We check out a selection of great horror movies that might not have the acclaim or popularity of some of the genre’s most well known examples but deserve a wider audience.
2017’s summer releases are slowing down with lesser “Blockbusters” like The Dark Tower and more unique works like Logan Lucky being released, but soon they’ll be joined by more horror fare. This year’s seen both absolutely terrible horror films like Rings and The Bye Bye Man, instant classics like Get Out and more serviceable fare like the recent Annabelle Creation.
And we’ve still to see horror features like the remake of Stephen King’s It, Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, Tomas Alfredson The Snowman, the returns to both the Saw and Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchises (Jigsaw and Leatherface – both directed by a different pair of duos known for gory film) and an absolutely terrible looking horror flick named Happy Death Day.
But before the big horror season kicks in, I thought it’d be fun and educational to show horror fans some forgotten classics of this genre. Since 2013 with You’re Next and The Conjuring – we’ve had an influx of really great horror films. For this list I’m going to avoid more classically known cult horrors like those found in John Carpenter’s portfolio and recent hits It Follows or The Witch.
No, we’re not talking about the British sci-fi tv show of the same name (though I do recommend all 5 seasons of that) but instead a 2007, rather forgotten, crocodile film. When most people say “crocodile film”: they’ll either think of Lake Placid or Rogue, but I think of this film instead. Based on an actual killer croc in Africa named Gustave that has a reputation for eating humans, and somewhat following the journalists who tried to catch him, the story instead takes on the style and feel of Blood Diamond or 24: Redemption. The visceral, hyper visual style brings across the reality of the African nation of Burundi while never being racist, glorifying or patronising…as well as giving the film a more unique style and brutal intensity to the horror. When Gustave is near, his presence is felt and the story, action and horror kick up. And while I wouldn’t call Primeval an outright classic: it definitely deserves a reexamination by those who threw it out originally or to be seen by those who missed it.
Most people know David Twohy for writing Harrison Ford’s The Fugitive and being the director/writer behind Vin Diesel’s Chronicles of Riddick series, but in 2002 he teamed up with Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan, Noah, Mother!) to make a World War 2 mystery horror film on a submarine. The story of a US sub picking up some survivors and then creepy, unknowable things happening is a compelling narrative that might become obvious – but the execution and process of reveals, kills and the mystery itself makes the film worth experiencing. It’s not the best submarine film (that’s still a tie between Das Boot and The Hunt for the Red October) but it still stands as a really great one you’ve probably missed.
What happens when you get some good directors and get them to each make a short, found footage horror film for a feature version…well you’d get V/H/S and that’s…ok (and V/H/S Viral is trash). But what if for the sequel you got some TRULY amazing directors? Because V/H/S/2 has the talent of Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest, Godzilla V.S Kong), Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale (The Blair Witch Project), Gareth Evans (The Raid, The Raid 2) and Jason Eisner (Hobo with a Shotgun) and it’s probably the last truly great found footage horror film. The shorts all make for contained, inventive and fast passed storytelling to either be the perfect amount of fun, or too fast to hate. The framing of the found footage story is great and you’ll definitely appreciate the talent. Just do yourself a favour and pick this one up.
7. The Shallows
2016 was a good year for horror: Light’s Out, The Conjuring 2, Don’t Breathe and Blair Witch (shut up, it was actually good) and while The Shallows made quite a lot of cash…it’s surprisingly been forgotten fast despite it being either the 2nd or 3rd best shark movie…ever. Jaws has always been the best and Deep Blue Sea is often the 2nd best (some will argue Open Water) but…I’d say The Shallows is the best shark movie we’ve had since Deep Blue Sea and surpasses it. Mostly because it’s a major studio shark film and not a cheapy indie project: meaning we get a beautiful, high quality, fun, scary popcorn film with an awesome shark. It actually does a similar story of grief like in The Babadook (which I think isn’t as great as
it’s often touted), but gives a more eventful, engaging and agency rich story. The geography is so perfectly laid out that I’d call it “Jaws meets Die Hard”. If you missed The Shallows: DEFINITLEY check it out.
Speaking of Jaws, producer Dino DeLaurentiis (the producer of the Hannibal Lecter films until his passing in 2010) often wanted to replicate Jaws’s financial success and in 1977 tried his hand at an “Ocean Predator Killer Animal” film: Orca. Despite the option of just making it cheap and lazy, the talent in this film is amazing: directed by Michael Anderson who directed Logan’s Run, starring Harry Potter and Gladiator star Richard Harris, and a score by the amazing composer Ennio Morricone. Yes, this blatant Jaws attempt has the legendary composer of: The Good The Bad and The Ugly, The Thing and The Hateful Eight. And it’s actually a fun movie in its own right: with the story being of a vengeful whale who saw his pregnant mate slowly die and decides to target the man who did it. It’s closer to operatic.
5. The Bay
Now, who do you think would direct a found footage horror film from indie horror producers Jason Blum and Oren Peli? A newbie or seasoned indie director? How about Barry Levinson whose career includes acclaimed and award winning films like: The Natural, Young Sherlock Holmes, Bugsy, Rainman, Good Morning Vietnam and Wag the Dog. Yes; he made a low budget, found footage, horror film…and it’s awesome. Opting to be a more appropriate documentary style film than most lazy found footage works, The Bay concerns itself with a mysterious outbreak in a small town from various perspectives that realistically shows the story and how recording software would be used. And yes, it’s actually terrifying in general. If you didn’t know this horror film existed – you do now and you should see it.
Most horror and B-Movie buffs are aware of Paul WS Anderson’s best film Event Horizon, the cult Alien-like experience that bombed at the box office. But fewer know of its spiritual successor (and possible sequel) Pandorum. A similar movie with people trying to survive on a spaceship with psychological aspects, Pandorum opts to go bold, brave and follows the Lovecraftian nature of Event Horizon more than Event Horizon did itself. The mystery of the ship, its crew and what lurks in the dark is so fascinating that I don’t want to give anything else away. All I’ll say is this: go see it.
In terms of disgusting Asian horror films, most will cite Audition (and other now popular J-Horror) as the best…but I think the Chinese horror film Dumplings takes the case for most stomach churning. I won’t even describe the plot as it’ll give away the twist a bit too easy, but it’s basically a low-key Cronenbergian body horror film that explores the effect of China’s population control, fascism and…well a bunch of other nasty stuff I won’t spoil. I am telling you to watch it…but also saying if you’ve a weak stomach – not to bother.
2. A Cure For Wellness
Gore Verbinski’s return to horror this year wasn’t received with positive box office intake or critical prestige. But 15 years after he made the incredibly impressive The Ring remake, he makes one of the best horror films ever and a disgusting horror cousin to that of last year’s underappreciated horror masterpiece: The Neon Demon. Despite the praise Get Out got, I’d call A Cure for Wellness the best horror film of the year, purely on the basis of how skin-crawlingly mortified I was. Combining gothic horror, Lovecraftian horror, psychological horror and body horror into a criticism of old vs new societal norms and cultures…A Cure for Wellness might be the most gross thing you watch this year. This beautifully realised vision is a truly disturbed, disgusting, perverse depiction of paranoia, fear and body abuse. There’s especially one scene that is the equal to the famous scenes of Jaws, Alien or The Thing. This is a MUST watch.
1. Wake In Fright
The final entry is one from my home country: Australia. Now many people upon hearing “Australian Horror” will mention Rogue, Wolf Creek or The Babadook. Maybe the more savvy film buffs will know of Razorback, Wyrmwood or Daybreakers. But Wake in Fright is a legitimately lost film. Released in 1971, it was lost until rediscovered recently: and it’s amazing. The Australian equivalent of mashing David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Silent Hill 2 together: it’s a crazy, psychological Aussie trip. The funny thing is the film isn’t really made by an Australian: it’s made by the Canadian director behind First Blood and Weekend at Bernie’s, but it captures the Australian spirit, mentality and certain social and cultural politics and ideas so perfectly that I honestly call this the best Australian film ever. It removes the veneer of pandering, self-criticism or self-satire found in most Australian films and does a more genuine critical examination: but never becomes stereotypical, demeaning or a parody. It’s terrifying less on the level of Wolf Creek or Rogue and on a more surrealist terror like the work of David Lynch,
Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy or Darren Aronofksy’s Pi, where the initial experience is one of madness and then breaking everything down into cultural subtext to reveal the terrifying truth makes it all more engrossing and disturbing. If you were to watch only one movie off this list, Wake in Fright would be my number one choice. Seek it, find it, watch it, analyse it and enjoy.
Over to you: what are your top overlooked horror films?
Written and Compiled by Tyrone Bruinsma
Other lists on Top 10 Films you might like:
Top 10 Scariest Horror Films Ever Made | 10 Classic Horror Movie Sequels That Ruined The Franchise | Top 10 British Horror Films Of All Time | Top 10 Found Footage Horror Films