2001, ah, what a time.., Gladiator wins at the Oscars, The Arizona Diamondbacks win The World Series, and the true horror of all horrors.., George W Bush is inaugurated as the 43rd president of the United States. As far as the horror genre, it was at a bit of a crossroad. Slashers were still smarting from Scream’s deep cuts, and Hollywood hadn’t decided to import and remake everything just yet. With that being said, on the plus side, we did get two of the greatest haunted house movies of all time, one of Dario Argento’s last enticing films and some magnifique cannibal mayhem.
As we truck along with our year-by-year breakdown, we present to you the 15 Best Horror Movies Of 2001. Let’s get started…
15. Jason X
Director: Jim Isaac
Stars: Kane Hodder, Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder, Chuck Campbell, Melyssa Ade
Basic plot: It’s 2455 and our favorite hockey-masked lunatic Jason Voorhees is loose on a spaceship killing a bunch of brainless, annoying 20-somethings. Is it scary? No. Is it a good movie? No. Is it fun? VERY! If you can get past the fact that the film is technically not good and just sit back and enjoy the ridiculousness, then you’ll be just fine.
There are sexy half-naked holograms who want to smoke pot and have sex. You have a female robot who kicks Jason’s ass all across the ship. And you even have horror icon David Cronenberg making an appearance. It’s not exactly 2001: A Space Odyssey, but what did you expect?
14. Elvira’s Haunted Hills
Director: Sam Irvin
Stars: Cassandra Peterson, Richard O’Brien, Mary Scheer, Scott Atkinson
Set back in 1851 in the Carpathia Mountains of Romania, Elvira, en route to Paris with her maidservant Zou Zou for a can-can revue, stop for the night at a haunted castle owned by a certain Vladimir Hellsubus whose long dead wife bears an eerie resemblance to Elvira.
Elvira’s Haunted Hills, released 13 years after its predecessor, Mistress Of The Dark, is a parody of a certain type of horror film, a send-up of gothic conventions made famous by the likes of Roger Corman and Vincent Price. As such, the film is littered with references and sight gags – alluding not only to films like House Of Usher and The Pit And The Pendulum, but also to more modern films like Rocky Horror and The Shining. But aside from the references, the film is quite funny on its own merit. 85 percent of the tit gags worked, the winks at the camera were a nice touch, the overacting bald dude will crack you up and the ranch stud’s dubbed voice is hilarious. Oh, and the misses herself is still quite ravishing. The dark lady indeed hasn’t lost her wit, edge or… ahem–assets…
13. Thir13en Ghosts
Director: Steve Beck
Stars: Tony Shalhoub, Shannon Elizabeth, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard
Arthur and his two children, Kathy and Bobby, inherit his Uncle Cyrus’s estate: a glass house that serves as a prison to 12 ghosts. When the family, accompanied by Bobby’s Nanny and an attorney, enter the house they find themselves trapped inside an evil machine “designed by the devil and powered by the dead” to open the Eye of Hell. Aided by Dennis, a ghost hunter, and his rival Kalina, a ghost rights activist out to set the ghosts free, the group must do what they can to get out of the house alive.
If you were unaware, this is a remake of the 1960 film 13 Ghosts by William Castle. And with that being said, for those looking for a little scary fun, in the spirit of a man who once attached joy buzzers to theater seats, Thir13en Ghosts just might be for you. It’s certainly never dull. That bathtub scene though…
12. Trouble Every Day
Director: Claire Denis
Stars: Vincent Gallo, Tricia Vessey, Béatrice Dalle, Alex Descas
Shane Brown and June have just married, and they’ve decided to go to Paris for their honeymoon. There, a beautiful but treacherous woman named Core has been leaving a trail of dead bodies in her wake when she’s captured by Leo Semeneau, a scientist who spirits her away to his estate. As Core is placed under guard, Semeneau leaves to return to the city for an unnamed assignment. In time, we discover that Shane and Core have something rather unusual in common — both are murderers who regularly feast on the flesh of their victims.
Trouble Every Day is a haunting vision of desire gone haywire. Light on story and big on aesthetics, the film moves silently like a sensual yet terrible dream. This film is lovely to look at and the camera work is quite captivating. The two much talked about cannibalism scenes occur pretty late in the film and are without a doubt worthy of the fuss; they are indeed stunning and hard not to find strangely beautiful.
11. The Bunker
Director: Rob Green
Stars: Jason Flemyng, Andrew Tiernan, Christopher Fairbank, Simon Kunz
Several German soldiers are enclosed in one bunker during the Second World War. They soon feel surrounded by enemies. When they hear about the tunnel-system beneath the bunker and some mystic events that had occurred in this place, they soon begin to go mad…
This is one of those movies that we like to refer to as “Highbrow” horror; it’s well-made, has a deep and engrossing storyline, and it plays more to your intelligence than it does your desire for visceral thrills. There isn’t much blood or gore to be had here, and there aren’t many scary moments either, but somehow it manages to hold your attention and make you feel just creepy enough for you to care. Plus, who doesn’t love WWII movies? Even if this sucked as a horror flick you still got yourself a pretty cool war movie. It’s no Inglourious Basterds or Dunkirk, but still.
10. Joy Ride
Director: John Dahl
Stars: Steve Zahn, Paul Walker, Leelee Sobieski, Jessica Bowman
Mama’s boy Lewis decides to buy a car and drive cross-country to pick up his potential girlfriend Venna. Before picking her up, Lewis has a conscious call and bails his troublemaker brother Fuller out of jail. Fuller winds up tagging along for the ride and he eventually gets his younger bro to prank-call a trucker through a CB. And before you can say “The Hitcher”, “Duel” and “Breakdown”, the trucker winds up being a psychopath who doesn’t take being laughed at too well and the madman takes our crazy teens through a hellish ride.
Salute to the writers of this film, Clay Tarver and J.J. Abrams. Indeed, it’s the screenplay that what makes this movie shine. It’s obviously not the most inventive or innovative of its kind, but it moves with a purpose. Between its ludicrous sidewinding, director John Dahl’s ability to find a desolate menace in the untamed wilderness of the American blacktop, and some delightfully creepy voice work, Joy Ride makes for a great little junk chiller, the sort of thing you find it hard to turn off whenever you happen to see it on cable.
Director: Stuart Gordon
Stars: Ezra Godden, Francisco Rabal, Raquel Meroño, Macarena Gómez
Stuart Gordon has been the go-to Lovecraft director since he blew minds with his classic Re-Animator in 1985. He returned to the weird world of one of horror’s most famous authors with Dagon, a loose adaptation of the stories Dagon and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The result is something akin to a waking nightmare.
Dagon follows Paul and Barbara, a couple on vacation who get into trouble on their boat and attempt to find refuge on a nearby island. This island appears empty, yet when contact is finally made with its residents, strange things start happening. It appears the residents of this island-town have webbed fingers as well as gills on their necks, and they all typically move strangely. Well, it turns out that all the residents of this town have rejected Christianity and accepted a new lord and savior, Dagon, who is some weird fish monster thing that has helped their fishing community. The only drawback? They are all turning into weird fish creatures. Paul runs and punches things, Barbara gets naked and sacrificed to Dagon, and some of the residents get killed. What we really have here is a cheap horror potboiler: Stuart Gordon’s Attack Of The Fish People. And hand to god, that’s not a bad thing.
8. From Hell
Directors: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
Stars: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane
A bubbly prostitute has a baby by a wealthy client, and soon after, her downtrodden friends are stalked and eviscerated one-by-one by a mysterious cloaked man. Opium and absinthe addict, Inspector Abberline is soon brought on to the case. Abberline (who seems to have visions relating to the murders) begins to suspect that despite police claims that a butcher or foreigner are responsible for the crimes, the unknown assailant could very well be in cahoots with one of London’s most prominent families. Will he catch the murderer before he rips even more prostitutes to pieces?
This gruesome film is based on Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s graphic novel that goes by the same name. A few of the facts in this movie are true (like the states in which the corpses were found) but this is by no means a “real life” account of the Ripper’s 1888 massacre. It’s mostly a fictional take on the legendary maniac with a very interesting theory as to who he was. You can tell the filmmakers have a genuine interest in the subject matter and went to great lengths to get as close to the bulls-eye as they were able to. The set design perfectly captures the filth and sleaze that permeated this impoverished area of London. This isn’t the prim and proper London you often see depicted in movies based on turn of the century literature. This is a story filled with dark back alleys and opium dens. You can practically smell the urine in the streets and the sweat of the prostitutes. It’s an ugly time and place, but in the haunting details, there lies beauty as well.
Director: Dario Argento
Stars: Max von Sydow, Stefano Dionisi, Chiara Caselli, Gabriele Lavia
Sleepless opens in 1983, where Detective Ulisse Moretti has been investigating a string of murders. After a young boy’s mother is killed before his eyes, Moretti vows to find the perpetrator. The film then flashes ahead seventeen years, and we learn that the main suspect, a dwarf giallo novelist named Vincenzo de Fabritiis turned up dead and the case known as The Dwarf Murders was closed. However, a string of killings resembling The Dwarf Murders begins to start up again, drawing the interest of both Moretti and Giacomo, the boy whose mother was killed in the first murder spree. As the duo continues to investigate and discover that the killer’s pattern is synchronized with a nursery rhyme, it becomes more and more possible that Fabritiis never died in the first place and has returned to wreak havoc.
Let’s focus on one thing for the moment, the fact that this film contains one of the best (and utterly underrated) soundtrack’s ever, by the notorious Goblin. The use of their music in key scenes is just as important as any line of dialog in this film when it comes to understanding what’s going on, an art form that today is mostly lost. You feel each note, turning it into unadulterated fear and high tension, each stanza bringing you closer to an outcome that you can feel in your bones will be nothing short of petrifying.
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Stars: Haruhiko Katô, Kumiko Asô, Koyuki, Kurume Arisaka
After one of their friends commits suicide, strange things begin happening to a group of young Tokyo residents. One of them sees visions of his dead friend in the shadows on the wall, while another’s computer keeps showing strange, ghostly images. Is their friend trying to contact them from beyond the grave, or is there something much more sinister going on?
During a Kiyoshi Kurosawa film, one sits in anticipation of the horrors lingering just outside the frame, and there’s a profound sense of unease in those moments of stillness and indecision. Existential dread is an easy catchphrase to toss around, and has become the label for many a psychological terror tale dabbling in the fragility of the human condition. Kurosawa’s movies have a genuinely unnerving effect on the viewer because they deal with the kind of loneliness that exists in an overcrowded world. The characters are alone not because they’re isolated shut-ins, but because they interact too closely within a world where all of our neuroses crash into each other. Pulse is his strongest elucidation of this theme, treating the World Wide Web as a literal snare forging sinewy connections between strangers where the ultimate destination is chaos. Imagine anyone who’s grown too close to you for comfort multiplied to apocalyptic degrees and you can see the logic of Kurosawa’s brand of horror.
5. Jeepers Creepers
Director: Victor Salva
Stars: Gina Philips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck, Patricia Belcher
On their way back home during the spring break, Darry and Patricia Jenner witness a mysterious person dumping something down a tunnel. Deciding to discover what was dumped down there, Darry discovers a huge disturbing hideout full of modified bodies. Darry and Patricia set off to get help, unaware that the individual is now aware of who has been down the tunnel. Darry and Patricia soon realizes that their pursuer is not just a mysterious person, but something even more horrifying, who has more in store than they could possibly imagine.
The plotting is a tad generic, and the film feels long at a scant 90 minutes. But the movie is good enough to put a chill into the air. If the reptile brain in you, that ugly little cluster of cerebral cells where all the destructive urges lie, needs a good jolt, Jeepers Creepers offers you just such a treat. Oh, and we’re not going to get into the controversy surround the film’s director…. that’s an article for another day.
4. Session 9
Director: Brad Anderson
Stars: David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas
When a local contractor needs to remove the asbestos from a condemned mental institution, he taps Gordon Fleming, the owner of a hazmat elimination company. Along with his small crew, Fleming pledges to have the job done in a week, a somewhat shocking claim given the enormity of the task; however, he truly needs the money the job will bring since his wife recently had a baby, so he’s willing to make big promises despite the protests of his assistant, Phil. Once inside, the pressure begins to mount on the crew as the sinister history of the building slowly asserts itself.
Really, there’s nothing too terribly original about Session 9—at its heart, it’s a dowdy, grungy take-off of The Shining, and its inevitable climax feels intensely familiar. Regardless, the film felt like a breath of fresh air back in 2001 and still holds up rather well over a decade later. This is a perfect mixture of atmospheric dread and unseen horror – a creepy film that has gone generally unnoticed by horror fans.
3. The Devil’s Backbone
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve
During the final days of the Civil War in Spain, young Carlos is abandoned in a remote children’s orphanage. Once there, he not only has to deal with being the new kid on the block, but also has to hang tough with a restless ghost which inhabits the establishment. Displays of human evil and spiritual chills ensue as everything is eventually tied together.
If you can imagine Victor Erice’s classic Spirit Of The Beehive as made by the young Buñuel for Roger Corman, you might just get the flavor of Guillermo Del Toro’s Spanish civil war ghost story and psychodrama. If Del Toro’s extraordinarily rich and detailed visual style, which can make the peeling of a boiled egg seem worrying, is the reverse of Erice’s, The Devil’s Backbone is the kind of commentary on war, death and destruction that measures itself against that of Beehive. Though the whodunnit takes a fairly predictable course, the Spanish Civil War background adds powerful narrative and symbolic weight, while the striking imagery is simply poetic.
Director: Bill Paxton
Stars: Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, Powers Boothe, Matt O’Leary
Some kids grow up wishing they could have spent more time with their fathers, wishing there were more of a bond between them. But most people would prefer fishing, hunting, or perhaps working on cars with their dad… not murder. For brothers Adam and Fenton Meiks, killing “evil” becomes a shared hobby with their father.
Dad claims to his sons (shown in flashback, since the story is essentially told by an adult Fenton) that he has been told by God to hunt and kill demons whose names are to be provided to him by an angel. He says he can see the sins of whomever he touches, and when he kills a demon, he wears gloves, uses a pipe to knock them unconscious, and ultimately slays them with an ax he names “Otis.” Adam follows his father willingly in the crusade, but Fenton is sickened, leading Dad to conclude that Fenton might be a demon. As told in the story, Dad is eventually dealt with by one of his children, but the other decides to carry on his legacy. Like father, like son it seems.
1. The Others
Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Fionnula Flanagan, Alakina Mann
Grace Stewart lives an isolated life in a big house as she waits for her husband to return from the war. Her two children, Anne and Nicholas have a rare condition in which light causes terrible sores on their skin and could even kill them. Hence they cannot go outside and every room they are in can only be lit by candles. Every door is locked to make sure they cannot be accidentally exposed to light.
Grace is a very strict Roman Catholic and does not believe her children when they tell her the house is haunted. As it turns out, however, it is Grace and her children that are the ghosts. Alone and grief stricken Grace went mad and smothered her children, killing herself when she realized what she had done. Those “haunting” the house are in fact the living who occasionally intrude on the spirit world. Sheesh.
Let us know your favorite horror movie of the year in the comments below.