Compared to other genres, horror is probably the most prolific.
With that comes varying levels of quality because, well, it's quantity over quality. The birth (and subsequent death) of the DVD market saw an explosion in cheaply-made horror movies from 2000 on, but how many have actually been objectively good films?
We've pulled together what we think are the best horror films of the past sixteen years.
Take a look.
10. DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004)
Hands down and without question, Dawn of the Dead is Zack Snyder's best film. The most likely reason for this is that he was working with a small budget, an experienced group of actors and he had a finely-tuned script to play off - written by James Gunn of Guardians of the Galaxy fame, no less. The ensemble cast, which included sitcom star Ty Burrell, Ving Rhames and ER's Mekhi Phifer, worked believably together and truly created a sense of crushing, impending doom. While purists might deride the fact that it's a remake or that the zombies were fast instead of slow, Dawn of the Dead still works as an engaging chamber piece with some fantastic moments. Also, how about that soundtrack?
9. DRAG ME TO HELL (2009)
There are few films that allow you to see what fun the director is having behind the camera. This and Cabin In The Woods are probably the two best examples of this. Coming off the back of Spider-Man, Sam Raimi was returning to his roots in glorious, blood-spattered fashion with this down and dirty horror about a young woman who's cursed by a Romani gypsy. Using a cast of relative unknowns and with a low budget, Raimi crafts an excellent horror that's as brutal as it is hilarious. There's so much of Raimi's pitch-black humour in the plot and script. After all, who wouldn't want to place a curse on a banker for taking their home?
8. THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE (2005)
What makes The Exorcism Of Emily Rose such a fascinating film is the very astute blending of legal drama with outright horror to give it a sense of credibility. As with many of these types of films, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is loosely based on a true story, but it's down to director Scott Derrickson's use of the court as a skeptical frame of reference to make it all the more frightening. Jennifer Carpenter, whom audiences will recognise from Dexter, gives the performance of her career in the title role whilst Tom Wilkinson denies his usual instincts of scenery-chewing and plays it back. Atmospheric, intelligent, it's the sort of film you'd expect to have seen in the '70s, not in 2005.
7. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007)
Like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and, indeed the best kind of horrors, Paranormal Activity comes to the screen with an air of authenticity. Here, it's taken to its completely logical conclusion - the actors aren't even actors, they're filming it themselves and it's all done via CCTV. Found footage is nothing new; Cannibal Holocaust in the '70s pioneered the genre whilst The Blair Witch Project revitalised it briefly in the '90s. Paranormal Activity made the idea of found footage horror a workable feat in an age when the Internet discounts these things with ease. Tightly directed and smartly played, Paranormal Activity was a fascinating watch on its release. It's just a shame the countless amounts of copycats that followed in its wake were never as good.
6. THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (2009)
As an exercise in being as revolting and shocking as possible, The Human Centipede works. The very name of the film conjures up all sorts of Cronenbergian body-focused horrors and its tagline of being 100% medically accurate made it all the more shocking on its release. Of course, when you actually sit down to watch it, the whole premise is basically a lure to get you in. You don't see anything of the gore and director Tom Six astutely aims the camera just above the gore. Your mind then fills in the blanks and makes it all the more horrifying.
5. ANTI-CHRIST (2009)
Where The Human Centipede allowed you to imagine the sheer horrors on screen, Lars Von Trier's not only showed you the horror, he made it so you couldn't look away if you tried. A shuddering, terrifying mix of gender politics, Satanism, bodily mutilation and the idea that we are inherently evil underneath it all, Anti-Christ is arguably the most shocking film of the decade. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gaisnbourg coalesce on screen and, at times, it looks they're both truly going mad in front of us. Lars Von Trier is always trying to shake the audience and he's never been more effective than in Anti-Christ.
4. IT FOLLOWS (2014)
Drive sparked a wave of interest in '80s aesthetics and a reevaluation of the films of the decade and their sense of style over substance. With It Follows, it takes in elements of the decade and then funnels it through an interesting script and believable performers to make something truly timeless. There are so few horrors in the modern age like It Follows that allow themselves to be interpreted in various ways. Some might argue that the 'It' is an allegory to sexually transmitted diseases like HIV / AIDS, others might even claim the disease is human intimacy and being vulnerable. Whatever It is, the film works as an effective and stylish chiller with a fantastic central premise.
3. CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)
As we mentioned in our opener, horror as a genre is more about quantity than quality. It's become so ubiquitous for audiences, but very few directors have rounded on the genre and skewered it so forcefully like Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon. Even though it initially works within the parameters of an average horror, it becomes so meta and self-referential that it turns from a straightforward into a comedic examination of the entire genre. We, the audience, are party to the whole ordeal and what we see in the end is the eventual conclusion of horror as a genre. It's been done a thousand times over, it'll be done a thousand times more. It has to end at some point.
2. AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000)
American Psycho isn't just one of the best horror films ever made, it's also one of the sharpest satires you're ever likely to see. Bret Easton Ellis considered Bateman and his antics as the eventual endpoint of consumerism; that we would eventually reach a point where there would be no emotions, except for greed and disgust. Christian Bale gave his greatest performance as the psychotic stockbroker who liked to dissect girls and wear Valentino Couture suits whilst making pompous and faux-intellectual observations about commercial pop music. Just like Bateman, the film is all surface and glittering, but beneath the surface is oil-black humour and a real streak of cynicism that's just incredible to watch. Do you like Huey Lewis and The News?
1. THE BABADOOK (2014)
When William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist, praises your film as one of the scariest films ever made, you know you've hit the jackpot. Jennifer Kent's stunning debut explores something that is so horrifying that it could only be real. What if your grief became so real that it would eat you alive? The Babadook made a real and tangible persona, but the horrors it addressed were so much more authentic. With a cast of unknowns, Kent created a truly unforgettable experience that stays with you long after the credits roll. The use of colour, the lack of music, the sheer texture of it all evokes absolute terror.
- Green Room
- 28 Days Later
- Shaun Of The Dead