Saturday, September 3, 2011

Top 10 Best Underrated Horror Movies

I decided to make this an "underrated" horror movies list and not include any of the more famous horror films since there are already a ton of horror movie lists out there featuring them.  Plus, truth be told, (with the exception of The Exorcist and Psycho) many of the frequently top-ranked horror flicks (Poltergeist, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.) are overrated.  Other horror movies, like The Thing, suffer from special effects that, while in their day might have been impressive, now seem goofy and even laughable.  

The movies on this list are very good horror films that, for one reason or another, are overlooked or underrated.

The Top 10 Best (Overlooked or Underrated) Horror Movies:

10. Frailty

For the longest time, Netflix Watch Instantly kept recommending I watch this.  (Now, Netflix keeps trying to get me to watchThe Backyardigans-- what do they think of me?)  I always avoided Frailty, though, since Matthew McConaughey is on the DVD cover and I do not think "good horror movie" when I think of the star of The Wedding Planner, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, and Fool's Gold (not that those aren't all four star films or anything).

Well, I was wrong about Frailty.  First off, McConaughey doesn't really get too much screen time.  Secondly, the movie, which is directed by and stars Bill Paxton, has a great premise: A father (Paxton) tells his two young sons that God has come to him in a vision and ordered them to kill demons (who look just like ordinary people).

He is probably going to go chop some firewood.

Frailty is definitely more of a thriller than a horror film, but I still wanted to include it here since it's often overlooked and very underrated.

9. Session 9

If done well, it's ghost/eerie spiritual-type stories (The Ring, The Orphanage) that tend to be the most frightening to me (though I am very picky about such films and find that lots of them, like Poltergeist, or Paranormal Activity, are overrated and not scary at all).

Session 9 focuses on a team of asbestos cleaners (finally, I've been waiting for a movie about asbestos cleaners!) working in an old asylum where things start to go horribly wrong.  Though not a great movie (but a good one), Session 9 will keep you on the edge of your seat.

That looks like a nice place to sit.

8. Dawn of the Dead (2004, dir. Zack Snyder)

George Romero's Dawn of the Dead is the probably the most highly regarded zombie movie of all time.  This has led to many zombie snobs (you know who you are) being very critical of Zack Snyder's remake.  Being constantly compared to the original has also led this version of Dawn of the Dead, which is basically completely different from the original, being very, very underrated.

The survivors.  That construction worker is tall.

The new Dawn of the Dead is everything a fun zombie movie should be, and  I enjoy it more than the original.  Finally, fast zombies.  

As long as you're not the slowest human, you're okay.

7. REC

While we're on the subject of zombie films (actually, I think these are demon people or something in this one-- same thing), there's REC, in which a TV reporter and her cameraman end up in a quarantined building after following a night shift at a local fire station.

This Spanish movie uses the first-person camera technique popularized by The Blair Witch Project.  Yes, it is in Spanish-- you will need subtitles (unless you are bilingual…or trilingual).  I know you can read, though.

Scary little girls are a requirement for horror films.

6. Cloverfield

Another movie that successfully utilizes the handheld camera technique is Cloverfield.  Somewhere along the line, Cloverfield got a bad rap and everyone thought it was going to be crap.  If you tell people you saw Cloverfield and you liked it, they'll typically be surprised or act like you are slow.  This is odd since the movie actually got pretty decent reviews (77% on Rotten Tomatoes).

Cloverfield is basically Godzilla modernized.  The whole thing really works-- the acting, the handheld cam, all of it.

They used to let you go into the crown.

5. The Orphanage

Laura, her husband, and their son, Simon, move into the old seaside orphanage where Laura spent time as a child, so that they can reopen the orphanage as a living facility for disabled children.  (I have a similar plan!)  After moving in though, Simon says that he has a new invisible friend (who wears a scary mask) and there is clearly something wrong with the old orphanage.  Soon, Simon is missing.

This is actually me.

The Orphanage is a smart horror film produced by Guillermo del Toro that I like just as much (if not more) than his films Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone.

4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers doesn't really fit the bill as an overlooked or underrated movie…but I couldn't make this a Top 9 list, now could I?  Plus, it sort of works since the original received so much acclaim (and still does), often overshadowing this version.  This remake, though, starring Donald Sutherland is an excellent movie.  The name basically describes the premise of the movie…which is great.

They need new trees.

3. Misery

What's the best horror movie based on a Stephen King book?  For many people, it's The Shining.  For me, it's Misery.  The two films are actually fairly similar.  Both feature a protagonist completely cut off from the outside world and an antagonist who's not quite all there.

While everyone remembers The Shining, some overlook Misery, the film for which Kathy Bates won the Academy Award for Best Actress.  The helplessness of Paul Sheldon's situation, injured from a car crash and unable to move while being "cared for" by Bate's Annie Wilkes, is also well-portrayed by James Caan.

This is not going to end well.

Fun Fact: Bates winning Best Actress is the only major Academy Award won by any of the films based on Stephen King's books (crazy when you remember he also wrote The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile).

2. 28 Weeks Later

28 Days Later received great critical acclaim (deservedly so).  28 Weeks Later received solid reviews, but is widely not regarded as good as the prior film.  It's not as good…it's better.  The story is more creative and the film, as a whole, is more brutal and surprising than the first movie.

28 Weeks Later takes place (as you might have suspected) 28 weeks after the outbreak of the rage virus, which turns people into flesh-eating killing machines.  There isn't any real connection to the first film, so seeing that first isn't a prerequisite.

I do not want to live in any area where I see a sign like this one!

1. Trick r' Treat

This movie has a really dumb name and a dumb DVD cover that would lead you to believe it's just your average, run of the mill, crappy horror movie.  In reality, Trick r' Treat is the best Halloween movie ever made.  Trick r' Treat goes back and forth between four separate (yet connected) scary stories.  Each of the stories are equally scary and entertaining-- we're never waiting to get back to a particular tale.

Nice costumes.

Trick r' Treat encapsulates everything that is Halloween and the fact that this movie was released directly to DVD is a tragedy (like Oedipus or Romeo and Juliet).  One popular theory behind why Warner Bros. Pictures decided not to release it is that they were unhappy with Bryan Singer (who produced Trick r' Treat) since Superman Returns wasn't a success.  (It had been Warner Bros. who hired Singer to develop and direct the Superman film.)  This "revenge" motive is the only thing that makes sense to me since Trick r' Treat is better than 95% of the horror movies out there.

I'd rather walk to school.

So there you have it, folks.  Check out whichever of these ten films you haven't seen so that you can agree with me (or if you're Brendan, you can tell me how I'm wrong).