Saturday, September 5, 2009

21st Century Terrors: A Look Back at Horror in the Aughts

What’s up people—B-Sol of The Vault of Horror here, spreading the love with a guest post for WritRightWrote. When the delightful Ms. ALK asked if I might want to contribute to her growing blog, I thought, what better opportunity to roll out a new project I’ve been mulling around in my head?

With autumn of 2009 upon us, the first decade of the 21st century is at an end. And as far as I’m concerned, that means it’s time to take a stroll down memory lane and reassess the films and the trends that made the horror genre what it was in the past ten years. That’s right, folks: I feel a retrospective coming on.

Over at the Vault, I’ll soon be breaking down the decade year-by-year over the course of ten posts. But for right now, let’s introduce the whole thing right here at WRW, with a general overview of the decade of zombies, torture, remake fever, and so much more…


From an American standpoint, the past decade was a time of almost unprecedented exposure to horror cinema from around the world. Most likely this was due in large part to the power of the internet. But whatever the cause, it allowed us to enjoy movies from around the world easier and more commonly than ever before.

Most notably, this could be seen with the so-called J-horror and K-horror of Japan and South Korea. Some of the films were even made at the tail end of the 1990s, such as Ringu, but came to prominence in the U.S as the new decade was born.

In addition to the Asian fare, Europe played a large part in flavoring our horror palate, specifically the French, who carved out a whole sub-genre of gore flicks for themselves thanks to films like Brother of the Wolf and Inside. Spain also threw its hat into the ring with movies such as The Orphanage and [REC], which for my money may have been the single most terrifying film of the decade. Then of course, there was Sweden's sublimely beautiful contribution, Let the Right One In, which many have called the finest vampire film ever made.


Looking back at the ‘00s, one of the amazing things that really stand out is how the zombie movie made such a huge comeback. A staple of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s in particular, the subgenre had been out of fashion until video games like Resident Evil and House of the Dead brought it back into the forefront.

It was Paul W.S. Anderson’s cinematic Resident Evil adaptation that kicked off the movie craze in 2002. Before long, we had zombie comedies like Shaun of the Dead, Undead and Fido; remakes of old classics like Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead; and even the old master himself, George A. Romero, stepping back onto the scene with two new entries in his series, Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead.

And who could forget Danny Boyle’s superb duo of 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, which helped popularize the concept of fast-moving zombies, and are among the most well-made horror films of all time?


Without question, the decade’s most controversial genre development has been the growth of a subgenre that has divided the fan base pretty dramatically. There are some who love and relish it, while others condemn it for either being too intense or too lazy. However you feel about it, there’s no doubt that torture porn certainly made its impact on the decade.

Early on in the aughts, movies like Captivity and Feardotcom basically set this new movement in motion. But it was specifically two monumental franchises, Saw and Hostel, which really brought it into its own. The Saw films, which gave us the figure of Jigsaw and took some inspiration from last decade’s Se7en, ventured more and more into the torture porn aesthetic with each installment. Eli Roth’s Hostel, however, was right there from the very beginning, taking the genre to places it had never been before, making even some die-hard gorehounds question if things had finally gone too far.

Nevertheless, there must be an audience for it, because it has been quite successful, and continues to be highly influential to this day. Interestingly enough, this has led to a dramatic rise in gore as compared to the 1990s, and this may in fact be the bloodiest era of horror’s history thus far.


In the opinion of many, the saddest development of the decade has been the dramatic increase in the number of remakes that studios are relying on to bump up their bottom lines. It seems that for many, it is far easier and safer to bank on a proven commodity or “brand”, if you will, than to take some chances and roll the dice on original material.

For this reason, we have seen an unprecedented number of genre classics redone left and right over the past few years, including the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Black Christmas, Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Amityville Horror, etc.

However, there have been a few bright lights amongst this depressing trend, remakes such as the aforementioned Hills Have Eyes, Last House on the Left, and Dawn of the Dead, which brought something new to the table and at least made for enjoyable viewing despite the creative short-cut they represented.

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All in all, this has truly been a decade like no other in the history of our beloved horror genre. I’ve tried to encapsulate as much as I could into this little introduction, but obviously this is just a skimming of the surface. For a more in-depth, year-by-year treatment of the decade that was, check The Vault of Horror for future installments (yes, Andrea, I’m a shameless blog whore). Thanks again to the mistress of WRW for this opportunity to officially kick-off the Vault’s newest project.

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