Back in January I wrote a piece on the 25 best horror movies of 2000-2009, to show that despite the howlings of the internet, this was an incredible decade for horror movies. Well, now I've gone and picked 13 movies to further prove my point.
13. House of 1,000 Corpses (2003). Technically, the film was shot starting in 1999, but it stretched into the 2000's and the release was held off until 2003 because Universal was appalled by everything Rob Zombie shot. And when I first saw this movie, I had no idea what I was looking at. Now, however, that's one of my favorite things about it. This is a manic, in-your-face and repeatedly startling movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It truly kicked off the decade for genre film making and influenced many (or most) of the independent horror that came after it.
12. 30 Days of Night (2007). This film, based on a graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, should get credit for the brilliance of the concept alone. In Barrow, Alaska, where the sun disappears for 30 days, vampires have declared a new feeding ground. A small group of survivors band together, their only hope to last through the month alive. It's a tense film, and the vampires are savage and scary. They're not romantic, they're sharks. These monsters are so separated from humanity that they don't even speak our language, they made their own. It is, then, completely baffling that director David Slade went on to help The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
11. Diary of the Dead (2008). This is going to be the most controversial pick, and I'm not even sure why. Yes, I preferred this small indie to Romero's hugely anticipated return to zombies, Land of the Dead. This movie had a much smaller budget than Land, and I actually found that a good thing. It went back to what made Night of the Living Dead so good and it gave the concept a proper modern update. The first-person style has become its own genre, and of that genre, Diary of the Dead is one of the best. It's a harsh study of how detached someone can become from a worldwide crisis when all they do is record it.
10. Drag Me to Hell (2009). And here we have another and much more widely loved return of one of the masters, in this case Sam Raimi. After the now-classic Evil Dead trilogy, Raimi sort of disappeared from horror, going on to direct For Love of the Game and The Quick and the Dead, and then struck box-office gold with the Spider-Man trilogy. And then in 2009 he returned to horror with this flick that shows he can still capture the manic off-balance of horror and comedy of Evil Dead II and bring in his developed sense of character. And it also proved that PG-13 horror doesn't have to suck.
09. Zombieland (2009). What at first glance appeared to be America's answer to Shaun of the Dead, is a very character driven piece about found family that only happens to be about zombies and only happens to be hilarious. The entire cast owns this film, but of course Woody Harrelson's Tallahassee stands out (in Zombieland, your name only appears to be where you're going) and on top of all that, this film features one of the best cameos of all time in the form of Bill Murray.
08. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005). Here is another film, more than any other on the list, that relies on character more than scares. It is part supernatural exorcism tale and part courtroom drama and it leaves much to the audience to decide for themselves, including whether or not Emily is actually possessed. Tom Wilkinson and Laura Linney are excellent as always, but Jennifer Carpenter steals the show as the title character. Another fun fact, when she's (possibly) possessed, there's no makeup. That's all the actress, and scenes like that alone make it worth a look.
07. 28 Weeks Later (2007). Following up the best horror movie of the decade in the same decade is not an easy task. But this sequel does the smart thing by putting enough distance between it and its predecessor that it can move the story into fresh territory. There's a new group of survivors, and the film itself is all about rebuilding. Both rebuilding a family and rebuilding London as a whole. It's about putting rules back in place and trying to regain control and what to do when that all falls apart. There are incredibly tense moments, especially for Jeremy Renner's sniper, and it's no wonder he's gone on to become as big as he has. Also, the opening scene is the best opening scene of any movie in any genre this decade.
06. Bubba Ho-Tep (2004). What can I even say? This movie is already a goddamn cult-classic, thanks in no small part to star Bruce Campbell and director Don Coscarelli, who both know a thing or two about cult classics. Anyway, the plot. Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell under a significant amount of old age makeup) faked his death and became an Elvis impersonator and is now in a retirement home debating whether or not he has cancer on his penis and trying to convince the nurses that he's actually Elvis. His only friend is an old black man who claims to be John F. Kennedy. After many unexpected deaths at the retirement home (exactly) they realize a cowboy-mummy is responsible, that it has been sucking souls right out of the asses of the elderly and there is nothing you can say to that plot. Yet somehow, at times the film can be downright emotional. How are you not watching this yet?
05. Shaun of the Dead (2004). But even topping that, we land at the horror-comedy of the decade. Who hasn't seen this film by now, seriously? And if you have, you know exactly why it works. This is a romantic comedy with zombies. It stands out for its genuine, sincere heart even though dead people are eating the living people. Simon Pegg was boosted to stardom after this and hopefully Nick Frost is on his way there too.
04. Grace (2009). Grace is about a woman who, after her baby dies while in the womb, refuses to believe it is gone and decides to carry the corpse to term. What surprises everyone but her is that the the dead baby is alive when it is delivered. And the more blood she feeds to it, the more alive and happy the infant seems to be. Grace is a damned chilling tale of the bond between mother and child.
03. Grindhouse (2007). Technically, this is two movies, and if you go buy or rent them now, you will see them as Planet Terror and Death Proof, which they are. But damn it, that's the point. And not the point at the same time. These films, directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino respectively, were released in theaters as Grindhouse, promising a return to 70's exploitation cinema because that's all either of them directs anyway. But it was also a return to double-features, and while one of the best cinema-going experiences you could ever have, it only proved through its box-office that modern audiences just don't have the attention span to sit through two fantastic movies and doubly fantastic fake trailers. Even though one of those fake trailers did become a movie.
02. The Strangers (2008). Yeah, this is pretty much the scariest home invasion movie ever made. There's almost no blood and just about nobody dies and the film is still terrifying. In a very un-cliche turn, things are very tense between the two leads before anything scary starts to happen. And when the scary comes, it comes. The Strangers themselves are unrelenting in their torment and deliver the scariest, simplest motivation a movie maniac could ever have. When they are confronted as to why they are making this attack, one of the strangers answers simply, "because you were home."
01. Session 9 (2001). One of the most haunting and fantastic psychological thrillers of all time. An asbestos crew is brought in to clear out an abandoned mental hospital and make the ridiculous suggestion that they can do it in one week, so now they have to bust their asses. They all seem like friends, but as they succumb to the haunting place, it's clear that each of them has their personal demons. Meanwhile, one of the crew has stumbled onto some old recordings of a female patient from decades ago, her multiple personalities and what exactly she did to get here. And who exactly is Simon? While the group breaks apart, he goes through the sessions day-by-day until he reaches session 9. The film takes the cake because it's haunting, it's terrifying, it can be disturbing, but overall, it's completely brilliant.