Can you say aughties with a straight face? I can’t and I dare you to try. But let’s move beyond “aughtie” this and “aughtie” that: The years 2000 to 2009 produced a bumper crop of terrific horror movies. Made by both genre veterans and neophytes, they range from down-and-dirty torture porn to sly mockumentaries; post-modern ghost stories to white-knuckle suspense tales; go-girl manifestos to off-kilter monster movies. And that’s just the English-language pictures! Clearly, reports of the genre’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
10. Black Sheep (2006)
Yeah, killer sheep. This clever, funny and occasionally genuinely frightening variation on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds hails from New Zealand, where the ratio of ovine, even-toed ungulates to puny humans is roughly ten to one. How do you like them odds, naked ape? What if we add some top secret, gene-manipulating shenanigans? Thought so… better hide that mint jelly while you can, because these sheep aren’t going to be cowed.
9. Ginger Snaps (2000)
Adolescence is hard enough when you’re just a vaguely gothy geek girl. But what’s a little sis to do when her slightly older, smokin’ hot sister (Katherine Isabelle) is bitten by a werewolf and starts getting all hormonal and hairy? We all know why they call it the curse, but this is ridiculous.
8. Hostel (2005)
Eli Roth’s brutal variation on The Most Dangerous Game, in which masters of the universe pay big bucks to torture and murder society’s collateral damage, ushered the term “torture porn” into the mainstream vocabulary. But let’s give credit where it’s due: Hostel and Hostel Part II (2007) draw together Euro-horror connoisseurism and a visceral sense of the thrill of complete control. How horrifying is that?
7. Saw (2004)
Australian writer-director team James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s ingenious low-budget debut spawned the most successful new horror-movie franchise of the decade, along with a new fright icon: Jigsaw, the implacable conscience of an amoral world. Chalk one up for the horror geeks!
6. Paranormal Activity (2007)
A young couple, a sleek new San Diego townhouse and a haunting depicted via suggestive shadows and flashes of spooky, not-quite-right behavior captured by a home video camera: Writer-director Oren Peli — a software developer with no movie-making experience — knocked it out of the park for less (much less) than $20,000. Paranormal Activity began playing festivals in 2007, but only made its way to theaters in 2009. It was well worth the wait.
5. American Zombie (2007)
Real-life documentary filmmaker Grace Lee’s sly mockumentary dissects lifestyle fads, political correctness and identity politics by positing the living dead as the last minority. Yes, they’re zombies, but they just want to live normal, productive lives… or do they? Seriously mind-twisting.
4. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Wisdom has it that horror is best leavened with humor, but my experience says otherwise: There’s nothing like a dumb-ass gag to spoil a perfectly calibrated scare, and the ideal balance of shock and snickers is dauntingly difficult to achieve. Yet writer-director Edgar Wright and co-writer Simon Pegg nailed it: Shaun‘s vision of comfortably numb underachievers negotiating a zombie apocalypse is both genuinely funny and authentically scary.
3. Diary of the Dead (2008)
Four decades after revolutionizing zombie movies with Night of the Living Dead, George Romero rebooted his seminal franchise with a stripped-down return to square one, tweaked for the too-much-information generation. Made by a filmmaker in his/her 20s, Diary would be a chilling kick in the head. From a filmmaker in his late 60s — someone cursed with perspective — it’s downright apocalyptic.
2. 28 Days Later (2002)
A rogue virus dubbed “the rage” turns England into a killing field in Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s revisionist zombie picture: Think Day of the Triffids — John Wyndham’s classic vision of England’s devolution into post-apocalyptic savagery — by way of Night of the Living Dead, shot through with eerie echoes of post-9/11 shock.
1. The Descent (2006)
Neil Marshall’s follow-up to his debut, Dog Soldiers (2002), a nervy little werewolf picture, is a bleak, brutal bitch fest that pits six spelunking alpha-girls against a seriously creepy clan of CHUDs and, more devastatingly, each other. They don’t start screaming until there’s something to scream about, and by then it’s too late.
So that’s it for me… what about you? Use the comment field below to discuss your favorite horror movies of the last decade.