We are now in the depths of winter, and desolation has set in for many of us. The days have grown short and bleak, and those of us in the northern hemisphere are settled in for the last weeks of the frigid winter. It is in this season, and the darkness it brings, that lends itself to horror movies. I wrote an article on dark music, which you can view here, so now I set my sights on the best the Horror genre has to offer. As our society becomes more and more desensitized to violence and the absurd, we continue to seek new ways to shock ourselves, and sometimes we do so using the vehicle of the horror film.
I know what it means to be petrified of a film. When I was approximately 13 years old, I had nightmares for days over the movie Dead and Buried, which I saw by sneaking over to a neighbor’s house, as I was forbidden to see movies like this at my young age. Years later, I have experienced hundreds of horror films, and I’ll do my best to bring the best of the best for you to experience this Halloween. For this article, I will restrict myself to the modern era of horror, which I identify as 2000-Present. We are undergoing a renaissance in horror, with the 2000s being absolutely packed with quality, delivered at an astounding rate. If you are curious about the finest Horror classics, there will be another forthcoming article covering those. For now, let’s look at the best of the best of this era, and I will also include an enormous amount of honorable mentions at the end, to ensure your nights are filled with terror. As you may expect, I would not recommend allowing children to watch any of these films, unless you like the idea of ruining their lives.
5. It Follows
How does one devise a more unstoppable antagonist than even the Terminator? This movie answers that question with what has to be one of the more innovative concepts I’ve ever seen in a horror film. Setting up the characters, and the viewers with a sense of inevitability unmatched in modern cinema was a difficult challenge, but this film delivered in a big way. Combining a sense of dread with the requisite jump scares, It Follows has all the makings of a true classic.
I believe we will consider this film an all-time classic 30 years from now, on the level of the Exorcist or Shining. It takes a great deal to shock me, and Hereditary gave me chills more than once. This is a near perfect film, that delivers fantastic acting, cinematography, and plot structure. The run time is slightly long, but overall, this movie delivers in a way few films can. It is a travesty that Toni Collette won virtually no awards for her role, as it is likely the greatest performance by a female lead in the history of horror. This is a film that will burrow into your head, and you will find yourself days later pondering the themes and elements of the plot.
3. The Babadook
The ridiculous name alone almost made me miss this modern classic. I prejudged it based on that, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. A master class in psychological horror of a family under duress where you can’t be sure what is real and what is not. Bringing a nightmarish children’s tale into real life without being ludicrous brings a lot of challenge, but the filmmakers brought their A game and delivered what is sure to be an all-time classic. Is a true tale of the supernatural, or a commentary on mental health issues?
2. The Descent
One of the most notorious and over used horror tropes is the “Final Girl.” Nearly every horror movies last survivor is a young female. So, what happens if the entire cast are young females caught in a claustrophobic cave diving expedition? Original location and themes, great cast, innovative plot, and brutal gore propel the Descent into the pantheon of modern classic horror movies. I can assure you spelunking will likely never be a hobby you pursue after watching this film.
1. The Witch
“Wouldst thou like to live...deliciously?”
My favorite horror film of the past 40 years. I would have to go back to 1977 and older to find a horror film I hold in the same esteem as this Robert Eggers masterpiece. The only horror film on this list to which I give a perfect score, The Witch is the only film I cannot even imagine a change one could make to improve it, and believe me, I can imagine quite a bit. A folk tale set in 1600s New England, the Witch brings unmatched historical accuracy in dialect, beliefs, clothing, and even in processes such as construction and survival techniques. This, coupled with impeccable directing, acting, and cinematography sets the Witch alone at the top of the heap in modern horror.
The Devil’s Candy - Heavy metal darkness, nearly made the list.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003: Excellent Remake.
Texas Chainsaw: The Beginning: First rate slasher film.
28 Days Later: Changed the Zombie film forever.
Evil Dead Remake: Best remake ever, I prefer it to the original.
Train to Busan: Best Zombie film of the modern era.
Wolf Creek 1 & 2: Crocodile Dundee meets Friday the 13th. Amazing.
The Conjuring: Nearly made the list, near flawless execution.
Get Out: Great concept by Jordan Peele.
Martyrs: Most disturbing film of the modern era. Might make you sick.
Cabin in the Woods: Incredible spin on horror tropes.
The Strangers: Top tier modern slasher movie.
Hell House LLC: One of the best “found footage” films ever.
There you have it: all the firepower needed to give yourself and loved ones nightmares for quite some time. Horror is highly subjective, so even if you do not agree with my list above, the Honorable Mentions are sure to have enough for you to produce your own Top 5. Settle in and get cozy in the final weeks of winter, and see if you can shock your system. Let me know if I missed anything, and fire your favorites at me on social media!
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