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October 4, 2012 10:37 AM   Subscribe

What are the actual good, worthwhile, non-ironic, non-self-referential horror films of the last ten years?
posted by Artw to Media & Arts (63 answers total) 117 users marked this as a favorite
I was impressed by The House of the Devil.
posted by subtle-t at 10:38 AM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was totally spooked out by The Skeleton Key.
posted by Glinn at 10:40 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The original Paranormal Activity had some truly creepy moments. Pan's Labyrinth probably qualifies, as does Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:43 AM on October 4, 2012

Trick R Treat is a fun film in tune with the spirit of Halloween.
posted by cazoo at 10:44 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unlike everyone else in the world, I thought Rob Zombies Halloween reboot was very good classy creepout stabby horror. Other than that though, I mean, I suppose you also consider something like Pan's Labyrinth fantasy right? So not that. Yep, that's about it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:45 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Orphanage/El Orfanato is super-creepy.
posted by mskyle at 10:45 AM on October 4, 2012 [8 favorites]

Dead Snow is definitely self-aware as being a product of a genre, but not really ironic.
posted by cmoj at 10:47 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Let The Right One In is pretty cool, though again, not particularly scary.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:51 AM on October 4, 2012 [11 favorites]

Martyrs. It has no supernatural elements, so it depends on your definition of horror.
posted by MinusCelsius at 10:53 AM on October 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Devil's Backbone was a good old-fashioned horror film, I thought.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:55 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

I thought "Black Swan" was pretty good.

It was marketed a different way in a quest for awards, but let's be real: it's a straight B-horror.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:56 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Ring, in under the wire. Also The Strangers.
posted by telegraph at 10:57 AM on October 4, 2012

I was going to say The Blair Witch Project but then I thought, well maybe that's more than 10 years old... sheesh, time flies.

I'd second the Ring and Paranormal Activity and also add House at the End of the Street as the bestest mostest recent one.

I never thought of Pan's Labyrinth as horror.
posted by Blake at 11:04 AM on October 4, 2012

28 Days Later. A pox on fast zombies!
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:05 AM on October 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

The Descent.
posted by changeling at 11:06 AM on October 4, 2012 [21 favorites]

I thought Session 9 was outstanding, it was filmed in the crumbling, creepy, Danvers State Mental Hospital in MA. If you like Monster movies - I would recommend Monsters and Troll Hunter, both of which are much better than they look at first glance.
posted by machinecraig at 11:15 AM on October 4, 2012 [11 favorites]

Best answer: May. (This is one of my favorite movies.)
Let the Right One In - I haven't seen it but folks seem to love it, I'll get to it sooner or later.
The remake of Friday the 13th is awesome if you like that sort of thing - Jason kills people, it's not more complicated than that.
Trick 'R Treat.
Lake Mungo.
Final Destination 5 is an excellent example of a horror film that only has one trick but it's a really great trick if that's what you're looking for. People die in impossibly complex ways, again and again. Feather-light but fun.
The Descent.
Hard Candy.
The Eye (the original).
I forget if the first two Ginger Snaps movies came out within the last decade but if they did you should see them, because they're excellent.
Dead Girl.
The Mist.
Drag Me To Hell.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:17 AM on October 4, 2012 [7 favorites]

Seconding Session 9. I actually had to sleep with a light on for about a week after seeing that damn thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:18 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

So, I don't know if it is an outright horror movie, but The Isle was about equal parts beautiful and nauseating.
posted by subtle-t at 11:19 AM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: Horror is such a personal, subjective genre that it's hard to know what will tickle your scaredy-bone, but for my money, the list of the most effective horror (non-winkingly ironic) of the past decade would have to include:

- The Descent (and maybe director Neil Marshall's earlier Dog Soldiers, 2002)
- 28 Days Later
- The Orphanage (which I found more mournful and atmospheric than scary --- but it did have some lovely, eerie moments and at least one OH MY GOD moment)
- A Tale of Two Sisters
- House of the Devil, mentioned above, is an old-school slow burn and a loving period piece. I thought it fell apart at the end, but I really enjoyed most of the film. I felt the same way about director Ti West's more recent The Innkeepers, which has some directorial flair that I think rivals Polanski in building suspense. (There's a moment in The Innkeepers that might as well be clipped right out of Rosemary's Baby --- not for any similarity of plot or content, but for the way West uses the empty space and framing of the shot to keep us on edge.)
- I really loved May. It's not self-referential, but it does have a wry sense of humor, so it might not fit cozily into your list.
- on preview: Oh yes, Pontypool! I reviewed that here. [self-link]
posted by Elsa at 11:21 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

Definitely 2nding The House of the Devil and also adding The Innkeepers by the same director.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:21 AM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: I hope you like foreign horror - in my opinion, they've left American film-making behind in the dust. Almost all of these are on Netflix. They are classified as horror but might lean more towards psychological horror than your standard slashers and jump-scares.

High Tension (2003) is a very good French slasher film that has a legitimate adrenaline rush, good amount of gore, and just really excellent.

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) is South Korean horror film that's part psychological, part mystery, part ghost story.

Shutter (2004) is a Thai horror film about ghosts. Normally I do't like ghost story horror, but this is excellent, and scary. I guess if you like films like The Grudge then this falls into the same lines.

Pontypool (2008) is a Canadian film set in a radio booth with a zombie apocalypse developing outside. It's a really interesting - cerebral - film and a nice break from standard cliches. Not really scary, just really good tension and some great ideas.

The Chaser (2008) another South Korean film, this time about a serial murderer. The plot makes it sounds like a corrupt-cop-detective-thriller, but it breaks any assumptions you might have about it. This is one of the best films I've seen in recent years.

Dead Girl (2008) is an American indie film about some high school students who discover a zombie. It's not for the fainthearted in terms of content.

And finalllllly....

Three... Extremes (2004) is a collection of three ~40 minute horror films all by well-known Asian horror directors. They are all very distinct and very good. Chan-Wook Park (Oldboy) and Takeshi Miike (Audition) each did one. The third - Dumplings - is one of my favorite unsettling "oh my god I can't believe" films, but not scary.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 11:24 AM on October 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

Came in to eagerly emphasize The Ring and 28 Days Later. The Grudge also legitimately terrified me. (the original Japanese movie less so, as with Ringu)

I'd say The Mist was less horror and more scifi-drama. It also wasn't great.

Can someone elaborate on The Cabin in the Woods? It's on my list, but I can confirm whether it's solid horror because I shouldn't look it up, I've been told not to do so.

Also, perhaps The Exorcism of Emily Rose?
posted by Sayuri. at 11:25 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Cabin in the Woods is brilliant, but almost constitutes an essay on what I am NOT looking for.
posted by Artw at 11:29 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

Nthing "The Descent". I have no idea if the sequel sucks or not.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:31 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

although not billed as horror The Black Death is pretty horrific and very good
posted by supermedusa at 11:34 AM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: I thought the three "Paranormal Activities" movies got better with each successive one - you watch the first one and think, huh, okay, that was kinda fun, and then as you move into the other two, you start to see this really elaborate story unfolding.

Another vote for Pontypool and The Devil's Backbone.
posted by jbickers at 11:36 AM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Cabin in the Woods is brilliant, but almost constitutes an essay on what I am NOT looking for.

Good to know! Damn you and your fickle talent, Whedon. I shan't ever forgive you for Alien: Resurrection.

On preview: Not super impressed by The Black Death. That's one of those "OMG let's watch this awesome scary movie you'll love it" my mom brings over and I'm totally let down by.
posted by Sayuri. at 11:37 AM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: It depends on what you're looking for, but I really enjoyed The Woman in Black. It's an old-fashioned haunted house movie without much else going on. It was one of the few movies we saw in the theaters recently, and it brought my wife to tears (and I thought it was plenty scary, too, which is really unusual).
posted by uncleozzy at 11:46 AM on October 4, 2012

2nding Drag Me to Hell
posted by moons in june at 11:51 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: [Rec] scared the PANTS off of me.
Quarantine, the american remake, is almost scarier.
Julia's Eyes wasn't bad.
The Others was creepy as hell. I think it is outside your decade range though
The Paranormal Activity movies give me mega nightmares.
Signs I thought was extremely well done and scary.

A Tale of Two Sisters is great, but I wouldn't call it scary. Same as Let the Right One In. Great, but not scary.

I also don't think Session 9 was even slightly scary. I kept heard it talked up as soooo scary but I kept waiting for the scary parts to happen.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:01 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Off the top of my head:

The Strangers
posted by yellowbinder at 12:16 PM on October 4, 2012

ArtW, here's a general disclaimer that is probably obvious from my lists: I prefer tense, drawn-out psychological terror with long narrative arc. Splatter bores me, and unless they're extremely well justified and motivated, simple scare chords annoy me. That might help you better assess how well my recommendations will work for you.

- Stake Land, which is a horror flick/road movie that takes place in a semi-apocalyptic landscape reminiscent of the post-zombie-apocalypse worlds of Romero, but rather than a plague of zombies, it's a plague of... never mind, I won't say. Watch it and find out. This is more action-packed than many of my other recs, but it doesn't sacrifice character or internal logic.
- I completely agree on The Devil's Backbone and Session 9; I didn't mention them only because they are both from 2001, just barely outside your time limit. (In honor of Halloween, The Fella and I are compiling lists of our top ten scariest moments from all of horror cinema; The Devil's Backbone and Session 9 are both moments we've mentioned while brainstorming.)
- I suppose Lars von Trier's AntiChrist qualifies as a horror film. It's a polarizing work and I'm reluctant to recommend it. Though it is deeply affecting and gruesome and OH NO SO GRAPHIC NO REALLY, it's also got some powerfully beautiful moments. It haunted me for a long time after I saw it. I'm not sure that's a good thing.
- Instead of the usual ghost story with characters wedged in, The Eclipse is an unexpected little character-with-incidental-ghost story. Watching it felt like reading an M.R. James story: character, plot, the realities of daily life, and then also one or two moments that reach out and GET YOU. I yelped so loudly I apologized to my neighbors through our shared wall.

I kept heard [Session 9] talked up as soooo scary but I kept waiting for the scary parts to happen.

That's an expression of what I mentioned above, that horror is perhaps the most finicky and personal of movie tastes. Just like it's hard to know what's going to tickle a particular viewer's funnybone, it's hard to know what a particular person will find scary. I found Session 9 a great slow burn with maybe two really scary moments. [SPOILER] The moment when one of the workers is trying to race through an interior passage before all the lights go out, for example

But you didn't, and that's just a difference in taste. Without more input from the OP, all any of us can do is recommend what we found effective. [Rec] pretty much bored me silly, but ArtW might find it perfectly suits his tastes.

Agreed on The Others being really effective and creepy, and though it is a little meta- (all those ties to Turn of the Screw/The Innocents), that is all stirring below the surface, so it might squeak onto this list --- though you're right that it's just outside the decade limit.
posted by Elsa at 12:19 PM on October 4, 2012

The [rec] series is great.
posted by thylacine at 12:22 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, the upcoming "Sinister" is getting some pretty awesome buzz.
posted by jbickers at 12:36 PM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: Think these have all been mentioned but I'm a bit of a horror addict, and IMO these are the only decent films in that genre of the last 10 or so years, at least from N.America:

Session 9, The Descent, The Devil's Rejects, Pontypool, all 3 Paranormal Activity's (I agree they got better successively).

Downloaded Vacancy awhile ago and totally forgot to watch it, hopefully that is as good as I've heard. They played a trailer for Sinister before Looper the other night and it looked terrible. But they also played the trailer for the fourth Paranormal Activity, so that evened things out.

Damn, I really wish more quality horror flicks were made. In the meantime I'm gonna look through some of the recommendations here that I haven't heard of!
posted by mannequito at 12:49 PM on October 4, 2012

I second May, mentioned earlier. It is directed by Lucky McGee, and he's made several interesting films. The Woman is his latest and possibly most disturbing. It has stuck with me long after I watched.

Another movie that is not your typical horror, but has really horrifying parts (and is in the same vein of Lucky McGee's work): Red White & Blue, released in 2010. It was streaming on Netflix not too long ago.
posted by lucyleaf at 12:56 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Descent (2005)
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
Feed (2005)
Wolf Creek (2005)

Severance (2006)
Them (2006)

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Pontypool (2008)
Quarantine (2008)
Splinter (2008)
The Strangers (2008)

Drag Me to Hell (2009)
The House of the Devil (2009)
Thirst (2009)
Triangle (2009)

The Crazies (2010)
Insidious (2010)
I Saw the Devil (2010)

Apartment 143 (2011)
The Innkeepers (2011)

The Tall Man (2012)
posted by dgeiser13 at 12:58 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm glad dgeiser13 mentioned Splinter. I'm a big fan, but I'm also friends with the director. The first ten minutes are slow, but after that it gets really good (and most of the fx are practical effects, if that matters to you).
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:31 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was also thinking of suggesting Antichrist. My reaction was almost exactly the same as Elsa's above. It is fucked up and violent and beautifully shot. I'm not sure what else to say about it. I'm not even sure if I liked it, but I couldn't stop thinking about for a long time after I watched it. Seriously. It will get in your brain.
posted by troublewithwolves at 1:39 PM on October 4, 2012

Longtime lurker, felt compelled to post on this thread. :)

I'm shocked no one has mentioned Inside yet, it's easily one of my favorite horror films of the past decade. Pretty brutal, though. Strong stomach required, but it's worth it. I feel like the old Evil Dead tagline was made for this movie: "The ultimate experience in grueling terror."

Big fan of The Signal, a sci-fi/horror anthology created in the style of an "exquisite corpse" game, where each filmmaker handed off their finished work to the next. Pretty great, and this was the first thing I saw AJ Bowen in!

I seriously think The Abandoned may be the most underrated and under-seen horror films of the last decade. It's a really creepy, very unusual take on the "haunted house" film.

Dance of the Dead is really fun, especially with a group. It's a horror/comedy, sort of an updated version of Night of the Creeps with a very similar tone. Shame it got shunted directly to DVD!

Make-Out with Violence is a really interesting take on the zombie movie. It has a somewhat similar story to Deadgirl (which I also second any recommendation for), but it deals with completely different concepts and themes.

There's a really good low-budget sci-fi/horror film called Phasma Ex Machina that was eventually released as Ghost in the Machine. Some of the acting is not great, but there are some really creepy moments.

Enthusiastically seconding Christopher Smith's Triangle. It's sort of a supernatural take on Primer or Timecrimes. Great film!

One of my favorite movies released in the US last year was Amer, which is pretty great but is also barely a narrative film. It uses the vocabulary of the Italian giallo film to tell a very abstract "story." It's all style, which I love, but your mileage may vary.

Other recent-ish stuff that's worth watching:
Midnight Son
Some Guy Who Kills People
Dream Home
posted by rabbitroom at 2:30 PM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

The 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead (possibly the best opening 10 minutes of any horror movie).

Also, Coraline. It might be geared a little too young for what your looking for, but it's fantastic in many ways and worth a watch.
posted by chrisulonic at 4:44 PM on October 4, 2012

We really loved Noroi.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:41 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing The Descent - such a near-perfect little horror movie, with a sharp all-female cast and deliciously horrifying underground monsters.

Also nthing Stake Land, a gritty and beautifully atmospheric monster plague apocalypse that stays pretty true to its darkness. Much better than any other zombie/etc flick I've seen recently.

rabbitroom's link to Triangle goes to the wrong movie; I think this is the Christopher Smith movie he meant. Critics seem to like it more than ordinary mortals, which I find a good sign in a horror flick. I've heard good things about Smith's other films, too, but haven't seen any yet. Triangle sounds a great place to start.

FWIW, for the last few years The Jaded Viewer has been "compiling the top 10 (or best of) lists of every major film and horror site, horror blog and online magazine out there on the interwebs." It's a fantastic one-stop resource for dozens of horror sites' year-end rankings:
posted by mediareport at 7:57 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm about to break my favorites button nthing Stake Land.

If you like it you should check out the same creative team's Mulberry Street.

Right on the border of horror - really more of a psychological examination/thriller - is Take Shelter.

Seconding Dog Soldiers, just slipping in under the 10-year wire, and strong second for Monsters & Troll Hunter.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:22 PM on October 4, 2012

One that hasn't been mentioned: Borderland (trailer). This is about some college grads stumbling upon a cult.
posted by ollyollyoxenfree at 12:29 AM on October 5, 2012

Kill List. Starts off as a Ken Loach-y kitchen sinker about a ex-hitman fallen on hard times; matters steadily get strange and disturbing, and then they get even disturbingier.
posted by Iridic at 8:36 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Descent was already mentioned but the sequel is pretty good too. It won me over even though the ending for The Descent leaves absolutely no room for a sequel.

I quite like The Ruins though I think I'm the only one. Part of what makes The Ruins so interesting is most of the real horror is self-inflicted.

Be careful when renting The Descent. There is a terrible, terrible made-for-tv movie called Descent.
posted by chairface at 9:32 AM on October 5, 2012

2nding The Woman. Saw it a few weeks ago and was really impressed.

Details follow, minimally spoilery, with trigger warnings.

If you like psychological, somewhat gory, "Oh god the monster is us" sort of horror, go for that. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the horror hinges on patriarchical it is not everyone's cup of tea.

Hi everybody...longtime lurker. First post!
posted by ImmaculatePizza at 9:51 AM on October 5, 2012

Best answer: As a rule, I avoid "horror" movies that contain unnecessary/excessive gore, are based on revenge/torture stories and/or are badly written/acted with plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. For me, a good horror movie provokes jumps, dread, heart-pounding, eye-covering and insomnia. Most have been mentioned already in this thread, but here are my favorites from the past ten years:

The Paranormal Activity series (Number 4 out soon)
Sauna (2008)
Absentia (2011)
Lake Mungo (2008)
Pontypool (2008)
The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
Kill List (2011) (a violent exception to my rule, but a very scary film)
The Descent (2005)
Session 9 (2001)
posted by Paris Elk at 7:11 AM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I thought Open Water was truly terrifying.
posted by duckus at 12:23 PM on October 7, 2012

Might fall more on the side of action/thriller, but Red Eye is Wes Craven's last good movie.
posted by psoas at 11:57 AM on October 9, 2012

Oh man we just watched Red Eye this weekend. It doesn't pretend to be anything it's not, and it would have been totally unwatchable with lesser leads, but hey, scary. Outbreak and Panic Room also scared the bejeezus out of me recently (ymmv).

Put me down as another suggestion for The Innkeepers.
posted by troika at 10:24 PM on October 10, 2012

Response by poster: Some great answers!

I watched Lake Mungo last night, an awesome little film I probably wouldn't have caught without your replies.
posted by Artw at 8:38 AM on October 25, 2012

Just watched "Rare Exports" today. SO good! And it is a Christmas horror film, to boot.
posted by jbickers at 3:11 PM on October 27, 2012

I watched Stake Land a couple of nights ago, thanks to this thread, and I really really enjoyed it. Felt like a vampire/zombie flick influenced by The Thin Red Line, a lot of atmospheric slow shots and philosophical narration interspersed with crazy action sequences.
posted by mannequito at 2:09 AM on October 28, 2012

Response by poster: Watched Don't Be Afraid of the dark - fun stuff, but boy are all the characters lacking the faintest lick of sense.
posted by Artw at 11:52 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Coming back to thank Paris Elk for recommending Absentia. Watched it tonight - it's a neat, quick, sharp, extremely creepy little indie film. It builds its weird horror beautifully, is well-acted, has characters you actually give a shit about and enough scares and surprises to keep your interest. About 40 minutes in it takes a disturbing turn without any gore, and if the last 30 minutes doesn't *quite* live up to the slowly growing dread of the first hour (that Variety review correctly notes the film's biggest flaw, an unneeded internet-driven "yakkety monologue"), the ending more than makes up for it in lingering horror and despair. It's relatively minimalist horror, so if what you're looking for is over-the-top screaming bloodshed look elsewhere, but damn does it work:

"Absentia" is very creepy, non-formulaic and more grounded in relatable personalities than the usual horror film filled with hottie victims and other stereotypes. A neat touch is Flanagan's interweaving of glimpsed wishful-thinking scenarios loved ones imagine for the missing. Perfs are very strong, production package modest but utterly assured, with Ryan David Leack's score particularly good.

The 'making of' extra is cool, too. Nice to see a small group of folks do such a great job on a tiny budget.

Thanks, Paris Elk. Next up is Sauna.
posted by mediareport at 10:56 PM on November 18, 2012

Hey mediareport, thanks for the feedback. Always happy to help creep-out a fellow MeFite.
posted by Paris Elk at 12:33 PM on November 23, 2012

Response by poster: Woman in Black was stupid. Sorry guys. Sorry British film industry.
posted by Artw at 7:36 AM on November 28, 2012

Ha, sorry Artw. It's a small, silly movie, but then again I like stupid pop-out scares.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:43 AM on November 28, 2012

Response by poster: It is indeed a great movie for fans of stupid pop out scares. :-)
posted by Artw at 7:58 AM on November 28, 2012

Response by poster: A Tale of Two Sisters is pretty great, though pretty hard to follow SPOILERS An unreliable narrator AND nested flashbacks AND characters that are imaginary but seem to go off and do things by themselves without the character imagining them at times, which has got to be against some kind of rules.

...still, very enjoyable.
posted by Artw at 4:53 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

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