With the influx of remakes of classic horror films and the popularity of torture porn and found footage movies during the previous decade, horror fans couldn’t be blamed for approaching the next decade with a fair amount of trepidation.
That’s not to say that the 2000s were a total write-off for the ever popular genre. The likes of Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and James Wan made memorable introductions to the horror world with House of 1000 Corpses, Cabin Fever and Saw, respectively, and the cult success of those alone proved that there was a market for dark, gritty and brutal horror, let alone gory horror.
As Eli Roth’s 2005 hit Hostel proved, audiences do enjoy some splatter, and what with the Saw sequels coming thick and fast, and films like Wolf Creek, Captivity, Eden Lake, The Collector, The Loved Ones, and Hostel‘s first sequel proving popular it seemed that the charmingly named “torture porn” sub-genre was here to stay – at least for a while. With France releasing a slew of films that often fell into the torture porn category – Baise-Moi, Martyrs, High Tension/Switchblade Romance, Inside and Frontiers among others, all gaining notoriety among horror fans/film fans in general for their gritty and brutal realism, shocking gore and in-your-face nature – the 2000s proved that the desire for bloody, boundary-pushing horror was alive and well.
The only mixed bag and most divisive element of the 2000s was the amount of remakes of classic horrors we had to endure. The likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes and The Last House on the Left all got remade, rebooted and reimagined between 2000 and 2010. And that’s not to mention a bunch of lesser known 80’s cult classics like My Bloody Valentine, Piranha and The House on Sorority Row.
Add to this the remakes of classic Asian horror cinema such as The Ring, The Grudge, Shutter, Pulse, One Missed Call and others, and it’s safe to say that by the end of the decade horror fans had had enough of remakes. Some of them totally worked and offered a new and effective slant on a classic, some were just too mediocre to be bothered by, and some were just terrible. The same could be said of the found footage genre: the success of The Blair Witch Project in 1999 led to a bunch of imitators in the 2000s, but some pulled it off, with highlights being REC 1 and 2, Paranormal Activity, The Poughkeepsie Tapes and Lake Mungo all providing scares and chills aplenty.
Either way, by the end of the 2000s audiences were ready for new films, original ideas and new ways to be scared and shocked, and the 2010s certainly pulled that off, with a great mix creepy, scary, gory and kinda weird films that had audiences packing out cinemas everywhere. Here, we list the top 15 (sort of, we cheated a bit!) biggest horrors of the 2010s, and as you’ll see, it’s a list that has something for everyone…
1. IT Chapters 1 & 2 (2017/2019)
By far the biggest horror films of the 2010s. Andres Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel was a such a big vision that it stretched into two movies that would end up over five hours long in total.
There were mixed feelings towards the project initially, due to the love for the 1990 made-for-tv movie staring Tim Curry as the menacing, demonic clown Pennywise. But for the most part Muschietti pulled it off, with Bill Skarsgard’s creepy as hell version of Pennywise and the young cast including Finn Wolfhard and Sophia Lillis charming audiences, and with James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader returning for Chapter 2 as the grown up characters, IT was never going to fail at the box office. Chapter 1 may be the stronger of the two but there’s no doubting both chapters’ success.
2. The Conjuring & The Conjuring 2 (2013/2016)
There is always room for haunted house/building movies in horror and 2013’s The Conjuring from Saw director James Wan certainly didn’t disappoint. The film follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) as they assist a family in Rhode Island who believe their new home is haunted due to some strange, heartbreaking and scary happenings. From then the stage is set for some truly frightening sequences with its backwoods setting giving things a creepy, old school horror vibe.
The sequel concerns a haunting in Enfield, England and continues this creepy, scary vibe. Despite it going a bit “Hollywood” towards the end, it’s still very good, and of course we get introduced to Valek, the scary demonic nun that has become somewhat iconic in modern horror circles. The Conjuring Universe has now become a big series with spin offs and sequels such as the Annabelle films, The Nun and the upcoming second sequel to The Conjuring.
3. A Quiet Place (2018)
Maybe a surprisingly high entry on the list for some.
But A Quiet Place‘s post-apocalyptic feel and setting – with the interesting premise of very little-to-no dialogue, and if any, whispered, with the use of sign language due to blind but noise-sensitive creatures that want to kill everyone – certainly set pulses racing.
Emily Blunt puts in a brilliant performance and her director/actor husband John Krasinski does a grand job with leading the whole thing. Edge-of-your-seat tension, scares, great sound and pacing along with it’s unique and effective plot made this a worldwide hit.
READ MORE: 5 Best Stephen King Film Adaptations
4. Halloween (2018)
Trying to explain the Halloween series to someone new to it can get pretty frustrating, so it’s best to say that this is a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic and leave it at that. But to be fair to this new vision directed by David Gordon Green and released by Blumhouse Films, it has something for slasher/Halloween fans everywhere. Not least because it brings back Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, living behind closed off fences and locked doors as she prepares for her revenge on legendary boogeyman, Michael Myers.
The scenes with Curtis are electrifying at times, especially when she witnesses Myers for the first time since that tragic night in 1978. Judy Greer, Virginia Gardner and Will Patton all give solid supporting roles here and James Jude Courtney does the infamous evil killer justice with some great movement, which adds to that all important tension and, of course, brutal kills. This film proved to be as divisive as all the other entries since the original but that was no surprise. But for those that just wanted a solid slasher movie with all the elements intact, Halloween delivered.
5. Split (2016)
Slightly different from other entries on the list as it’s more of a psychological horror.
M. Night Shyamalan made a few turkeys before hitting form again with 2015’s The Visit.
When he released Split with James McAvoy in the main role the following year it seemed the divisive director was well and truly back.
With Split providing a captivating story and great performances (including The Witch‘s Anya Taylor-Joy), there’s plenty of tension and exciting moments, and some twists and turns along the way.
READ MORE: Best Uses of the Word F**k in Movies
6. Get Out (2017)
Another divisive one perhaps.
But Jordon Peele’s psychological horror/thriller offers social commentary and a line of dark humour running throughout, as well as a sense of fear and dread.
With a great performance by Daniel Kaluuya in the lead role, as the man in danger after visiting his girlfriend’s “interesting” family, Get Out certainly deserved the popularity it gained amongst film fans.
7. Us (2019)
Jordon Peele bringing a sense of social commentary once again – although maybe not quite as obvious here – as well as his penchant for humour in dangerous situations, sense of fear and dread, and the occasional “wtf?” moment that he provided us with in Get Out.
This time, a family get terrorised by… well, we won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it yet. Suffice to say that it makes for some truly creepy moments and it gets possibly even scarier when it seems the poor family are just a small part of a bigger picture.
A divisive film but still a big hit, and whatever you thought of Us, you’ll never hear Luniz’ ‘I Got Five on It’ or The Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’ in the same way again.
8. Don’t Breathe (2016)
Another film that could be described as more brutal thriller than outright horror.
But with this much tension and a twist as dark as anything else you’ll see on the big screen, we can certainly count Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe among the highlights of the 2010s.
Concerning a trio of thieves attempting to rob a blind war veteran during the night, the stage was set for some genuinely exciting, tense moments.
With strong characters and good performances, its success was certainly warranted.
9. Lights Out (2016)
Based on the short film of the same name, and produced by James Wan, Lights Out did well to expand on the ‘fear of the dark’ premise and the terror of what lurks in those dark corners.
An effective little horror that might not be quite as effective as the short (the original does what the feature film does in the space of a few minutes) but still an entertaining and at times very creepy watch.
READ MORE: The Exorcist III (1990) – Blu-ray Review
10. Happy Death Day & Happy Death Day 2U (2017/2019)
A fine example, or two fine examples, of how diverse the 2010s were for horror movies.
The Happy Death Day movies took teen slasher horror and threw in some time travel with a dose of comedy to make one of the most entertaining double features of the decade.
Based around college student Theresa “Tree” Gelbman (Jessica Rothe, giving amazing performances in both films) continuing to relive the day that she was killed over and over until she can discover who her killer is/was, this makes for some genuinely fun and exciting cinema. The sequel might suffer slightly from going more towards the time travel/sci-fi comedy angle than horror but it’s still a fun watch. Destined for cult, double feature status.
11. Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
2009’s Zombieland has become a favourite among zombie lovers everywhere, so it’s no surprise that a sequel would eventually happen.
Fortunately it was just as fun as the first film, with the gang back together: Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin all back in action and clearly having a great time.
Add in Zoey Deutch who is hilariously annoying as new crew member Madison, and Rosario Dawson as Tallahassee’s love interest and fellow Elvis fanatic, and you have a recipe for success. And it certainly was.
Plus, any film that starts with killing zombies while Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ plays in the background is worthy of the highest praise.
READ MORE: The Limits of Control – Blu-ray Review
12. Evil Dead (2013)
Whatever you want to call it, this version of Evil Dead is one of the goriest films to get the big release treatment last decade and totally kicks ass.
It’s fun, has plenty of scares, interesting characters (well, they do what they should do anyway) and, more importantly for a film like this, lots of blood.
Jane Levy appears to take on the legendary Bruce Campbell role here, but this time as recovering drug addict Mia and she does a great job.
Entertaining, brutal, gory fun. And wait until the end credits for a little Bruce-based surprise in the lead up to the brilliant Ash vs Evil Dead series that appeared a couple of years later.
13. Insidious series (2010 – 2018)
When the first Insidious was released in 2010 it definitely caught horror fans by surprise.
It possessed (no pun intended. Well…) the classic formula of a strong plot with a strong sense of fear and dread throughout, with some genuine jump-out-of-your-seat/cover-your-eyes moments.
With strong performances from Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, Insidious felt like the first big release in a while to truly scare. Its success led to three sequels. Well, one a prequel of sorts. All enjoyable with strong performances and plenty of scares.
Another from James Wan pre-The Conjuring (although Leigh Whannell and James Robitel directed parts 3 and 4, respectively). It appeared this guy might have something…
READ MORE: The Head Hunter – Review
14. Sinister (2012)
Another pleasantly scary surprise in the early 2010s was this dark and creepy horror from Scott Derrickson.
Ethan Hawke plays a writer in a slump. When he moves his family into a new home for some inspiration the discovery of a box of old films and film reel leads to some pretty horrific happenings, as the history of the house and those that have lived in it are revealed.
A scary supernatural horror that hit the spot with audiences everywhere. This, along with Insidious are rightly mentioned among the best of modern horror.
15. Train to Busan (2016)
It seems there will always be love for zombies and this has been proven as the second zombie film in this list isn’t just some shoddy, generic zombie movie but instead an intelligent, well written and performed Korean film.
A man and his daughter are on a train to Busan (obviously) to see the man’s wife on his daughter’s birthday, but all hell breaks loose when they are trapped in a zombie outbreak in South Korea.
Exciting, fun, scary and sometimes sad, and of course, gory, Train to Busan has already become something of a cult classic and deservedly so.
READ MORE: Hitchhike to Hell – Blu-ray Review
So there you have it. They may not be the best in some horror fans’ eyes but they were certainly the biggest. And you can’t argue that there isn’t a great mix of styles and sub-genres in there, offering something for everybody, and proving that – when it came to horror – the 2010s weren’t so bad after all.