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.
40. Pin (1988)
Adapted from the novel by Andrew Neiderman, Pin is the the kind of horror film that was destined to be a cult hit because unlike the rest of the slashers released that decade, it forgoes gore and masked killers for subtle creepiness and slowly building unease. A disturbed young man is convinced that the medical doll left behind by his late father (Terry O’Quinn) is actually alive. An unbearably tense look at that fragility of sanity and how even the best intentions could be the pathway into madness, Pin calls to mind early Cronenberg (before he became obsessed with body horror) and Dogtooth due to its depiction of a family ruined by the father’s insane rules. With stellar performances from the entire cast, an unnerving tone and a creepy ass mannequin, Pin is the type of film that’s impossible to forget.
39. Detention (2011)
Much like the previous entry, Detention never stood a chance. When you’re doing something radically different than everyone else, unless you have a huge star that guarantees an audience, you’re going to fail. It’s a forgone conclusion. On top of that, a poster that looks like shit and does absolutely nothing to convey the film’s plot or tone (a group of high schoolers all serving detention together must band together to survive a masked killer named Cinderhella), a marketing department that has no idea how to sell the film and a relatively unknown director who’s last film was a flop (which isn’t exactly a sign of confidence), add them all together and you got yourself the perfect set of ingredients for a cult classic.
Which based on the films the director made before and after this, feels like that was the goal the whole time. Audiences had no idea what to do with previous film Torque. They thought it was over the top and ridiculous but it wasn’t. It was just a decade ahead of the curve. Which is exactly what Detention is. It’s an ingenious horror comedy that skewers multiple genres years before Cabin in the Woods was even released and while it obviously didn’t create meta humor, it did use the 80’s as cinematic checklist that could be subverted before 80’s nostalgia was even a thing. Bursting at the seams with non-stop gags, outrageous humor and crazy kills, Detention gets an A+ in WTF.
38. Sole Survivor (1984)
Talk about a film almost hitting the bullseye. Denise (Anita Skinner), the only survivor of a unexplained airplane crash in which she is completely unharmed, starts suffering from survivor’s guilt and feelings of unworthiness until one day see starts seeing strange people she suspects are following her and hearing voices calling her name that no one else can hear. Are these ghoulish apparitions a product of her mental deterioration, a physical manifestation of her guilt or is the grim reaper himself sending his undead minions to collect what was stolen from him?
With its female protagonist being hunted by zombie like foes and its surreal dreamlike logic, it’s evident that the entire premise is just an overly elaborate set up to get to a Carnival of Souls homage but in doing so, it inadvertently created two completely separate film series that were far more successful. One film took the grim reaper coming after the survivors of a plane crash aspect and turned it into Final Destination and another took the recently dead hunting a victim that only she can see and made It Follows. Pretty impressive for a film hardly anyone has seen.
37. Tragedy Girls (2017)
“A slasher for the millennial age” although accurate, is a log line that’s immediately going to turn away a lot of people. Anything marketed to a specific group of people or race is, more often than not, pandering trash and millennials, as you know, are garbage subhumans that are ruining the world with their texting and selfies and dumb faces. Recent films like Assassination Nation prove It’s a lose-lose scenario. The more accurate the depiction of the youth of today, the more annoying the film is going to be. Tragedy Girls somehow manages to ride that line without tipping too far in either direction. The girls at the center of the story are obsessed with all the things teens are today: social media, followers, likes, texting and their online persona and reputation. But the film itself is obsessed with teen films of old such as Heathers, Scream, etc.
Which means it’s potentially alienating everyone over 40 who have no idea what they’re saying and its own target demographic who haven’t seen the films it’s referencing but the gamble paid off. The main characters may be unlikable but they’re believable, the influences are subtle enough that the young’ns will be fine and its premise is strong enough to keep everyone entertained. It’s as smart as Scream and easily more terrifying because it’ll definitely happen one day.
36. Found Footage 3D (2016)
Horror is often criticized for becoming stale and uninspired in recent years and while the last decade clearly proves that statement false, there is a nugget of truth to it, which is certain subgenres have become stale. The horror genre is thriving, with original projects being released all the time (truth be told, you do have to look for them) but some genres within that genre definitely need some new blood. The zombie genre is starting to rot, nostalgia bait movies need to calm down and found footage is beyond exhausted. Nowadays, in order to stand out from the crowd, a found footage film has to be either exceptionally good or have a great gimmick and Found Footage 3D is a little of column A and a lot of column B.
Dead set on making the first 3D found footage horror movie, a group of filmmakers eventually find themselves in the first 3D found footage horror movie when an evil entity from their film escapes into their behind-the-scenes footage. Meta as hell and funny to boot, Found Footage 3D will not keep you up all night but it does what it does extremely well which is, being two steps ahead of the audience and delivering one hell of a third act. It’s not good enough to single handedly bring the genre back to life but it is good enough to easily recommend.
35. The Canal (2014)
A film archivist’s life and sanity begin to crumble after he is given an old 16mm film reel with footage from a horrific murder that occurred in the early 1900’s. As he begins to unravel the mystery behind the murder tape, he slowly discovers that his house was the site of the murders and that history is about to repeat again. If you look up this film, half of the comments/reviews will be about its terrible poster and the other half are dismissals due to its strong resemblance to Sinister.
The first group is right, the poster is garbage but the second group are obnoxious douchebags that more than likely also dismiss Tarantino because he copies other directors. I have no idea whether the director of this was influenced by Sinister or was even aware of it and frankly, I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, any movie can copy or rip off any other film as long as it’s good. And since The Canal is great, I don’t care where it got its influences from. It’s a handsomely made film that’s well shot, well acted and has tons of well crafted jump scares. It also has one of the best endings of any horror of the last ten years.
34. Next of Kin (1982)
Following the unexpected death of her mother, a young woman returns to her hometown after many years away to figure out what to do with the retirement home her aunt runs that she’s just inherited. She decides to stay there until she decides what to do and while there, she goes through her mother’s belongings and stumbles upon a diary and other interesting artifacts. The more she discovers, the more things begin to spiral out of control around her.
In the documentary Not Quite Hollywood, Tarantino refers to this as Australia’s answer to The Shining and while his film recommendations are almost always guilty of an embellishment of quality, this is one of the few times he’s right. Or at least closer to the mark than usual because while it’s disingenuous to compare this film to that film in terms of craft, it is equally as unnerving and haunting. As beautiful as any Argento film but far more energetic, Next of Kin is a gonzo Gialli cum haunted house film with an action packed finale.
33. Wolf’s Hole (1967)
What do you get when you put the paranoia of Carpenter’s The Thing, the mind-bendy sci-fi themes of Żuławski and the plot of the book The Drifting Classroom into one large ass blender? A huge fucking mess. Which is exactly how I’d describe Wolf’s Hole. A group of teenagers are mysteriously invited to a skiing workshop in the mountains. There are eleven of them, but the camp supervisors insist that there should be only ten, and that one of them is an intruder. The premise, although done many times before and since, is great and leads to plenty of drama and tension but the ultimate reveal behind why the kids are there and what the counselors are up to, is pretty fucking dumb. It’s not as dumb as The Forgotten (what an on the nose title) but it’s up there. But if you can overlook the last ten minutes and some goofy acting, there are some diamonds to mined from this charcoal. You just gotta squeeze real hard to get them.
32. Lake of the Dead (1958)
Considered one of Norway’s greatest horror films, Lake of the Dead deals with a group of friends who travel to a cabin in the woods. According to legend, if you go to the lake by the cabin at night, you can hear a man scream for his life. Similarly paced as other ghost stories such as The Haunting and The Innocents, Lake of the Dead is the kind of horror film that’s incredibly slow and considers a loud noise in another room the scariest thing in the world, but while it may suffer from being a product of its time, the stunning cinematography hasn’t aged a day. The film is absolutely gorgeous and although I know that’s extremely low on the list of priorities to a typical horror fan, the fans of films such as Onibaba, Kwaidan and Black Sunday will be in heaven. It’s an opulent feast of bewitching black and white photography that not everyone will attend but the ones that do, will love it.
31. Baskin (2015)
Much like how Lovecraft is near impossible to adapt properly, hell seems to be too big a hurdle for directors to cross. Some lean into the surreal, others focus on the torment of isolation and a brave few risk repelling their audience by going as extreme as possible. Event Horizon’s scenes of torture pushed the R rating to its limits and was apparently so grotesque, a good chunk of it was removed. The only other film that I can think of that doubled down on its extremely graphic depiction of hell, is Baskin.
Five Turkish police officers explore an abandoned apartment building with a sinister reputation only to find that it’s actually a portal into Hell. Gone are the lakes of fire, the giant cauldron for cooking humans alive, the red devils with pitchforks and every other Dante inspired cliche and in their place: blood. And lots of it. Severed body parts, buckets of viscera, mutilated corpses and poor souls roaming the grounds who have been abused beyond belief. When the imagery is this powerful, the characters and plot become irrelevant. You’re buying a ticket to see some fucked up shit and the film delivers.
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!