Monday, October 28, 2019

My Top 10 Horror Movies of the 2010’s

    2019 marks the end of a decade, and it’s time to reflect on what’s transpired in the past ten years … namely for this topic, what were my favorite horror movies of the decade. Ten years ago, I constructed a list of my top 13 personal favorite horror movies, and if I were to include all the winning horror films of the past decade, it would be a radically different list then what I initially had. Straight to the point, this decade really impressed me with its ambition to produce new and original horror movies, as well as jump starting original franchises, which have sense become to staples of the genera. So, to close out October 2019, I wanted to count down my own personal top 10 favorite new horror movies from 2010 – 2019. Again, this is just my own personal list, I’m not trying to make anything official, but with that said, let’s celebrate Halloween by looking over some of our most recent big screen frights.    

#10 “Insidious” (2010) 

When a little boy falls and gets injured, he slips into a mysterious coma, in which his spirit is trapped in a mysterious void, and is suddenly at the mercy of a frightening demon. Desperate to get their son back, the father seeks help from a psychic on how to rescue his son, even if that means entering the hellish void himself. The plot may seem a bit cartoony, but it’s pulled off effectively thanks to its relatable characters, inventive ideas and eerie atmosphere. The whole sub-genera revolving around demonic forces has been done to death, but this film managed to take old ideas, and create something unique in the process. Visually, I think it’s one of the best-looking horror movies of the whole decade, especially with its other worldly setting. With it’s twisted supernatural premise, horrific visuals, and likable characters at the helm, Insidious” was the point when the decade really started showing it’s creative potential, but things were only just beginning. 


#9 “IT” (2017) 

Tim Curry’s original portrayal of Pennywise the clown has always stuck with me as one of the all-time greatest villains of the horror genera … yet, the 1990 adaption of “Steven Kings It”, was only half as good. The 2017 remake by contrast features a passable wicked-clown portrayed by Bill Skarsgard, while I feel everything else on display is far superior to its predecessor. Centering all the focus on just the kids, their lives and their struggles was very smart, as the adult story-line from both the novel and Mini-Series never did anything for me. The performances are all solid, the emotional beats worked, there’s good old-fashioned haunted house scares, along with truly disturbing real-life issues the kids face at home, and it makes for an effective balance. This version also knows how to be a fun-scary venture, without getting too cheesy in its presentation. All around, “IT” is one of those rare horror remakes that’s arguably superior to its predecessor, and can be viewed as a small classic of the decade.     

#8 “Don’t Breathe” (2016) 

The thing I love most about horror is that it can leave an impact through varying presentations. Sometimes the excitement comes in the form of haunted house movies, or supernatural thrillers, and sometimes it can be consistently grounded in some form of reality, and still leave a chilling impact.
 2016’s “Don’t Breathe” is a special case of a horror movie giving me so much with so little. The plot is simple, as it follows a group of young teens who learn of a big stash of money in an old blind man’s house, so they think it’ll be easy to break in and steal it. What they didn’t expect was for this seemingly frail old blind man to be extremely dangerous, has a killer dog at his command, and has a dark secret hidden away in his basement of terrors. Now, the chase is on as the group try to escape the house, while also protecting the lead girl from the old man, who plans on using her for his own sinister motive. This is a very intense, white knuckled, cat and mouse game, and features one of the best human villains I’ve seen in a while. The brilliance of this concept is that it’s a reverse of the time warn home-invasion genera, except this time, it’s the invaders who are in danger. While we don’t support their actions of robbing a house, the movie still gets us to care for them, and we want to see them escape this intense situation. I also love when scary films are contained to a single location, as it gives the filmmakers free range to get creative with how to generate suspense and excitement. With a memorable villain, claustrophobic house setting, and tight direction, “Don’t Breathe” just made for a simple, yet thrilling experience.    

#7 “Ghost Stories” (2018) 

I’m always open to foreign horror films, as they seem to expand the genera in ways that are a little more unconventional then what we get in the US. 
The 2018 British horror film “Ghost Stories” is one of the finer examples, and it’s perhaps my favorite foreign horror movie of the decade. Professor Phillip Godman is a man devoted to debunking fraudulent psychics, and one day is tasked with solving three unexplained paranormal events. As he dives deeper into these frightening tales, the harder it is for him to explain anything, and soon … he finds himself haunted in a very personal nature by these tales. There’s a stand out scene in which a young man’s car breaks down in the middle of the woods, and as he tries to call for help … he’s unaware that he’s being stalked by a mysterious creature. That whole sequence gave me chills from head to toe, and played to a personal paranoia of mine. In general, I’ve always been a fan of Horror anthology films, and I think this might just be the best one sense the 1945 classic “Dead of Night”. Both movies are a collection of spooky tales, but there’s also little threads that tie each story together, and in the end, we see how they become a whole. It’s all very well crafted, suspenseful, and packed with unforgettable imagery. More to the point, this film combines it’s scares with real human drama and regrets, and that for me is when the horror genera is at its most effective.      

#6 “It Follows” (2015) 

It’s a common trope in horror movies that … when someone has sex, there going to die, that’s just the way it so commonly goes. Well, in this brilliant modern age thriller, the threat is quite literally brought on through sexual interplay. 
After some private time in a car, a young girl finds she’s now marked for death by a mysterious entity that can take the shape of an ordinary person, and it she dies, the threat will fall right back to the last person carrying the mark. While the commentary is obvious, everything adds to a very suspenseful, slow burning chase, with an entirely original creature taking center stage. I’ve truthfully never been scared of things popping out of corners and going BOO! In fact, ever sense I saw the original 1978 classic “Halloween”, I’ve always been more frightened by the dangers I see coming at me from a distance … and that’s what this movie perfects. I love the subtlety of seeing a danger coming to you from far away … you can’t stop it, you can’t run from it, and your only option is to delay the inevitable. It’s a brilliant concept, and it’s a film that can be highlighted as a modern-day horror classic.    

#5 “Annabelle Creation” (2017) 

If there's one thing that horror movie sequels have proven in this new millennium, it's that there frequently better than their first films … at least, the ones that weren't very good at first. 
Case in point, the 2014 movie "Annabelle" was terrible and set a new low for the genera, yet this squeal/prequel not only brought back some real scares, but also had a lot of admirable aspects. In general, the Annabelle doll has become a mascot for modern horror cinema, and giving her a detailed origin was a risky venture, but it worked, as her dark secrets make the doll both more terrifying and subsequently more tragic. The film revolves around two orphaned girls finding a new place of residence, but they each in turn find themselves haunted by the mysterious doll, as well as the secrets revolving around the house keeper’s late daughter. Putting the focus on two girls was a great start, but it's the performances and chemistry between the two that gives this film it's substance. It also makes the scares effective, because I really cared about the two. This is also the first time I genuinely felt terrified of a creepy, motionless doll. The film also lends to some terrific haunted house scenarios, spooky action, and some memorable frightening highlights.   

#4 “Gerald's Game” (2017) 

Adapted from the novel by renowned author Steven King, and directed by Mike Flanagan, who’s one of the modern-day titans of the horror genera comes “Gerald's Game”. This was one of those special experiences in which a movie just snuck-up on me without, and left an impact. 
It’s also a great example of how a horror film can accomplish so much with so little. The premise is as simple as they get, in which a husband and wife are about to have hand-cuffed sex, but the husband suddenly collapses due to heart failure, leaving the pore woman chained to the bed ... and that’s the whole movie. Yet through this premise, we embark on a fascinating character journey, though one persons troubled life, and how her current situation is likewise a metaphor of how she’s chained to the sins of her past that she’s never broken free from.  Mike Flanagan’s direction, editing and creative camera tricks are aw-inspiring, and highlight how to make the most of a single location. There’s also very high stakes, as she’s not only cuffed to a bed, but also out in a secluded area, the house door was accidentally left open, a blood hungry dog is on the prowl, and there’s an even greater danger in the form of a mysterious “Moon-Light Man”, who may either be a frightening illusion caused by dehydration, or a real life serial killer who’s closing in on a helpless victim. The imagery and choice visuals are downright chilling spectacles, and Carla Gugino lead performance is down-right Oscar worthy.     

#3 “Us” (2019) 

Jordan Peele follows up on the break out success of the Oscar Nominated horror movie “Get Out” with one of my absolute favorite thrillers, which helped close the decade on a high note. I was a kid that grew up watching the classic “Twilight Zone” series, and an episode that always stuck with me was called “Mirror Image”, in which a woman is stocked by an evil reflection of herself. 
This movie was heavily inspired by the very episode, as it involved a seemingly normal family who are being hunted by malevolent and ruthless reflections of themselves. It takes such a durable premise, up’s the stakes, ad’s twists on-top of turns, and further explores its grey themes of personal identity. It’s a situation that starts in a single home, then goes outside, gradually builds, and builds into something larger in scope then what we initially started with. The music is as chilling as they get, the comedy is just right, and the performances are perfect all around. Especially from Lupita Nyong'o, and her dual portrayal of both the frightened mother and her wicked double, which is easily one of the greatest horror performances of the decade.  


#2 “Lights Out” (2016) 

From the creators of "The Conjuring" comes "Lights Out" and this is the most resent Horror movie to be featured on my countdown, but it's quickly become a new personal favorite of mine that's worth watching annually around October. 
Ever sense the earliest years of human kind, our most instinctive fear was that of being alone in the dark, and this movie is a very exciting take on the trope of why you should stay out of the shadows. A family is being haunted by a mysterious entity that can only lurk in darkness, so as long as the family stays in the light their safe, but when the lights go out, their suddenly at the mercy of this hostile beast. I love the simplicity of this premise, and the film knows how to play around with it's genera tropes to keep things exciting to insure it never gets repetitive with the formula. There's an eerie atmosphere and sustained tension that never lets up throughout the film, all while great care is put into the details of both the story and characters. The performances are all very solid, and the characters manage to break away from your typical horror victim stereotypes. These characters are actually quiet resourceful, know how to take action while still showing their vulnerability and there's even some depth to them. When you look past all the scary elements you'll notice that there's a very thoughtful story being told here about family struggles and the sacrifices we make for those we love. So there's just the right amount of substance to balance out the effective scares. It's simply a perfect late-night horror film to watch with the lights out.

Before I reveal my #1 favorite, here are some Honorable Mentions … 

Fright Night” (2011) 

The Babadook” 





#1 “The Conjuring 2” (2016) 

Back in 2013, “The Conjuring” made a big impact, launched several spin-off films, imitators and is regarded as a small classic of the modern era. However, while I thought the first was very well constructed, it just didn’t stick with me as either a frightening or memorable experience. 
By contrast, it’s 2016 sequel “The Conjuring 2” scared me senseless, and has stuck with me as one of the better films in the haunted house genera. The premise is very similar to the first, as it revolves around a family haunted by vengeful spirits, and two paranormal investigators are sent by the church to dispel the demons plaguing their house. James Wan proves once again to be one of the greatest horror filmmakers of our time, as he takes old haunted house clichés and gives them a tense new edge. If you think too hard, you’ll find plenty of details to pick at, but as an experience, this film builds a relentlessly haunting atmosphere, tells a very competent ghost story. It’s also chalk full of memorable visuals, like the rocking chair, and new characters like The Crooked Man. It’s one of those scary movies that still leaves a cold chill in the air after it ends. The most unsettling moment of all is a nightmare involving a painting of a scary nun. The performances are all solid, especially from child actress Madison Wolfe, who’s portrayal of the real-life Janet Hodgson is one of the best the horror genera has to offer. In my opinion, her performances rivals that of the original Exorcist, which I don’t say lightly. 

The End

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