I'm a film critic and I love horror movies. According to the studios, I do not exist. This year they have decided that horror movies (among other types) don't need reviews, and they have opened some dozen of them without press screenings, the latest batch being Pulse, Snakes on a Plane and The Wicker Man. Now, it may be that these movies are terrible. Or perhaps they just require a certain sensibility to understand them. In any case, they deserve a shot, and to show the studios that we critics are capable of getting horror movies, I worked on a list of the seven best from the past seven years. Surprisingly, my master list came out to more than 30 titles, which I painfully pared down to this final seven (I even had to leave out Saw and Ravenous!). Significantly, each of these films was made available to the press prior to their openings.
1. Pulse (2001, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
This, the scariest movie I've seen in years, gave me the creeping tingles. Like Lynch or Bunuel, Kurosawa has the power to tap right into our most nightmarish fears, but does it subtly, normally, like something lurking just outside the periphery of our everyday existence. Released in the U.S. in 2005.
2. Land of the Dead (2005, George A. Romero)
Romero adds another chapter to his legendary, brilliantly masterful zombie series, evoking all manner of classical imagery to build a harrowing portrait of the way we live today. And that's really scary.
3. Audition (2001, Takashi Miike)
Three words: watch the bag.
4. The Blair Witch Project (1999, Eduardo Sanchez, Daniel Myrick)
Pushing through the hype, the money, the buildup and the backlash, one can find at the rocky center a really good, quite imaginative and gripping film done with an eye on the unseen and the unknown.
5. The Descent (2006, Neil Marshall)
The second-scariest movie I've seen in years features incredible use of total darkness as well as a surprising look at the darkness of the soul.
6. Session 9 (2001, Brad Anderson)
This underrated, barely noticed film is perhaps the most intelligent haunted house (or rather haunted hospital) movie I've ever seen.
7. The Devil's Backbone (2001, Guillermo Del Toro)
This creepy flick, improbably set in an adobe school smack in the middle of the bright Spanish desert, may be Del Toro's finest hour.