As we truck along with our year-by-year breakdown, we present to you the 15 Best Horror Films Of 2005. This is the year that gave us a Paris Hilton impalement, one of the best found footage movies of all time, and the closest Rob Zombie has come to a legitimate masterpiece.
Let’s get into it…
Director: Jeremy Haft
Stars: Jenna Dewan Tatum, Katie Stuart, Chad Faust, Melissa Marie Elias
Tamara Riley is a shy and nerdy but intelligent high school girl who also happens to be into witchcraft. Soon enough she gets the attention of a couple jocks when she posts a report of enhance-performing drug-use amongst the team in the school paper. This naturally leads them to come up with an insane scheme to publicly humiliate her, which inadvertently leads to her death. Though, it isn’t long before Tamara returns as a sexy seductress with a thirst for revenge.
Sure, there isn’t anything particularly incomparable here, but this film adequately achieves its modest ambitions. As relatively stylish on the surface as it is resoundingly familiar beneath, Tamara should prove more than serviceable. If you were ever interested in seeing what Carrie White would look like as a sexy vixen, this is the movie for you.
14. House Of Wax
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Stars: Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Paris Hilton, Jared Padalecki
House of Wax, a reinvisioning of the 1953 Vincent Price B-movie, borrows the general idea behind that film — a madman who turns his victims into wax figures for his ghastly museum — to concoct an affectionate throwback to the slasher genre of the ’80s and ’90s, albeit one more stylish, and eerier than most. Indeed, music video and commercial director Jaume Collet-Serra, making a splashy feature debut, brought to vividly ingenious life a premise that, in lesser hands, could have just been a schlocky waste of everyone’s time. He makes expert and chilling use out of his macabre wax surroundings to bless the breathlessly taut proceedings with added layers of atmosphere and foreboding.
Looking back on some of the 2005 reviews for the film, the consensus seemed to be that it was too long, the first 40 or so minutes were too slow, the characters were dumb, the acting was poor, and the film was too vile/sadistic/violent. Most of the horror films coming out at the time were far more violent than House Of Wax (Hostel would be released just eight months later, which we’ll get to in a moment), so those criticisms don’t make a lot of sense. We could just be desensitized, though. What say you?
13. The Amityville Horror
Director: Andrew Douglas
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Jimmy Bennett, Chloë Grace Moretz
So, after you’ve inspected the house of your dreams and the real estate agent ominously explains that this spooky old fixer-upper’s bargain price is on account of, um, the entire family that had died there not so long ago, what are you going to do?
1. Run screaming out of the house?
2. Politely enquire for more information?
3. Blithely progress to the moving-in montage because ‘Houses Don’t Kill People, People Do’?
Despite the pop culture and genre cachet it wields, the original film adaptation of The Amityville Horror was never one of horror’s untouchables. The opportunity for at least modernization, if not outright improvement, loomed large. Even in a mid-00s landscape over-crowded with remakes, redoing The Amityville Horror made sense. The 2005 remake stays true to the main plot of the original film (and the 1977 novel which inspired it). In each, likeable middle-classers George and Kathy Lutz move their family into a decidedly upper class house. Once in the home – which was the site of a gruesome mass murder, among other pieces of colorful history – the family is preyed upon by a malevolent entity or entities.
Director: Jaume Balagueró
Stars: Calista Flockhart, Richard Roxburgh, Elena Anaya, Colin McFarlane
Amy Nicholls arrives in the old Mercy Falls Children’s Hospital to work as a night nurse. The hospital is in a deactivation process, with the patients being transferred to Saint James Hospital; however, due to a train crash, the closing process has been postponed.
Amy is introduced to several children with lung cases, and she feels a sort of fascination for the terminal girl Maggie. Maggie likes to play with some letters blocks to talk with the “mechanical girl” called Charlotte that would live upstairs, in an abandoned floor. Amy asks about Charlotte to her coworkers and they explain that she is an urban legend and that Maggie is making up her existence. But soon enough they find that the children can not be transferred to Saint James since there is indeed a malevolent being that wants to keep them near. She told you so!
Director: John Gulager
Stars: Navi Rawat, Krista Allen, Balthazar Getty, Josh Zuckerman
Feast is a sepia-toned, dirty bloodbath packed with an unbelievable amount of bad taste. The cinematography is so frantically chaotic that one could feel like the constant and bloody violence isn’t the only thing that will keep you on edge. This movie reeks of vintage, gritty horror and western blood oozed from its veins. Horrible freeze-frame character introductions only add to the charm of this guiltiest of all pleasures. It seemed like no one was safe, nothing was sacred and anything could happen at any moment.
We all know the history of the first Feast flick (yes, the film spawned multiple sequels): It is a result of the amateur filmmaking documentary series and contest Project Greenlight’s third season. The winning team was composed of writers Dunstan and Melton and director John Gulager. The executive producers were Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Moore, Wes Craven and the Maloof family. The story follows patrons locked inside a bar who are forced to fight monsters. It hits hard and fast, letting up only to inject some black humor and amp up the tension again before coming back for more.
10. Saw II
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Stars: Tobin Bell, Donnie Wahlberg, Beverley Mitchell, Franky G
Saw II has the distinct feeling of a franchise still finding its footing, not yet settled into a formulaic rut. The sequel went bigger and bloodier, trading terrifying teases for explicit gore and upping the stakes from a two-person game to a group descent into hell when eight criminals wake up in an abandoned house that’s been transformed into a giant death trap. Poisoned and on the hunt for the antidotes hidden around the house, Jigsaw’s targets turn on each other, often inflicting more damage than the traps themselves.
At its core, Saw II creates the structure of the next installments. It offers two story-lines – one with the police and what we like to call the “torture story-line.” At first, they may seem, for the most part, separate stories but they always come together before the end of the film. II‘s story lines start out pretty forgettable. However, as the film progresses, certain twists make both stories much better. They add stakes, emotions, and some much-needed character development. Both stories benefit greatly from each other, and as a result, they become much more compelling than initially thought.
9. Land Of The Dead
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento
Until 2005’s Land Of The Dead, George A. Romero hadn’t made a zombie film in twenty years. Mind you, this is the filmmaker who originated zombie horror back in 1968 with Night Of The Living Dead, mastered its socio-allegorical relevancy in 1978 with Dawn Of The Dead, and took a harsh bite out of the government in 1985’s Day Of The Dead. His return came gilded with newfound faith that the auteur most respected in the genre could reestablish himself as the Master of the Living Dead. In short, he didn’t disappoint.
In the film, now that zombies have taken over the world, the living have built a walled-in city to keep the dead out. But all’s not well where it’s most safe, as a revolution plans to overthrow the city leadership, and the zombies are turning into more advanced creatures. This is just good, gory fun, even if its satiric jabs at societal mores come across as more heavy-handed than before.
Director: Francis Lawrence
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Djimon Hounsou, Shia LaBeouf
Constantine, based on DC Comics’ Hellblazer comic book, follows John Constantine as a cynic with the ability to perceive and communicate with half-angels and half-demons in their true form. He seeks salvation from eternal damnation in Hell for a suicide attempt in his youth. Constantine exorcises demons back to Hell to earn favor with Heaven but has become weary over time. With terminal lung cancer, he helps a troubled police detective learn the truth about her twin sister’s death while simultaneously unraveling a much larger and darker plot.
Constantine combines elements of comic book fantasy with horror to create an enjoyable brew – sort of a film noir version of The Exorcist, crossbred with the stylization of The Matrix. Days are seared by burning sunlight, nights swallow the world and bring out the demons, and Hell is an Earth burning in the nuclear fires of Armageddon.
7. The Skeleton Key
Director: Iain Softley
Stars: Kate Hudson, Peter Sarsgaard, Joy Bryant, John Hurt
Fed up with the hospital practice of treating deceased patients like cargo, 25-year-old nurse Caroline answers an ad for a hospice nurse at a mansion in the furthest depths of the New Orleans bayou. There, she finds aged homeowner Violet taking care of her stroke-victim husband Ben. Violet is instantly doubtful of Jersey-born Caroline, whom she says “wouldn’t understand the house.” Caroline finds herself in a community infused with believers of the American folk magic tradition known as hoodoo (not to be confused with voodoo). We soon learn that Caroline really shouldn’t have taken this job.
The Skeleton Key is notable for portraying witches outside of a religious context and avoids using the religion of voodoo as the source of their black magic. This film is interesting in how powerfully it depicts the evil cunning of witches. Their spells are diabolical and strong, almost unbreakable. You’ll never guess the full extent of their dedication to evil until the story unveils it for you, once it becomes clear that these witches were too powerful to ever lose, and Caroline was never going to defeat them.
6. The Exorcism Of Emily Rose
Director: Scott Derrickson
Stars: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Jennifer Carpenter
When a young girl named Emily Rose dies, everyone puts blame on the exorcism which was performed on her by Father Moore prior to her death. The priest is arrested on suspicion of murder. The trial begins with lawyer Erin Bruner representing Moore, but it is not going to be easy, as no one wants to believe what Father Moore says is true.
There is much to recommend about the film, particularly in the way it melds together the courtroom thriller and the horror film to form a new approach to questioning issues of faith. This is one exorcism movie whose trial scene is more compelling than the demonic ceremony. And fortunately (or not, depending on how big a Law & Order fan you are), the movie dwells less on the possession itself than on the subsequent trial.
5. Wolf Creek
Director: Greg McLean
Stars: Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, Nathan Phillips
Three young travelers (an Aussie guy and two Brit girls) are making their way across the remote West-Australian outback, and run into car trouble. They’re assisted by the likeable-but-odd Mick, who tows them back to his camp, and works on their vehicle while they rest. One of the girls awakes to find herself bound and gagged, and things are about to get a lot worse…
Given the slow-crawling pace of its first half and absurdist hell of its second, this grue-marinated film invites comparisons to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The opening and closing title cards are major downers, but Wolf Creek is a beautiful piece of horror that doesn’t come with the noxious social and sexual baggage that typically dooms its ilk—like the technically proficient High Tension and Marcus Nispel’s version of TCM. The film’s context is existential. Characters charge into the desert, so blinded by the heat and dirt that they come to resemble moving Rorschach ink blots. Like the film’s opening shot, these images are expressionistic in nature; they express a gripping vision of characters struggling and resisting to be made out by a terror at once terrestrial and alien.
Director: Eli Roth
Stars: Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson, Barbara Nedeljakova
No doubt taking advantage of the success of the Saw series, Eli Roth’s Hostel clawed its way into theaters and almost single handedly revolutionized the “torture porn” sub-genre. The gore and violence in this movie is so over-the-top and gruesome that it’s physically tough to get through many of the scenes, and that’s exactly what director Eli Roth seemed to be aiming for. The story itself deals with a group of youngsters who get captured and tortured by a mysterious, and psychotic, businessman in an Eastern European hostel.
Hostel is a film thats always been a bit smarter than its given credit for. If you can get past the blood, guts, and eyeball goo, this is a film that reflects America’s fear of the rest of the world, and comments on how rampant consumer culture has become. Hostel is a film where you can buy anything, and everything (and everyone) is for sale to the highest bidder. We see this early on with the main characters sex filled journey through Europe, then realize its morbid implications when they become just another product for a willing buyer. Hostel isn’t easy viewing, but its a horror film with something to say.
3. Noroi: The Curse
Director: Kôji Shiraishi
Stars: Jin Muraki, Rio Kanno, Tomono Kuga, Marika Matsumoto
It wasn’t long before Blair Witch’s shaky-cam realism was thoroughly aped by countless imitators until such attempts at documenting “reality” became more aesthetic than accidental. A claustrophobic, confined setting became a quick rationalization for a tight budget and limited production value. Characters would choose to document the horror rather than flee from it, as if they knew we would be waiting for their footage to be found. Despite each film’s valiant effort to prove how “real” they were, they unintentionally highlighted their own artifice. Noroi: The Curse never falls into such trapping.
Purporting to be last documentary of paranormal investigator Masafumi Kobayashi, the movie’s real genius is in its construction. It begins with several, seemingly unrelated plot threads, each one kicked off by some mysterious, creepy event. Kobayashi records a bizarre EVP while investigating a reclusive woman’s house, a young girl displays psychic powers on a television program, an actress goes into convulsions while investigating a haunted temple. The tension in the movie is maintained beautifully, rising at a steady pace throughout the entire film as bizarre, seemingly supernatural events begin happening to and around the characters. The real horror in the film comes from seeing how these events are all related, a realization the viewers will reach long before the characters, though the plot threads do eventually converge. A sense of rising horror pervades this entire movie, and by the time the climax rolls around the tension has built to such a screeching pitch it’s almost unbearable.
2. The Descent
Director: Neil Marshall
Stars: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder
A year after the tragic death of her husband and daughter in a car accident, the still grieving Sarah goes on a recuperative spelunking adventure with her group of outdoorsy girlfriends. While they’re exploring a particularly claustrophobic passage in an unexplored cave system, rockfall blocks their only way out. As if being trapped miles beneath the surface of the earth with little hope of rescue wasn’t terrifying enough, it soon transpires that the group aren’t alone when they find the caves are inhabited by subterranean humanoid creatures with a taste for human flesh.
The Descent plays on the same beats as Ridley Scott’s Alien, using the darkness as a suspense jackhammer, making the tension increasingly palpable especially once the true threats are revealed. Here is a movie so precise and cautious with its material that every moment, every suggestion or action, becomes an experience that involves us to alarming lengths.
1. The Devil’s Rejects
Director: Rob Zombie
Stars: Sid Haig, Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, William Forsythe
Rob Zombie’s follow-up to his directorial debut House Of 1,000 Corpses in 2003, the far more serious The Devil’s Rejects, knocked fools on their behinds two years later. Continuing the murderous exploits of Corpses villains Captain Spaulding, Otis, and Baby, The Devil’s Rejects forgets all about the first movie’s dark comedy.
The look and feel of this film is a total nightmare, and some of the most effective American mood-making in years. We got senseless murder, necrophilia, torture, gun-rape and an old dirty clown having even dirtier sex. And what gives Zombie the nerve, the sheer audacity, to keep moviegoers interested in material that ought to be sneered at with contempt? Rarely has our need to dismiss an idea been replaced so thoroughly with a morbid desire to watch on in fascination.
Let us know your favorite horror movie of the year in the comments below.