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.
90. Sleep Tight (2011)
An interviewer once asked Stephen King what truly terrifies him (this was before Trump was president) and he said it’s not spiders or snakes or deranged killers, it’s the feeling you get when you’re home alone and you see a door open you knew you shut. It could be simply a cabinet or a bedroom door but the sensation that someone might be in your house, is the worst feeling in the world. Sleep Tight is an unsettling Spanish thriller that plays on the small fears that regular people have, even if only at the back of their minds subconsciously. Which can range from the mundane “did I lock the front door?” and “did I leave my closet open when I left this morning?” to the outright terrifying “why does is sound like someone is breathing under my bed?” Unlike most home invasion films that’ll make you paranoid that someone can break in at any moment, Sleep Tight will convince you that someone already has.
89. The Unkindness of Ravens (2016)
In his previous film Lord of Tears, director Lawrie Brewster tried to marry the dreary tone and poetic sensibilities of a Poe story with realistic childhood traumas to create a wholly original horror. It’s a film you’ll know almost immediately whether it’s for you or not by watching the trailer. If it looked like a cheap ass pretentious Slenderman knock off, the film and his follow up, may not be for you. But if you were intrigued, The Unkindness of Ravens is even better. Replacing childhood traumas with PTSD, the Owlman with nightmare raven knights (the director must have a weird bird fetish) and ladling on the art-house poetry, The Unkindness of Ravens is the micro budgeted heir apparent to Phantasm.
88. Poison for the Fairies (1986)
A ten year old girl convinces a classmate that she is a witch, forcing the child to become her slave/assistant. While their games are initially rather naive, they gradually take a nasty and violent turn that ends in murder. A huge influence on the work of Guillermo del Toro, Poison for the Fairies is art-house fantasy that harkens back to the work of the Brothers Grimm, where children weren’t safe and that happy endings weren’t guaranteed. The film is a meticulously crafted psychological drama that bewitches the audience with its gorgeous cinematography and tricks them into thinking it’s a harmless children’s story because of the ages of its leads as well as its slow pace and innocuous tone but then pulls the rug out from under them with a gut punch of an ending. The film has become eerily prescient In the wake of the real life case of the two girls who nearly stabbed their friend to death because of Slenderman. Prescient and terrifying.
87. Borgman (2013)
If the titular character of Boudu Saved from Drowning was less of a drunken, mischievous lech and more an insidious bugbear that delights in tormenting everyone around him, that film would be a hell of a lot like Borgman. The film is about a vagrant (Jan Bijvoet) who enters the lives of an arrogant upper-class family, turning their lives into a psychological nightmare in the process. Since the film is ambiguous, it’s never made clear whether the vagrant is a flesh and blood human, a demon, a twisted allegory or if he’s actually real at all. He might just be the manifestation of their deteriorating marriage. The film offers many options and no answers, but odds are you’ll be too invested in his fiendish plans to care.
86. Game of Werewolves (2011)
Despite the fact that werewolves are inarguably the coolest looking monsters, there is a shockingly low amount of werewolf movies. Take the films of Lon Chaney Jr and Paul Naschy out of the equation and you’re left with about fifty. Which means that any ok to good werewolf movie is automatically in the top ten. So by that math, as long as Game of Werewolves was merely watchable, it had a strong chance of making the list of the best of the best. Thankfully, Game of Werewolves is not only watchable but is Mexico’s answer to Shaun of the Dead. Before you get too excited, it’s not as good as Shaun (few films are) but it is the closest the country has come to reproducing that film’s level of fun.
Lured back to his ancestral village under false pretenses (he was told he won the lottery), the only male descendant of the Marino family is tasked with removing an old curse that’s plagued the village for 100 years. The catch: in order to break the curse, he needs to be sacrificed. With an entire village hunting him, as well as the cursed ones themselves out to get him (spoiler alert: the cursed ones are werewolves), can Tomas manage to outlive his would be dispatchers or will he end up getting sacrificed or worse, becoming werewolf chow? Expertly blending frights and laughs with extreme violence and Hammer quality gothic imagery, Game of Werewolves is diamond in a genre filled with charcoal.
85. Hell’s Ground (2007)
A Pakistani love letter to American slasher movies, Hell’s Ground is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre but with zombies inexplicably thrown in. Five teens on their way to a rock concert, are diverted by a political protest, only to encounter a family of flesh-hungry psychopaths and a family of backwoods killers lead by Baby, a burqa wearing maniac who brandishes a giant medieval flail. Filled with every cliche and trope you can think of, the film gleefully embraces the campy elements of Hollywood slashers. It knows what it is: a throwback to old-school splatter flicks with cardboard characters who’s only purpose is to die violent deaths, a ton of blood, a cool looking villain and just pinch of social commentary. The only thing it’s missing is nudity. And a better soundtrack because my god, my ears.
84. Excision (2012)
“Solely based on the definition, I don’t know a teenager that doesn’t fit the profile of a sociopath” Struggling with the pressures of fitting into high school, pleasing her mother and a burning desire to lose her virginity, alienated teen Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) retreats more and more into her own fantasies until the line between what’s real and imagined becomes impossible to distinguish. A deeply unsettling portrait of a girl desperately trying to keep it together while everything around her is trying to break her down, Excision is delightfully fucked up fantasy that’s not afraid to go all the way. This is the film Donnie Darko tried and failed to be.
83. The People Who Own the Dark (1976)
An amalgamation of Night of the Living Dead, the Omega Man, the Day of the Triffids, Assault on Precinct 13 and the Exterminating Angel, the People Who Own the Dark is a dark little thriller about a group of rich businessmen who avoid sudden blindness due to nuclear war because they were sequestered in the basement of a castle performing all sorts of depraved sex games. When they venture out into the nearest town to search for food and supplies, they discover that the survivors are now transformed into wandering blind creatures. They kill a few of them due to a combination of fear and outright maliciousness but soon the rest of the blind will make their way to the villa to seek revenge. If you, like me, were disappointed that Downton Abbey didn’t end with the servants overthrowing the rich elite in a bloody massacre of revenge, then this is the film for you.
82. Storm Warning (2007)
Everett De Roche is the Australian Larry Cohen in that all of his films can be summarized in about five words but all of them hit far above their weight class. He’ll take a ridiculous premise, ground it in reality and elevate it a notch above schlock. Storm Warning is a story we’ve seen a million times before: a couple lost in the marsh and seeking refuge from a storm, happen upon an isolated farmhouse only to discover they’ve jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, but De Roche adds enough twists and turns to keep it fresh. It may start off as a Texas Chainsaw Massacre redux but it slowly evolves into a You’re Next/No One Lives bloodbath where the hunters become the hunted. It may not be the most original narrative switcheroo but like all of De Roche’s films, its entertainment value far exceeds its cliches.
81. The Baby’s Room (2006)
One of six films released under the collective title Films To Keep You Awake, which was the Spanish equivalent of the old After Dark Horrorfest: 8 Films to Die For series (which produced Lake Mungo, Borderland, Mulberry St. among many others), Álex de la Iglesia’s The Baby’s Room is the only film of the bunch to actually earn its inclusion. On the first night in their new house, a couple hears a weird voice coming from their child’s baby monitor. Writing it off as interference, the couple throw the monitor in the trash and decide to get a camera that allows them to monitor their child instead. On the second night, they discover someone else in the house who sits next to the baby’s crib every night. More effective than a dozen Paranormal Activitys, The Baby’s Room is a chilling ghost story that’ll leave you on edge.
100-91 | 80-71
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!