Inspired by other lists I’ve seen lately, I decided to throw together my own list of worthwhile horror films that have come out in the last 15 years. If I missed one, it’s probably because of this headache I have … or I just haven’t seen it yet! If you have any suggestions for movies I ought to check out, please leave a comment!
Note: I’m just going off what is listed as a release date on Wikipedia. Some of these were screened at an earlier time. My headache doesn’t need a headache, so we’ll keep it simple!
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust: I need more horror anime in my life. The aesthetic of this is what I imagine “The Bones of the Earth” would look like. Get it on Blu-Ray and prepare to blown away.
Dagon: A deliciously atmospheric adaptation of several of Lovecraft’s stories. The mood and pacing easily make up for the rather bare-bones plot. I haven’t seen all the Lovecraft-based films out there, but I imagine this one ranks pretty highly among them. As with most horror films, make sure to get the unrated version, so that you can enjoy the nasty skinning scene. Directed by Stuart Gordon, who also did … Re-Animator!
Jeepers Creepers: The first twenty or so minutes of this movie contain some of the best moments in modern horror. The build-up to villain and his/her/its lair is fantastic. While the last quarter of the movie isn’t quite as strong, it’s easily forgiven for everything that came before it. The Creeper, our villain, was poised to be one of the new horror icons, but unfortunately, the series never quite took off like it should have.
Session 9: Abandoned asylums are creepy, unnerving places, so it makes sense that there are a plethora of horror films set in them. Session 9 may be the best of them all. Filmed in the very real but now demolished Danver’s Hospital, Session 9 combines unreliable narrative with hints of the supernatural to create a film that will stick with you long after the credits have rolled.
28 Days Later: Sick of zombies? You can thank director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland for that. While it’s a stretch to call the creatures in this movie zombies (they are actually individuals infected with a rage virus), it doesn’t really matter. It’s a zombie movie, through and through. There’s not much to say about this one other than it’s a modern classic and worth your time. 28 Weeks Later, it’s sequel, is very good as well.
Cabin Fever: Several friends go camping in the woods and find themselves doing battle with a flesh-eating virus that appears to spread via liquids. I have a special place in my heat for Eli Roth’s debut. To me, it is the perfect combination of Roth’s affinity for gore and weird humor. Deputy Winston is my spirit animal.
The Ring: It took me awhile to get around to watching The Ring when it first came out. Everyone kept talking about scary it was, and being a shithead teenager, I avoided it, thinking it was all hype. Surprise, surprise, I was wrong. The Ring, in some ways, is an almost flawless film. And we have it to thank for the massive influx of interest and remakes of Japanese horror that came thereafter.
Saw: Like most first movies in a big horror franchises, Saw one has been overlooked and crapped on. It’s an excellent movie that was way better than it deserved to be, given the budget and the shooting conditions. Though its pretty rough around the edges, the movie a great plot and a fantastic twist. One of the few, perhaps the only, modern franchise which I consider worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as some of the classics (sorry Paranormal Activity, get outta here). Saw I-III are solid movies. After that, maybe not so much, but you know what, I’ll give them credit. They tried to make it all connect and continue the plot. That’s better than most.
The Village: Whaaat? The Village? Yes, god damn it. It’s a stretch to call this a horror movie, but it’s a lot better than it gets credit for. I’m sticking it here to encourage others to give it another go.
The Devil’s Rejects: The best or one of the best Rob Zombie movies. A perfect combination of all that the rocker seems to enjoy. The cool thing about this movie is that the individuals we follow are villains themselves, which forces the audience to make a decision in regards to whether or not they want to connect with them. Though it is a sequel to House of a Thousand Corpses (kinda), it stands on its own.
The Descent: Hot damn I’ve seen this movie a lot. A group of likable, capable, strong women go into a cave as a way in which to bond after a tragedy. Obviously, shit goes badly. A claustrophobic film that’s super intense and never dull. Some people complain about the turn of events in the second half, but some people are boring and have no imagination. A sequel was made, and it wasn’t half bad. Make sure you watch the original ending.
Isolation: Christ, how did I even find out about this movie? A low budget horror film set on a farm where in which strange experiments are being done on the livestock. Moody and creepy as hell. Watched it recently and I was not disappointed in the slightest. You may have to do some work to find it, but it’s worth it.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon: Guess who I’m being for Halloween this year? I love this movie. It’s a great send-up of horror conventions done in a lovingly manner. Behind the Mask follows a film crew trailing Leslie Vernon, a man who wants to be among the greats, like Freddy, Jason, and Michael … who also are real entities in this world. I enjoy this much more than Cabin in the Woods.
Inside: One of the films part of the French extreme horror wave (what a great time). The plot is simple: a woman on Christmas Eve is being terrorized by another woman who wants to steal her unborn child. Disgusting, disturbing, but incredibly well made. The final shot is absolutely haunting.
The Mist: An amazing movie concerning a small town that is suddenly covered in a thick mist. This is easily one of the top Stephen King adaptations. Great acting all around, with effortless pacing, and, like inside, with an ending that will destroy you. When I first watched it, I couldn’t believe I was seeing what I was seeing in a mainstream movie. Kvlt.
The Orphanage: I haven’t seen this is in a long, long time. I can’t comment on it, but I can say with certainty it belongs here.
[REC]: One of the best found footage movies. A Spanish film following a film crew for a TV show following a group of firefights into an apartment building where there’s been an incident. The sequel is awesome as well (but not the ones after that).
Trick ‘R Treat: For the longest time, it seemed as though this movie would never be released. Delay after delay after delay … but it was all worth it. This little movie turned into a Halloween time staple. Can’t wait for Krampus.
Martyrs: A gut-wrenching, extreme French horror film that follows a woman who was captured by a cult when she was younger and who is now trying to track them to enact revenge. Two films, really. The less you know about it, the better. It will disturb the hell out of you, but it’s impeccably made and will make you think.
Pontypool: I’d heard about this movie a whole lot, but it wasn’t until last year that I finally saw it. It’s an interesting take on the zombie and viral genre. The way it is set-up, you could probably just listen to the movie and have an awesome experience.
Antichrist: Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist caused a lot of controversy when it was first released. Beautifully shot, this movie will enrage you, as well make you seek out message boards to figure out what the hell it was all about.
The House of the Devil: Ti West’s best and probably most well-known film. The House of the Devil’s title explains everything. It’s a movie about build-up, aesthetic. It’s crazy how interesting a movie where very little happens can be. It has Tom Noonan, so for that reason alone, it’s worth watching.
Pandorum: A really fun, smartly made sci-fi horror film that was overlooked when it was released. A combination of Event Horizon, Alien, and The Descent. A man wakes up on a spaceship and can’t remember what the hell happened. And then he realizes he’s not alone, and that strange human-like things have set up a home around the ship’s reactor.
Orphan: From the trailers, this movie looked stupid as hell. It looked generic and like any other creepy child movie. But Orphan is anything but. It has great performances, a good story, and a pretty awesome and well-deserved twist. It feels like a movie that would’ve been made way back when.
Splice: I feel like this movie has been overlooked, but I don’t know. Maybe not. I’ve always had a soft spot for it. It’s pretty strange and kind of does some things you’d obviously rather it not. I think this movie on genetic engineering holds up pretty well on subsequent viewings, and the special effects are still quite good.
Black Death: I fucking love this movie. I think I’ve enjoyed just about every movie from Christopher Smith. Whatever genre you would consider this (carnage in the old English countryside) is definitely becoming one of my favorites. This one follows a group of Christian soldiers appointed to the task of hunting down a necromancer in the swamps, where the black plague has yet to ravage them. I never tire of this movie, and in some ways, it’s inspired my writing. I don’t know. Just hit me in the right spot!
The Last Exorcism: I’m not a huge fan of found footage movies. Not at all. In fact, I kind of actively avoid them. I think they’re overdone and fairly lazy. Most of these movies could be filmed normally, but because their found footage, it allows them to be done quickly and sloppily. However! I love the Last Exorcism. I love the cynical nature of the pastor and setting of backwoods Louisiana. Everyone does a great job in it, and there’s this very sweaty, stifling terror present throughout the movie. Can’t say I enjoyed the sequel, but this one is definitely worth it.
Insidious: This one needs no introduction. James Wan and Leah Whannel are some of the top names involved in mainstream horror nowadays. With Insidious, they took a fairly boring, overdone genre and injected some new life into it. Even the sequels are fairly good.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil: If you’ve frequented Reddit, then chances are you know about this movie (along with The Thing and Pontypool and other “gems”). Tucker & Dale is truly a good movie, though. It’s a hilarious take on the genre, reversing the roles of who’s good and who’s bad. The titular main characters deserve another movie.
Kill List: A disturbing movie about two hit-men doing a job for a mysterious benefactor. It jumps back and forth between being a domestic drama, a hit movie, and a strange, Wicker Man-esque film. If you’ve read any of my work, then you’ll know I have a thing for mixing genres and defying what is expected, so … yeah, I really enjoyed this movie. It takes a little time to get going, so give it a chance.
The Thing: A remake and prequel to the classic film by John Carpenter. This one shows us what happen to the camp that they visit in the first Thing. It’s a remake because it does follow a lot of the same story beats as John Carpenter’s movie, but at the same time, it does show us what happened prior to it. Is it necessary? No. Does it existing make the first movie worse? No, and that’s a stupid line of thought, so if you’re one of those people, cut that shit out. It’s the kind of movie that’s fun to watch, because you get to return to the world of The Thing without simply re-experiencing the same exact thing over and over again. There’s also a PS2 game, as well as a comic I’ve yet to get my hand on.
Prometheus: Ugh, but the characters made bad choices! And nothing made sense! And we didn’t even see the alien! And the screenwriter is a hack! Fuck off. Prometheus is awesome.
Sinister: I did not know what to expect when I first watched this movie. The direction, the soundtrack, and the snuff films blew me away. Would I have done some things differently when it came to the villain? Sure. But tough. We get what we get and that’s what we should judge it by. Ethan Hawke ought to be in more horror movies and I hope screenwriter Robert Carlyle keeps on doing his thing. The sequel was actually pretty good, I think, despite the poor reviews. Not the best, but it had its moments that made it worth watching.
The Lords of Salem: I didn’t much care for this movie the first time I saw it. The plot was fairly predictable and, in some ways, unsatisfying. But as time went on, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And you know what? The plot doesn’t matter. It’s all about that atmosphere. That thick dread. Say what you will about Rob Zombie’s screenplays, but the man knows how to direct.
Curse of Chucky: Seed of Chucky wasn’t a great movie. And while I really like Bride of Chucky, I’ve always wanted a return to the horror roots of the first film. This is that movie. Don Mancini, creator and constant writer for the series, directs the hell out of this movie. And the awesome thing? It’s not a remake or a reboot! This accounts for the films that came before it without requiring the audience to have seen them. I rank this right below Child’s Play. Can’t wait for the next one.
The Conjuring: James Wan is the man. At this point, you ought to know what this is.
As Above, So Below: This movie has been unfairly shit on. Yes, it’s found footage, and yes, found footage is a dumb gimmick most of the time. But I couldn’t help but be glued to the screen by this film. The combination of location and lore really did it for me. This is the movie that made me decide I really don’t trust reviewers whatsoever when it comes to horror films (not that I did all that much before this movie). And the poster is badass.
The Purge: Anarchy: There’s no good way to put it. The first Purge kind of sucked. This sequel took the very intriguing set-up of the first movie and put it to good use. If you do a third one, bring John Carpenter in, as this had a very Carpenter, Assault on Precinct 13 feel.
Starry Eyes: I heard about this movie around the same time people were losing their shit over the Babadook. Whereas that movie failed as a horror film, this one succeeded. A young woman with aspirations to be an actor finds herself involved with a company whose reach goes much deeper than Hollywood connections. Not going to lie, if it wasn’t for the ending, I wouldn’t like the movie as much as I do … as it is kind of slow and meandering … but that ending … Awesome! (I swear I’m writer. I just don’t put much effort into these blog posts. Woops!)
It Follows: Hype is a helluva drug. It turns fans into rabid morons and well-adjusted individuals into condescending, elitist shitheads. There was a lot of hype for It Follows, and I’m happy to say it was justified. Like Starry Eyes, it is slow and meandering, but unlike Starry Eyes, it is oozing style. It’s a very arty movie with a really neat, almost campfire-like story. Just don’t go in expecting to be scared to death (don’t go into any movie expecting that, and don’t use scariness as a way by which to measure the quality of a film) and you’ll have a good time.
We Are Still Here: I don’t really like most ghost movies. I find them repetitive and boring. We are Still Here is neither of these things. An older couple (breath of fresh air) move into an old house with a violent past and almost immediately things begin to happen. There isn’t an ounce of fat on this film. This isn’t some ghost knocking shit over like a petulant child. These are ghosts who make people explode. This may be one of my new favorite modern horror films. Got it on the shelf. Just need to watch it again!
So, here are some other movies that I’ve heard are good and haven’t seen, or movies I haven’t seen in ages and remember liking.