by CheriAnn Stevens.
In chronological order:
Scream 3 (2000). I know this one is probably the movie I'll catch the most flack for, which is why I'm talking about it first. And anyway, eff you, this movie is awesome. When the first Scream movie came out, some claimed it was the death of the slasher genre. That's not the case; they actually revitalized the genre. The first and second came out in the late 90's, so I can't put them on the list of top horror movies of the past decade. Back to Scream 3. The ending wrapped up the saga in a pretty definitive way, while helping connect the previous two films. I know, I know, before you say it: They weren't written as a trilogy. I know that, but they work well that way. No movie in the series nullifies anything that happens in any of the others. That's rare for a horror movie saga, especially a slasher movie series. It's also unique because the killers in each movie are irrefutably dead by the time credits roll in each film. They manage to introduce killers with surprisingly plausible motives in each flick. Plus, any movie which references movies and Hollywood so openly is great. It's a nice touch of irony. This is the very thing that many people claimed was Scream's method of killing the genre. But I think it served to bring humor to the genre- humor that had always been there, because most slasher flicks are the kind awful that makes you laugh... Only deliberate humor is better for a horror movie than accidental humor... like in Cursed which I bought because the whole thing was absolutely hilarious, and as much as I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt, I'm pretty sure that only a third of it was intentional.
Battle Royale (Batoru rowaiaru) (2000). HOLY SHIT, Battle Royale! Alright, so kids in Japan are getting way out of control. They're disrespectful and well on their way to being criminals. So there's this law where they take an entire class of ninth-graders (randomly selected in kind of a lottery type of deal) every year and put them on this island. They wear collars that will blow their heads off if they try to remove the collars, leave the island, or stay in restricted areas. They're told that they all have to kill one another; that only one can survive (after four days, if there's more than one kid left alive, all survivors are killed by the collars). So imagine a strange high school class dynamic of kids, plus weapons, plus free reign to kill classmates however possible. That's Battle Royale, and it's awesome. This is a great delight for me because I am of the firm belief that humans from the age of 7-17 are not people. And it was great fun to watch school-aged children kill and maim each other. This one is really worth seeing, and word is, there's an American remake in the works. While I'm sure it won't be nearly as awesome as the original, I'm going to watch it when it comes out.
28 Days Later (2002). This film looked at the zombie genre and said: okay, post-apocalypse- scary. Ease of becoming infected- scary. Isolation- scary. Dead, rigor-mortised, slow-moving monsters- not as scary as you think, akshully. So they took zombies and turned them into fast moving diseased/infected with hyperactive aggression- kind of like Super Rabies (I know, I know, Quarantine did this later, and it was an okay movie, but this isn't a review of Quarantine, so eat it). They filmed it with a kind of grainy, raw lens which made it feel almost like you were watching home movies of the zombie apocalypse, minus constant shaking and inability to focus the lens on what's important. They used GUITARS to create a really unique soundtrack. And after you've finally adjusted to the zombie apocalypse, they comment on humanity itself. You realize that, when left unchecked, the REAL horror monster is mankind. BUT, screw 28 Weeks Later. They really should have just made a movie that was unrelated, not a sequel, not related to the first- I mean, they pretty much did it anyway (ditching the original movie's cast and specific plot), why pull the title of the first into the picture and sully what was otherwise a perfect end to the movie?
High Tension (2003). This one starts with two French women traveling out to visit one of the girl's families. That night you discover that one of the women is probably gay and seems to have some non-platonic feelings for the other one. So a dude shows up and attacks the family and kidnaps the straight girl. The lesbian, in her undying love for her friend, chases them in an attempt to rescue her. Well after a long, terrifying pursuit, she comes face to face with the bad guy and the battle commences. But don't let this fool you. If you haven't seen this movie, it shines a whole new light on friendship and the idea of good guy vs. bad guy. With "New Born" in French by Muse, a gritty look, and very little dialogue for the vast majority of the movie, it's little wonder where they get the title of the film from. And it really delivers on that promise.
House of 1000 Corpses/Devil's Rejects (2003/2005). Now, it's important that you consider these two as a pairing when you looking at them in my list of top horror movies of the decade. The reason being that they serve as two unique counter point views on the same stories. In House, it's obvious that the people we're supposed to hate and fear are the members of The Family. They're awful cartoony exaggerations of murderous lunatics. But in Devil's Rejects, they're the people you're supposed to actually sympathize with, which, by the end of the movie, believe it or not, you actually do. Alone, neither of these films would be on my list. But together, as an interesting dichotomy (which was deliberate, says Rob Zombie, and is the reason he gave them two entirely different titles), they're both terrifying in totally different ways and it's incredible how RZom manages to make you sympathize for the same Family of heartless, murderous psychopaths that you just watched, two years prior, kill a group of road-tripping kids, and some cheerleaders.
Shaun of the Dead (2004). The ads for this movie implied that it was a zombie parody movie. I half expected something more along the lines of... Scary Movie... But what I found was a really delightful romantic comedy with zombies. You've probably seen this movie by now. It starts over in England, with Shaun in a failing relationship, two less than ideal roommates, a lousy job at an electronics store, and a step father he can't stand. The next day, zombies are walking the earth. Prior to Shaun of the Dead, I had seen my fair share of zombie movies, but was never really passionately in love with the zombie movie genre. I mean, there were lots of things I didn't get/buy about the zombie genre. Then Shaun of the dead came along. Don't get me wrong, there were zombie movies which redefined our expectations of zombies, and that's great. But Shaun of the Dead managed to be both a romantic comedy AND a zombie horror movie. That's a tough one to do, but they did it. And unlike most horror movies, this love connection isn't contrived. Shaun of the Dead probably won't keep you up in the middle of the night because it was terrifying, but it's really delightful, with lots of replay value. It's just all around a great movie that I'll never get tired of.
The Descent (2005). Our lead loses her husband and daughter in a tragic accident. When her friends decide to take her along on one of their regularly scheduled adventurous expeditions, they get trapped in a series of underground caves which also house humanoid monsters which of course, intend to eat them. The movie doesn't just have the group getting picked off one by one. The film also focuses on the all-too-common mistrust among female friends as the group destroys itself. We watch on in horror. The good guys are flawed- some more so than others. Whenever someone asks me about horror movies, I tell them to rent this one. It's one of those movies that sticks in your mind after you've watched it.
Paranormal Activity (2007). Okay, I know it's also new... well, not really. See, it was an independent film that was actually made in 2007 and didn't make main stream until 2009. And I'll probably catch a lot of flack for this one too. Let's cure you of any misconception. This was not real footage from an actual event. This wasn't even based on a true story. They obviously wanted it to look and feel real. But it wasn't. At all. BUT, it's amazing how many viewers it fooled into believing it was real. That really says something for the movie. ALSO, it really uses the classic horror tool, suspense. A lot of movies nowadays like to jump right into the horror, the macabre. Many other horror flicks show you someone getting murdered in the first scene and then let you see the monster/killer over and over throughout the movie. This one takes its time getting scary. It builds a little at a time. You get to know the two main characters. You get to know about their dynamic, about their family history, about how they got where they are, and about what they might be up against. You don't have to see the monster to be afraid. Because it's so "new," I'm going to avoid spilling any possible plot points, but really, a spooky movie, worth watching... with a friend or two, because if you're by yourself, you'll probably need a new pair of pants.
Cloverfield (2008). I know there's a divide in the general public about this movie. I am of the school of thought that this movie was good, scary, and 100% worth watching... repeatedly. You're in New York with a group of people having a going away party for their friend who plans on moving to Tokyo. The man about to leave has feelings for this woman who's now at the party with someone else. You see footage of our lead and this woman being a cute couple sporadically throughout the movie (seems they decided to record the going away party right over top of the only video of these two being romantic). The love interest leaves the party early in a huff. The monster comes and that's the end of the party. Our friend who had been the guest of honor at this party drags some of his friends on a trek across the city to save the girl we all can tell he loves. Now, I have absolutely zero interest in the two main characters and their shitty failed romance. I like Hud, our photographer for the majority of the movie. Now, this movie adopts the shaky cam outlook, as this is supposed to be recovered footage from the camera of the people who star in the movie. The monster is scary, but its scales which drop down after it's been shot... those are really terrifying. It's a really great movie. And Hud's commentary is classic.
Zombieland (2009). I know that it's still super recent. I also know it was a comedy... But there was lots of gore and there were zombies, so I'm putting it on my list. So we find the protagonist in a gas station parking lot trying to go to the bathroom and narrating to us about the rules for survival. Then he comes across some zombies. So he starts running... In large circles around his car. When I saw this movie in theaters, the people sitting behind me (mind you, this is 5 minutes into the movie) said, "Dis movie is ridicalus. Why's he runnin' in circles?" Why is he running in circles? Because if he runs in a straight line, he'll be far as shit from his car when he finally gets away from the zombies. If he runs in circles, he's got time to kill them and he won't have to walk back across town to get to his car. That's what's great about this movie. It's thoughtful. A few minutes later, he meets Woody Harrelson... Well, if you had any wonder as to whether this was a serious zombie movie that probably cleared it up. Seriousness vs. silliness aside, this movie has a variety of good zombie kills. It also has astounding cinematography. It's really impressive. I'm going to try not to spoil any of the details on this one. If you've seen it, you probably know why it's on this list. If you haven't seen it, you should. If you've seen it and didn't like it, then you and I can't be friends. Seriously. Don't talk to me.
(Finally,) Hard Candy (2005). I know this is out of order. BUT it's pretty much my favorite ever, so I saved the best for last. Hayley Stark and Jeff Kohlver have been talking online for some time now. The movie starts with their instant message conversation in which they decide to finally meet. But it's painfully obvious that this man is far too old be interested in a girl so young. There are five characters, and you only see three of them for a combined total of five minutes. The other two are the only people you get for the whole movie. I know this isn't usually classified as a horror film. It's usually classified as a thriller or a psychological drama. But if you're a man, you're going to consider this to be a horror. Every male friend I've ever shown this to has considered this a horror. Just watch it. The cinematics are incredible, the writing is truly convincing, the acting is superb, and the movie is overall fantastic.
Now, there were SEVERAL really great horror movies that I didn't review, for a variety of reasons... But you need to watch: Pitch Black (2000 - Chronicles of Riddick should die in a fire), American Psycho (2000), Frailty (2001), May (2002), Love Object (2003), A Tale of Two Sisters (2004), Dawn of the Dead (2004), Saw (2004- but only if you don't know how it ends), The Grudge (2004- there are three moments in that movie that still haunt me to this day- sacrilege, I know, but I prefer the American version), Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Pan's Labyrinth (2006- I still don't agree with the horror classification, but it's a must see anyway), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Slither (2006), Sweeny Todd (2007), Pandorum (2009- I was angry at it for the first half of the movie, but came around before the end).
CheriAnn “NIXON” Stevens is the artist and generalissimo on the web comic “Pictures of Crying Children” with her writer and fiancé Ian “DASH” Borgstrom. Randall pesters her from time to time on gchat, which like a saint she never complains about. Her signature move is the Falcon Punch, and if you went looking, you might find her living in Riverside, New Jersey. Along with “Pictures of Crying Children” she also has a blog, both of which you should be telling everyone you know about.