Five Horror Movies of the New Millennium

The A. V. Club posted their list of “The 25 best horror movies since 2000“.

Of these twenty-five, I’ve seen all of five: The Cabin in the Woods, Pulse, The Descent, 28 Days Later, and It Follows.  I liked all of them, but I’m especially fired up for It Follows, which is the best horror movie I’ve seen in a long, long time.  I actually scrolled through the list thinking Oh, man, I wonder if they have It Follows on this list, because damn, that is the best horror movie I’ve seen in forever

I’m planning to hunt down as many of the rest as I can.  (I noticed just last night that The Babadook wasn’t on Canadian Netflix anymore; I would swear it was before…)

But, this wouldn’t be a comment on someone’s List of the Best X without me adding a few of my own.  Here are the five horror movies that came out since 2001 that I liked most, but aren’t on the A. V. Club’s list:

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

This movie was nigh-universally panned.  People saw a dumb movie that depended on over-the-top violence.

I saw a gorgeous movie that depended on nightmare logic and the threat of violence.

First off, the movie is beautiful to look at.  I love the Platinum Dunes “humid as a swamp, strong colour filter, expansive vistas and claustrophobic spaces” aesthetic.

The aesthetic and the writing combine to give the movie a feeling of being trapped in a nightmare.  There’s something off about absolutely everybody.  All roads out lead back in.  Safe harbours aren’t safe harbours after all.

And then there’s the threat of violence.

I’ve seen critics decry movies that depend heavily on brutal violence and gore for their horror.  I say that a movie that gets gets its hands dirty proves itself willing to get its hands dirty, which gives it leverage whenever it subsequently threatens to get its hands dirty.  There’s a scene I can point to – but I won’t – that was utterly terrifying, not because of violence present, but because of the threat of violence that crackled under every slow, deliberate instant of it.

The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

I can’t remember the last time I saw a horror movie that was so grim, so gruesome, so hard to watch, yet so incredibly funny.

On the one hand, I would call this  movie more violent, and more gruesome, than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  On the other hand, you have an over-the-top wrath-of-God sheriff who calls in a film critic to advise him because the killers are using the names of Marx Brothers characters; “top secret clown business”; and a plot that includes an extended homage to The Empire Strike Back.

You’re Next (2011)

It’s a smart, scary home-invasion movie, with killers in animal masks and armed with crossbows trying to massacre a rich, hilariously dysfunctional family.

But one guest of the family – one son’s girlfriend – grew up in a hardcore survivalist compound.  This factor adds a delightful twist to the whole dynamic, and gives us a uniquely effective the final girl.

Evil Dead (2013)

The original Evil Dead trilogy – and its musical adaptation – is one of the classic works of horror-comedy.  It’s what made Bruce Campbell a star among nerds.

The 2013 remake is not a comedy.  Not even a little.  The 2013 remake is freaking terrifying.

It takes the formula and many of the character details of the original movie, and goes for horror to the hilt.  As characters start undergoing terrifying transformations, a demonic book shows us, in Puritan-era grimoire style, illustrations of each horror right before it happens, giving the audience a few moments to imagine what’s it’s going to look like.

The Purge (2013) and The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The premise is ridiculous and fantastic.  Once a year, for one night, rule of law is suspended throughout the United States.  Most acts – up to and including murder – are briefly legal.  During this night, there are no emergency services – no police, no ER, no firefighters.

What a phenomenal storytelling engine.  You get a tiny apocalypse once a year, for which people can plan.

The first film is the scenario in microcosm.  It focuses on the ordeal of a single wealthy family, with their lovely suburban palace and their high-tech security system.  There’s an unflinching focus on class, brought into stark relief by one privileged young man’s speech about how he deserves to kill the poor.

The second film is more sprawling, following half a dozen threads among half a dozen individuals and families who aren’t rich, who can’t afford high-tech security systems, and have to make terrible choices to get by.  We see more of the rich/poor divide, and how the… opportunities… of this night might propagate throughout society.

I want more of this setting.  I want ten sequels, I want tie-in novels, I want RPGs, I want everything.  There’s so much you could do with this.  Vigilante ambulance crews, determined to do good during the lawless night.  Tower-fiefs, ruled by petty gangster-lords, whose enforcement only has to happen once a year, when it’s legal.  Heists.

Honourable mentions: Jeepers Creepers (2001), which made me terrified of a truck; The Omen (2006), which was nigh identical to the original, but with a richer colour palette and a more interesting cast;  Teeth (2007), which I expected to be a silly exploitation film and turned out to be a thoughtful meditation on teen sexuality and purity culture.