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.
30. The Clovehitch Killer (2018)
What would you do if you suspected your father of being a serial killer? It’s such a provocative question that opens up a myriad of moral dilemmas. Could you tear your family apart to bring a monster to justice? Could you handle the infamy that comes with being the son of a psychopath? And what if you were wrong. Is potentially destroying your family a chance worth taking? And let’s say you do turn him in and then he’s found innocent, what then? Then you’re a target in your own home and there’s no one in the world to help you. You’ve poisoned the well and the authorities think you’re a liar. There’s so much rich drama to be mined from that premise but other than a handful of films like Shadow of a Doubt and Serial Mom, there aren’t any. Which makes The Clovehitch Killer all the more special. It takes the same structure of those films and like Frailty before it, adds a narrative twist that sets it apart. It’s an engaging understated thriller with great performances that has an incredible hook that’ll keep you riveted to your chair until it knocks you on your ass.
29. Dream Demon (1988)
The British A Nightmare on Elm Street, Dream Demon might’ve been made to capitalize off the success of Craven’s classic but don’t let that fool you into thinking this is just another Dreamaniac or Night Killer. It’s a stylized supernatural fantasy about a young woman about to be married who starts having terrifying dreams about demons. When she wakes, however, the demons are real and begin to commit gruesome murders. As gorgeous as a Soavi film and as stylish and otherworldly as an Argento film, Dream Demon is an art-house horror but without the pretentiousness. Oh and Timothy Spall plays the Freddy substitute and he’s wonderfully grotesque in it. In short, if Dream Demon was a knock off Freddy toy, it’s definitely more a Sharp Hand Joe then a Nightmare Feddy.
28. Super Dark Times (2017)
Darker than River’s Edge, more mean spirited than Mean Creek and as accurate a portrayal of teenage adolescence as Stand By Me, Super Dark Times is the anti-coming of age film. It has the aesthetic of one and for the first third, it hits the same beats but then the inciting incident happens and everything sours. An accident occurs which leads to a cover up and a secret. Paranoia inevitably follows and friendships start turning hostile. Everyone turns against each other and friends the protagonist thought he knew turn into backstabbers or worse yet: monsters. Super Dark Times is Shallow Grave but with teenagers.
27. Witching and Bitching (2013)
The last genre film (as of this writing) directed by Álex de la Iglesia sounds a helluva lot like From Dusk till Dawn but with witches instead of vampires (a motley crew of bank robbers gets set upon by a coven of witches looking for a sacrifice) but their similarities begin and end with that log line. If you go in looking for an uber cool stylized action flick with snappy dialogue and tons of monster mayhem, you’re going to be disappointed. If you were however looking for a barking mad supernatural battle of the sexes, then congratulations! You just won the weirdest fucking jackpot in recorded history. Leaping back and forth between slapstick farce, social politics, gothic horror, wild action and weird witchcraft, Witching and Bitching is a seven-layer dip with gender conflict as its base and a dollop of WTF on the top for flavor.
26. The Nightmare (2015)
The Nightmare (not to be confused with the horror doc of the same name that was released in the same year) is about a a teenage girl who forms a bond with a strange monster while she’s in the middle of stress induced mental breakdown. If feels as though the director found out what happened to Drew Barrymore after the release of E.T. (she was drinking in clubs at the age of 12) and wondered what would’ve happened if the alien befriended her then.
An oppressive film, it mercilessly and relentlessly attacks the viewer with techno strobe dance parties, drug-induced freakouts and the absolute horror that is the psyche of the protagonist. It pulls no punches in its depictions of mental health and how a diseased mind effects more than just its host. But on the flip side, it’s adorably cute thanks to the ugly as sin Basket Case-esque monster. He doesn’t do much talking but he’s a great listener and he doesn’t judge. He also has no problem devouring people. He’s the best friend a druggie could possibly have.
25. Housebound (2014)
Remember that 80’s song ‘Somebody’s watching Me?’ It was a cheesy as hell one hit wonder by Berry Gordy’s son about a guy getting increasingly paranoid that some one in his house was, you guessed it, watching him. If it wasn’t for the chorus, which was sung by Michael Jackson, it would’ve faded from obscurity almost immediately. There’s a lot of haunted house films that are exactly like Rockwell’s song. They’re terribly written and have almost no talent in front of and/or behind the camera but have that great chorus that you remember. Some don’t even have that.
Housebound is among the few that’s nothing but the chorus. It’s a horror comedy that manages to be funny without defusing any of its scares. It’s wildly unpredictable, throwing one curve ball at you after another until it stops pitching and starts wailing on you with the bat. If fellow kiwi Taika Waiti can get an MCU film based on his horror comedy, the director of this should be handed the keys to Marvel. That’s how much better this film is.
24. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)
Originally released under the title The Haunting of Hamilton High, the film underwent a name change when the producers thought they could make a couple more coins through name recognition. There’s no way of knowing if they were successful but one things for sure, their scheme inadvertently created the craziest sequel to a horror film ever. A sequel in name only, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II has much more in common with films like A Nightmare on Elm Street or Carrie than it does a typical slasher.
Aside from their being a prom in both movies, there’s not a single thing remotely similar in either film. Prom Night is, by all accounts, a pretty forgettable paint-by-numbers slasher. There’s nothing about it that’ll stick with you after a couple of days. The “sequel” on the other hand, is nothing but memorable moments. It tackles shockingly taboo subjects such as lesbianism and incest with all grace of a drunk uncle on Thanksgiving, has enough WTF moments to fill 100 Wiseau films and makes as much sense as a gorilla trying to sign whilst high on PCP. All hail Mary Lou: the craziest prom queen of them all.
23. The Final Girls (2015)
A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom’s most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film’s maniacal killer. As good as this film is (and it’s pretty damn good), if it was rated R, it would’ve been an instant classic. You can’t make a faithful homage to slashers without the excessive bloodshed and copious amounts of unnecessary nudity the genre is known for. But, knowing what I know about the making of the film, they made the right decision.
The script was originally optioned by New Line Cinema but the studio wanted a more conventional slasher with zero character moments and the central theme removed. The creators said no and it eventually went to Sony, who had no problem with the film’s emotional center but wanted a PG-13 rating to get more asses in the seats. It was either neuter the blood or lose the heart and they made with the right decision. Besides the unique premise, the mother-daughter plot is the one thing that separates it from every other slasher. While this film suffers from a lack of tits ‘n blood, every other horror film desperately needs this film’s soul.
22. Road Games (1981)
At some point while watching this film, you’ll think to yourself, “why was Disturbia sued by the Hitchcock estate but this wasn’t?” and when it ends you’ll realize why. Because while they both clearly lift from Rear Window, Road Games only uses that film’s premise as a jumping off point. Everything on top of that is unique to this film. The setting was changed from an apartment building to a truck in the middle of the Australian outback, the main character is now a gruff truck driver instead of a cripple with fears of commitment, the relationship between the leads was changed and their chemistry is far better and the ending, while admittedly a bit lackluster, is radically different. It’s also as tense and suspenseful as Rear Widow and honestly, a bit more exciting. There’s a reason they handed the reigns of the Psycho franchise to Richard Franklin. He makes Hitchcock films as well as Hitchcock did.
21. Ghostwatch (1992)
The first TV program to be cited in the British Medical Journal as having caused Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in children, Ghostwatch was the 90’s equivalent to the infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast of the 30’s. A great deal of viewers, most of which were children, had no idea the special was fake, leading to widespread panic. It was so traumatizing, that there was plans to do a follow-up in 2010 but the BBC said no on the grounds that they didn’t want to deal with the controversy again. Almost 20 years later and it has lost none of its power.
Ghostwatch was a fictional investigation program that delved into the supernatural. Hosted by TV chat-show legend Michael Parkinson, the program cuts between the live studio segment and a camera crew who are investigating the most haunted house in Britain. The more the audience (and by extension you) learns about the history of the house and the ghost who haunts it, the more the ghost (named Pipes BTW) comes into our world. Exceptionally well executed with great writing and believable acting, Ghostwatch is the only made for TV horror film that’s good enough to challenge Duel for the throne and I think Ghostwatch might actually win.
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!