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MFF Reader Poll Results: What Are Your Favorite 21st Century Horror Films That Don’t Appear on “Best of” Lists

August 24, 2015

Hello all. Mark here.

I wanted to give a quick shout out to Shock Till You Drop for naming this one of “Top 10 Horror lists” of 2015!

I’ve learned a couple things throughout the course of the finding the best horror film of the 21st century. The first is that nobody will ever agree on a winner. The second is that everybody is passionate about movies that don’t get as much recognition as they should. For some reason these movies are near and dear to peoples hearts and even though they will never be on “best of” lists we still champion them when asked. For instance, you need to watch Cheap Thrills, Honeymoon, Creep and Spring.

When I unleashed the 21st century horror film results I included a poll that featured horror films that rarely ever appear on “best of” lists. I wanted the under appreciated to get some love. I compiled the list from reading through Reddit, AV Club, MFF comments and scouring the internet for under appreciated horror films.  I also offered an “other” box for people to write in their votes (is there a movie called Your mom? Three people wrote that in). 5,300 votes later we have an eclectic list of films. (that nobody will agree on!)

Remember that this isn’t a “best of” list. This was simply meant to give fan favorite films a second life. I promise there won’t be a “best of” list of the films that didn’t make this list.

Here are the other five lists I’ve released in the last two weeks.

Top 21 21st Century horror films as voted on by the MFF readers.

Top 20 Critically Rated Horror films according to Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic Critics

Top 20 Audience Rated Horror films according to IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes Audience Scores and Metacritc Users

Top 25 Rated horror films from Rotten Tomatoes Critics, RT Audience Score , Metacrtic, Metacritic User Score and IMDb Users

The Top 10 rated according to Shocktillyoudrop,Dread Central, Fangoria (with info from the chainsaw awards), Bloody Disgusting and Bloody Good Horror

Before you jump into the lists I made sure to check copious “best of” horror lists to make sure these films didn’t pop up often (if you scour the internet you will find a random list I’m sure). Movies like May, The House of the Devil, Eden Lake, Splinter, Bug, Amer,  Antichrist, Dawn of the Dead, Maniac, Inside, Attack the Block, I Saw the Devil, The Mist, You’re Next, The Loved Ones, Evil Dead, Ginger Snaps, Devil’s Rejects, Excision, 28 Weeks Later and Cloverfield were mentioned various times in horror websites and the MFF polls so I decided not to add them to the voting lists. Check out my 21st century critic/horror posts for the links.

I also started up a discussion thread (not asking for upvotes) on Dreadit and got a ton of horror movies that will never be on a “best of” list. I’m hoping this list will give a nice counterbalance to the films below. Splinter, Triangle, The Signal, Grave Encounters, The Collector, The Shrine, 1408, American Mary, Altered, The Burrowers, The Pact, Wer, Tusk, Halloween (2007) and Joshua didn’t make the top 14 but they are well regarded and have their champions.

The reason I’ve included 14 movies is because the voting between 10 and  14 was really close and some of these films were separated by only a few votes.

14. House of 1,000 Corpses (2003)

Written by Chris Kelly (check out his bonkers horror short film centering around Christmas)

House of 1000 Corpses is what a horror lover always wanted in a film: It’s quick, gory and there’s a simple story involving lots of death. Rob Zombie created a throwback to classic 1970s and 80s horror films with an updated twist. Using old school horror tactics with new school camera angles and lighting, Zombie creates a film that throws its audience on its head and leaves them there. Some audiences will love it, some won’t understand it and others will hate it. It’s hard to find something right or wrong with this movie because it is in a world all its own. House of 1000 Corpses is its own thing in its own world that exists only in the minds of hardcore horror fans.

Walton goggins rob zombie


13. Joy Ride (2001)

While I was collecting data from Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and IMDb I noticed a surprising trend. Critics and audiences really like Joy Ride (73.2 cumulative score).  Director John Dahl (Rounders, The Last Seduction) and writers Clay Tarver and  J.J. Abrams created a blue collar thriller that was way better than it had any right to be. Vulture wrote an article about Paul Walker and I love what they said about the film.

And let’s not forget that the guy made some great films, too. Joy Ride, the 2001 gearhead horror flick in which Walker and his ex-con brother Steve Zahn run afoul of a deranged trucker, is masterful, and it works in part because the actor is so good at just plain freaking out. His character gets it from all sides: the psycho trucker, the hillbillies he crosses at various rest stops, his shady brother who keeps macking on the girl he loves (played by Leelee Sobieski). At one point, the Psycho Mysterious Trucker calls Walker in his hotel room to tell him Zahn’s in the other hotel room trying to seduce Sobieski; so Walker has to run over there and both warn his companions that the bad guy is still out there and also confront his brother about the whole hitting-on-his-girl thing. He handles it the way any of us would: by totally losing it. And it’s glorious fun to watch.

Joy Ride car


12. Devil (2010)

I am a big fan of Devil (even the toast bit). It is an under appreciated horror film that starts strong and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The opening shot of Philly upside down does a fine job of establishing dread and proving that the world is upside down.  It has a refreshing lack of pretense and it simply wants to tell the world a new story. Shakespeare it ain’t but it was never intended to be the next Exorcist, Omen or Sixth Sense. The horror landscape has a dearth of original ideas so it pains me when something trying to be original gets dismissed before it ever hits the movie screens (people laughed out loud when they saw “produced by M. Night Shyamalan”).

The lack of interest and preconceived notions is a shame because Devil is a neat little one-off film that features a claustrophobic vibe and singular story. The 52% Rotten Tomatoes rating is better than the standard horror film rating and it is light years ahead of the 25% average of Shyamalan’s prior three films. Devil features one of the coolest openings of recent memory and I loved the grey and off-kilter vibe it established. Also, I have no problem with toast being used a devil detector.

Devil toast scene


11. Constantine (2005)

Keanu Reeves is the reason Constantine has stayed on the radar for over 10 years. He plays the role with a devil may care attitude that loads up on cynicism and self-awareness.  Constantine is a fun little horror hybrid that features Keanu talking smack to spiders, battling a euro trash devil and hanging out with Tilda Swinton’s Gabriel. Constantine is a weird  film that throws you into the action and is chock full of personality. Richard Corliss sums up the charm of the film with this quote about Reeves:

Halfway through Constantine, a fully clad Keanu Reeves steps into a shallow pail of water, sits on a chair next to it and holds a cat in his lap. Any actor who can retain his charisma in this weird-silly moment–can keep us watching, and admiring his dutiful nonchalance–deserves to be called a movie star.



10. Dog Soldiers (2002)

This line from Dog Soldiers sums up the film.

We are now up against live, hostile targets. So, if Little Red Riding Hood should show up with a bazooka and a bad attitude, I expect you to chin the bitch.

Dog Soldiers is an action packed spectacle that doesn’t reinvent the wheel. However, it makes the wheel look amazing. It is a fun ride that borrows heavily from other films but shows all the traits of Neil Marshall’s (The Descent) future films. Dog Soldiers walks a fine line of humor, violence and suspense. For instance, after a massive kitchen brawl the werewolves get the upper hand and a soldier says “I hope I give you the sh*ts. You f**king wimp.” Dog Soldiers exemplifies independent horror and is urgent and exciting in ways very few films can match.

Dog Soldiers gore


9. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Leslie Vernon/Mancuso is a wonderful creation because he is equal parts self-aware, funny and dangerous.  Behind the Mask loves the horror genre and has a blast playing with the familiar tropes (virgins, backstories, walking). Director Scott Glosserman gathered a killers row of familiar faces (Robert Englund, Scott Wilson, Zelba Rubinstein) and introduced the world to a  fresh-faced future killer.

I think what keeps this film going is the same thing that made Trick r’ Treat explode. It has a loyal audience who spread around the DVD and have a genuine love for it. When I unleashed my “best of” lists the most commented on exclusion was Behind the Mask. Many people have commented in the last two weeks that “Behind the Mask doesn’t get the love it deserves.” It is the kind of film that has a loyal following but tiny audience. That is why I am happy that it made it on this list

Behind the mask


8. Mothman Prophecies (2002)

Written by Zach Beckler (Check out the trailer for his film Interior).

One of the most underrated films of the 21st Century, The Mothman Prophecies is first and foremost a film about mood. This is not a film about answers or truths, because it has neither. This is not about the search for the Mothman, but the inherent fear and unease we have of what is beyond our control and comprehension, and it expresses that beautifully. About a widowed journalist who ends up in a small town on his way out of Washington. He has no idea how he got there, and some townspeople claim he has been there all week, knocking on doors. This is not the only strange thing happening, and it all comes back to sightings of a mythical creature called The Mothman. This film has an eeriness and a discomfort to it unlike many films I’ve seen. Every strange thing that happens feels both random and imminent.

There is a standout scene where the journalist finally gets to talk to this creature, which calls itself Indrid Cold. The scene makes both perfect and no sense, and is horribly unsettling, as the journalist asks Indrid to prove himself by naming things in the room it can’t possibly see or know. Directed by Mark Pellington, famous for the video for Jeremy by Pearl Jam, the entire film has a cold and somber tone, with wonderfully abstract use of scene transitions, as if from the point of view of something with infinite perspective. In the end, the film leaves you without a safety net; there are no explanations for what has happened. There are things bigger than us, and the only thing we know is the most terrifying thing: that they are out there.

Mothman prophecies


7. As Above So Below (2014) 

Written by Megan (my wonderful wife)

I didn’t want to watch this movie. In truth, I don’t usually enjoy horror movies and when Mark suggests one to watch, I usually decline. But with nothing else piquing my interest that evening and a very cool poster, I reluctantly agreed to watch As Above, So Below… and you know what? I’m a huge fan. I know that the internet does not love this movie and I don’t really care, because what AASB and I have is special and the haters cannot spoil it. This movie is structured like an adventure film, with the feeling of traversing great distances (literally to hell and back) in the span of 93 minutes, but you never leave the French catacombs. Those catacombs though… they really are a character in this movie and I believe are the source of any and all feels (of the horror related variety) that the viewer experiences.

Finally, there is the overall story arc, when all hope seems to be fading and the characters are dropping like flies, something surprising happens. The main character digs deep and finds her hope and will to live and starts us on a course out of the darkness for the team, I found this refreshing. So at the end of the movie, you’ve been on an adventure in a totally creepy/cool setting and you aren’t totally depressed or scared out of your mind… I call that a win.

as above


6. Slither (2006)

Jack MacReady: It’s obvious the bastard’s got lyme disease!

Bill Pardy: What?

Jack MacReady: Lyme disease. You touch some deer feces, and then you… eat a sandwich without washin’ your hands. You got your lyme disease!

Bill Pardy: And that makes you look like a squid?

Slither is The Thing made by Troma alumni. It is a comedic body horror film that boomeranged over audiences heads in 2006 and now is coming back full circle. The practical effects combined with James Gunn’s script created a bonkers masterpiece of gross special effects and fantastic dialogue (I can’t get drunk. I have too much muscle mass). Slither love has been gaining steam through the years and people are starting to appreciate the joyfully obscene and gross creature feature. I remember walking out of the theater with a smile on my face and an appreciation of all things James Gunn. What makes Slither so special is that it is different from all of its horror comrads. It is a weird little thing that wear its R-rating on its sleeve and doesn’t care if you like it or not.

slither practical effects


5. Orphan (2009)

While reading through the Rotten Tomatoes critic reviews you can’t help but notice a pattern. Words and phrases like sleazy, gross, trashy, ludicrous, murderous psycho brat, amoral, fetishistic, overwrought, shameless, perverse and effective pop up all over the place. Mick Lasalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gives a great summation of Orphan.

So sloppy, so lowdown, so shameless and so entertaining, Orphan provides everything you might expect in a psycho-child thriller, but with such excess and exuberance that it still has the power to surprise.

When I first saw the trailers for Orphan it annoyed me. I had zero desire to watch some movie where good actors (Vera Farmiga, Peter Saarsgard) deal with another evil kid. I was wrong! The tagline “There’s something wrong with Esther” is true. Just thinking about the plot twist hurts my soul. Orphan is a creepy little thing that dared to be really really ridiculously weird.



4. Oculus (2013)

Written by MFF’s Horror Leviathan John Leavengood.

“Horror is generally (and fairly) characterized by one-dimensional characters stereotypically struggling to serviceably act their way through flat writing to occupy screentime until they drink, vandalize, premaritally fornicate, or do whatever it is that justifies their upcoming death. Despite this, a few bold filmmakers press on and we find the occasional pleasant surprise in The Cabin in the Woods (2012), The Conjuring (2013), and other films with products aimed at more than simply turning a profit and instead bringing us new spins on classic tropes and even some entirely original ideas.

I feel that Oculus (2014) is one of those refreshing films; a clever and hypnotic submission to the genre. Thoughtful cinematography, deliberately distracting lighting and scene-cut transitions mislead our own disoriented sense of time along with that of our protagonists’. Both creepy and engaging, this psychologically driven ghost story weaves our protagonists’ tortured past into their present with a shockingly smart script. This is definitely the best evil mirror movie on the market, and a superior horror film overall as well! It’s clever, it keeps us guessing, and there’s nothing like it. You may be left with more questions than answers. But this is a quality of deliberately disorienting mystery rather than plot-holed writing.”



3. 30 Days of Night (2007)

Tristan Sinns of Dread Central wrote an amazing review (Ebert quoted it) for 30 Days of Night. I love the way Sinns discussed the vampires and the incredibly effective bird’s-eye view attack scene.

The vampires of 30 Days of Night bring new energy to the mythos and they do this in practice by simply being more primitive. This type of monster is so out of the mold of the modern take on vampires that it is fair to call them more of a werewolf archetype than a vampire. Vampires, on the whole, are creatures with the power of seduction; while werewolves are monsters of rage. These particular vampires have rage aplenty and are so good at killing that they’ve no need, at all, to seduce anything. They are filthy, ugly things, and they don’t care if you like them; they only care if you’re dead.

In 30 Days of Night, director David Slade has proven he has a knack for tense contextual horror; those awful situations that manage to creep right under your skin. The townsfolk’s fight to survive is a horrendous and passionate battle. There’s one shot in particular that is simply stunning; a bird’s eye view of a frozen street, panning slowly over the breadth of nearly the entire town, capturing a long and frenzied battle between the vampires and their victims. This shot goes on and on and does so much to impress the impact and scale of the devastation and horror faced by the small Alaskan town.

30 days


2. Jeepers Creepers (2001)

Jeepers Creepers starts off as a creepy road trip film and ends with a punch to the audiences face. The bad guy is a force of evil who drives an old truck and must have a sense of humor because it plays “jeepers creeper” while detaching people’s peepers. He is an ancient being called “the creeper” who creeps every twenty-third spring for twenty-three days. What Jeepers Creepers excelled at (in the beginning at least) was creating a sense of dread in the unknown. What is this monster? Will it be cool enough to warrant a sequel? Will the mythos be absolutely crushed in the sequel?

What makes Jeepers Creepers so memorable is the absolute eye gouge of an ending. Jeepers Creepers shows us that teenagers in horror films can be likable and proves a movie about a creeper who steals peepers while listening to Jeepers Creepers can actually be scary.

Jeepers creepers


1. Insidious (2010)

Insidious does something glorious. It tells a simple story about a family under attack and creates a world you want to see more of. Not only are there likable characters but the creatures in Insidious are pure nightmare creations (sans Darth Maul comparisons). Sitting in the theater watching Patrick Wilson traverse The Further while knowingly walking into the den of a jerky red demon is one of the most stressful moments in recent horror. They are good people battling evil creatures in a familiar (poltergeist-y) world that develops its own personality. The limited budget and practical effects worked towards the films advantage because it had to rely on practical effects, monster creations and solid acting to carry the day. It is rare when we get very good actors being harassed by red-faced demons.

Insidious gif red demon

I love that the family actually moves away from the “haunting” and  Lin Shaye has proven herself to be the Insidious MVP (I really like 2 & 3). This one million dollar independent wonder sparked off a new crop of cheap and profitable horror and opened the door for the fantastic 2014-2015 horror films we are experiencing.

Viva la Insidious!








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