Ju-On: The Grudge ('03)
A film that takes us back to the very first horror films, where it wasn't a Freudian psychological terror but rather an expression of madness and alienation. Just a gorgeous film, the scariest of the decade that demands repeat viewings. If you don't believe me, consider that Sam Raimi said it was the scariest film he's ever seen.
Shaun of the Dead
One of the best expressions of post-modernity in any film, this is a love story on many levels: for a genre, the people who made the classic zombie fims, the films themselves, between a man and his best friend, and a crew that loves to work together creatively.
The Ring (02)
Ringu was good. The Ring Virus (Korean) is more of an adaptation of the novel. But The Ring is the best film made from Koji Suzuki's story of a cursed video tape. In large part because the American version takes out the spirituality of Ringu, at times even inverting it to the point where no good deed goes unpunished. In this film there is no hope, no redemption, no salvation, and no relatable justification for the curse.
The Happiness of the Katakuris
Fourth on this list, and probably higher on my list of any films from this decade, this isn't exactly a horror film. Then again it's not exactly a comedy, mystery, musical, drama, romance, claymation film either. Takashi Miike's best film concerns a family trying stay together and open a hotel, despite the best efforts of a curse, a police manhunt, and the frequent dead house guest. It's not scary, but a must see and one of the absolute best films of the decade.
Horror stories at their best are archetypal and few other films have been so succesful using a Jungian view of the fairy tale as this film. On the surface its an excellent monster movie with scientific and socio-political overtones. At it's core its a universal story of a fractured family descending into hell in order to come to terms with death, and conquer it through their love for each other via individual redemption.
One of the most succesful political films of the past decade, Land of the Dead was Romero's return to using his Zombie fun-house mirror in order to reflect an absurd satire on America's reaction to terrorism, the handling of the Iraq War, and Immigration.
More of a drama than a horror film, this is a meditation on lonliness and alienation compounded by an increasing seperation through technological invasion of social space. It's slow, ambiguous, yet apocalyptic, tragic, and effectively frightening.
This Thai horror film has it all (great characters, great set-ups, great atmosphere), and it's all done amazingly well, confidently, and at a swift pace.
In Miike's best films genre borders are not only crossed, but distress inside the story creates a collapse of the narrative and genre structures. Here a romance film becomes a tale of obsession, a tragedy, and then something far more terrifying. Ringu may have put Asian horror on the map but this film made certain we were paying attention, even if, like myself, you weren't able to sit through the final 15 minutes.
Koji Shiraishi takes the found-footage film to new levels incorporating enough different types of footage to make this a full-fledged documentary style look at the people affected by one terrifying and maddening curse.
- Let The Right One In
A film that's as much about what you hear as what you see; utilizing a real-life location of many a haunting, this is one disturbing and creepy film that has gotten greater appreciation over the years.
The Call of Cthulhu (05)
The Devil's Backbone
Del Torro at his most Dickensian, this is his most well-conceived (and creepiest) film that's both a ghost story, a tragedy, and a war film.
A Tale of Two Sisters
28 Days Later...
Made in 98 in Australia but not readily available in the US until 2 years later, this film is essentially Hugo Weaving and Tony Martin talking across a table for100 tension bulding minutes. Mixes the narrative uncertainty of the Usual Suspects with the disturbing cabdor of The Vanishing.
The Mothman Prophecies
An underrated mainstream film that's genuinely creepy, a bit subversive, and with a standout soundtrack.
Gu Si (Silk)
A mess of a film, but as original and imaginitive a ghost story I've seen. The story doesn't always make sense but it's exciting, creepy, smart, and unlike much else you've seen.
Bloody Reunion (aka to Sir With Love)
It's a story that's familiar to us all; the isolated, troubled teen girl with a mysterious dark side, but this film has a twist: the characters are presented as three-dimensional people, often kind but flawed, all trying to navigate difficult situations. Which makes what happens all the more tragic and frightening.
In many ways this is Blue Velvet remade with Zombies: this coming of age tale is a comedy that takes place in an alternate 1950's, but it too is about a sub-terranian element which reveals the evil and existential malaise hiding behind a superficial sub-urban Americana. In fact the climaxes of the two films are almost shot for shot.
The Eye (02)
Hellraiser V: Inferno
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Drag me to Hell
Either you think this is the artful realization of the torture film or like me think it's a self- important mess of torture porn, you can't deny that this is one of the most ballsy and important horror films of the decade.
Great Films that my or may not be horror but are some of the best of the decade:
The White Ribbon
No Country for Old Men
Notable Omissions I haven't seen:
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane