Ten Best Horror Films of the Decade

In the last ten years, American horror movies have been on a downward spiral into suckiness.  From the endless amount of remakes to the unbelievably insipid PG-13 films, it’s like we’ve lost sight of why we watch horror movies in the first place.  The idea of dumbing down a horror film for a younger audience goes against their very nature: to scare and disturb the shit out of us!! A movie shouldn’t be made less disturbing for a mass market audience.  Horror movies are supposed to be disturbing!! So, on this list, you’ll find the few great American horror movies of the last ten years and the foreign gems that really hit the mark.  No remakes and absolutely no PG-13 crap. 

10. HOSTEL PART II

Eli Roth’s follow-up to his 2006 box-office hit is superior to its predecessor for two reasons: Richard Burgi and Roger Bart.  As two American businessmen who travel to Slovakia so they can each torture and murder a young woman, both actors create vivid, terrifying, and believable characters.  Burgi is a hoot as the arrogant one who is always snorting coke and cannot wait to kill somebody.  It’s a hilarious, not-to-subtle satire of the American businessman.  And then there’s Bart: shy, unsure of himself and not nearly as kind a man as you would hope him to be.   Their role reversal at the end of the film is as brilliant as it is inevitable.  And once again, Roth makes the torture scenes genuinely frightening and intense, not exercises in depravity (Hello, SAW franchise).

9. SESSION 9

Writer-director Brad Anderson has had quite a decade with last years’ terrific thriller TRANSSIBERIAN, Christian Bale’s skinny performance in THE MACHINIST, and the delightful sci-fi romance HAPPY ACCIDENTS.  But SESSION 9 remains his creepiest.  The film is also noteworthy because it features an actual decent performance by David Caruso! Caruso and the great irish actor, Peter Mullan, play two asbestos workers who take the dangerous job of cleaning up an abandoned mental institution in under two weeks.  Anderson actually filmed in a real abandoned asylum which adds greatly to the film’s atmosphere.  The asylum swallows you just as it swallows every character, bringing every single one of their phobia’s to the surface.  And the film’s final line of dialogue haunts me to this very day.

8. THEM

In recent years, with films like HIGH TENSION and THE ORDEAL, France has proven itself to be the new go-to place for insane, terrifying horror movies and THEM is one of the best.  It’s basically the good version of THE STRANGERS, which is so similar in structure it’s a wonder that writer-director David Moreau did not sue Hollywood.  If you’ve seen THE STRANGERS, you know the gist: a young couple is tormented by unseen foes in their lonely cabin in the woods.  The big difference is that these unseen foes seem to be actual human beings, not supernatural creations of the screenplay who have the power to be anywhere at any time.  They are never seen fully until the last shot of the film which makes them all the more frightening as the young couple runs and hides in every spot of their home.  Moreau makes great use of background noise and shadows, causing the film to keep you firmly on the edge of your seat for its entire running time. The film also gives a frightening and believable reason for the villain’s actions, unlike those ridiculous masked people from THE STRANGERS.

7. THE DESCENT

Neil Marshall is another director who had quite a decade with the action-packed DOOMSDAY and the low-budget, but kick-ass DOG SOLDIERS.  However, it’s THE DESCENT that truly got under my skin.  The tale of five female friends who go spelunking in an abandoned cave system is scary and claustrophobic as hell before the mutant monsters even arrive on screen.  There’s a sequence where one of the main characters is trapped in a tunnel that is so genuinely frightening it’s borderline unwatchable.  And then those creepy monsters show up.  Marshall wisely keeps them in shadows for a good portion of the film so that when we do see them in full light, they’re creepy as all hell.  The American release tacked on a bullshit happy ending, so make sure you see the British version where the ending stays true to the darkness of the rest of the film.

6. FRAILTY

Bill Paxton made a terrific directorial debut with this chilling masterpiece.  Matthe McConaughey (In his best performance) recounts his horrible childhood to FBI agent Powers Boothe who is searching for a serial killer named ‘God’s Hands’.  McConaughey tells Boothe of how his kindly father (Paxton) claims to have received a vision from an angel who sent him on mission to rid the world of demons that are disguised as people.  The film is told mostly in flashbacks with Paxton’s two sons trying to make sense of their father’s ‘mission’.  Matt O’Leary is terrific as the young McConaughey who strongly doubts his father’s sanity.  The movie keeps it a secret for a long time before revealing whether or not Paxton is actually crazy of if he is indeed on a ‘mission from god’.  Either way, FRAILTY is a taut, gripping film that asks a lot of questions about what people believe in and why they choose to do so.

5. SLITHER

The silliest, most entertaining horror movie in the last ten years.  Writer-director James Gunn creates a great throwback to cheesy 80’s horror films such as THE BLOB and SHIVERS.  Nathan Fillion has a grand old-time as the small town sheriff who has to deal with an alien invasion of parasitic slugs.  Having even more fun is Michael Rooker as the poor sap who becomes the first human the slugs take over.  His search for meat in the supermarket is one of the film’s many hilarious scenes.  And lets not forget Gregg Henry as the incompetent Mayor.  Every line of dialogue that comes out of his mouth is a gem.  My personal favorite: After watching Elizabeth Banks chop someone’s head off with a shovel, ‘Bitch is hardcore’. Classic.

4. SAUNA

Another terrific foreign horror flick that puts most American movies to shame.  The story of two Finnish brothers who are tasked with mapping the new border between Russia and Finnland after a brutal 25 year war in the 1400’s is haunting, moody, and trippy as fuck.  Near the beginning of the film, the two brothers commit a terrible crime that comes back to haunt them when they come upon a hidden village in the middle of the woods.  The village contains a sauna that the residents say can, ‘wash away your sins without the presence of God’.  Naturally, the two brothers enter and a whole bunch of crazy shit starts to happen.  The movie is not very concerned with explaining itself but that only makes it all the more mysterious. The film is filled with terrifying images that sneak their way into your head.  Does the sauna have any actual power or is it just the brothers’ guilt tormenting them? I think you can take the movie either way and like that it allows you to draw your own conclusions. Also, how many horror films can you think of that take place in the 1400’s?

3. THE MIST

I really don’t get why more people did not respond to this movie.  Frank Darabont proves himself once again to be the master at adapting Stephen King stories and THE MIST proves to be one of the most suspenseful horror movies I’ve ever seen.  The story is fairly traditional: people trapped inside a building with lots of monsters outside. In this case, it’s a supermarket and a mysterious fog filled with creatures that traps our characters.  But King and Darabont make this one unique by creating intelligent characters and using the setting as a back drop to explore the extreme measures people will resort to when they are terrified.  Marcia Gay Harden is terrific as the de-facto leader of a religious cult that forms in the supermarket and Thomas Jane makes for a good hero.  The ending of the film annoyed me when I first saw it, but it has since grown on me because it fits with the tone of the rest of the movie.  The film was released in color in theaters despite Darabont wishing to release it in Black and White.  Luckily, the DVD contains the Black and White version and if you haven’t seen the film, don’t even bother watching it in color.

2. MARTYRS

Hands down, the most fucked-up, deranged, creepy, and riveting horror film of the last ten years.  France really proved itself to be the new King of Horror with this insane, twisted ride of a movie.  I cannot say too much about the plot without giving away the movie’s labyrinth of secrets and revelations.  The film begins with a young girl being tortured by unknown foes in a HOSTEL-like chamber.  She escapes and winds up in an orphanage where she meets another troubled young girl.  The movie then jumps fifteen years and cuts to a nice, normal family having a quiet breakfast.  There’s a knock on the door and when the father opens it, he comes face to face with the young girl from the beginning, now holding a shotgun.  She enters the home and slaughters the entire family.  After she’s finished, she calls her friend from the orphanage and tells her, ‘I found them’.  All of this madness occurs in the film’s first ten minutes and that is just the tip of the iceberg.  It’s a wild ride through hell that has the power to shock and disturb the fuck out of you every fifteen minutes.  It is not an all an easy film to sit through, but you won’t be sorry that you did.

1. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN

The. Best. Vampire. Movie. Ever. No Joke.  TWILIGHT and TRUE BLOOD fans should be ashamed of themselves after watching this movie.  It tells the story of a picked-on 12 year old boy who befriends a young girl named Eli after she moves next door to him.  There’s some strange things about Eli though: she does not eat, never comes out during the day, and is definitely connected to a series of murders that are plaguing the small Norwegian town.  The bond formed between these two characters is more touching and truthful than twenty Hollywood romances combined.  The movie never shies away from Eli’s nature.  She is not a ‘nice’ vampire who survives on animal blood or steals from the local hospital.  No.  She is a vicious monster who has to kill if she wishes to survive.  The two young actors are terrific, particularly Lina Leandersson as Eli.  She actually makes us believe that this girl is over 200 years old.  The film’s ending is as heartwarming as it is disturbing.  But the film’s best scene comes when the movie answers the age-old question of what would happen if a vampire were to come into your home uninvited.  A Hollywood remake is in the works, but there is no doubt that they are going to fuck it up, so see this version before they spoil the film’s greatness.

And that’s that! I don’t really have any high hopes for many American horror movies in the future (The re-makes keep on coming) so I’m going to keep my eye on Norway and France.  They clearly know what they’re doing.

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One Response to “Ten Best Horror Films of the Decade”

  1. Haven’t heard of a couple of these, lookin’ pretty good. Way to include Slither on the list, loved that movie. Good calls all around.

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