I grew up loving horror movies, staying up late as a 8-10 year old, waiting until my parents had gone to bed then turning on my TV and watching the likes of Freddy Krueger and Chucky slaughtering random teenagers. It was great. Then, for some reason, horror movies weren’t good anymore, with studios relying on shitty remakes of classics, laden with cheap jumpscares instead of building up the terror, and making people genuinely scared again. However, there has been a resurgence of late, with some really great stuff coming through.
Well, you won’t find Freddy, Chucky or Jason Voorhees in this list. My plan here is to try and shed some light on some hidden gems of the genre; horrors that are either underseen, underrated or underappreciated. I settled on 13 films because of the number’s obvious connection to Halloween, and also because I think all of these are genuinely really good and I couldn’t cut it down to ten.
I’ve decided I am just going to list these chronologically rather than ranking them as I think they all deserve to be watched. Let’s do this.
Event Horizon (1997)
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill
Where to Watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video
Event Horizon is a sci-fi horror set in the year 2047 about a space crew that have been sent to check on a ship that the film is named after that has reappeared after mysteriously vanishing seven years prior. Of course, when they find the ship, things go south pretty quickly.
This isn’t for the faint of heart; it’s incredibly gory, but the practical effects are done really well, especially for the time. So if you like great gore, a good mystery and our Kiwi boy Sam Neill tearing it up, check this one out..
Director: Bill Paxton
Cast: Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey
Where to Watch: If you have a VPN, US Amazon Prime or US Tubi TV, the latter being free but has ads
Frailty is without a doubt the least scary movie on this list, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great. It tells the story of a man and his two young sons. The man receives a message from God himself, giving him a mission to kill demons. The catch however, is these “demons” appear to be normal people.
So the whole premise is basically “did this guy actually talk to God or is he nuts?” and it’s so captivating that you just can’t look away. McConaughey plays the adult version of one of the young sons and he is essentially narrating the story. But this is so cleverly written that just when you think you know what’s going on, you realise, you really don’t. It’s hard to find but absolutely worth it once you do find it.
The Descent (2005)
Director: Neil Marshall
Cast: Shauna Macdonald, Alex Reid
Where to Watch: $4.99 (Rent) or $5.99 (Buy) on Google Play
The Descent is a British where a group of friends who all suffered a big loss earlier in their lives decide to reunite by going caving together. Things go array when a collapse in the cavern traps them and they must find another way out. The thing is, they soon find out that they aren’t alone.
Director Neil Marshall does a great job of making this movie feel so damn claustrophobic. Add to that the constant darkness and the fact you know something else is down there and this is a scary way to spend two hours.
The Mist (2007)
Director: Frank Darabont
Cast: Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden, Toby Jones, Marcia Gay Harden
Where to Watch: This is a hard one to find, which is a shame as as many people as possible need to see this. You can rent it through YouTube if you have a VPN and change your country to USA.
The Mist is adapted from a Stephen King novella of the same name and follows a man and his son who get trapped, with a handful of other people, in a supermarket by a weird mist. It is revealed that their are creatures in this mist as well, but are they bigger monsters than some of the people in the supermarket?
What Darabont, who has previously adapted other King novella’s that turned into The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, does so well is make this movie scary by both it’s creepy atmosphere, with the mystery of what’s going on outside, as well as excellent character development. The villainous character in this is so, so good. This also has one of the craziest endings I have ever seen in a movie. If you can find this, it’s a must watch.
Bone Tomahawk (2015)
Director: S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins
Where to Watch: $5.99 (Rent) or $9.99 (Buy) on iTunes
I have talked about Bone Tomahawk previously on the podcast and I’ll talk about it with pretty much anyone who will listen. It follows a Sheriff of a small town who leads a group of men on a rescue mission to save two villagers from a cannibalistic tribe.
This won’t be for everyone; it is a slow-burn type movie, taking it’s time in the first two acts to build up our characters and story. Then it hits us in the face with a blistering, almost terrifying third act that features one of the most gruesome kills I’ve ever seen in a movie. The practical effects involved are fantastic and bloody.
Green Room (2015)
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Patrick Stewart
Where to Watch: $4.99 (Rent) on Neon
Green Room follows a punk rock band who end up having a gig at a secluded skinhead bar. Everything goes well until they walk in on a murder. They then must escape to avoid becoming victims themselves.
I am recommending this one for multiple reasons; it showcases what a huge talent Anton Yelchin was and how it’s a tragedy we lost him at such a young age; it combines an incredibly claustrophobic atmosphere with incredible practical effects to make this a white-knuckle, anxiety-ridden movie; and finally, Patrick Stewart as a skinhead villain. Need I say more?
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr
Where to Watch: $4.99 (Rent) or $13.99 (Buy) on Google Play
10 Cloverfield Lane is not a straight-up sequel to Cloverfield as you may guess from the name. Rather it’s “another story set in the same universe.” It follows a woman who, after a car crash, wakes up in a random bunker, handcuffed. The man claims he rescued her (he eventually uncuffs her) from a widespread chemical attack and that his intentions are pure. But is he telling the truth?
This movie gives me serious Misery vibes, due to a brilliant performance from the oft-underrated John Goodman. The whole mystery of whether he is telling the truth is done really well and the final reveal is brilliant. This isn’t “scary” so much as it is incredibly tense. It’s an edge-of-your-seat movie that doesn’t let it’s foot off the gas.
Don’t Breathe (2016)
Director: Fede Alvarez
Cast: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Stephen Lang
Where to Watch: Netflix
Don’t Breathe is a home invasion horror/thriller about three teens that are going around doing home invasions, when they hear about a house occupied by a blind Vietnam veteran who apparently has a massive cash supply stored in his house. But this blind man isn’t as hapless as they thought he’d be, and he has more secrets than just cash.
This starts off as a pretty typical home invasion thriller but when we learn more about the blind man, this takes quite the horrific turn. The director also uses smart camerawork to increase the horror. A great villainous performance by Stephen Lang boosts this one to must watch levels.
Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr
Where to Watch: Netflix
Yes, this is another home invasion horror/thriller and admittedly, this one borders more on a straight-up thriller. But the twist with this one is that our protagonist is a deaf mute. So she can’t hear what’s coming nor call for help.
What I love about this one is director Mike Flanagan’s insistence on not relying on cheap jump scares, which would’ve been so incredibly easy with a deaf protagonist. Instead, he uses clever camerawork to build up the tension. There are sequences where he mutes the sound completely, so we are “hearing” what the protagonist hears and those sequences are intense.
Director: Gareth Evans
Cast: Dan Stevens, Michael Sheen
Where to Watch: Netflix
This one is funny in that director Gareth Evans is previously known for the two (awesome) Indonesian action movies, The Raid 1 & 2. Those are breakneck speed, balls-to-the-wall action. Apostle on the other hand is an incredibly slow horror/drama, and as far from The Raid movies as one could get. It is about Thomas Richardson, a man who goes to a mysterious island to rescue his sister who has seemingly been abducted by a religious cult.
This might be the best looking movie on this entire list. The cinematography is truly stunning. Michael Sheen is spectacular as our religious cult leader as well. There are a couple of gory scenes that are wince-inducing, so be warned. I do think that you will get more out of this if you are familiar with religion and religious symbolism as it dives quite deep into that territory. I find the true horror in this in it’s realism. Because, minus a couple of things, this could absolutely happen, and that scares me.
Director: Julius Avery
Cast: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbæk
Where to Watch: Netflix
One thing I love about horror movies is the potential to combine them with nearly any other genre. Name a movie genre and I guarantee there’s a horror version of it. Overlord is a horror/action/war movie and the genres are combined near-perfectly. This is set during WWII, on the eve of D-Day and our protagonist’s plane crashes behind enemy lines. They soon realise that not only are they fighting the Nazis, but also something else.
I have to say I love the aesthetic of Overlord. You can tell it’s low budget but you can also tell the director took great care in making sure this movie looks as good as it possibly can, not only with the camerawork but the effects used for the villains (I won’t say what they are as I think it’s best to go in blind, but it’s awesome). Add to that the well-done story, good acting (if Wyatt Russell looks familiar, it’s because his parents are Hollywood royalty Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn) and great practical effects and this is an incredibly underrated horror movie.
Director: Leigh Whannell
Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Betty Gabriel
Where to Watch: $2.99 (Rent) or $7.99 (Buy) on iTunes. $4.99 (Rent) on Neon.
Upgrade is set in the near-future and tells the story of a man, Grey Trace (that’s a bad ass name), who is left paralysed after he is attacked, an attack which killed his wife. He is offered the chance to walk again by having an AI implant known as STEM installed in his brain. Not only does STEM give him the ability to walk again, it gives him super strength and agility, which he uses to seek revenge.
Director Leigh Whannell is no stranger to horror movies; he co-created the Saw and Insidious franchises with James Wan. He uses all the tricks he learnt from making those on tiny budgets to great effect here. The practical effects are brilliant and the storytelling is great. It’s another case of you thinking you know what’s going on but you really don’t. This movie was so well-received when it first released that it was called “a better Venom movie than Venom.” Unfortunately, this didn’t lead to more people watching it and as such, this is criminally underseen and underrated.
Director: Alexandre Aja
Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper
Where to Watch: $6.99 (Rent) or $13.99 (Buy) on Google Play
Crawl is probably the most basic movie on this entire list; a hurricane hits and a man and his daughter end up trapped in their basement with a giant alligator. But the execution from Director Alexandre Aja is so damn good, that this is still an enjoyable thrill ride the whole way through.
You always have to worry about creature features that use CGI because more often than not, budgetary restraints mean the creatures look super fake. However, the alligator looks very real here and it adds to the tension. There are a couple of very well-executed jumpscares in here too. I’m not normally a fan of jumpscares but when it’s earned, I can’t be mad at it. An underrated factor about Crawl is the character development with these two characters. The father and daughter are estranged and this movie is as much about them mending their relationship as it is about a giant alligator. Fun fact: Quentin Tarantino said it’s one of the best movies released in 2019, so there you go.
Well, there’s my list. If you do end up watching something from here, be sure to @ me (@OnpointAyden) and let me know what you think; whether you loved it or hated it, I wanna know.
Thanks for reading along and until next time…