From this list, Let the Right One In is my favorite as far as just movies go, but I am voting for The Orphanage, which I found to be more horrific/scary. A few not on this list that could have been are Martyrs (2008) - extremely disturbing but well done, The House of the Devil (2009) - great slow burn horror, very much an homage to 80's horror and finally Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010) - ok, it is parody horror, but it is very funny.
In the winter of 1994, I was 10 and I couldn't sleep. I snuck downstairs, started a fire in the fireplace (I grew up in WV where a 10-year-old making a fire was boringly normal), and turned on the TV. What transpired was equal parts terrific and horrifying, as Poltergeist began a quest to find other great horror films. Over my college years I left that quest (sorry Saw fans, your brand was not for me), and I lost my drive. Then, one weekend as my wife was out of town, I rented The Vvitch in the winter of 2016. Even though I was now 32, I felt like I was in my childhood basement again. The attention to detail, the incredible acting, and the sheer directing will of Eggers. It's great when a film like this can make you time travel like that. Hell, it had me even turning all the lights on in the house. True story.
This is a lot harder than expected - largely because much of the time, what makes a successful "genre" film and what makes a film great aren't naturally complimentary. A few of the movies on this list are flat-out terrific, but do they earn their "horror" billing? "The Witch" is one of my favorite movies of the last few years, but it's spooky at best. I hold "Let the Right One In" in similar high esteem, but I don't think it offers a single honest scare. It's almost warm and fuzzy.
"The Cabin in the Woods" and "The Babadook" are two very different movies that share a disqualifying trait: they exploit horror tropes and tricks, but really, they're only playing at the genre; they commandeer our familiarity with scary movies to stealthily advance ideas they're more interested in. "Get Out" has a foot in this arena, as well.
I'd rather consider the movies that primarily concern themselves with honest fright: the ones that level a nightmarish threat early on, and make good, putting the protagonists and audience through a ringer that's never softened by a punchline.
I admire "The Conjuring" and "It Follows," but "The Orphanage" ticks all the boxes: it's well crafted, it's entertaining, and it stares the genre down. I'll never set foot in an old Spanish orphanage. Vote earned.
Getting the horror recipe right-- and getting it right so it satisfies the appetites of both life long horror fans and dabblers alike-- is a tricky prospect. I voted for It Follows as it satisfies a desire for convention, with a clear love for 80s horror history, but also has the will to take convention in a new and effective direction. Like my all time favourite horror films, It Follows may not completely survive deep analysis, but captures attention and imagination with a dreamy logic that works on fears, phobias, and other feelings that put common sense on hold.
A couple of honorable mentions of films not listed on the poll would be Berberian Sound Studio (2012) and Kill List (2011), the former with a love for Italian Giallo professed from a very oblique angle, the latter more of a crime thriller, but with a strange horror undertow that recalls 70s more psychedelic UK horrors (say, like Wicker Man, for example). Both highly recommended.
Excellent selections here, fellas! My choice is The Cabin in the Woods. The film walks a tightrope so slim and sharp it might as well be piano wire. It comments on and plays with tropes of the horror genre while also effectively using tried-and-true techniques. I especially love an early scene taking place in the cabin's basement, in which the five unlucky coeds at the film's center individually fiddle with possible instruments of their demise. The scene is brimming with tension because there are so many potential ways it could go poorly, and then a character speaks up, the others leave their gadgets alone, and the moment passes.
All the while, two control room operators (played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) watch the action unfold. These guys are the movie's MVPs. For one, the actors seem to be having the time of their lives, which is a joy to watch, but for the sake of the film the characters are an ingenious invention. They act as a mirror to the audience. We watch them watching the coeds, and the effect of this varies. Sometimes we react as they do, but other times the film confronts us with how they react, like when it cuts from two of the coeds having sex to a control room full of ogling men. It implicates us in their voyeurism, calling into question the nature of watching horror.
Get Out and Cabin in the Woods are my favorite movies on this list, but I wouldn't call either one a horror film even though they have some horror elements. Let The Right One In manages to be both a solidly "in the horror genre" film and a truly great film, so it gets my vote.
"28 Weeks Later" deserves to be in this conversation. It's much scarier and more disturbing than many films on this list. (Adam has rarely been more wrong - and Sam more right - than in Filmspotting #160; for those of you who listen to the back catalogues, don't skip that fight).
That all said, even if it were on the list, I would ultimately go with Let the Right One In. It's been almost a decade and I still haven't quite shook that movie off.
I am not a horror film fan and I tend to avoid them, like Adam. But I've seen four on this list, which says to me it's a good list. I really enjoyed The Orphanage and Let the Right One In, but my choice was The Witch, the art film on this list. I pet sit for a couple of goats several times a year, and this movie made that job a lot more difficult. Goats are actually very nice! (I think. Or are they whispering behind my back?)
i voted for (rec), because the ending of that film is truly one of the only moments in a film where i have ever actually felt anything like terror. there have been movies where i've felt tension, or i've been grossed out (that one's easy, i guess), but (rec) is just about the only movie ever to truly frighten me since i saw alien when i was 12 or so.
and i'll also echo the comments made earlier on kill list and oculus. oculus in particular is a movie that is way better than you'd expect it to be. absentia, also by flanagan, is another low budget horror that really works. he definitely has a talent - all of his movies seen to tread over territory you've seen many times before, but they're almost all really effective and fresh.
No Ti West on the list?
It would have been great to see either 'The Innkeepers' or 'The House of The Devil' here.
Both are far superior to the unimaginative Paranormal Activity franchise and the distinctly formulaic and derivative The Conjuring.
I opted for It Follows, as although I feel that both Get Out and The Witch are better films and both encompass strong elements of Horror, I don't consider either of them to be strictly within the genre. It Follows stands up so well to multiple viewings and works very effectively as metaphor and social commentary, whilst performing on the visceral level of a slasher movie.
Seeing Let The Right One in leading the pack is definitely heartening though.
I find the list of suggestions too mainstream. Those are perhaps scary movies, and most of them great ones, but none of them is truly horrific. Horror is a transgressive genre, that's its true merit to me. What about "Martyrs" (2008) or "American Mary" (2012)?
I think this is a really good set of options. For me, The Witch comes in slightly ahead of It Follows and The Babadook, but I haven't seen Let the Right One In. I also really loved Baskin and think it could've held a spot here.
I struggled with this, and judging from the great comments lots of other people did as well. I am less nit-picky about to what degree any of these films are or are not horror, but I had to nail down what I really wanted out of something being the "best." Let the Right One In, The Babadook, the Witch, It Follows, and Get Out are all basically on the same level of quality. Let the Right One In and The Witch are stunningly beautiful films that explore dread really effectively but both of those films land too much on the nihilist side of existential horror for me (especially The Witch, which managed to introduce me to a new level pitch black bleakness - until I saw It Comes at Night, which wow). I have a real problem with the coupling that happens at the end of It Follows (trying to avoid spoilers here), which I think muddies its metaphorical effectiveness (I would have ended it in the hospital, tbh). The Babadook and Get Out both clearly use the scares and the horror to hammer at some deeper issues and fears, but as of this moment, what Get Out is trying to do in reaching for a kind of cultural catharsis beyond the film is what puts it over the top for me. Today, anyway.
Even though it's not pure horror, "Cabin in the Woods" wins it for me. It's not just a bloody hilarious film, it's also a quite brilliant satire and really gives you a lot to think about if you give it some attention. There are a bunch on this list I haven't seen though (Paranormal Activity, Let the Right One In, The Orphanage, It).
Also, controversial opinion... the Conjuring is pretty damn rubbish.
No Green Room and no Bone Tomahawk...
great list guys...
Comment #2—if I could have font all the way back to 2003, I would have gone with “open water” as the best horror film I’ve seen in recent years. This 2-person found footage about a couple of scuba divers who get left behind by their tour guide gave me nightmares for weeks after seeing it
I never get tired of exposing people to PONTYPOOL for the first time. The whole film feels like it could have been adapted from a stage play, but it's pure, visceral terror. It's, essentially, two people trapped in a radio station as all hell breaks loose outside, with nothing but eyewitness phone reports and their own ears to inform them as to what is happening. Stephen McHattie is tremendous here, but it's the sound design and continuing escalation of terror and dread that make this one of the most unusual and effective horror films ever made. And, if you pay close attention, it sneaks in a message or two. Those Canadians sure do know their horror.
I read the question and, without looking, Let the Right One In popped into my head. I think it's easily the best film on the list (and I liked all of the movies here). So why did I vote for It Follows? Well, it's the one I've thought about the most. I think the vagueness of the It (and the forms it takes) opens the film up in a way that lets you fill in the blank of what scares you the most. I always liked the part from Michael and Josh's discussion of the end and how the kids' plan is really bad, and how it should be bad because they don't really know what they're up against. I agree with Josh on the movie and that specific point (hopefully I'm attributed that correctly). What makes It Follows work so well for me is the idea that once you understand the concept/reality of death and that something will kill you, you can either live looking over your shoulder and grow increasingly paranoid or you can try to make the most of your time left.
This is a solid list, and if I could choose only the movies from this list, it would be a tough toss-up between Paranormal Activity and It Follows. But ultimately, I had to choose "other" and give a my vote to one of the most surprising movies (to me) of the last decade: 2013's Oculus. The advertising was terrible, and the 1-sentence-premise (it's about a haunted mirror) doesn't help. But hell if this wasn't one of the most intense mindtrips I've ever been taken on. I was immediately sold on writer director Mike Flanagan, and I will automatically watch anything he makes now. Which, by the way, he just directed and adaptation of the Stephen King book Gerald's Game, starring Carla Gugino, that just got released on Netflix 2 days ago!
I love a lot of the films on this list: Let The Right One In, Cabin In The Woods, The Witch, The Babadook, but the best horror film of the last decade, and my favorite horror film is Ben Wheatley's Kill List.
There is no other film which has such an oppresive atmosphere, and while it doesn't have a large number of jump scares, or traitionally scary moments, but it's a film that give me feeling of unease about what horrible things are going to happen, even on repeat viewings.
Such a rough choice. Each of these movies is fantastic and a testament to how great horror cinema has been over the last decade. There’s a great diversity of voices and ideas.
But I still chose THE BABADOOK, even as I recognize the elegance of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, or the spine chilling terror of THE ORPHANAGE. For me, Jennifer Kent’s allegory is a brutal psychological exploration of shame and grief unlike anything seen in horror movies. Her monster is a truly unique, personal boogeyman whose strength comes from being ignored and denied. As a result, THE BABADOOK is intensely personal and doesn’t lose its horror with repeat viewings. I’ve seen this film probably 10 times at this point, and each time is a different experience. The scares don’t come from traditional shocks, but from something deep and emotional. This film resonates and hurts.
Of the films offered "the orphanage" is by far my favorite and I have recommended it many people. However, I have always considered it a ghost story rather than a horror story. Watching it gave me a feeling of dread rather than fear and the reveal elicited an audible groan of "oh no" the first time I saw it leaving me with an intense feeling of grief that only a parent could experience.
My vote goes to "the mist" as best horror movie of the decade. For a darapont/king collaboration I would consider it as successful as "the green mile" and "the shawshank redemption". Granted the special effects are a little hokey and no doubt the ending is even more depressing for a parent to watch than "the orphanage" but there are plenty of jump scares and scenes I had to watch between my fingers as I covered my eyes.
Kudos to me for not giving in to the snark and nominating The Room.
Whups. Too late.
If I were to limit myself to the choices offered, I would probably go with Paranormal Activity; the footage of Katie Featherston spending two hours standing over her boyfriend/victim is as eerie as anything I've seen in any other movie. But I must urge you all to give a look to André Øvredal's The Autopsy of Jane Doe. It establishes and maintains a mood of discomfort throughout, and manages to subvert the genre that it simultaneously raises. It is as good as its cast would suggest.
Let The Right One In wins and it's not remotely close. Very few films are able to capture a profound sense of loneliness and isolation the way that Alfredson's film does. It's a movie about vampires that uses its premise as a means to reveal character and explore deep themes, which is more than can be said for almost every other film in the genre. The child actors are astonishingly good as well, and considering how much of the movie is put on their plate it's amazing that this works at all. Everything about this movie, from the set design to the execution of its more traditional horror scenes, deserves the utmost praise and it is not only the best horror film of the past decade, but one of the best films period.
(Continued) . . . due to its profoundly unnerving depiction of teens grappling with their mortality, but I went ultimently chose other and went with It Come at Night. Its ugly and realistic portrayal of humanity's darkest side is truly terrifying and leads to what I would easily consider one of the most disturbing scenes in cinema history. Good horror movies makes us scared of the outside world, great horror movies make us scared of our own life, It Comes at Night is one of the few films in recent memory that does the later.
I voted for Let the Right One In but honorable mentions/oversights I have to mention are You’re Next and A Girl Walls Home Alone at Night (if simply being a vampire film qualifies it).
Let the Right One In managed to make me feel something horror films never do. The closing scene transported me back to my first “love” as a child. This wasn’t just a movie about horror and pain - it was a movie about loneliness and what’s its like to feel connected to someone for this first time. Even if that connection might result in you killing others to feed your beloved. But, no relationship is perfect.
I was close to voting for It Follows
There's a lot of good stuff here. The Conjuring ushered in a return to slow-burn tension building that still didn't skimp on intensity. Get Out was witty, incredibly smart and absolutely brilliant. The Cabin in the Wood was a balls to the wall good time that exploded into one of the most insane climaxes of any horror movie I've ever seen.
But The Babadook managed to create an entirely new movie monster and imbue him with real terror and menace; it was, as many horror films are, really a film about motherhood and psychological trauma; it featured an unbelievably powerful lead performance from Essie Davis and was an incredibly intense film. But, you know what? It still falls to The Witch, a film that absolutely shook me to my core. It's right in my wheelhouse as an exploration of religion and faith set against a bleak, hopeless vision. It isn't that it's a battle between good & evil; it's about people who believe in good in a world where evil has already won the day and the chilling, terrifying nihilism of its vision left me reeling. The atmosphere is one of constant dread and terror. Great performances too and it's been nice to see Anya Taylor-Joy move effortlessly into the scream-queen role by picking other horror movies as follow-ups. But really I'm voting for this one because I have the uncomfortable feeling that if I tried to click on any of the other options and might feel the light touch of that gloved hand on my shoulder and hear that bone-chilling whisper, "I will guide thy hand."
I love a lot of these movies, but my top 3 is pretty firmly set:
1. Let the Right One In
2. The Babadook
3. The Witch
These are the three masterpieces. There are a lot of good and very good movies on this list, and I'm so happy to see the horror renaissance, since my gateway drug into cinema was the "Scream" movies in the mid-late 90s.
"The Babadook" is emotionally rich and powerful, while "The Witch" is stark, cold, and haunting. Which is what gives the edge to "Let the Right One In" - it's both of these things fully. Brilliant direction and cinematography matched with two of the best child-actor performances I can remember.
I'm not sure why The Orphanage is so low on the list at the moment. I can only assume more people need to see it. I'm pretty hard to shake when I'm watching horror movies so I usually go to them hoping for something extra, like the satire of The Cabin in the Woods or the social commentary of Get Out. So I love a lot of these options but The Orphange the only one that really terrified me.
I might vote for "Under the Skin".
Another film not on the list is "10 Cloverfield Lane". A lot comes down to what one considers a "horror" film.
Commenting from Kansas City, MO
This is a good selection of movies, and of the poll choices, my answer is easily The Witch, which is one of the most accomplished debut films of all time. However, that is only my 2nd favorite horror film from the last 10 years. My favorite is the one that scared me more than any other film - Martyrs. It starts off as a violent revenge movie, but then takes a very dark turn. I won't say more, and it might be easy to dismiss this film as "torture porn", but that's not what it is. The New French Extremist movement has produced many great films, like Irreversible and Inside, but Martyrs is far and away the best.
I vote for "What We Do in The Shadows" which is not only a great horror film but it also funny as hell. Runner up with be "28 Weeks Later"
The correct answer is The Lords of Salem, and it isn't even remotely close.
Of this list, I'd have a hard time choosing between The Cabin in the Woods and Get Out. But whichever one emerged victorious would fall to 2007's The Mist. Once again, Frank Darabont and Stephen King are a match made in cinema heaven. As a director, Frank Darabont ratchets up the tension to the breaking point. As a writer, he introduces a powerful ending more bold and bleak than even King himself could conceive. There were many worthy options in this poll, but The Mist stands out for me above them all.
Really, LTROI? It's a very good movie but I don't even consider it a horror film, more like a coming of age tale via vampirism. Even as horror would be behind Babadook, Get Out and The Witch for sure.
This is HARD. I chose LTROI because it has such a great aesthetic (and even spawned a good Hollywood remake). But The Orphanage is fantastic, and probably has the single scene that scared me the most (1-2-3-knock on the wall). Cabin in the Woods is fabulous fun. It Follows is great and I love its ending. The Babadook is tremendous and Get Out blew me away. I'd better stop now before I change my mind...
I don't know if Paranormal Activity is the best film of these choices. But I know it's the one where I literally could not go to sleep afterward because I was too frightened. Get Out might be the most important of these films, and Cabin in The Woods is the movie I enjoyed the most, but Paranormal Activity still gets the vote because months later when my wife came on my side of the bed to grab a blanket off the floor in the middle of the night I inadvertently shouted "what are you doing?!?!" at her.