It was a unique challenge embarking on a list that quantifies some of the most influential horror titles of the past fifteen years. So many of the films coming out are derivative of films like Black Christmas, Halloween, Alien, Night of the Living Dead or An American Werewolf in London. And many of those films were derivative of Psycho or Peeping Tom and so on and so forth. So, it is incredibly difficult to identify films that have inspired contemporary filmmakers and brought a new angle or idea to the table when the table is already quite full and most every angle has been played out. But, there are still filmmakers that have managed to bring a new spin to an old idea or revitalized a faltering sub-genre with a fresh perspective. We owe a debt of gratitude to those filmmakers and the films that have helped to influence the state of the modern horror film.
We know that the word influential gets thrown around haphazardly sometimes. And, we are bound to raise some eyebrows and, naturally, some of you out there will disagree, no matter which selections we spotlight. But, here are our picks for ten of the most influential horror films of the past fifteen years.
The Blair Witch Project
We recognize that The Blair Witch Project owes a certain amount of credit to the 1980 film Cannibal Holocaust as it is largely recognized as the first “found footage” film. But what this tale of college-aged documentary filmmakers on a witch hunt did so well was prove to moviegoers and film studios that you can make a movie with a palm-corder, your MacBook, and the change in your couch. That revelation has had both positive and negative ramifications. The Blair Witch Project paved the way for great “found footage” style films like Paranormal Activity and Trollhunter. On the downside, it paved the way for films like The Amityville Haunting and the Asylum Mockbuster Monster. Blair Witch is also noteworthy for being one of the first films to build buzz by way of the Internet. In the present, it goes without saying that if your film is going to succeed, you must have a prominent web presence, but at the time The Blair Witch Project was released, a viral marketing campaign was a novel concept. The marketing team behind the film deserves a lot of credit for building such hype that people initially thought the film was actually comprised of the documentary film crew’s lost footage and that the legend of the Blair Witch was legit.
Paranormal Activity certainly owes some credit to The Blair Witch Project for some of its inspirations and the implementation of the “found footage” style. But, Paranormal Activity stands firmly on its own two feet. The two main similarities between Paranormal and Blair Witch are the filmmaking style and that the actors in both films used their real names – which helped to further the initial belief that the films were utilizing actual ‘found footage’. Beyond that, Paranormal Activity went on to, on some level, reinvent the haunted house genre as well as renew interest in the ‘found footage’ sub genre. The film’s viral marketing campaign picked up where Blair Witch left off by continuing to further re-define the way studios market films. Paranormal Activity proved that distributors could invest less in to television and radio advertising and rely more on a combination of web advertisement and viral marketing.