‘Tis the season! With the end of the decade and Halloween approaching, now’s the best time to torture your soul with the best horror this decade has to offer. Now, please, forgive me. The horror genre, like everything else, is getting blurrier. It’s hard to tell just what exactly is a horror film these days. I attempted to honor the genre, while keeping a clear opinion of what the best are. Enjoy!
10. 30 Days of Night
It was either this or Zombieland. A) You already know and love Zombieland. B) This is a comic site! I have to mention the adaptations when I can. 30 Days of Night could’ve easily been mediocre. An essential part of the book’s success was Templesmith’s art. Having said that, this movie looks pretty damn good. Snow always feels epic. 30 Days of Night is well-acted and well-made. It manages to naturally stretch Niles’ novel, making it, in some ways, better. To those of you who vomit at the sight of sparkly, beautiful teenage vampires, watch 30 Days of Night. These are just about the ugliest vampires ever filmed, and that’s a good thing.
9. Land of the Dead
I would’ve loved to re-watch this one, but I figure I have to get this out before Halloween. Romero’s return wasn’t as earth-shattering as we may have liked, but there’s plenty of merit here. For one thing, Land of the Dead looks great and features actors who can actually act. For another, Romero still manages to scare us with creatures who aren’t all that scary, providing uniquely gory deaths for his decent actors. And what would a Romero Dead flick be without some social commentary? With “Fiddler’s Green,” he managed to capture both the atmosphere of rich nations, who live in luxury while many still live in hell-holes, and of a post-post 9/11 world. While we sit comfortably, discussing American Idol, the evil is still lurking, and, perhaps, evolving.
8. The Mist
Ok, it’s kind of a zombie movie with bugs, but that’s different, right? In fact, thanks to the titular mist, the creatures can be grand and epic, without looking too cheesy. We’ve got some great actors here: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Toby Jones. They help elevate the material. Frank Darabont, the director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, completes his King trilogy, and it’s a lot of gruesome fun. This being a comic site, I have to mention Darabont’s Walking Dead TV involvement. If you want to see if he’s right for that adaptation, this movie will give you a clue.
7. 28 Days Later
Again, I would’ve loved to re-watch this. I even rented it, and I will watch it, but I’m a slave to this post. Danny Boyle was a good director before Slumdog Millionaire. I swear he was, and this film is part of the proof. I mentioned in my introduction how the horror genre has gotten blurry. Indeed, this film helped start that, with many rabid fans crying, “These aren’t zombies!” Well, whatever they are, they’re scary as hell. 28 Days Later has many impressive, grim shots of a destroyed London. It has great performances from the then-newcomer Cillian Murphy and the always-fantastic Brendan Gleeson. This may have helped splinter the zombie genre, but at least it’s pretty damn good.
6. Shaun of the Dead
This movie hammered home what George Romero has known since the 70’s: zombies are hilarious! They’re such boring monsters. In this film, we can barely tell them apart from the boring humans, maybe that’s just because they’re British. Shaun of the Dead is hilarious, but it also manages to touch upon the important elements of zombie movies, such as banding together, social commentary, and that wonderful gore.
5. Drag Me to Hell
I don’t want to oversell this, but Drag Me to Hell is arguably Raimi’s best film. We’re back to Evil Dead 2, with the perfect mixture of terror and comedy. Christine isn’t as lovable as Ash. She’s not really meant to be. However, Alison Lohman is a perfect horror heroine. She has the innocent looks and a wonderful scream. Amongst the laughs and gasps, this movie teaches us some very valuable lessons. Never deny an old gypsy! And never dig up a body in the worst storm of the decade!
Yeah, it’s one film, damn it. Funny thing about this being on a “best” list, it’s trying so hard to be bad. That said, this is probably the most enjoyable pick on my list. Ok, so Deathproof isn’t much of a horror film, even though hot girls are getting hunted and slaughtered by a badass Kurt Russell, but Planet Terror is horror all the way, in the vein of a Carpenter flick. You’ve got the babes. You’ve got the gore. You’ve even got the great actors, like Bruce Willis! And if you’re not at least a little scared of testicle harvesting, I don’t know what to tell ya.
3. American Psycho
Finally, a slasher movie where the murders don’t matter, even within the context of the film! Bateman’s murders are an expression of his boredom and vanity. Mary Harron took this material and made it an exploration of male insanity, rather than just Bateman’s. You’ve all seen these guys. They’re on Wall Street. They’re trying to sell you something. They might even be firing you. American Psycho documents masculine squabbles in deliciously, horrific detail. Perhaps, most chilling of all, the film asks, “What if these assholes really are killing, and, with wealth & power, their mess is wiped clean?”
I was mugged by God. That was my initial reaction to this film. True of almost every great film, on the first viewing, we’re not really sure what we’ve seen. This movie’s depth is so endless, it threatens to swallow you whole, taunting you to disregard it as Eurotrash. What I am sure of is the bravery of Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsburg, who follow Trier’s insanity to the end. Trier is a madman, as most great directors are, and his images, no matter how shattering to our senses, are fully realized here.
1. Sweeney Todd
The bloodiest musical, Burton’s possible best, and indeed, the greatest horror film of the decade. Burton stays faithful to the original tale, as well as Sondheim’s music. Depp and Carter are dressed like 30’s horror stars, paying homage to both the genre and the original film. I never felt Sondheim’s music should be gloriously sung, no matter how talented Angela Lansbury is. These songs are sad and personal, and though Burton’s cast aren’t singers, they are actors, and they deliver their tunes in the best possible way. You won’t find any prancing or choreography here. Sweeney Todd is a dark, terrifying tragedy that will slash its way into your nightmares as efficiently as Mr. Todd’s razors.