Welcome to the new millennium. The decade horror came home to America. The decade horror went global. Welcome to the 80 Best Horror Movies of the 2000s.
If horror movies reflect the fears and concerns of a people, it’s notable that America claimed torture-porn as their de rigueur subgenre. Something in Saw and its ilk’s slow-roasted dismantling of human flesh appealed to a nation consumed by post-9/11 paranoia and a bombardment of wartime images and atrocity. But while torture-porn movies made a killing at the box office, none were ever particularly well-reviewed; only Hostel arrives here. Recovering from the ’90s doldrums, the best horror movies came from overseas, as digital cameras lowered the cost to film and the rise of the internet made knowledge and dissemination of these movies as simple as a mouse click. In fact, of the top 10 movies here (which includes the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Host), only two were shot in America. Other trends seen during this decade: Asian originals and occasional remakes (The Ring, Thirst), found footage (Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield), the return of the living dead (Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later), and nostalgic throwbacks (Slither, Death Proof). The only stipulation for a movie to be considered for this list was a Fresh rating from at least 20 reviews.
Time to add some scary MIDIs to your MySpace and set AIM status to away (FOREVER), because here comes the best scary 2000s movies!
Critics Consensus:Death Proof may feel somewhat minor in the context of Tarantino's larger filmography, but on its own merits, it packs just enough of a wallop to deliver sufficiently high-octane grindhouse goods.
Synopsis: Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) is a professional body double who likes to take unsuspecting women for deadly drives in his... [More]
Critics Consensus: If it falls short of the deadly satire of Bret Easton Ellis's novel, American Psycho still finds its own blend of horror and humor, thanks in part to a fittingly creepy performance by Christian Bale.
Synopsis: In New York City in 1987, a handsome, young urban professional, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), lives a second life as... [More]
Critics Consensus: With little gore and a lot of creepy visuals, The Ring gets under your skin, thanks to director Gore Verbinski's haunting sense of atmosphere and an impassioned performance from Naomi Watts.
Synopsis: It sounds like just another urban legend -- a videotape filled with nightmarish images leads to a phone call foretelling... [More]
Critics Consensus:Vampire Hunter D's gothic charms may be lost on those unfamiliar with the anime series that spawned it, but the crisp action and nightmarish style will satiate horror aficionados' bloodlust.
Synopsis: In a dark and distant future, when the undead have arisen from apocalyptic ashes, an original story unfolds. Ten thousand... [More]
Critics Consensus: George A. Romero's latest entry in his much-vaunted Dead series is not as fresh as his genre-inventing original, Night of the Living Dead. But Land of the Dead does deliver on the gore and zombies-feasting-on-flesh action.
Synopsis: In a world where zombies form the majority of the population, the remaining humans build a feudal society away from... [More]
Critics Consensus: Though its underlying themes are familiar, House of the Devil effectively sheds the loud and gory cliches of contemporary horror to deliver a tense, slowly building throwback to the fright flicks of decades past.
Synopsis: Desperate to make some money so she can move into a new apartment, college student Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) takes... [More]
Critics Consensus: Plunging viewers into the nightmarish hellscape of an apartment complex under siege, [Rec] proves that found footage can still be used as an effective delivery mechanism for sparse, economic horror.
Synopsis: A reporter (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman record the horrifying outbreak of a disease that turns humans into vicious cannibals.... [More]
Director Ari Aster unleashes Midsommar this week, his follow-up to breakout debut Hereditary, the family shocker made very much in the horror tradition of dark corners, black nights, and creeping shadows to conjure up scares. Midsommar, set in remote Sweden during a flower-dressed festival, is designed as an anomaly: A gruesome horror movie that allows all its gore and brutality to curdle in open, bright daylight. There’s no hiding away in this one, folks, inspiring us to offer up our own selection of the 11 scariest scenes where the blood shines bright as the sun.
(Photo by Fox Searchlight. All rights reserved/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Here’s a movie that turns up the heat — literally — as a space crew treks with a nuclear payload to reignite our dying sun. A monumental task for those onboard the Icarus II, but the real danger takes on a more human face when they encounter the derelict Icarus I, which disappeared on the same mission seven years earlier. Sunshine morphs into a sun-bright slasher in its third act, a contrast to the earlier somber psychological tone, but director Danny Boyle tackles the shift with zest, challenging himself to pull the knife out of shadows and into retina-searing white light.
A condemned asylum. Inside: clattering chains, disturbed wheelchairs, and crumbling wards. A group of people enter to clean up the place, some who harbor dark histories. Sound like a set up for classic dark and stormy Gothic tale? Not so with Session 9. What kind of clean up crew would work at night? Come on, this is a horror movie: Logic is king here. A slow atmospheric burn with minimal gore until its final minutes, but even when things go to hell, the blood is bathed in New England sun.
Time for a victory lap: Hop into the convertible on this bright school morning having vanquished the tormentor of fatal dreams, turn around and wave goodbye to your mom standing on the porch. Suddenly, the top slams down and the car peels down the street, as mama is sucked through the front door window. The nightmare has only just begun. The original Friday the 13th‘s Jason Voorhees made the last-second jump scare a mandatory inclusion for ’80s slashers and beyond. Freddy Krueger may have perfected it.
John Carpenter’s classic did a lot of things right. Gave us a classic creepy synth score. Destroyed suburbia’s manicured image as a stronghold of safety and comfort. And it rolled out the red carpet to let masked killer Michael Myers to wander and stalk his prey in broad daylight. The shot of Myers staring up at you from among the billowing laundry sheets hung to dry in the yard remains an iconic and violating image.
The Carter family is subjected to a litany of brutal terror over the course of 24 hours. During the initial day, they’re led off-road and their car gets mangled in the desert. The family separates in search for help. A dog gets gutted. The gas station attendant commits suicide. And always mutants are watching them from afar in the brush and rocks, leading to a long night of crucifixions, immolation, rape, murder, and baby-snatching. And then the next day, the cannibals feast on sun-cooked flesh. It’s a torturous chain of events that transforms the remaining Carters into out-for-blood hunters in a highly questionable, deeply satisfying revenge ending.
You knew director Wes Craven wasn’t fooling around when he killed off know-it-all cinebuff Randy, portrayed by Jamie Kennedy as someone as smart and cynical as the audience. How could he have fallen for the afternoon masked killer in the local news van with noisy nearby breakdancers? Oldest trick in the book! But it’s also series’ most shocking homicide outside of Drew Barrymore’s, the one that tells the oh-so-smart audience that no one was truly safe. The Arquettes, Courteney and David as Gale and Dewey, frantically search for the killer in the college square by accosting students with their new-fangled mobile phones, presenting on screen when awful taunting calls escaped the constraints of landlines and curly cords, and into a new world of free-roaming terror.
Midsommar owes a blood debt to this provincial classic: the unsettling tale of an uptight Christian cop investigating a young girl’s disappearance on an island of decadent mystic pagans has thematic and visual parallels to Aster’s film. Likewise, nearly the entire movie is set during the day among verdant nature and maypole celebrations and foreshadowing musical rhymes that seem to follow the officer everywhere he goes. It’s far too late when he realizes the true nature of his work, leading to a fiery climax in the friscalating dusk light.
Some of the best horror wedges its way into the normal, degrading the routine and humdrum into a morass of paranoia and fear. Final Destination 2 does that with the daily morning commute, because what could be more humdrum than getting in our 1,000 lb. metal husks every day, navigating them manually down the road as cars careen towards us in the opposite direction separated only by capriciously painted lines on the ground? Suddenly, something as innocent as a flatbed of loose tree logs becomes a rolling thunder revue of broken windshield, splattered heads, and Michael Bay–style auto explosions.
28 Days Later‘s famous opening features calm shots of the hero wandering an empty London metropolis depopulated by zombies — moments we would consider eerie, almost beautiful, but not scary. 28 Weeks Later takes the opposite approach. It’s set in the countryside, as a band of infected descend upon defenseless survivors. The camera is in your face, the footage choppy and frantically (but not confusingly) edited, save for a gliding crane shot as our new “hero” flees across the field and towards a waiting river boat. The fact that he just abandoned his wife to the zombies moments earlier contribute to the gut-punching bleakness of the situation. Now that we consider scary.
Like a rusty chainsaw, Tobe Hooper’s horror masterpiece takes a moment to rev up. But once it gets going, the movie is relentless, grinding down the viewer’s endurance up until the famous ending of Leatherface cutting the rising sun light in boiling anger. It’s a great final appearance, but his first introduction is even better. Hapless travelers, in search of gas for their thirsty boogie van, approach a piquant homestead, oblivious that its inhabitants are cannibal freaks who have no qualms doing their dirty deeds in daylight. Leatherface suddenly appears from out of a hallway, smashes his victim’s head in with a hammer as the body crumples and twitches on the ground, and then slides the slaughterhouse door shut. Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys!
The scene that made a generation of filmgoers terrified of open water. It’s immaculately crafted pop horror and it still works today. Steven Spielberg uses a collage of beach crowd noise and throngs of people innocently rising to disorient the viewer, telling us to be just as alert as Roy Scheider’s police chief. Spielberg famously had to use every filmmaking tool he knew to overcome critical obstacles like a malfunctioning shark, and here heightens and stylizes reality as Jaws approaches the beach. A split diopter lens shot puts an obtrusive face and a possibly drowning distant swimmer in equal focus. A dog is discovered missing. We get that terrifying first-person viewpoint as Jaws picks his victim, and the incessant John Williams theme building on the soundtrack. Then a dolly zoom as terror dawns on Schieider’s face. A geyser of blood erupts out in the ocean as pure pandemonium breaks out, and a frantic mother loses her son. It’s a powerful scene in how powerless it makes a man of law feel against a force of nature.
Bestselling author Chuck Palahniuk burst onto Hollywood’s radar when his psychological novel, Fight Club, was adapted into a major motion picture directed by David Fincher; the resulting film became every American male’s aggro-fantasy (“The first rule of fight club is, you don’t talk about fight club.”) This month, the Palahniuk touch returns to cinemas via Choke, a raunchy and delightfully vulgar adaptation of his novel about a sex addict (Sam Rockwell) who cons people using the Heimlich maneuver.
Chuck Palahniuk took time to share his Five Favorite Films with RT. The results were morbid, to say the least. In no particular order, here are Chuck’s five favorites!
Once again, we see sex and death wed like chocolate and peanut butter. Jane Fonda looks like the angel of bitter, angry suicide girls before such girls were ever born. Bruce Dern plays the psycho hillbilly we loved him playing in ‘The Big Valley’ on television. Gig Young claws his way to the bottom of the bottom-feeders, winning the Oscar just before his own real-life suicide. Here’s my favorite “date movie” of all time.
Again, everybody dies. That is such the best, most-great formula for a true masterpiece film. A classic film should leave you thinking, “How in the hell did this idea ever get financing?” The director, Brad Anderson, does more with his small budget than most movies do with huge, fat mountains of cash. The moment the credits start to roll, I want to watch the whole story over again.
Everybody ends up dead or insane-slash-arrested. Nancy Olson is dismissed to wed Jack Webb — the real off-screen horror ending. Every performance is outlandish, as big as anything on any Mexican soap opera. The dead monkey. Buster Keaton. The fun never ends. The best noir comedy, ever.
But wait, there’s more! We’ve got an exclusive clip from Choke for our RT readers, featuring Sam Rockwell as Victor and Anjelica Huston as his deranged mother, Ida.
Is America a great country? Yes. Do the soldiers who fought in WWII, the Greatest Generation, deserve our utmost praise for their sacrifices? Without a doubt. Is the truth often more complicated than the myth? Definitely. Clint Eastwood‘s latest, "Flags of Our Fathers," tells the story of that famous photo of the servicemen raising the flag atop Iwo Jima, and the trials and tribulations their celebrity caused. Critics say the film is so rich with historical information and inherent drama that it’s occasionally a little too much, but strong performances and Eastwood’s sure directorial hand keep things on track. At 69 percent on the Tomatometer, "Flags" may not reach the heights of Eastwood’s last film, "Million Dollar Baby" (92 percent), but it’s still flying pretty high. (Check out our feature on Clint’s filmography here.)
Clint Eastwood pays tribute to the Greatest Generation.
With "Memento," Christopher Nolan made a name for himself by holding his secrets close to the vest to the bitter end. Now comes "The Prestige," in which the director again serves up a brain-teaser, this time involving a pair of public manipulators in their own right. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman star as bitterly competitive magicians in turn-of- the-century London who play a deadly game of one-upmanship. While some scribes say the movie is uneven in spots, "The Prestige" is winning praise for its remarkable production design, sharp performances, and more than enough cinematic sleight-of-hand to keep audiences interested. At 68 percent, this is Nolan’s worst reviewed film, and it’s still getting its share of prestige.
"Headlines don’t sell papes. Newsies sell papes."
There is no shortage of stories involving adolescents and their beloved equine friends, from Steinbeck‘s "The Red Pony" to "The Black Stallion" to last year’s "Dreamer." Critics say "Flicka," itself a remake, is a strong and affecting entry into this sub-genre. The film stars Alison Lohman as a 16-year-old who loves her untamed horse and the freedom of the open range, and Tim McGraw as her father, a man with different ideas about her future. Some critics say "Flicka" is an old-fashioned, solid family drama with a notable lack of schmaltz, but others say the material is too well-trodden to really hit home. At 60 percent on the Tomatometer, "Flicka" ain’t Secretariat, but it’s not ready for the glue factory, either.
"Flicka": Full of horsing around!
In the song "Natural’s Not In It," the socialist British post-punk band Gang of Four sarcastically lamented "the problem of leisure / what to do for pleasure," words that are especially resonant if you’re a teenage monarch ruling a country you know little about, and your subjects are calling for your head. Sofia Coppola‘s long-awaited (and already controversial) "Marie Antoinette" tells the story of the queen (Kirsten Dunst), her inattentive husband, Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman), her gossipy, silver-tongued court, and all the empty fun she had before she gets her head chopped off. Critics say Coppola’s film offers a wealth of visual riches and makes Marie’s hardships somewhat empathetic, but they’re split over its apparent lack of substance, as well as the anachronistic use of music by the likes of New Order, the Strokes, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. At 64 percent on the Tomatometer, this is definitely a cut (pun intended) below Coppola’s last feature, "Lost in Translation" (95 percent), but it’s still a pretty tasty piece of cake.
"A new royal family / A wild nobility / We are the family."