Thrill Ride: The Greatest Horror Movies Of The Last 15 Years

October 30, 2014  |  
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From ghosts and goblins to terror that is much more based in reality, horror movies of the late 90s and 00s have sent shivers down our spines. And with Halloween just around the corner, we thought there was no better time than now to roll out our picks for some of the most cringe-worthy, terrifying, bone-chilling movies of the past 15 years.

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Final Destination

The movie that spawned nearly half a dozen sequels finds a home on our list of the best horror movies of the past 15 years. “Final Destination” tells the story of a group of teenagers who desperately try to escape death’s design after nearly losing their lives in a plane crash. While it’s easy to dismiss “Final Destination” as just another teen horror movie, the fact that the film treats death as a character and builds suspense around even the most seemingly innocuous tasks makes this one a standout. And don’t even get us started on the elaborately clever meet-your-maker death scenes.

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The Conjuring

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga teamed up in one of the most surprisingly successful horror movies of the last several years. “The Conjuring,” which told the story of legendary paranormal investigatiors Ed and Lorraine Warren as they work with the Perron family who is struggling with an array of other-wordly disturbances. Sure there have been more than a fair share of demons in the house/possession movies, but “The Conjuring” stands out for its subtle creepiness and its markedly talented cast.

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Insidious

Patrick Wilson is steadily becoming the king of horror. With turns in both “The Conjuring,” as well as “Insidious,” Wilson has brought an air of legitimacy to a slew of recent horror flicks. “Insidious” stands out in the crowd not only for its thrills and chills, but the uniqueness of its story. Chronicling two parents’ battle with supernatural entities that have set their sights on their son, “Insidious” is not overwrought with blood and guts. Instead it’s the unexpected surprises around every corner and the film’s startling final minutes that really make this a must-see.

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The Strangers

“The Strangers” is precisely what a horror movie should be. Simple, yet incredibly effective, “The Strangers” finds its power in its ability to build such a degree of suspense that viewers are on the edge of their seats, waiting for a reason: Why have three killers set their sights on this couple? Why have they made it their mission to torment two innocent people? And with one line, a horrifying chill was sent up the spines of millions of movie-watchers: “Because you were home.” Truly scary.

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The Exorcism of Emily Rose

You can almost be guaranteed that there will be at least one exorcism or possession-based horror movie each year. But we have to admit that we were solidly creeped out and truly impressed by “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” Not only did the film attract a strong cast (led by Laura Linney), but it really focused on crafting a story that chronicled the slow deterioration of the movies’ namesake character and the way that her possession impacted those around her (even those she never had the opportunity to meet). Linney’s portrayal of agnostic lawyer Erin Bruner only heightens the frights in this movie. If Emily Rose’s exorcism can get to a self-proclaimed cynic like Bruner it must be some heavy ish.

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The Cabin in the Woods

“The Cabin in the Woods” might be one of the most inventive horror movies of all time. Sure “Scream” paved the way for meta interpretations of horror movies, but “The Cabin in the Woods” took it to a whole new level. Poking fun at stereotypical horror motifs, the film gave viewers a peek behind the curtain of a world in which nightmares are made into reality. And when we say nightmares … we mean nightmares. And as if that wasn’t enough to get you watching, maybe a shirtless Jesse Williams is. Ooh, la la!

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28 Days Later

The zombie film that completely flipped the script, “28 Days Later” marked one of the first instances where the undead weren’t simply roaming about, grunting and dragging their limbs. These zombies, the infected, were supercharged with Usain Bolt-like speed and an insatiable appetite. And “28 Days Later” does an incredible job of not only showcasing this ferocious new breed of zombie, but of painting a startlingly vivid portrait of what a post-apocalyptic world could look like.

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House of a Thousand Corpses

Rob Zombie took horror by the cojones with 2003’s “House of a Thousand Corpses.” While it’s safe to say that Zombie’s directorial debut wasn’t exactly an award winner, there is no denying that “House of a Thousand Corpses” is filled to the brim with thrills and chills, particularly in the form of one of the scariest clowns we’ve ever seen. This one is certainly not for the faint of heart.

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The Descent

We’ve kept most of this list to American-made films, but when it comes to “The Descent” we definitely had to make an exception. This British import surprised us all with just how creep, claustrophobic and unnerving it was. The story centers around a group of women who become trapped in an unmapped cave system after going spelunking. But as if that wasn’t bad enough, the group is slowly picked off by flesh-eating humanoids … and, in some cases, by each other. Truly a girls trip gone very, very wrong.

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Audition

We’re not sure there’s enough words to describe just how incredibly unhinged this work is. “Audition,” a Japanese import, takes the idea of obsession and runs with it to degrees that few films have attempted. Looking for a good scare? Might we suggest you check out the trailer below.

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The Ring

Horror met technology head-on in 2002’s “The Ring.” The frightening tale of a video tape that sentences any one who watches it to certain death, creeped us out more than we thought possible and made us cringe every time we saw static on our television screens. There are more than a few spine-tingling, blood-curdling moments in the film, but one stands out more than anything: The slow crawl out of the television screen of super creepy Samara as she readies to claim another victim.

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Hostel

We couldn’t rattle off the scariest movies of the last 15 years without including at least one flick from the king of torture porn himself, Eli Roth. “Hostel” made all college students, especially a generation of horny twenty-something dudes, question whether their European adventure really needed to happen. The idea that people could pay a fee to kill another human being was both violently depraved and yet, somehow, seemingly in the realm of possibility. And it wasn’t just the idea that was depraved. Roth left no gory stone unturned in his over-the-top death scenes.

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Saw

The film that started off one of the great horror franchises of all time, “Saw” makes the cut for two very distinct reasons: One, its stellar acting combined with its strangely poignant (for a horror film) message about the fragility of life bowled us over. Two, the sheer horror of the movie’s final few scenes in which Cary Elwes character does the unthinkable … and shows precisely why the movie is called “Saw” had us terrified.

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The Mist

We went back and forth on whether we wanted to include “The Mist” in our countdown of the best horror movies of the last 15 years. But it wasn’t because we didn’t think it was scary. Precisely the opposite. “The Mist” offers one of the most unsettling portraits of human behavior that we’ve ever seen in a horror film. And it’s not because the characters are essentially bad people … they aren’t. They are normal, everyday folks who are driven to their limits by circumstances beyond their control. Sure the circumstance in this case happens to be spider-y monsters and a mysterious fog, but the social commentary remains the same. The anguish felt by main character David Drayton (played by Thomas Jane) at the film’s dramatic and traumatic conclusion is so palatable viewers nearly choke on it.

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Sinister

Creepy kids do it every time. And such was the case in “Sinister,” a surprisingly effective and strange horror movie starring the always adorable Ethan Hawke. Hawke plays a true crime author who discovers a terrifying collection of home movies in his attic that unleash unholy hell on his family. The movie does a tremendous job in building suspense and with the addition of grainy, super 8 home video footage of some pretty intense death scene, “Sinister” had us on the edges of our seat until the very last seconds.

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