Debate Club: Best 21st Century Horror
Tag: opinion

Debate Club: These are the best horror movies of the 21st century

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Aug 15, 2018

Welcome to Debate Club, where Tim Grierson and Will Leitch, the hosts of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, tackle the greatest arguments in pop culture.

One genre that proves eternally durable, regardless of the era, is the horror genre. Every decade brings its own horror classics, and one could argue we're in a golden age for horror right now, both artistically and commercially.

It makes sense: there is nothing quite like being in a room full of strangers, all terrified together.

Today, we look at the five best horror movies so far this century. We're hiding under our desks just thinking about these.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Who says a great horror movie can’t be hilarious, too? Director Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg dreamed up a zombie flick in which the undead decimate London — which is a real bummer for going-nowhere blokes Shaun (Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost), who'd just really like to grab a pint and chill. Shaun of the Dead gets endless amusement out of the juxtaposition between its slacker heroes and the terror of flesh-eating monsters. But while the movie is very funny, it’s also incredibly tense and scary. Probably no horror film this century felt more realistic: when the zombie apocalypse comes, most of us will probably act like these two knuckleheads.

The Others (2001)

"This house is ours... this house is ours..."

One of the highlights of Nicole Kidman's remarkable decade-long run of extraordinary performances that ran from To Die For (1995) to Birth (2004), The Others is a loving throwback to old-school gothic haunted-house films, telling the story of a wife and mother who lives with her two children in a creepy, secluded mansion, convinced that something spooky has overtaken their home.

An elegant chiller, the movie was written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar, who was in the midst of his Hollywood moment. (His previous film, the Spanish-language drama Open Your Eyes, was about to be remade as Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise. And his follow-up to The Others, The Sea Inside, won Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.) The Others reminded modern audiences that horror didn't need gore or found-footage gimmicks to scare the bejesus out of people: Subsequent horror movies like The Conjuring and Hereditary have followed in this moody masterpiece's footsteps.

Hereditary (2018)

Here is our favorite tweet about Hereditary:

That's exactly right. For the first hour-plus, Hereditary oozes impending doom, drawing you into its sad, broken family, its spellbinding aura of menace, its portentous mood of gloom. And then, once it has a firm grip on you, it begins tearing you apart. This is a movie you'll want to run screaming out of the theater from. That's a compliment. Months after it hit theaters, we still can't get it out of our brains.

Under the Skin (2013)

Perhaps the most truthful movie about what it feels like to see humanity through an alien's eyes — and then to suffer the worst of humanity in response — Under the Skin is slow-burn terrifying, a movie that almost stands outside itself, observing, pitilessly. Director Jonathan Glazer uses a deeply unnerving Mica Levi score, non-actors and an icy, mesmerizing performance from Scarlett Johansson to create a haunting, profound look at the world and how truly terrifying, and hypnotic, it can be.

28 Days Later (2002)

The end is, indeed, extremely f****** nigh in 28 Days Later. Genre fans still debate whether or not this is, technically, a zombie movie, but everybody agrees that Danny Boyle's nightmare vision of a devastated London is one of the scariest films of the last several decades.

Everything about 28 Days Later is just a bit off: you're not sure which characters are going to survive; the whole movie (intentionally) looks like it was shot on a crappy camcorder; and even when our heroes seem to have found sanctuary, they realize they've only entered another level of hell. The movie keeps you on your toes, scrambling to keep up, and it's cast impeccably: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson and Christopher Eccleston are all superb actors, adding gravitas to the desperate situation. And its horror hasn't dissipated in subsequent years: every global calamity and incident of unbridled terrorism seems to place us one step closer to 28 Days Later's hopeless near-future.

 

Grierson & Leitch write about the movies regularly and host a podcast on film. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.