Decades of Horror: 2010s Edition
At the start of the month we kicked off our "Decades of Horror" feature by looking back at the best films of the 1980s. Then we dove into the strange world of 1990's horror flicks. Last week we explored the 2000's, and this week we're wrapping up with the 2010's (so far).
Join Shelby C., Matt L., Jose G., and Sean M. as they recount their favorite horror films of the decade by year!
Matt L. - Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (dir. Eli Craig)
As should be established by now, I’m a big fan of horror comedy. And, after Shaun of the Dead, this film is probably my favorite. Unlike that film, this one does play the horror more for laughs than genuine scares, but it absolutely delivers on those laughs. It also contains the best use of a woodchipper since Fargo.
Shelby C. - Black Swan (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
Having seen other Aronofsky films, I really should have been prepared for it, but I was still surprised by how genuinely surreal and disturbing this film was.
Jose G. - Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (dir. Eli Craig)
A charming and crafty but also very dark and very violent film, so be prepared. Much like Shaun of the Dead, it starts off as a spoof of horror, having fun with many of the clichés, and then becomes an effective film of the genre.
Sean M. - Insidious (dir. James Wan)
I know of at least two grown adults who started watching this movie alone at night and then had to shut it off. It’s an interesting take on a haunted house movie and, though it starts to fall apart a bit at the end, contains some of the scariest imagery I’ve seen in a horror movie.
Matt L. - Detention (dir. Joseph Kahn)
I was only introduced to this movie earlier this year, and holy shit is it crazy. Equal parts Heathers, Back to the Future, Clueless, and a teen slasher, this film from music video director Joseph Kahn is funny, shocking, and super visually engaging.
Shelby C. - Attack the Block (dir. Joe Cornish)
The film that introduced me to John Boyega, and that reminded me how great alien invasion movies can be when done right.
Jose G. - Attack the Block (dir. Joe Cornish)
A highly energetic sci-fi/horror flick that is part Wolfen and part Assault on Precinct 13 with John Boyega as the perfect anti-hero and future Doctor Who star Jodie Whitaker as the perfect stubborn foil.
Sean M. - The Innkeepers (dir. Ti West)
I much prefer West’s House of the Devil. This one’s a bit of a slow burn, but it has its share of creepy moments.
Matt L. - The Cabin in the Woods (dir. Drew Goddard)
And, a trend emerges. Like my last two picks, this is a meta horror comedy that completely deconstructs horror tropes while effectively making use of them at the same time. MVP goes to Bradley Whitford, who manages to be charming and funny as a shockingly amoral quasi-villain. Oh, and Fran Kranz, who is brilliant as the trope-ish character he’s playing, and equally brilliant when that trope is subverted.
Shelby C. - The Cabin in the Woods (dir. Drew Goddard)
I know the meta-horror genre is almost as played out as the horror tropes they are satirizing, but I can’t help but love The Cabin in the Woods. The addition of “string pullers” - standard corporate cubicle-denizens - who control the horror scenario opens up entirely new avenues of both comedy and horror (can you imagine dying at work? LAAAME).
Jose G. - Juan of the Dead (dir. Alejandro Brugues)
A Cuban Zombie film, what more could you want? Our hero Juan and his merry band of survivors stave off the undead while the government claims it’s just revolting dissidents. Pure bloody, satirical fun.
Sean M. - Berberian Sound Studio (dir. Peter Strickland)
Toby Jones plays a British sound engineer working on an Italian giallo. It’s a nice homage to the giallo genre and also and effective psychological horror film about a man slowly unravelling.
Matt L. - Evil Dead (dir. Fede Alvarez)
I fully recognize at this point that I’ve lost all credibility in including only this and Army of Darkness of the four Evil Dead movies. I don’t care, this movie is a super-effective remake/reboot/sequel to the series.
Shelby C. - V/H/S 2 (dir. various)
I somehow managed to miss most of the horror flicks that came out in 2013, but the sequel to the surprisingly good V/H/S (2012) is probably at least worth a watch if it is streaming free somewhere.
Jose G. - Room 237 (dir. Rodney Ascher)
A fascinating documentary about The Shining which makes one wonder which is scarier: Kubrick’s cinematic vision or the obsessive analysis of its fans.
Sean M. - Curse of Chucky (dir. Don Mancini)
After a series of increasingly ridiculous movies, Chucky was something of a parody of himself. Don Mancini is able to do the near impossible and make the character threatening again.
Matt L. - Starry Eyes (dir. Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer)
Now we switch gears to the full on skeevy. There’s more than a little Rosemary’s Baby to the feel of this film, but with a layer of the sleazy underbelly of Hollywood added. The selling point, though, is the breakout performance by Alexandra Esso in the lead role.
Shelby C. - The Babadook (dir. Jennifer Kent)
Having spent most of my life as a horror fan, it takes a lot to actually scare me. That said, The Babadook had me Baba-shook. The mother on the edge, vulnerable child, and creepy boogie man combine to create a harrowing experience for even the most hardened in the audience.
Jose G. - Nightcrawler (dir. Dan Gilroy)
I know The Babadook is an easy choice but when I think back to this year I am still haunted by Jake Gylenhaal’s unblinking gaze in this tale of a loner willing to do anything in his obsessive quest to corner the market on freelance crime scene journalism.
Sean M. - It Follows (dir. David Robert Mitchell)
The rather obvious STD metaphor aside, this is really a movie about how the suburbs poison your mind.
Matt L. - Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (dir. Christopher B. Landon)
I’m not going to oversell this movie. It’s a group of older Boy Scout’s using their skills to survive a zombie outbreak, and it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. It also has the most shockingly funny dick joke I’ve ever seen in a movie.
Shelby C. - The Final Girls (dir. Todd Strauss-Schulson)
More meta-horror, because apparently I’ll never get tired of horror movies about horror movies. The Final Girls does stuff with sound design that I’m still trying to wrap my head around, and happens to be genuinely funny in addition to being innovative.
Jose G. - The Visit (dir. M. Night Shyamalan)
After a decade of futility, the auteur behind The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable returns to the fold with his witty take on the “found footage” genre with grand kids who find much afoot on their first stay with Grandma and Grandpa.
Sean M. - The VVitch (dir. Robert Eggers)
I love that the supernatural is a very real presence throughout the film. People seemed to be divided on the ending, but I loved it.
Matt L. - 10 Cloverfield Lane (dir. Dan Trachtenberg)
Unpredictable and jarring in the best ways, this debut feature by Dan Trachtenberg is self-assured and (through most of it) all too plausible. John Gallagher Jr. is perfectly fine, but this is really Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman’s show, and they absolutely deliver. Goodman’s always great, but this is an all-time great performance, up there with his turn in Barton Fink.
Shelby C. - 10 Cloverfield Lane (dir. Dan Trachtenberg)
I know he’s played villainous characters at many points in his long career, but I can’t help but think of John Goodman as Dan Connor - an affable dad with a booming voice but a kind heart. That’s at least part of why his dark turn in 10 Cloverfield Lane was so effective, and so chilling.
Jose G. - 10 Cloverfield Lane (dir. Dan Trachtenberg)
The 2nd entry in the Cloverfield series is part Hitchcock and part HG Wells with Mary Elizabeth Winstead showing shades of Sigourney Weaver as a loner trying to survive both an alien invasion and John Goodman’s twisted hospitality in an underground bunker.
Sean M. - The Void (dir. Steven Kostanski & Jeremy Gillespie)
This movie has some ridiculous moments throughout, but it’s a pretty good splatter film. A great mix of Cronenbergian body horror and Lovecraftian cosmic horror.
Matt L. - Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)
Speaking of self-assured debuts, Jordan Peele, who wrote and directed, managed to not only create a great horror film, but to create a cultural touchstone beyond genre fans.
Shelby C. - Three-Way Tie: Happy Death Day (dir. Christopher Landon), Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele), It: Chapter One (dir. Andy Muschietti)
Okay, I know this is cheating, but I don’t care. I love all three of these films for entirely different reasons, but I guess - gun to head - I’d have to choose Get Out as my top pick. That being said, I do think both It: Chapter One and Happy Death Day deserve credit for being interesting additions into the horror genre despite being rooted in (relatively) tired tropes.
Jose G. - Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)
Don’t know what more can be said about this masterpiece that is scary, satirical, chilling, racially-charged, and brilliantly paced. Peele’s writing is just as sharp as his cinematic eye. Pure cinematic brilliance.
Sean M. - Mom and Dad (dir. Brian Taylor)
An unexplained epidemic causes parents to murder their children. Not necessarily scary, but great exploitation filmmaking.
Matt L. - A Quiet Place (dir. John Krasinski)
I haven’t watched it since it was in theaters, but that experience was one of the most tense and effective experiences I’ve had at the movies. From the first moments, Krasinski’s film grabbed the audience and compelled and maintained a tense silence for the next hour and a half.
Shelby C. - Annihilation (dir. Alex Garland)
I can explain my choice in three words: the. bear. scene. Just...watch it.
Jose G. - A Quiet Place (dir. John Krasinski)
Just when you thought every horror gimmick had been exploited comes actor/director John Krasinski’s instant classic about a family trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic landscape crawling with sound-sensitive predators. For 91 minutes, A Quiet Place is a tense, intelligent, and surprisingly heartfelt horror film.
Sean M. - Halloween (dir. David Gordon Green)
Easily the best Halloween sequel. There are some moments that don’t work, but there’s more good here than bad. The score is incredible.
Matt L. - Us (dir. Jordan Peele)
Peele’s follow-up to Get Out is unquestionably a messier film in just about every way. And, to be honest, I still haven’t figured out entirely how I feel about it (especially after two horrible theater experiences). But it’s the most interesting and ambitious horror film I’ve seen this year, so it’s my pick for that reason. Oh, and Lupita Nyong’o is brilliant.
Shelby C. - Us (dir. Jordan Peele)
I actually love this film because it is so much harder to parse than Get Out. The fact that I’ve seen it several times and still struggle to articulate why I love it makes me love it even more. An infinitely messier film than his debut, Us makes me even more excited to see what comes next from Jordan Peele.
Jose G. - Us (dir. Jordan Peele)
Despite a badly telegraphed “twist” ending, writer-director Jordan Peele continues to put his mark on the modern world of horror. The first hour is near perfection and while the film sputters to the obvious finale it’s still hard to deny Peele’s ambitious brand of filmmaking.
Sean M. - Us (dir. Jordan Peele)
I haven’t seen much this year (I still need to catch up on Midsommar), but I doubt I’ll see anything in a movie this year scarier than the first 10 minutes of Us.