Putting together a most under-rated horrors list is not an easy task, especially when one needs to define the parameters. Instead of focusing on a critical or a popular lack of appeal, I chose to do a culmination of both for this list. In addition, I did not include the many films that may be hard to get, such as POSSESSION (UK, 1980), yet have a strong, and well deserved, cult following. Moreover, TRICK ‘R TREAT (2008) may not have appeared in theatres, but it had one of the most successful direct to video launches of all time, and has been well received by critics and horror fans. Cult favorites and inspiring direct to video horrors are two future lists.
For whatever reason, due to poor distribution, a lack of international exposure, or simply because the film was lost in a sea of other horrors, the following amazing movies may not have received the attention they deserved. Maybe this is why 75% of the list comes from the 2000s. As time marches on, I have no doubt that many of the films from the 2000s will find larger and more appreciative audiences. Then again, some movies may have been under-respected, yet are worthy of another look.
The list begins with the best of the best, and includes some brief comments. For those four star movies, a “one-liner” will hopefully whet your appetite. Either way, all of this films should be given a whirl:
The Last Wave (Australia, 1977) – 4.5 stars
Peter Weir’s dramatic tale follows lawyer David Burton (Richard Chamberlain) as he defends five Aboriginal men in a case of murder. What he uncovers, however, is a prophesy that may lead to an Apocalypse.
Habit (1995) – 4.5 stars
Writer, director, and star, Larry Fessenden brings us the story of a New York City man whose new girlfriend may be a vampire. The dramatic tension and realism, makes the supernatural probability all the more potent and unsettling.
Office Killer (1997) – 4.5 stars
With Carol Kane, Molly Ringwald, and Jeanne Tripplehorn, it’s amazing how Cindy Sherman’s witty and comedic thriller ended up almost lost and forgotten. The tale is dark, and sometimes disturbing, but shines with excellent characters and dialogue.
Blood: The Last Vampire (Japan, 2000) – 5 stars
Many seemed to write this one off because it’s anime. But it’s one of the most visually stunning anime features you will ever sink your teeth into as you follow vampire hunter Saya on a US military base. Director Hiroyuki Kitakubo was the key animator for AKIRA (Japan, 1988).
Love Object (2004) – 5 stars
Desmond Harrington’s office worker can’t meet women, so he buys the best life-size doll money can buy. Then, of course, he meets a beautiful woman in Melissa Sagemiller. Now what the hell does he do? Rip Torn and Udo Kier round out the cast in this stellar and strange tale.
Shutter (Thailand, 2000) – 4.5 stars
Forget the mind-numbingly stupid US version. Directors Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom bring one great story with a car crash full of scares after a photographer sees strange images in his pictures after an accident.
The Uninvited Guest (Spain, 2004) – 4.5 stars
Claustrophobic and unsettling, Felix (Andoni Gracia) let’s a stranger into his home to use the phone – and the guy vanishes. If you hate the feeling that someone’s behind you, Guillem Morales’s film will do this to you from start to finish.
Premonition (Japan, 2004) – 4.5 stars
It’s a newspaper of death that will get you, but not with the silly punch sometimes associated with haunted items. Instead, a father does his best to find out what happened to his daughter, and how he can change her fate.
Isolation (Ireland, 2005) – 4.5 stars
Writer/director Billy O’Brien delivers a science fiction/horror that gets under one’s skin. And it all happens on one isolated farm where Dan (John Lynch) fights to keep a horror at bay that may destroy his farm – and all those around him.
Head Trauma (2006) – 4.5 stars
Lance Weiler, of THE LAST BROADCAST (1998) fame, does it again with an even more riveting film. Here, George (Vince Mola), returns home after a twenty year absence, only to suffer paranoid inducing nightmares after a head injury.
Red Victoria (2007) – 4.5 stars
Anthony Brownrigg wrote, directed, edited, shot, produced, and starred in this feature with a micro-budget. Sure, that’s a bunch of red flags, but he delivers a solid and witty tale with Arianne Margot leading him astray.
Sublime (2007) – 4.5 stars
Tom Cavanagh (George) will amaze as a man in a hospital who experiences terror in a bizarre alter reality. This horror fantasy will keep you guessing as well as freaked out, as George brings his fears to reality.
Grace (2009) – 5 stars
This masterpiece from Paul Solet is a clinic in character development and storytelling. Definitely one of the genre’s most underappreciated. Jordan Ladd stars as a mother with a major baby problem after the child miraculously comes to life after being stillborn.
The Skeptic (2009)
Starring Tim Daly, Tom Arnold, and Edward Herrmann, one would think this would be a comedy fest. Instead, the drama unfolds along with trepidation and paranoia in the face of the supernatural. Zoe Saldana also stars.
Antiviral (Canada, 2012)
Sure, it’s directed by David Cronenberg’s son Brandon, but it’s clear the young man earned the privilege due to his own skills and vision. The phenomenal Caleb Landry Jones stars as a man who will deliver your favorite celebrities ailments so you can feel close to them.
Excision (2012) – 4.5 stars
Richard Bate’s tale of a dysfunctional family with an even more dysfunctional daughter, will overwhelm you with wit, style, and theme. And even though the cast is wonderful, AnnaLynne McCord steals the show along with Itay Gross’s remarkable cinematography.
Resolution (2012) – 4.5 stars
If you’ve been looking for a horror that has one unique premise that leads to a mind-blowing end, this one’s for you. The acting’s solid, and the story unfolds in such a way, you will never know what’s coming around the corner.
Part II next week. In the meantime, I’d love to know what horror films you consider to be under-appreciated.
(Photo from Day of Woman.)