Finding Decent Horror Left and Right... What's Your Problem?

The refrain that I hear from people all the time is "Why aren't there any good horror films anymore?" "There are too many remakes!" and "There are too many sequels!" run a close tie for second in reasons why people get out of the horror genre, at least in my encounters with those who persist in maintaining they are horror fans.

When I hear such statements (and the second and third ones are valid arguments), I take it to mean one thing: The questioners really aren't looking around very hard. It could also mean they are only paying lip service to being a horror fan, but I usually feel like the average person doesn't try really hard in considering such things in the first place. There are scores of horror films released each and every year, as have been for ages, and the bulk of the lot are not remakes or sequels. Yes, the quality varies greatly, like in any movie genre, as do the sizes of their budgets. And like any other type of movie, high budget doesn't necessarily equal high quality, and vice versa. What might be the biggest killer for fans of the genre are the obvious ripoffs of bigger, possibly better, and/or more popular films.

Here's the real catch for me with that "Why aren't there any good horror films anymore?" question. Every so often, I find myself thinking the same thing, especially if I have taken an extended break from my usual movie-watching crunch (for the last few years, I have averaged over two films a day). More than any other type of film, my first thoughts when returning to the fold is "I need to find a good horror film."

And I, like many of my fellow horror fans, find them all the time. We usually don't have to look too far to find something to give the junkie their fix. But we would prefer that it were quality junk. I think, for many of us, our souls get crushed a little every time Michael Bay announces he has purchased the rights to remake something with his mindless style. Or every time some fake "found footage" series puts out its umpteenth film in the cycle. (This is not to discount the fact that I have actually enjoyed some of the films in these examples, against my better judgment or over my usual objections.)

I thought that I would look at Flickchart the other day to see what horror films I had ranked the highest over the past few years. I have ranked over 11,600 films to date on that platform, and have really enjoyed using their Charts feature to find films that I still need to watch in various genres or, to use my recent postings about Christopher Lee as a big example, finding out which films from a particular actor, actress or director I am delinquent in seeing. [If you want to play along at home, you can check out my Flickchart profile here:]

My Top 15 Horror Films for this decade are:
  1. The Babadook (2014) Dir: Jennifer Kent
  2. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) Dir: Eli Craig
  3. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) Dir: Ana Lily Amirpour
  4. Attack the Block (2011) Dir: Joe Cornish
  5. The Cabin in the Woods (2012) Dir: Drew Goddard
  6. Witching & Bitching [Las brujas de Zugarramurdi] (2013) Dir: Álex de la Iglesia
  7. Berberian Sound Studio (2012) Dir: Peter Strickland
  8. Spring (2014) Dir: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
  9. It Follows (2014) Dir: David Robert Mitchell
  10. You're Next (2011) Dir: Adam Wingard
  11. What We Do in the Shadows (2014) Dir: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
  12. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) Dir: Jim Jarmusch
  13. White God [Fehér isten] (2014) Dir: Kornél Mundruczó
  14. The Editor (2014) Dir: Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy 
  15. The Final Girls (2015) Dir: Todd Strauss Schulson [Note: review posting here tomorrow.]
No good horror-related films in recent years, you still say? I beg to differ. I feel that this is a truly solid list for just over half a decade, and there are some others in that time frame that came really close to my Top 15. As you can see, no remakes or sequels are in the bunch, though I am not opposed to some being in here. I just didn't like any that have come out thus far this decade as much as I like the films here. 

The American remake of Let the Right One In, Let Me In, which I thought would be a groundbreaking film if only that superior original version didn't already exist (and so loudly and recently too, is in my #24 slot for the 2010s. If you study the numbers of the chart in relation to my full list of films, it is actually not that many degrees away being in the Top 15. The thing about Flickchart when you use it is that you rank all of the films in your full list (or in smaller lists against each other), so the rankings can be very fluid if you do it a lot. (Man, that sounded kind of dirty...) One day, I might decide that I like Let Me In a lot more than other films just above it, and then my whole list changes dramatically.

Another trend worth noticing is that there are no repeated directors in the Top 15. It's almost like creating a top-notch horror film has become a one-and-done deal. Are we long past the days when the genre's mainstream was ruled by a few true Masters of Horror? I don't think so. I think Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, a filmmaking duo, have some promise in going even further beyond what I have liked from them so far. There are always going to be people who want to be known as a Master of Horror (Ben Wheatley seems to be making a run at it; Eli Roth has the talent but squanders it on fratboy excess), but to return us to the halcyon days, or so we perceive it, of Romero, Carpenter, Landis, Dante, Hooper, etc.? It remains to be seen.

For comparison, since we are dealing in double the years, here is my Top 30 list for the first decade of the 21st century, 2000-2009:
  1. Shaun of the Dead (2004) Dir: Edgar Wright
  2. Let the Right One In (2008) Dir: Tomas Alfredson
  3. The Descent (2005) Dir: Neil Marshall
  4. Death Proof (2007) Dir: Quentin Tarantino
  5. 28 Days Later (2002) Dir: Danny Boyle
  6. Grindhouse (2007) Dir: Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino
  7. Thirst (2009) Dir: Chan-wook Park
  8. The Devil's Backbone (2001) Dir: Guillermo del Toro
  9. Bubba Ho-tep (2002) Dir: Don Coscarelli
  10. Trick 'r Treat (2008) Dir: Michael Dougherty
  11. Splinter (2008) Dir: Toby Wilkins
  12. Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) Dir: Takashi Shimizu
  13. The Orphanage (2007) Dir: Juan Antonio Bayona
  14. May (2002) Dir: Lucky McKee
  15. Frailty (2002) Dir: Bill Paxton
  16. Pulse (2001) Dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
  17. The Devil's Rejects (2005) Dir: Rob Zombie
  18. Antichrist (2009) Dir: Lars von Trier
  19. Three... Extremes (2004) Dir: Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike, and Chan-wook Park
  20. The Loved Ones (2009) Dir: Sean Byrne
  21. Ginger Snaps (2000) Dir: John Fawcett
  22. Slither (2006) Dir: James Gunn
  23. Black Sheep (2007) Dir: Jonathan King
  24. Cloverfield (2008) Dir: Matt Reeves
  25. The Host (2006) Dir: Joon-ho Bong
  26. High Tension [Haute Tension] (2003) Dir: Alexandre Aja
  27. One Missed Call (2003) Dir: Takashi Miike
  28. Splice (2009) Dir: Vincenzo Natali
  29. The Mist (2007) Dir: Frank Darabont
  30. Dawn of the Dead (2004) Dir: Zack Snyder
This time, because the list is twice the length, one big remake is in the #30 slot on the list, Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, which has lost a lot of steam with me since it first came out, though I still like it a lot. For horror purists who don't like their horror-comedies mixed in with what they would consider true horror, I'm sorry, but I don't play that way. I prefer use the term "horror-related" to cover my bets. I prefer to keep the range more open, though I did skip one film on my Flickchart list (Bela Tarr's stunning The Werckmeister Harmonies) off of my final accounting because, while it has horrific, hypnotic moments, it is not generally considered to be a horror film). 

One is at the mercy on Flickchart at the genres its small staff have decided to use, and sometimes a film you might generally consider to be horror might actually be sitting somewhere else. In making these two lists, I did not research it deeply enough to combine other subgenres -- such as "monster film," "ghost film" or "haunted house" -- to see if everything was caught. Perhaps I will do so in the near future and amend these lists.

Once again, there is not a lot of repeat business on this second list for directing names. Except in one major case. There are some who might grouse seeing that both Death Proof and the double-feature program of which it served as the second half, Grindhouse, are on here. I thought about leaving Grindhouse off for exactly the reason that it looked like I am doubling down. My reason for keeping it is that the solo Death Proof is a longer cut of the same film, while the Grindhouse program contains other items, such as the delicious set of fake horror movie trailers in the center, that make it a totally separate experience. even if I don't like the Robert Rodriguez half of the production enough for it to make this list on its own.

There are my lists, for better or worse, and I stand by them. For now. Because we are talking about Flickchart here, and the thing about Flickchart is that things can change fast on there. All you have to do is keep ranking. Just today, I saw the new Del Toro epic, Crimson Peak, and while I am still organizing my thoughts and notes on it, I did greatly enjoy the film and I am fairly certain that once a short period of ranking has occurred, that it will probably rest comfortably in my Top 15 for the 2010s.

And since I don't directly recommend films for people anymore, unless they fall into a very small group of about six people (none of them my wife), then you will have to use these lists as guidance if you are looking for me to help you find one of those decent horror films that don't seem to come out anymore. 

Just don't whine about it to me later, because I accept no responsibility for your lack of taste.


EggOfTheDead said…
It can be a bit of a slog trying to find good horror, but it is definitely out there! I'm always surprised on the Bloody Disgusting and Fangoria boards when polled about "Best Recent Horror Movies," folks bitch about nothing in the past ten years being worth watching. Lazy slobs who do not deserve the epithet, "horror fan!"

We have four streaming services at our house and are constantly discovering horror gems. Admittedly, I spend a lot of time surfing and researching! Can't be shy to go foreign or low-budget, though, and I think that's a huge stumbling block for American film fans. Witching & Bitching (foreign) is a great example. Creep (no budget indy) is another.

Man, I am not sold on Flickchart! You, though, are a rock star over there so I'll slog through it a while longer. Maybe something will click for me. Letterboxd really, really needs an iOS app like Goodreads has for books. Otherwise it's never going to take off, and I think it has what it takes to be THE social movie site but for that.

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