FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Aug 19, 2015

Let's Talk About Lists, Baby

Aw yeah, here's the part where someone spends time compiling data in order to create a "best of" list and then I read the list and I'm like "Pfft, that list is mostly lame" and so I write my own list and then people read my list and they're like "Pfft, that list is mostly lame" and so they write their own lists in the comments. And the great möbius strip of internet life continues until we are all dead. Or maybe even for a while after that! An Eternity in Listicles.

Anyway, over at yon Movies, Films, and Flix, writer Mark Hofmeyer has posted the results of a readers' poll for The Top 21 Horror Films of the 21st Century. Here are the Top 10:
  1. Drag Me to Hell
  2. Mulholland Dr.
  3. Shaun of the Dead
  4. The Babadook
  5. It Follows
  6. Let the Right One In
  7. The Descent
  8. 28 Days Later
  9. Pan's Labyrinth
  10. Cabin in the Woods
To this list I say: hmm. Some of it, yes! Some of it, no! Some of it, I have no opinion on, specifically regarding Pan's Labyrinth because I haven't seen it yet even though I know I should. We've just never been in the same room at the same time, but I'll rectify that one of these days/years/lifetimes.

I loves me some Mulholland Dr, and I can see how one would qualify it as "horror", but personally I would not. (But that dumpster scene...) Shaun of the Dead? A delight! One of the Top 10 horror films of the last 15 years? Yehhhh. And I know I'm for sure in the minority on Cabin in the Woods, but that film didn't do much for me at all. For whatever reason, I am immune to its charms, and even more perversely, the more other people like it, the less I like it. That never happens! Cabin in the Woods really brings out the Newton's Third Law of my heart. I am not sure why, nor am I sure what this says about me. But oh well. I hope you like it.

Because I minored in list battling, it is only right that I counter this Top 10 with my own Top 20. (SPOILER ALERT: Cabin in the Woods is not on it.) Are these the "best" horror movies of the 21st century, or are they simply my favorites? Are those two things interchangeable since I have such exquisite taste? "You smell like White Diamonds, Stacie," you're probably saying. "Of course you only like the best things." That is sweet of you, but you might think some of my Top 20 is garbage. That's why we list battle. But my Top 5–and particularly my Top One–constitutes a hill I'd probably die on, so bring it!

20. Sinister (2012)

Okay, this one kind of embarrasses me, but I can't help it. I like it way more than it deserves to be liked. I feel about Sinister the way the majority of people feel about The Conjuring: it was scary, what else do you need? Yes, it goes off the rails a bit the more that it shows. Overall, it's pretty stupid. I wouldn't want a steady diet of stupid horror, but every once in a while simply being scary is enough. I mean, man (probably) cannot live on Combos alone but fuck, they're great once a year.

19. Triangle (2009)

Underrated mindfuck whose logic may not hold up to scrutiny, but so what? Also, Melissa George. She's great!

18. It Follows (2014)

I read a lot of praise for this movie before I saw it and I was crazy excited. Despite the killer soundtrack, terrific premise, and good looks...I don't know, about 2/3 of the way in it lost me and it never got me back. It was sort of like really connecting with someone online and everything's nice, then you finally meet up for a drink or whatever and something feels off and you go home deflated, thinking ugh we were supposed to fall in love. We were supposed to fall in love, It Follows!

17. Paranormal Activity (2007)

Remember a time when there were no Paranormal Activity movies? Me neither! I can't believe the series is still going, because it has got to be the flimsiest excuse for a franchise I've ever seen. And honestly, I picked up the blu-ray a couple of months ago for $1.75 and gave it a whirl and it doesn't really hold up to repeat viewings. So why is it here at #17? I don't know! Leave me alone.

16. Lovely Molly (2011)

Have you seen this? You should see it. Gretchen Lodge is fantastic as the troubled (to put it mildly) Molly, and it incorporates found footage without feeling like...well, like a tired old found footage flick. (And I say that as an unabashed lover of found footage flicks.)

15. The House of the Devil (2009)

One of the finest examples of the "uncanny" in horror. It is a love it or hate it kind of deal, I think, so maybe you hate it. Have fun being wrong, sucker!

14. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

It's not as "flashy" as other movies you might think of when you think "Asian horror"–it doesn't have the iconic ghost faces of Ju-on or the violence of Audition, but what an experience. It transcends the simple label "horror", I think, and as I'm writing this I'm wondering why it's not higher on my list.

13. The Children (2008)

Listen, I find the idea of spending a Christmas holiday surrounded by children horrifying enough, even without them trying to murder me. Therefore, this movie really appeals to my cold, black heart.

12. 28 Days Later (2002)

It's included if only for the first 3/4 alone. It's a genre classic at this point, isn't it?

11. You're Next (2011)

I was not expecting to like this, but I ended up loving it and here it is at #11. What a world! It's tense, it's fun, it's gross, and Barbara Crampton is in it. If someone had told me that before I saw it, well, I would have expected to love it. When pitching something, always lead with the Barbara Crampton, geez. (That said, I ultimately wasn't all that wild about We Are Still Here, another recent film starring CramptonGo figure.)

10. Let the Right One In (2008)

Grim, unrelenting, and–wait, you don't need me to tell you about this, do you? It deserves every bit of praise it gets.

9. The Babadook (2014)

Is it more horror-flavored drama than horror? Yes. Is it as terrifying as the hype would lead you to believe? No. So what? It's a beautiful, perfect depiction of depression. I love watching actresses act the shit out of stuff, and man, Essie Davis acts the shit out of this.

8. The Ring (2002)

I sort of feel like The Ring is fifty years old. The Asian horror remake fad has come and gone, long-haired ghost girls are all but a joke, so many movies have that fucking bluish tint now...but The Ring is still awesome and you know it.

7. The Innkeepers (2011)

That's right, it's here! Fuck you, I love The Innkeepers! It hits all the right notes for me: noises in the dark, big empty haunted houses, quiet creeping dread. I don't even care if anything happens! It's a campfire ghost story, and I am so on board.

6. Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Yes, I agree, there is some jarringly wonky CGI in Drag Me to Hell, but it matters not. There is a dark, delicious mean streak in this movie and it's a mile wide and I adore it. This movie is so disgusting and over the top and batshit insane that it just makes me happy. Like cackling-with-glee happy.

5. Session 9 (2001)

Not even David Caruso's smarm can diminish my fondness for this film. It gets under my skin even as I'm sitting here thinking about it.

4. [REC] (2007)

I can't decide if I'm cheating on The Blair Witch Project with [REC] or vice versa. All I know for sure is that I tell each of them that they're my favorite P.O.V./found footage horror movie, and I always mean it. I am constantly astounded by the camera work in [REC] because for all the chaos and choreography, it consistently feels authentic. I love the way it builds to a frenetic crescendo and then quiets down for an unbelievably terrifying finale. And who doesn't love a spunky girl reporter hero like Angela Vidal? She's horror's Lois Lane and deserves all the Pulitzers.

3. The Descent (2005)

Neil Marshall, Neil Marshall, where have you gone, Neil Marshall? I know you're doing, like, TV or whatever, but come on. Horror needs you! Horror needs characters like the little babies in this picture, characters that feel like they have depth even if maybe they don't actually have much depth and you feel terrible when their lives get screwed. Horror needs something that's not the same ol' same ol' but feels comfortingly familiar anyway. I love this movie so hard, totally in a heart-with-an-arrow-through-it kind of way.

2. Lake Mungo (2008)

If I could sponsor a movie in a Big Brothers/Big Sisters Association kind of way, it would be Lake Mungo. I adore it so very much and I feel like no one ever talks about it, so I want to take it around everywhere and let it know it's loved. (Am I cheating on The Blair Witch Project and [REC] with this documentary-style P.O.V. film? Probably.) Why is it so ignored? Is it because the word "Mungo" is unpleasant? Is it because it was released in the U.S. under the "8 Films to Die For" banner and that scared people away because those movies are generally garbage? I don't know. I don't get it. Lake Mungo is a compelling exploration of grief, and you know what? It's slyly, quietly terrifying. Seriously, this movie fucks me up. It fucks me up before I know it's fucking me up. It unsettles me like nothing I've experienced–I mean, it kept me awake at night the second time I saw it. Maybe it won't move you like it moves me, but my dying words may well be "Lake Mungo".

1. Martyrs (2008)

Look, if you've ever visited Final Girl before then you probably knew that this would be NUMBER ONE and you probably also know that I've yet to write about this film. Well, I am twirling my metaphorical (YES, METAPHORICAL) moustache right now, but I cannot tell you anything yet except that...Martyrs is my number one. So there.

ALMOSTS: In My Skin, Inside

So what did I miss? I'm sure I'm forgetting some movies, and you'll mention them and I'll be all "Aw dang, that woulda been number 12!" or something.


Evol Kween said...

I love that you included The Innkeepers. It totally deserves to be in a 'best horror' list!!!!!

Bloody Mary said...

I came here on a whim and there was an entry today? That's creepy, man. I've added three of these to my Netflix queue, and buying Martyrs. I'm filled with anticipation and hope!

Bloody Mary said...

This post has me excited about horror again! I'll have to make my own post. My first rough draft is as follows:
American Psycho
Hostel/Hostel 2
The Descent
The Loved Ones
Devil's Rejects
Paranormal Activity
Eden Lake
30 Days of Night
Let The Right One In/Let Me In
Only Lovers Left Alive
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Dead Snow
The Cottage
You're Next
High Tension

Not Really Horror Honorable Mentions:
Under The Skin
What We Do In The Shadows

smogo said...

"Funnily" enough, I just did my equivalent list the other day. I went for a Top 30 for some reason, so forgive my self-indulgence.

30. The Babadook
29. Gozu
28. 28 Weeks Later
27. Sleep Tight
26. Dream Home
25. In Fear
24. The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence)
23. Eden Lake
22. Saw 3D
21. The Angels' Melancholia
20. Open Water
19. The Ordeal
18. Wolf Creek
17. Cloverfield
16. Saw
15. 100 Bloody Acres
14. Antichrist
13. Shaun of the Dead
12. The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears
11. Alléluia
10. Kill List
9. Moebius
8. Maniac
7. Under the Skin
6. Dead Set
5. Hostel
4. A Serbian Film
3. Inside
2. The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)
1. High Tension

Special mention to horror-literate comedies Hot Fuzz, Rubber and Sightseers.

I really hate Martyrs though, so feel free to ignore my list.

J. Skel LaTour said...

When I first read the referenced list, I thought I was off because of course Martyrs should be on it. "Maybe it was made way back in 1999 and therefore didn't qualify?" I thought...

Of course it was made in 2008.
Of course it should be #1.

Lists are weird. Fun read, Stacie. Even if you don't like Cabin.

matango said...

Stacie! Ughh! The order you have is different than what I would have picked, and some of the movies I like are ranked way too low or not on it at all!

Re: Sinister. I too enjoyed it. Ethan Hawke makes a lot of bad horror movies, but they usually at least seem to have an interesting premise. Also, it gave work to the guy who played Ziggy Sobotka in the Wire.

The Children was a nice surprise. I hadn't heard anything about it when I saw it. Netflix directed me to it, I think.

I didn't really like the Lovely Molly at all, though I do like scenes where there some kind of evil thing hiding in an impenetrable blackness. One of my favorite tropes.

Also, I wasn't into Drag Me to Hell.

I need to rewatch the Ring(s), which I haven't seen since they came out on DVD. I saw the Japanese one first and liked it more at the time. It actually scared me to the "check in the closet for Sadako" point. I was turned off by some of the overdone effects in the remake, but everybody else seems to prefer the Naomi Watts one.

I haven't seen Lake Mungo or Triangle. I will have to remedy that.

Because no one cares, I would have put It Follows, the Innkeepers, You're Next, House of the Devil, and Let the Right One In higher.

You might want to watch the Guest, with the same director as You're Next and same lead actress. It's an action movie, verging on horror maybe, but it's kind of over the top in the same way as You're Next.

Stacie Ponder said...

@ Evol Kween - fuck yeah, high five!

@ Bloody Mary - I hope your like (or "like") MARTYRS, it's a really tough watch. And I really need to see THE LOVED ONES. It's another one people rave about but I'm not too excited...hmm, kind of like YOU'RE NEXT.

@ smogo - STRANGE COLOUR! I really want to see that, it's been in my Netflix queue for a while. You've got a few that have been on my "must watch" list, I need to remedy it. BUT TWO HUMAN CENTIPEDES WHAT IS THIS MADNESS

@ John - I'm surprised that THE RING would even still qualify, I thought for sure it was '99 or so. I guess the VCR technology threw me.

@ matango - THE GUEST was recently added to Netflix, and I'm excited to check it out. I've heard really good things. And THE CHILDREN...I don't know why it's never gotten much attention. Nasty little movie, seems like horror fans should dig it. Given the films you'd bump higher on the list, I bet you'll enjoy LAKE MUNGO. Be sure to report back!

Melizer said...

MARTYRS is right up my alley, it's just required the extra effort of buying it and my body is ready.

I just watched Creep on Netflix last night and it is the most fun I've had being scared since Paranormal Activity but it's so much better. SO. MUCH. FUN.

I am literally skipping to my mailbox this week, thank you!

Unknown said...

Aw man, I might quibble with a few of your Lower 15, but your Top 5 is golden.

AND LAKE MUNGO I KNOW EXACTLY. It's a rare, rare movie that... well, *haunts* me the way that one does. Part of it for me is that it's so goddamned convincing; every time I watch it I keep having to remind myself that those are actors, not an actual family. Some of the best, most naturalistic acting I've ever seen in a movie of any genre, let alone horror - especially from the parents, good lord.

And Martyrs gets all my love forever, so.

I'd personally swap in a couple of movies in lieu of a couple of your picks - Calvaire cause I love it so much, and Human Centipede 2 cause I'm apparently a horrible person - but otherwise we're in pretty close agreement.

originalslugboy said...

Oh, Stacie! Your list is way off! The top 10 snack foods that man (probably) cannot live on alone, but fuck, are great once a year are:

10. Ketchup-flavored potato chips
9. Circus Peanuts
8. "Men's" Poki
7. Funyuns
6. Necco Wafers
5. Let's Potato Chips
4. Green Tea Oreos
3. Cup o' Pizza (Though that new Cup o' Pizza guy is great. He ran the old guy out of business)
2. Candy Korn
1. Combos (wait, uh, nevermind then)

Rob K. said...

Yay for you, including Lake Mungo and The Innkeepers and Session 9 and House of The Devil and It Follows! Quiet creepy horror rules! Let the Right One In is also amazing.
I will stick up for The Loved Ones as well, with the "killer" (get it?) performance by the leading psycho lady. And The Orphanage was pretty great, though I need to see it again. Also love Martyrs but dunno if I could ever sit through it again - a very rough watch indeed. My sort-of-guilty-pleasure-but-not-really is The Ruins.

goblin said...

Stacie, I (platonically) love you for including A Tale of Two Sisters, The Ring, The Innkeepers and, above all, Session 9 in your Top 20 list. A lot of these movies are definitely underrated, but I feel like especially the latter doesn't get the praise/recognition it so deserves.

AE said...

Halloween: Season of the List! Hooray, it's almost October!

Did anyone see "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night"? Or how about "Murder Party," a horror comedy I thought was just tremendous fun? I love the 1980s horror but it is fun to be talking about new horror!

Stacie, thanks for defending "Paranormal Activity." Everyone wants to hate on it now but dammit, it worked.

I am scared to even go near "Martyrs." I'm scared to even think about it!

Stacie Ponder said...

@ Jules P - LAKE MUNGO. The acting, you're SO right. It's phenomenal, and without such high caliber performances, I don't know how well it would work. The movie fascinates me, the way it builds without seeming to build. It's incredible.

@ slugboy - I like the shout out to Candy Korn. But what comes in a cup somewhere?

@ Rob K - The novel The Ruins is definitely a sort of guilty pleasure for me. I've read it a few times and what can I say, it shouldn't work but it totally does and I really like it.

@ goblin - There are some horror movies that I feel should be considered bonafide classics, yet they're somehow underrated. Session 9 for sure, and stuff like Candyman. Those movies got theatrical releases! They're great! WHERE IS THE LOVE

@ AE - I need to see A Girl, I've only heard good things. Murder Party is new to me, but I can get behind it based on that title alone. And you should try Martyrs! It is very intense and maybe you'll hate it? (It's not like it's *likable*, really.) But I think it's worth trying to get through!

Anonymous said...

No one ever mentions "The Battery". Look out for Jeremy Gardner.

highwayknees said...

Hi Stacie,

You and I agree on some of these titles for sure. I LOVED Drag Me to Hell -it was so gross and yet goofy-as Raimi should be! Session 9 is one of my all time faves too! It has such re-watchability. The Descent combines fear of the dark and claustrophobia-which I have -in a cool way. Then the unappreciated triumvirate of Lovin Molly, Triangle, & A Tale of Two Sisters -all stellar. Last but not to be sneezed at is Lake Mungo- so realisticly creepy as fuck, it's up there with Blair Witch for me.

I am ashamed to admit however that I have avoided Martyrs cuz I don't care for torture-y stuff like Saw . Although I know it is probably as great as its' rep...just doesn't seem like my thing.
Great list!

The Untamed Squid said...

Glad to see TALE OF TWO SISTERS and TRIANGLE on a top horror films list - they're both worthy (and obscure) contenders, and isn't that what top 20 lists SHOULD do anyway - get people to go watch something they haven't seen yet? I also agree that MARTYRS fucks you up like nothing else on Earth when you watch it. It should be number 1 because, unlike most of today's horror films, it's just plain hard to sit through and even harder to forget.
Some little-known films that "stuck with me" in this century are DEAD BIRDS, THE AUDITION and PULSE, a Japanese apocalyptic horror film that's so unrelentingly grim, it's nearly suicidal. But you won't forget it.
And hey, I'll check out LAKE MUNGO, the one film on your list I haven't seen, and impressively in at Number 2. Gotta be good to upstage REC and THE INNKEEPERS.

Yummy Pizza said...

I have nothing new to add, but here goes anyway.

1. The Descent. Just fantastic.
2-4. Inside, Haute Tension, Martyrs.
5-6. The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers (happy to see it on your list! I loved it so)
7. [REC.]
8. Wolf Creek
9. Dream Home
10. Insidious
11. Triangle (Melissa George just fascinates me. I can't remember ever not loving her)
12. It follows
13. The Babadook
14. The Children
15. Paranormal Activity 3 (Meh on part one, liked part 2, part 3 scared the pants off me)
Bonus: Eden Lake. I kind of hate this movie but I think it's because it's the scariest movie of them all. Nihilistic, angry, bullying youths are my worst nightmare. And fuck that ending. But it is "good" horror.

CashBailey said...

As further proof of how amazing THE DESCENT is (as if any were needed) you need only watch the abysmal sequel to see them do the same thing completely wrong.

Stacie Ponder said...

I've only seen The Descent 2 once and while yeah, it's basically an inferior retread, I was surprised to find I didn't hate it. Well, except the ending, that was TRULY garbage. But I think about it, and I *know* I didn't hate it simply because I was getting more of [insert returning characters]. I was too nostalgic for the first film, so I was all "Aw, it's So-and-So!" and blinded to what was happening around them.

Grim Quiet said...

love the blog, thanks for the list!
watched Babadook today, which i proably would have skipped if i didnt see it recommended here, great pick thanks!

Rochester Swift said...

Triangle (2009) is to me, at least, grossly underrated. If I had the skill I would make a gigantic version of Melissa George's mouth, as a plush crimson couch, and be buried with it after I die on it. For those that haven't seen it, shame on you, it's a feature length Twilight zone episode with enough ambiguity for six films which is probably why it's underrated, since most Anglophone viewers are Have you written or will you write about this gem?

Stacie Ponder said...

I've never written about Triangle or dicussed it in-depth anywhere, actually. And it's definitely time for a rewatch...