By: Eddie Caiazzo
Why didn’t the year 2000 have any movies named in this survey? Unfortunately, the Y2K hysteria was scarier than any horror movies released that year.
We’ll leap right over the first year in the decade straight into 2001, where some asbestos removal guys get to work on the Danvers State Mental Hospital in Massachusetts in Session 9. This psychological thriller features a pre-CSI: Miami David Caruso delivering one of the most epic “F*** You” lines in history.
Danvers has a dark past, so being closed 15 years is perfect timing for Caruso and a bunch of other guys to head in and start cleaning it out. What’s the worst that could happen?
With only one film named in the first two years of the decade, 2002 carried SIX films mentioned in this survey.
One survey respondent spoke from personal experience when naming Swimfan as a “Best” selection. This is a female stalker story with some modern technology (for 2002) thrown in. This survey’s first Creature Feature mention, Dog Soldiers, features British soldiers on a routine military exercise in the Scottish Highlands where they are attacked by giant bipedal werewolves. This movie has some high marks on Rotten Tomatoes.
It’s hard to pinpoint the beginning of the zombie apocalypse phenomenon that currently dominates pop culture. But if you ask me, 28 Days Later is where it all started. This Fox Searchlight picture from the U.K. is directed by Danny Boyle, and follows Jim (Cillian Murphy) waking up from a coma 28 days after a highly contagious infection is rapidly causing societal collapse. Roaming the empty streets of London, a violent journey awaits Jim as he’s forced to interact with good, bad and downright rotten people on the march toward the conclusion. Not to mention the zombies.
M. Night Shyamalan made his return with Signs in ’02 after successfully tackling ghosts in The Sixth Sense and comic books in Unbreakable. In Signs, the aliens arrive to take over the world, but at M. Night’s pace. Philly’s hometown hero did a pretty good job with his “aliens” tale with strong lead performances from Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix. Unfortunately, the poor ending breaks up a really good story, and the last 15 minutes of the film would shape how the rest of the decade would go for Night.
That brings us to the two final films from ’02: Ju-on: The Grudge and The Ring.
Ju-on: The Grudge is a Japanese horror film written and directed by Takashi Shimizu that surprisingly pulls off the haunted house theme effectively. Not only is there a creepy kid…but a creepy, twitchy woman that navigates the screen for some memorable scares. If you can do films with subtitles (which every horror fan should), Ju-On: The Grudge is a required gem of Japanese horror cinema.
I was a bit surprised The Ring didn’t get more love in this survey, gaining only two mentions total. It was the first commercially successful U.S. remake of a Japanese horror film that was seen by so many because of the PG-13 rating. The Gore Verbinski directed film takes place in the Pacific Northwest (one of my favorite settings for horror films) and follows a journalist, played by Naomi Watts, who investigates a VHS tape that kills the watcher seven days after viewing. This is a film that genuinely scared me when I saw it in theaters. Many kids at that time, including me, thought twice about answering the phone when it rang.
Finally, we move on to 2003, where the female participants in this survey really took a liking to metal rocker turned filmmaker, Rob Zombie. He pops up quite a bit from here on out.
House of 1000 Corpses was Zombie’s introduction to mainstream horror that took nearly three years to see a much-anticipated theater release. If not mistaken, I remember seeing a trailer online somewhere during the dial-up days of 2000 or 2001. It was a gory exploitation film that introduced demented clown Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie) and Otis (Bill Moseley). Otis has the most disturbing scene in this film, stealing a trick from the Hannibal Lecter playbook. It’s best to watch Rob Zombie films chronologically by release date, and House of 1000 Corpses is a great introduction.
Thanks to Lionsgate, High Tension was picked up for U.S. distribution following its screening at the Toronto Film Festival in 2003. Then 24-year-old co-writer and director Alexandre Aja’s gruesome film was pruned a bit before hitting screens across America, as it would’ve carried an NC-17 rating in its foreign form. Cecile de France plays a tough, gritty and violent main character in Marie. The twist ending is predictable, but doesn’t ruin any of the overall experience.
There were three selections from 2004, two of which included zombies.
The first was the Zack Snyder directed Dawn of the Dead, released in March of ’04. This film was fondly received by audiences, and with good reason. The cast, effects and story were all solid pieces of a near-perfect re-imagining of George A. Romero’s lauded ’79 original tale. There is no doubt in my mind the writers of the TV version of The Walking Dead looked to ‘04’s Dawn of the Dead for inspiration.
Dawn had its light moments, but Shaun actually made us laugh. Shaun of the Dead made its way to the U.S. box office in late September, just in time for the Halloween season. It introduced U.S. audiences to the British comedy team Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Before Sam and Dean, there was “The Winchester” for a pint! This horror/comedy could easily be used to teach a Sociology class.
Finally, we arrive at one of the best thrillers of the last 30 years: Saw. Though the studios tried their best to destroy it (or just make a ton of money) with lousy sequels, there are few experiences like the first time viewing the first film. Hollywood horror was given a gift when Saw screenwriters James Wan and Leigh Whannell had their script shot down in their native Australia. Instead of a hack ‘n slash serial killer cop chase, Saw’s villain Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) “plays a game” with his victims, offering them a way out of their current situation. It’s not easy to escape, but it can be done. The twist ending took many viewers by surprise, rounding out the films named from 2004 on a high note of suspense.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t get through the decade without mentioning Paris Hilton. She, along with other ’00 crushes Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray and Jared Padalecki star in 2005’s House of Wax. In the early years of the remakes, this one strayed from the 1953 source material and offered some fun twists and kills. And, Robert Ri’chard from Nickelodeon’s Cousin Skeeter is all grown up in this film.
Although many critics still dub The Devil’s Rejects as a “cult” film, nearly $20-million in box office returns on a $7-million budget proves otherwise. Rejects was Rob Zombie’s sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, and is loved by horror and non-horror fans alike. Captain Spaulding, Otis and Baby Firefly returned in July of 2005, this time as antiheroes being hunted by Sheriff John Quincey Wydell, who was wonderfully portrayed by William Forsythe.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose – while marketed as a horror film – was a 2005 legal drama with some moments of fright, a strong cast and a spiritual message. Jennifer Carpenter was terrific as Emily Rose, making the scary moments really count.
A group of six female thrill-seekers heading into a cave together sounds sexy, right? I can assure you, there is nothing sexy about the experiences these ladies have in The Descent. The Dog Soldiers writer/director Neil Marshall sat in the director’s chair for The Descent, and sent an all-female cast into the Appalachian Mountains for a chance at fun and reconciliation among some of the characters. While this film is gory, featuring hungry zombie-like creatures underground called “Crawlers”; it’s the developing story surrounding main characters Sarah (Shauna McDonald) and Juno (Natalie Mendoza) and their moments on-screen that make this film one of the best of the ‘00s.
The Descent was released in the U.K. in 2005, premiered at Sundance in January 2006, and released commercially in the U.S. in August the same year, making it the only ’06 entry in the survey.
Hitting theaters in May of 2007, 28 Weeks Later is…well, 28 weeks after the events of 28 Days Later. It was a solid sequel with positive reviews from critics and fans.
Wanting to get in on the zombie action of the ‘00s, Robert Rodriguez launched his half of the Grindhouse feature in 2007’s Planet Terror. Packed with tons of A and B List celebrities like Rose McGowan, Bruce Willis and Fergie, this Quentin Tarantino produced flick is typical, featuring boobs, blood and yes…rape. Kudos to Rodriguez, though, for directing, producing and writing both the screenplay and music for Planet Terror.
By 2006, companies like Platinum Dunes (Michael Bay’s horror label) were making a killing (pun intended) on remakes. This prompted The Weinstein Company to approach Rob Zombie about rebooting the Halloween franchise for a 2007 release.
Zombie’s Halloween dropped in August of ’07, with a polarizing response from critics and fans. Malcolm McDowell was called to don the tan jacket as Dr. Sam Loomis, with 6’8 Tyler Mane wearing the Michael Myers mask. Zombie gave fans a Michael Myers origin story, and — not surprisingly — made the Myers family white trash. Scout Taylor-Compton plays an uncharacteristic Laurie Strode, with horror veteran Brad Dourif playing Sheriff Brackett, and series veteran Danielle Harris as his daughter Annie. Being a huge Mikey fan that worships at the altar of Carpenter, I thought this film was worse than Halloween 5 upon seeing it in theaters. I had no idea it could get any worse than that, until I saw Zombie’s Halloween II two years later.
Big Ed, John Carpenter and I in 2014
The final ’07 film from this survey was [REC]. It is one flick held in high regard in the horror community that I unfortunately have not yet had the pleasure of seeing. This Spanish release in the found-footage style is co-written and directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza. While it could be considered a zombie flick, I’ve been told it has more depth and is uniquely original.
Australian indie Lake Mungo was ahead of its time, filmed as a mockumentary covering a family’s grief experienced after the death of their daughter. I don’t want to spoil any of this for the reader, but hopefully my brevity here will entice you to view this film; it’s a good one. I’m mentioning it now because there were no other offerings in this survey from ’08, even though Mungo’s March ’09 showing at South by Southwest (SXSW) was its coming-out-party, with an After Dark HorrorFest selection in 2010.
Closing the ‘00s is one of the top performers in this survey (five votes total) and the sole film named from 2009. It is of course, Paranormal Activity. Made for a reported total of $15,000, Paranormal Activity successfully re-introduced U.S. horror fans to the found-footage style. It was slow, effective and scary.
Katie and Micah, a twenty-something couple, move into a new home in California and discover some strange occurrences taking place inside. Micah begins documenting what’s happening with a camcorder, especially recording their bedroom while the couple sleeps.
It was written, directed, shot and edited two years prior in ’07 by Oren Peli…who would also produce the version with a different ending seen in 2009, along with producer Jason Blum. Blum needs no introduction if you’re reading this article. His company Blumhouse Productions’ success in this genre began in ‘09 with Paranormal Activity. It was a launching pad for a lucrative (>$880 million) series, and an industry-leading generation of genre films.
|28 Days Later (2002) – 2||Paranormal Activity (2009) – 3||1. Paranormal Activity (2009) – 5|
|House of 1000 Corpses (2003) – 2||28 Days Later (2002) – 1||T2. 28 Days Later (2002) – 3|
|Paranormal Activity (2009) – 2||28 Weeks Later (2007) – 1||T2. House of 1000 Corpses (2003) – 3|
|Saw (2004) – 2||Dawn of the Dead (2004) – 1||T2. Saw (2004) – 3|
|The Ring (2002) – 2||Dog Soldiers (2002) – 1||T3. 28 Weeks Later (2007) – 2|
|28 Weeks Later (2007) – 1||Halloween (2007) – 1||T3. Dog Soldiers (2002) – 2|
|High Tension (2003) – 1||T3. Signs (2002) – 2|
|Dog Soldiers (2002) – 1||House of 1000 Corpses (2003) – 1||T3. The Devil’s Rejects (2005) – 2|
|Saw (2004) – 1||T4. The Ring (2002) – 2|
|House of Wax (2005) – 1||Signs (2002) – 1||T4. Dawn of the Dead (2004) – 1|
|Ju-On: The Grudge (2002) – 1||Swim Fan (2002) – 1||T4. Halloween (2007) – 1|
|Lake Mungo (2008, 2010) – 1||The Descent (2005, 2006) – 1||T4. High Tension (2003) – 1|
|Planet Terror (2007) – 1||The Devil’s Rejects (2005) – 1||T4. House of Wax (2005) – 1|
|[REC] (2007) – 1||T4. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002) – 1|
|Session 9 (2001) – 1||T4. Lake Mungo (2008, 2010) – 1|
|Shaun of the Dead (2004) – 1||T4. Planet Terror (2007) – 1|
|Signs (2002) – 1||T4. [REC] (2007) – 1|
|T4. Session 9 (2001) – 1|
|The Devil’s Rejects (2005) – 1||T4. Shaun of the Dead (2004) – 1|
|The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) – 1||T4. Swimfan (2002) – 1|
|T4. The Descent (2005, 2006) – 1|
|T4. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) – 1|
|Total Survey Votes for 2000-2009 Horror Movies – 37||Individual Movies Named from 2000-2009 – 22|
Satisfied with the survey results so far? Did your favorite horror film make the cut? If you missed parts one and two of this five-part article, catch up here: