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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Top 10 Horror Movies of the Last 10 Years



Hi there, fellow Halloweeners!  With the horrific holiday right around the corner, we thought this would be a great time to run down what we think are the best ten horror movies of the last ten years, i.e. from 2003-2013.  There were a lot of great ones, running the gamut from zombie to haunted house, horror-comedy to torture porn, but you can be sure to have a great movie watching experience with any of the movies we've picked.  Prepare for a marathon of the macabre!
So, here's the rundown, in no particular order:



Drag Me to Hell

The past decade has been ripe with a number of directors putting their own spin on classic horror franchises.  A commonly cited inspiration for many of these directors was the original Evil Dead trilogy, a series which put then unknown director Sam Raimi on the map.  In 2009, after almost a decade of making Spider-man films, Raimi returned to the genre where he began his career with Drag Me to Hell.  Though Raimi uses a few of his stylistic choices which made Evil Dead a cult hit (primarily his twisted sense of humor), this is a horror film which is, at times, incredibly terrifying.  Perhaps it is the religious background I came from growing up, but the idea of a cursed woman avoiding the arrival of a demon and being drug back to Hell was particularly frightening for me while watching this film.  This is a movie which revels in its over the top nature, and it pulls this off with great success; undoubtedly due to having a more experienced filmmaker at the helm.



28 Days Later

It would be hard to talk about horror movies since 2003 without mentioning Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later.  It was one of the earliest big budget movies to be shot on digital, and it launched the career of Cillian Murphy.  The characters in 28 Days Later feel real, and the grainy digital video makes it that much more believable.  But what really sets it apart is the scale: this was the first time that we got to see a zombie outbreak with such massive breadth, and the shots of an abandoned London are still quite breathtaking.  Now, whether you think that Boyle's "Fast Zombies" count as zombies at all is another conversation, but it'd be hard to argue that these rage-infected madmen aren't scary.  Anyone looking for some intense thrills in a modern horror classic need look no further than the tunnel scene in which the protagonists' car stalls while a wall of speedy zombies roars on behind them!



The Strangers

The home invasion scenario is nothing new to the horror genre by any means.  Many slasher flicks adopt the concept quite often.  There is something about the idea of the sanctity and safety of your home being disturbed that can be very scary if done correctly.  One of the films which absolutely does this plot device justice is 2008's The Strangers.  Unlike many horror films of the past decade, which either remake classics or continuously churn out sequels, The Strangers begins with the advantage of starring a more than capable cast of established actors: Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler.  Director Bryan Bertino plays with audience expectations for this type of horror film, making for scares which are more subtle and more frequent than your generic slasher.  When you can get screams from an audience without a single noise or musical cue startling them, you have created an atmosphere and situation that really works.  That atmosphere alone makes this film a must-see.




The Descent

When I first saw The Descent, I remember saying to myself that this was the first great horror movie in a decade.  Centering around a group of daredevil women who get together once a year to go spelunking, the fun adventure quickly turns to absolute terror as they first get trapped and then realize that they aren't alone.  The monsters are not particularly original or even all that scary, but the setting and the way the film is shot--with such deep reds and sparse light--makes them quite a threat.  What really makes this movie, however, are the characters.  Director Neil Marshall creates a background and shared history with these friends that makes their agony much more personal, and their survival that much more desirable.  More than most bloody monster movies, The Descent has you rooting for the humans to live, and for that reason alone it deserves to be on this list.



The Mist

When it was announced that director Frank Darabont would be bringing the Image comic The Walking Dead to television, it was a decision which seemed brilliant.  What better man to adapt a comic where the monsters were more background roles and the real monsters were the humans than the guy who made The Mist?  There have been a ton of adaptations of Stephen King's works over the years, but The Mist just may be one of the best (saying a lot considering this list would include Kubrick's The Shining).  The creature design present in this film is diverse and, at times, downright startling, but those are not the real monsters in this film.  Much of the horror in this film derives from the humans trapped inside this grocery store and forced to adapt to an increasingly mystifying and uncertain world.  A brilliant performance by Marcia Gay Harden and an ending that punches you right in the gut, The Mist is an inch away from being a masterpiece.




Shaun of the Dead

Where would we be without a little horror comedy?  It is impossible to think of zombie movies without thinking of Shaun of the Dead, if not for anything else then for its literally hundreds of references to the genre's storied history.  While not the scariest movie on our list, it more than makes up for thrills with its nonstop laughs.  But that's not to say it's for wimps: it's got a couple of quite gory and hopeless scenes to prove its horror movie credentials.  But the real treat here is the depth of the movie, particularly if you're a horror fan.  Every time I watch it, I spot a couple new things--a clever gag, a repeated visual, or a subtle jab at 28 Days Later--and this experience makes it fun to watch over and over again.  With this team's recent effort, The World's End, just leaving theaters, it's always a good time to revisit this awesome movie for some bloody laughs!



Trick'R'Treat

Though Halloween is easily the most popular time of your for people to watch horror films, there are surprisingly very few which attempt to tackle the October holiday itself.  While John Carpenter's 1978 classic Halloween is still the greatest of these films, no other modern horror movie quite captures the spirit of the holiday like Trick R Treat.  While watching this film, it is hard to believe that it was delayed from a 2007 theatrical release and relegated to a 2009 direct-to-DVD release.  Nevertheless, this anthology tale approaches Halloween with the love that this holiday truly deserves.  Each of these tales is anchored by the presence of Sam (short for Samhain), a small child in a costume who represents the embodiment of Halloween itself.  Though he does not speak, Sam instantly became one of the most endearing icons of the horror genre.  Creepy story, exciting twists, and a brilliant sense of humor combine in this instant classic.



The House of the Devil

This may seem like an odd one for some folks; it's not very well known, and if you go by IMDb's scale, it's rating is not very high.  But I'm here to tell you that this is one of the creepiest, cool horror movies of the last 10 years, without a doubt.  The movie centers around Samantha, a poor college student in the '80's who needs some quick cash.  Thankfully, an anxious but kind older man (played quite creepily by Tom Noonan) needs a housesitter for one night, and is willing to pay just what Samantha needs.  The movie slowly, mesmerisingly builds suspense through mostly casual actions as Samantha explores the house.  While some impatient viewers might start to get bored, the final act is worth the wait, and is absolutely one of the most terrifying sequences I've ever watched!  This 1980's themed gem is worth a watch, and you might need to keep the lights on if you plan on sleeping that night.



ParaNorman

When considering an animated feature to watch when Halloween rolls around, Nightmare Before Christmas or It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown usually top most people's list.  Though both of those features are classics in their own right, ParaNorman was a surprise in more ways than one.  From the makers of Coraline, ParaNorman tells the story of a young boy obsessed with the weird and strange who has to join with his friends, family and fellow townspeople to stop a witch and a group of zombies from invading the town.  The expected horror tropes are played with here, and it is done so with a great sense of humor, but perhaps this film's most endearing quality is its heart.  A great message about the importance of individuality, ParaNorman is a fun movie people of every age should watch each October.



Cabin in the Woods

As you can see from this list, there have been quite a few great horror flicks over the past decade (even more when you consider we had to narrow this list down to 10!).  Though each of the films on this list is great in its own right, none completely change and reinvigorate the genre like Cabin in the Woods.  Put on the shelf for a few years, this horror-comedy from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard plays with just about every trope of the horror genre, and does so in a sophisticated, intellectual fashion that assures you will NEVER look at a horror movie the same way ever again.  A hilarious romp that leads into a final act that is downright exhilarating.  Cabin in the Woods just may have THE best final 15 minutes of any horror film ever.  This genre-twisting film is an absolute must see not just at Halloween, but any time of the year. 



There you have it, folks!  Those are our 10 favorite horror films of the past decade.  Did your favorites make the list?  Feel like something was missing?  Sound off in the comments below!  In the mean time, enjoy these films and have a Happy Halloween!
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