Saturday, October 27, 2012

Horror in the Oughts (Top 13)

There was a lot to hate about horror in the first decade of this century: the remakes, the torture porn and senseless gore, the fact that the stories were neither scary nor thought provoking. Ah, but that last point is not entirely true. There were some stories worth hearing and some of those “lesser” efforts were actually an insightful window on the times, and that may be the most disturbing thing of all. Interesting note: what is with all the Spanish filmmakers on this list?

13. “El Espinazo del Diablo” (2001) Guillermo del Torro

Creepy, Spanish, magic realism. It is also the sort of creepy horror that has something to say about horrific things in the real world.

12. “The Others” (2001) Alejandro Amenabar

Another ghost story and it is truly chilling. The exploration of spiritual reality here is flawed, but opens the door to conversations about belief.

11. “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon” (2006) Scott Glosserman

A disturbing, “meta” exploration of the serial killer genre and the fandom surrounding it.

10. “Frailty” (2001) Bill Paxton

This film asks us to question our presuppositions about good and evil.

9. “El Orfanato” (2007) Juan Antonio Bayona

Another classic ghost story that makes the list for its effectiveness in delivering chills.

8. “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) Edgar Wright

One of the more savvy commentaries on current culture in film of the past 20 years.

7. “Shadow of the Vampire” (2000) E. Elias Merhige

What if the old 1922 film, “Nosferatu” had used a real vampire? This film explores the art making process and the lengths we are willing to go to to achieve our desires.

6. “The Ring” (2002) Gore Verbinski

Before creating some of the more entertaining films of the past decade, Verbinski started out remaking (and even perhaps improving) one of the more terrifying stories of the past couple.

5. “The Ninth Gate” (2000) Roman Polanski

This is the very definition of “guilty pleasure.” “Chinatown” meets “Rosemary’s Baby.”

4. “Coraline” (2009) Henry Selick

The best children stories are the scary ones. This one manages to chill as well as teach.

3. “The Village” (2004) M. Night Shyamalon

It seems M. Night has really lost his touch, but don’t let anyone tell you that this is evidence of that. This is a great story.

2. “Signs” (2002) M. Night Shyamalon

Another rich story that thrills and forces reflection at the same time. This may be his best.

1. “El Laberinto del Fauno” (2006) Guillermo del Torro

This film has all the ingredients I look for: magic realism, unique visual creativity, kids in peril, ideas about the real world hidden in fantasy, and good vs. evil.

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