Le Manoir du Diable, the first horror movie on record, was made only one year after Arrival of a Train, the first film ever. That’s about 125 years of film, which means there’s 125 years worth of horror for fans to choose from. The sheer quantity of horror movies produced in that amount of time is almost incalculable, which for a cinephile is hell because it’s impossible to see them all. There’s hundreds of thousands of movies and if you don’t know where to look, you’re bound to miss some good ones. Because of the numerous subgenres within subgenres, the VHS boom of the 80’s and the constant stream of new shit being released on a weekly basis, combing through the entire history of horror is a daunting task. This list was made to shine a light on a select few you might not have seen that I think are worth your time.
This is The 100 Greatest Overlooked Horror Movies.
80. Isolation (2005)
I would given any amount of money to see Billy O’Brien try and sell this to producers because the elevator pitch– “Alien on an Irish farm but with a mutated cow instead of a xenomorph”, would’ve gotten him laughed out of any elevator or meeting. I can’t fathom what he could’ve said to sell this to anyone because after he drops that on you, he has to immediately follow it up with “oh, and it’s also not a comedy”. I can see it as a fun animal attack creature feature but as a deadly serious drama about the ethical issues of genetic engineering? That’s a bridge too far.
But like every hypothetical Hollywood exec who definitely would’ve denied him money, I’m a fool without vision. Unlike many modern horror films, O’Brien favours building a tense and foreboding atmosphere rather than relying on cheap jump scares. It’s an exceptionally well acted monster movie with a nice escalation of dread and a message that isn’t preachy or annoying, which is sorely missing in films nowadays.
79. Julia’s Eyes (2010)
Whilst investigating the mysterious death of her twin sister, a woman (Belén Rueda) slowly starts to lose her vision. Structured similarly to a Giallo with its methodical pace and twisty narrative but without the genre’s over the top pulpy quality and their grand guignol exuberance, Julia’s Eyes is a thriller that could’ve used a little more cheese on them nachos. The chips are great (the acting), the meat is top notch (the tension) and the jalapenos es muy caliente (the kills) but it’s lacking that cheese to pull it all together. It either needed a memorable scene stealing killer like Wait Until Dark (which this film is clearly modeled after) or a less twists to be more effective. Essentially what I’m saying is, it needed to be shorter or crazier but as it stands, it’s still a damn fine thriller.
78. The Uninvited Guest (2004)
All alone in a giant mansion, Félix (Andoni Garcia) suddenly gets a knock on the door. It’s a stranger asking to use the phone. He lets him in and then goes back to what he was doing. After a bit, he goes to check on the stranger to find him gone. Did he leave without telling Félix? Did he leave and Félix just forget? Was there ever a stranger or was it just a dream or worse yet, is he still in the house, hiding? The Uninvited Guest is an unpredictable thriller in the vein of Polanski and Lynch that’ll leave you on the edge of your seat.
77. Hotel Inferno (2013)
With the release of the music video Smack My Bitch Up in ’97, many directors have tried their hand at a first person POV, to varying degrees of success. The film Doom had an extended scene shot to mimic the action of an FPS, the Maniac remake had a couple of stalk and slash moments in first person and then Hardcore Henry took it up a notch by being an entire action film designed to look like you’re seeing through the main character’s eyes and while it’s easily the most ambitious attempt, it wasn’t the only film released that year to be shot entirely in first person.
The horror collective Necrostorm released a zombie shoot ’em up called Hotel Inferno, which is exactly like Hardcore Henry minus the talent and big name stars but it makes up for its miniscule budget and lackluster script with some good old fashion ultra violence. It, along with the entire Necrostorm catalog, isn’t great but it knows what it is and knows what people want: blood, guts and mayhem.
76. Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980)
Raimi and Jackson may be the kings of the over the top, everything and the kitchen sink approach to horror but what none of their films have is kung fu. No kung fu zombies. No kung fu hopping vampires. No kung fu, period. Which puts them at an extreme disadvantage when compared to the Jiangshi films of the 80’s. Originating in Hong Kong, Jiangshi is a regional subgenre (which is named after the hopping vampire that all the films center around) that blends horror, comedy and action into one movie that would prove so successful, dozens and dozens of films would copy the formula. The progenitor? Encounters of the Spooky Kind.
A mixture of Western horror movies and Chinese literature as well as slapstick kung-foolery and black magic, Encounters of the Spooky Kind is a slam-bang supernatural adventure that never stops throwing new and bizarre things at you. This is about as seamless a combination of action/horror/comedy as you’re likely to see in any realm of cinema.
75. Even the Wind is Afraid (1968)
A group of female college students decide to investigate a local tower that has figured prominently in reoccurring dreams one of the girls is having. Consisting of a hanged woman’s body, the dream is too disturbing for young Claudia (Alicia Bonet) to bare. Will she, with the help of her friends, solve the mystery of the mysterious hanged woman or will she be driven insane by the visions that torment her every night? A classic of Mexican horror cinema, Even the Wind is Afraid has been compared to similar ghost films such as the Haunting and the Innocents by critics and horror fans alike and I think the comparisons are apt. Like those films, it isn’t scary and it is a bit slow but the atmosphere is unexcelled and the mood it creates is a notch below spine-tingling.
See also: Arcane Sorcerer (1996)
74. The Similars (2015)
One of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes is “Five Characters in Search of an Exit”, in which a hobo, a clown, a ballerina, bagpiper and army major are stuck in a room without any doors and no knowledge of who they are or how they got there. It’s a slight reworking of the Pirandello play Six Characters in Search of an Author and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit but with a crazy twist. For his film The Similars, director Isaac Ezban reworked that same premise but changes the location to a bus stop in Mexico City, removes the characters outlandish professions but keeps their amnesia and paranoia and then cranks up the crazy and the strange. The Similars is a trippy sci-fi mystery that asks about a thousand questions and makes you answer them.
73. Among the Living (2014)
“Momma, there’s something under my bed”
“I’ve told you..little things don’t eat big things”
“…but this one’s bigger than me”
A coming of age story like Stand by Me that slowly turns into a hardcore slasher by the directors of Inside and Livide, Among the Living is easily one of the best slashers since the 80’s heyday. Three kids skip school in order to explore an abandoned film studio lot where they catch site of a woman being dragged across the lot by a masked man. A truly intense horror experience—this is the type of film you’d dare your friends to watch when you were a kid.
72. The Resurrected (1991)
Based on the same source material as The Haunted Palace — The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Resurrected is a direct-to-video gem from the man who wrote Dark Star, Alien and who wrote and directed Return of the Living Dead. Charles Dexter Ward’s wife enlists the help of a private detective to find out what her husband is up to in a remote cabin owned by his family for centuries. One of the more faithful Lovecraft adaptations, the film is a straight line-by-line reconstruction with no concessions of any note made to the adaptation process, which is to say: it’s boring.
Lovecraft was a boring writer, which is the reason so many films based on his works are bad. That’s the first strike. The second, is the acting, which runs the gamut between horrible, bland and over the top. So if the acting is bad and the story is boring, why am I recommending it? Because of the third act, which is pretty much gorehound heaven. It’s an extravaganza of blood and guts and goop that makes the entire thing worth it.
71. Descent into Darkness: My European Nightmare (2016)
Outside of remakes, nothing splits the horror community in half quite like found footage movies. After the release of The Blair Witch Project, the market was flooded with copycats looking to get a piece of that fat money cake, a trend that got exponentially worse after Paranormal Activity came out. Since they were easy to produce, studios pumped ’em out by the dozens, which meant quality control got thrown out the window. The volume in which they came out plus the low quality of most of them, made many a horror fan dismiss the entire genre as garbage. And while they were about 80% correct, there were some high quality diamonds amongst the rubble.
Capture Kill Release, Afflicted, Be My Cat, WNUF Halloween Special, Digging up the Marrow, Hellhouse LLC and Creep are all either great or interesting but I think it’s Sorgoi Prakov’s European adventure found footage detractors should check out. Descent into Darkness starts off like a Borat-esque hyper comedy where the director/lead gets into hilarious misadventures in Paris but after losing all of his money through either drugs, parties, alcohol or getting mugged, Prakov slowly descends into madness until he’s an insane homicidal maniac. It’s the closest we’ve got to a film about Richard Chase and if you know anything about that serial killer, you know exactly what to expect—nothing but insanity and ultra violence.
90-81 | 70-61
What do you think of the selection so far? What are some of your favorite overlooked horror movies? Maybe they will show up further on the list!