, stabbing and slashing, grabbing ankles, and saying nary a word, Michael has been around for fifty odd years and never lost his, er, charm.
The ‘70s is where slashers really started to take shape (thanks, Mikey!), and as far as novels go, there is a lot of really good early-career King.
What to read:
The Shining by Stephen King
What to watch:
The Exorcist

As always, these lists are non-inclusive and subjective as heck. Check back next month for the 1920-1969 installment, where I explore the boogeymen of the 20th century.