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The Best Horror Films of the 21st Century

Written by , on October 30, 2009 at 3:55 pm 

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The past few years have been tough for horror films with constant relentless torture porn (the Saw series)  and teen oriented scare-absent remakes (Prom Night). Despite this fact, there’s still been an abundant amount of worthy horror films to be found. Ranging from action, comedy, and romantic oriented horror films, they’re proof that this genre just isn’t filled with recycled disappointments. With Halloween this weekend it seemed like a good idea to provide one with a list that will help them fulfill the ultimate modern day horror movie marathon. These films aren’t great horror classics along the lines of Psycho and The Thing, but they’re undoubtedly the best films of the genre to be released in the past few years. This is a list that compiles the standard horror films to films that feature a horror element. Check out the list below.

Honorable Mentions: The Hills Have Eyes, 1408, and Identity.

20. Vacancy (Nimród Antal, 2007)

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Vacancy is a nice tight thriller that instantly draws comparisons to Hitchock’s work. It isn’t on that level of grandness, but its a beautifully shot film in Hitchcockian fashion. Nimrod Antal’s direction and the two lead performances elevated the overall generic story. While the film ends on a low note with a cringe-worthy ending, it still remains an admirable and well-constructed slasher movie.

19. [Rec] (Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, 2007)

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[Rec] is a truly disturbing and skin crawling horror film. The film does bring up the obvious question on why a cameraman would actually hold a camera while he’s being chased by zombie infested psychopaths. Despite this major nitpick, the film features strong performances and some horrifying scenes. It’s a film that is not meant to be watched alone or before you go to sleep. Share this tense experience with a large group of friends.

18. Paranormal Activity (Oren Peli, 2009)

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Paranormal Activity is an effective and unsettling horror film. While it does have the annoyance of having characters making stupid decisions, it still works. The two leads make it believable. There are moments of pure tension and frightfulness. It also features some impressive camera tricks. The lack of gore and violence puts it on the more classy side for scares.

17. Funny Games (Michael Haneke, 2007)

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This is a unique film; to some it’s utter garbage and to others it’s pure brilliance. It’s a film that easily gets under one’s skin and it’s entirely effective. Michael Haneke’s shot by shot remake is in many ways is a slap in the face. He doesn’t divulge into giving the audience satisfaction from bloodshed. His commentary on the box office successful torture porn films being released today is apparent and remarkable.

16. Slither (James Gunn, 2006)

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Slither is a downright hilarious monster film that only looks better upon repeat viewings. It features an excellent comedic cast including the always geek favorite Nathon Fillion. There is plenty of gross out gags, but they’re all funny. Unlike many comedy horrors, this succeeds at being both a good horror film and a comedy. The film is enjoyably disgusting at times and its also uproariously funny.

15. Zombieland (Ruben Fleischer, 2009)

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Zombieland is quite possibly one of the best comedies of the year. Unlike most zombie films, it isn’t a survival story persay. Its a straight up comedy with zombies used as a backdrop. All the characters have come and adjusted to living in this zombie infested world. It was a different take on the genre and it worked. With that said, the film also features a series of great onscreen kills and pure moments of adrenaline-pumping excitement. The third act lacks the punch of what came before it, but it is still a blast.

14. Blade II (Guillermo del Toro, 2002)

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Blade II is a straight laced stylized action movie with vampires thrown into the mix. Guillermo Del Toro’s project is not only a much better film than the first Blade, but it includes a more interesting take on the vampire mythology. For one thing, they have a unique design and are creepy as hell to look at (the evolved vampires). With this new spin on vampires they became even more menacing and fun this time around seeing Blade rip them apart.

13. Dawn of the Dead (Zack Snyder, 2004)

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Who would have thought a remake of a horror classic would turn out so good? Very few people, up until Zack Snyder’s highly enjoyable action packed zombie remake came out. Dawn of the Dead contains the perfect ingredients to make for a fun movie including a badass Ving Rhames, actual likable characters, slick direction, and zombies that are actually menacing and don’t move as fast as a turtle. It may not be on par with the timeless original, but it still makes for one hell of an action movie.

12. Grace (Paul Solet, 2009)

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A slow burning psychological horror film in the same fashion of Repulsion, its more than affective. It’s an unconventional horror film due to the fact that there’s no real villain. The concept of a baby that needs to be fed with blood could have easily been turned into a generic and blood splattered horror film, but its not that and for good reason. It’s an unsettling and character driven horror film that is sure to gain a cult following.

11. The Descent (Neil Marshall, 2005)

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Neil Marshall followed up his little cult favorite Dog Soldiers with an even more haunting and sharper horror film. The Descent is full of plenty of scares, blood, and exploits smaller fears in life. It turns small fears of being in enclosed spaces and being in the dark into even bigger scares by throwing Gollum-like killers.

10. American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000)

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American Psycho features one of Christian Bale’s best and pulpy performances to date. It is sick, dark, and even hilarious at times. It pokes fun at almost all things eighties from business cards to constantly doing cocaine in clubs. While it may not be as sharp as the book or as great, it still remains an excellent film that holds up.

9. The Mist (Frank Darabont, 2007)

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Frank Darabont is a mad genius when it comes to the challenge of adapting Stephen King’s work. He’s achieved massive success with The Shawshank Redemption and even The Green Mile but his take on horror is also great. It’s another film that focuses more so on the violence of humanity instead of the violent nature of the monsters. The real protagonist isn’t the monsters, its the people in the store. All this ends on a perfect note with one of the best horror endings in years.

8. Antichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009)

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Lars Von Trier’s latest is in many ways a horror film and it is highly affective. The haunting slow burn that messes with you with is horrific and filled with beautiful imagery. It is more so a psychological horror film that deals with darker side of humanity. The film is broken up into three chapters and they all build up to a more than gut-punching climax. It also features one of the most likable horror movie conventions with the story taking place in a cabin in the woods.

7. Trick ‘r Treat (Mike Dougherty, 2009)

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It should be considered a crime that this little horror gem went straight-to-DVD. It’s a hilariously tongue-and-cheek horror film that lives up to the hype. In the fashion of Evil Dead and American Werewolf in London, its uproariously funny while also keeping a twisted tone. It’s an anthology with all the characters and stories connected in someway. There’s no hit and miss here as they each are insanely entertaining. This is one to revisit yearly.

6. Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009)

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Drag Me to Hell marked Sam Raimi’s triumph return to his old school roots. In the same fashion of Evil Dead, it balances the horror and comedic aspects splendidly. It’s also a PG-13 horror film that holds no punches by never feeling watered down. It’s highly entertaining with very good performances, pure hilarity, and plenty of saliva scares.

5. 28 Days Later/28 Weeks Later (Danny Boyle, 2002 and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2007)

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28 Days Later is fantastic film and is one of Danny Boyle’s best. Its not a zombie film as they are never referred to as zombies but follow the same rules aka if they bite you then you are infected. He took an overused and recycled genre and turn it on it’s head. Boyle made something original, frightening, and a flat out great film. Luckily, it also wasn’t followed up with a shameful sequel. 28 Weeks Later definitely isn’t on par with the original, but it still a very good film.

4. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004)

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A hilarious cult classic that is purely hilarious. It takes the idea of what would happen if two average buddies were thrown into a zombie infested area and turns it into one of the best comedies of the decade. While it is for the most part a straight-up comedy, it also features a hefty amount of fun zombie kills.

3. The Orphanage (Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007)

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The scariest and most unsettling film on this list. It is a hauntingly chilling film that makes it’s way under you skin in a heartbeat. The Orphanage was produced by Guillermo del Toro and it even ranks amongst his best films. Juan Antonio Bayona has made a horror classic that every horror junky must see.

2. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)

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An obvious choice for many, many reasons. It is a beautifully crafted tale of friendship and love told from the viewpoint of a little boy and his new vampire pal. The film is mostly about friendship; from doing anything for a friend to always protecting a friend. It is a unique take on vampires and young relationships, especially in this age of Twilight.

1. Shadow of the Vampire (E. Elias Merhige, 2000)

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Featuring not only one of the most refined actors working today, but also one of his best performances. Willem Dafoe is a true marvel to behold in Shadow of the Vampire. He is dark and depressing at times, but also earns a fair amount of much-deserved laughs. It is a refreshingly original take on the vampire genre and a must-see for everyone.

What are your favorite recent horror films? Do you agree with this list?


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