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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Best 30 Horror Movies Since 2000

It's that time of year again! We decided that rather than rehash the greatest horror films of all time, we'd take a look at what's going on right now in horror cinema. A little to our surprise, we realized that there were far more great horror flicks in the last 15 years than you might think, given the onslaught of boring haunted house and torture porn films that have permeated popular horror cinema in the last decade and a half. In addition to the entire GeekRex staff, we got votes from a number of our cinephile readers and a few horror experts, and we're exceedingly pleased with the widely varying results! A massive thanks is in order for all those that contributed–now quit reading this and lets see what made the list!


Only Lovers Left Alive
dir. Jim Jarmusch, 2013 

Although the Twilight series did some considerable damage to the vampire genre, Only Lovers Left Alive took an enormous step in restoring our faith in the possibility of sleek, sexy vampires. Set in a decaying Detroit, Only Lovers Left Alive portrays aging, romantic vampires dealing with a modern world, boasting stellar performances from leads Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton.


dir. Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, 2007 

Coming out the same year as the similar and most profitable movie of all time, Paranormal Activity, the Spanish [REC] manages to do something altogether more terrifying. Set within the confines of a single apartment building from the perspective of a two person news crew doing a piece on the local fire station, [REC] provides a truly scary look at a violent infection and being quarantined from any outside help.


The Woman
dir. Lucky McKee, 2011 

Lucky McKee's exploitation horror flick The Woman clearly begs to be viewed through a feminist lens, though its brutality towards women makes it a tough sell on that front. Still, McKee tends to make uncommonly smart horror films, and The Woman is no exception, providing a blunt but vicious critique on masculine culture through a story in which an All-American-seeming father attempts to 'civilize' a feral woman found in the woods. McKee's direction is blunt and sometimes sloppy, but his storytelling instincts remain uncannily powerful.


dir. Bruce McDonald, 2008 

If for nothing else, Pontypool deserves its spot on the list for originality. The unique perspective of watching a violent outbreak purely from the point of view of an isolated radio station morning crew is fascinating and addictive to watch, and that’s only topped by the strange and interesting infection that lives in language. It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s incredibly ambitious and well worth visiting.


Trick'r Treat
dir. Michael Dougherty, 2007 

The anthology film is a bit of a lost art form these days, particularly with horror.  While V/H/S and its sequel offer decidedly modern takes on the story format, Michael Dougherty's Trick R Treat is an excellent throwback to classic anthology horror like Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt.  The film features three main stories which are told in a nonlinear format, with Sam, the child embodiment of the spirit of Halloween acting as the connective tissue.  Trick R Treat is just the thing to scratch that Halloween itch this week.  It should definitely be added along with John Carpenter's Halloween as required yearly viewing for everyone each October.


Trouble Every Day
dir. Claire Denis, 2001

Claire Denis' harrowing art house horror flick viscerally repelled critics on its initial release, but its haunting take on lust and violence has stuck with many fans in the years since. Stuck in a no man's land between vampirism and cannibalism, Trouble Every Day is slow, sophisticated... and not for the faint of heart.


The Others
dir. Alejandro Amenábar, 2001

Taking a page from old-school suspense/horror films, The Others is a happy example of less-is-more filmmaking, relying on atmospheric suspense and suggestion rather than graphic violence or CGI'd nightmares. Directed by Alejandro Amenábar, who is perhaps best-known for his Spanish language film Abre Los Ojos (which was later re-made in the U.S. under the name Vanilla Sky), The Others focuses on the aftermath of World War II and the families left in the wake of the war, who struggle to accept what they've lost.


dir. Lars von Trier, 2009

Depression is not an inherently cinematic illness, but Lars von Trier certainly found a way to make it one. Antichrist was the start of von Trier's 'Depression Trilogy' - apocalyptic fantasy Melancholia and sex drama Nymphomaniac were to follow - and, like von Trier's best work, Antichrist hits like a horrifying hammer. Vicious, alienating, and off-putting, Antichrist captures the bleak, hopeless horror of depression like nothing else.


The House of the Devil
dir. Ti West, 2009
While Ti West’s best to date is a loving homage to 80’s satanic panic flicks, it has a far greater sense of suspense. The first 3/4 of the movie in which Samantha decides to take a strange babysitting job despite a bad feeling are slow and intensely suspenseful, and it all pays off in a terrifying climax. Throw in the phenomenal Tom Noonan as the head of the creepy family and you’ve got a modern classic.


The Orphanage
dir. Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007

The Orphanage is a Spanish-language film that marks director Juan Antonio Bayona's first feature-length film, with the financial backing and production support of director Guillermo del Toro. Beautifully weaving a classic ghost story with the story of a grief-stricken protagonist, The Orphanage provides a surprisingly emotional and resonant story between its layers of horror.


You're Next
dir. Adam Wingard, 2011

The idea of the 'Final Girl', the sole female survivor of a horror flick, has been pervasive in the genre for ages now, but few Final Girls earn it like Sharni Vinson's Erin. What starts off as a slick, entertaining home invasion story becomes so much more as Erin begins to fight back and her backstory, a hilariously unlikely piece of storytelling, comes into play in such a brilliant, entertaining way..


Mulholland Dr.
dir. David Lynch, 2001

A nightmare come to life, and David Lynch's best film. You may argue about whether or not this is a proper horror film, but for our purposes, the terrors of the mind are just as frightening as those of the flesh. With its focus on a narrative of split personality, the corruptibility of Hollywood, and warped visuals that could only spring from a mind as twisted as Lynch's, Mulholland Dr. is one of cinema's greatest achievements.


Under the Skin
dir. Jonathan Glazer, 2014

Long after viewing Under the Skin, many of its individual moments will stick with you: a baby crying on the beach before the rising tide, Scarlet Johansson's Laura leading unsuspecting male victims into the inky blackness of their demise, her fellow alien predators disguised a motorcycle riders traveling the English countryside. Under the Skin is what you get if you combine the void-ridden horror of HP Lovecraft with the elemental aesthetic of Stanley Kubrick. Also, Mica Levi's score is pitched perfectly to the dread unfolding onscreen. 


The Conjuring
dir. James Wan, 2013

Although it came at a time when the haunted house story was far beyond played out, The Conjuring managed to inject some much needed life into the genre by grounding it nicely in the story of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. This is augmented by the connection between the Warren’s family and the family they are investigating, making this one as much a family drama as a traditional horror story.


dir. Lucky McKee, 2002

Call her a Manic Pixie Nightmare Girl. May is a darkly comic take on the long-running romantic comedy staple, a quirky female character who is shy and longing with indie pretension to spare. But May's quirks hide genuine damage, no matter how much her romantic partners don't want to acknowledge it, and this gives May its horrific conclusion.


The Mist
dir. Frank Darabont, 2007

Stephen King adaptations are a dime a dozen in the movie industry, so it's perfectly understandable that you may have missed out on 2007's The Mist.  The story is simple: a collection of small town people find themselves trapped in a local grocery store as a thick fog envelopes their town, hiding the presence of extra-dimensional monsters.  While the monsters provide plenty of scares, this is more a film about how small societies tend to break under pressure and humans will always be scarier than any creature nature can throw at you.  This film hits all of those notes perfectly.  It's no wonder director Frank Darabont was tapped to help adapt The Walking Dead as the two share quite a few thematic connections.  With an ending that rips your heart out and stomps on it, The Mist will go down as one of King's better film adaptations.


Black Swan
dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2010

When the book is finally closed on Darren Aronofsky's career, it's very likely that Black Swan will be remembered as his best work. Part Satoshi Kon homage, part Dario Argento inspired, Black Swan, is the sort of horror film that's built around the trials its own central character puts herself through for perfection. At what cost do we accomplish our dreams? What are the ramifications? It's a film that burns slowly, and when Natalie Portman's Nina finally reaches her mental apoptosis, the end result is cinematic dementia.  


American Psycho
dir. Mary Harron, 2000

Bret Easton Ellis' 1991 novel was an essential satire of the 'greed is good' 80s culture, so it seems odd that a 9-years-later film adaptation would seem as on point as the day it was written... or that, 15 years after the film's release itwould be just as relevant. Christian Bale's magnetism and seemingly infinite wells of inner rage have never been better used. Credit writer/director Mary Harron, a feminist filmmaker who understood the satire inherent in the material even in the face of criticism from feminist stalwarts like Gloria Steinem. Harron fought tooth and nail to make the film she wanted to make, and American Psycho has endured as an essential darkly comic thriller ever since.


The Host
dir. Bong Joon-ho, 2007

Bong Joon-Ho had long been one of the most interesting voices in the Korean New Wave, but The Host launched him onto an international main stage. One of his most interesting trademarks is an ability to blend genres, and here we have a monster movie meets family drama meets slapstick humor with a dash of political commentary that works superbly. The Host is exciting and satisfyingly unique–and has one of the coolest monsters in modern cinema.


Let the Right One In
dir. Tomas Alfredson, 2008

Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish vampire tale is among the hardest to pin down and the most re-watchable. Let the Right One In tells the story of Oskar, a lonely and bullied kid in Stockholm in 1982 who meets his new best friend in the enigmatic Eli, who, it turns out, is vampire far beyond her elementary school looks. It’s a bizarre but grounded story that explores age, friendship, and love, and doesn’t give any easy answers.


Pan's Labyrinth
dir. Guillermo del Toro, 2006

Pan's Labryinth is one of the most frightening and awe-inspiring combinations of fantasy and horror to ever grace cinemas. Arguably the most critically-praised work of director Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labryinth relishes in the director's unique and rich visual style, creating the sort of wonder and dread that you'd probably hoped for in the Tim-Burton directed Alice in Wonderland. Haunting images of Doug Jones as the Pale Man will linger for months, if not years, after viewing.


The Devil's Backbone
dir. Guillermo del Toro, 2001

Pan's Labyrinth was del Toro's experiment at blending horror and fantasy, but The Devil's Backbone, his 2001 ghost story similarly set during the Spanish Civil War, is all creeping, classical terror. When young orphan Carlos arrives at an orphanage in war-torn Spain, he doesn't know about all the secrets the place holds. But as he begins to investigate another boy who went missing, an unexploded bomb lodged in the courtyard, and the ghostly figures that dominate the place during the night, the orphanage itself comes under attack from a military convinced that it is hiding valuable resources. Earlier films like Cronos had established del Toro as a talent to watch, but with The Devil's Backbone, the director had his first truly great film.


The Ring
dir. Gore Verbinski, 2002

Remember the days of renting tapes and Blockbuster every weekend? Someone saw the original J-Horror Ringu and realized the word of mouth potential of a movie that put fear into the physical VHS tape the same way that fifties monster movies always involved a movie theater attack. Spurring both endless locker and water cooler talk as the new “scariest movie ever” and a rush to remake every Japanese horror movie, this one certainly left a lasting impact on horror movie culture.


Shaun of the Dead
dir. Edgar Wright, 2004

British director Edgar Wright's horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead, reuniting with two of the three Spaced stars, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, was perfectly timed to catch the beginning of the zombie craze in America. Wright's work is always overflowing with a deep love of the genres he's playing with, but here Wright displayed a rare talent: He could use the history of film, our expectations of genre, not to make references and assume that was joke enough, but to guide character growth and humor. The walking dead certainly rack of a body count in Shaun of the Dead, but the real enemy is the workaday routine that makes zombies of us all - and discourages a lot of young people from growing the fuck up.


Drag Me to Hell
dir. Sam Raimi, 2009

Just when you think we might have lost Sam Raimi to the will of Hollywood action and general audience appeal, he still finds a way to surprise you. This tale of a young woman fighting an old gypsy's curse carries all the visual trademarks of his work on the Evil Dead trilogy, but may indeed be better and sharper than all of those. It's certainly grosser, and given how many horror-comedy films have aped his work over the years, it's nice to see the master return to this domain, at least one more time (and not on Starz *shudder*).


28 Days Later...
dir. Danny Boyle, 2003

Yes, we all know that technically these are not zombies, let’s get that out of the way. But it’s safe to say that 28 Days Later… played a crucial role in bringing zombies, and even the idea of post-apocalyptic stories back to the spotlight. Created by the powerhouse team (although they weren’t so well known then) of writer Alex Garland and director Danny Boyle, this gave us the iconically eerie vision of an abandoned downtown London and launched the career of Cillian Murphy. For better or for worse, it also brought us the most overused trailer song of all time.


The Cabin in the Woods
dir. Drew Goddard, 2012

From the minds of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, far too many try to write off Cabin in the Woods as a horror-comedy, finding themselves afraid to consider it "real" horror.  Serving as both a horror film as well as a take down of every single horror trope known to man, Cabin in the Woods has quickly become one of the classic horror films of this decade.  It's hard to not fall in love with its premise and the quick-witted characters, not to mention the movie has perhaps the best final act of any film on this list.  Do yourself a HUGE favor and watch this one....several times.  You will never see a horror movie the same way ever again.


The Babadook
dir. Jennifer Kent, 2014

Jennier Kent can put together one hell of a scare, but part of the strength of The Babadook, the breakout Australian horror hit of 2014, is her patience in building up to it. The first fifteen minutes of The Babadook aren't scary. They're frustrating. Infuriating. Enervating, even. But when things start to go wrong, Kent shifts tones so subtly you're frightened before you even really understand why, and every element of the film hammers that fear home.

Essie Davis, the film's star, deserves plenty of credit here, too. Amelia's rapid emotional collapse at the hands of her awful son makes her sympathetic, but Davis sells the character's turn, hard, and expects us to keep up. The typical horror heroine has to suffer smartly and nicely; Essie Davis' suffering make her a monster, and the film's central struggle becomes about engaging and coming to terms with something incredibly dark within yourself. Kent and her star brought that idea to life beautifully in what is sure to become one of the iconic horror films of the 21st century.


The Descent
dir. Neil Marshall, 2005

On the surface, The Descent looks like nothing special: a movie about scary monsters in the dark terrorizing some women. But the key here is that these are no damsels in distress, no squealing victims. The seven women that make up the entirety of the cast are strong and have tons of personality, and the backstory of personal tragedy that the story is predicated on lends an instant emotional connection to Sarah in particular, played splendidly by Shauna MacDonald.

Some time after losing her husband and child in a horrifying car crash, Sarah meets up with her friends for their annual spelunking outing. Soon after they begin, disaster strikes as the group finds themselves trapped, and worse, trapped with nightmarish creatures that seem to have evolved to hunt in the cavern. The crawlers are frightening, no doubt, but the on location cavern cinematography is startlingly evocative and masterful in its claustrophobia and color, both as a metaphor and in itself.

The Descent is a remarkable horror film that is scary on many levels, augmented greatly by the fantastic cast and resonance that their relationships bring to the story.

*Note: it is highly recommended that you watch the unrated cut, as it has a far superior ending that will burn into your memory forever!


It Follows
dir. David Robert Mitchell, 2015

While it subtly takes from a variety of horror sub-genres, It Follows is something all its own. The central idea of a sexually transmitted deadly force that never stops seems simple, but only because the movie does such an excellent job of slowly revealing the rules of the game. The themes are complex and allow for several interpretations, but this is no arthouse flick: It Follows is fun and incredibly scary.

From the weird, timeless setting in an abandoned Detroit to the creepy 8-bit music by Disasterpeace, everything works in perfect symphony to create an atmosphere of suspense that is only augmented by the loss of innocence of its characters. The whole cast is made up of talented young actors, with Maika Monroe leading the pack in a now classic horror performance, and they carry the film fantastically in the eerie, seemingly adult-less world.

It Follows is scary smart and smart scary. Mitchell created a creature that you don’t always need to see to be afraid of, because you always know, no matter how far you run, it will follow you. A word of warning for those who have never seen it: once you’ve seen it, you will never see a stranger walking towards you in the same way ever again.

As we said before, a huge thanks goes out to those that contributed to the voting process:

Zachary T. Owen
Rick Kelley
Tom Morten
Zak Santucci
Andrew Draper
Zetes Johnson
Nikita Komarov
Juan Duran
Zack Clopton
Nate Tredinnick
Bryan Parril

Like the list? Check out the newest episode of the GeekRex podcast, where we discuss the top ten movies on the list!
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