Thursday, January 13, 2011

The 25 Greatest Horror Movies of 2000-2009 (Part 2)

Continuing on. Obviously, read the first part first.

13. Trick 'R Treat (2009)

This film is really, really great. And fun. And the best movie about Halloween since, well, Halloween. A pretty major cast, all of whom does a good job, great script from the writer of X-Men 2, and great direction. Also, it brings anthology horror movies back in a big way and does things with time like I've never seen before. On top of that, little Sam is just too damn adorable. And frightening.

12. Dread (2009)

Another movie based on a Clive Barker short story. Much more small-scale than Midnight Meat Train, which really suits the movie. It's not just gritty... this film is very intimate. It's personal. And that's exactly what the story is about, exposing people's deepest dread. In a movie like this, the characters have to be very complex to see them broken, as they do get. And they are. All the major points of Barker's story are there, and this is just as unnerving.

11. The Devil's Backbone (2001)

Okay. Pretty much everyone is in love with Guillermo del Toro now and every movie he even thinks of making. But listen, honey. He was mine first. I saw this ghost story (which, like Pan's Labyrinth, is set during the Spanish Civil War) before his Hellboy was even a thing. It remains one of the flat-out scariest movies I have ever seen. And it manages to scare equally on both the supernatural and realistic level, which I've rarely seen done.

10. Hard Candy (2007).

Like Dread, this is a very intimate film... only, intimate in the sense that the entire movie is basically a dialogue between two characters. A very traumatized girl and the (possible) sex-offender who invited her over to his house, without so much as an Ackbar to shout "It's a trap!" to either of them. And even though we know throughout the movie that this girl is in the right, she terrifies us. That's only a small part of what makes the movie incredible.

09. Martyrs (2009). And the award for "most disturbing film of the decade" goes to... but seriously. It's all kinds of fucked up. The film deals with people who want to study the afterlife by examing (and by examining I mean orchestrating) the deaths of young teenage girls to try and record what they see as they die. In addition, the one girl that got away brutally murders an entire family at their breakfast table because one of them probably had something to do with what happened to her. Even though she's right... holy shit.

08. The Descent (2006).

Remember Dog Soldiers, and it's director, Neil Marshall? Remember how I said he got even better? This is that better. In this one, he works with an all-female cast (directly opposed to the all-male cast of Dog Soldiers) and focuses on a woman coming back from the brink of losing her husband and child on a cave-diving trip with her friends. There are things in that cave. Things that eat. From there, the title comes through on multiple levels. The American theatrical release bastardized the hopeless ending, and that bastardization sadly led to an even more monumentous bastardization of a sequel.

07. May (2002)

Talk about an original film. May is the debut of the terrific Lucky McKee (as far as I know, totally his real name) and Angela Bettis, who has already gone on to become a genre star. May is a girl who is a little weird, and all she wants is a friend. As her mother always said, if you can't find a friend, make one. So she does, taking all the best parts from the best people she knows. Grotesque and funny where it shouldn't be.

06. The Devil's Rejects (2005).

Rob Zombie's House of 1,000 Corpses really set the standard for movies in this decade, and almost made the list... but the sequel is just so much fucking better. In the first one, the sick and twisted Firefly family torture and kill a group of students making a documentary on roadside attractions. It's a very Texas Chainsaw style movie, and that's the intent. In the sequel, all of a sudden the monsters become the protagonists. They're on the run for their crimes and we're all, "oh no! Run, Captain Spaulding!" even though they all totally, totally deserve to die.

05. Let the Right One In (2008).

This Swedish film is a really beautiful study of a boy who wants to kill the bullies that are mean to him, and the little girl who tells him it's okay, and she can show him how. She (?) is a vampire, and he may not know it, being eleven, but he is a killer. Together, they're still really cute. Very quiet, almost peaceful-feeling movie, even though it's terribly violent and unnerving. There's still something beautiful about it. I still have yet to see the American remake, but I hear good things.

04. High Tension (2004).

And the French strike again, this time leaving a nice, scarring impact. Two friends are on a trip, staying at one's house. A maniac comes, kills the whole family in minutes, and kidnaps one of the girls. All of a sudden, it's all on the other girl to track him down. The film is great retro-exploitation all the way to the shocking ending, where it's revealed what the film is really about, which makes it that much better.

03. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2007).

I've put up a full review of this on the blog before. So I'll just say that this tongue-in-cheek movie is an incredible breakdown of the slasher film. It does everything Scream attempted, and does it even better. It's funny and really unsettling, in all the right places. The script, acting, documentary-style and direction are all spot on in a pretty much near perfect film.

02. Funny Games (2007).

Funny Games takes this spot for being where many of the other films on this list were, and taking the extra step. Going just a little further. Not in terms of violence, per se, but in terms of horror. The entire film is a descent. It goes further and further into darkness for this family, terrorized by two yuppy teenagers who look like a couple of pricks, but otherwise completely harmless. It literally gets worse for the family with each passing second, and while it FEELS like it's very hard to watch... well, you're still not looking away.

01. 28 Days Later (2002).

Think about how many times you've heard about zombies this week. Alright. Think about how many times you've heard about zombies today. You may not think that's a big deal, but if you were in the '90's, you may remember that zombies weren't. They took to comedy in the late 80's and totally fizzled out... until this British horror from director Danny Boyle changed everything. Now, the people in this film are infected by rage and are not true zombies, but it's the same genre, and this movie singlehandedly revived that genre in a big way. It harkens back to the best days of Romero in that this movie is not just about the infected cannibals, or even survival in a post-apocalyptic world. It is, in particular, about the survival of the human spirit. About keeping your humanity when everyone around you has lost theirs. It succeeds admirably as the best horror movie of the decade.

Honorable mentions: 28 Weeks Later, House of 1,000 Corpses, Jenifer, Bubba-HoTep, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland. And a lot of others. It was a damn good decade, and I can only hope this decade will hold a candle.

The 25 Greatest Horror Movies of 2000-2009 (Part 1)

Well, it's been awhile off, but here I am again with one of the hardest lists I've ever had to come up with for this thing. There's a bit of backstory here too. This list was spawned when I overheard people talking about how they hoped horror movies would be better in this next decade, because this previous one was terrible and we got nothing but remakes. There was no originality anymore, they said. I'm sure you've heard it all before. So here I am to prove them (and frankly the majority of the internet) wrong. I believe this previous decade was horror's best since the 1970's and I'm here to tell you why. I wanna show you that not only were there some damn original horror flicks, but some amongst them were some of the most original of all time. So here we go.

25. Hatchet (2006)

This movie certainly had its flaws, but it was fun. And that was really all it tried to be. It advertised as a fun, throwback slasher romp (including an impressive cast of genre stars like Robert Englund, Kane Hodder and Tony Todd) to bring a little of that old-fashioned 80's slasher feel back to screens. And it did exactly that. Good humor, grotesque and gratuitous violence, and Victor Crowley is nice contender for a new horror icon. Can't wait to check out Hatchet II (starring Danielle Harris) when it finally hits DVD/Blu-Ray.

24. Saw (2004)

Okay, you all knew this had to be on here somewhere. In fact, I'm guessing a lot of people thought it would even be in the top spot. If this was a list of the most successful horror movies of the decade, it would no doubt take the cake. But most of the movies on this list are very small, independent pictures that flew under the radar, and this movie serves as a good explanation as to why. None of the other movies got the exposure Saw did to spawn six sequels. I'm sure they would have if they were put in the same situation. But very few of those movies needed a sequel, and that includes this one. It just suffered from overexposure. Nonetheless, this is a great psychological horror if left to its own merit.

23. Dog Soldiers (2002)

A Scottish movie about troops on a routine training exercise who run into a pack of werewolves. The plot is simple, but the film is superbly done, especially for a debut and a film as small as this one. Neil Marshall has gone on to prove himself again and again as a director (as you'll see later on in this list) and this exciting, fast-paced, and brutal film remains one of the best werewolf movies in a very long time.

22. The House of the Devil (2009)

The decade seemed filled with movies trying to recapture the feel of older horror films, mostly following on the heels of Rob Zombie's House of 1,000 Corpses. But whereas those films tried... this one succeeded. Completely. Shot on '80's cameras, scored with '80's synthesizers. Even reused a couple of 80's actors. The tone and the script nailed an early 80's thriller, and the special edition DVD case was even designed to look like an old VHS box. If you flipped by this movie on the TV you would have no idea it wasn't made in 1985. It's the first time I've felt nostalgia watching something completley new. All that, and it's pretty spooky to boot.

21. The Mist (2007)

Frank Darabont scored big with his two previous Stephen King adaptions (Shawshank Redemption and the Green Mile) but The Mist was his first attempt at adapting some of King's actual horror and by God he pulled it off. This is a very tense, very scary film made all the more scary by the shockingly realistic characters. Overall, the film about a group of people locked in a store fighting off legions of unkown beings is very faithful to King's novella, save for the dismal ending, which even the King himself admitted was better.

20. Ginger Snaps (2000)

Another werewolf movie, and it couldn't be more different than Dog Soldiers. Ginger and Bridgitte are two young sisters, teenagers who are fascinated with death and want nothing to do with any of the other kids. Blossoming isn't even in their vocabulary. So enter the werewolf, which in this film is a thinly-veiled yet brilliant metaphor for a girl's, er, coming of age. The tagline even reads "They don't call it the curse for nothing..." Both of the girls do a remarkable job of acting, Katharine Isabelle as the transforming Ginger, and Emily Perkins as the quiet Bridgitte. Followed by a good sequel and... odd prequel.

19. The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

In stark contrast to Saw, this movie--based on a short story by Clive Barker--was criminally underexposed. It was pulled days before its theatrical release because the name sounded like a porn. Instead of changing or telling people to grow the fuck up, the movie was pulled from release altogether and slapped onto DVD. Which is really too bad, because this is a brooding, psychological, very brutal and well-acted film that absolutely deserved to be seen.

18. The Girl Next Door (2007)

Based on the equally heartbreaking novel by Jack Ketchum, The Girl Next Door is a fictionalized account of one of the worst crimes in American history. One one level, it is the account of a girl who was so brutalized and tortured by her aunt (who in turn, let all the neighborhood kids torture her as well) that she eventually died. On another level, it is a study of '50's culture, how people could turn a blind eye to anything, and how children will literally do anything with an adult's permission. Deeply unsettling. Another film made at the same time, An American Crime, is based more on what actually happened, but does not go as far in showing the horror.

17. Wolf Creek (2005)

Australia is a really scary place. It's not just enough that every animal is designed to kill you, but, well... then there's Mick. While it starts off feeling like an Australian version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this quickly turns into a very unconventional film with a really scary bad guy, played brilliantly by John Jarrat. I liked the film from the beginning, but it won me over when Jarrat repeated the infamous line "you call that a knife? THIS is a knife" with a terrible new meaning.

16. Teeth (2008)

Remember how I said some of these movies were among the most original ever? Well, here she is, folks. This tongue-in-cheek feminist study of a horror film depicts a girl who--as she burgeons into womanhood, discovers she has teeth in her vagina. During her first sexual encounter, it saves her from rape. And then again. And again. With every other man she meets, who also tries to rape her, until the wonderfully vomit-inducing...uh... climax of the movie where she uses it as a tool. Or possibly a superpower.

15. Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

And again with the originality. And brilliance. And song and dance and blood and guts. Really, Repo is the story of the distance between a father and daughter, the family dynamic, and how secrets can destroy each other's lives. More than that, it's about how far people will go to be considered beautiful, inside and outside. Also, this girl's father repossesses people's designer internal organs. So that destroys lives too. Oh, and it's a gothic rock opera. And Paris Hilton's face falls off.

14. Paranormal Activity (2009)

This film is on the list for a couple of reasons. It's effectively, pants-shittingly scary, for one. Two, it does everything that The Blair Witch Project set out to do (and completely failed at doing) and does it right. But the winning thing about this movie is that it was made for literally nothing. Most syfy channel original movies have three times the budget of this movie. But it took what it had and used it like I have just never seen before. I don't know what the hell the ending means in either version of this, but I did scream like a little girl.