This decade has not been very good for horror movies. The types of horror movies that plagued theaters this year were either J-Horror remakes, torture porn, or remakes of classic horror by untalented individuals whose only directing experiences is making music videos.
However, that does not mean that all horror movies were bad. When there was a horror movie that stood apart from the rest it was usually crowded pleasing or truly great. These movies were not necessarily straight horror movies. Some were more dramatic, some were comedic, and some were more thriller than horror, but due to the poor state of the horror genre they will be included here.
Without further ado, here are my picks for the best horror movies of the decade.
10. House of Wax
Jaume Collet-Serra, 2005
I had a really hard time deciding whether or not to put this on my list. On one hand, it is a horribly written movie with some really bad performances and full of the usual horror clichés. On the other hand, it is meticulously produced movie with a couple of good performances, a great finale, one of the most inspired villains in horror movies (but that’s not saying much), and one of the most pleasing death scenes in probably the history of cinema. Eventually the latter reasons won, because there were not many horror movies that could claim the same things.
9. The Strangers
Bryan Bertino, 2008
Most recent main-stream horror movies rely on shocking images to scare the viewers (i.e. cutting off limbs, gore, gruesome images), so it was nice to see a movie that relied on atmosphere and just creepy images to achieve its goal, and it succeeds. The dark cinematography combined with the simple masks, and effective performances from Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, makes an effect that creeps up your skin throughout the movie and by the end you are completely terrified and makes you go out and check if there are no creepy people stalking you.
8. The Ring
Gore Verbinski, 2002
This was the first of the many J-Horror remakes and it remains the best. The script was not a play-by-play remake of the original but rather adapted it for American audiences and fixed the flaws that the original had. Also, Gore Veribiski’s direction and Naomi Watts’ great performance helped the movie feel more believable. After this studios would approach the original directors to make the remakes of their movies. That didn’t always work because some of the scares got lost in translation and the actors did not bring the seriousness that Watts brought to her character.
7. The Orphanage
Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007
Althought there were aspects of this that annoyed me quite a bit, such as the set designs, this is a great ghost story. Juan Antonio Bayona, in his directorial debut, crafts a suspenseful and unpredictable mystery, anchored by Belen Rueda’s great performance. Hopefully Guillermo Del Toro, an executive producer on this one, will get some equally bright talent for the upcoming remake.
James Gunn, 2006
Based on the commercials I knew that this wasn’t going to be a typical zombie movie. I mean, alien worms coming to earth in order to expand their kind by turning people into zombies? I had never seen that before. Add to that a clever script, James Gunn’s fun direction, Nathan Fillion and Elizabeth Banks and you have one of the most memorable horror comedies in a while, and it was until #2 on the list came out.
5. The Skeleton Key
Iain Softley, 2005
This movie came out as the PG-13, J-Horror remake craze was on it’s downturn. They were starting to be bad and audiences weren’t paying much attention to them. For this reason, this movie was somewhat of a financial failure. That is too bad, because this ORIGINAL story was better than all the remakes that had come out and come out since. Kate Hudson gives her best performance since Almost Famous as a nurse who is taking care of an elderly couple. Strange things happen in the couple’s house, some coming from the Lady of the house, the great Gena Rowlands. Although the movie is PG-13, that does not mean that it doesn’t have a few scares. It relies on the supernatural to deliver the thills rather than the gore, and the ending I did not see coming.
4. 28 Days Later & 28 Weeks Later
Directed by Danny Boyle, 2002 | Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2007
The best of the many zombie movies of the decade. Danny Boyle’s Days explored the lives of a few survivors of a biological attack in London that turned people into super zombies, that is zombies that can run fast. The script by Alex Garland had character that we cared about and sometimes hated and it delivered on the scares. The sequel, executive produced by Boyle but directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, continues the story as a select group of survivors are transported to a zone that has been cleared off, but there is danger out there, and the conscience of a man who made wrong choice will make everything happen again. Weeks is more action-oriendted, but that does not mean it is inferior. It has equal amounts of thrills as the previous one and the social commentary is still there.
3. Let the Right One In
Tomas Alfredson, 2008
Not a horror movie like others, but rather a love story involving vampires. It will forever be compared to Twilight for this (or as long as that fad lasts), although they could not be completely different. In terms of story, this is about finding a friend when no one seems willing to be one; about the consequences of being an immortal creature and the effect it takes on those that care for them, about the way society looks at outcasts. In terms of filmmaking, Alfredson has more talent than any one who has signed on for that other franchise. He, along with his team has crafted a film that relies heavily on the cinematography and the performances to establish and carry the mood of the movie. The script is brilliant, and the score is subtle but breathtaking.
2. Drag Me To Hell
Sam Raimi, 2009
Sam Raimi started his career directing horror movies, among them the Evil Dead series, which now has cult classing status. After many years, he finally returned to his roots with Drag Me to Hell, and it did not disappoint. First off, this movie is fun. It features some great visual gags, and fights that had the audience I watched it with laughing. There were also some genuine frights, among them the impressive opening scene and the unexpected ending, but since this is a Raimi movie, I should have expected it.
1. The Mist
Frank Darabont, 2007
No other studio-produced horror movie left me this shocked. Rather than being about the unspeakable horror that lie in the strange mist, this movie is about how humans react to such situations; about how religion takes hold of most people, leaving rational thinking behind. Throughout the movie we get to care for the characters, which makes the ending even more shocking. I can’t say too much without going into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that The Mist is the best horror movie of the decade, the only movie that delivers everything that a horror movie should offer.
Honorable mentions: The Others (2001), The Host (2007), Trick ‘r Treat (2009), Bug (2007).
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave your comments about the list.