It’s late October and Halloween festivities around the world are in full swing. With everyone undoubtedly enjoying their favorite horror flicks now is the perfect time to analyze the best the genre has to offer. Cavalcade has compiled a list of the 25 best modern horror films (made after the year 2000) to rank the definitive titles that have shaped the genre in the 21st century. We’ll start by taking a look at #25-#21, but before we begin here’s a rundown of some noteworthy mentions that didn’t quite make the cut.
This remake of the 1985 cult classic was surprisingly enjoyable. With an excellent cast including Colin Farrell, David Tennant, and the late Anton Yelchin it delivered a delightful throwback horror vibe without sacrificing the scares. Sadly, it was hard to squeeze it in among similar films that were arguably more effective.
Another remake of an even bigger cult film from the 80’s, Evil Dead managed to be a solid horror flick in its own right — but we’re hard-pressed for a place to place it in our Top 25. With the original Evil Dead franchise still going strong with the awesome Ash vs. The Evil Dead series on Starz, the remake has become little more than a footnote.
It was hard to exclude The Conjuring seeing how it was the progenitor of the current resurgence in the horror genre. It kicked off Blumhouse’s dominance as the top producer of quality horror, however, it fails to rank only because it retreads territory both blazed and perfected by other films on the list.
Without further adieu, let’s get to it.
Admittedly, Saw is a movie of dubious reputation. It went on to spawn a series of torrid films we dare not mention beyond the confines of this sentence. But at the time of its release, Saw was an original concept to the horror movie genre that delivered tension and scares like nothing audiences had ever seen. It was on the tip of everyone’s tongues and that word of mouth made it one of the most financially successful films of all time, grossing $103 million worldwide on a budget of just $1 million. It’s also the film that put James Wan (The Conjuring, Furious 7) on the map. His taut direction made Saw standout among its contemporaries. The Jigsaw killer and his creepy puppet avatar Billy became instantly iconic, a rare accomplishment in this era of modern film and even more so for horror.
Japanese horror imports were hot in the early 00’s and The Ring was the best of the bunch (sorry, Grudge). The film was an American remake of the 1998 Japanese film Ringu, which in a true rarity, is largely considered superior to the original. The adaptation brought an auteur touch with Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean) at the helm. The film featured a wonderful cast with Naomi Watts and Brian Cox as the leads, but it was a young Daveigh Chase that truly shocked with her iconic performance as the ghoulish Samara. Another standout was Hans Zimmer’s chilling score that added extra punch to all the terror. The Ring brought the kind of big Hollywood clout seldom seen in horror movies and it made for a wholly satisfying experience.
Believe it or not, there was a time where the zombie sub-genre of horror movies weren’t at all ubiquitous. Yes, it true. One of the biggest contributors to their popularity was 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, a remake of George Romero’s cult classic (notice the trend here?). The first feature-length film from Zack Snyder (Batman v Superman) and written by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), Dawn of the Dead re-imagined the original movie as a horror/action shoot’em up where zombies sprinted rather than shambled. The combo proved effective as the film is still one of the best offerings from the zombie genre. Its influence runs deep, from the zombie shooter video game franchise Left 4 Dead to an ever-growing list of B-movie clones. Chances are if you go to a Halloween party you can catch this movie playing on a TV somewhere in the background. It’s zippy direction and sarcastic tone makes for a horror flick that’s perfect for casual viewing and has endured the onslaught of zombie-based media.
It could be argued that American Psycho isn’t a true horror film. It can also be argued that a tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable, but that doesn’t make it an argument worth having. Point is, American Psycho functions as a horror movie and a poignant one at that. Christian Bale’s turn as Patrick Bateman is one of the great cinematic performances of our time. The story is a study on modern excess and mental/emotional despondence, all against the backdrop of 1980’s corporate America where greed and materialism were at their height. The film is a unique slasher told from the monster’s perspective and it gives us a disturbing look into the mind of a true psychopath. Infinitely quotable, memorable and stylish American Psycho has reached cult prominence, inspiring works of art and even a Broadway musical.
Comedy and horror make for the coziest bedfellows. Case in point: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. More than just a horror-inspired laughfest (which is succeeds at) it’s also a clever satire that pokes fun at genre tropes. While not as witty or insightful as something like Shaun of the Dead (more on that down the road), Tucker & Dale was a refreshing departure that encapsulated why comedy/horror is an ever effective pairing. It’s gruesome, gory, and gloriously funny. At the center of it all is an actually heart warming story about friendship, bravery, and the folly of trusting first impressions. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil will never be the first movie you think of when pondering the best in horror, but like the titular stars, it’s a movie that reveals itself to be more endearing the longer you spend time with it.
That’s five down and twenty to go! Stay tuned in the coming days as we continue to count down to the top and look to see if your favorites make the list.