When most people think about the many influential eras of horror, they usually point to the rise of the modern day slasher in the 1970s, the often absurdity of 1980s horror sequels, and the meta teen horror domination of the 1990s. But, in 2002, horror gave us some true movie gems that were entertaining and unforgettable in multiple ways. Sometimes, things got very weird and other times it was plain baffling. Are these films a part of a defining decade? No. Were all of them even good? Also no. The bad ones are glaringly worse in a year where The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers hit theaters.
Believe it or not, all of these horror movies came out way back in 2002.
28 Days Later
Before The Walking Dead comics made their debut with Rick Grimes waking up to a devolved world full of flesh-eating zombies/walkers, 28 Days Later did the same thing. Except, its protagonist is Jim, who is less cool than Rick Grimes but also must contend with the infected undead who straight up run at you. Big Yikes. 28 Days Later played a major role in pushing the zombie genre to new territory, bringing it back to mainstream glory with its character-driven narrative. And years later, Selena is still the real MVP.
In 2002, The Ring set off a chain of English movies remaking Japanese horror classics with a spin on found footage. Naomi Watts leads the way as the film’s investigative reporter Rachel Keller, who is trying to uncover the truth about a disturbing video that “kills” viewers seven days later. The premise was relatively unique for American horror and freaked out an entire generation with its creepy antagonist and that unforgettable sequence of images. Samara’s image is nearly as popular as the greats like Freddy and Jason, showing up in future pop culture offerings like the Scary Movie franchise and even influencing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. So it is safe to say that The Ring is a pop culture staple.
Ju-On: The Grudge
Everything about Ju-On: The Grudge shook us to the core, from that scary child to the house of horrors the film explores. The film’s nonlinear storytelling weaves together to craft a truly haunting narrative as the viewer pieces together the full disturbing puzzle. Its impact on American horror is evident with its remake The Grudge, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, in 2004.
A cabin in the woods full of young (and probably horny) people is always top-tier fodder for a horror film. This flick takes it up a notch, replacing the classic slasher villain with a flesh eating virus. And once you’re infected, things go off the rails in a very murdery way. Cabin Fever may not get the glory of other horror films in the 2002 (or ever, tbh), but it’s a solid body horror venture.
What happens when a farmer discovers crop circles on his land? In our normal world, they would call in the news and perhaps find a way to capitalize off of this strange fortune. In the horror world, however, it leads to an investigation that unfolds the existence of aliens and other weird happenings. Anxiety and tension reign supreme in Signs.
Cheers to the Resident Evil film that sparked an entire franchise. (And, it’s the best of them all. No debate.) The leap from popular game to seeing Raccoon City in live-action brought a lot of gamers joy. A race to a mysterious underground facility to destroy it with time ticking plus evil undead people. How could it not be a success? The struggle between Alice and the Umbrella Corporation will never get old.
Ahh, there’s nothing like a creepy ghost kid and strange building with supernatural horrors. And it’s even worse when you’re a mom who already has enough drama and strife on her plate before realizing that something odd is going down in your new apartment complex. Yoshimi and Ikuko’s haunting journey of trying to survive in an unthinkable situation is equal parts strange, creepy, and horribly sad.
Angela Bettis is this film’s titular character, a girl with a facial feature and odd personality that leads others to ostracize her. She tries her hand at love a couple of times before heartbreak pushes her to a bloody extreme. And, whew, does the ending make you sweat and squirm in the most uncomfortable way.
When it comes to horror monsters, werewolves are a long-time staple as antagonists. There’s something about a bloodthirsty and really big bipedal wolf trying to devour you on a spooky night. In this film, a group of British soldiers have to encounter a whole pack of beasts and try to stay alive until dawn. Sounds like a frankly terrible time.
Horror movie fans know Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams of Evil Dead fame. (And now he’s a MCU food merchant.) But Campbell takes the lead as Elvis Presley in this very bizarre flick. Imagine if Presley got a little too shook up to the point that he went into a coma, only to wake years later in a nursing home with not-John F. Kennedy, portrayed by Ozzie Davis. Oh, and there’s a killer mummy taking everyone down. Absolutely without sense and probably a movie you’ve never seen before. Good luck finding it because there are only a handful of prints in existence and it was a “see it here or miss it” type of deal. Let the hunt begin.
Queen of the Damned
The late, great Aaliyah’s last acting role is in this Anne Rice-inspired vampire film, which made it to theaters a few months following the singer’s death. In it, she portrays Akasha, the queen of all vampires who wants to make Lestat (played by Stuart Townsend) her king. And of course, there’s a love triangle afoot with a human woman who falls for Lestat. There’s a lot of mixed feelings about this film; however, no one can deny that Aaliyah looks amazing as a vampire.
If the Halloween franchise doesn’t do anything else, it’s gonna invade a decade for no reason. There’s been at least one Halloween film in every decade since the 1970s and the alleged film arrives in 2022. Lordt. Anyway, this one follows the weird H20 reboot that was a continuation of the first two films. You know, when Laurie faked her death and goes into hiding to be found years later. Well, this film shows poor Laurie in a psychiatric facility when evil Mike Myers rises once again. The best part? Busta Rhymes is an Internet reality show director who kicks MM Bruce Lee-style and survives. Very iconic and legendaric behavior, tbh. And one of the best horror movie moments of 2002 by miles.
These films are certainly not in any ranking order for me. But, this is certainly a 2002 horror movie fave of mine. Sure, I’m ready to see Mahershala Ali bring something new to the role in the MCU. But 20 years ago, it was a thrill to see a badass Black action hero slay vampires, specifically Reapers in this sequel. This Dhampir is a boss, a legend, and always comes for blood. Love to see it.
One Hour Photo
The words “Robin Williams” and “horror” seem like complete opposites. But, the beloved comedian showed fans that he can also be downright frightening in this psychological thriller. It’s very much a film of its time (not too much photo developing anymore, I guess) with a wild story about a photo developer who gets a little too involved in a customer’s life. Just when you think this film can’t get any more twisted, it goes into another loop.