This far into the horror season you’ve hopefully dipped your severed toes into several horror films ‐ perhaps you marathoned Jason Voorhees thanks to the new Blu-ray collection, or caught up with Freddy Kreuger on cable. Regardless, as long as the calendar says October, we believe it’s monster movie time, and stretching that into November is encouraged. With the ever lengthening calendar of horror appreciation, the viewing schedule can become repetitive. If you just go by what’s broadcast on television or popping up on Netflix, you’re likely faced with the same old choices. Classics, of course, but still ‐ sometimes we want something a little bit different.
Thus I come to you with 20 horror films that are, in my opinion, underrated, and generally lesser seen and shown. Now, I’m not trying to play a knowledge game and astound you with titles you’ve never heard of. These aren’t lost titles or hard to find films. This isn’t a list of 20 horror flicks you can only find on Japanese import Laser Discs. Many of those movies you will know, perhaps you’ve even seen them all, in which case ‐ good on you. You have excellent tastes. If you haven’t seen some of these flicks, or have even actively avoided them, perhaps it’s time to take a chance and dive in. At the very least, I’m throwing my support behind these less respected horror flicks.
In no particular order, let me present to you my list of 20 underrated horror flicks.
Dead End (2003)
This independent film from the early 2000’s is a recent favorite of mine. It’s not packed full of my favorite things in horror, like boobs and blood, but it’s a well made, tense, scary flick that doesn’t fall back on gore and tricks, but rather, just oozes atmosphere and a wonderful Halloween vibe. Starring genre familiars Ray Wise and Lin Shaye, this Twilight Zone esque film makes all the right turns and effectively tells a very classic scary story.
Probably outright overlooked simply for being directed by Uwe Boll, Seed is, in many ways, a fucked up movie. It is by no means perfect, in fact, it comes nowhere close, but I dare say it is a good movie. There are moments that feel like a bad movie, like most of the times we’re away from our killer and dealing with people trying to act, but in terms of a movie that messes with you and makes you uncomfortable, Seed is undoubtedly a winner. The film features real life animal cruelty footage (provided by PETA) which is disturbing, and some of the fictional kills later on are slow, drawn out, and painful to watch. If movies like Hostel are your thing, this flick is definitely worth a try.
Demon Knight (1995)
Presented by Tales from the Crypt, this foray into feature films is a resounding success for horror fans, a film that throws it all at you. With plenty of great gore, a mesmerizing performance by Billy Zane, and plenty of unexpected twists, turns, and deaths, Demon Knight is pretty much all you can ask for in a horror film. There is a ton of blood and mayhem, inventive and surprising deaths, and wonderful practical effects.
Bad Moon (1996)
Is Bad Moon the greatest werewolf film of all time? I don’t think so, but I think it’s in the top 5, easily. I can’t comprehend why a creature that is so inherently badass and awesome is so often featured in terrible movies, but this isn’t one of them. Bad Moon, from writer/director Eric Red, is one of my favorite werewolf flicks, and only partly because I’m a sucker for films where a dog is a leading character. But for a great looking werewolf and a non-standard tale of lycanthropes, this is your best bet on a full moon.
Dead and Breakfast (2004)
This horror comedy hits all the right notes for me, with a great cast (Ever Carradine, David Carradine, Jeremy Sisto, Erik Palladino, Diedrich Bader), great songs, and plenty of violence. Wait ‐ great songs? Yup! Thanks to actor/singer Zach Selwyn, who narrates the film through song, this is a catchy flick that stays with you. Watch the film, then download the soundtrack. Seriously, it’s that good.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
If I didn’t lose you at Seed, here is where I lose you ‐ the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. In my mind, this film is absolutely, without a doubt, underrated. Virtually everyone seems to hate this movie, and I think it’s just because they mistakenly hold the Elm Street franchise in too high of regard. Hey, there are some good movies in that franchise, and some utterly shitty ones. The first flick is great, and was great, but some of the effects don’t hold up all that well for me. Like when Freddy appears in the alley with really long arms? It just doesn’t look that good anymore. Still a good movie. Anyway, my opinion on remaking franchises is simply ‐ if the franchise lost its way, go ahead. And all of the franchises have lost their way. The remake of Elm Street is dark, grim, and violent. It ditches the sarcastic Krueger and replaces him with a vile, mean, evil bastard, and that’s great. Plus it has Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, and Katie Cassidy in the cast. If you wrote this one off just because it’s a remake, you’re kind of an asshole.
Halloween III (1982)
Halloween III has traditionally been seen as a misstep towards a great idea. I love the idea of making a franchise that is a brand new, unrelated Halloween related horror flick every year. However, when your second installment is a direct sequel to the first, you can’t jump ship in the third. This movie has, over time, slowly won fans back. It has nothing to do with Michael Myers, but once you get past that and watch the movie on it’s own merit, you’ll find it’s a creepy and enjoyable Halloween flick. In fact, maybe we should stop calling it Halloween and just call it Season of the Witch.
The most recent film on the list, this killer clown flick slipped by a lot of people as it went straight to DVD and Redbox. I gave it a shot and was more than pleasantly surprised at this oddball slasher. It racks up a decent body count, with good gore, and has an eager silliness to it that works completely.
Unarguably the best (and almost only) thing to come out of HBO’s Project Greenlight, Feast is a damn fine, fun, gross out horror flick, overflowing with blood, maggots, humor, and incredible violence. It’s seemingly easy to forget this film, but with great practical effects, a twisted sense of humor, and plenty of gross-out gags, it’s a gem in my book.
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
This little beauty is definitely one of my favorite lesser talked-about slasher films. I absolutely love it, and I think you will too. It’s sort of like Friday the 13th if there was no sex because everyone was actually a 12 year old. Yup, this slasher takes place at a more traditional sleepaway camp, where it’s almost entirely children ‐ not that that saves their lives, as an impressive body count is racked up. No one is safe, not even the six year olds. The film is followed by three sequels, all of which are worth watching.
Satan’s Little Helper (2004)
I get a lot of flak for liking this film, but fuck you, this is my list and I’m in love with Katheryn Winnick, who stars, and has gone on to star in History’s Vikings. Make no mistake, this is definitely a low budget film, but I find it charming. There are great performances from the lovely Winnick and the child star Alexander Brickel. The film takes place mostly in the day time, but it completely works as the naive Dougie helps “Satan” murder people in his neighborhood all the while thinking it’s just part of his game. Not for everyone, I guess, but I freaking dig it.
From some of the guys behind the ground-breaking The Blair Witch Project, Altered is a traditional film that follows a group of friends who are out to exact revenge on the alien mother fuckers that ruined their lives. With strong violence, a decent amount of blood, and a creepy as hell atmosphere, this overlooked sci-fi horror flick should be on your watch list.
Dead Silence (2007)
James Wan and his puppets. Man, what else is there to say? Oh, it stars Ryan Kwanten, who goes on to be the best part of HBO’s True Blood. But seriously, Dead Silence is a creepy and atmospheric film with plenty of scares that didn’t quite get the attention it deserved.
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Maybe because I watched this film so many times as a child (hahaha, he got hit in the balls by a soda machine!) it earned a spot in my heart, but I sure as hell don’t get the hate from people on this film. The soundtrack thumps with AC/DC, plenty of people are run down or killed by machines, and the Green Goblin truck is an iconic villain in its own right. Stephen King directs the movie adaptation of his own work and in my book, it’s a winner.
Night of the Living Dead (1990)
If you’re going to remake a classic zombie film, why not hire a classic horror make-up effects artist? Master of the macabre art Tom Savini directs this full color, faithful remake of the George Romero classic and it’s a fantastic watch, mostly overlooked because it’s a remake and doesn’t really rock the boat too much. It’s more of an update, with improved special effects and that fancy colorized film. There are plenty of familiar genre faces in this great zombie remake, so check it out.
Based on a book by Jack Ketchum, this violent flick won my over by killing a bunch of kids. Hear me out ‐ kids are small and weak. I’m always surprised that they survive horror films, despite being the easiest targets. Well, this look into a cannibal society doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to killing kids, and that depravity is refreshing to me.
A film that I enjoy and think is good which makes it astounding on two levels: it’s about Big Foot and it aired on the SyFy channel. Normally either one of those is a pretty strong indicator of shitty quality, but this flick, about a group of friends assaulted by a massive Big Foot while a Hitchcockian Rear Window-type paraplegic (played by Matt McCoy) tries his best to help. With some nudity and plenty of monster violence, including a hilarious head stomp, along with an appearance by Lance Henriksen, Abominable is maybe the best Big Foot offering out there.
Santa’s Slay (2005) / Sint [aka Saint] (2010)
I felt weird including two different Santa Claus inspired horror flicks on the list, so I combined them both into one entry. The first is a whimsical farce of a tale about an evil, muscled up demon Santa Claus, played by professional wrestler Bill Goldberg, who is out to fuck everyone’s Christmas up. It has boobs, blood, rocket launchers, Jews, and curling. Sint, or Saint, a horror film from the Netherlands, also casts Saint Nicholaus as the villain, but in a much more serious and menacing way.
Blood Creek (2009)
If I told you there was a horror movie that starred Superman (Henry Cavill), Dracula (Dominc Purcell), and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), would you believe me? And what if I said it was directed by Joel Schumacher? Now that’s a comic book pedigree, am I right? This overlooked movie involves the Occult, Nazis, and an undead monster. The film has great production value and the climactic battle at the end is good spectacle.
Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005)
It stars Kate Mara, watch it. What, you need more than that? I’ll admit I’m a sucker for that redhead,so it may have skewed my view, but this mostly unrelated addition to the Urban Legends universe makes an effort at original kills and gore, and deserves more recognition than it gets.
That’s twenty ‐ count ’em. So, what did you hate? What was I missing? Join us in discussion below!