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The ̶2̶0̶ 35 Best 2000s Horror Movies Ranked - bonus content!

One of the very first articles I wrote for the American film website Slash Film was a top 20 of Horror Movies released between 2000 and 2009. It apparently did well, so I was asked to add some additional entries. However, the day before I was due to submit the piece, a load of us were laid off due to Organisational changes. This left me with a list I couldn't do anything with - nobody would want to publish a list of "David Court's 35th to 21st favourite horror movies released between 2000 and 2009". However, it might be a fun read if you're familiar with the original piece (The 20 Best 2000s Horror Movies Ranked (slashfilm.com)). So (Top of the Pops chart music) here are the next-best....


35. Severance (2006)

Not to be confused with the Apple TV+ Black Mirror-esque television series, this 2006 black comedy horror takes an equally grim workplace prospect -- the loathed team-building exercise -- and ups the stakes into a struggle for survival.


Stranded in the woods of Hungary, the hapless sales team of a military contractor find themselves hunted by unseen assailants. A million miles away from sales targets and commissions, this ragtag bunch of salespeople and clerical staff have to defend their tiny lodge from a ruthless foe with a score to settle.


With a razor-sharp and genuinely hilarious script from James Moran -- better known for his work on the Doctor Who-niverse -- it’s as much a satire on British workplace politics as it is a violent romp around the woods of Europe. Despite working for an arms company, the protagonists are more familiar with staple guns than the firing variety and much of the humor spans from their collective ineptitude at self-defense. Lead Danny Dyer has had somewhat of a mixed reception for his film career choices, but even he shines here as the resourceful cockney Steve. “Severance” is a fun yet ultimately throwaway romp, but one particular scene involving a mantrap will linger long after the closing credits have rolled.


34. Lake Mungo (2008)

“The Blair Witch Project” has a lot to answer for. It seemed for a while that everybody with a video camera was making a horror movie under the guise of found footage, the inherent lo-fi style discounting any criticism of directorial ability. This list has a few examples of this style of film-making done well, but I still consider “The Blair Witch Project” as being solely responsible for “The Amityville Haunting” and 86 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.


2008’s “Lake Mungo” is a worthy example of found footage done well, with a convincing faux-documentary mixture of raw video camera footage and talking-head style interviews. After his sister drowns in a swimming accident, Matthew sets about trying to capture footage of dead Alice’s ghost. Much of the film is spent flitting between watching this footage and interviews with the grieving family.


It’s an unnerving watch, and you’ll find yourself studying every pixel of deliberately poorly lit and grainy footage. The distinctive visual style and sparse yet effective sound design make it an efficient little Antipodean chiller with some genuinely haunting imagery. I find the concept of jump scares in horror a lazy and overused trope, but every single one in “Lake Mungo” is effective -- and, more importantly, well-earned. Ultimately, “Lake Mungo” will remind you that there are more terrifying things than ghosts.


33. Teeth (2007)

Where horror is concerned -- a genre solely built around the ability to horrify and shock -- the elevator pitch needs to sell the movie to an already crowded market. 2009’s “The Human Centipede (First Sequence),” despite the outcry on release for the disturbing concept of people sewn together end to literal end, turned out to be little more than a twist on the familiar Mad Scientist trope.


2007’s “Teeth” sells itself on “What if a vagina had teeth?” and works surprisingly well. The concept isn’t a new one, featuring in folk takes across the globe (often as a cautionary tale in which foolhardy men are stripped of their manhood) yet this debut directorial feature by Mitchell Lichenstein proves to be more than just an unusual take on female empowerment.


In this coming-of-age horror tale, Dawn O’Keefe learns that she has gnashers in her nether regions during a sexual assault, handily emasculating her attacker. It’s a grisly (and frequently bloody) tale of female empowerment and this biting satire of Christian abstinence and chastity will have female audiences cheering, and male ones crossing their legs and wincing.


Still, it stands as one of the few films about the phenomena known as Vagina Dentata. (♫ It means no worries, for the rest of your days ♫)


32. Jason X (2001)

Despite the fact that you’d struggle to convince me that the pitch for this movie wasn’t “How can we make Friday the 13th any sillier?,” I’ve got a soft spot for this tenth installment in the increasingly preposterous franchise.


It’s got a lot going for it. A frantic opening will have you recognizing David Cronenberg playing a doomed doctor mere moments before he gets slaughtered, and then the plot sees the Hockey masked hellion cryogenically frozen, only to be sent into space half a millennium later. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before the villainous Voorhees is left to thaw, and the defrosted deviant is free to slaughter all over again.


The unwieldy mix of James Cameron’s “Aliens” and a traditional slasher flick is haphazard and is never fully convincing, but it’s a movie that never takes itself seriously -- with one particular scene set in a holographic representation of the Camp Crystal Lake of old coming across as deliciously self-aware.


A nanobot-inspired armour upgrade makes the already unstoppable Jason doubly so, but even that level of daftness isn’t what puts “Jason X” on this list. That honor goes to it featuring one of the best kills to ever feature in a slasher movie, which is no mean feat -- elevating it to nothing short of genius.


31. Wake Wood (2009)

Folk Horror would have something of a resurgence in the decade to follow with the releases of such excellent examples of the genre as “The Witch” and “Kill List” -- and yet this relatively unknown Irish movie still stands up strong today.


London-based Hammer Film Productions dominated the ‘60s horror scene with their gothic take on classic characters but struggled in the ‘70s and ‘80s with the market’s saturation and ceased production. However, much like their definitive Dracula with actor Christopher Lee, their resurrection was inevitable, and the new millennium saw the stalwart studio venturing back into movie making. “Wake Wood” was one of Hammer’s first new productions and stood as a bold mission statement for the infamous brand name.


With elements of “The Wicker Man” and “Pet Semetary,” “Wake Wood” tells of the titular village -- a secluded rural setting that is the home of grieving couple Alice and Patrick. Having recently lost their young daughter to a savage dog attack, they learn of the magic properties of their new dwelling -- and that their child may not be entirely lost to them.


The plot holds few surprises -- anybody familiar with W.W. Jacobs’ classic short story “The Monkey’s Paw” will see the ending coming a mile off -- but it’s held together by compelling performances, a convincing setting, and bags of atmosphere.


30. May (2002)

It’s easy to see why actor Angela Bettis was cast in the remake of Stephen King’s “Carrie,” released in the same year as “May.” Much like Sissy Spacek in the 1976 Brian De Palma original, Bettis has an otherworldly look -- preternaturally pale skin and a distinctive appearance that makes her stand out in any performance.


She excels as the titular May, a veterinarian assistant. May is socially awkward, her only friend being a doll gifted to her by her mother. This doll, Suzie -- perpetually encased in glass, protected from the world -- resembles May herself, with porcelain white skin, hollow eyes, and long hair.


The parallels between May and Suzie are clear -- it’s when May steps out from her protective bubble, granted the courage to do so after having her lazy eye corrected, that it becomes clear that the world is alien to her. Attempted relationships result in tragedy, and it’s clear that she needs to remain protected from the horrors of the world -- and the world from her. Ultimately coming across as a modern-day take on “Frankenstein,” the story of “May” is a tale that could only ever end in heartbreak -- but it makes for a compelling and haunting watch, with a disturbed lead you can’t help feeling sympathy for.


29. The Others (2001)

Actor Nicole Kidman had only just recently wowed audiences as doomed courtesan Satine in Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge!” but would go on to play a similarly tragic character two months later in the impressive Spanish horror film “The Others.”


Effecting a credible British accent as Grace Stewart -- mother of two children in post-World War 2 Jersey -- Kidman plays a woman convinced that her house is haunted. After various encounters with the ghosts who dwell in the property -- the “others” who claim that the house is theirs -- Stewart is forced to confront her past to protect her two children.


The house, a sprawling labyrinth of gothic architecture and empty, echoing rooms, is as much a character as any of the small ensemble who populate this film. Kidman convinces as a mother stretched to the edge of her sanity, and her children -- sensitive to light, so effectively imprisoned within the mansion -- play their roles with aplomb. There are comparisons to be made with “The Sixth Sense,” especially in relation to the brilliant twist in both tales, and both stand out as fine examples of a well-crafted ghost story. Both movies also stand up well to a rewatch, with “The Others” in particular having some well-signposted hints as to the true nature of the supernatural trespassers.


28. The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)

The Japanese director Takashi Miike has had a long and successful career, producing an eclectic and abundant body of work. Miike is commonly associated with horror, despite that only being a fragment of his oeuvre -- with his penchant being violent horror, at that (Miike’s was the only banned episode from the superlative “Masters of Horror” anthology TV series from this same decade).


However, this particular film is from gory or violent, being a horror musical, mainly played for laughs. If you’re familiar with Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 movie “House” you’ll be in familiar territory here, with bizarre and freaky events befalling an oddball group of protagonists. The Katakuris of the title are a family who find themselves taking ownership of a small country guest resort -- but find that their guests keep dying in a variety of mysterious ways, forcing them to dispose of the ever-growing pile of corpses. It’s farce with a novel J-Horror twist.


As an experience, it's more interesting as a curio than a straight narrative -- it’s a movie unafraid to throw everything it has at the screen, including scenes done in Claymation (where it looks like the budget wouldn’t stretch), extensive song and dance numbers, puppetry, and harmonizing undead. The Japanese hills are indeed alive -- or at least undead -- with the sound of music.


27. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

Writer/director Don Coscarelli may be better known for his work on the “Phantasm” film series and its ever-diminishing returns, but 2002 saw what in a perfect world would have been the first of a bold new franchise in the oddball horror “Bubba Ho-Tep.”


In a genre where it can often seem like every idea gets recycled ad-infinitum, this tale of pensioners in a nursing home fighting a resurrected Mummy felt like a breath of fresh air. Make one of those pensioners Elvis Presley, and the other John F. Kennedy, neither of whom really died (with the latter died black to hide his identity, obviously) and there’s certainly no argument that you have an original concept.


Resplendently chinned Bruce Campbell couldn’t be more different than Evil Dead’s wise-cracking Ash in his portrayal of The King, and Ossie Davis plays the alternately hued former President with a delightful level of earnestness. It may all sound very silly, but it also manages to be a poignant look at aging, and at the legacy we leave behind.


That said, it’s more than “On Golden Pond” featuring an ancient, mummified Egyptian. It’s a daft premise, but one which treats its characters with such reverence and respect that you can’t help but be enthralled.


And who couldn’t adore a film where Elvis Presley karate kicks a Mummy with his blue suede shoes?


26. Frailty (2001)

The death of actor Bill Paxton in 2017 was a great loss to cinema, especially to fans of horror and science fiction. One of only two actors to be killed by a Terminator, Xenomorph and Predator -- the other being Lance Henriksen -- Paxton’s performances were always memorable, and his charm compelling.


2001’s “Frailty” also reminds us that we lost a talented filmmaker, with the Texan both directing and starring in this tale of two grieving brothers and their zealot father. Paxton plays the said Dad, a damaged soul who believes that he’s been tasked by God to slaughter demons that are hiding amongst us. Granted holy tools to carry out the Lord’s work -- an ax, length of pipe and gloves -- he also believes an Angel is giving him the names of those to be judged.


“Frailty” is a powerful work, with the audience left to contemplate on Dad’s crusade -- is he insane, driven to hideous acts by appalling grief, or is his holy quest a genuine one? A disappointing final act banishes any trace of ambiguity, but it remains a fascinating piece of work. It’s unique in its intimacy -- other directors may have been tempted to go full Old Testament and up the fire, brimstone, and gore quotient, but this movie remains a personal tale of familial grief and delusory thoughts, resulting in a film more psychological thriller than pure horror.


25. Cloverfield (2008)

Many found footage movies all fall foul of the same complaint, that of the justification for the footage existing in the first place. It’s one thing for hapless saps to be victim to the same horror tropes when they split from their party or go into that creepy dark basement alone -- it’s quite another for them to be recording themselves doing so on a handheld camera. Perhaps it’s a cutting indictment of how modern society views much of life through a camera viewfinder, but seriously -- you’d stand a much better chance of escaping from that ravenous behemoth if you’d just put the camera down.


“Cloverfield” is guilty of this, seeing one of a group of Manhattanite partygoers documenting the entirety of a Kaiju assault -- capturing every scene on his camera as the looming leviathan bites chunks out of the Big Apple. Attempting to escape the city, we’re with the filmmaker and his friends every step of the way -- with a memorable scene in the subway as they struggle to escape from the giant beast’s chittering offspring. The bloody aftermath, shown entirely in grisly silhouette, is a genuinely terrifying moment.


“Cloverfield” might be just a “Godzilla” movie told from the perspective of hapless pedestrians, but the use of found footage not only grounds the plot in reality but gives it a claustrophobic intimacy that makes you feel like you’re trapped alongside the cast.


24. Zombieland (2009)

The Hero’s journey archetype is a common theme in storytelling. As covered in detail in Joseph Campbell’s book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” it begins with the hero’s mundane life interrupted by a call to adventure, during which they will face various trials and return home triumphantly. The arc of Woody Harrelson’s hero Tallahassee follows this common trope, but I imagine Campbell never suspected the ultimate objective of any hero would be to locate any surviving Twinkies.


“The Walking Dead” was still a year away from our TV screens when “Zombieland” was released, in a time when zombies weren’t swarming over seemingly every piece of media. It’s a breath of fresh air, with a scene-stealing cameo from Bill Murray that dominates the entire film. An excellent sequel would surface a decade later, but it is noteworthy how well made the first film is.


Although I still have to force myself to remember whether Jesse Eisenberg or Michael Cera is the main star.


23. The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

There’s no denying that Mexican director and writer Guillermo del Toro has well and truly earned his position in the horror hall of fame. However, much as with Peter Jackson and the low-budget exploitation films that marked the start of his career, it’s easy to forget some of his earlier works. 2006’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” explored similar territory to “The Devil’s Backbone,” both set around the Spanish Civil War, but whereas the former movie seems more of an adult fairy tale with fantastical elements, “The Devil’s Backbone” feels like more of a horror movie.


10-year-old Carlos is taken in at the Santa Lucia orphanage after his father’s death in the Civil War and slowly learns of its secrets. As well as the looming and ever-present threat of an unexploded bomb embedded in the school’s courtyard, there are rumors of a ghost that haunts the site.


The Spanish Civil war was an incredibly tumultuous time for the country and left an indelible mark on the Iberian nation. In “The Devil’s Backbone,” the horrors of war are as frightening as any supernatural elements, which makes for an excellent backdrop, elevating an otherwise relatively conventional -- albeit beautiful -- ghost story.


22. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

British audiences were already familiar with actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright through their Generation X sitcom “Spaced,” and expectations were high for the first film of their proposed Cornetto Trilogy.


As is evident from how many mediocre ones that exist, the balance in a horror comedy appears to be hard to get right. If it’s trying to be too funny, you strip any tension and drama -- I’m looking at you, “Scary Movie n” -- and if it’s too scary, the only laughter will be nervous chuckling. Much like one of its spiritual ancestors from nearly two decades previous -- “Return of the Living Dead” -- “Shaun of the Dead” gets it right.


With two amiable leads in the form of the eponymous Shaun and his oafish sidekick Ed, we witness a very British Armageddon. In a country where the only available firearm is a rifle in a nearby pub that may or may not be real, Shaun, Ed and friends need to rely on their wits rather than firepower -- hindered by the fact that one of the group is quite, quite witless. The British suburbs are a unique setting for a zombie apocalypse, and the well-crafted and paced story milks the English humor in the situation for all that it was worth.


And it’s worthy of note, several decades down the line, that the Cornetto Trilogy all turned out to be as excellent as that first instalment.


21. Trick R’ Treat (2007)

The quality control of the segments of an anthology film can vary dramatically, but it never tends to be a real issue -- even with a weaker story, there’s never long to wait before the next one. However, there are a rare few that get it right -- 1982’s “Creepshow” being a notable contender -- and “Trick R’ Treat” can be reliably added to such esteemed company, featuring not a single disappointing segment.

As the name suggests, this quintet of nerve-wracking narratives is set around the Halloween period, introducing us to Sam -- a diminutive cloth-masked and button-eyed figure who seems very insistent that the rules of the Samhain season are strictly observed. Woe betide any poor soul who breaks his very firm set of traditions, because it’s likely to be the last thing they ever do. Sam’s debut appearance was in the 1996 animated short film “Season’s Greetings,” but it’s in “Trick R’ Treat” that he joined the pantheon of memorable horror antagonists.

Alongside John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” it should be made mandatory viewing for the season. Every segment is excellently done, thematically consistent, and -- crucially for a horror comedy -- is fiendishly funny. Ultimately, it’s a Halloween treat as filling and as delicious as any sugar-laden treats dispensed from a pumpkin shaped bowl.

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