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.
60. Link (1986)
When Romero made Monkey Shines, he had to turn the protagonist into a quadriplegic in order for the audience to buy the fact that a fat capuchin could be a legit menace. It’s smaller than Chucky and no one over the age of 10 is scared of Chucky. The film Shakma had a similar problem in that it had to make a baboon scary when baboons are, as anyone with eyes can clearly see, fucking adorable. Richard Franklin sidestepped that bullshit by having chimpanzees and orangutans populate his simian slasher movie.
A young grad student (Elizabeth Shue) becomes the new assistant to an eccentric zoology professor at the remote home he shares with two brilliant chimpanzees and an elderly orangutan named Link, but things turn ugly when the apes suspect her of killing the professor when he mysteriously disappears. Link isn’t as crazy as Roar nor does it have a switchblade wielding chimp like Phenomena but it does have an orangutan dressed as a butler who loves starting fires, so it’s clearly top tier entertainment.
59. Jennifer (1978)
Nothing aggravates me more than the legion of stupid assholes who parrot the same thing over and over again every time a remake is announced. It’s the same shit every time– “Hollywood is out of ideas” and “Why can’t they come up with new ideas?” It drives me crazy because none of them say shit when their favorite horror film gets another sequel and because we wouldn’t have a ton of horror gold if it wasn’t for remakes and rip offs. There’s no Godzilla without The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, no Friday the 13th without Bay of Blood and Halloween, no Orca, Alligator or Piranha without Jaws, no Abby without The Exorcist and no Jennifer without Carrie.
There’s no point in recapping the plot because the two films are identical but where they differ is in the two girls’ powers. Carrie had psychokinesis, or the ability to move objects with her mind and Jennifer has, well, they don’t have a name for her power. She can manifest snakes. Many snakes. An army of psychic vengeful vipers that she uses to dispatch of everyone who gave her shit. Hollywood doesn’t need new ideas. It just needs fun ones and Jennifer fits the bill.
58. Deathgasm (2015)
You would think since heavy metal was heavily demonized by puritans and politicians for turning kids into devil worshipping maniacs, that more films about heavy metal would use that premise but shockingly few do. Rock ‘n Roll Nightmare, Rocktober Blood, Trick or Treat, Black Roses and The Gate all use heavy metal as their backdrop and the ones that use it as a plot point are either about playing the record backward to open up a portal to hell, using it to resurrect an evil entity or playing it loud enough to turn everyone into monsters or demons.
And while Deathgasm is guilty of committing the same egregious cliched sins as all other metal films (The Devil’s Candy might be the only film to use the powers of heavy metal to corrupt the innocent), it at least commits all of the sins. Trying to liven up their humdrum existence, two teenage boys start a heavy metal garage band and unwittingly summon an ancient evil entity known as The Blind One by fucking around with black magic. The humor is infantile and the film leans a little too hard on its influences but if you’re looking for a mindless horror comedy with tons of blood and nudity, Deathgasm hits all the right notes.
57. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)
All Italian horror films fall into three categories: the boring yet beautiful, the incomprehensible but entertaining or a combination of the two. If it’s a slow burn, you know the kills will be amazing. If the plot is nonsensical, odds are the soundtrack is incredible. If it’s absolutely gorgeous, it’s either a slog to get through or weird as hell. Most fall into either the first or second categories because the third was made specifically for films like Let Sleeping Corpses Lie.
Also known as The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie starts off as a poliziotteschi (Italian crime film) that turns into an action film that makes a hard left turn into a zombie picture. The film is a checklist of every adjective you can ascribe to Italian horror films: It’s boring, illogical, poorly acted and misleading (the film never goes to Manchester) but it’s also gorgeous, atmospheric and grotesque. It’s a grab bag in terms of quality but that’s no different than any other Italian film.
56. Better Watch Out (2016)
A teenager (Olivia DeJonge) is babysitting a 12-year old boy (Levi Miller) when they both realize that someone outside is watching them. To give away any more of the plot would be criminal, just know that the film is a hardcore reimagining of Home Alone but as a grisly horror thriller. Every ten minutes you’ll either scream “what the fuck” or “holy shit” or you’ll be covering your eyes to shield you from the multiple gruesome acts of violence peppered throughout. Although it probably won’t become your new holiday tradition, it is good enough to be in the conversation of the best Christmas horror films ever made.
55. The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
What begins as a heartbreaking medical documentary about one woman’s descent into Alzheimer’s disease degenerates into a maddening portrayal of mental illness at its most frightening. As unexplained events begin to plague the family and crew, you begin to question whether this is merely the effects of dementia or something far more sinister. Recent films like The Visit and Amour show that there’s nothing more terrifying than the slow deterioration of the mind and if The Taking of Deborah Logan never went supernatural, it would still be scary as hell. The first act is so painfully realistic, it’s hard to look at sometimes. In fact, the film could’ve ditched the horror completely and been a really great character drama. But thankfully, they they decided to make a film in which a creepy old lady devours a little girl whole.
54. Laurin (1989)
A young girl is haunted by disturbing visions of frightened children and a man carrying a large sack while kids throughout the village start disappearing under mysterious circumstances. In addition to the works of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, Laurin‘s biggest influences are the works of Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci. It’s a haunting coming of age fable told by an unreliable narrator, not in the sense that she’s lying or being purposefully deceitful but because she’s a child and children see the world with different eyes than adults. We have no idea whether what we’re seeing is real, imagined or a child’s interpretation of events. It gives every scene an unnerving, dreamlike quality. For fans of Lemora, The Reflecting Skin and Spirit of the Beehive.
53. Livide (2011)
You know that Can I Copy Your Homework meme that compares two pieces of pop culture, one of which appears to have nearly completely imitated the first but in a clearly inferior manner? That meme can easily be applied to Livide and the film Don’t Breathe. I’m not saying Fede Alvarez ripped off Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (who also directed Inside and Among the Living) but if they were litigious, they could sue his ass to kingdom come. While Alvarez took the concept and made more of a claustrophobic thriller, the original is far more of an Argento story. The film is a veritable greatest hits of Dario’s filmography. There’s a ballet school, a creepy teacher, a hundred-year old witch, dead girls, hidden rooms, gorgeous lighting, mirrors, scissors, a big, dark house, a female protagonist, and insects. In a perfect world, this would have been the conclusion to the Three Mothers Trilogy.
52. The House of the Laughing Windows (1976)
Commissioned to save a controversial mural located in the church of a small, isolated village, a young painter must restore terrible depictions of agony and suffering until the madness that consumed the last artist starts to infect his mind as well. The House of the Laughing Windows is rare amongst Giallos in that it isn’t boring as hell or crazy as shit. It’s also a murder mystery where the killer is a legit surprise.
There are so many films within the subgenre, that they all start to melt together to the point where I have a hard time telling them apart. The titles are all similar (usually involving an animal, a color and/or blade of some kind), the plots are all identical, the killer is almost always a priest or crazy chick and everyone is drinking J & B whiskey. It takes a true original to stand out from the pack and that’s exactly what The House of the Laughing Windows is.
51. The Wailing (2016)
A policeman must solve the origins of a mysterious sickness spreading throughout the village before his daughter gets infected. The Wailing is a 2 and a half hour bullet train of laughs, gore, frights and folklore that moves so fast, a new subgenre should be created to classify it: the anti-slow burn. It takes it’s time in cultivating dread and creating a mood but at no point does it meander or feel drag ass. It’s constantly throwing new things at the viewer but at the same time, never feels manic. It’s controlled chaos by a masterful director who knows how to keep you entertained while trying to kill you with fright. The Wailing is a rare case of more actually being more rather than less.
70-61 | 50-41
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!