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Thursday, December 31, 2009

21st Century Terrors, Part 4: 2003

A Happy New Year to one and all--and what better way to commemorate the end of the Aughts than with another installment of 21st Century Terrors, The Vault's look back at the last decade in horror? This time we look back on a year that saw the genre in full bloom, both in the U.S. and abroad.

If for nothing else, 2003 will be remembered as the year that a grunge rocker who made his name on the alternative scene of the early 1990s would step into the horror world full-time. Rob Zombie had long incorporated horror motifs in his music and his well-crafted stage persona, but this time he was throwing his tattered cowboy hat into the directorial arena, taking aim at making his very own horror film.

The result would be House of 1,000 Corpses, one of the defining horror movies of the 2000s. A synthesis of the '70s exploitation horror that had mesmerized Zombie in his youth, the movie was a quirky, surreal blend of dark black comedy and the most grisly, brutal violence. House of 1,000 Corpses gave us the diabolical Firefly clan, and most memorable of all, one of the decade's greatest horror icons--Captain Spaulding, played to sinister, uproarious perfection by B-movie veteran Sid Haig.

Zombie's love of exploitation horror meant appearances by Karen Black and Bill Moseley--and who could forget the infamous Dr. Satan? Despite its derivative nature, in some ways Zombie's House of 1,000 Corpses was one of those kinds of movies that epitomizes an era in the genre.

In a way, this was also the year that gave birth to another 2000s horror mainstay, Saw. Love it or hate it, no one can deny the importance of this film, its magnitude and the impact it had on horror this decade. It was this year that director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell produced a short film--nine minutes to be exact--that would reveal their groundbreaking concept to the world. The short would become the seed for the decade's most dominant horror franchise. The following year, Wan and Whannell would literally change the face of horror by turning it into a feature film.

Meanwhile, around the world, the genre was truly thriving. France, soon to be a major player on the terror scene, gave us Alexandre Aja's High Tension, considered by many to be among the finest fright flicks of the decade. Japan brought forth Ju-On 2, the sequel to the original version of The Grudge; South Korea gave us 4 Inyong Shiktak, which would later be remade in the U.S. as the dreadful The Uninvited. Also in Japan, the brilliant Takashi Miike created Chakushin Ari, which would also later be remade in America as the awful One Missed Call.

From another corner of the English-speaking world, namely Australia, came Undead--the year's big contribution to the recently exploded zombie rebirth. And although it was a somewhat lackluster film overall, you have to give the Spierig brothers an E for Effort. They brought a ton of enthusiasm to the zombie subgenre, and generated a lot of buzz in the process, keeping people interested in those nasty flesh-eating ghouls.

But speaking of remaking horror movies, that whole trend would continue in 2003. Michael Bay's production company Platinum Dunes, now infamous for pumping out cynical remake after cynical remake, would make some waves with one of their earliest efforts, a redo of the classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre. More slick and stylish than the early '70s grindhouse favorite, the new TCM also provided more backstory to the movie's characters--some would say to the story's general detriment. The pattern was officially set for so many groan-inducing remakes to come...

Other past genre icons returned in different ways. We'll always remember 2003 as the year that Freddy finally met Jason in the most highly anticipated horror smackdown since Frankenstein battled the Wolf Man. It had been a long time coming, but this fun monster mash-up finally came to fruition, returning Krueger and Voorhees to the screen for the first time in years (especially Freddy, who hadn't reared his scorched head in nearly a decade). If not taken too seriously, this far-from-scary flick turned out to be one hell of a fun ride.

Two of the 2000s primary franchises, Final Destination and Jeepers Creepers, cranked out their first sequels--some would say they were superior to the originals, particularly in the case of FD. And another franchise would take off--namely Wrong Turn, an effective entry in the "cannibalistic inbred lunatic" horror subgenre. Some innovative kills and the lovely Eliza Dushku made this one a cut above, and it quickly became one of the decade's cult faves.

Horror was indeed in full bloody bloom in 2003, taking a darker, gorier turn than ever. By now, fans had a feel for what they could expect from the decade that would see a return to the more visceral, intense horror of yore, while still taking it in innovative new directions.

Also from 2003:

  • Beyond Re-Animator
  • Gothika
  • House of the Dead
  • The Toolbox Murders
  • Willard

Part 1: 2000
Part 2: 2001
Part 3: 2002

* * * * * * * * * *

On a side note, I just want to take the time out to belatedly thank Marc Patterson, editor of the superb Brutal as Hell. A month ago, BAH kicked off a new series called "Horror Bloggers We Love", and yours truly was the very first to be profiled. Thanks again, Marc! As for the rest of you, pay BAH a visit--it's chock-full of excellent horror goodness from the likes of Marc and talented horror savant/grammar nazi Britt Hayes...

And while I have your attention, please be so kind as to head over to Wired.com's 2009 Sexiest Geek Contest and cast your vote for loyal Vault dweller and Fandomania.com writer Paige MacGregor. That is all.


Seth Canes said...

Ju-On is from Japan not South Korea.

B-Sol said...

Thanks Seth, good catch!

Greg said...

Man, House of 1000 Corpses gets a lot of hate from horror fans. I recall seeing it and digging it for its weirdness. I hadn't seen much films like this at the time, I wasn't used to exploitation films at all. But this film also gave us that fantastic sequel, Devil's Rejects. Talk about a follow-up!

Absolutely loved the first Saw movie. I went into the theaters with no knowledge whatsoever of this movie. I hadn't heard of it until I went to see it with a large group of friends and I was shocked at how amazing I found this movie. Sadly, the continuing sequels sorta tarnished the franchise, but by itself the original was top notch.

And High Tension came out this year!? I thought it was later. Man, that was also a very well made film. Predictable, but fun. I have to say I really enjoyed the heck out of the Texas Chainsaw remake. I know it's suppose to be blasphemy, but I dug the hell out of it. That may be the only Bay produced horror film I give props too. Ugh. I need to shower now.

But Wrong Turn just may be my favorite of this bunch. That movie was fun as all living hell.

Anonymous said...

The Uninvited WAS a remake of a Korean movie, but it was of "Jangwha Hongryeon" (A Tale of Two Sisters). I'm not sure what that other movie you mentioned is but I'll definitely check it out.

Anonymous said...

Wait, nevermind. I'm confusing it with 2009's The Uninvited. Whoops. Forgot what year I was reading about.

Dammit, people really need to learn ORIGINALITY when it comes to titles! Imdb came up with, like, 14 movies or something.

Anyway, apolgies.

B-Sol said...

No harm Legro, thanks for adding to the discussion!

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