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The 25 Best Horror Films of the Aughts
The 25 Best Horror Films of the Aughts

15

28 Weeks Later

The nature of seeing is at the bedrock of our human experience, and is key to unlocking the emotions simmering just beneath the surface of 28 Weeks Later. The decade’s heir to the throne of Romero, Juan Carlos Frenadillo’s brilliantly staged savagery comes equipped with disarming fairy-tale overtones, his generous, intelligent storytelling drunk on equal parts love and hope, destruction and chaos. Deliberately shouting out to America’s War on Terror was a timely choice with genuine political insight, but the real theme here is the timelessness of our human frailties; the sins of our fathers determine our struggles of today, and sometimes, a loving mother’s instincts are the worst thing in the world. The breakneck opening sequence sets a tone of apocalyptic doom, and though the dispatching of the undead en masse has rarely been topped (see the film’s bodacious helicopter sequence, the original Dawn of the Dead’s infamous decapitation scene writ large), it’s the introspective moments—like a James Wolfe statue, seemingly weeping for senseless loss of life—that lend resonance to this raging sequel. Humanick

The 25 Best Horror Films of the Aughts

14

Let the Right One In

Not unlike Matt Reeves’s American remake, Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In is, in color and emotion, something almost unbearably blue. When Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a 12-year-old outcast perpetually bullied at school, meets Eli (Lina Leandersson), the mysterious new girl at his apartment complex, one child’s painful coming of age is conflated with another’s insatiable bloodlust. The film treats adolescence, even a vampire’s arrested own, as a prolonged horror—life’s most vicious and unforgiving set piece. This study of human loneliness and the prickly crawlspace between adolescence and adulthood is also an unexpectedly poignant queering of the horror genre. Do not avert your eyes from Alfredson’s gorgeously, meaningfully aestheticized vision, though you may want to cover your neck. Gonzalez

The 25 Best Horror Films of the Aughts

13

The House of the Devil

Though The House of the Devil is so steeped in nostalgia for the genre films of yore that it seems to belong far more to the ’80s than to the present day, it nevertheless carved a perfect niche for itself in late-aughts cinema. Relative newcomer Ti West deals in nail-biting suspense and dread, making him a welcome outlier among his more gore-obsessed contemporaries: Each time West punctuates one of the film’s long periods of placidity and unease via an abrupt act of violence, the moment feels earned, even necessary, rather than tacked on. It’s a film that both relies on and rewards the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks of its slow-going narrative, a refreshing change of pace from the mindless horror fodder it surpasses with such ease and gravitas. Nordine

The 25 Best Horror Films of the Aughts

12

Bug

Bug, an intense little chamber play of blossoming madness, allowed William Friedkin to put his characteristic screws to both his characters and his audience while nearly achieving a poignancy that only heightens the horror. Your enjoyment of the film may depend on whether or not you buy how quickly Ashley Judd succumbs to paranoia and insanity. I didn’t buy it, but the film’s relentlessness overcomes the occasionally stagy absurdity. In one of his first key roles, Michael Shannon looks a little like Anthony Michael Hall at his most hungover, but his presence and surprisingly soft voice throws you off balance, and Friedkin masterfully exploits that emotional uncertainty, paving the way for an ending that’s abrupt, unforgiving, and the perfect capper for a very over the top last third. Bug has been referred to as a thriller or a horror story, but it’s really a perverse romance—a heightened, demented parable of losing yourself to someone. Bowen

The 25 Best Horror Films of the Aughts

11

War of the Worlds

The apex of what critic Matthew Wilder astutely pinned as the summery popcorn movies finally wrestled with the aftermath of 9/11 (along with Land of the Dead and Red Eye), Steven Spielberg’s relentless update of H.G. Wells’s creaky, pre-Cold War property often feels like a regression into the cheap safety of a zero-relativity “Us vs. Them” mentality. Which is exactly why it still seems like the most upsetting mass entertainment in Spielberg’s entire career. Stuffed with all the brutally efficient mayhem of Jaws, Poltergeist, Gremlins, and Jurassic Park put together, War of the Worlds is a mirror held up against the nation’s sense of festering shock. But for all the sympathetic shots of people running for their lives with grimaces of terror on their faces, you can’t help but wonder if Spielberg’s ultimate disaster movie isn’t also smuggling in criticism about the nature of our worst collective fears. Henderson

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