Halloween is upon us, and several will no doubt pop in a horror film or two to celebrate. Sure, you could fall back on classics such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Hellraiser, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, Night of the Living Dead, Halloween, and so on, or you could take a chance on some of these underrated horror flicks.
Lance Henriksen is perfectly cast as a father whose young son is accidently killed by a group of teenagers. He calls upon the skills of a witch to bring back his boy. Instead, she releases the power of the pumpkinhead, a demon that takes revenge upon the unsuspecting teens. Directed by Stan Winston, it’s a pity the special effects genius didn’t direct more films. This haunting and all around eerie horror entry of his is nothing shy of brilliant.
Near Dark (1987)
Before she became well known for her war dramas The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow directed this violent, nasty, and frightening take on vampires. Though Adrian Pasdar and Lance Henriksen are the stars, it’s Bill Paxton who steals the show as a wild blood thirsty fiend. Jenette Goldstein (Aliens) and Tim Thomerson (Trancers, Dollman vs. Demonic Toys) also star in this scary film that features a hypnotic score by Tangerine Dream.
Night of the Creeps (1986)
“The good news is your dates are here. The bad news is they’re dead.” If ever there was a film that perfectly showcased the talents of actor Tom Atkins, this is it! Horror and humor are deftly mixed in this under the radar gem about a campus overrun by slug like alien creatures that turn all they infect into zombies. From Monster Squad director Fred Dekker, this tongue in cheek horror comedy nods its head to classic 1950s horror hits such as The Blob, and no doubt served as the inspiration for James Gunn’s Slither.
The Keep (1983)
Based on the novel by F. Paul Wilson, Michael Mann’s gothic tale is a perfect mix of horror, romance, and mystery. Taking place during World War II, a group of Nazi soldiers are sent to a massive Romanian fortress. They soon discover the castle in which they reside was not meant to prevent intruders from entering, but to keep in an evil they are ill equipped to face. Tangerine Dream provides a stellar score for the film, which stars Scott Glenn, Jürgen Prochnow, Gabriel Byrne, and Ian McKellen.
The Signal (2007)
An entire city is driven to madness by a mysterious transmission that has jammed all forms of communication in this dark, brutal, gruesome, gritty, and occasionally funny horror film. Masterfully told from three different perspectives, The Signal beautifully showcases the fragility of the human mind, and the chaotic depths to which we could descend should our minds be “hacked” with the technology on which we rely.
A young couple out for a romantic camping trip over a weekend is taken captive by a dangerous escaped criminal and his equally as dangerous girlfriend. Little do they realize, this is just the beginning of their problems. The four find themselves trapped in a gas station, trying to survive against a parasitic creature that brutally kills its victims from the inside out. Splinter is brilliant, as it relies primarily on practical effects that are nothing shy of absolutely frightening. The film also features a menacing performance by the terrific Shea Whigham.
The Divide (2011)
With the world coming to a nuclear end, nine strangers find themselves barricaded within the basement of their apartment building. Director Xavier Gens keeps the tension high, as tempers flare between the survivors, leading to deception, sexual anguish, and shocking acts of violence. Michael Biehn heads the cast of this dark and disturbing post-apocalyptic tale.
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Bryan Singer produces this stylish collection of Halloween centered tales that perfectly captures the feel of the season. The four interwoven stories offer several tricks and treats, thanks to writer/director Michael Dougherty and a cast that includes Anna Paquin, Dylan Baker, and Brian Cox. Creepshow, Creepshow II, and even Trilogy of Terror have become go to films when it comes to horror anthologies. As word of mouth spreads, this entry is bound to join their ranks.
The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Before he thrilled audiences with Hellboy and Pacific Rim, director Guillermo del Toro brought to the screen this chilling story of a young boy sent to a haunted orphanage that takes place during the final week of the Spanish Civil War. The film is a slow boiling murder mystery anchored by a haunting ghost story that sends shivers up the spines of viewers. The film failed to connect with several audiences upon release, but has recently started gaining the attention it deserves, thanks to the growing popularity of its incredibly talented director.
Alien 3 (1992)
Yes. Alien 3 is on this list. It’s well documented the strife young director David Fincher faced when making this film. In fact, it was so troublesome, he still tries to distance himself as much as possible from the picture. However, while the end result doesn’t hold up to the impossible expectations audiences had after experiencing the brilliant contributions to the franchise by Ridley Scott and James Cameron, the film is still a frightening and stylish slice of horror. It’s a monster movie that manages to build characters and relationships the audience can attach to, and then brutally takes them away with gruesome, yet gorgeous acts of animalistic violence. Is it a classic on par with its predecessors? No. But on its own, it is a fun horror film that’s well worth another view.
There are a great number of films in need of a second viewing/larger audiences. These are only some that have come to mind. Do you have any underrated favorites?