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The 10 Best Moments of 21st Century Horror Films

January 19, 2016

I love horror movies. There is an art to developing exceptional horror films and when a director/writer can capture dread, urgency and surprise they can create iconic moments that live on in infamy. The following post explores my 10 favorite horror moments of the 21st century. There have been hundreds of movies and thousands of moments but I’ve narrowed it down to my favorites. You will love them.

What are your favorite moments?

1. The Car Park Fight – Drag Me To Hell

I beat you, you old bitch!

Leave it up to Sam Raimi to provide an entertaining brawl between an elderly gypsy woman and a young heroine. In one fight we get an old woman being stapled in the face, dentures exploding out of a mouth and a full on face gumming. It is a bonkers fight that is pure popcorn fun. Sam Raimi knows how to entertain and he adds levity to the horror which makes every fight surprising. I love every second of this fight and consider Drag Me To Hell to be my favorite horror film.


2. Spelunkers vs. Crawlers – The Descent

What makes these creatures scary is that they are acting on instinct. There is no lame back story (I did learn on the commentary they named one Steve) or motives. They are human enough to keep the fights even and this allows the brawls to be barn burners. The stage direction was limited as director Neil Marshall told the actor in the creature suit to “go for the neck,” then he told his actress “don’t let it get your neck.” The simplicity kept it believable and raw. These confrontations do not seem rehearsed and they play like a classic predator/prey hunt. The coolest thing that Marshall did was wait to show the actresses the creatures until the initial introduction. The reaction was fear and the phrase “they scared the living daylights out of me” was heard multiple times.


3. The Monsters Are Unleashed – Cabin in the Woods

I want to see a movie with each and everyone one of these monsters/creatures/witches/Kevin. I love Cabin in the Woods and I agree with the internet when it claimed it was the best horror film of the 21st century.


4. The Lipstick Demon Makes an Appearance – Insidious 

Insidious is a tour de force of beautiful low budget horror. The red lipstick demon is a massive jerk and the moment when he appears behind Patrick Wilson you are scarred for life. I love the trilogy and no other film series has stressed me out more.


5. The Townsfolk vs. Vampires – 30 Days of Night

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.


6. Running Away – 28 Weeks Later

The urgency and hopelessness in this scene is heartbreaking. I remember sitting in the theater holding my breath as Robert Carlyle ran desperately through the field. 28 Weeks Later is a nasty piece of film making and it is one of the rare horror sequels that is actually good.


7. The Empty Streets of London – 28 Days Later

Watching Cillian Murphy walk the empty streets of London really stressed me out. You sit there waiting for the inevitable violence and you cringe everytime he yells. Without this setup you wouldn’t understand the scale of what happened and many zombie films owe a debt to 28 Days Later.


8. People Meet Monster- The Host

The Host is cheeky, inventive, bloody, funny and beautifully made. The initial monster attack is a thing of glory and I can never get enough of it. I lived in South Korea for a year and whenever I went to Seoul I would always look for the monster (it could happen). You need to watch this movie.


9. I’m Not Welcome – Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity is a tiny $11,000 film that exploded in the theaters. It placed a camera in a static position and managed to create more scares via dread and anticipation than I could’ve ever imagined. The best thing about PA is that it introduced us to an incredibly jerky demon that loved to pull bed sheets and occasionally drag people out of rooms. There is a moment that I love when a paranormal investigator walks into the house and immediately realizes he needs to go because it isn’t safe. PA did something many movies fail to do. It created a villain that scared the crap out of the audience (until they named it Toby)


10. Shaun is Oblivious – Shaun of the Dead

What I love most about Shaun of the Dead is how they featured an incredibly rehearsed and ambitious  two-minute steadicam shot. The moment isn’t about terror, violence or showing off. The shot centers around a slacker making his way to a shop while not noticing the carnage around him. He is so checked out that he doesn’t notice the blood he slips on or slow-moving zombies all around him. It is a moment of pure cinematic nerd glory and proves that this film about two dudes, a lady and a pub is a lovingly made zombie film. Viva la Cornetto and Edgar Wright!


12 Comments leave one →
  1. John Leavengood permalink
    January 19, 2016 10:59 am

    GREAT PICKS! My only difference in choice would be that equally I enjoyed the basement scene in Cabin in the Woods–when they were glossing over the random trinkets…about to listen to the conch shell, open the music box, read from the Necronomicon, etc. Admittedly, the scene is less exciting.

  2. January 19, 2016 2:48 pm

    Great choices but for me the Insidious scene isn’t the one you selected it is the one where Renne (SP) is in the bedroom alone and the ghost is walking up and down outside and suddenly he is in the room with her attacking her.

    • January 19, 2016 2:51 pm

      I love all three of those movies. I almost added the breaking the leg casts on a wooden bed frame scene in Insidious 3.

      • January 19, 2016 2:53 pm

        I am not the biggest fan of where it went, the marketing ruined the 3rd one with all the good scares and i mean all in the trailers. but i did like where that story went

      • John Leavengood permalink
        January 19, 2016 9:09 pm



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