Hi to all and thanks for joining us for another edition of the Seattle Cinema Survey, where horror month rolls along because Halloween is the best dammit!
This week, I’ve asked our crew of local critics, bloggers and people with awful, just awful opinions; What’s the best horror film of the 21st Century?
A rather straightforward question, I’m somehow torn by my own query. That is due to one fact, which would be Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. A basically perfect film, that manages to create engaging, complex characters in a zombie comedy, before going full-horror in the last act, Shaun of the Dead remains a member of both genres. As such, I’m going to pick a movie that is a full-tilt scream factory.
That selection is Danny Boyle’s marvelous 28 Days Later. An update of the zombie-genre, where our infected bunch rush you with the intensity of Black Friday shoppers, Boyle’s work crawls through the veins quite uncomfortably. The concepts aren’t altogether new, with a confused individual stepping into a dystopian world. What makes the project so gut-churning is how on-your-toes the whole endeavor manages to be throughout. Along with the previously discussed former-humans longing to tear you limb from limb, it’s the rampant nature of the turn into such a creature that lingers. The sequence where one of our crew begins to rage and flail after an errant drop of blood into HIS EYE gives me chills at the mere thought.
Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See
This is a damn hard one. All the people griping and grousing about how horror is dead haven’t paid attention for the last 16 years. Cabin in the Woods deconstructs and inverts horror tropes in unique and inventive ways, 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead helped redefine the zombie genre for a new generation, The Descent is pure claustrophobic nightmare and throws in a curve when you least expect, Kill List obliterates traditional genre boundaries, I Saw the Devil is a vicious revenge masterpiece, What We Do in the Shadows reinvigorates both vampire movies and mockumentaries, Shaun of the Dead pulls off that most difficult feat—a horror comedy that is legitimately both funny and scary, The Devil’s Backbone still stands as Guillermo del Toro’s best movie and a marvelous modern ghost story to boot, Trouble Every Day may be the artsiest cannibal movie ever made, and Piranha 3D has everything I want out of a schlocky, 3D exploitation movie.
Dammit, I don’t know.
My pick could easily be any of these movie, or countless others. Maybe teetering on the verge of an all-out Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic collapse or a potential fascist dictatorship means horror has plenty of primal fears to tap into. What the hell, I’ll go with Bong Joon-ho’s 2006 creature feature The Host for my pick today. It’s certainly the best monster movie in recent memory, and manages to be funny, harrowing, and legitimately moving. Coupled with some of the Weta Workshop’s best effects work (sorry, Lord of the Rings and Black Sheep—another potential choice), it’s one for the ages.
Tim Hall of The People’s Critic @peoplescrtic
This answer can change for me every month. For now, I’m going with 2007’s The Mist. I was locked in during the first few minutes when Dan runs in and screams, “There’s somthing in the mist.” All these people stuck in a store and they’re told there are unspeakable horrors in the mist. Without even seeing what’s out there, the group starts to take sides. When the monsters do show up, Mrs. Carmody forms a tiny cult of survivors and starts “sacrificing” people. At times she’s scarier than the monsters outside.
The premise is simple but effective and the monsters are out of this world terrifying – even the ones you can barely see. My favorite scene is the group trip to the pharmacy next door. The scene is so tense as you’re waiting for something to happen and it all hits the fan at the same time.
The ending of The Mist makes it a must watch every October.
Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber
I typically don’t get scared by monster movies, but I remember being scared shitless when I went to go see The Descent. So that’s my answer. And after being scared in such a way, the theater informed me I wouldn’t be allowed back, if you get my meaning.
Matt Oakes of Silver Screen Riot @SSRdotcom
This century has been an absolute showstopper for horror films and being a horror fanatic, I could go on and on and on. Off the top of my head: The Loved Ones, I Saw the Devil, Martyrs, Session 9, The Mist, The Descent, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, 28 Days Later, Kill List, The Babadook, The Descent, The Conjuring, The Cabin in the Woods, Let the Right One In, Shaun of the Dead. But though some listed above may be superior none are to me as utterly rewatchable and insanely enjoyable as Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell. Simple, scary and hilarious, there is not a tedious moment in Drag Me To Hell. From the first time Christine Brown is practicing pronunciation in her car mirror to the showstopping train tracks finale and all the ooey, gooey junk falling into her mouth along the way, Drag Me To Hell is amazeballs through and through.
Sara Michelle Fetters of MovieFreak @moviefreaksara
Neil Marshall’s 2005 stunner The Descent is a masterpiece. An absolutely horrifying excursion into the bowels of the earth, it isn’t so much a darkly lit, unbearably claustrophobic monster movie as it is a fearless examination of grief, courage, friendship and solidarity. The saga of a group of close-knit female friends with an adventurous streak reuniting for the first time since one of their members, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), has suffered unimaginable tragedy, the movie’s an unfathomable nightmare of tension that’s as unrelenting as it is emotionally complex.
Not that the creatures these six spelunking women end up encountering aren’t terrifying. They are, Marshall utilizing their lithe, limber carnivorous forms as if they were the shark from Jaws, only showcasing them at just the right moment in order to provide maximum impact upon the viewer. But it is always the human dynamic that is the most startling, the way Sarah must deal with her ravenous grief while the other women reveal their inner strengths and weaknesses as they attempt to survive their ordeal.
The U.S. release version of the film, which is admittedly amazing, softens things a little bit, allowing the tiniest ray of light to shine inside this seemingly impenetrable darkness. The original cut, however, is a thing of deranged, unsettling beauty, building to a denouement that’s up there with the final moments of something like Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Diabolique or Takashi Miike’s Audition. It’s a quiet, unsettling final scene that overwhelms in its serene madness, Sarah discovering a form of peace that comes at a cataclysmic cost.
Jason Roestel @filmbastard
As I ponder this most excellent question various interior personas would each like to submit their candidate. The aged cinemaphile in me says Pascal Laugier’s outstanding existential slaughterhouse Martyrs, with its bipolar plot swings and catastrophic violence, all of it driving toward a finale more metaphysical/spiritual sucker punch than standard genre showdown. Laugier has yet to top the feature that made him a known entity in the American horror industry. Same goes for Neil Marshall, who I believe made one of the best horror films of any century (well, the two centuries in the contest) with 2005’s The Descent. Neil never made another film on that level. As far as the inner child who grew up on Ridley Scott’s Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing, and who developed a taste for the creepy crawly side of the film industry, that kid would go with The Descent for his choice. It should be noted how estrogenic my selections are. Riot grrrls unite and all that. And since we’re on the topic of gore girls, Lucky McKee’s May is not to be ignored in this category.