I tried to find a common theme among entries 10-6 in Bloody-Disgusting’s list of the Top 20 Horror Films of the 2000s, but after a head-scratching 30 minutes or so I realized there just isn’t one, at least not one that’s justifiable (people die in all five of them? They all have scary stuff?). But in a way, that’s one of the great things about horror cinema in the last decade – not only have there been a ton of amazing films, the diversity among them is astounding. In fact, there’s not one trend that can really sum up the decade, unlike the ‘80s (slashers) or the ‘90s (self-aware horror). Just goes to show how truly dynamic the genre has the capacity to be.
Perhaps the most influential horror film of the decade, Saw kick-started a franchise that became the highest-grossing in horror history (not adjusting for inflation, of course). The film has its detractors (although perhaps their disdain is directed more at the endless succession of sequels that followed), but in light of its measly $1.2 million price tag the film’s quality relative to bigger-budget horror films is striking. It also takes itself seriously, which came as a breath of fresh air following the trend of wimpy tongue-in-cheek horror that had dominated the multiplexes post-Scream. More than anything, this twisted morality tale is a film made by horror fans, for horror fans; it’s gory, it’s depraved, and best of all it introduced a new horror icon in Jigsaw. For that, and for the films it paved the way for, we should be thankful.
Michael Dougherty’s horror anthology is so good that its lack of a theatrical release (thanks a lot, Warner Brothers) borders on the criminal. Maybe the studio was scared off by the film’s candid black-heartedness; Hollywood often shies away from portraying the deaths of children onscreen, but when it’s done without apology, and even with a dose of humor (as it is here), the filmmakers may as well start digging their movie an early grave. Luckily, the horror community has rallied behind the film, a new Halloween classic that showcases four stories of madness and mayhem set during All Hallow’s Eve. When all is said and done, perhaps Trick ‘r Treat’s greatest contribution to the world of horror cinema is proving that straight-to-DVD films can be just as good, if not better, then their theatrical counterparts.
In a time when most remakes pale in comparison to the originals, Dawn of the Dead is something of a minor miracle. Sure, it’s not as good as Romero’s version. It’s not even as smart. But Zack Snyder brought an energy and a style to it that succeeded in making us forget about all that. Truly, you can analogize the two films based on their zombies alone – where Romero’s lumbered and took their time (in a good way), Snyder’s came at us, fast, with teeth bared like rabid dogs. He truly made his own version of Dawn of the Dead, his own way, with a distinctly 21st century sensibility. And why shouldn’t he have? There’s no way to really top the 1978 incarnation, so it makes perfect sense to just go for broke. And therein lies the beauty of Snyder’s film – he wasn’t out to best Romero; he just wanted to outrun him. And it worked.
Zombie movie? Political allegory? Humanist drama? 28 Days Later is all of those things and more – a genuine work of art by a director at the top of his game. What’s so amazing about the film is the way it so expertly balances scenes of white-knuckled, hell-for-leather horror with moments of intimate beauty. The “zombies” themselves – human beings infected with a blood-borne virus that causes them to fly into a murderous rage – are terrifying in part because of how quickly they transform. It’s not a slow, gradual conversion as in Romero’s Living Dead films but a near-instantaneous one that forces those around the victim to make a split second decision – kill or be killed? Of course, none of this would have mattered had Danny Boyle not been the one at the helm; it’s undeniably his movie, and it’s a transcendent movie-going experience.
The Ring was not only the first American “J-Horror” remake out of the gate; it also still stands as the best. Some prefer Ringu, Hideo Nakata’s Japanese original, but Verbinski’s version is simply a better film. Witness the expertly paced opening scene, which stands as one of the scariest prologues in horror movie history and trumps the original by a mile. Witness the haunting and abstract imagery on the videotape itself, much more disturbing than in the Japanese film. Witness lead actress Naomi Watts, turning in a full-blooded performance as the reporter investigating the mysterious killer video tape. Koji Suzuki, the writer of the book the Japanese film was based on, gets credit for that ingeniously simple premise. Verbinski gets credit for (re)interpreting it with such craftsmanship, and doing Nakata one better.
Editorial written by Chris Eggertsen
*Editor’s Note: For those of you interested in knowing how the list came to be, here’s an explanation. Bloody Disgusting writers collaborated on a list of some of the best films this decade. The entire list was given to the Bloody Disgusting staff who then built their own Top 20 lists. Each film was given a point value. 20 received 1 point, 19 received 2 points, and so on all the way to number 1, which received 20 points. The numbers were tallied and the result are the top films listed. The bonus film had tied with #20 and the tie was broken by the number of actual votes.
The following participated in the project: Mr. Disgusting, Tex Massacre, BC, David Harley, Ryan Daley, Chris Eggertsen, Jeff Otto, John Marrone, Horror_Guy, Mr_Bungle, Klown, Caustic Coffee and Tool Shed