Ever since the dawn of film, people have loved a bit of horror. Whether it be the early works of the silent era which ooze with fantastic ghoulishness like F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) or Benjamin Christensen’s Haxan (1922), or the classic contemporary gore-fests such as Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) or Hellraiser (1987), there is a great tradition with movie-goers that involves scarying themselves silly with frightening tales of vampires, monsters, demons et al. So what of the modern horror? Well, here is our list of what we consider to be the Top Ten Horror Films of the last 20 years in chronological order…
1. The Others (2001)
A haunted house film with a difference, The Others (2001) was released a few years after The Sixth Sense (1999) which re-popularised the idea of ghosts in films by introducing various twists designed to throw audience expectations askew. This film certainly does that and is a very clever play on the idea of a family home that has become haunted by former inhabitants. Starring Nicole Kidman and Christopher Eccleston, this spooky tale is highly recommended to those who love a good scare, but haven’t yet had a chance to be spirited away by this incredibly well produced film.
2. Paranormal Activity (2007)
This low budget fright-fest is influenced by such films as The Blair Witch Project (1999) and The Exorcist (1973) in a scenario that makes use of ‘found-footage’ to tell a ridiculously scary story about a couple who are haunted by an evil demon. Notable as being one of the highest grossing films ever made, Paranormal Activity (2007) is guaranteed to keep you up at night listening to every creak and odd noise that your house makes while you are trying to sleep. The use of CCTV style footage works well and gives the atmosphere a very realistic edge. Many sequels have been made, but as with most films, the original is the best. Not a film to watch alone!
3. Drag Me To Hell (2009)
Master filmmaker Sam Raimi returns to his roots with this supernatural horror film that sees a young female loan officer become the target of a curse. When she declines an extension on an old lady’s mortgage, the spell is cast and things quickly descend into chaos in a series of mishaps and ghostly events. The tension and action are both dialled up to the maximum in this truly worthy scare-fest. Raimi does what he does best, mixing great special effects with a tongue-in-cheek humour that results in a thoroughly enjoyable rollercoaster ride of insidious evil and gore. Put this one on for Halloween and try not to scream!
4. Insidious (2010)
Taking the idea of demonic possession in a new direction, Insidious (2010) is about a young boy who mysteriously falls into a coma and becomes a conduit for tormented souls from another astral dimension. Initially the parents believe the problem to be medical, but it is later revealed that the young boy has abilities to connect to ‘The Further’ and the evil entities have led him to a point where he has become lost and cannot wake. There are some truly creepy and unnerving scenes in this one and director James Wan makes excellent use of visual tropes and a spooky soundscape to create a film that evolves the haunted house scenario and delivers a terrifying chain of events. Several sequels were produced after the success of this initial offering. This is the only one that really hammers it home.
5. It Follows (2014)
This teen horror movie plays with the idea of an evil spirit which is passed on by one person to another, and on top of that it can take on any form in the pursuit of it’s victim. The sexual elements of the story have caused some critics to remark that the film is a comment on sexually transmitted diseases, due to the relationship between the female protagonist and the guy that passes the “evil spirit” on to her. A different spin on the idea of being pursued by a relentless maleficence, this one will make you question the idea of ever risking a one night stand as you witness the lead enter a world of fright and pain at the hands of an ill-chosen sexual partner.
6. The Babadook (2014)
In this Austrailian film, the evil antagonist is a character from a children’s pop-up book that becomes all the more real when people deny it’s existence. Mr. Babadook haunts young Sam and his mum Amelia and threatens to destroy their lives when he invades their home and causes a malestrom of havoc. You won’t be picking up and children’s pop-up books for a while after seeing this one. This inventive film directed by Jennifer Kent is well paced and keeps you guessing where the next fright is going to come from. Of the film she said: “Now, I’m not saying we all want to go and kill our kids, but a lot of women struggle. And it is a very taboo subject, to say that motherhood is anything but a perfect experience for women.” Make what you will of that, but it may help to prepare you for some of the scenes you will witness watching this one.
7. The VVitch (2015)
Robert Eggers’ period horror The VVitch (2015) is a masterclass of cinematic eeriness and also his feature film debut. Set in spooky New England, this film delves into the religious beliefs of the colonial settlers and explores the mysticism and lore that this particular region is famous for, through the eyes of a struggling family who are living an insulated existence on the edge of a dark forest. With excellent performances from Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Ineson, this film keeps you wondering whether there is any supernatural hand at work or not, right up to the very end. This one is for those who enjoy a bit more mystery and drama in their horror films. Produced by the excellent A24 Studios and highly recommended by us at More Movies.
8. Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is a modern horror story that deals with racial inequalities in society and attempts to unpack paranoia, betrayal and our propensity for complacency and insensitivity. There are no ghosts or demons at work in this one. The evil comes from within, in the form of a liberal middle-class community who harbour a dark secret. Told through the eyes of a young African-American protagonist (Daniel Kaluuya) whose worst fears are quickly realised during a visit to meet his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time. A gripping and original story, Get Out (2017) is a truly modern horror that works on many levels, as well as being notably entertaining throughout. Smart, funny and damn scary!
9. Hereditary (2018)
Ari Aster is a name rapidly becoming synonymous with modern horror. So it’s not a great surprise to find his two most talked about films on this list. The first, Hereditary (2018) is another feature film debut for the director and has divided audiences, with some loving the sprawling narrative and intensity and others finding it a bit overcooked and unfocussed. Whatever your opinion, if you love horror films, you have to see this movie at least once. With a manic performance from Toni Collette and great support from Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wollf and Milly Shapiro, this story about a dysfuctional family who descend into complete madness after a tragic loss, is a spectacle to behold. Another A24 production, this is one for horror connoisseurs who will appreciate the rich legacy of films that it has been inspired by.
10. Midsommar (2019)
Astor’s second film on our list is also his second feature film. Midsommar (2019) is about a group of friends who visit a Swedish folk festival that only occurs every 90 years. They are initially intrigued by the ancient rituals and customs but soon find themselves in the midst of a cult who have nefarious designs. Fans of The Wickerman (1973) will appreciate the obvious influence here, but more discerning viewers will find this a very clever exploration of a painful break-up between the lead character Dani (Florence Pugh) and her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). Even without the subtext, this film is a great watch, and any film that disposes of the evil Will Poulter in style is ok with us!
That’s our 10 Ten Horror movies of the 21st Century!
Do you agree with our list? Did we miss any your favourite modern horror films out? Let us know in the comments.
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