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

5

Martyrs

If any one film could be used as a poster child for the punishing and unrelentingly gory new wave of recent French movies, Martyrs would be that film. Writer-director Pascal Laugier’s film leaves you with the scopophilic equivalent of shell shock. The gauntlet that his film’s heroine, a “final girl” who’s abducted and tortured by a religious cult straight out of a Clive Barker novel, is forced to endure is considerable. Which is like saying that King Kong is big, Vincent Price’s performances are campy, and blood is red. Laugier’s film is grueling because there’s no real way to easily get off on images of simulated violence. The film’s soul-crushing finale makes it impossible to feel good about anything Laugier has depicted. In it, Laugier suggests that there’s no way to escape from the pain of the exclusively physical reality of his film. You don’t watch Laugier’s harrowing feel-bad masterpiece, you’re held in its thrall. Abandon hope all ye who watch here. Abrams

The 25 Best Horror Films of the Aughts

4

Audition

Gonzo director Takashi Miike delivers one of his most controlled, if not exactly straightforward, films with Audition. Middle-aged widower Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), tired of his sad-sack existence, lets himself be persuaded by a film-industry colleague to hold a cattle call for love. Aoyama’s finicky laundry list of love-demands require a degree of polish in his woman, though he’s encouraged to settle for second-best, as too much of a good thing makes a woman prideful and unruly. At first, demure Asami (Eihi Shiina) seems to fit the bill, though there’s soon something clearly amiss. Maybe it’s repeated shots of the girl, slumped over, waiting by the phone, a conspicuously bulging sack glimpsed in the background. The leftfield second half, a surreally shifting hall of mirrors, mixes memory, desire, and nightmare, and Asami becomes an exterminating angel in white, liable to do terrible things with acupuncture needles and piano wire. Weber

The 25 Best Horror Films of the Aughts

3

Inside

Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s Inside is a beautiful junk painting of your worst nightmares. Like Takashi Miike at his most unhinged, Bustillo and Maury announce their disregard for all notions of good taste and restraint with their opening image of a severe car accident as seen and experienced by an unborn child. One moment the child is soothed by his mother’s loving, if alarming, words, the next he’s jolted and throttled, blood rising and floating from the inside. The film, in more ways than you can imagine, is driven by the fallout from that accident, and what follows is the most potent exploitation of unyielding, inexplicable violation outside of Takashi Miike’s Audition. The violence, before it goes haywire, is ghastly and remarkably apt thematically. The tides of blood flow and spurt and explode, and hauntingly confirm and underline a terrified young woman’s mental implosions. A mother’s most forbidden nightmares have finally arrived. The ending reveals the filmmakers to possibly be more in touch with their inner woman than we initially assumed, though the horror lies in which woman they appear to be in touch with. Bowen

The 25 Best Horror Films of the Aughts

2

Inland Empire

That Inland Empire—which is difficult to classify under any umbrella, let alone horror—ranks as highly on this list as it does says as much about the current state of the genre as it does about David Lynch’s mental state. But if horror may be thought of as a state of mind, a particularly intense form of suspension of disbelief owing as much to what we don’t know as to what we do, then Inland Empire’s status as one of the most terrifying films released in the last decade is immediately understood. At three hours long, the film is above all else a durational experience: There’s something about the singularly bizarre mix of digital video, Balkan intrigue, and talking rabbits which, after a relatively normal opening, takes you further into a claustrophobic, even nightmarish experience that you want to end as desperately as you want it to keep going. Lynch’s refusal to give us concrete clues as to what’s behind his impenetrable narrative makes it linger in your headspace—for days, weeks, months—after it’s ended. Nordine

The 25 Best Horror Films of the Aughts

1

Pulse

When The Social Network came out, it was tagged with suspicious unanimity as the movie of “our moment.” But nearly a decade earlier, Kiyoshi Kurosawa pretty much wrote the ultimate obituary for the concept that there would ever again be an “our” anything, moment or otherwise. A neo-Invasion of the Body Snatchers in ghostly J-horror trappings, Pulse is a mournful techno-eschatology in which the world ends with not a bang, but the quiet murmur of billions of modems snatching away the souls of all who use them, and leaving all who opt out feeling even more alone than the throngs doing purgatory on the other side of the monitor. Coming, as it did, almost concurrently with the onset of “death of cinema” alarm bells, Pulse’s desperate plea for real, messy, analog emotions is all but unbearable, and should send a chill through anyone who’s found themselves absently caught up in YouTube roulette. Henderson

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