Of all the genres within cinema, few can excite as much as horror can. From the visceral carnage on screen to the emotional underpinnings of a harrowing narrative, horror films provide an avid affective cinema that few other pictures can. In their exploration of the diabolical and disturbing, these movies work tirelessly to entertain their spectators in overtly physiological manners. Whether it’s sweaty palms or an ever-increasing heart rate, these unsettling films excite, cajole, disgust, shock and even traumatize their viewers into a gleeful adrenaline-fuelled pleasure.
In fact, for film scholar Linda Williams, the horror movie rests within the same active cinematic confines as pornography and melodramas (or “weepies” as she calls them). For Williams, horror, porno, and melodrama all share the same unequivocal characteristic—they are body films. They exist in a dichotomous plane in which they fetishize and admire the body and yet are equally hellbent on destroying it and/or altering it in their image. But the spectator is enamored all the same for it’s a fantasy and nightmare, all at once.
And that astute filmic relationship seems to have become much more pronounced with the recent advent of high quality horror flicks. Before filmmakers began again recognizing the narrative and character potential that horror inherently possesses, much of the genre had been bogged down by hackneyed drivel. Due to the genre’s financial reliance on clichéd franchises and direct-to-video releases, these pictures became a lower-rung category of movie, specializing in distasteful shlock and asinine filmmaking.
But that critical appraisal seems to be fast changing in the new millennium. Thanks to their relatively low production costs, financiers’ willingness to invest in a genre that often has killer returns, and the arrival of cheaper, higher quality digital cameras and equipment, many indie filmmakers have begun showcasing their talents through the affective genre. It seems that horror movies have yet again become a source of adept filmmaking, returning the genre to the elevated levels that Polanski, Scott, Carpenter, Friedkin, Kubrick and others had years prior.
With that, we’d like to take a look at the top ten best horror films from the past ten years. And sure, while there some great movies that have unfortunately not made the cut (sorry 2006’s The Host), the last ten years have given us a treasure trove of nail-biting, pit-staining and scream-inducing fright fests that will scare for years to come.