It’s October, and seeing as how this is the month for Horror movie marathons on TV and theatrical releases, I thought I’d put together a list of some of my favorites from the past decade. I’ve been a Horror movie buff for years now, though that wasn’t always the case. In the 80’s and early 90’s I was mostly into Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Comedy. As I remember it, when Horror movies were being played I was running out of the room, too scared to watch. That changed as I came into adulthood, and I point to my fascination with Zombies as the catalyst. I have since gone back and collected many of the greats, although there were some series from the 70’s and 80’s that I don’t feel stand the test of time, and also felt pretty pointless after so many iterations. Horror has seen some pretty terrible releases over the years, and many a B-movie has been made in the name of shock and gore. The movies contained in this list have those elements, sure, but I’m focusing on the movies that stuck with me as having the ability to evoke conversation (and conversations have been had about all of these titles). With that said, here are some of my favorite Horror movies from the past decade, in chronological order:
1. Saw (2004)
Saw came out during a time when I wasn’t watching as many movies as I would have liked. I ended up borrowing it from a friend and was amazed by it. Not only does it channel the serial killer motif ala Seven or newer films like Zodiac, but it also goes for the shock value of gore. It’s rather toned down compared to its sequels though, and focuses more on the psychological horror of being drugged and waking up in an unknown locale, chained to plumbing. The backstory helps create an enthralling tale, and this series managed to do something that other series (Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, etc.) failed to do: maintain continuity. The entirety of the seven movies are one storyline, and parts that might not make sense in one movie are later explained in others. They did turn to upping the ante with more gore in later installments, but it was the underlying story that really hooked me.
Secret Window is based on the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden by Stephen King. King is one of the best authors when it comes to Horror, so this movie earns a spot on this list, though it would probably fall under the Thriller or Suspense tags. It seems like a rather tame film with very minimal twists and turns until the end. But when the shit starts to hit the fan, it’s simply brilliant. I didn’t see the twist coming, and as such it’s one of those movies that begs to be watched more than once. Johnny Depp is a fantastic actor, so you know he nails the part. I can’t say much else without ruining it, so watch it if you get a chance.
The “Found Footage” subgenre has gone through it’s paces over the years, with most of us being able to recall The Blair Witch Project as one of the first (though it isn’t the absolute first). I don’t remember BWP being overly great, but it has been a long time since I watched it. I also know that the technique has been used time and again, and has been panned by critics more often than not. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying movies like Paranormal Activity, as even though I know that they’re Hollywood productions, it gives them a more realistic feel. That layer alone makes me enjoy them more, even when movies like Cloverfield and the aforementioned BWP have a lot of shaky camera bits that can be annoying. The “Haunting” subgenre that has been ever-present for many years has also been overdone, but this mixes the two in a fashion that I found acceptable. The events of the movie (and the following sequels) form a story about a normal family that is dealing with other-worldly powers, and each tends to end on a sour note. I’m a fan of movies that don’t take the happy ending approach, so this is a welcome change. I’ve enjoyed the sequels thus far, but it does feel like they are starting to reach a bit, so hopefully they close it out soon.
Another movie based on a novella by Stephen King, The Mist is an awesome flick. It starts off normal enough, but by the middle of the movie you’re simply thinking “WTF is going on?” A mysterious mist envelopes a town in Maine (go figure) and weird creatures start appearing out of nowhere. A bunch of civilians, including the main character and his son take shelter in a local supermarket, and the human struggle takes place on a small scale. Not only are survivors pit against whatever is lurking in the mist, but they also fight amongst themselves, which feels very much like the reality of a catastrophic event. The ending is where the true horror lies, but you’ll have to watch it to find out.
This movie is actually a remake of a film made in Spain called [REC]. I have not seen the original so I can’t comment on differences, though I’m sure the Internet could help you with that if you’re interested. I missed the film when it released, and didn’t catch it until later, and boy I was taken back by it. The story follows a news reporter and her cameraman (your point of view throughout most of the movie) while they go on a routine call with the local fire department. Once inside the building where the call originated from, they are trapped inside, and strange things start to happen with the residents. I find that it felt like a zombie movie, but not in the traditional sense. Rabies anyone?
This movie sees Sam Raimi’s return to horror for the first time since The Evil Dead (and no I’m not talking about the recent shitty remake). In between he did the first Spider-Man trilogy, which we will spare judgement on. Drag Me to Hell focuses on a young woman trying to get ahead at her job who turns away an old woman asking for help, who turns out to be a demon. From there, the demon is trying to take her soul to hell, hence the title. There are a lot of genuine horror bits but then some touches of comedy that Raimi is known for (if you reference the cult classic ED films). This one didn’t have a huge impact or the jump scares, but is overall a solid horror title.
Insidious is another supernatural entity horror flick, but it was really well done. I typically prefer the psychological scares where there is less visual stimulation (gore, bizzare happenings) and more the director getting inside your head, making you scare yourself. This movie has a lot of that. It follows a family where a boy injures himself and falls into a coma, and is subsequently possessed. The family brings him home eventually and thinks that the house is haunted, when it’s actually the son. There’s more to it than just that, but you’ll have to watch it for yourself. There’s been a sequel that continued the storyline in interesting ways, and a third movie is in the works.
Grave Encounters is another Found Footage horror film, but it combines the stationary camera effect of Paranormal Activity and the handheld camera technique found in Quarantine. The beginning of the movie starts out with an editor saying that the footage was found and he pieced it together. They attempt to make the footage seem real, and for the most part it looks like it could be. The story revolves around a group of ghost hunters who are basically going through the motions for their paychecks, not really seeing anything supernatural, until that is, they come to spend the night in this abandoned asylum. From there things deteriorate in typical horror movie fashion, but for whatever reason this film really got to me. I loved it. The sequel wasn’t as good but still had some parts I really enjoyed. Both of these were on Netflix recently, so look for it there.
This film tripped me out when I first watched it. I didn’t know what to expect, I went into it completely blind. I was pleasantly surprised. The premise is that a group of miscreants were hired to break into a house and steal a VHS tape. That’s really it when it comes to story. When they get in the house, they find a dead guy, a TV and a shitload of tapes. One guy goes off to look around the house, another starts watching a tape. From there, you are watching various tapes that the characters would be watching, and they are off the wall. It reminds me of Creepshow with a different presentation: a bunch of short stories with varying content. The very first tale hooked me, and from there it was just some crazy shit. It’s the oddest horror movie I think I ever watched, but I loved it. The sequel wasn’t quite as good, but followed a similar formula. Both were on Netflix last time I checked.
This one took me by surprise. The title alone makes you think it’s the typical “let’s go on vacation in the woods and some spooky shit is going to happen killing all but maybe one of us” Evil Dead ripoff. It is far from that. I mean, yes it starts off that way, but it quickly evolves into something entirely different. The horror bits are pretty lame to begin with, but the overall conspiracy and scope of the underlying story is ridiculous. Let’s just say that it gets better with time. I highly recommend it.
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