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10 best horror films of the 21st century (so far)

The Descent still image movie 2005

A scene from The Descent (2005).

Eden Lake, Paranormal Activity, High Tension and more make our list

– by Shawn Conner

As Halloween has approached, I had what I thought was a good idea for an article. The piece would explore how horror films in the new millennium reflect the collective fears of a culture cut off from human contact by the Internet, why all the riskiest horror films are being made in Europe and Southeast Asia, and where torture porn fits into our desensitized society.

This is not that article.

Instead, trawling through a list of horror movies made this century that I’ve seen, I’ve come up with 10 favourites. They were selected based on originality, creep factor and suspense, and not necessarily gore. Feel free to disagree and/or let us know your selections; admittedly, I haven’t seen all there was to see, but that’s never stopped me from forming an opinion before.

10. Eden Lake (UK, 2008) and The Strangers (USA, 2008) (tie) – I couldn’t decide which of these I liked more, although Eden Lake is arguably the more suspenseful. Both are of the terrorized-couple genre (see my choice for #2 as well), and purists might scoff at the notion of these as technically horror films. But they’re both nail-biters with decent acting and believable actions (a scarcity especially in the horror genre). The Strangers also has one of the best lines of the decade, though context is required to fully appreciate the words, “Because you were home.”

9. Paranormal Activity (USA, 2007) – The most recent movie to make the list, and one that is polarizing horror fans. As a friend said about The Blair Witch Project, “It’s just a bunch of sticks! People are scared of a bunch of sticks!” True, to a point – this low-budget film is very much a bunch-of-sticks movie. At the same time it’s a masterpiece of atmosphere and suspense.

Paranormal Activity movie scene 2007

Scene from Paranormal Activity.

8. High Tension (France, 2005)

7. Frontier(s) (France/Switzerland, 2007)

6. The Descent (UK, 2005) – One of the more popular (i.e., readily available) films on this list, The Descent follows some female spelunkers down into some underground caves where they encounter… well, nothing good, let’s put it that way. Memorably, creepy and well-acted, it’s like a boot to the face while you’re holding onto the ankle of your best friend as she desperately tries to tunnel upwards to get away from the thing behind you.

5. [Rec] (2007, Spain) – Remade in the U.S. as Quarantine, this deliciously creepy Spanish film could also be described as a bunch-of-sticks type movie. But as the quarantined TV crew and apartment dwellers become more and more squirrelly, the amped-up tension becomes almost unbearable.

4. Calvaire (France/Belgium/Luxembourg, 2004)

3. Mulholland Drive (France/USA, 2001) – Not a horror movie? I would have to disagree (and it’s my list, after all). To my mind David Lynch‘s masterpiece, Mulholland Drive isn’t ever just one kind of movie, but it has horror elements – the shrunken old people, rotting bodies, the thing behind Winky’s, the scene in the red theatre, a disconnect from any stable reference point – and the cumulative effect is, I think, one of most disturbing movies of the decade. And speaking of disturbing…

Michael J. Anderson, Mulholland Drive movie

Michael J. Anderson in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

2. Funny Games (USA/France/UK/Austria/Germany/Italy, 2007) – The only Michael Haneke movie I’ve ever sat through in one sitting, at least voluntarily. Another terrorized-couple (this time with a kid) flick, Haneke’s American remake of his earlier German version  pushes all the buttons of our safe, comfortable, movie-going existence while tearing apart our Hollywood-fed expectations of good vs. evil. Some people would properly call this a terror rather than horror film, one reason being that the evil comes in the form of two preppies and not, say, an in-bred backwoods family (a la Cabin Fever, for instance). All I can say is, it’s fucking scary.

1. Martyrs (France/Canada, 2008) – I love this movie, but not in a way that I would ever be tempted to watch it again. Along with Funny Games, it’s the only movie of the last 10 years that gave me nightmares. I don’t want to say too much about it; suffice it to say, I love that it seems to be about one thing and then it turns out to be about another but no, that’s wrong too. In fact, you really don’t know what it’s about until the very end, and even then it’s like, “Whoah. What the fuck was that?”

martyrs_projet09

And…

Best horror movies Ever!

A list by Stephanie MacDonald [she has the Scream channel]

1) The Changeling (the old one)
2) Rabid
3) Paranormal Activity (Seriously!)
4) American Werewolf in London
5) The Others
6) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
7) The Exorcist
8) The Ring
9) The Howling
10) The Blob (1950’s version)

8 responses to “10 best horror films of the 21st century (so far)

  1. 8 years ago  

    Ummm, Stephanie?

    Where is The Shining?

  2. 8 years ago  

    How can Paranormal Activity be #3 on the ‘best of all time’ list but #9 on the ‘best this decade’ list?? And, I agree with Doug about The Shining. Seriously, these are not good lists. You should watch ‘The Haunting in Connecticut”… see if you get nightmares then. 🙂

  3. 8 years ago  

    But bloodydisgusting.com calls it merely ‘a serviceable horror film’… not enough to get me to watch it! Seriously, have you seen Calvaire? or Frontier(s)? or [Rec]? talk to me then!

  4. 8 years ago  

    What about “Rosemary’s Baby”? Now all babies scare me! No joke!

  5. 8 years ago  

    I agree, mine wasn’t a well-thought out list. But even if I thought about it for a few more hours The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby wouldn’t be on it. Those are atmospheric, and not plug-your-ears-and-peer-through-a-blanket scary to me. Admittedly, so is The Others, so it doesn’t belong.

  6. 8 years ago  

    I’d say a solid list, on the whole. Since it’s a “best of” list, technically, and not a scariest list, I’d probably swap in 28 Days Later, Inside (one of the few movies I’ve ever had to cover my eyes to, during the c-section…those who’ve seen it know what I’m talking about), and maybe Splinter for Paranormal Activity, and, well, whatever randos in there. Martyrs was hard to watch at times…not just for the violence, either, but how well it develops despair. And Funny Games was the first movie I’ve ever watched where I was mad at the characters for even existing as characters, but that was what was so good about it.

  7. 8 years ago  

    I realize this article’s a month old and nobody will probably read this comment, but if you have to say “(Seriously!)” next to something in your top 10 list then you probably realize it doesn’t really belong there. I don’t remember being scared anywhere through Paranormal Activity or thinking any of it was original. I don’t know why it was so successful. I knew that every scene of them sleeping was going to have something in it that would try and scare me and whenever things got silent something scary was about to happen because those are the cliches of horror movies. Cliches are by definition not original, and if you’ve seen enough horror movies then they’re not scary either.

  8. 8 years ago  

    I always find psychological horror more scary than the blood-and-gore type, so the Paranormal Activity and The Others got me. Both creepy ideas, both really well executed, both pretty damn scary.
    PS: pretty good article Shawn

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