“Horror has come a long way” is a phrase we often hear, see, and think for good reason. It’s one of the few, if not the only, film genre that constantly evolves over time. Right now on the brink of 2020, it seems like there is no way to reverse in quality, but only to move even further from where we are today in horror. What we can do is look back and observe the trends, breakthroughs, the highs, and lows throughout the horror genre over the last decades of film and reflect on the changes, whether they be great or remain works in progress.
The year of 2009 ushered in the beginning of major change. A new president took office and broke barriers, a heroic pilot landed a plane on the Hudson River, we searched for viable planets in the Milky Way, the death of the King of Pop makes waves, Microsoft releases Windows 7, and a certain beloved golf pro gets into an ugly, revelatory fender bender. Super low-rise pants, velvet tracksuits, and men’s skinny jeans dressed the scene. Oh, and leggings became a thing (thank god)!
“[…] horror in 2009 saw ambition, thematic revivals, gross experiments, and some wild twists.”
We have, indeed, come a long way from there for the best in most cases and for the worst in others. When we peek over our shoulder and look at how something that’s important to us has changed, we can’t help but ask: Where was I 10 years ago? Where was horror? What was it like? And what about those films just on the edge of our memories? The ones on the cusp of a new decade also, as close to 2010 as we are now to 2020. How does 2009 compare to now? Take a little journey into the past and hold onto your seat because you might be surprised. The following were the 10 Best Horror Films Of 2009…
10. The Hole
Joe Dante (Gremlins) returned to fun-loving terror in 2009 with his underrated suburban adventure, The Hole. This throwback teen horror has a creepy clown puppet, a creepy little girl, and, of course, a creepy basement. It may not reach the same scare level or intention of maturity like the others on this list, but it addresses childhood fears and trauma with 3D heart. Dante’s spooky romp continues to effectively push characters, and viewers, to face their fears and laugh about them later… so long as they cover The Hole in the basement for good.
9. The Human Centipede
Written and directed by Tom Six, The Human Centipede deserves a spot on the best of 2009 list for one very good reason: controversy. Severely unique and painfully creative, this film took the horror world (and average filmgoers) by storm, marrying opposite ends of the taste spectrum in dangerous repulsion and odd engrossment. The Human Centipede is not one of the best body horror films ever made, but it’s up there in terms of being one of the most daring, if not inventive.
At a time when zom-coms hibernated because of the outstanding release of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead in 2004, Ruben Fleischer (Venom) double-tapped the genre for more gore and more laughs in 2009. Zombieland electrified the undead trope with narrative breaks, a fresh take on survival, and some enjoyable comedy. It’s another film that meets horror with heart head-on, but opened the genre to a broader audience, something it returned to do just this past year with a much-anticipated sequel. Modern and accessible, Zombieland ruled the world of the undead back in the day.
7. The Collector
Spawning the start of a franchise that is still very much in demand, The Collector took thrillers to the next level in 2009. Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton’s (Feast) grizzly home invasion placed a different light on “torture porn” content and presented an anti-hero protagonist you can’t help but root for. It may have been considered a sleeper flick a decade ago, but The Collector‘s following has only grown over the years as fans call for more traps, tricks, and good old fashioned gore.
Everyone loves a good twist and Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring), right? The year of 2009 was lucky enough to spin both together in a rather typical film plot that turns out so much more than what is expected. Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows) flips the disturbed child narrative on its head in 2009’s Orphan with a wicked smile and innocent simplicity. It’s a welcome addition to the long list of creepy kid films in horror, but Orphan manages to pull off a shocking third act that only highlights the appeal of the young main attraction’s old school charisma. If you don’t know the twist is coming, you really won’t have much inclination beforehand.
5. House Of The Devil
Arthouse horror has evolved itself into various facets within the horror genre over the last decade. Throwbacks to the classic horror films of the 70’s and 80’s have also blossomed in epic proportions, especially over the last few years. Writer and director Ti West’s (The Innkeepers) 2009 satanic slow burn, House Of The Devil, double-dips as a moody arthouse throwback pioneering a new era of style and substance. Sacrificing plot innovations for more a more aesthetic novelty, House Of The Devil is a steady focus on deeper film factors submerged in a familiar atmosphere we love to revisit.
When it comes to pushing boundaries, many filmmakers have stepped up to the mark, but not all have had the innards to go beyond like director and screenwriter, Lars von Trier (The House That Jack Built). Antichrist brought him out to the horror genre scene and has since stood tall has an emotionally charged, grotesque, vicious filmed dared to be seen. Boasting tremendous performances, imagery worthy of horror’s highest academia class, and gut-wrenching scenes throughout, Antichrist progressed themes of violence and trauma into necessary, disturbing elements for many to follow. It cast chills down the spines of viewers back in 2009 and still holds that same power.
3. The Loved Ones
Bringing audiences to a newer, more nuanced look at the Australian outback, Sean Byrne’s (The Devil’s Candy) The Loved Ones has gained some important horror recognition over time since its release in 2009. Combining coming-of-age grit with cringey, girlish virtue and buckets of blood, The Loved Ones land confidently on edgy teen angst and perseverance. Byrne proudly displays his ability to craft an original horror narrative while driving in unadulterated adoration from fans with sparkling taste and courage. The Loved Ones continues to sport a special crown amongst genre films, especially those revolving around a deranged teenage villainess.
2. Drag Me To Hell
Sam Raimi took a long horror slumber following Army Of Darkness in 1992, but he brought evil back to the human world in 2009 with Drag Me To Hell. Once again proving himself to be a master of guts, quirk, and dark, macabre comedy, Raimi raises the stakes of gross-out body horror and puts a fun, yet bleak contemporary spin on a demonic haunting. The ending twist of Drag Me To Hell is another of the genre’s best and will really leave you screaming out loud as the credits roll. Just be sure to keep your mouth covered.
1. Jennifer’s Body
Reception might have missed the mark back in 2009, but the directing and writing duo of Karen Kusama (The Invitation) and Diablo Cody (Juno) found a way to bring girl power energy to the horror genre in a big way before it was cool with Jennifer’s Body. With unapologetic dialogue, killer casting, and standout themes, Jennifer’s Body ultimately found a home among cult film masses and continues to influence filmmakers to this day. Jennifer’s Body flaunts as not only one of the best films of 2009, but also one of the most important of the last decade.
It’s safe to say that horror in 2009 saw ambition, thematic revivals, gross experiments, and some wild twists. As we turn toward 2020 and celebrate the new, it’s important to keep history grounded in our memory and in future influence. The genre has come a long way and it only has more greatness to cover from here. Cheers to another 10 years of magnificent horror, everyone!
“The genre has come a long way and it only has more greatness to cover from here. Cheers to another 10 years of magnificent horror, everyone!”
Which of these 2009 horror films is your favorite? What are some others that you would add to the Best of 2009 list? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!