Paul Tassi at Unreality compiles his list of the Ten Best Horror Movies of the Last Ten Years, and I’ve got to say that it’s a pretty decent list.
10. The Hills Have Eyes remake (2006). This one wouldn’t make my list; I’d substitute one of the alternates listed below. As these things go, it was a passable remake, but it didn’t stick with me, and the ostensible satire/message (the mutants are US, man!) was laid on a bit thick.
9. 28 Days Later (2002). Great choice. An instant classic. The sequel, 28 Weeks Later, was quite good as well.
8. Saw (2004). This one wouldn’t make my list, but it’s an arguable choice. Given the utter degradation of this series through an endless series of increasingly absurd and slapdash sequels, it’s easy to forget that the first one was a cleverly plotted thriller with genuine twists.
7. The Descent (2005). Another instant classic. I’d put this one very close to the top of the list. Perhaps the most claustrophobic movie I’ve ever seen. I was on a caving trip once and the guide had the nerve to mention it. Not a movie to think about while you’re underground.
6. High Tension (2003). Another by Frenchman Alexandre Aja (along with the Hills Have Eyes) and another I’d leave off the list. It was an effective (if excessively gory) slasher flick utterly ruined by a ridiculous twist ending that annulled everything that came before it.
5. Audition (1999). Oh my, what to say about this movie? I only saw this last week, and for the first hour or so, I thought perhaps I’d gotten the wrong movie. Everyone talked about how disturbing this movie was, but here I was watching a rather slow but deeply engaging domestic drama about a Japanese widower and his son. There is no way that an American horror movie (or whatever genre this is) would allow this much screen time to elapse without something ostensibly scary (or at least portentious) happening. Then I got to the last half hour, and I understood. It’s odd, unique, and masterfully made but also deeply, deeply disturbing. Viewer beware. From director Takashi Miike.
4. The Sixth Sense (1999). Okay, jest all you want about the killer trees and merpeople that M. Night Shyamalan has subjected his ever-dwindling fan-base to in his last few outings, but this one still holds up. The best twist ever, and a damn scary movie in the early scenes to boot.
3. The Blair Witch Project (1999). What needs to be said about this phenom? It worked for me at the time. Haven’t seen it again, so can’t speak to its staying power. If only it hadn’t spawned so many imitators.
2. The Ring (2002; Gore Verbinski’s American version). I have to confess that I haven’t seen the Japanese version, but this one gets everything right.
1. The Orphanage (2007). A great choice for number one. Juan Antonio Bayona’s eerie masterpiece is the perfect response to the criticism (which I heard earlier today) that horror today is all blood and gore, with no atmosphere or subtlety. This one is all atmosphere and subtlety, and boy is it effective. I think it works so well because Bayano and screenwriter Sergio Sanchez never forget that ghost stories ultimately are about grief, loss, and redemption.
Alternates and Honorable Mentions:
The Others (2001). Another one that relies on old-school atmosphere to deliver the goods on a classic ghost story.
The Signal (2008).
The Grudge (2004; American version). Genuinely scary.
The Devil’s Backbone (2001). Director Guillermo del Toro has called the vastly more successful Pan’s Labyrinth a ‘spiritual sequel’ to this early horror movie. Another one that takes place at a Spanish orphanage. Geez, don’t they have Child Services over there?
Let the Right One In (2008). Fresh take on the vampire genre. Currently being remade for Americans who can’t read subtitles.
Session 9 (2001). An overlooked gem of psychological horror.