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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

21st Century Terrors, Part 1: 2000

Welcome to The Vault of Horror's year-by-year breakdown of the decade that was--a look back at horror in the aughts, if you will.

The first decade of the new century is basically over, and so it's time to assess what that ten-year stretch meant for the genre we adore. Time to begin at the beginning, the year that brought us into a new millennium, the year that had so many idiots thinking the world was going to end (until they bumped that back another 12 years). We start with the year 2000.

Interestingly, a study of 2000 in horror reveals that much of the horror drought of the 1990s, as well as other trends of that decade, were still continuing. It is not a particularly impressive year for horror, certainly not for those fans who are spoiled by everything that's been out there for the past few years.

In addition to the relative dearth of quality horror films that some would call a residual effect of the preceding decade, we also find that some of the franchises that defined the 1990s were still gasping their last. For example, Scream had its final sequel to date, Scream 3, which miraculously featured Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette all somehow surviving again. There would also be the second Urban Legends film (Final Cut), as well as the disastrous Blair Witch sequel, Book of Shadows, which effectively buried the legacy of what may have been the 1990s most important horror flick.

And yet a brand new horror franchise would be kicked off right here at the start of the decade. One which still continues today, and may be second only to Saw as the decade's most popular. Final Destination hinges on a rather simple premise: A group of characters cheat death thanks to a premonition glimpsed by one of them. And one by one, death comes calling for them all in gruesome ways. While no classic by any stretch of the imagination, it's guilty pleasure viewing at its finest, and hasn't seem to have lost any steam, as the fourth film in the series opened at number one at the box office just last month.

Classic monsters from horror's past proved that they could still survive even the change of a century--despite the fact that for the most part, we may have wished they hadn't. Of course, I'm thinking mainly here about the forgettable Dracula 2000, whose only merit was seeing Star Trek: Voyager's Seven of Nine fall victim to a vampire; as well as the banal Kevin Bacon clunker Hollow Man, yet another riff on the old Invisible Man concept.

Yet the classic horror theme struck paydirt at last with Shadow of the Vampire, a witty and clever film all about the 1922 making of F.W. Murnau's German masterpiece, Nosferatu. The film posits the question: What if Max Schreck really were a vampire? Willem Dafoe's performance in the role earned him an Oscar nomination, and John Malkovich is suitably masterful as Murnau.

Although it may have been a somewhat weak year, 2000 gave us a handful of unforgettable gems in addition to Shadow of the Vampire. For instance, the character of Patrick Bateman became a titanic figure on the horror landscape thanks to the instant cult classic that was Mary Harron's adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis' sinister indictment of yuppy culture, American Psycho.

Quite possibly the finest horror film of the year, American Psycho proved that the novel, once thought unfilmable thanks to its heinous imagery, could actually be transferred to the screen without losing its power. And along the way, former child star Christian Bale became legitimately established as an actor to contend with, playing the lead role with inspired lunacy.

We also got Robert Zemeckis' only straight-up horror film to date, the underrated ghost flick What Lies Beneath--starring Michelle Pfeifer and Harrison Ford in a rare turn as the heavy. And the Canadians gave us Ginger Snaps, the ingeniously fresh take on the werewolf mythos that approaches the material from a post-modern, feminist point of view, tieing lycanthrope in with puberty.

And finally, 2000 was the year that George Romero attempted to break back on to the horror scene with Bruiser, one of the most unfortunate misfires of recent years. The horror/thriller failed to connect with audiences, and Romero would have to wait a few more years before his old undead pals would return him once again to the spotlight.

Although a somewhat inauspicious start to the decade, 2000 would give us a few glimmers of the good stuff that was to come. The genre was shaking off the doldrums of the 1990s, and it wouldn't be long before things would be getting much, much better.

Also from 2000:

  • Pitch Black
  • The Cell
  • The Gift
  • Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV
  • Ju-on 2
  • The Little Vampire


Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I thought Bruiser had loads of potential but it crumbled under its own lofty ambitions.

I thought Peter Stormare as the over the top eurotrash boss was the main highlight.

DM said...

Great post! I'm really looking forward to looking back over the past decade.

I gotta say, I wasn't overly impressed with American Psycho. But I'm going to give it another chance with Project: Do Over. I thought Pitch Black was highly underrated, and didn't get enough attention.

Reading your summary of Final Destination made me think of something: If it was a premonition that saved them all the first time round, shouldn't that mean they weren't supposed to die? I'm just sayin'.

B-Sol said...

My dear, you're making the tragic mistake of trying to impose logic and reason on Final Destination...

Charles said...

Oh 2000, pretty weak. There were some good moments but mostly just failed potential. The Cell had some great settings and looked pretty but fell short.

Pitch Black launched Vin, sort of. Not too bad of a flick. Have to agree American Psycho is phenomenal and still holds up well. Shadow of the Vampire was a great movie and had some great depth.

Can't wait for 2001 which turned out to be a solid year for horror.

DM said...

My bad. I don't know what I was thinking...or rather, why I was thinking at all.

Doruk said...

Ah, and here I was thinking we did not get a decent werewolf movie recently. I had obviously forgotten about the Fitzgerald sisters.

Greg said...

Oh, I like this series. I was a big fan of the Final Destination movie, the first one at least. HATED the recent one that came out. I recall enjoying the heck out of Hollow Man when it came out also.

What Lies Beneath I also believe is an underrated film, especially a nice PG-13 horror film. And I recall the Gift being a fantastic film.

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