Much like the 1970s before it, the decade between 2000-2009 was a particularly fruitful era in the horror genre spawned by a climate of international turmoil and rapid technological advancements in the filmmaking industry. In the post-9/11 era, America was thrust into a paranoid, war-fuelled anxiety and grief, and with the internet fully emerging as a dominant force behind modern culture, those anxieties were shared globally as each and every new horrific worldwide event was broadcast in crystal clear detail onto the computer screens of international households.
The flipside of that technological advancement was the emergence of digital filmmaking, laptop editing software, and rapid-fire communication that allowed for an unprecedented number of unique voices, who might never have had a chance before, to get their films made and distributed.
At the same time, a number of international trends were sweeping the genre, with inventive emergent subgenres popping up the world over. Riding off the late ’90s rise of J-Horror, Asian cinema emerged at the forefront of genre filmmaking with a consistent string of eerie supernatural chillers — a trend that unfortunately led to the string of derivative American remakes that had half the heart and none of the edge of their predecessors. In French-language cinema, the sadistic hyper-violent stylings of the French New Wave swept through the horror community like a brash, invigorating force, while a string of Spanish-language filmmakers turned to the old-fashioned chills of lowkey, character-driven ghost stories.
Stateside, a number of trends also swept through the genre. Slasher films were out, but the impending zombie craze was in its nascent stages. Thanks to the rampant success of Paranormal Activity, the found-footage subgenre became the order of the hour for low-cost thrills, a format that was notoriously grating in the hands of the wrong filmmaker, but offered plenty of opportunities for inventive perspective for others. And of course, the early aughts were the era of “torture porn”, the much-maligned genre that focused on carnage and mutilation over narrative. Home invasion and survival horror also became particularly prominent genres in an era where audiences and filmmakers seemed to grapple with the fact that the scariest part of the human experience is the humans.
As I said before, it was a pretty spectacularly abundant decade for horror and there’s a ridiculous wealth of movies I love that didn’t find a spot on this list, so here’s a rather lengthy list of honorable mentions: Paranormal Activity, Calvaire, The Signal, Stuck, Frontier(s), All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Marebito, Suicide Club, Them, Versus, The Children, Silent Hill, The Cottage, Exte, The Ruins, Ju-On: The Grudge, Bug, Wolf Creek, Teeth, Hostel, 30 Days of Night, Sauna, Slither, Frailty, Severence, and to be honest, probably a few more that I’m forgetting.
And now, without further ado, check out the 40 best horror films of the 2000s, presented in no particular order (but numbered for ease of reading), below.