by Zoe Chevat.
When I think about the horror movies I saw in the last ten years, what I’m looking for is a good, memorable scare. Not a load of effects, torture porn, or slashers chasing bright young things in a movie based on a video game. I want a director to be clever enough to disturb me. They’re not all ‘horror’ movies in the conventional sense, but the 10 films listed here included some element or another that wormed its way into my consciousness and stayed. I wouldn’t call it a definitive list. But if you haven’t seen some of these, get thee to a NetFlix account.
In no particular order:
Audition (2000 in U.S. release) – The past decade was a new golden age for imported Asian horror, and director Takashi Miike served as the undisputed king. This film, which follows a widower as he auditions women for the “part” of his new wife, only to get more than he bargained for, caused a stir with foreign audiences. Unflinching, uncompromising, and not for the faint of heart.
The Host (2006) – A strangely beautiful and plainly strange film from South Korea, The Host had a fresh take on ye olde monster movie. Includes the obligatory death of a dumb American tourist, as well as a tension-building use of cell phones.
Hard Candy (2006) – While not strictly a horror movie, I count this among the more disturbing releases of the decade. Patrick Wilson stars as a photographer and sexual predator who gets a nasty surprise when he lures a 14-year-old he met on the Internet to his home. The ultimate antidote to Juno, it ensures that you never think about red hoodies or Ellen Page the same way again.
Mulholland Drive (2001) – Another non-‘horror’ thriller that spooked me more than all the sequels to Saw. Originally planned as the pilot of a television series (can you imagine?), Mulholland Dr. keeps the lid on its boiler in the finest noir tradition. Too surreal and too highbrow for some, but for those who like it, it’s Lynch at the height of his powers.
The Ring (2002) – Alas, the Japanese original was released in 1999, so we’ll have to go with the American remake. Yes, it was the film that spawned a thousand parodies, a sequel, and a string of American ripoffs of other Japanese films trying to capitalize on its success. But precisely the things that make it parody-worthy, like a great concept, and startling visuals, are exactly the things that make it worth watching.
Save the Green Planet! (2003) – Another Korean flick, this one about a crazed loser who, convinced he is the only one who can save the Earth from an alien invasion, kidnaps and tortures a salaryman in his basement. The psychological games and grisly scenarios almost make up for the pathetic ending.
28 Days Later (2002) – The mainstream origin of the “fast zombie” genre, we’ve all mentioned it here because it’s damn good. See it.
Let the Right One In (2004) – About as unconventional of a take on the vampire movie as one could find, this Swedish film found something fresh and original, and – dare I say it – sweet in an old standby.
American Psycho (2000) – This adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel sparked controversy from feminist groups, despite being directed by a woman. Clearly, I have fewer scruples. Either that, or I saw the sly, black-as-night humor in the descent of an 80s Wall Street player into homicidal oblivion. If nothing else, see it for Christian Bale’s pitch perfect performance as slimy serial killer Patrick Bateman.
The Orphanage (2007)– Classy, well paced, and solid straight through, this Spanish film by Juan Antonio Bayona has gotten well deserved critical praise, but flew under the radar of mainstream audiences. If you want a robust scare to wash down the bad taste of Hostel II or Daybreakers, this one’s for you.
Zoe Chevat is an animator and graphic artist currently attending graduate school at CalArts out in sunny, well, obviously, California. She met Randall at Bennington College where, not to give too much away, a lot of incredulity was involved. You can keep up with her on her blog, AnachroLush, which she updates regularly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with all sort of macabre curiosities and retro-futurist dandyisms. Sometimes, she even posts her own art and animation.