With Rob Zombie’s Halloween II and the fourth installment in the Final Destination series out in theaters this weekend, FSR’s resident Devil’s Advocate Josh Radde and guest Adam Sweeney decided not to debate between the two franchises, but rather: what is the best horror film of the decade? Shouting Match, heading up to the end of 2009, will occasionally jump into “decade-review mode” and determine what we thought shined in the first part of this bitchin’ new century.
Opening Statement (Josh)
Over the past half century, certain horror films have carved out a niche in which they grew to the heights of their popularity. In the 60’s we saw Mama’s boy Norman Bates stab a lady in the shower. Spielberg made us think twice about jumping into the ocean in the 70’s. The slasher genre hit its absolute apex with Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers in the 80’s. Drew Barrymore was the first victim of the 90’s horror flicks that were self-aware. But what niche have we carved since the beginning of the new century?
It would seem that remakes have been the craze since 2000. Michael Bay, Rob Zombie, and others have given us everything from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Halloween to The Amityville Horror to a couple remakes starring Liev Schrieber, The Omen and The Manchurian Candidate (more of a “thriller” than a “horror” film, but still). There was also the America’s flirtation with the “torture porn” genre where films like Saw and Hostel and The Devil’s Rejects fall. As “entertaining” as some of these movies have been, one film stand high and above everything released this decade: 2005’s The Descent.
Released wide the same weekend as Sam Jackson’s Snakes on a Plane, I urged everybody to go see the superior film, which at the time I dubbed “Bitches in a Cave.” Neil Marshall’s film about female spelunkers is an absolute powerhouse of a film. It makes you confront fears of height, darkness, claustrophobia, and the unknown. It’s well acted and superbly written, in addition to being tense and scary as hell (which is, I believe, what the DVD box says on it). It’s everything you want in a horror movie: the characters are relatable and sympathetic; the chills and jumps come out of nowhere; it moves at a break-neck pace; and there’s a little bit of a revenge tale thrown in for good measure.
There are a few horror films released this decade that I would consider solid, but only The Descent is one that I would consider a great movie.
Counter Argument (Adam)
You’re right to point out the run of remakes Hollywood has put out, most of which were as forgettable as catching your parents having sex. In fact, that’s a horror film in it of itself. Sadly, Hollywood is really the only one being scared — of losing money — and we are ending up as the victim getting slashed in the wallet. That’s why we have to go outside of Hollywood to find the best horror film of the decade, Let the Right One In.
Equal parts revenge cinema, a love story and GOOD vampire fantasy (Because I can’t remember the last decent one of those I have seen), the Swedish masterpiece, yeah I said masterpiece, actually gives me hope that there can be thoughtful horror films. Of course, Hollywood plans to remake this and will probably fail miserably. While The Descent is definitely one of the better horrors of the decade, the acting by a few of the actors was somewhat flawed and there wasn’t much story there to begin with. Hot girls go into cave. Monsters attack hot girls. Hot girls scream and die. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the experience. But where The Descent falters, Let the Right One In sinks its teeth in. What is even more amazing is that the lead roles are played by two young adults. Hmm, after Kirsten Dunst’s role in Interview with the Vampire maybe we should just give parts in bloodsucker films to kids.
You know what … I have no insults to throw at you. I don’t necessarily agree with you, just because I don’t really find Let the Right One In all that scary, however, yes it is a damn fine film. You’re also right to point out that some of the actresses in Descent didn’t graduate from the Kirtsten Dunst School of Acting, but the simple story is what makes it so appealing to me.
Let the Right One In is pretty complex tale, and though its characters are very sympathetic, I just can’t call it the Best Horror Film of the Decade. Maybe it’s because we have SO many vampire films (along with an over-saturation of zombie films this decade) that I am more drawn to the relative uniqueness and originality of The Descent. You did touch on one really key subject, though: It’s impossible to find any good horror in the U.S. The Ring is scary, but not as much as Ringu; The Grudge showcased that Sarah Michelle Gellar is still our “scream queen” but couldn’t hold a candle to its overseas original. Kang-ho Song has starred in two great Korean horror films, Thirst and The Host which eventually made their way here.
Oh, and by the way, after I wrote the first part of this article I saw the trailer to The Descent: Part 2. Sigh. I don’t know what the editor of Snatch (Jon Harris) can add to the original, but frankly I’m pissed that they couldn’t leave a good thing be. What the hell would compel Sarah (Shauna MacDonald) to crawl back into that cave anyway?
Closing Statement (Adam)
I appreciate any refrain from insults as both of these films are up at the top of the list in terms of my favorite horror films of this decade. You can’t go wrong with either one. It’s like asking who is more attractive, Christina Hendricks from “Mad Men” or Anna Paquin from “True Blood.” The first is so overwhelmingly pretty and, let’s be honest, endowed that you can’t help but be drawn to her. But you, at least up until she started stripping for True Blood, had to work harder to understand the beauty of Paquin. I’m sure both have a lot going on underneath but on the surface they present two equally satisfying types of enjoyment.
Let the Right One In stands above the rest of the horror films of the decade because it can’t be simply defined. True, it doesn’t make you jump like The Descent but there are more layers to it. And don’t get confused, the film definitely has its share of suspense and “Holy shit!” moments. The fire scene in the hospital? Bingo. When you actually see Eli’s true age? Again, creepy. Where The Descent has no choice but to subscribe to the pop-out-at-you method, the other takes the time to let us know the characters, their surroundings and remind us how the classic tale of a weaker child against school bullies can be as monstrous as any mythical creation invented. Plus, from the opening credits you can tell this is one of the most beautifully shot horror films ever.
And you’re right, why Sarah (Shauna MacDonald) goes back into that cave after the first Descent is about as explainable as the ending to Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2. Did she forget her car keys? I will say this. I am intrigued to see both The Descent 2 and the American version of Let the Right One In just to see if they can expand on the brilliance of both originals. To me, that is a sign that the originals are both can’t miss films. So I’d say they both win.
So there you have it, The Descent and Let the Right One In are our votes for best horror film of the decade. Do you agree? What is your favorite since 2000?