Halloween weekend is of course a great time to watch some scary movies. However, pretty much anyone can be a fan of ‘The Shining’ or ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’. What are some of your favorite underrated horror films that are either largely unknown or generally dismissed even by horror fans, and don’t have much of a cult audience?
This is not a general “Favorite Horror Movies” topic. Please don’t try to sell ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ or ‘Halloween’ as “underrated.” However, if you’re one of the defenders of ‘Halloween III’, now’s the chance to speak up.
For me and my household, John Carpenter’s ‘In the Mouth of Madness‘ is a horror classic, and that’s not just because it follows the ‘Wayne’s World 2’ philosophy of casting Charleston Heston in a minor but atmospherically key role. (What a kickass book editor!) In recent years, H.P. Lovecraft has shown an endless vigor when it comes to influence and potency, and Sam Neil’s peek behind the curtain remains a modern blast. (My only quibble with it is the popularity of books in the movie, but when I think of ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Twilight’, it still seems a plausible way to spread horror.) Fortunately, because ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ was a box office flop and isn’t that well-known today, I don’t have to worry about any half-baked remakes appearing in theaters.
I’m not a horror fan at all, so I can’t really say this as a proud defender of genre titles, but ‘Troll 2‘ scared the ever-loving shit out of me when I was a kid. My family didn’t have a VHS player until the mid-1990s, so I used to go to my friend’s house for repeated viewings of ‘Last Crusade’ and ‘Batman’. Then one day, he suggested watching ‘Troll 2’. I don’t know what it was about that movie, but dear god did it freak me out. Now it’s considered an absolute joke, but back then, I didn’t know anyone else had ever heard of this cursed movie that had absolutely traumatized me.
When I went to see it in theaters, I didn’t expect that I would leave as a huge fan of it, but ‘The Mist‘ totally won me over. Frank Darabont took Stephen King’s story and made it even better – something that even King admits to in the Blu-ray special features. The film maintains the tone of a classic 1950s horror movie by confining the characters in a small place. The few dangerous missions into the deadly unknown feel like bits right out of old scary movies. While the first thing that most people remember about it is the gut-wrenching twist ending, for me, I think of the great moral dynamic that’s put into question: What’s worse, the monsters outside or the people inside?
If you really want it to feel like a ’50s horror movie, check out the black & white version that’s featured on Blu-ray.
M. Enois Duarte
This is a somewhat tough topic because there are just too many underrated titles to choose from. My pick is a relatively recent release that many people have still not heard of, yet it’s the perfect movie for getting into the Halloween spirit: Michael Dougherty’s ‘Trick ‘r Treat‘. In the tradition of horror comics like ‘Tales from the Crypt’ or ‘The Vault of Horror’, the anthology of spooky shorts are actually interconnected by following various people from the same town who get their comeuppance. Connecting each of the tales is a creepy little kid wearing a potato sack, and each story explores different Halloween legends and myths.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
‘Stung‘ is such a recent release that it hasn’t really had a chance to be underrated yet, but it’s close enough for this topic. The general premise had me hooked: Gigantic wasps invade an elegant New England dinner party. There’s more to the movie than just snickering about WASPs being attacked by wasps, though. If you get stung by one of these mutant creatures, a colossal insect bursts from inside you, leaving all sorts of your fleshy bits dangling from their spindly limbs.
That might sound like some ridiculous Syfy Original, but it’s actually a very slickly shot movie with shockingly high production values. Since the central characters are a couple of snarky caterers, it’s kind of like ‘Party Down’ meets a 1950s giant insect movie, with dashes of the first few ‘Alien’ films (including Lance Henriksen quoting Bishop!). It even draws somewhat from the “Oh no, is someone concealing a bite?” zombie well. It’s fast, it’s frenetic, it’s (intentionally!) funny, it’s more intense and suspenseful than I ever would’ve dreamt possible, and it’s honestly in the running as my favorite action movie of 2015.
The Blu-ray release will just barely miss out on Halloween this year, but when November 3rd rolls around, be sure to get ‘Stung’.
‘From Hell‘, the Hughes brothers’ surprisingly literate slasher movie version of the Jack the Ripper story, was released theatrically in 2001 to unenthusiastic reviews and quickly fading box office. I understand some of the complaints about the movie, I really do. Officially based on an acclaimed graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, the film barely resembles its source material, either in plot or style. It feels like it started out as an unrelated Jack the Ripper project that underwent a title change and some superficial alterations when the rights to the comic became available. Johnny Depp plays the lead character as one of his overdone eccentrics, and his love story with a street whore (the very badly miscast Heather Graham) is woefully misconceived. These are genuine flaws.
Nevertheless, judged on its own, the ‘From Hell’ movie is scary, smart and a lot of fun. The Hughes brothers (‘Menace II Society’, ‘Dead Presidents’) take enthusiastic delight in crafting a flashy B horror picture with a lot of gore, yet it’s also a clever police procedural that plays with themes of racism, sexism, class warfare and mental illness. Once you strip away the period costumes and British accents, this is a story about inner city poverty, violence, drug abuse, oppression and crime – all of which are right up the filmmakers’ alley.
Sadly, the movie has been largely forgotten over the past decade and a half. I believe it deserves some re-appreciation.
Tell us about your favorite underrated horror movies in the Comments below.