• ERIC BUTLER

2003 sees the return of horror icons and some new franchises are born

My son was born at the end of 2002 and my wife and I worked crazy schedules where we might not really see each other but for a few minutes most days. So, I didn't go to a lot of movies from this point on, until the boy was a bit older and our work schedules straightened out. My wife isn't a fan of horror, so on the rare occasion we could go out to a movie together, it was never gonna be a horror movie. A few of these movies I didn't see until years later either on cable or buying the DVD on sale.


Just like the list for 2002, I found it difficult to pick the "showcase" #1 movie. So know any of the first 4 or 5 could have been 1st, but I decided to give it to a movie I'm not sure I would have considered it horror at the time. But it is one of my favorite movies to rewatch so I'm going to throw it out there.


Before James Mangold tackled Logan, he gave us the gem, Identity. The cast is fantastic: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Ray Liotta, Alfred Molina, Clea Duvall, John C. McGinley, Rebecca De Mornay, and John Hawkes to name a few. This is the type of movie and book I enjoy, and I was blown away the first time I saw Identity. You can stream it on Netflix.


Blurb - Stranded at a desolate Nevada motel during a nasty rain storm, ten strangers become acquainted with each other when they realize that they're being killed off one by one.




Next up is Rob Zombie's first entry into the horror genre, House of 1000 Corpses. It could have been #1 just because it is the beginning of an interesting trilogy and the introduction of a pretty big named director in horror. But honestly, there are some issues with this movie, and even Zombie called the film "a calamitous mess". That said, it's a fun slasher/crazy-ass family film in the vein of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.


The film was made in 2000, but the studio held it until 2003 for release because Universal believed it would get an NC-17 rating. The studio was right but after some cuts. Zombie got it an R rating but in the process, that footage was lost. Stream it on tubi, VUDUfree, and AMC+.

Blurb - Two young couples traveling across the backwoods of Texas searching for urban legends of murder end up as prisoners of a bizarre and sadistic backwater family of serial killers.



After 17 scripts were submitted, merged into 1 script, and then discarded for a new script, Freddy Vs Jason was finally made. This would be the last movie Robert Englund played Freddy. They also replaced fan-favorite Kane Hodder and gave the role of Jason to his stunt double from Jason Takes Manhattan.


Funny enough, Rob Zombie was offered to direct this film but turned it down to focus on his House of 1000 Corpses. Even earlier in the process, Peter Jackson was asked to direct. He would also pass. I think this is a fun movie. I also didn't see it until 2021 as a part of the Friday the 13th boxset collection. If you can get a hold of that, I think it's the best way to enjoy all the Jason movies. If not, you can stream it on Netflix or HBOMax.


Blurb - Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees return to terrorize the teenagers of Elm Street. Only this time, they're out to get each other, too.



I'm not a big fan of vampire movies, but when you make the main one Kate Beckinsale and you stick her in skin-tight leather, I'll make an exception. Then when you see the premise is the vampires are fighting a war with werewolves ... well, director Len Wiseman really couldn't screw up Underworld.


The movie is hard-hitting, fast-paced, and full of bloody action. Its success gave us quite a few action movies in the early 2000s that copied its style. You can stream it on Peacock.


Blurb - Selene, a vampire warrior, is entrenched in a conflict between vampires and werewolves, while falling in love with Michael, a human who is sought by werewolves for unknown reasons.



Jason & Freddy weren't the only horror icons to return to the big screen in 2003 as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is reborn. Primarily a music video director, Marcus Nispel gives us a new, chaotic look at Leatherface and his family of cannibals. I like this version. I saw it in the theater with 2 close friends, and we enjoyed all the craziness laid out for us. You can check it out on Netflix.


Blurb - After picking up a traumatized young hitchhiker, five friends find themselves stalked and hunted by a deformed chainsaw-wielding loon and his family of equally psychopathic killers.



Rocking the House of 1000 Corpses & Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibes is Wrong Turn. It also does a good job of channeling early 80s slasher films. I'm a sucker for a brunette and this one gives us Eliza Dushka & Emmanuelle Chriqui plus the always entertaining Jeremy Sisto. You have to rent/buy if you want to stream this one, but it has been on HULU & Netflix in the past.


Blurb - Chris and a group of five friends are left stranded deep in the middle of the woods after their cars collide. As they venture deeper into the woods, they face an uncertain and bloodcurdling fate.



Final Destination 2 follows the blueprint set up by the original film and delivers a satisfying if unoriginal movie experience. You can check it out on tubi.


Blurb - Kimberly has a premonition of an accident killing multiple people including her and her friends. She blocks the cars behind her on the ramp and as a police trooper arrives, the accident happens. Death is stalking this group of survivors.



So Victor Salva wrote the first Jeepers Creepers in a way to dissuade the studio from making a sequel but producer Francis Ford Coppola found a loophole. The creature feeds every 23 years for 23 days, and Coppola suggested simply making the sequel within the same 23 days as the original. So, that's how we got Jeepers Creepers 2. It's a fun sequel, not near as good as the original but with enough difference to add the creature's mythology. It's a rent/buy to watch.


Blurb - Set a few days after the original, a championship basketball team's bus is attacked by The Creeper, the winged, flesh-eating terror, on the last day of his 23-day feeding frenzy.



Crispin Glover does a pretty good job as the creepy Willard in this remake of the 70s horror movie. It was originally going for an R rating but the studio had the director tone down the violence and language to get the PG-13 rating in hopes it would draw more people to see it ... it did not. It's a rent/buy to stream video.


Blurb - A young man with an unusual connection to rats uses them at his own sociopathic will.



So, I've included Dreamcatcher as #10 but I'm not sure it's a very good movie. All the pieces are there, but in the end, I feel like this is a failure of epic proportions. You have a solid director, Lawrence Kasdan(The Big Chill, French Kiss, Wyatt Earp) using a Stephen King story, and the cast is stacked with talent: Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Timothy Olyphant, Donnie Wahlberg, Damian Lewis, Jason Lee, & Tom Sizemore. Something is still missing. I probably need to see it again, but it took 3-4 tries to finish it the first time. You'll have to pay to stream this one as well, and I would suggest waiting until it's on a service.


Blurb - Friends on a camping trip discover that the town they're vacationing in is being plagued in an unusual fashion by parasitic aliens from outer space.


I could have gone with Scary Movie 3 as #10 but I decided it was just more of the same. If you liked the first 2 then for sure watch the 3rd one. It has some moments.


Also, Cabin Fever & 28 Days Later were listed in the 2002 post but they weren't released in the states until 2003.

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