The top 10 horror films of the last 20 years

26 October 2018
Looking for a good scream this Halloween? Our very own horror expert, Film Studies PhD graduate and lecturer Dr Olivia Oliver-Hopkins, reveals her top 10 horror films from the last 20 years.

“The main thing you need to produce a great horror film is an excellent cast and script,” says Olivia Oliver-Hopkins from the Department of Art History and Film Studies. “Forget the special effects, they’re going to look dated in five years’ time!”

But why do we like horror so much? “We’re drawn to spooky things because we like exploring danger without any real physical threat,” Olivia says. “It’s like being on a roller coaster ride – a ‘test of our mettle’ to see how much we can take.”

While ‘scary movies’ have been popular with audiences as far back as the 1880s, Olivia says the past two decades have seen some of the best, most inventive and, of course, scariest films the genre has to offer. Here are her top modern horror film picks: 

1. Best Aussie Horror: Dying Breed (2008)

A surprisingly little-known Tassie-set film that interweaves the ongoing hunt for the Tasmanian tiger with the true story of Alexander Pearce, the cannibal convict, starring Leigh Whannell of Saw fame and Nathan Phillips from Wolf Creek.

2. Best Social Commentary: Get Out (2017)

If you haven’t yet seen Jordan Peele’s very witty, satirical take on African-American life, Halloween is the perfect time to do so. The garden party scenes are particularly cringeworthy, which is one of the reasons that it’s such an important film.

3. Best Horror-Comedy: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)

Two hillbillies are trying their hardest to make friends with the group of city slickers holidaying nearby. Unfortunately, their actions keep getting misinterpreted. A very funny Canadian film which will particularly appeal to those who watch a lot of the ‘backwoods’ horror subgenre.

A spooky ghost

"Horror movies are like roller coaster – how much can you take?" say Dr Olivia Oliver Hopkins.

4. Best Foreign Film: [REC] (2007)

The film follows a team of firemen on their nightly run when they get a call to an apartment building where an old woman is behaving disturbingly. It was remade in America as Quarantine (2008), but I personally think that the Spanish original is superior.

5. Most Underrated Film: Sinister (2012)

Brilliant performances by Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio really elevate this criminally undervalued film about society’s true crime obsession, technology and demonic possession.

6. Best Found Footage Film: Paranormal Activity (2007)

Believe the hype – this one made millions for a reason! A young couple believe their new home is haunted and set up a video camera while they are asleep to capture proof.

7. Best Remake: the ring (2002)

Although most American remakes of foreign films deservedly have a reputation for not being as good as the originals, Naomi Watts and director Gore Verbinski nail this one, putting their own spin on the classic ‘chain mail comes true’ horror story.

8. Best Sequel: The Haunting in Connecticut: Ghosts of Georgia (2013)

Ignore the bizarre title – this is not only much better than the abysmal original (to which it has no apparent connection) but is a well-structured little Southern ghost story in its own right. Look out for Cicely Tyson in a brief but effective cameo.

9. Scariest: It Follows (2014)

What you find scary is a very personal and subjective thing, but this is the first film that I’ve seen in years, in which I was so scared that I had to make up an excuse to escape for a while – I told my partner I needed to go to the bathroom and hightailed it out of the theatre! The victim’s point-of-view camerawork is particularly unsettling.

10. My Personal Favourite: The Skeleton Key (2005)

Great script, great cast (including Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands and John Hurt) and great atmosphere, this is an engaging as well as spooky film that will keep you guessing right up until the twist ending.

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