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Top 10 Underrated Horror Films

Shaun Huhn

Halloween has come and gone. While we clean up after the hooligans and their devious acts, we begin to realize there is a sadness that has somehow seeped in. Is it true our marathons of bloodshed are over? Do we have to wait another year to compile a 31 days of horror list? Is the fun really over? To true horror fans, everyday is Halloween.

So as we are going through and taking note of the films we saw opposed to all the ones we wanted to see, we can rejoice in the fact that we have time to continue our marathon. I had, what I thought to be, a near perfect 31 day list that was fun for the whole family. I ended up going to a horror fest, and my list was then filled with films I never planned for. Here’s a rundown of my Halloween viewing: Night Of The Living Dead, Warm Bodies, Halloween 4-8, Horns, The Final Terror, The Last Horror Movie, Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, ABC’s Of Death 2, Suburban Gothic, Creep, Bag Boy Lover Boy, Backwater, Closer To God, Houses October Built, Spring, The Editor, Wolfcop, Babadook, Life After Beth, Wer, Only Lovers Left Alive, Don’t Go Near The Park, Pandemonium, Nightbreed DC, The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), Return Of The Living Dead, Exists, The Thing, and Hannibal. Out of the 32 horror films I saw in October, only five were actually on my list. That means this year was my worst year out of six years with lists. I’m not complaining though, because the films that populated my viewing instead were nearly all great.

I feel as though my November will be spent finishing my actual list – I love to check things off lists, that’s why. So, if you’ve finished your 31 days and need additional recommendations I came up with a list of underrated horror movies you can tackle for November. I was asked by Rivet Radio to come up with these ten for an interview. You can listen to the interview here: Underrated Horror Movies You Need To See

I feel that when you discuss horror with fans there are two classifications in which they fall under: those who enjoy them passively or obsessively. For the obsessed it becomes difficult to recommend something they may have not seen. So to recommend any underrated horror film I’ll assume audiences have seen Dario Argento’s films from the 70’s and 80’s, George Romero’s non-zombie films, some Mario Bava, and at least one or two Herschall Gordon Lewis splatter flicks. If audiences have not, then that is an awesome place to start.

I thought about it long and hard, and while you may disagree, these are a few of my favorite underrated films. And of course, if you disagree or agree, comment below so I can have more titles to add to my huge folder of lists.

Peeping Tom

Peeping Tom (1960)

This film was completely eclipsed by the success of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho – released the same year. Michael Powell, who directed the film, was an esteemed filmmaker prior to unleashing Peeping Tom. After his film came out and was banned in various countries, Powell’s career was over. Both Peeping Tom and Psycho feature characters that were psychologically ruined by their parents. Mark, in Peeping Tom, was his father’s favorite test subject on how fear effects development. Spoiler – fear tests can really mess up a kid. The film features one of horror’s first point-of-view kills (Dark Passage from 1947 features most of its narrative as point-of-view but that’s film noir not horror). The film itself may not be as scary as it was in 1960, but it still holds up as a psychological horror film.

black christmas

Black Christmas (1974)

Directed by the late great Bob Clark, Black Christmas creates the prototype for all slashers to come. Bob Clark would find success in the eighties with Porky’s and A Christmas story. The film features a point-of-view killer who harasses a group of sorority girls during Christmas break. The film was a direct inspiration for When A Stranger Calls and features a young John Saxon who would continue his cop role in A Nightmare On Elm St.

night school

Night School (1981)

When director Ken Hughes comes up in any conversation – seldom, but it could happen – Night School is not the film he is remembered for. What happens when you have an esteemed director who previously created Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Casino Royal? You get a great whodunnit story with red herrings and twists galore. There are a number of wonderfully done decapatations and the film fits perfectly within the slasher boom of 1980-1983 where hundreds of copycats of Halloween and Friday The 13th were released.

pieces3

Pieces (1982)

A perfect film for a get together where a lot of drinking is involved. Pieces is Spain’s answer to the Italian Giallo and the American Slasher film. There’s bad dubbing, blatant advertising for the producers other films, and the plot is completely incoherent. If you need any more reason than that, there are amazing special effects involving real pig carcasses being slashed with a chainsaw.

halloween 3

Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch (1982)

Directed by long time Carpenter cohort Tommy Lee Wallace, Halloween 3 has a bad reputation due to it’s advertising campaign and title. This film was originally concieved by John Carpenter and Debra Hill as an anthology series in which every Halloween a new theme would be addressed. Each film would then be given to an up-and-coming filmmaker to helm. Unfortunatly the advertising of the film never told audiences what they were going to get. When you take it out of a Michael Myers context, the film is really good. It is basically about a mad scientist who is so upset by the commercialization of Halloween that he creates consumer grade masks that will kill children.

demons-2

Demons (1985)

Created by a truly golden team, produced by Dario Argento and directed by Lamberto Bava, Demons is an exercise in beautiful visuals and extreme gore. The film takes place inside a movie theater, where the demon virus is mirrored on the silver screen. The demons act more like zombies, in that it becomes an infectious disease. The film also comes complete with a pimp as a main hero – you just don’t see that too often.

return_of_the_living_dead_movie_image_01

The Return Of The Living Dead (1985)

This film can be summed up in three words: punk rock zombies. The producers of Night Of The Living Dead wanted to create their own sequel to Night – because they felt they were never paid correctly from the original film. They wanted to continue the story, but when they brought in Dan O’Bannon (who had a major success with his screenplay for Alien) the narrative completely changed. O’Bannon wanted to make a horror comedy and parody Night Of The Living Dead. His corpses are horror cinema’s first running zombies and they are also the first to speak. The whole notion that zombies only want to eat brains also comes from this dark and humorous take on undead lore. The film has everything one could dream of: Linnea Quigley nude (with a strange plastic mold between her legs), a soundtrack featuring Roky Erickson, punks getting eaten, and Clu Gulagar.

Maximum-Overdrive-17

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Here’s a rundown of Maximum Overdrive’s greatness: directed by Stephen King, Emilio Esteveez when he still had star power, machines that come alive and kill, a soundtrack and cameo appearance by AC/DC, and an enormous Green Goblin hood ornament.

Behind The Mask

Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Scream may have touched on the rules of a slasher film, but Behind The Mask gives us a complete bible. The film is a great mockumentary about someone aspiring to be as great as his idols: Freddy, Jason, and Michael. There’s a cameo from Poltergeist’s Zelda Rubinstein and Robert England has a Dr. Sam Loomis type role. I still have my fingers crossed for Scott Glosserman’s Before The Mask.

lettherightone

Let The Right One In (2008)

No, not Matt Reeves’ Let Me In I’m talking about Tomas Alfredson’s moody atmospheric Swedish horror. I had such high hopes for the remake, I assumed they would go to John Lindquist’s book and pull some of the more extreme content. I thought an American remake would want to exploit the fact that the vampire girl is actually a centuries old castrated boy and his/her caregiver is a disgusting pedephile who has found eternal love in a boy who will never grow old. I was wrong, the remake was just a series of punchlines without the eeriness that filled the original.

That makes ten and I know I missed a bunch. What are other underrated horror movies that you love?



4 Comments

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      1. pizzainacup November 1, 2014 at 11:42 pm

        In my opinion, I would list Black Christmas (1974) as an overrated film. As far as underrated films, there are too many titles that I can list here.

        I concur. Pieces, Halloween III, Demons, The Return Of The Living Dead, Maximum Overdrive and Behind The Mask are definitely underrated films. The film, Halloween III, would be first on my list. In my opinion, it was a victim of a poor marketing decision. That is, it’s a sequel in name only. But a lot of fans of the Halloween franchise can’t look pass this. No, you’ve to look at it as a standalone film.

      2. Tiago November 3, 2014 at 1:33 pm

        The works of Dante Tomaselli is overall underrated. His last movie Torture Chamber is pretty disturbing.

      3. taker1 November 3, 2014 at 1:41 pm

        I agree that Leslie Vernon is overlooked way too much, also Maximum Overdrive, but I seriously hate Halloween 3! Not just because of the lack of Michael, I get what they were trying to do but just as with the National Lampoon series in comedy when you take it away from the characters that you love you just end up with trash! Oh thanks for putting that stupid song in my head, now I’m going to be hearing it for weeks!

      4. Luther Jackson July 26, 2015 at 1:56 pm

        No, Black Christmas is not overrated at all.