If your horror education is limited to theatrical releases and Netflix’s latest selections, you’re missing out on a world of fantastic genre films. In fact, some of the most creative, daring, and innovative horror of the 21st Century never makes it to the silver screens or to video streaming services. Those who decry the state of modern horror, especially mainstream Hollywood offering, need only dig beneath the surface of mediocrity for volumes of extreme, boundary-breaking entertainment. Yeah, it takes a bit of effort, but it’s worth it!
As a mass consumer of horror movies, I can assure you there’s no shortage of amazing genre gems that have flown completely below most folks’ radar. If you think you’ve seen it all, think again. Below are 10 amazing horror films that are tragically unknown, or worse, underrated. Each one is absolutely worthy of your attention.
Crawl or Die (2014)
Films like The Descent and As Above So Below may stoke claustrophobic anxieties, but Crawl or Die ups this intensity tenfold. Nicole Alonso rocks this film as Tank, a member of an elite security team charged with delivering a “package” (in this case, the last fertile human female) to a secure location on a distant planet. Unfortunately, a mob of insect-like aliens forces Tank and her crew into a seemingly endless labyrinth of tunnels that become smaller and more confined as they progress. The tension becomes so palpable you can feel your chest tightening!
Exit Humanity (2011)
A Civil War-era zombie saga may sound tongue-in-cheek (along the lines of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), but there’s nothing facetious about Exit Humanity. It’s a serious, emotionally genuine spin on the zombie subgenre that’s a breath of fresh air in dead dusty lungs. Its narrative is punctuated by animation that’s both nightmarish and compelling, making it a true multi-media experience. Bill Mosley excels in a supporting role, portraying corrupt and merciless General Williams.
Chop is a bit of a one-trick pony, but it’s a damn good trick! Imagine a black comedy twist on Stephen King’s Misery. What sets Chop apart from a lot of horror flicks is that it’s got real heart and soul. It plays like a brilliantly perverse SNL skit. Chop will have you squirming and second-guessing up until its tense and terrific finale. Karma’s a bitch!
Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps (2010)
Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps is an awesome modernization of European folklore that confronts past and current societal mores regarding female sexuality. It’s also a lesson in “history repeated”, unfolding in a world where ghosts can still manipulate the living. Sennentuntschi is a treat for horror fans, but it’s also completely accessible to most fans of drama and foreign cinema. No cheap scares, no ridiculous gore or splatter, just the perfect amount! it’s an example of truly engrossing storytelling.
Eli Roth didn’t direct Aftershock, but he wrote it with director Nicolas Lopez and stars in the film as an American tourist (“Gringo”) in South America. Obviously, there’s an earthquake, followed by an aftershock, but these disasters are only some of the terrors viewers will endure. With tsunamis threatening eminent destruction, frantic hordes claw and tear their way to higher ground. Then you’ve got a few psychopaths to contend with.
Shadow is a vicious indie gem that most horror fans seem completely unaware of—and that’s a shame! The film takes a shocking turn at the midway point, introducing one of the most underrated horror villains ever created: Mortis (played by Nuot Arquint) is a pale, hairless sadist who looks both vampiric and alien; his movements are so serpentine and unnerving. Thematically, Shadow is a metaphor for the lingering after-effects of war.
The Cottage (2008)
Andy Serkis is famous for bringing humanity to otherwise lifeless CGI manifestations: Gollum from Lord of the Rings and Caesar from the Planet of the Apes franchise are the most obvious examples. So it may surprise you to know that, when stripped of his motion-capture suit, Serkis is still a genuine thespian with unusual talent. Case in point: The Cottage, a madcap mix of horror, heist, and humor. Hellraiser fans should keep their eyes peeled for a cameo from Doug Bradley.
Cold Sweat (2010)
Set in Buenos Aires, a worried boyfriend tracks his missing girlfriend to an abandoned apartment complex, where he finds her suffering at the hands of two twisted sadists. Drenched head to toe in nitroglycerin gel, a single drop of explosive sweat could have catastrophic consequences. This is white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat suspense of the highest caliber. Cold Sweat has a hip vibe and a throbbing soundtrack that makes it a blast (pun intended) to watch—even if it gives you palpitations!
If you enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane, chances are you’ll love 2015’s Hidden. The set-up is similar as we join a family of three after they’ve been trapped in an underground bunker for the better part of a year. The Duffer Brothers put a distinctive twist on both the bomb shelter motif and the “viral outbreak” subgenre of horror. As a chilling band of unseen “Breathers” scour the decimated earth above them, the trio struggles to maintain a semblance of normality—as well as their sanity! Brilliant twist ending.
If you’re a fan of detective-centric horror like Seven, Kiss the Girl, and The Silence of the Lambs, 2:13 is right up your alley. Mark Thompson (played by Russell Spivey) is a mentally shaken criminal profiler pursuing a Jigsaw-esque serial killer in a perverse game of cat and mouse. If the sadistic masked mutilator doesn’t kill Thompson, his own inner demons might. A compelling script and genuine human drama will keep you invested until the film’s heart-shredding conclusion.
If you’re craving top-notch horror entertainment that isn’t stale or recycled, pick up one of these lesser-known chillers. You’ll be glad you did!