It’s unfortunate that this decade is likely to be remembered in decades to come as the 10 year remake. What started in the late 90s with J and K horror remakes spilled over into the 2000’s and not only shows no sign of abating but continues to pick up speed. Now remakes are not (as some would have you believe) the source of all evil, good ones have their place and always will, but I will say that its sad that, commercially, remakes are the dominant force for studios and producers at this time. Horror does indeed move in cycles and we eagerly anticipate the next one, offering us something engaging and exciting. So in an era dominated by the remake lets have a look at what Deadly Movies rated as the best, most influential, most entertaining, most game-changing, and most memorable films of the past decade:
10: Audition (aka Odishon, 2000): Director Takashi Miike’s incredibly clever, beautiful, and visual Japanese film is, for my money, his best work. Here’s an example of how to hold your load in horror. You can be subtle with the placement and quantity of violence and yet successfully depict it in a way that’s more shocking and unsettling than most gore-fests. With the actors, costume, pacing, music, editing, and dialogue Miike plays the waiting game with the audience, disguising his wolf horror film in almost melodrama sheep’s clothing. And when the horror arrives boy does it arrive. So deliberate is the setup that the violence hits you right between the eyes and becomes toe-curlingly unbearable at times. This film is not only a lesson in effective clever torture cinema (far better realised than it’s US suitors) but also how to successfully deliver a chilling female horror protagonist who’s every bit as unnerving as the genre’s dominant male protagonists, if not more so.
9: Them (aka ils, 2006): This may be touted by many as a high-art European thriller, but at it’s heart this is a simple but incredibly effective French genre piece, using many traits of American horror. Them may be reliant on a one gag ending, but the ‘based on true events’ reveal is worth the wait and will have you talking for months after. The French couple who are subjected to a night of terror on their secluded Romanian country estate pay lip service to that most cautionary of tales, the foreigner abroad. Which just goes to show that it’s not only American horror exploiting the dangers of foreign fields, but even within the open borders of Europe there exists cultural tensions and fears ripe for horror producers, and this is a great example.
8: Session 9 (2001): Session 9 is an incredibly successful throwback to the haunting haunted house movies of the 60s and 70s. Making a building and its off screen space frightening is an art-form sadly lost to most in contemporary cinema. Director Brad Anderson opts for a slow burn, providing ever increasing tension that gets heavier with its sense of impending dread. The on-location former mental-health hospital drips with a hostile atmosphere that slowly plays on both the minds of the characters and audience alike. The visual horror comes in the form of the titular session tapes that the workmen find in the basement. It’s these old reels that dig deep into the psychological horrors of the deceased patients, horrors that seem to transcend time, the building, and even the bodies of the poor men working in this retched place.
7: SAW (2004): It’s difficult to look back on SAW with virgin eyes, such is the cultural impact the film has had. SAW, rather unwittingly, has succeeded where many others attempted to succeed but failed dismally; It started a new multiple episodic horror franchise and created a new horror icon in ‘Jigsaw’. That achievement cannot be overlooked or underplayed, whether you like the subsequent entries is irrelevant. SAW has spawned a sequel every year since 2004 and there are few signs of the series stopping, with SAW VII is on its way. One more entry will see an equalling of Friday 13th’s original annual film run of 8 sequential parts. Not bad considering the appetite of sequential horror is not what it was in the 80s. Genre impact aside the first instalment is easily the best of the series, surprising viewers with it’s audacious torture games and ingenious interplay between villain, authorities, and victims.
6: Drag me to Hell (2009): Horror geeks around the world got wet with excitement that Sam Raimi would return to the genre. For years fans had been slightly mislead and duped with ‘Sam Raimi Presents’ efforts from his Dark Castle production companies. Where some of the releases had promise, none delivered anything resembling Raimi’s seminal film The Evil Dead (1981). Drag me to Hell however did deliver the Raimi horror sensibilities with aplomb, but don’t believe some who will have you believe that this is horror slapstick. Yes there is black comedy, but on the whole it’s visceral and dark in tone; bodily secretions, staples to the eye, a demonic goat, and kitten murder are the order of the day. Like The Evil Dead the humour here is often regaled above the horror, which is an imbalance. Drag me to Hell retains a definite horror core with plenty of scares, gruesomeness, and a very dark ending. There’s also a standout kick-ass performance from Alison Lohman.
5: The Hills Have Eyes (2006): For me this was a brilliant roaring violent popcorn horror movie that really delivered. French director Alexandre Aja bought a real sense of European pacing to the early proceedings, making the audience wait, giving us the doomed family and letting us get to know them. When time came for the cannibalistic horror to start Aja lets loose and kicks in the US horror mentality of showing everything in beautifully bloody detail. It’s a difficult balancing act which he nails. The real proliferator of this approach is Doug (played brilliantly by Aaron Stanford) who goes from certain victim to all-in-balls-out-kick-ass hero complete with his own self knowing heroic score. In a brilliant final 25 minutes the poor family has been through so much that when Doug’s primal survival caveman emerges you’re right there with him landing every skull smashing blow on the distorted craniums of the hill dwelling mutants. A real beer and pizza movie that delivers screams and cheers.
4: American Psycho (2000): What a film. Brutally funny and violent, matched only by its wonderful ambiguity. Don’t try to explain the ending I think it’s better left slightly open. Christian Bale emerges as a leading man depicting the homicidal 80s yuppie obsessed with cleanliness, fitness, material possessions, and Phil Collins! The threesome scene where Bale’s Patrick Bateman poses, winks, and points at his home video camera is a fantastically satirical scene that sums up the movie’s sensibility. So much of the movie could have slipped into male scopophilia, but rather becomes a parody of the male image obsession. It’s a rare thing to find a film that’s so clever, witty, and funny that also happens to be extremely violent. Bateman’s clean, vain lifestyle is lovingly countered with his other obsession; blood lust. A brilliant movie on all levels.
3: The Mist (2007): Whilst am awesome monster movie in any format, be sure to watch this in it’s originally intended digital Black and White. The Mist is clearly a divisive film with mixed critical reception and a poor US box office which lead to limited worldwide release and even the indignity of straight-to-DVD in some countries. For me the film is a fantastic updating of the glory days of 1950s creature features, and it’s perhaps this element that was lost on some. Like The Fog (1980) the film uses the effective meteorological plot device which renders its characters essentially blind to their surrounding and the horrors within. And it achieves this with great vigour. Monsters aside the film also offers the horrors of humanity (religion gets an especially hard ride) and opts for an incredibly brave ending that must be one of the bleakest and ballsy of the decade.
2: Dawn of the Dead (2004): A remake of a horror classic that can stand side-by-side with its ancestor and update the content enough to distinguish itself without losing touch with the source material. Anyone who detracts from the film because of the ‘fast zombies’ is clutching at OCD straws. This is a frenetic, breathless film with a wit and sharpness that distinguishes itself from virtually every other contemporary zombie movie. The brilliant opening scene dumps you straight into the horror and the film rarely slows down along the way. Yes the consumer society jabs are lost but they are replaced with action horror that has seldomly been matched this decade. This is what a horror romp should be, with entertainment value through the roof.
1: [Rec] (2007): Seldomly does a film scare the shit out of me, it’s safe to say the last 10 minutes of Rec were terrifying, utilising the night vision device to spectacularly effective means. Personally I’m not a fan of the first person camera narrative put to use in the likes of Colverfield and Diary of the Dead, I find it contrived and forced. What average Joe could keep a camera rolling in such circumstances? However Rec marginalises this problem from the outset by having the footage shot by a TV news crew. In a modern cutthroat, corporate, media world it makes sence to keep the news camera rolling. With the lingering annoyance of the first person reasoning put to one side the film successfully uses the technique to plunge the viewer headfirst into a claustrophobic Spanish apartment block overrun by zombie-esque creatures. The dark corridors and shadowy rooms feel like a good old fashioned haunted house. The quiet moments are horribly eerie and the attacks offer no relief but rather an ever increasing sense of inevitable doom for our first person protagonists. There’s also a very neatly woven back story which explains the creatures origins without dwelling on it (a plot point ignored by the remake Quarantine). And then there’s that ending in the pitch blackness of the penthouse and loft that leaves you just gasping. Rec, Deadly Movies horror movie of the decade.
I was pained to leave some of these close-run gems out:Final Destination (2000), Frailty (2001), Trick R Treat (2007), Let The Right One In (2008), The Strangers (2008), and Paranormal Activity (2009).
What do you think? Let me know your Top 10…,