Sooooo, we’ve finally made our way though the ’90s. We’ve made it. Jason went to hell, Freddy’s dead, and Chucky got married. Let’s all go get a drink.
Keeping on track with our year-by-year breakdown, today we’ll be counting down the best horror movies of 2000. This is the year that gave us a PMSing werewolf, an underrated Toxic Avenger sequel, and Sam Raimi making a horror comeback. Let’s get started…
15. Hellraiser: Inferno
Director: Scott Derrickson
Stars: Doug Bradley, Craig Sheffer, Nicholas Turturro, James Remar
The fifth film in the Hellraiser franchise also marked the beginning of the “straight-to-video era” of the series. The budgets are smaller, the stories more intimate and you can say goodbye to anything approaching the word “epic”. Inferno is known as the black sheep of the family, which is rather amazing given just how messed-up the family is. It is largely a psychological thriller/crime drama with some supernatural elements thrown into the midst. People often accuse this movie for being the point where Hellraiser as a series turns for the worse, which is simply not true. In fact, with the correct mindset, it may just be one of the best.
The movie revolves around a hedonistic, substance-abusing but capable detective named Joseph Thorne, who happens to be a total douche-bag to his family, friends and everyone else. One day he’s called to a murder scene and finds the good old Lament Configuration. Like a bright chap, he takes the puzzle box and decides to fumble with it. Soon after he starts seeing cenobite-themed hallucinations and weird stuff, as he relentlessly tires to save a kidnapped child from the mysterious murderous criminal mastermind known simply as the “Engineer”, who is also hunting him down by systematically killing off people most important in his lives. Yes, this is nothing like a typical Hellraiser movie. It’s more of a supernatural morality tale in the line of Angel Heart and Jacob’s Ladder. Oh, and it’s also a hell or a lot better than Hellraiser: Revelations.
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Jason Flemyng, Peter Stormare, Leslie Hope, Nina Garbiras
Henry Creedlow works at a fashion mag called Bruiser for the short-fused, dictatorial Miles Styles. Henry spends much of his day fantasizing about killing himself and killing others, particularly his nagging wife Janine. After learning that Miles is shagging his wife and that his stockbroker best friend swindled him out of a stack of money, Henry wakes up the following day to learn that his face has mysteriously been rendered white and featureless. Soon, like a mime with bloodlust, Henry violently dispatches with pretty much everyone in his life.
This was and seems to still be a vastly misunderstood George Romero movie, because at first glance it seems to break away from all of the things that George Romero is good at. Instead of a broad and sweeping commentary of our society, George instead looks within our own minds and what finally taking revenge upon the world truly does to a man. If anything, Bruiser is a grand and sweeping tragedy about a man who truly feels he has no other outlet and is blinded by his thirst for revenge and for his need to feel validated. That’s why this is such a departure for the director, because it is such an intimate film. But it deserves to be seen, and it is quite frankly, one of his finer works as he guides us through the life of a man that we have all felt like at some point or another.
13. Hollow Man
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Stars: Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens
Scientist with a god complex Sebastian Kane, tries the experiment that he and his team have been working on for some time… on himself. The procedure in question renders a living being invisible. Once Sebastian makes himself disappear he is faced with a new existence, an existence with no consequences. Does sin exist if nobody sees you commit it? Bloody murder sure does…
There are two ways this movie could have gone: psychological thriller or big Hollywood action/horror flick. Guess which way this one goes? Here’s a hint… it’s directed by Paul Verhoeven. You got it, this is a Hollywood beast that just don’t quit.. It’s filled with spectacular visual effects, breathtaking action set pieces and enough blood to feed Lestat de Lioncourt for a year! The movie does touch upon the question: What would invisibility do to a man? Would he be stripped of all his values cause his actions would have no consequence? But it touches the theme lightly. What the movie is really about is giving you lots of big thrills for your bucks.
12. Scream 3
Director: Wes Craven
Stars: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey
Scream 3 marks the most times the original cast have consecutively appeared in a horror franchise (if this isn’t correct, please let us know in the comments). That’s probably because Scream 3 is not poising itself as a sequel but as the concluding act of its meta-trilogy. Director Wes Craven, who had helmed the series from the beginning, was still capable of staging suspense, gruesome stabbings, and blending humor with horror. What he lacks here is a good script. Writer Kevin Williamson did not return to pen Scream 3, leaving that task to Ehren Kruger who understands meta-horror about as well as he understands Transformers.
It has been several years since the bloodbath that occurred at Windsor College, and Sidney Prescott now lives in a secluded rural Californian home, working from her house as a crisis hotline counselor under a false name. Unable to lead a regular life anymore and plagued with nightmares of her deceased mother, Maureen, Sidney is distraught to find that one of the people from her past has been murdered in Hollywood, where Stab 3: Return To Woodsboro is well underway in its production on a studio backlot. You can guess where this is going…
11. The Cell (2000)
Director: Tarsem Singh
Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jake Weber
Catherine is a psychologist who uses cutting edge technology that allows a manifestation of herself to enter the mental landscape of her patients, allowing her to interact with them in a way like no other. When authorities realize that a serial killer, known for capturing and torturing his victims for days, has selected his next victim, Peter Novak begins his hunt for Stargher. A seizure leaves the killer in a coma, so Novak taps Catherine to enter his mind in hopes of gaining information about where his next victim is being held. Entering the mind of a serial killer obviously results in some horrifying landscapes, which Catherine ultimately falls victim to. Novak must enter Stargher’s mind to recover Catherine and the two aim to turn the tables on Stargher before it’s too late for his victim.
Sigmund Freud’s description of the id as “a cauldron full of seething excitations” could just as easily apply to this literal exploration into the darkest, filthiest corners of a serial killer’s mind. The dream sequences are so well-done that it’s easy to forgive the film’s lack of dramatic punch.
Director: Ryûhei Kitamura
Stars: Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Chieko Misaka, Kenji Matsuda
Question: What do you get when you mix Japanese organized crime members called the Yakuza with martial arts, zombies and a vampire? In short, awesomeness in its purest form. Versus begins with a little bit of back story. It seems that there are 666 portals that connect two worlds. Japan is home to the 444th portal that is in the Forest of Resurrection. 500 years ago there was a great battle between good and evil within the Forest and although it seemed that good was defeated, evil would have to wait to open the portal.
Confused? It doesn’t matter. Watching this film you’ll undoubtedly be less focused on the story as you will be on the unrelentingly action, arterial sprays of blood, bizarre special effects, and slapstick comedy that would put even Sam Raimi to shame. Seriously, Versus has it all – blood, laughs, kung fu zombies, action, and plenty of WTF moments. Easily one of the most entertaining zombie movies ever made.
9. Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV
Director: Lloyd Kaufman
Stars: David Mattey, Clyde Lewis, Heidi Sjursen, Paul Kyrmse
Set and released more than a decade after the last Toxic Avenger – we’re guessing the filmmakers are hoping we all forgot about that one – Citizen Toxie opens with a group called the Diaper Mafia taking hostage of a school for people with special needs. The Toxic Avenger and his sidekick try to save it, but they can’t prevent an explosion from going off that levels the whole school. It also opens an inter-dimensional tear, which results in Toxie going to a parallel dimension known as Amortville, while his evil doppelgänger, the Noxious Offender, winds up in Tromaville.
After three installments, that hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength is back and this time he will face his toughest enemy yet: an alternate version of himself! The Toxic Avenger IV meshes the original and the modern day tones of Troma’s trademark meshing of comedy, action, and horror. It is amped up quite a bit, but this is what’s expected: a 21st-Century Toxic Avenger and it delivers. Look for the opening shot of the film, a look at the World Trade Center, pre 9/11, which in its first screening post-9/11 received a major ovation from the fans with Stan Lee’s narration.
8. Psycho Beach Party
Director: Robert Lee King
Stars: Lauren Ambrose, Nicholas Brendon, Thomas Gibson, Amy Adams
Going to the beach is like going to another world. It’s cheap flip-flops and hopping, skipping and jumping across scalding sand. It’s the sound of radios and soda cans popping open; it’s umbrella shade and blinding sun; rainbow-colored beach towels and salty, wavy hair. It’s bikinis and board shorts and everything in between. It’s oversized sunglasses and floppy straw hats. Oh, and sometimes you have to keep an eye out for the occasional deranged killer on the loose. Or at least that’s the case for the unfortunate characters in Psycho Beach Party.
Psycho Beach Party is a wacky, campy fusion of teenaged surfer flicks and slasher sagas. In it, impossibly perky Florence doesn’t quite fit in at her thoroughly square high school in her seaside Southern California town – that is, until she happens upon a band of ultra-hip surfer dudes. Renaming herself “Chicklet,” she tries her gosh-darnedest to be the sole girl riding the waves with the group led by suave Kanaka. Oh yeah, it should be noted that Florence suffers from dissociative identity disorder and occasionally her alter ego Ann Bowman, a sexually aggressive, foul-speaking girl, comes out in which during that time several beach goers are found murdered. Fun times…
7. Ju-on: The Curse
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Stars: Yûrei Yanagi, Yue, Ryôta Koyama, Hitomi Miwa
Jealous of his wives love for another man, a teacher from her high school, a man brutally kills his wife and young son. Searching for the son who has missed a lot of school, the teacher enters their house, only to find the dead ghost of his mother, and consequently has a heart attack and becomes a ghost himself. The story goes on to tell of the new tenants of the house and what they experience, and an investigation by two police officers into why so many people are disappearing.
Director Takashi Shimizu works miracles with a scant budget, and gives this film an atmospheric and surreal quality. It is this dark trait that makes the film so effective, and allows the audience to suspend whatever disbelief they had when they started. Shimizu also gives the film the perfect pace — first starting out slowly, then later wringing out every scene for its shock value. It is commendable that Shimizu uses surprisingly little gore, but even so the images of the crying ghost child and the jawless ghost may haunt you for weeks. Creepily riveting, like fingernails running down a blackboard or a fork scraping on china. As the curse’s mystery unravels, it also deepens into a puzzling metaphor.
6. The Gift
Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Katie Holmes, Keanu Reeves, Greg Kinnear
When Jessica King goes missing, all eyes turn to Annabelle Wilson. Not as a murder suspect, but as a clairvoyant. Many of the towns folk go to Annabelle for help, and Jessica’s fiancée, Wayne Collins, turns to Annabelle for possible guidance. Annabelle feels that she can’t help, but this doesn’t stop her from constantly getting visions of Jessica’s fate.
The Gift may be clichéd on a sheer storytelling level, but the performances and tight direction from Sam Raimi lift the picture up several notches. Slowly enveloping the viewer into the many intriguing characters and their individual plights, the disappearance of Jessica at the 30-minute mark divulges the movie’s true intentions and converts the proceedings into a taut, at times frightening, horror-mystery. Indeed, this is a glorious textbook example of a gifted filmmaker’s ability to transform a familiar genre and, thrillingly, to confound our expectations in the process.
5. Shadow Of The Vampire
Director: E. Elias Merhige
Stars: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Udo Kier, Cary Elwes
Whether you’re already a fan of the wonderful 1922 film Nosferatu or have yet to be introduced to it, it’s easy to fall in love with this creepy, dark-humored, fictional making called Shadow Of The Vampire. In the film, German director F. W. Murnau is making Nosferatu on location in Eastern Europe. The director is determined to make this the most authentic movie ever. To this end Murnau has employed a real vampire, Max Schreck. He explains Schreck’s weird behavior by saying that he is a fastidious method actor. As payment Schreck has been promised drug addicted beauty Greta – Nosferatu’s leading-lady. She is to be his at the end of filming. But it seems that Schreck cannot wait that long to taste the blood of the crew.
In this cookie cutter movie world, it’s nice to see the occasional movie that doesn’t quite fit into a specific genre or can’t easily be classified. The film impresses on almost every conceivable level: as a pure film, as wild, speculative storytelling, and, like Murnau’s own Nosferatu, a benchmark ranking among the most ingenious vampire movies ever crafted.
4. What Lies Beneath
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Katharine Towne, James Remar
The seemingly idyllic marriage between Claire Spencer and professor husband Norman begins to fragment when she starts to believe there is a ghost inhabiting their house. As the supernatural occurrences grow in ferocity, it becomes apparent that this strange spirit is not only real, but intent on revealing a terrible secret… one which lies very close to home.
With What Lies Beneath, director Robert Zemeckis finally combines his fondness for fright flicks with the character-driven drama of his best work, and the result is one doozy of a ghost story. The climax is absolutely terrifying (especially the bathtub sequence). There are plenty of suspense and shocks, wonderful atmosphere of dread and fear. The film goes with the flow rather than subverting it, using expectations to turn the smarty-pants in the audience into scaredy-cats.
3. Final Destination
Director: James Wong
Stars: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kristen Cloke, Tony Todd
A few months ago when we posted our list of the 50 Greatest Slasher Movies Of All Time we debated long and hard as to whether or not to consider Final Destination a slasher, and we finally said, “Why not?” After all, just because the villain isn’t human or even visible doesn’t mean that he/she/it is any less of an unstoppable killer.
The killer in question is Death itself, and it’s a tricky, heartless bugger who seeks to claim the lives of the high school French class members who got off a plane before it crashed. Since they had been fated to die on the plane, they broke Death’s plan, and now it’s got unfinished business, picking off the kids one by one in extravagant, red herring-filled “accidents.” It’s an ingenious concept and one that’s perfectly executed – although diminished somewhat by the derivative sequels.
2. Ginger Snaps
Director: John Fawcett
Stars: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers
Suburban teenage sisters – Ginger and Brigitte – who hate the world and have a fascination with death, see their morbid existence turned upside down when the older of the two gets slapped with two curses: her first period and a werewolf bite. And you know what that means: lots of Tampax.
This small-town coming-of-ager regenders the werewolf myth as a riotously icky exploration of the monstrous feminine. Working from a lively, unsparing script by Karen Walton, Canadian director John Fawcett touches on the same unsettling feelings evoked by Carrie, which was also fueled by the intense mortification that goes along with the first signs of womanhood. Ginger Snaps is an original, intelligent in-depth look at two teenage girls going through the hardest episode of their lives… and one of them just happens to be turning into a werewolf.
1. American Psycho
Director: Mary Harron
Stars: Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Reese Witherspoon
When Patrick Bateman peeled back his herb-mint face mask to reveal his chainsaw-wielding proclivities as a serial killer in Mary Harron’s American Psycho, America froze. It certainly was not a feminist comedy that the naysayers and boycotters had expected. “It’s just as well a woman directed American Psycho,” wrote Roger Ebert in his review of the film. “She’s transformed a novel about blood lust into a movie about men’s vanity.” In the film, scenes depict Bateman physically and mentally abusing prostitutes, dismembering them with chainsaws, and hanging mangled female corpses on hangers in a closet. Which, on a purely surface level, sure looks and feels misogynistic.
What so many of American Psycho’s critics seem to overlook, however, is the fact that it’s a satire – and an incredibly smart one, at that. And what both Bret Easton Ellis’ original book and Harron’s film skewer is the worst kind of consumerist, superficially inclined person who fails to realize that surrounding one’s self with expensive, fancy things only exacerbates one’s ever-growing unhappiness. And while the film plays it quite ambiguous about whether or not Bateman is actually a murderer, it’s still a great journey through the mind of a sociopath.
Let us know your favorite horror movie of the year in the comments below.