Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The 31 Best Horror Movies of the 21st Century

Happy Halloween everyone.

I always like to write something special for Halloween on my blog every year. Simply put, its one of my very favorite times of the year, as it celebrates one of my all-time favorite genres. I find much thrill in being scared. Even if I regret it the next day, even if I am up all night and its all my fault, I love the thrill of a great scary movie. So yes, every year in October, I am talking horror movies. It's a genre that is smarter than most people give it credit for, and the things it pulls off as the years go by continually astound me.

I was thinking about making a list of the best horror movies of all time, but that seemed like a whole lot of unnecessary pandering. I mean, do you honestly need me to tell you how great films like "The Exorcist," or "Rosemary's Baby" or "Poltergeist" or "The Shining" are? No, probably not. Anyone who truly loves horror movies already know why those movies are so great. What doesn't get as much love? The horror films that have been coming out since the new millenium began. Yes, I know its early in this new century, but that doesn't mean we haven't had any great new horror films yet. So to celebrate this year, I have compiled a list of the 31 Best horror films of the 21st Century. Movies that have been released between the years 2000 to 2017 were considered.

Two films you won't find on the list? "Cabin In The Woods" and "Shaun of the Dead." I love both of those movies, fanatically so. But those are more action-horror and comedy-horror. They are not straight up horror movies. I never felt like I was going to have nightmares after viewing those two films. This is a list can hurt you if you are not careful, that is why I wrote it. These movies have the ability to provoke, they have the ability to creep you out. 

Now onto the list. As Stephen King once said, be careful. Some of them have teeth.

31. The Strangers (2008)

Not a movie I would have expected to like when I first saw the initial trailers. But “The Strangers” pulls off what many slasher films don’t, they make you care about the people being stalked by killers and it manages to create a spooky atmosphere. The house the couple is in feels creepy, we feel the emptiness of the woods around their home. Plus, have I mentioned how scary skipping records are?

30. You’re Next (2011)

If “The Strangers” was different for taking the slasher film in a new direction, then “You’re Next” deserves kudos for taking the typical slasher movie clichés and completely reinventing them. This is a movie that zigs every single time you think it’s going to zag. It’s a movie that sets up the typical clichés then slyly and cleverly turns them on their head. It’s a fascinating horror movie, with real mood and even some bitter laughs.

29. The Sacrament (2013)

Director Ti West is a mad bastard for putting a fictional yet frightening spin on the Jonestown Incident of the late 1970s. The story of Jim Jones, his cult and his “paradise” in South America is a disturbing story by itself. Dramatized in the form of Ti West only makes it more frightening, making the story hit closer to home. The film’s secret weapon though, is Gene Jones, the gas station clerk from “No Country for Old Men” who only had one scene turned out to be an incredible creepshow of an actor and he’s just one of the many elements that makes this film burn.

28. Get Out (2017)

No doubt a movie that will be reflected upon and debated for many years to come. This clever horror film not only works as something full of scares, but it also works as a brilliant social satire. I never would have guessed to mash “The Stepford Wives” with something like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” But Jordan Peele made a bold statement as a first-time director with this smart and savvy horror film.

27. Saw (2004)

To some, this represents a franchise that wore out its welcome quite a long time ago. But I have to admit, the first film in this franchise felt like a bomb going off. Jigsaw was instantly ingrained in the pantheons of great movie monsters, it kickstarted a series of horror films and it made Shawnee Smith relevant again, if only for a short time. The first “Saw” leans on some hefty atmosphere and it created some situations that truly made my skin crawl, which earned it a spot on this list.

26. Train to Busan (2016)

It’s safe to say that we have a horror market that is oversaturated by zombies. So much so that there never seems to be anything new to do with the undead brain-eaters. But last years’ “Train to Busan” put an end to that thinking really quick. Containing the terror to a train only increased the intensity of the film and it definitely created a near claustrophobic situation of a storyline, something that seems increasingly difficult as the years wear on.

25. Trick’R’ Treat (2009)

This took years and years to finally get released, and it was well worth the wait.

24. “Under the Skin” (2014)

If you told me back in say, 2012, maybe even a little before that, that Scarlet Johansson of all people would be the face of terror in 2014, I would have totally laughed in your face. But sure enough, she appears in this grim alien invasion movie. Not the type where aliens blow things up nice and big, but one where an alien comes in the form of a beautiful woman to lure men to her ship in order to shed their skin and eat their bodies. This is a strange, strange film but it’s a dark and disturbing kind of strange that gets under your skin (pun totally intended) with ease.

23. “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

I don’t think there are too many horror movies that could work in straight up black-and-white, it’s certainly not the 1930’s or the 1940’s anymore. However, there is something eerily hypnotic about this import from Iran. Not only does it make chilling use of its atmosphere and mood, but as a slight vampiric romance, it beats “Twilight” at its own game. But make no mistake, there are some creepy moments in this bundle of joy.

22. “The Others” (2001)

A horror film that you had to see a couple times to really absorb and find all the frightening moments that fill each frame. This film had a little of everything; effective ghouls, creepy children, no needless exposition, and some slick mood. The scene when Nicole Kidman asks about her daughter…yikes…gets me every time.

21. “Grave Encounters” (2001)

Not many found footage films have created something so disturbing and so disorienting to watch since, well “Blair Witch Project.” There are not that many found footage films that are scary…or really even good. But this one taps into some primal evil, some scenes that will make your skin crawl and your hair raise up on its end.

20. “Signs” (2002)

Okay, I may have lost some credibility with some of you. But I have to admit, this was the last film before M. Night Shyamalan went downhill for over a decade. There are scenes in this movie that still work to this day. The video footage at the birthday party. The alien on the roof of the farm. Boy, those scenes give me the willies. And the score by James Newton Howard could give nightmares by themselves.

19. “Starry Eyes” (2015)

Some of the best horror films ever made were movies that took dark sides of life and made stretched them to the point of insanity. This movie takes a look at the dark side of making it big in Hollywood. It’s a little “Black Swan,” a little “Mulholland Drive” mixed with some crazy cult horror. It works on a psychological level, which are my favorite kind of horror film and it is completely terrifying throughout its entire running time.

18. “Dawn of the Dead” (2004)

There are have been countless remakes of classic horror films ever since the new millennium hit. Out of all of them, I think Zak Snyder’s remake of “Dawn of the Dead” is by and large the best of them all. Snyder really taps into the mayhem and macabre of what might actually have happened if, God forbid, a zombie outbreak occurred. Romero’s old political commentary still works here, and it’s freakier than ever before.

17. “V/H/S” (2012)
16. “V/H/S 2” (2013)

Found footage films hardly ever work. Worse yet, anthology films hardly ever work. So, color me surprised when a group of seasoned horror directors came together for TWO installments of both of those things and made two films that were horrifying and good. I wish this became a mainstream success, because I would have loved to sit through one of every Halloween.

15. “Lords of Salem” (2013)

When you think of Rob Zombie, you think of movies with extreme gore, profanity on a level that makes it sound like it comes from an adolescent who just discovered bad words and characters with crazy names spouting one-liners. For some reason, Zombie abandoned his bag of tricks and made this, a delirious psychological nightmare that did a number on me the first time I saw it. I never knew Zombie was such a psychological artist, and I really wish he’d make more movies like this. This is the wheelhouse he should adopt.

14. “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001)

Guillermo Del Toro seems to excel in two things: visually lush blockbusters and visually lush horror films. When he jumps into his horror roots, he can create some unflinching, uncompromising content. This is a haunting experience from start to finish.

13. “The Witch” (2016)

Yep, you missed the boat on this one, folks. Lots of people did. But when this one gets rediscovered twenty or so years from now, and it will, it will be put on the same list as “The Exorcist,” and “The Shining” and “Rosemary’s Baby” as the classics of the genre.

12. “Sinister” (2012)

Creepy videos, scary!

11. “The Bay” (2012)

This one sticks to me. I have seen it three times and I am serious as hell when I say I can’t watch it again. What’s clever about “The Bay” is that it takes the real and exaggerates it. The monsters of this movie are real creatures, and the situation taking place in the Chesapeake Bay is a real situation, just stretched like a tall tale. A powerful blend of eco-horror and body horror, “The Bay” is fucking terrifying.

10. “The Babadook” (2014)

A stunning look at how anxiety can affect every aspect of your life, and how it can open up some rather dark wounds.

9. “Paranormal Activity” (2009)

Love that this was the franchise that finally put all of those bad “Saw” sequels to death. This is fine example that a movie can scare the hell out of you, by only using sound effects, and even the mere opening of a door. There are not too many movies like that, and this one has always been special because of it.

8. “The Conjuring” (2013)

From its eerie opening music and dialogue that immediately sets you on edge, to the last boo scare right before the credits, there was not one moment of this film that didn’t make me want to crawl out of my own skin.

7. “Insidious” (2010)

Astral projection used to sound cool to me, now I am not so sure!

6. “Let The Right One In” (2008)

Another great vampire romance that still has the ability to scare its audience and it still beats “Twilight” at its own game.

5. “Inside” (2007)

A woman coming to the home of pregnant widow, wanting the unborn baby and willing to do whatever she can to get it. It’s a pretty darn primal set up for a horror movie and it’s kind of crazy how it also works as a 9/11 allegory and still has the ability to provoke some big reactions.

4. “The Mist” (2007)

Got this one goes down strong, and it’s an ending so jet-black that it feels like a punch in the heart. The cryptic monsters are only just one half the equation, what also works is how humanity and morality literally breaks down when a group of people are together in a small space together. Honestly, it’s the humans that are scarier here than the monsters. It’s a movie that punishes its characters for losing hope, even in the darkest of situations.

3. “The Ring” (2002)

I am still flabbergasted that a major motion picture company released this. This feels like an independent film made by a fresh new face in the world of horror. The film is all mood and all atmosphere, it’s completely stark from beginning to end. It barely gives you a moment to breathe, it barely gives you a moment to relax.

2. “Anti Christ” (2009)

Lars Von Trier has always been a monster, this is his scariest nightmare. Get ready to cringe if you come across this one.

1.     1. 28 Days Later (2002)


Danny Boyle made a horrific masterpiece. Combining the realistic, grounded feel of the DV camera, to making “zombies” run fast in real time, “28 Days Later” is another look at how wrong the world can get by our devices and how startlingly terrible the end of the world would be. Creepy energy all throughout and great performances abound, “28 Days Later” is a horror fever dream, and the greatest effort of the century so far. 

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