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The 50 Greatest Horror Films of the 21st Century

10

Inside (2007)

Filmmakers Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury announce their disregard for all notions of 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 throttled, blood rising and floating from the inside. The film is driven by this accident, and what follows is the most potent exploitation of unyielding, inexplicable violation outside of Takashi Miike’s Audition. The violence is ghastly and apt thematically: Tides of blood flow and spurt, hauntingly confirming a terrified young woman’s most forbidden nightmares. Bowen

9

The Guest (2014)

The Guest is carried by an intense and surprising mood of erotic melancholia. Adam Wingard leans real heavy on 1980s, or 1980s-sounding, music in the grandly, outwardly wounded key of Joy Division, and he accompanies the music with visual sequences that sometimes appear to stop in their tracks for the sake of absorbing the soundtrack. The film is a nostalgia act for sure, particularly for The Hitcher, but it injects that nostalgia with something hard, sad, and contemporary, or, perhaps more accurately, it reveals that our hang-ups—disenfranchisement, rootlessness, war-mongering, hypocritical evasion—haven’t changed all that much since the 1980s, or ever. Bowen

8

Bug (2006)

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

7

Visitor Q (2001)

Visitor Q acts as a correction to the relentless popularity of reality TV, a phenomenon that invites us to vicariously feast on human misery as distraction from our own daily indignities. The story follows a family as they casually film one another indulging in incest and necrophilia as well as a long list of other similarly taboo activities, and Takeshi Miike stages each escalating atrocity with a flip, tongue-in-cheek, and sometimes nearly slapstick manner that’s authentically horrifying. Yet, the filmmaker, as Audition made clear, is a moralist deep down, and the brilliant, surreal Visitor Q—so powerful and disgusting that many will probably find it unwatchable—is the ultimate middle-finger to media sponsored narcissism. Bowen

6

The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

Guillermo del Toro’s films are rabid commentaries on the suspension of time, often told through the point of view of children. A bomb is dropped from the skies above an isolated Spanish orphanage, which leaves a boy bleeding to death in its mysterious, inexplosive wake. His corpse is then tied and shoved into the orphanage’s basement pool, and when a young boy, Carlos (Fernando Tielve), arrives at the ghostly facility some time later, he seemingly signals the arrival of Franco himself. A rich political allegory disguised as an art-house spooker, The Devil’s Backbone hauntingly ruminates on the decay of country whose living are so stuck in past as to seem like ghosts. But there’s hope in brotherhood, and in negotiating the ghostly Santi’s past and bandying together against the cruel Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), the film’s children ensure their survival and that of their homeland. Gonzalez

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