The 50 Greatest Horror Films of the 21st Century


Ginger Snaps (2000)

In a conventional horror movie, a boy would almost certainly be the lead, or, if a girl were somehow allowed to command the center ring, it would be someone like (Ginger Katharine Isabelle): sexy, feisty, a male dream of willing ripeness, even if they might be disingenuously made up to resemble a male casting director’s idea of “smart” (glasses, swept back hair). But Ginger Snaps has been poignantly structured as Ginger’s younger sister Brigitte’s (Emily Perkins) potentially disastrous coming of age, as she must learn that she can’t look to Ginger to push the world away for her; she can’t hide behind her hair and her affected gait forever (she walks, in a fashion instantly recognizable to many high school outliers, as if she put her shirt on with the hanger still in it). And when calamity strikes, Brigitte discovers what we already knew: that she was the real rebel, the pair’s true source of strength. Bowen


Suicide Club (2001)

Sion Sono kicks things off with one of the great openers in recent horror cinema: Holding hands and chanting “a one and a two,” 50 uniformed Japanese high school girls throw themselves under a subway train, drenching bystanders in gouts and gallons of gore. Investigations into the ensuing outbreak of teenage suicide pacts, headed by Detective Kuroda (Ryo Ishibashi), leads to a tween-idol girl group disseminating hidden messages that exhort listeners to promptly snuff it, concealed in the media blitzkrieg surrounding their ear-candy megahit “Mail Me.” Boasting plenty of splatter for the fanboys (much of it blatantly artificial CGI), Suicide Club at times deepens into an existential inquiry, even if it raises more questions about social media manipulation and interpersonal disconnect than it can hope to answer. An outrageous finale takes its audience behind the music, and through the looking glass, into a harsh realm filled with gerbils, raincoat-clad tykes, and new uses for woodworking tools. Wilkins


Demon (2015)

In Demon, director Marcin Wrona captures the airy, ineffable wrongness that drives a classic tale of the supernatural, which is typically occupied with the slight perversion of the banal. The tracking shots across the water, as Piotr (Itay Tiran) rides the ferry to a largely deserted Polish village, where the buildings are in disrepair and the roads are empty, are frightening because water is often used in this sort of horror fiction as a symbol of a vast, submerged dimension from which something is waiting to spring. This impression is heightened by images that soon follow of a rock quarry near the construction site overseen by Zaneta’s (Agnieszka Zulewska) father, which are rendered with an unsettlingly explicit sense of simultaneous verticality and horizontality. The audience is meant to sense, without a shred of exposition, that something primordial is being disrupted. Bowen


Let the Right One In (2008)

Not unlike Matt Reeves’s American remake, Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In is, in its color scheme and emotional tenor, 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. Don’t avert your eyes from Alfredson’s gorgeously, meaningfully aestheticized vision, though you may want to cover your neck. Gonzalez


Session 9 (2001)

As in real estate, the three most important factors in Brad Anderson’s brooding Session 9 are: location, location, location. The filmmakers have hit upon something special with the Danvers State Mental Hospital, whose sprawling Victorian edifice looms large over the narrative: A motley crew of asbestos-removal workers, led by matrimonially challenged Gordon (Peter Mullan), run afoul of a baleful, possibly supernatural, influence within its decaying walls. Anderson uses to brilliant effect a series of archived audio recordings—leading up to the titular “breakthrough” session—that document a disturbing case of split personality. While the film doesn’t entirely stick its murderous finale, no one who hears those scarifying final lines of dialogue will soon forget them. Wilkins