As we truck along with our year-by-year breakdown, we present to you the 15 Best Horror Films Of 2002. This is the year that gave us the return of Elvira, one of Dario Argento’s last enjoyable films, and several of the greatest ghost movies of all time. Let’s get this started…
15. My Little Eye (2002)
Director: Marc Evans
Stars: Sean Cw Johnson, Kris Lemche, Stephen O’Reilly, Laura Regan
Five young people apply to live in an isolated house together for six months whilst their every move is filmed by numerous cameras. Each has their reason for wanting to be there – fame, money, adventure. The prize – $1 million. The rules – if one person leaves, everyone loses. Bedlam ensues…
Cross your favorite MTV reality show with your favorite slasher movie and you get My Little Eye, a film that proves that it doesn’t take all kinds of bills to make an effective and stylish horror movie. All you need is a solid premise and a bad-ass execution and that’s exactly what we got here. The setting of the film is nothing less than perfect; the slightly dilapidated mansion produces an almost supernatural undertone in a film that’s otherwise firmly planted in reality. The surrounding forest elicits an Evil Dead vibe that compounds the sensations of entrapment and isolation. There’s a lot to like about this movie but, honestly, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the poor production and uneven pacing will probably keep even the most enthusiastic aficionados from fully investing…. which is a shame.
14. Hellraiser: Hellseeker
Director: Rick Bota
Stars: Dean Winters, Ashley Laurence, Doug Bradley, Rachel Hayward
The Hellraiser series as we know it took a new turn for the better and the worst with the fifth installment of the series, Inferno, and the sixth, Hellseeker, follows in those footsteps. On the upside, the sequel aims for a more mature, if not overdone hallucinogenic/film noir type vibe, but on the mucho downside, it doesn’t have much to do with the Hellraiser series as we fundamental knew it.
Hellseeker sees the return of Kirsty Cotton years after we last saw her. She’s now married to Trevor , but, there’s no happily after ever for Kirsty, as, tragically, the film begins with the two getting into a car accident, which leaves her missing and Trevor suffering from amnesia. As Trevor attempts to put the pieces together and figure out exactly what’s happened it starts to become obvious that there are stranger things at work than head trauma. If you got down with Hellraiser: Inferno, you’ll most likely get a few hooks in the throat from this one. The flick is well shot, eerie and will mind-bang your every orifice. But if you’re going in here expecting Kirsty, Pinhead and the Cenobites to be relevant factors in this hallucinatory ball game; get ready for a letdown…
13. Eight Legged Freaks
Director: Ellory Elkayem
Stars: David Arquette, Kari Wuhrer, Scott Terra, Scarlett Johansson
The residents of a rural mining town discover that an unfortunate chemical spill has caused hundreds of little spiders to mutate overnight to the size of SUVs. It’s then up to mining engineer Chris McCormack and Sheriff Sam Parker to mobilize an eclectic group of townspeople, including the Sheriff’s young son, Mike, her daughter, Ashley, and paranoid radio announcer Harlan, into battle against the bloodthirsty eight-legged beasts.
Simultaneously modeled as a take-off, parody, and tribute to the cheesy giant bug movies that hit movie screens in the 1950s (1954’s Them, 1958’s Earth vs. the Spider, etc.), Eight Legged Freaks is a cursorily enjoyable sci-fi/horror/comedy that gets its fun simply from seeing oversized spiders wreak havoc. It’s a good old-fashioned drive-in B-movie that makes no pretense about being anything else. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s just goofy.
12. Bubba Ho-Tep
Director: Don Coscarelli
Stars: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Heidi Marnhout
Based on the Bram Stoker Award nominee short story by cult author Joe R. Lansdale, Bubba Ho-tep tells the “true” story of what really did become of Elvis Presley. We find Elvis as an elderly resident in an East Texas rest home, who switched identities with an Elvis impersonator years before his “death”, then missed his chance to switch back. Elvis teams up with Jack , a fellow nursing home resident who thinks that he is actually President John F. Kennedy, and the two valiant old codgers sally forth to battle an evil Egyptian entity who has chosen their long-term care facility as his happy hunting grounds. It’s wonderful…
Follow this: Bubba Ho-Tep is about a pair of awkward friends in a quiet suburban neighborhood who discover a monster preying on their neighbors. Of course, none of the authority figures around them will believe their wild stories so they have no recourse but to face the creature alone with what little resources and strength they have, given their age. This could easily be a horror movie centered around children instead of old people, when you stop to think about it, and in a way that kind of made the film all the more amusing. Old age is so much like childhood except instead of the potential to earn freedom and privileges with the promise of a bright future ahead, it’s all about losing freedoms and privileges you once had with nothing but the promise of death to end your misery and humiliation.
Director: David Twohy
Stars: Bruce Greenwood, David Crow, Matthew Davis, Olivia Williams
In the dark silence of the sea during World War II, the submarine U.S.S. Tiger Shark prowls on what should be routine rescue mission. But for the shell-shocked crew, trapped together in the sub’s narrow corridors and constricted spaces, this is about to become a journey into the sensory delusions, mental deceptions and runaway fear that lurk just below the surface of the ocean and deep inside the human psyche.
With interior sets modeled on the World War II-era U.S. Navy submarine USS Silversides, and using exterior shots on the actual vessel, Below effectively creates a claustrophobic atmosphere, using an incredible sound design to sustain the sense that there is never much room behind the camera’s lens. Truly, the film excels as a wartime chiller, making the most of its setting. One scene in particular stands out as “splashers” sink down from an attacking vessel, exploding charges all around them, and one that has yet to explode can be heard bouncing along the submarine’s hull. In that confined space, every sound is amplified and becomes uncanny, from items scraping against the exterior to whale songs drifting dreamlike into their cramped little world.
10. Resident Evil
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Stars: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy
A bad day at the offices (or labs, rather) of The Hive, the top-secret underground genetic research headquarters of the über-conglomerate, the Umbrella Corporation, turns into Judgment Day for the rest of us as the deadly experimental T-virus is unleashed, turning the hapless employees into bloodthirsty zombies.
If you had to choose a movie based on a video game made in the last 20 years that was actually any good, you’d probably have to go all the way back to the original Resident Evil. As a film on its own (disregarding for the moment the increasingly vapid and annoying sequels it spawned) it delivers all that fans of the original game series could have asked for. Resident Evil’s premise might now be the ingredients for any number of zombie/action/sci-fi/thriller films these days, but back in 2002, the market hadn’t yet become saturated by the genre to the point of Doom or Silent Hill. As an effective, pulsating, and stylish opener to the franchise, Resident Evil stands tall as one of the few genuinely entertaining entries into video-game-movie filmmaking.
Director: Ahn Byeong-ki
Stars: Ji-won Ha, Yu-mi Kim, Woo-jae Choi, Ji-yeon Choi
Ji-won is an investigative reporter who is receiving unsettling calls on her cellular phone. Her decision to stay with friends for a while leads to the friends’ child Yeong-ju being traumatized after the girl accidentally answers Ji-won’s phone. Eventually, it is discovered that the preceding owners of that cell phone’s number have died. A missing teenager, a secret from the past, and some very disturbing behavior from Yeong-ju all play a part in the final unraveling of the plot.
In its time, Korean director Ahn Byeong-ki’s Pon (aka Phone) did for portable cell phones what The Ring did for mysterious video cassettes and televisions. And it did it quite well considering that The Phone was the first Korean motion picture to be fully funded by the American Hollywood movie machine, more specifically, Disney (through their Buena Vista production company). But wait, hold on, we know what you’re thinking… “Disney? And horror movies? What’s up with that?! That kind of combination can’t be good, can it?!”. But surprisingly, it is, even if The Phone is rated an eyebrow raising PG. None the less, The Phone delivers on its promise to give the viewer an eerie supernatural spectacle and it tries its damned best to go its own way with style and story.
8. The Mothman Prophecies
Director: Mark Pellington
Stars: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, David Eigenberg, Debra Messing
Two years after his wife scrawled pictures of a moth-like creature while dying of a brain tumour, reporter John Klein finds himself in a small American town, unable to explain how he got there. He investigates a rash of Mothman sightings and becomes convinced that a disaster is about to strike.
Rarely do filmmakers capture this mood of absolute mystery with the verve and cinematic inventiveness of The Mothman Prophecies. With careful handling of the freakiness of the subject matter, the film is thoroughly intriguing, and with its inventive direction and eerie atmosphere, it’s also a highly watchable mystery-drama. The stylish bleakness keeps you off-balance with unreliable narration and an unforgettable conclusion. The more it accelerates rant-and-rave paranoia, the greater it gets – a campfire-ready chiller whose subconscious embers glow long after it’s over.
Director: Lucky McKee
Stars: Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris, Nichole Hiltz
To say that May is a creepy flick is putting it much too mildly. Everyone involved in the film seems to have some sort of mental unbalance. May suffers a troubled childhood because of her lazy eye (among other things) which causes the other kids to shun her. May’s mother doesn’t help much when she gives May a doll that she made as a child basically telling May that if she can’t find friends she just needs to make one. That’s going to lead to a lot more trouble when May grows up. From start to finish, May is a film that’s going to make your skin crawl and leave you feeling very uncomfortable.
Basically, this is just an awesome movie. It is funny, twisted, sad, gory, and disturbing all within the same 90-plus minutes. The film takes a cracked view of 1 Corinthians 13:11’s idea of leaving childish things behind – blending the brooding of Frankenstein with the bleak, acrid tone of Alkaline Trio lyrics and the most frightening sing-song horror-film score since Suspiria.
6. Dog Soldiers
Director: Neil Marshall
Stars: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby, Liam Cunningham
Neil Marshall’s directorial debut follows a squad of soldiers on a training mission in Scotland, where they soon find that their war games are no game at all: they’re being hunted by a viscous pack of intelligent werewolves. The first half of the film plays like an extended chase, as the soldiers try to outrun their pursuers and get to shelter, which they eventually find in the form of an isolated, apparently abandoned cabin. The rest of the film settles into the mold of Night Of The Living Dead, with the soldiers barricading the house against the threat outside, while inside the tensions established between the protagonist and antagonist boil to the surface.
With a meager budget (and no CGI), Marshall put together one of the best werewolf movies of all time. The story is great, the acting is top notch, the dialogue makes sense and the editing (also done by Marshall) makes for a very well put together endeavor. The lycans are both costume and animatronics and they look great. The gore is well placed with soldiers slipping around on entrails. Regrettably, during its initial release, Dog Soldiers was not picked up for a theatrical run in the states so it went to the “straight to DVD” pile. Don’t let that fool you though.
5. Blade II
Director: Lucky McKee
Stars: Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris, Nichole Hiltz
For sheer demonic energy, there’s not much else around to touch this follow-up by Guillermo del Toro to the original Blade, as we once again follow the darkly charismatic “Daywalker” from the Marvel series: half man, half vampire, all antihero. It is a delirious Gothic-tech vampire martial arts movie, and the fight sequences that Del Toro unleashes are outrageously exciting, the punch-up equivalent of crack cocaine – horribly gripping and horribly addictive.
A rare mutation has occurred within the vampire community. The Reaper. A vampire so consumed with an insatiable bloodlust that they prey on vampires as well as humans, transforming victims who are unlucky enough to survive into Reapers themselves. Now their quickly expanding population threatens the existence of vampires, and soon there won’t be enough humans in the world to satisfy their bloodlust. Blade, Whistler, and an armory expert named Scud are curiously summoned by the Shadow Council. The council reluctantly admits that they are in a dire situation and they require Blade’s assistance. Blade then tenuously enters into an alliance with The Bloodpack, an elite team of vampires trained in all modes of combat to defeat the Reaper threat. Blade’s team and the Bloodpack are the only line of defense which can prevent the Reaper population from wiping out the vampire and human populations.
4. Cabin Fever
Director: Eli Roth
Stars: Jordan Ladd, Rider Strong, James DeBello, Cerina Vincent
The story for Eli Roth’s directorial debut is simple: A group of five college graduates rent a cabin in the woods and begin to fall victim to a horrifying flesh-eating virus, which attracts the unwanted attention of the homicidal locals.
2002 was post-Scream, yet pre-Cabin In The Woods, when self-awareness was hip, but had not yet evolved into full-on genre parody. Cabin Fever reflects equal tweaks of spoof, homage, retro style, and wink-wink cleverness for a tone that is gruesome above all else, but relieved with enough quick pinpricks of humor to make for a mood of not-so-serious horror entertainment. Eli Roth is having fun playing on and off of scary movie clichés, and the audience is always in on the joke. Essentially, what it loses by trying to be a comedy, it makes up by being a showcase for the grotesque. Indeed, there are scenes that will make even the most seasoned horror fan squirm – you know the bathtub scene we‘re referring to.
3. Dark Water
Director: Hideo Nakata
Stars: Hitomi Kuroki, Rio Kanno, Mirei Oguchi, Fumiyo Kohinata
Recently divorced Matsubabra moves into a creepy high-rise building with her 6-year old daughter. Once there, not only does she have to continue dealing with an ongoing stressful custody battle with her chain-smoking bastard of an ex-husband, but she also has to cope with the disturbing poltergeists caused by the mysterious spirit of a little girl who lives in her new home. Sadako…is that you? Did you step into the wrong movie?
Director Hideo Nakata had tried to stay away from horror and ghosts, fearing that he would get typecast after his huge hit with 1998’s Ring. He was lured back to make the sequel Ring 2, but also made Chaos and Sleeping Bride. With Dark Water, he shows that Ring was no fluke, and easily conjures up scares with a minimum of effort. Though, Dark Water is a distant cry from just being all out supernatural. The movie is layered with the struggle of a mother and her child. Dark Water essentially only has two focused characters. They are Yoshimi and her daughter Ikuko; and their communication is brilliant. Kuroki’s insight of a loving mother is clear-cut. When Yoshimi is late to pick up Ikuko from school, we get flashback sequences of Yoshimi dealing with the same thing when she was a child. It’s apparent from the foundation of the movie that this character is unbalanced, and is perhaps on the brink of a collapse. Her being late to pick Ikuko makes Yoshimi feel like a bad mother, and this sets off a whirlwind of anxious emotions towards the focus of the film. This is a sensational effort from everyone involved…
2. The Ring
Director: Gore Verbinski
Stars: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox, Amber Tamblyn
Gore Verbinski’s The Ring was a gift and curse. First, the curse: Thanks to the success of Verbinski’s first-class remake of Hideo Nakata’s 1998 classic Ringu, Hollywood caught the J-horror bug and started cranking out one uninspired remake after another. The gift, though, outweighs the curse in this case. The story, of course, follows a journalist who must investigate a mysterious videotape which seems to cause the death of anyone in a week of viewing it.
Oh, and let’s talk for a moment about the real star of this movie. Thanks to this movie you still can’t watch static on television without being reminded of a girl crawling out of it. You’re still tempted to prank call your friends in a scratchy voice saying, “Seven days.” And you still put your hair in front of your face and SnapChat your friends a photo. Why? Because Samara, the creepiest little girl ever committed to celluloid. To this day, all you have to do to spook someone is imitate the skinny raven-haired girl who looks like she hadn’t gotten a dose of Vitamin D in months.
1. 28 Days Later…
Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Christopher Eccleston
Four weeks after a mysterious, incurable virus spreads throughout the UK, a handful of survivors try to find sanctuary. In a nutshell, Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later is a powerful piece of post-apocalyptic fiction with a heartwarming message, bloody violence and bleak visuals, and hauntingly beautiful sequences of a world returned to “normality.”
28 Days Later is split into three distinct acts, the first act being our main character’s journey through London. Much of the iconography of the film’s legacy is seen here, famous roads and landmarks empty, isolation to a giant degree that is quite impressive for how difficult it must have been to achieve this in one of the biggest cities in the world. The middle part of the film is the group’s journey to the “promised land.” Then there is the amazing third act that makes you question just who the real monsters are; the infected or the humans.
Let us know your favorite horror movie of the year in the comments below.