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50 Must-See Horror Films Of The Century (So Far...)

30. Dark Water (2002)


Japan, dir. Hideo Nakata

After the influential J-Horror landmark Ringu, director Hideo Nakata returned to the well of author Koji Suzuki’s tales of hauntings in modern-day Japan for Dark Water, a sombre shocker that twins the trials of single motherhood with the creepy potential of living in a decrepit apartment building. A patch of damp on a bedroom ceiling has never been so unsettling; and the apparition of a hooded figure, standing on a flooded, reportedly abandoned floor, is an easy match for any iconic image from Nakata’s previous horror hit. ML

29. Cabin In The Woods (2012)


USA, dir. Drew Goddard

This gloriously self-aware, teen genre-prodding slasher packs hard laughs alongside grisly violence. Co-written by Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods stars a fresh-faced Chris Hemsworth as a burly jock vacationing with his friends in a remote cabin before things inevitably turn bloody. Hilarious, imaginative and boasting one of the best (only?) unicorn-inflicted deaths ever committed to film, this is a fresh take on modern horror. BW

28. Them (Ils) (2006)


France, dirs.David Moreau & Xavier Palud

A provocative and controversial jolt to the system, Them outfits social moral malaise in horror visual finery to ramped-up creepy effect. French teacher Clementine has recently moved into a large rambling house on the outskirts of Bucharest with her partner Lucas. One night, the telephone rings with unintelligible voices on the line, and they hear strange noises downstairs… With a barnstorming pre-credits sequence that prepares the nerves for the full-on finale workout, the intensity builds as the mentally tortured and injured couple learn the horrifying reality of their situation. (FrightFest 2006)

27. Berberian Sound Studio (2012)


UK, dir. Peter Strickland

It’s 1976 and Gilderoy, an introverted sound engineer of a very sensitive disposition, goes to Italy to work on the horror film The Equestrian Vortex by exploitation maestro Giancarlo Santini. But soon life begins to imitate art as both time and realities begin to shift… From Peter Strickland comes an evocative celebration and delicious deconstruction of the Italian horror genre, full of sly references and a brilliant soundtrack by Broadcast. (FrightFest 2012)

26. Detention (2011)


USA, dir. Joseph Kahn

From in-demand music video director Joseph Kahn comes a fast and furious teen comedy slasher unlike any other. Call it the real Scream 4, Donnie Darko meets Heathers, or a double John homage from Hughes to Carpenter, this mad, manic and magic mash-up is an instant cult favourite. Riffing equally on Back To The Future and Prom Night and ramping up its genre elements, self-awareness and one-liners to a dizzying pace, this Detention centre is pure, post-modern playfulness. (FrightFest 2011)

25. Saw (2004)


USA, dir. James Wan

Want to play a game? It’s easy to forget in light of the increasingly elaborate kills and convoluted plotting of the Saw sequels what a simple little shocker the original was. Like so many good horror premises, it’s all about imagining what you would do in this situation: could you saw through your own leg to save your life? CB

24. House Of The Devil (2009)


USA, dir. Ti West

From director Ti West comes slow-brewing, old-school psychological horror at its finest, freakiest and most fiendish. Complete with a terrific cult cast (Mary Woronov, Tom Noonan, Dee Wallace), a superb synthesised rock and 80s hit soundtrack and smartly nostalgic style to match, West’s occult chiller is eerily subtle before slamming home a tension-laden devilish finale. One of the best, and coolest looking, independent horrors of the year. (FrightFest 2009)

23. Session 9 (2001)


USA, dir. Brad Anderson

A hulking, abandoned psychiatric hospital is the setting for Brad Anderson’s relatively subtle but still deeply unnerving tale, an exercise in haunted house/haunted mind horror that resounds with echoes of The Shining. Peter Mullan leads an asbestos-clearance team into the forbidding facility and it’s not long before each man shows signs of cracking up. Whether it’s the pressure of the job or a presence in the building is unclear, and the film manages to sustain the creepy ambiguity almost to the very end. That it falters slightly in the final stages in no way undermines what’s come before. DC

22. Timecrimes (2007)


Spain, dir. Nacho Vigalondo

A superbly confident, immaculately-crafted debut from Spanish writer-director Nacho Vigalondo, Timecrimes is a perfect cult movie: a time-loop sci-fi mashed up with a thrilling slasher set-up, replete with fiendish twists and an intricately-woven plot that demands to be unravelled. Expect to be swept up in Vigalondo’s unbridled enthusiasm for his cinematic Rubick’s cube - you’ll soon be caught in a time-loop of your own, watching and rewatching this wholly unique horror. ML

21. Sleep Tight (2011)


Spain, dir. Jaume Balaguero

[REC] director Jaume Balaguero says “Hola Hitchcock” in this scary and darkly unsettling psychological thriller. Unassuming Cesar is janitor at an upscale apartment block in Barcelona. However, his quiet politeness hides a much more sinister personality… Provocative and intense, with Spanish superstar Luis Tosar delivering a sensationally disturbing performance, the growing tension, clever twists and startling chills will keep you biting your nails. (FrightFest 2012)

Keep reading's 50 Must-See Horror Films of the 21st Century.

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