Film criticism is meant to help audiences navigate the ever-expanding sea of âânew releases, but there is an undeniable gap between many professional critics and the general public. The horror genre has a particularly difficult history with conflicting opinions, with certain films not being considered “classics” for decades after loyal fans insisted that negative reviews were false. Unfortunately, some films are unlucky enough to be forever buried under a mountain of undeserved bad press, resulting in some underrated gems.
This was unbearably common in the 2000s, when the horror genre was heavily criticized by people who didn’t know that the quality of horror films hadn’t necessarily gone down, but expectations had suddenly changed. Because of this, we decided to compile this list of 6 critically panned horror films from the 2000s that are still worth checking out as it is sometimes worth wading through the bargain box to uncover an underrated gem or two.
While sorting movie reviews isn’t an exact science, we use Rotten Tomatoes’ results to judge whether or not a movie is being improperly maligned. Of course, these aren’t the only good 2000s horror films to hide behind negative reviews, so let us know your own disdained favorites in the comments section below.
Now to the list …
6. Halloween II (2009) – Rotten Tomatoes Score: 21%
Even if you’re not a fan of Rob Zombie’s uncompromisingly somber take on Carpenter’s iconic boogeyman, there’s no denying that the man is a rare example of a horror writer. Always a zombie film feels like in a zombie movie, and even if the end result is controversial, I’d rather watch a visionary director’s unique rendition of a familiar story than a sure replay. That’s why I love his weird approach Halloween II.
Mercilessly beaten up by critics back in 2009, The Shape’s return to Haddonfield understandably disappointed people who were expecting a traditional sequel to Slasher, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. If you can endure the nervous dialogue and brooding tone, here is a sincere investigation into the guilt and nature of the survivors versus caring, and the killings are more cruel than ever. I just wish more critics had appreciated this refreshingly gritty vision of how life could go on after a slasher flick.
5.Riding the Bullet (2004) – Rotten Tomatoes Score: 26%
Of The glow to The mangler, not all Stephen King adaptations are created equal, and that’s in part due to the difficulty of adapting King’s introspective character work to a visual medium. Based on the short story of the same name, Mick Garris’ Ride the ball was originally panned for its lackluster horrors and cheesy setup, but focusing on those elements misses the point of this fun little character piece.
While the film is admittedly a little cheesy, dealing with familiar themes of homecoming and dealing with ghostly memories, it’s also a heartfelt, heartfelt nostalgic look back with some memorable performances. David Arquette is especially fun as the undead George Staub, and it’s hard not to promote Jonathan Jackson as our hitchhiking protagonist. The groovy soundtrack from the flick’s late 60s is just another icing on the cake.
4. Cry Wolf (2005) – Rotten Tomatoes Score: 24%
The days of annoying email chain letters are mostly behind us, but Jeff Wadlow’s 2005 feature Cry wolf remains as a snapshot of a time when urban legends went digital. You follow a group of high school students as they face the deadly consequences of a viral serial killer hoax. Cry wolf can be dated in both the dialogue and plot elements, but it’s also a surprisingly entertaining mystery.
A fake serial killer claiming real-life victims after becoming an online sensation makes for a really fun premise, and the crime thriller aspect keeps things interesting as these privileged students (including Supernatural‘s Jared Padelecki) are starting to turn on each other. The film would likely have made more of an impact than a more traditional R-rated slasher, and the ending doesn’t tie all the loose ends of the story together, however Cry wolf is still a well-crafted thriller with some satisfying twists.
3. Gothika (2003) – rotten tomatoes: 15%
Spooky crime novels are seldom as stylish as Mathieu Kassovitz’s Gothika, an atmospheric thriller about a psychiatrist (Halle Berry) who is involved in a car accident and wakes up to murder. While the film was devastated at the time by most of the critics who accused it of being a pulpy mess, I believe that it is precisely those pulpy elements that make it such a charming experience.
This isn’t Berry at her best (although her role as Dr. Miranda Gray earned her a Teen Choice Award as a Choice Actress), but she’s still a compelling protagonist in a lovingly crafted thriller that isn’t afraid of it, a little getting weird both visuals and storytelling. The supernatural aspect may be a bit too silly for some viewers, but I find the film very entertaining as long as you don’t take it too seriously.
2. Thirteen Ghosts (2002) – Rotten Tomatoes: 16%
In the early to mid-2000s, there was an odd trend toward critically reviled remakes of horror films from the 1950s, however Thirteen ghosts stands out as one of the strangest. With Tony Shalhoub and Matthew Lillard trapped in a glass villa with a collection of murderous phantoms, I believe the insane premise alone is enough to justify the price of admission.
Obviously, most of the critics didn’t see it that way, claiming that the plot and characters were much less interesting than the ghosts’ creative designs and backstories. While I agree that the implied mythology is better than the actual story of the film, this retro romp through a bizarre haunted house is still a fun time if you’re in the mood for a no-frills midnight movie. Just be prepared for lots of cheesy dialogue alongside the impressive ghost makeup.
1. Dead Silence (2007) – Rotten Tomatoes: 21%
It’s hard to imagine these days, but there was a time when James Wan and Leigh Whannell still needed to be cemented as modern masters of horror. In 2007 the duo had a critical bomb in their hands with the supernatural thriller Dead silence, a misunderstood gem with ghostly ventriloquists and creepy dolls.
Whannell admits he regrets the script, and even claims the studio hired a script doctor to revise his original vision, but I’d say so Dead silence is almost as entertaining as Insidious, Whannel and Wan’s more popular collaboration. It might get a little silly towards the end, but it’s still fun, and I think it’s a shame that Mary Shaw has never returned for an even creepier sequel.