The first decade in the 21st century unleashed a torrent of horror, from the rise and fall of the “torture porn” subgenre sparked by international turmoil to rapid advances in technology that widened the scope of filmmaking and connected global markets. Found footage horror resonated with audiences in a major way with entries like REC and Paranormal Activity, and zombies felt dangerous again with films like 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake. But not as dangerous as the way of extreme horror films both stateside and internationally with films like the Saw franchise, The Strangers, Wolf Creek, Inside, High Tension, Eden Lake, and more. In short, the decade was tremendous in selection for just about every aspect and sub-genre of horror. This means that there’s still a ton of great horror movies that have slipped through the cracks waiting to still be discovered, and here’s 10 of the decade’s best that you might have missed.
The Baby’s Room
The plot is simple; a young couple moves into an old house with their baby and soon begin hearing voices on the baby monitor at night. But being that this was co-written and directed by Alex de la Iglesia (The Day of the Beast, Witching and Bitching), this is less straightforward haunted house fare than you’d expect. A study of paranoia and tension, The Baby’s Room is even more surprising in that it’s a made for TV movie, which is also why it likely slipped under the radar. An entry in the Spanish horror TV series Historia paras no dormir, The Baby’s Room didn’t get much notice stateside, occasionally popping up on streaming services and getting a DVD release with the other episodes, titled 6 Films To Keep You Awake, but it’s worth seeking out.
This Finnish period horror follows two brothers, Knut and Eerik, on their quest to mark the border between Finland and Russia after a 25-year war between the countries has finally ended. In their journey they come upon a village set in a swamp, with a mysterious sauna that they hope to use to cleanse away their sins of war. Full confession; I still don’t know that I fully grasp everything presented in Sauna. It’s abstract and non-linear in narrative, and explores the toll of guilt in a unique way. But it’s haunting in atmosphere and offers some of the most stunning cinematography.
Franka Potente stars as Paula, a med student who wins a spot at the select Heidelberg medical school. It’s daunting, competitive, and exclusive enough as it is, but Paula realizes there’s something more sinister happening at the school when a man she met on the train soon after makes his way to the dissection table in class. Paula discovers the secret Anti-Hippocratic Society, a group that vivisects people they deem unfit for living. A medical thriller that mostly sticks to convention, it’s slickly shot and doesn’t shy away from the gruesome nature of cutting people up. A sort of slasher that revels in gory nature of vivisections is pretty fun.
Playing like two movies in one, The Cottage is a British horror comedy begins as a kidnapping gone wrong and then turns into a satisfying homage to slasher films. Andy Serkis stars as David, one half of the brother duo who decide to kidnap the daughter of a crime boss only to find her a feisty handful who doesn’t take to being kidnapped well. Even still, none of them are prepared for the deformed killer dubbed The Farmer. The gore is a fun surprise to this horror comedy.
Writer/director Nacho Vigalondo’s first feature film is a twisty sci-fi horror time travel story that sees its lead, Hector, stuck in a time loop following an attack by man covered in bloodied bandages. Those that are a stickler for time travel logic and characters whose decisions compound their own misfortune might be frustrated, but Timecrimes is a creative, fun face-paced romp in suspense. The more Hector continues his time loop, the deadlier things get. What starts as a slasher evolves into something completely different.
Proving that J-horror is more than just long-haired vengeful ghosts, Uzumaki (aka Spiral) is a surreal adaptation of Junji Ito’s regarded horror manga of the same name. It’s not a film for those wanting something more linear in plot with cohesive answers, but a journey into madness. Consisting of four parts, the narrative tells of a town becoming obsessed and tormented by spirals. Yup. Spirals. It’s weird, offbeat, and wholly unique.
Forget the 2008 American remake and head straight for the 2004 Thai horror film on which it was based. It’s grittier, creepier, and somewhat forgotten. When photographer Tun and his girlfriend Jane get into a hit and run, leaving a girl dying on the side of the road, strange faces and shadows begin taking over Tun’s photographs. The haunting escalates, and first appearances would lead you to believe it’s tied to the hit and run, but the twisty mystery behind the haunting is much more surprising and sinister. Shutter takes the Asian ghost horror tropes and makes it feel fresh again with effective jump scares and an engaging mystery.
2003 marked a year that Desmond Harrington starred in two horror films; the higher profiled Wrong Turn and the underseen horror romance film Love Object. The latter sees Harrington star as lonely tech writer, Kenneth, who falls head over heels and then becomes obsessed with Nikki. Nikki is a sex doll. Kenneth’s obsession and psychological descent is unsettling, but what really elevates this into something special is that director Robert Parigi keeps the viewer guessing; is there more to Nikki than meets the eye?
Director Christopher Smith (Black Death, Severance) brought forth on of the decade’s most mind-bending horror films in Triangle. Melissa George stars as Jess, a woman desperate for a break from her autistic son so she agrees to join a friend for a day on a yacht. A storm leaves them stranded until an ocean liner comes along, only it’s deserted. The group finds themselves hunted by a masked killer on board, a serious case of Déjà vu sets in for Jess, and no one can effectively predict the twists and turns the story takes from there.
Two years before Jaume Balagueró teamed up with Paco Plaza to unleash one of the most terrifying movies of the decade, REC, he proved an aptitude for delivering chills with this underseen haunted hospital spookfest, Fragile. Calista Flockheart stars as Amy, a nurse brought on to the nightshift in the children’s ward at an old hospital in the process of closing down. The problem is that the hospital’s closing means a ghost is very, very unhappy about the children leaving, and Amy has to somehow find a way to keep the children safe from unseen attacks. Fragile is creepy and atmospheric with effective scares, but even better is that Balagueró gives this ghost story an emotional center that really connects.