Horror, more than any other genre, operates as a mirror of our anxieties—a warped reflection of everything that haunts on either the micro or macro level. It’s been around since the beginning of film and will live on long past our deaths because there’s always something new to be afraid of. From environmental instability to terrorism to Y2K to our own neighbors, the list goes on and on. Every fear sprouts a new sub-genre, with each decade being famous for a specific sub-genre but none were as bloody as the 2000s. The early aughts were an uncertain time, filled with government mistrust, paranoia, and fear and the horror films reflected that. It was a scary time to be alive but a perfect time to be a horror fan. Out of that stew was born: torture porn, New French Extremity, the hardcore stuff coming out of Korea and Japan, and low budget Indies that were either found footage films or cheap hack ‘n slash trash. Love it or hate it, the new wave of horror was bloodier and more gruesome than anything that had come before. The ’00s will never be held in the same esteem as the classier or more famous decades of horror cinema but there’s no denying it added a bunch of content for gorehounds and splatter fiends to enjoy. Consider this list a pool ring that’ll help you wade through this decade’s goriest films.
This is The 50 Greatest Horror Films of The 2000s.
30. The Signal (2007)
Released one year after Stephen King’s novel The Cell, The Signal tells a similar story about a mysterious signal transmitted through television, radio, and telephone that when listened or watched, turns the viewer into murderous maniacs, catatonic zombies, or paranoid, delusional lunatics. It’s a crazy premise that’s broken up into three hyperlinked anthology segments. The first is very reminiscent of Dawn of the Dead, the second is a surreal black comedy and the third is a tragic love story. If you’re a fan of all three segments, this is easily the greatest horror anthology due to its legit scares, great performances, and unique humor but if you didn’t like all three segments, there’s no denying its effectiveness at connecting all the stories and creating a riveting apocalypse scenario. Either way, it’s considerably better than The Cell. Sorry King.
29. My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)
After the monumental success of Halloween and Friday the 13th, every studio immediately green lit at least five slashers in order to mimic their success. In a span of just six years, over fifty copycats were produced and the greatest by far, was My Bloody Valentine. It was far darker than the rest, much more violent and has a killer that should be as iconic as Michael Myers or Jason. The Miner has a fantastic look, a great weapon and I’d argue, is more intimidating than either Michael or Jason. Which is why it’s baffling that neither the original nor the remake got a sequel. The original, as previously stated, was a mean spirited slasher that purposefully made the viewer feel queasy while the remake was the complete opposite. An audience picture in every sense of the word, My Bloody Valentine 3D traded in the repressive tone of the previous film for a more action packed splatter fest. There’s way more kills, much more nudity, tons of laughs and the 3D is even fun. It’s everything a slasher should be.
28. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Set in a universe where slasher villains are real, Leslie Vernon is essentially horror’s first uber fan. He not only knows all of their tricks but is planning on using them all in order to become the next big killer. Playing like a comedic version of Man Bites Dog, the film is about a documentary crew who’s following around a guy who’s gearing up for his first big murder spree. He reveals how killers can seemingly never run but always catch up to the victim (cardio) and how to successfully fake your own death. It’s a clever little gem of a movie that may not be perfect but it’s premise and lead sure are. I’m still waiting on that sequel.
27. Final Destination (2000)
Sometimes all you need to be a successful franchise is a solid premise and boy howdy does Final Destination have a solid set up: a group of teenagers survive a catastrophic airplane crash because of a premonition and now death itself stalks the surviving teens in order in which they should’ve died originally. Besides it’s amazing plot (which is oddly reminiscent of an earlier film called Sole Survivor) the real hook of the film is the Rube Goldberg-esque murder set pieces. Death doesn’t just kill the teens like a boring old slasher. No, no, no. The grim reaper is classy. He kills them in elaborate ways where each part of the equation could potentially lead to their deaths. The fun is trying to figure out how exactly it all plays out and how bloody the end result is.
26. Signs (2002)
Because of his over reliance on twist endings, M. Night Shyamalan has become a bit of a punchline since the release of The Sixth Sense. Where his career ended up is a far cry from the days when magazines declared him “the next Spielberg”. His reputation is so bad, that even his solid movies get forgotten about. Unbreakable is still one of the best takes on a superhero origin story ever and Signs is arguably the scariest alien invasion movie since The Thing. Overlooking it’s divisive ending, the film is chock full of expertly constructed jump scares, like the infamous pantry scene, which ranks among the best jolts of all time. There’s also the birthday party video, the corn field and the basement scene. Say what you will about Shyamalan but the man knows how to deliver an effective scare.
25. Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Dismissed by pretty much everyone on its release, Jennifer’s Body had to fight tooth and nail to crawl out of obscurity to become an overlooked gem. Once the Diablo Cody and Megan Fox hate died down and once the dudebros who were tricked into seeing it because the poster and trailer promised them some hot, sexy lesbian action moved on, only the die-hard fans were left and they were vocal. Not since Halloween III: Season of the Witch, has a horror fandom been so passionate about an underdog. They championed this film like none other and after ten long years, they were successful.
The popular opinion about it has changed and it’s now considered among the best feminist horror films ever. Not feminist in the “girl power” way or in the “horror films are trash because they’re all misogynistic” way, but in the fact that it tells a female-centric story that deals with what it feels like to be a teenage girl. It depicts how friendships can turn bad and the importance of a girl’s image in society. It might be filled with ridiculous dialogue but peel back the layers of the story and there’s a ton of prescient and thought-provoking subject matter within. It also includes a hot, sexy succubus killing everyone around her, so there’s that.
24. House of the Devil (2009)
Ti West is a huge fan of the slow burn. For long stretches of The House Of The Devil, very little happens beyond watching a babysitter walk around a house doing nothing. Since her job doesn’t actually involve her watching any children (she’s tasked with making sure an old lady doesn’t leave her room at night) there’s very little for her to do but since the job was given to her by genre favorites Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov and because this is a horror film, you know something is bound to happen, you just don’t know when.
Which makes every slow pan, every empty hallway, every long stretch of silence tense as hell. The film gives you just enough information to let you know the main character is in terrible danger but doesn’t let the viewer know exactly what the danger is till the very end, which creates an unbearable sense of dread. Not only is the film dealing with the Satanic Panic that gripped the nation in fear back in the 1980s, it’s also a throwback to the low-budget, deliberately paced horror movies of that era as well. A nostalgia piece that feels unlike anything it’s inspired by, The House of the Devil is a perfect example of taking from the past to move towards the future. West doesn’t just honor his oft-disreputable inspirations, in many ways, he tops them.
23. Them (2006)
Much like how The Strangers (the film many incorrectly think is a remake of) touted itself as “based on a true story”, Them is a home invasion film that either claimed to be or was thought to have been inspired by actual events but that isn’t true. The film is a work of fiction and thank God for that because if it was real or even partially real, it would be the scariest true crime story ever. The plot is simple: a couple in their isolated country house wake up to a group of hooded assailants who begin to terrorize them throughout the night. There’s no explanation or motivation behind the attack, it’s just a group of bored kids who decide that they want to fuck with two people in the worst way possible. It’s the type of film best watched at night, with the lights off and all the doors locked tight.
22. Martyrs (2008)
Two young women who were both victims of abuse as children embark on a bloody quest for revenge only to find themselves plunged into a living hell of depravity. Once the French found their niche in the horror world, they hit the ground running. What’s their niche, I hear you ask? Extreme violence. Extreme violence is the answer. They took a page from the Japanese handbook—which is written in blood and bound in skin—and decided that gore and visceral carnage was the way to go to stand out from the crowd. At the head of the New French Extremity movement is unquestionably Martyrs. A film so violent, it almost gives Japanese cinema a run for its money. Almost. A new rating classification was made for this film and this film alone, if that doesn’t put your ass in a seat, nothing will.
21. Inside (2007)
This is not a film for everyone. Inside is one of the most brutal and bleakest films out there as the film revolves around a pregnant woman who is attacked inside her home by a mysterious woman who simply wants to take her baby by any means necessary. Part of what was dubbed “New French Extremity” came a wave of brutal and extreme horror films that were often uncomfortable to watch. Inside was part of that but I feel it is the best of the bunch because it blends an extremely tense and claustrophobic story with some solid performances by the two stars, Alysson Paradis and Béatrice Dalle.
Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo were able to direct a simple home invasion angle into an 82-minute clenched fist and bloody fight for survival that leaves more questions than answers. This film is not for the faint of heart and will stick with you longer than you will want it too long after the credits have rolled. You have been warned.
What do you think of the selection so far? What are some of your favorite horror movies from this decade? Maybe they will show up further on the list!