Films of the Decade: Horror

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Torture movies, zombies and vampires came to dominate the horror genre this decade, taking over from the teen slasher films that were in vogue at the end of the 90s. While the zombie trend was pleasing, producing a handful of decent films, the torture movies produced the Saw franchise and a couple of Hostel flicks. These films tried so hard but achieved so little. When it’s all there on the screen and no time has been taken to develop characters with more than one dimension, it’s hard to feel anything but contempt.

Top Five Horror

5. From Hell

The accents are terrible and Heather Graham is woefully miscast as an Irish prostitute, but From Hell is still an excellent film. The photography, the set design and the atmosphere are incredible, and Ian Holm is superb as the Ripper. His performance (along with Robbie Coltrane’s) manages to erase the syrupy ending and some of the less successful performances.

4. The Mist

A great idea magnificently executed – a mysterious mist descends upon a town and a group of people hole up in a supermarket; bugs then emerge from the fog and attack. What follows is a test of nerves and spirit – some of the group descend into aggressive religiosity while others try to rationally find a solution to their predicament. It’s yet another horror film that shows that people are the biggest monsters of all. Oh, and the bleak ending is a killer.

3. 28 Days Later

There are many reasons why 28 Days Later shouldn’t be as successful as it is – some clunky writing and shaky performances being the main examples – but somehow the whole film comes together as a marvellous whole. It’s gritty, it’s frightening and it has characters you care about. It’s the work of one of Britain’s most versatile directors firing on all cylinders.

2. Let the Right One In

Fuck Edward and Bella in their nubile, little arses. Let the Right One In is the vampire film of the decade. About a young boy who unknowingly befriends a bloodsucker, it manages to juggle sweetness, humour and horror with expert skill.

1. Audition

Audition is a slow burner. It begins as the rather sedate story of a widower looking for a new bride. With the help of a filmmaker friend, the man sets up a series of ‘auditions’. Through this he finds a beautiful young woman. However, she’s very quiet. She seems like she’s holding something back. Not giving a damn about this, the widower falls in love with her, not realising that she’s the sort of woman who likes to keep men in sacks. There then follows an excruciating torture sequence. Pitch black with lots of twisted psychology, it works on all sorts of levels that films like Saw and Hostel could only dream of.

Five Worst Horror

5. The Cell

I guess to enjoy this film you need to like the visuals, so integral are they to the fabric of the film. Personally, I thought they were awful. It was like watching a Madonna video that went on for a couple of hours. All the attempts to be kinky and edgy are more amusing than chilling. And then the clichéd ways that try to add depth to the killer. Oh no, he was abused. Oh yes, there is a little bit of good in him but he’s too damaged. Maybe if it didn’t feel like you were watching MTV and if the lead was a better actress than J-Lo and if you didn’t have the silly virtual reality concept and if you genuinely explored the fractured mind of a psychopath without silly gimmicks and music video visuals, then you could have a decent film on your hands. As it stands it’s a pretty shitty entry in the serial killer canon.

4. Saw

A cheap knock off of Seven that spawned a monster of a franchise. The film, quite simply, is awful. Camp and hysterical, it’s so overripe that even the most horrific scenarios are rich with humour. Just take the scene where Cary Elwes has to hack his own leg off. It’s a laugh riot (‘You have to die. I’m sowwy. My family’). And then you have Danny Glover running about and shouting like a lunatic, and a villain who seems remarkably indestructible for a cancer patient. None of it is believable and none of it is scary.

3. The Happening

Another so-called horror film that plays as a comedy. People suddenly start killing themselves for no reason. My favourite is when a man lies down so that a lawnmower can run over him. Hil-arious. But again it’s another M Night film with a moronic twist. So what caused this? Twas the trees. Quick, run away! Catch a rocketship to Mars! The leaves! The branches! The horrible, fucking branches! Oh how we’ve raped Mother Nature. We’re paying for it now with hair pins in the neck and lawnmowers on the back. We’re sorry for the polar ice caps!

2. Hostel

Horny American teenagers with no brains turn up at a hostel expecting to get snatch aplenty and then get tortured to death by sadistic businessmen. The film has no suspense and no terror, and that’s because the characters are all so irredeemably stupid. So when they eventually get abused, it’s hard to care or to feel frightened for them. It’s just graphic violence for the sake of graphic violence, and as a consequence the film is deathly dull.

1. Dreamcatcher

An anal obsessed horror film that features yet more aliens that want to explore our buttholes. But even though it must be terrible to sit on a toilet and have a gen-u-ine alien burst from your colon, must it really look like a teeth-filled vagina worm? Is the film trying to say something as the alien worm munches on the cock of a urinating man? Is it an anti-gay polemic (most of the men in the film seem obsessed with their privates, keep away from women and like to write the names of boys in the snow as they piss – are the alien vagina worms annoyed that these men will never procreate)? Or is it just a dumb, nonsensical, trashy, splatter fest? It’s probably the latter. Oh and did I mention that one of the lead characters gets possessed by an alien and then suddenly begins talking with a posh English accent? Yes, because that’s what you fucking do when you get possessed by a motherfucking alien. You start talking like Prince Charles! Aaaargghh! [head explodes]

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  1. I, too, hate Dreamcatcher. I thought its first however many minutes were fine, promising, etc -- and then comes the toilet scene. And the film just gets worse and worse. Loved the Boyle film, as you know. And am very anxious to see Let the Right One In.

  2. Man, you must, and I emphasize MUST, have to add to the worst horror movies that fucking gay vampire saga called Twilight.

    Bram Stoker, Bela Lugosi and F. F. Coppola, and others must be rolling over in their graves.

  3. Can Twilight even be considered a horror film? I mean, I'm sure it's horrific, but they're more romances that happen to have vampires in them, aren't they?

  4. I personally preferred Thirst to Let The Right One In, but it's such a scrape of a preference that it ultimately seems futile, as both are excellent.

  5. Nice list. I have to echo Jason's comment about Dreamcatcher - it starts off okay but goes down hill. I should have considered Audition for my top 10 of the decade, but I went by it's Canadian first showing date of 1999, rather than the USA general release.