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.
100. Mr. Vampire (1985)
Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson and Stephen Chow walk into a bar to talk about a potential collaboration. Many hours and drinks later, the men decide to call it a night. In the morning, all three men go about their day having remembered nothing about the night before but the quiet Japanese man at the end of the bar remembered everything and took notes. That man was the director of Mr. Vampire. A film cobbled together from the drunk ramblings of three OTT visionaries by an equally drunk Japanese man who has a tenuous grasp on the English language. It’s crazy, it’s action packed and it’s completely unforgettable. It’s solely responsible for kickstarting the Chinese Vampire craze which produced dozens upon dozens of films.
*for the record, that entire story was a fabrication but it’s the only logical explanation behind the madness that is Mr. Vampire.
99. U.F.O. Abduction (1989)
Predating The Blair Witch Project by a decade, U.F.O. Abduction was the first found footage film to actually convince viewers it was real. Technically yes, the director of Cannibal Holocaust had to convince a judge that the cast was indeed still alive, that controversy had happened before the film was released, so almost everyone knew it was fake beforehand. U.F.O. Abduction on the other hand, was so convincing, there are still ufologists that maintain it’s real even though it was debunked 30 years ago. The director would make a companion piece/remake a decade later titled Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County (aka The McPherson Tape) which is also worth checking out.
98. Chasing Sleep (2000)
A college professor (Jeff Daniels) awakens to find his wife missing. He calls her friend but she hasn’t seen her. He calls her work but they said she left hours ago. Did she leave without telling him and if so, why? Did he murder her and forget due to his black outs? Was it her lover? Or is there something more going on? Maybe something….supernatural. Chasing Sleep is a surreal psychological thriller that owes a debt to films like Jacob’s Ladder and the Machinist, as well as the work of David Lynch. Like a child pulling the wings off of a butterfly, the film takes perverse glee in playing with the main character’s sanity, twisting and turning reality until you’ll eventually start to question how much of what you’re seeing is actually real. It’s a dread induced nightmare that’ll stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
97. Dangerous Seductress (1995)
H. Tjut Djalil is so shameless in his cinematic ‘homages’, that he makes Roger Corman look absolutely subtle by comparison. Every film he made after Mystics in Bali (which is too insane to be lifted from anywhere else) is heavily inspired by whatever was popular at the time. Satan’s Bed is a mash up of a Nightmare on Elm Street and Death Bed: the Bed that Eats, Lady Terminator is the Terminator plus black magic voodoo and Dangerous Seductress is just an Andy Sidaris film but with more Indonesian folklore and a smidge of Hellraiser thrown in. It’s a poorly acted action film with a ridiculous script and terrible VFX but all of that just adds to its charms. It’s one of those films that wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining if it was better. It’s just bad enough to be great.
96. Fear(s) of the Dark (2007)
It seems like the creators behind Fear(s) of the Dark went out of their way to be as idiosyncratic as possible. First they decided to make an anthology film, which went out of vogue years ago, then they decided to be born French, which immediately cuts their audience in half (Americans hate reading subtitles) and then top it off, they not only animated it but made it black and white. For any other film, that would be enough strikes to kill any interest before watching it (which is probably the case for most considering its relative obscurity) but Fear(s) is more than just its gimmick(s). One segment feels very Junji Ito inspired, another takes cues from Lovecraft and the best one is very Cronenberg-y. Like all anthologies, it’s a bit hit or miss but I can guarantee you’ve never seen anything like it.
95. Strange Circus (2005)
Sion Sono, much like Takashi Miike, is a genre unto himself. Both crank out films at a break neck pace and neither stays in one genre for too long but most importantly, both are crazier than an entire asylum of loons. They’re unpredictable, which makes their filmographies a grab bag of insanity. You literally never know what you’re going to get, which sometimes bleeds over into the films themselves. No film is a better example of that than Strange Circus. The film is a twisted (in both its theme and narrative surprises) roller coaster that violently pulls the audience through a dark parade of incest and abuse that goes through a twisted fun house of grotesqueries that finally ends in a bloody torture chamber of forbidden desires. It’s fucked up but never gets unpleasant enough to stop watching. If you’re a fan of the strange and the surreal and aren’t afraid of the taboo, Strange Circus is the film for you.
94. Another Evil (2016)
If Mark Duplass remade the Cable Guy as a horror comedy that had way more cringe humor and had 1/12th the budget, the end result would look a lot like Another Evil. The film is much more a character drama than an outright horror but when it’s scary, the film doesn’t fuck around. There’s a scene towards the beginning that does an excellent job of cultivating dread and while it’s certainly effective, it’s not terrifying enough to carry you through to the end but the chemistry between the two leads and the couple of spook encounters sprinkled throughout, definitely do. If you approach it with the right mindset, e.g., not expecting a ton of scares or non-stop jokes and go in knowing the humor it does have is purposefully awkward and the pace is deliberately slow, your odds of enjoying it will be much higher.
93. Fido (2006)
Although they perfectly lend themselves to any genre or metaphor, zombie films have been creatively stagnant for about a decade now. Every couple of years, we’ll get a fresh take that revitalizes audiences interest that unfortunately, opens the flood gates to a wave of low budget mediocrity that quickly kills the subgenre again. It’s a vicious cycle that even Romero himself became a victim of later in life. It’s been almost four years since the last good zombie film (Train to Busan) and fifteen since the last game changer (Shaun of the Dead) but buried somewhere in the middle of those two releases, was a film that was as good and as innovative but sadly ignored by pretty much everyone at the time. That film was Fido.
A black satirical comedy set in an alternate 1950’s, Fido has a simple premise: the dead have been converted into servants for the upper middle class and act as everything from butlers, to manual laborers and even pets. The film explores every implication of its ingenious set up and manages to tackle heavy metaphors without feeling preachy and has a genuine heart that never feels tacked on or disingenuous. Seeing as how this is essentially Leave it to Beaver but with zombies, I want to live in a world where this was a hit and we got similarly themed zombie films inspired by other 50’s properties like the Honeymooners or Dragnet but I instead live in a world where World War Z exists.
92. Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007)
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is the type of movie that if it was released 20 years earlier, would’ve been a huge video rental. You would’ve rented it because of the cover and would’ve recommended it to your friends because Robert Englund was in it and because the third act is pretty much nothing but monster killing mayhem. But much like a carnival or a circus, the fun would be short-lived. Years would pass before you’d think about it. Not the film per say, but your old movie renting days and how you’d watch any schlocky horror movie if there was blood and even the slightest possibility of nudity. You’d get nostalgic about the old school and how they “don’t make ’em like they used to” and would lament the death of video stores. You wish times were simpler, when there was less options and the hardest decision was whether you were getting the film with the cool looking monster or the busty babe packing heat. You miss those cheesy films with the great covers and practical effects. If any of that applies to you, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is the movie for you.
91. Entrance (2012)
Entrance is one of those films that’s impossible to recommend. The reason you want people to see it, is the one thing you don’t want to reveal but even mentioning that there’s something to reveal, sets up an expectation the film will undoubtedly fail to live up to. It’s a slow burn that’s not particularly well shot (image the worst aspects of a Ti West film dialed to 11) but if you can weather the boring storm of ugly cinematography, I promise you there’s a rainbow a-waitin’. I don’t want to hype it up but if the last act of this film was removed and shown as just a horror short, it would be one of the best horror shorts ever. You just gotta sit through 70 minutes to get to it.
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!