11 great horror movies made in the last 11 years

Article originally appeared in The West Side Journal’s Oct. 27, 2016, edition. I enjoyed writing it, so I thought I’d share.

There is nothing better than a great selection of movies and a large bowl of popcorn to properly enjoy your Halloween, so I’ve decided to provide you with a list of my favorite horror movies to watch this year.

Growing up, my dad and I used to sit down and watch the old black and white films during Halloween. They were the monster movies, usually starring the werewolf, Dr. Frankenstein, Count Dracula and other ghouls, like Vincent Price and his mustache. As much as I have grown to like those movies, I think we often overlook a lot of the more recent horror movies (and sometimes for good reasons).

This is not a list of the greatest horror movies in American cinema. Instead, I give you my 11 favorite horror movies in  the last 11 years.

11. The Hallow (2015)

The creatures from “The Hallow” (aptly titled) are like something straight out of a Druid tome. Ghouls and goblins have dominated Halloween ever since the holiday was celebrated by the pagans of the old world, which makes this movie a great watch for Oct. 31. If you like monster movies, this is one of the better ones in recent memory.

The plot: A biologist and his family move to a remote home in the Irish hills where they find themselves under the watchful eye of the forest and its minions. The creatures of “The Hallow” are something like evil woodland elves.

Although scary, this movie was more entertaining than anything else.

10. El Orfanato (2007)

This movie has stuck with me ever since I saw it a year ago.

The plot: Set in Spain, a woman returns the orphanage she grew up in, to raise her own adopted child and to open a home for children with disabilities. During the reopening of the facility, her son goes missing. There are some creepy kids hanging around with burlap masks on their face who seem suspect. It takes a few mental breakdowns from the mom before we reach a very satisfying – and sad – conclusion.

9. Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Everyone wants to bash the Paranormal Activity series. I don’t know. Maybe they deserve it. In any case, I’m sure the movie producers have countless millions of dollars to wipe their tears with.

While most movie franchises only get worse after the sequel, “Paranormal Activity 3” is an exception. Maybe people forgot about this movie after it was buried under the fame of the first installment and the additional installments that have since followed, but I did not.

The plot: Set in the ‘80s, the movie takes shape as the father of a young family tries to capture strange happenings in his home on film. Things start off tame, but I guess malevolent spirits don’t take too kindly to being recorded on camera. The tight camera angles inside the home and the eerie silence of found-footage horror make this a very unnerving movie to watch.

This movie isn’t renowned for its cinematography or plot devices. It’s just freaky.

8. Slither (2006)

I thought the movie was stupid 10 years ago, and it’s still pretty dang stupid. But that’s also what makes “Slither” so good. It is campy, gross and absolutely ridiculous. This is a monster movie with a capital M.

The plot: Set in a small town in South Carolina, “Slither” is about an infestation of alien slugs that look like jumbo-sized ball-park franks. The film’s antagonist becomes infected by the alien slugs and shortly thereafter tries to establish his own alien colony in the town. Of course, there is a determined group of rifle-wielding bad asses who aren’t about to let that happen.

Imagine if a screenwriter from the ‘60s teleported to the 21st century to write a modern horror movie. Do yourself a favor and try not to take it too seriously.

7. The Descent (2005)

Claustrophobes beware.

The plot: A group of women explore an unmapped cave system somewhere in England. The cave system collapses and the team of explorers run into nocturnal cave mutants that hunt them down.

This movie has a little bit of everything: blood, guts, monsters and claustrophobia.

Personally, I like this movie because there aren’t many others like it. Also, the monsters are kind of realistic looking, even believable from a scientific perspective.

6. The Mist (2007)

“The Mist” is one of my all-time favorites. Like “Slither,” this movie is campy to the extreme.

The plot: A small town in Maine is enveloped by a strange mist that contains alien creatures from another dimension. A group of citizens takes refuge in the local grocery store. Meanwhile, tenatacles and bizarre alien insects start to attack, slowly picking the town’s citizens off one-by-one. This is one of those stories that goes to prove that the worst monsters are sometimes the ones among us. Fear and panic overcome the residents inside the grocery and the people start to act desperate, and barbaric.

5. Dark Skies (2013)

Some people are afraid of the werewolf. Some people are afraid of vampires. Me? I’m afraid of aliens, which is why I hate (and love) “Dark Skies.”

The plot: An innocent suburban family finds themselves physically and emotionally tormented by malevolent alien creatures. Dark humanoid shapes invade the family’s home, only to leave them puzzled, terrified and occasionally unable to control their own behaviors and actions (which is maybe the worst part). The aliens’ motives are unclear and bizarre, but that’s probably what makes “Dark Skies” so scary. There’s no escaping, fighting back or appeasing them.

4. Drag me to Hell (2009)

This is another one of those B-rated campy horror movies that I love so much. “Drag Me to Hell” is actually considered a comedy, depending on how you look it up. It is definitely funny, but it is still worthy of a scare.

The plot: A young banker denies a Gypsy woman an extension on her home loan. Can you see where this is going? A curse is uttered and the victim is plagued by a demonic force throughout the movie.

This movie is filled with great vomitting scenes, eyeballs that pop out and even a talking goat. The computer graphics are great, and by great I mean terrible.

3. The Conjuring (2013)

If you like “Amityville Horror” you will like “The Conjuring.” The movie has a very realistic ‘70s vibe to it, which somehow makes it seem a little more hopeless. Or maybe that’s just the clothes…

The plot: A team of paranormal investigators tackles an entity haunting a secluded home on the East Coast. Like “Dark Skies,” this film leaves you with a feeling of utter hopelessness. The film’s buildup is excellent and the payoff is equally rewarding.

“The Conjuring” is like many other haunted house movies. Except this one gets it right.

2. The Babadook (2014)

“The Babadook” is creepy because it plays on our anxiety. Once we open the door to our demons, sometimes there is no getting them back out.

The plot: A mother reads a mysterious pop-up book to her son about Mister Babadook, a Tim Burton-esque looking figure. At first, Mister Babadook only appears as a harmless imaginary friend, but then he begins to grow. “I’ll make a wager, yes; I’ll make a bet. The more you deny me; The stronger I get,” or so the poem goes.

This movie is depressing, spooky and the ending is very open to interpretation. This is one of those movies you’ll find on IFC late at night.

1. The Witch (2015)

“The Witch” is easily my favorite horror movie of late.

The plot: A colonial family is banished from their settlement in 17th-century New England and forced to live off the land in the edge of the wilderness. Little do they know, the pious family has a neighbor.

The twisted and dying tree branches, gloomy skies and darkness that fills this movie make it very seasonal – and unsettling. “The Witch” is scary, but it’s also a beautiful movie, for all of its unsettling and picturesque scenes, which is why I love it.


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