With Insidious opening recently (April 1, 2011), I think it might be time to take a bit of a horror inventory. Sure, Insidious might be getting fine reviews, and in this age of shoot and print films it’s a welcome reprieve. But, lets pay homage to the films that allowed this young blood to shed its ominous shadows upon our ghostly gourds. Here it is… the top seven horror films of the past decade. Turn on your Netflix, run to your nearest video store, or illegally download (not recommended) some of these cinematic creepies… just don’t blame me if you have to sleep with the lights on.
7.) Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
Premise: A quiet and studious church-girl goes away to college and meets that one guy her mother always warned her about: Satan!
Why I chose it: Besides the fact that it’s based on a true story and Satan stalks just about, um, everyone in the film? This one actually gave me trouble sleeping. Best exorcism film since, well…The Exorcist.
Co-signer, Richard Roeper (Ebert and Roeper): “Very scary stuff. “
6.) Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Premise: A group of zombie holocaust survivors find solace in a rather large shopping mall where they proceed to live the American Dream. That is until the zombies find out there’s a sale at Macy’s on Jesus slippers.
Why I chose it: Remaking George Romero’s horror classic is risky business but this one stands the test of time five years later (which is important for a horror film because very few actually do). Zack Snyder’s (300 and Watchmen) slick direction coupled with a built-in can’t miss concept makes for a good ol’ gory screamfest.
Co-signer, John Monaghan (Detroit Free Press): “Scarier, funnier and more entertaining than it has a right to be.”
5.) Bug (2006)
Premise: An unhinged woman begins a strange relationship with a man who enters a descent of madness that includes an imaginary infestation (or is it?) of insects and government conspirators.
Why I chose it: Based on an off-Broadway play, this film, directed by The Exorcist helmer William Friedkin, is basically about two people going crazy inside of a motel room. Expect a lot of self-mutilation and hyper-paranoid visuals; this is the kind of film that makes you feel crazy after watching it. Oh yea, and Ashley Judd is up to her usual MILF-y antics.
Co-signer, Colin Covert (Minneapolis Star Tribune): “A film of excruciating intensity, a psychodrama that infects the imagination.”
4.) Midnight Meat Train (2008)
Premise: A photographer’s quest to capture the “essence” of New York City nightlife leads him to a peculiar train whose most frequent passenger is a mallet wielding madman with a knack for making mince meat out of the paying public.
Why I chose it: This is the sleeper film on my list. The cinematography is about as good as it gets for a direct to DVD horror flick, or for that matter, any horror film that has been released in the last five years (the same cinematographer was used on Max Payne). The story, which is based on a Clive Barker tale, is fantastically drawn out, the arc building from noir to pure horror seamlessly. Also, be on the lookout for a surprising Quentin “Rampage” Jackson cameo and an up and coming Bradley Cooper.
Cosigner, Kurt Loder (MTV): Japanese cult director Ryuhei Kitamura maintains impressive control of the story, ratcheting up tension toward well-prepared and startling bursts of terror.
3.) Let the Right One In (2008)
Premise: You know, it’s the same ol’ boy meets girl, girl reveals thirst for blood, girl shows scar where her vagina should be type of story you’ve seen a million times.
Why I chose it: I hate to echo the sentiments of every critic that has reviewed this film, but sometimes conformity is best served with a slice of humble pie: this film is outstanding. Possessing the most beautiful cinematography on this list, see it even though Hollywood has cut up its own version.
Co-signer, Wesley Morris (Boston Globe): “The beauty of Let the Right One In resides in the way the horror remains grounded in a tragic kind of love.”
2.) 28 Days Later (2002)
Premise: We see the zombie apocalypse through the eyes of a schmo who just woke up out of a London hospital to find the city vacant.
Why I chose it: This film effectively (but maybe not for good) revitalized the zombie genre and for good reason: it was made by one of the finest filmmakers on the planet, Mr. Danny Boyle. Although he and Alex Garland (writer and frequent collaborator) decided on making their creatures of the running sort, this film is an exercise in the art of fear inducement.
Co-signer, Claudia Puig (USA Today): “An edge-of-your-seat scary movie that startles and chills.”
1.) High Tension (2003)
Premise: Two girlfriends take a weekend getaway to one lass’s secluded family home. Cue homoeroticism, a masturbation scene, and the most brutal killer on film since Argento was Argento.
Why I chose it: Many people will cite the ending as flawed and reason to exclude this film from the list much less make it the best of the past decade. To them I say this: show me a horror film with a more shocking home invasion scene in the past ten years (or perhaps ever for that matter). Show me a horror film in the past ten years that has had the guts to be not only shocking, but also well-acted, well shot, and tightly (albeit simply) scripted. This is true horror, people; no longhaired Japanese ghosts and wily demons running amuck. Don’t believe me still? Ask Wes Craven, who saw this film then promptly asked Alexander Aja to remake his beloved The Hills Have Eyes.
Co-signer, Robert K. Elder (Chicago Tribune): “Works like a filmic jigsaw puzzle, one that ultimately inverts the genre, and powered by a bloody confection of violence and girls running around in sweat-caked T-shirts.”
You Disagree? Well, that’s what the comments section is for people….