From James Gunn to Danny Boyle: The 10 best horror films of the 2000s
Once the horror genre had been slapped across the face by the financial success of The Blair Witch Project there was no going back. Cropping out from the darkest corners of small-town America and cinema worldwide came replicas and rip-offs, some of which were great, most of which were almost unwatchable.
New technologies saw a horror ascension, giving many outside the studio system the chance to create and explore the genre without the need for large budgets and effects. Though despite this, the bizarre cinematic zeitgeist of the new millennium was for gore in extremity. James Wan’s Saw franchise rolled out seven films across the decade, each as absurd as the last, the culmination of which ended in 3D version, sending copious limbs toward the audience for our viewing pleasure. This was joined by the comparatively short lived Hostel series, all whilst across the European pond, new French extremity was also proving popular taking the audiences violence tolerances to new heights with 2007’s Inside, pushing the sub-genre to its very limits.
This gave an interesting tone to horror in the 2000s, where themes, cultures and subgenres collided, here are the best and most interesting from 2000-2010.
10 best horror films of the 2000s:
10. Drag me to Hell – Sam Raimi, 2009
Raimi’s first real return to his self-made horror-slapstick sub-genre since his iconic Evil Dead trilogy is a wild crowd-pleaser, mixing disturbing satanic context with sickeningly gory goo and guts seamlessly.
For Rami, the director approached Drag me to Hell with a new direction in mind, aiming to make the film rated PG-13 and moving slightly away from the gore-driven content: “I didn’t want to do exactly the same thing I had done before,” he said.
The comedy is perfectly compiled, fun and totally over the top yet strangely still very disturbing, a skill that Raimi and few others have ever mastered.
9. Martyrs – Pascal Laugier, 2008
The most infamous film of new French extremity, Martyrs brings untold nastiness to the mainstream fold, encased within a story which is inarguably original and strangely insightful.
Starting off as a good old revenge thriller, Martyrs quickly descends into something far more deprived at around the halfway mark once a girl seeking payback for her disturbing childhood finds herself in an inescapable trap. The worst date night movie.
8. Pulse (Kairo) – Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001
A spiritual spin-off to 2000’s Ringu, Pulse played off similar fears of technology at the time, focusing on PC’s and the internet, lumbering pieces of bewildering equipment connected to an ethereal ‘otherworld’.
The film follows a group of young Japanese residents when they believe they are being tailed by dead spirits, and haunted through the screens of their computers.
Like many Asian horrors, Pulse brings ancient evil to contemporary life, unsettled spirits terrifyingly realised as malevolent forces, formed together within a gripping mystery of genuine terror.
7. Slither – James Gunn, 2006
Better known for his recent adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn was once a more altogether bizarre writer and director.
His first fully helmed project, Slither (2006), brought body-horror to the contemporary fold. An ode to the ooze and gunk of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy and 1989’s Society, Slither is an overlooked release that perfectly fuses intense horror and gross-out comedy for a highly enjoyable, stomach churning watch.
6. Ringu – Hideo Nakata, 2000
Spawning sequels, spin-offs, remakes, restorations and re-releases, Ringu and its following series has become a horror trailblazer for all things grungy, supernatural and long-black-haired.
Ringu takes a traditional Japanese horror, rooted in fears of vengeful and unsettled spirits, and merges this with the paranoia of the turning millennium. Ugly, unfinished and bulky technology, inhabit ancient spirits, making a generation question just how trustworthy the white noise flicker of their TV truly was.
5. The Descent – Neil Marshall, 2005
Part monster film, part a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare, the descent is a cinematic achievement on the smallest scale. Shot in very limited, tight spaces, the underground world of the descent was shot largely on a set, though this is never made obvious.
Horror is at its best when its at its most simple, with the Descent playing on the same fears as the unknown fears of a gloomy forest, though replacing this overused cliche for the depths of some underground caves. It’s a horrible, highly uncomfortable watch.
4. Let the Right One In – Tomas Alfredson, 2008
In the midst of the vampire renaissance in the mid-2000s, Let the Right One in appeared as the dark and twisted counterpart to the cultural sweetheart, Twilight. Instead the film created a smaller cultural rejuvenation of its own, bringing dark Nordic drama to the forefront of mainstream entertainment.
Following a downtrodden, quiet boy who finds young love in a mysterious girl new to the community. Deftly transitioning between quiet drama and brutal, unforgiving horror, Let the right one in, set a new president for sophisticated contemporary horror.
3. 28 Days Later – Danny Boyle, 2002
The idea of a zombie pre-millennium was more of a nuisance than a terrifying threat. Something that would knock all your furniture over rather than aim for the jugular.
28 days later would change all that, giving an ‘infected’ sub-category to the zombie genre, and spawning a whole movement of zombie enthusiasts. It’s now iconic opening sequence, stalking the ghostly Cillian Murphy around London’s desolate streets, sets a pessimistic benchmark for the rest of the film, a drab, realistic and highly entertaining depiction of viral infection.
2. Audition – Takashi Miike, 2000
Takashi Miike isn’t unfamiliar to the explicitly disturbing, renowned for his frank and blunt approach to sex and violence. Audition is no different, taking the word ‘disturbing’ to new cinematic heights, in the tale of a widower auditioning local women to be his new wife.
It’s a slow burner which patiently builds a gripping drama, whilst behind the curtain crafting something far more sinister. Delivering the climax with a devastatingly uncomfortable blow.
1. Rec – Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza, 2007
With the help of Danny Boyle’s 28 days later and Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity, Rec took 21st-century innovations in horror and formed together with its own ingenious take on the genre.
Truly innovative, Rec plays out in real time following a TV reporter and a group of firefighters who report to a mysterious disturbance at a block of flats. What conspires to be the result of an occult medical science, Rec spirals into a grungy, dirty take on the infected sub-genre.
A tangible panic and urgency maintaining you glued into position for 80 minutes.