Since the creation of film, there have been horror movies.
They have lurked in the darkness of genre, occasionally becoming mainstream or cult classics, but mostly going unrecognized when compared to action, drama, or comedy. A horror movie can contain all three of those things in addition to the death, screams, and scares. There are thousands of horror movies out in the world, but I’d be crazy to try and watch them all in one month. Instead, I’ve made selections out of pre-determined film ‘eras’ to create a rudimentary guide in watching horror movies.
Saw brought the genre back to life screaming, bleeding, and fighting, and it would never be the same. Before the Jigsaw Killer, the monsters of horror chased cheerleaders, terrorized teens, and were threatening in a way that riveted audiences to their screens. Saw made people look away. Beginning in 2004, the horror genre was awash in splatter films, remakes, and reboots. Some would argue that Saw made horror crass, tasteless, and foul. Others are thankful that it brought some originality to an overdone sense of tongue-in-cheek.
From 2004-2010, the genre was awash in films to choose from that tried to be the films that had inspired them. The splatter films (Saw, Hostel, The Human Centipede) and the remakes (Halloween, Friday the 13th, Dawn of the Dead) served to expand horror, and to make room for the period that would follow. There were some moderate successes during this time, quite a few newfound classics, and here are five to keep you entertained this Halloweekend.
- The Descent. Easily one of the most terrifying and claustrophobic movies of the 21st century, this film about five friends spelunking in the Appalachian Mountains deserves its place simply for being a female-dominated narrative. It’s very rare to find a horror movie without at least one macho man, but this film definitely doesn’t need any testosterone to go with its adrenaline. The fear of enclosed caves, utter darkness, and the unknown lurking within all work together to keep audiences on edge. The ending is one of those iconic scenes, but it won’t be spoiled here. A definite recommendation.
- Trick ‘R Treat. If you love Halloween and worship the ground it walks on then this should be added to your must-watch manifest every year. This anthology film deals with the rules of the holiday (i.e. always check your candy) along with the adorable yet creepy mascot, Lil Samhain. It’s a good film that celebrates the true meaning of Halloween: treats, tricks, and bloody fun. Each of the stories within the anthology hold their own compared to the others, and the way that blend and break together is masterfully done.
- The Strangers. This is one of those home invasion movies that will definitely affect you in some way. A couple struggling to define their relationship stay the night at a house in the countryside, only to be terrorized by unknown figures. It will make you scream, “Look behind you!” several times. The use of sound is superb, and the masks used by the antagonists are pre-Purge level awesome. The beginning is its own kind of horror and I actually can’t say too much about the film without giving away what makes it so unique in terms of its subgenre. Don’t watch it when you’re home alone, and make sure to lock your doors.
- Shutter. Part of the last wave of Asian horror remakes, this import from Thailand received generally negative reviews but made six times its budget. It follows a newlywed couple who move to Japan, only to find that they’re being haunted by the spirit of a young woman who only appears in photos. There’s some great commentary on moving to a new country, marriage, and secrets. While it’s not the greatest remake, the twist at the end and the smart characterization of the wife make it worth the watch.
- Paranormal Activity. The film that brought found footage back to life, spawned five sequels, and apparently was so scary that people walked out of theaters. I knew it had to be on this list because of its status within modern horror, but I’d never seen it before. I, personally, didn’t think the hype was worth it. While it was similar to The Blair Witch Project in its lack of script, there’s nothing else that even compares. The story focuses on a couple haunted by an unknown entity, but other than that there is no internal or interpersonal conflict. The set looks like it was borrowed from a porno and there were five different fake flowers throughout the house. While the ending was good and there was some vaguely creepy imagery here and there, I’d say that this one isn’t a huge miss.
The resurgence of real horror was a much needed break from the horror-comedies and the lackluster scares that had plagued the decline. Torture porn and remakes were on every screen, but there were still original films spread throughout. Creators sought to recreate the magic of the classics and the heyday with the age-old formulas, but they also added to the canon with new, terrifying films. The resurgence was about bringing horror back to life, but what followed would take it to the next level.
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