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August 9, 2011

The Mike's Top 10 Favorite Horror Films of the Last Decade

Yeah yeah, lists. You know you want some.

Friend of FMWL Marvin the Macabre of the always excellent site The Montana Mancave Massacre has sent out a call for help, and The Mike darn sure wasn't gonna let it go unanswered (BTW, y'all should click the logo below and answer the call too).  Especially when it involved...y'know, a list.  Lists are to Mike as canned hams are to Oprah.  (Also, jokes about Oprah and canned hams are to Mike as canned hams are to Oprah.)
Oh, the said of the Top 10 horrors of the last decade. And this means I need to give my common disclaimer about how this list is all my opinion and some of your favorite movies probably missed it and some movies that you hate are probably on it.  I know, I know. But hey, the good part is that - after you read my list and tell me how great or crappy it is - you can make your own list too!

Enough talky talky, let's roll. From 2002-2011, these are The Mike's ten favorite horror films.  Oh, and here's too many honorable mentions. Do you have any idea how hard it was to narrow this down to 10???? (HINT: It was REALLY hard.)

Honorable Mention:
Absentia, Bug, Dawning, The Descent, Drag Me to Hell, Feast, Frailty, Lake Mungo, Let The Right One In/Let Me In, Pontypool, Red White & Blue, Rogue, Shaun of the Dead, Slither, 28 Days Later..., Zombieland

#10 - Incident On and Off a Mountain Road
(2005, Dir. by Don Coscarelli.)

Yeah, I'm cheating a bit. But Don Coscarelli's inaugural episode of the up-and-down Masters of Horror series won me over quickly. Truthfully, a large part of the charm came from the fact that its theme closely resembles the final paper I wrote for a a creative writing class in college.
I wrote an alien werewolf, they wrote a moon-faced dude. Potatoes, Potatos.
Of course, I didn't have the talent of the great Joe Lansdale, and thus Incident On and Off a Mountain Road did a lot more with the empowered woman in peril idea than I could have possible imagined.  Anchored by a strong lead performance by Bree Turner (who's supported by surprising turns from Ethan Embry and Angus Scrimm), the duo of Coscarelli and Lansdale create a pulpy and satisfying tale of survival that could have become one of the best features of the decade with more work.

#9 - Paranormal Activity
(2007, Dir. by Oren Peli.)
I know it's not cool to like Paranormal Activity, and I suppose I'll lose some horror cred listing this as high as I am.  (In fact, I'm listing it ahead of the likes of Let The Right One In and Shaun of the Dead, just so we're clear.)
Even though Micah's the world's biggest d-hole.
Here's the deal: If I'm gauging horror movies based on how much they've made me scared to go asleep at night...well, then this one takes the cake.  Nothing I've seen over the last decade has made me crawl to the back of my seat like an in theater viewing of Paranormal Activity did.  Looking back, I can see the flaws and the tricks and how silly the whole thing is...but that feeling it gave me the first night is what every horror movie should long for.  I've got nothing but respect for this film.

#8 - Martyrs
(2008, Dir. by Pascal Laugier.)
If Paranormal Activity is the film that sent the most chills up my spine, then Martyrs is one of two films that twisted the most knots in my stomach. (More on the other film later.)
No barfing in an open wound, please.
I've only convinced myself to watch the film once - I feel like it might move up higher if I let it sink in again - but I couldn't deny a film like this a spot on this list.  Martyrs is a horror film with the rarest talent for balancing violence and intrigue, and Laugier uses blood to paint some shocking, yet beautiful scenes.  I'm still not sure exactly what Martyrs is, but I am sure it's one of the most tenacious horror films I've ever seen.

#7 - The Mist
(2007, Dir. by Frank Darabont.)
It had been a long time since teenage Mike cast his own film adaptation of The Mist in his mind. He put Kurt Russell in the lead, a blonde Ashley Judd as his wife (Remember when she was blonde? Rowwr.), John Goodman as the cranky neighbor, Oliver Platt as the store manager, and Neve Campbell as the young, store-bound love interest.  I'll be honest: I kind of love young The Mike's brain casting.  HOWEVER, Frank Darabont's take on The Mist worked out OK too.
Thomas Jane is the evolution of Kurt Russell. In other words, he rocks it.
In fact, I could only have been happier with Darabont's film had he kept the book's ending and not gone for the most shocking ending humanly possible.  I'm not saying the ending doesn't work - it literally left me speechless on that Thanksgiving Eve 2007 release night - but it doesn't fit the theme I remember the book ending on at all.  But hey, if that's the only complaint I have about a movie that I dreamt of for a decade, that's a major horror win.

#6 - [REC]
(2007, Dir. by Jaume Baleguero & Paco Plaza.)
Found Footage horror isn't specific to this decade, but it's certainly come into its own in the hands of independent filmmakers.  Paranormal Activity, The Last Exorcism and others have brought the idea of horror filmed by characters to us - but the best example of the genre since The Blair Witch Project hit screens is most likely the Spanish import [REC].
The 2000s were a big decade for overweight old woman "zombies".
The inspiration for vapid American remake Quarantine, REC packs a lot of action into less than 80 minutes, giving us chills and thrills at breakneck speeds.  This real time horror at its finest, complete with a couple of smart turns and a chilling finale that set things up for a surprisingly good sequel.

#5 - Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
(2006, Dir. by Scott Glosserman.)
Honestly, this might be my second favorite slasher film of....well, ever.  A decade after Scream hit screens, Behind the Mask took us just there, putting cameras on a likeable young man named Leslie Vernon - who dreams of following in the footsteps of great killers like Michael, Jason, and Freddy.
Unfortunately, Leslie didn't want to be the first slasher without disheveled hair.
Behind the Mask takes a comedic approach to horror, but it also does a fine job of keeping the viewer on edge with the kind of twists and iconic imagery you'd expect from a slasher spoof.  At the same time, Behind the Mask provides a fresh perspective and is a true crowd pleaser all the way through the final credits.

#4 - Inside
(2007, Dir. by Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury)

Pregnancy has had a place in horror since Rosemary's Baby, but I'm pretty sure no film has ever attacked an expecting mother quite like this French shocker did.  To say this is one of the most brutal films I've ever seen is an understatement, as I think only Martyrs can top its brand of artistic arterial spray.
I can't even make a joke about scissors and unborn children. That just ain't cool.
With Beatrice Dalle portraying one of the scariest women ever put on film, Inside offers chills early and follows the early tension with various attacks that push the envelope, leading up to the finale we knew was coming...but could never have been prepared for.  This - along with the next two films - was a serious candidate for the top spot on this list, but I have to settle for placing it at 4. Now I just hope that "La Femme" isn't too mad at me.

#3 - Dog Soldiers
(2002, Dir. by Neil Marshall.)
If it's action horror that you crave, I'm not sure there are many films since Predator that do it better than Dog Soldiers.  Neil Marshall's debut is a fresh take on the werewolf, and offers some of the most a$$-kickingest heroes the decade saw on screen.
Man, this guy really let himself go to the dogs.
With Kevin McKidd and Sean Pertwee in command, the film becomes both a siege film and a monster film - think Assault on Precinct 13 meets The Howling - and Marshall's direction keeps everything tight and interesting as he moves through the film.  There are few scares to be had, but that doesn't make the film any less fun or any less impressive.  And the practical werewolf effects are awe inspiring too.

#2 - Bubba Ho-Tep
(2002, Dir. by Don Coscarelli.)
It's Coscarelli and Lansdale, back again, now in the Top 2 of the list.  While Incident On and Off a Mountain Road was about a young woman who must survive, Bubba Ho-Tep brings us an old man - who just happens to be Elvis - who fights to survive in a much different way.
The rumors are true - Cleopatra does the nasty.
Bruce Campbell takes the lead as The King, and I think this is by far the best performance of his career.  The film knows just how to even out the comedy and drama of Elvis' predicament, which leads to some surprisingly powerful scenes and inner monologues ending up on screen.  Many have called Bubba Ho-Tep "weird" due to its attention toward its characters (including Ossie Davis as JFK, who's "thinking with sand") but I think that attention to character makes it one of the best films of the last decade.

#1 - The House of the Devil
(2009, Dir. by Ti West.)
I occasionally find myself craving this film as I would a pizza.  It might not be the scariest, tensest, funniest, touchingest, action-packedest, or any other "est" horror film of these 10 years, but it most definitely has the best conjunction of all the factors that I think make a horror movie great.
Man, old people get frisky when there's an eclipse. Gross.
Ti West's "slow-burn" horror moves at a snail's pace, but I've never found that an issue with the film.  This is a deliberate tale of terror that owes a lot to a slower time in horror, and The House of the Devil never once loses its focus on what it wants to do to the viewer.  This is an old-fashioned film with great characters, effective music, superb camera work and some wonderful shocks that I can turn to any time.  To me, that makes it a relatively easy choice for #1 on our list, even though I love all these movies dearly.
I suspect that the order of this list and/or the status of some films vs. the honorable mentions could change tomorrow, but tonight these are the 10 films I've got faith in from the last 10 years.  Thoughts? Comments? You know what to do. And don't forget to go back to the top and click on Marvin's banner for MORE LISTS!  I know my Midnight Warriors can't refuse that!


R.D. Penning said...

There goes half of my list... ass! haha

Chris 'Frog Queen' Davis said...

Great list! Loved Inside....truly a creepy movie!!


Will Errickson said...

Great list, I've seen most and enjoyed them all. Your honorable mentions lists maybe my fave, at least the one that creeped me out the most: LAKE MUNGO. *shiver*

Andreas said...

Some fine choices, a few of which came close to making my list as well (We had 1 in common, [REC], which is just all-around awesome.)

Glad to see some love for Behind the Mask, which is totally underrated. And The House of the Devil is as deserving of being called "best horror movie of the decade" as anything. Good choices!

The Mike said...

Thanks all!

Will - Mungo was probably the last film off the list. Definitely shiver inducing.

Russ & Andreas - Looking forward to your lists!

Frog Queen - Thanks! Inside is certainly creepy as can be.

James Van Fleet said...

I wouldn't figure you for a fan of those French flicks. "Martyrs" was really something else. Strong list from a strong decade.

Dod said...

Such a great list, and I'd easily put several of those films in my own list. Some of them, like "Incident..." and "House of the Devil" I need to see again.

Good stuff, my friend!