Horror Lately

The last week or so I've been seeing a handful of lists all being written on the same subject: the best horror films of the last 15 years/2000's/21st century. Ten years or so ago, it would be difficult to imagine that so many offerings could be placed on the list. The genre wasn't really in a good place in the early to mid 2000's, but somewhere in the last 5-7 years an incredible resurgence has occurred and the genre has seen some fabulous highs. It is my intention to celebrate these new modern favorites with this list of 25 (technically there's 26, but no one needs to know about that.) Please note: I do not claim this to be a "best" list, rather a "favorite" list. Taste is subjective, and this just happens to be the horror movies that struck my fancy. Also I don't always get around to seeing some of the obscure offerings that many do, but I'll get to them. Simply put: no need to complain about such and such being left off the list. I simply don't like that movie as much as you. Since there's so many, I'll try to keep it brief. 
25. Cooties

There's been a lot of highly thought of zombie films this century: 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, Warm Bodies (okay that wasn't that highly thought of,) and World War Z (okay probably no one thought that much of that one either.) All of them probably better than this entry and none will be on this list... Cooties got horrible reviews, but it didn't stop me from enjoying it immensely. Yes the ending is a bit of a mess, but I just love the cast, concept and laughs too much to hold it against it. Please don't hate me.

24. Tie: Crimson Peak & The Visit

And odd pairing to be sure, but these two Fall 2015 entries are neither the straight horror films we expected of them. There's more going on with both and that's a good thing. Both directors of each film superbly set their moods, even if it took one of them a lot longer to get going. The twisty payoffs here are what work. 

23. What We Do in the Shadows

The first time I saw this horror comedy from Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords I thought it was hysterical. The first viewing benefits greatly from shock value, but there's enough humorous bits to help with subsequent viewings. This vampire mockumentary is all kinds of silly and clever at the same time as it examines vampire culture in a modern New Zealand. 

22. Oculus

Everyone knows the creepy power a mirror possesses that it's a little surprising there are so few horror films made trying to channel their creepy powers. The parallel storytelling of Oculus allows the audience to witness the childhood and present of two siblings interwoven together. We know they have a tragic past, but the sister of the pair is determined to get the better of it. The end is hit or miss for some, but I really enjoyed where it went. It would rank higher for me if it were just a bit scarier. 

21. Trick R' Treat 

An anthology of tales set on Halloween night make up Trick R' Treat. Unfortunately some of the stories are a LOT stronger than others. Basically Anna Paquin's storyline brings the whole thing down, and you can't help but wish that an entire film focusing the school bus myth. Moments of this film are genius and terrifying. Just wish the entire film was. Still, gotta give credit that what works, really works. 

20. Insidious

Insidious seems to be too mainstream and PG-13 to be showing up on most people's lists, and that's really unfortunate. The film is practically the modern equivalent of Poltergeist and used a fun twist on the expectation of your typical haunted house movie. The filmmakers are great at constructing a world unique to this movie, and the tension exists everywhere you go--whether you are awake or in "the further," you are never safe. Only problem is whether or not the design of some of the ghosts and demons work for you... But if you just accept the Darth Maul muppet, a lot of fun awaits.

19. Sweeney Todd.

Dark horror musicals really aren't everyone's cup of tea, but I really love this movie. It isn't exactly your typical horror movie, so i understand why I haven't been seeing it pop up on many lists. It's not scary, it's just incredibly dark. How exactly can jump scares exist when almost every line is sung? For me, it's all about the story. That and I love Tim Burton, and this is him at his best. 

18. The Final Girls  

If you love horror movies, you can't help but love the idea of what would happen if you were trapped in one. The Final Girls takes this concept and runs wild with it. The result? A stylish film with awesome cinematography, campy humor and a lot of fun. This is destined to be a cult classic and I can't help but itch for a sequel.

17. 1408 

1408 is oft forgotten, but I really enjoy it. It helps when your film is carried by the immensely likable John Cusack. The setup and story is simple and effective. The room has your typical jump scares and weird ghosts, but it also loves to mess with you psychologically....which gets you a little bit deeper. What if you were trapped in a room with your worst fears? 

16. The Others

The others does a fantastic job of setting and maintaining a creepy mood. Nicole Kidman gives a fantastic performance here as the mother of two light sensitive children. Isolated and always in the dark, anything can happen. Especially when you just hired 3 creepy servants. While The Others might be light on the scares, it features a truly tense ending and a fabulous twist.

15. Sinister 

Sinister is quite honestly one of the scariest movies (and maybe partly due to the circumstances I watched it under,) I have seen in the last five years. The murder films that Ethan Hawke finds in his house are utterly disturbing and left me constantly on edge. This would have ranked in my top down if it weren't let down by its ending. All I can say is the scene of the kids in the hall just took me out of what the movie had previously set up so well. Still, I can't deny it shook me and had to receive a spot. Sadly though if not for that scene it would have been in my top ten.

14. Let Me In 

Before you get mad that I didn't include the foreign original, I must confess I haven't seen it. But I will! I love this remake all on its own though. The cast is great and the tension is on point. All the previous entries have their flaws, but Let Me In is pretty solid.

13. Evil Dead. 

Remaking The Evil Dead was a pretty big gamble. I believe the filmmakers knew they could never top Raimi's original, so they tried to pay homage and yet make it as different in tone as they possibly could. As expected, they did not top the original... but the happy medium they settled on is great in its own right. I love the look of this film and there's thankfully a lot more to the setup. You get why the kids are more reluctant to leave. The other thing the movie has going for it is that the intensity in it is non stop. It's simultaneously relentless for both the characters and the audience. As someone who loves The Evil Dead and wants good modern horror, I was beyond satisfied with this offering.

12. TIE: The Strangers 

Sometimes the simplest and most realistic plots are the scariest. There's really not much to The Strangers, but it's the idea that this could feasibly happen to anyone is what's so unsettling here. Some people are just evil and what to do bad things to others. This is a movie all about being in the wrong place at the absolute wrong time. Anyone can relate to that which is what makes this movie so effective. 

12. TIE: Fright Night 

 I didn't intend to have two ties, but midway through writing this list I realized I left off one of my absolute favorites of the last 5 years. Fright Night is so much fun. Not a full blown horror comedy, but rather a horror film with touches of dark comedy thrown in...it hits all the right notes. It's scary when it needs to be scary and funny when it needs to be funny. It also benefits from a good cast. Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell and Toni Collette in a small supporting role are all solid. This remake is probably one of my favorite takes on Vampires since The Lost Boys. 

11. The Babadook

 There is pretty much beauty in every shot in The Babadook. Both the cinematography and editing are as perfect as can be. But the film doesn't just look great, it also features an incredible performance from lead Essie Davis and a chilling story that works on many levels. On the surface the horror is about a children's book with a sinister character, but underneath lies a wonderful story about dealing with grief. The ending might leave some underwhelmed, but in the sense of the bigger picture it's the only ending that would work. 

10.  Shaun of the Dead

You'll see how much I gravitate to horror comedies when you see the rest of my list. Shaun of the Dead is clever and witty, but it doesn't pull any punches when it comes to being a zombie flick. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are wonderful as two best friends dealing with an untimely zombie apocalypse (but really? Is there ever a timely one?) The dialogue here is terrific and it's really a film that holds up to multiple viewings.

9. Saw

While a lot of stupid sequels may have tarnished its legacy, the first film of this series is really well done. Watching it this Halloween season it really scratched me where I itch while other hyped films had been huge letdowns. The concept is truly terrifying of a sadistic killer who makes his victims kill each other to prove they deserve what he sees as the privilege to living your life. You'd think two guys alone in a room, chained to opposite ends for a film's entire runtime would be dull. But the constant flashbacks keeps you in a state of discovery. More than anything, Saw is a whodunnit mystery of sorts and very well done. 

8. The Witch.

This probably shouldn't qualify as it hasn't seen wide release yet, but seeing it at Sundance earlier this year blew me away. The atmosphere of this puritan period tale is dark an moody. It's an unsettling slow burn that by the end, features some of the most horrific imagery I've seen out of a horror film. 

7. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil takes a cliched familiar horror premise and turns it on its head....with hilarious results. This film is so clever in the way it unfolds to keep the misunderstanding constantly getting worse and more comical. Everyone here is having fun and it's pretty hard for the audience not to join in.

6. Zombieland

 I know this is sacrilege to many people that I rated this higher than Shaun of the Dead, but I just slightly prefer the mayhem that Zombieland provides. I love the characters, I love the dialogue, I love the rules and I love that it features one of the greatest cameos of all time. Zombieland is an adrenalin rush that the first time I saw it, I immediately wanted to (and did) watch it again. It never gets old. 

5. The Cabin in the Woods 

The Cabin in the Woods is basically a love letter to the genre and if you're a horror fan, this film is basically tailor made to you. It's so smart in both paying homage and taking apart all the horror tropes we've come to expect. The greatest thing about it is the underlying meaning to it all that when it comes down to it, it's all about the audience and what they expect to see from the horror genre. 

4. The Conjuring.

 Atmospherically speaking, The Conjuring is one of the finest horror films to come along in a long time. It feels like an ode to the classic haunted house stories told all throughout cinema's history and takes all of those greats and condenses them into one film. The Conjuring gives us two protagonists that for a horror film are exactly what's needed. You believe they are capable and we're happy to be in their hands. Especially during the chilling final act. 

3. Drag Me To Hell. 

This movie. This movie!!! It grabs your attention and holds it hostage in its outrageousness for its entire runtime. From the garage scene on I was hooked. It's such a bizarre horror comedy that I just can't help but respect it. This might just be the movie that got me really obsessed with the genre within the last 6 years. It's certainly not a movie for everyone, but if you're in the joke this movie is just absolutely incredible. I love it more than words can say.

2. The Descent

 This movie is so freaking terrifying. I watched this last Halloween season and found myself clutching my best friend through almost the entirety of it. This movie is nonstop, and near the end...it just becomes something else entirely. The less said about it, the better...but this movie is almost as scary as they come. 

1. The Ring.

Maybe it was the fact that the time in my life that I had seen this I hadn't dabbled very deep into this genre, but this film affected me probably the most of any horror movie I can remember. For months I was worried about having nightmares. It'll never be as scary as the first time you've seen it, but it still really holds up every time I've watched it over the last 13 years. The videotape itself is disturbing, and the mystery in solving it is great. Sometimes a horror movie is only as good as its story, and I just love the story beneath The Ring's surface. Too bad the sequel was so disappointing, but this will always remain one of my favorite horror movie experiences and the only movie to haunt me for months. If we're going by effective, this one really got to me and I still can't help but adore it. 

The end. I hope you enjoyed it, even if you felt something was missing or that my choices weren't your favorite. I'd like to add that I retain the right to altar this list at any time to add something I haven't seen yet. Or that have yet to be released (cough Krampus cough)


Sarah said...

Now that you have watched all of these horror movies, what are you going to watch now that November 1st has rolled around and the Halloween season is past? :)

The Former 786 said...

Wait, did you say that Insidious "is practically the modern equivalent of Insidious"? That confuses me more than the netherworld does.
This is a very good list, Emily. I obviously would have ranked Shaun of the Dead much. much higher, but I approve of most of your other rankings. And there are a few on here that I need to add to my list.

Johanna said...

I could barely look at the pictures.