13 Hidden Horror Gems

13 Hidden Horror Gems

Horrorific content by penguin_pete on October 29th, 2018 | Horror Lists |

Here it is, Halloween week at last. Time for AllHorror (still in its first year, yet!) to do one of those obligatory list posts that all the horror sites do. So you know the spiel: If you’ve “seen it all” in horror, here’s a list of 13 horror movies that are underrated and deserve to be better known.

Note that we’re also taking other lists out there into account. We would have included some other movies here were it not for those lists; once a movie gets listed by ten blogs as being “unknown,” it doesn’t get to claim that label anymore. So we would mention Society, or Tourist Trap, but they’ve been covered on too many lists already.

If it’s on this list and you have heard of it (through following our site, for instance), it’s because it still deserves to be more famous yet.

#1: Circle (2015)

This one’s a victim of lost indie syndrome. A tight ontological mystery, with a brilliant budget premise: 50 people are zapped into a circular room where someone will be stricken dead at regular intervals. The catch is that the participants can vote on who gets zapped next. It is suspenseful and full of twists as the focus shifts from character to character. It’s a mature, well-scripted examination of humanity that wouldn’t be out of place on a Broadway stage.

#2: Brain Damage (1988)

Thanks to Basket Case, Frank Henenlotter has sealed his place in off-beat horror infamy. Yet Brain Damage gets consistently overlooked. It’s a funny, gruesome midnight movie that floors the crazy pedal from the opening scene and doesn’t let up until its breathless conclusion. It’s also a savvy metaphor for drug addiction. As a little blue worm who attaches itself to his victims’ spines and pumps them full of addicting drugs in exchange for finding more victims for him to devour, you won’t forget Aylmer anytime soon.

#3: Anguish (1987)

This mind-bending telescoping meta-horror movie bites off far more than it can chew, but the movie-within-a-movie “The Mommy” is worth the price of admission itself. Zelda Rubinstein dominates as a whispering witch and overbearing mother who hypnotizes her optometrist son into killing people and stealing their eyes for her supernatural powers. All that happens amid surreal imagery and haunting incantations. Then after that, it turns out the movie was only beginning to mess with you.

#4: Coherence (2013)

This smart, low-key psychological thriller seems to have dropped off the radar after its festival circuit. It’s a paranormal disturbance puzzle in which a comet passing by Earth disrupts reality to the extent that night is eternal, electricity goes out, and our conventional ideas about dimensions and time get scrambled in a Rubik’s cube. This is told through a party of dinner guests trying to deal with the situation and slowly losing their last shreds of sanity as the scenario plays out.

#5: Dark Waters (1993)

This obscure, lost classic was the sole feature for director Mariano Baino, which is a shame. A woman travels to an island to confront a coven of nuns hiding a dark secret, in order to find out why her father donated money to them. The best way to describe it: The Wicker Man crossed with H.P. Lovecraft and filtered through Rob Zombie. Yes, that sounds crazy, but watch it and then tell me if I’m wrong. Chock full of unforgettable images and creepy atmosphere, any “scary nun” movie has tough competition from these savage sisters!

#6: Blood Diner (1987)

Granted, this movie has a well-deserved cult following, but it deserves so much more! It’s the well-trod black comedy genre of a diner turning to cannibalistic recipes to meet demand, but with a talking brain in a glass jar, a victim getting her head deep-fried into a hush puppy, and a resurrected vampire goddess. It’s a camp classic, full of punk-era nihilistic dark humor.

#7: Death Machine (1994)

Admittedly, this action-thriller was very derivative of every other action movie of the time, being about a military grade war-robot that gets out of control, trapping survivors in a corporate office building. It’s Die Hard + The Terminator and a dozen more movie cliches from the ‘80s-’90s thrown in. It’s still worth your time anyway, because horror legend Brad Dourif plays a hacker like he’s auditioning for the Joker.

#8: Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural (1973)

This “faerie tale for adults” is an unsettling fable that works like Return To Oz if Oz was in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. A little girl traverses this landscape in search of her lost father, but encounters vampire-mentor Lemora intercepting her quest. The psycho-sexual subtext will make you squirm with discomfort, but pedo-lesbianism is just one more boundary this movie pushes, with one unforgettable nightmare scene after another.

#9: Roar (1981)

This forgotten movie is gaining fame again, but we further insist it must qualify as a horror movie and we’ll die on that damn hill if we have to. A family is besieged by a whole zoo full of lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, and more while clawing for their survival, but with no special effects or stunt actors. The crew sustained 70 collective injuries requiring hospital care while making it. The lions are untamed, the attacks are real, people lost skin. What does your favorite horror movie have for gore, corn syrup stage blood and some latex body make-up? How adorable.

#10: The Devil’s Advocate (1997)

This star-stubbed, big Hollywood blockbuster is forgotten today, and moreover somehow doesn’t get recognized as a horror movie. It’s got shape-shifting demon-people, murders, voodoo, Charlize Theron slashing her throat with a shard of glass, and Al Pacino playing Satan himself as if Tony Montana from Scarface took over Hell. It sometimes plays more like a John Grisham potboiler, but it still has more action per film minute than The Omen.

#11: I Sell the Dead (2008)

While it will always be a flawed indie quickie that feels half-baked, this is still worth a look just to watch ex-hobbit Dominic Monaghan have a ball partying with horror legends Larry Fessenden, Ron Perlman, and Angus Scrimm. It’s a playful, light-hearted period piece where grave-robbers discover that recovering the undead pays even better than your run-of-the-mill stiff.

#12: The Shout (1978)

This strange psychological thriller plays out like a Freudian fable, with a traveling aboriginal magician just moving right into a couple’s formerly secure marriage. But what does he care, he can kill everybody for a mile radius with one shout, which he demonstrates. And now he’ll have your wife; what are you going to do about it? Did we mention John Hurt and Tim Curry star? It’s a moody little slow-burner that will have you marveling at its economy.

#13: Dogtooth (2009)

This unclassifiable weirdo of a movie has no shortage of admirers, having launched Yorgos Lanthimos’ celebrated career. But in case you missed the hype train somehow, here it is again. It’s possible to qualify it as a horror movie by virtue of qualifying as just about any genre you want, but it is the most disturbing dysfunctional family movie you’ve probably seen. Sadistic parents imprison their children and raise them with such warped minds that any encounter between them and the outside world leads to inevitable disaster. With hardly a drop of blood spilled, the psychological horrors of this movie will have you wide-eyed sleepless for quite a while.

OK, Internet-savvy horror hounds, that's our hidden gems list. Hopefully we pegged at least a couple you've never heard of and gave you something to stream for Halloween. See you on the flipside!

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