Well it’s official. The zeros, the decade we’re finishing, is the decade of wimpy horror movies. At least that is, according to the Chiller channel’s list of the 13 scariest movie moments. The gore quotients went up, but suspense and fear took a nasty hit. Sad, sad, sad. Here’s their list, and what’s wrong with it.
#13. Drag Me to Hell: Although the gypsy curse plot is cliché, this movie was actually decent and should have been rated higher given the other listees. There’s a lot of slimy things here, with some genuinely revolting moments and some decent action. The ending raises the level too, and it reflects true horror. 3 out of 5 on the Gramlich Approval Meter.
#12. The Strangers: I wanted my money back. A couple is trapped in a farmhouse by 3 people intent on terrorizing and murdering them. Rather cliché, but could be OK. The problem is that the 3 “villains” are kids, with no guns, and there’s not an ounce of threat in any of them. The couple, who are far too stupid to live, even have a shotgun and other weapons but allow a couple of teens to own them. I know a lot of folks who would have wasted the 3 “mad-dog killers” inside of ten minutes. 0 of 5.
#11. Final Destination: This is really a remake, which means no suspense or tension since we already know the story. There were a few cool gory scenes but not enough to carry the movie. This one would come nowhere near my top 13. 1 1/2 out of 5.
#10. The Orphan: Didn’t see it so won’t judge.
#9. The Descent. Five women go spelunking and end up fighting monsters and each other. I liked some of this. There are claustrophobic moments I could appreciate, and the monsters, although typical mutated humans, were pretty nasty looking. 2 of 5. Maybe even 2 1/2.
#8. Hostel: No suspense, no fear. Lots of gore. This one is sometimes described as torture porn and I agree. Tourists are kidnapped and taken to a place where people pay to torture them to death. That’s about as slender a plot as I’ve ever seen. There’s one effective scene involving a woman and a train. 1 of 5.
#7. 30 Days of Night: I love the idea. Vampires tree a town near the arctic circle where it stays dark for 30 days. The vamps were appropriately nasty and there was some genuine tension as survivors hid for their lives. The middle sagged, though, and I didn’t buy the ending. 2 of 5, with an extra point thrown in for the concept. 3 of 5 total.
#6. Cloverfield: Oh, it was bad. A giant monster movie where you almost never see the monster. Shaky cam crap that ruins any chance to suspend disbelief. Characters that are realistic enough to be boring. I’m glad I didn’t pay for it. The only effective scene is when the Statue of Liberty’s head crashes down onto a New York street. 1 of 5.
#5. 28 Days Later: By far the best on the list so far. Essentially a zombie movie, but before the current glut, and this was the first movie to use fast zombies. That ratcheted up the tension, and the acting was really good despite a cast of mostly unknowns. 4 of 5.
#4. The Mist: Good acting and some moments of genuine tension as you wonder what lies in the mist. Some decent gory stuff. And, this one had the most horrific ending of any movie I’ve ever seen. The ending took guts and I loved it. 3 of 5, with an extra point tacked on for the ending itself. 4 of 5 total.
#3. Saw: Finally one that can stand up to the great old movies of the past. Passion and intensity. Wild twists and turns. This one had gore aplenty but it was well done and worked ‘with’ the storyline so well that you appreciated it even as you winced. A great horror movie. 5 of 5.
#2. Paranormal Activity: How this even registered as a blip on the horror field escapes me. The lamest movie on this list and nowhere near the top 100 of the decade, much less the top 13. You know that internet joke where you're watching a commercial and a zombie suddenly pops up? This is exactly the same, but it runs for over an hour before the monster pops up. I am ashamed to say I paid for it. -1 of 5.
#1. The Ring: This one deserves to be number 1. It scared the crap out of me, and that is not easy to do. Great twists and turns and the ending rewrites your expectations. 5 of 5.
Of the movies on this list, only The Ring, Saw, The Mist, and 28 Days Later are really good horror films. 30 Days of Night and Drag Me to Hell were worth seeing. Only The Ring and Saw match up decently with the best horror movies of the 80s and 90s, like The Exorcist, The Thing, Alien, and In the Mouth of Madness. Cloverfield, The Strangers, and Paranormal Activity aren’t anywhere close to good. The fact they made Chiller’s list could mean: 1) the decade really was a wimpy one for horror, 2) the Chiller folks who made the list don’t watch anything other than major Hollywood releases, or, 3) the folks who made the list are about the same age as the villains in The Strangers.
So, what is your vote for best horror films of the decade? Or of forever? How about the worst?