31 Great Horror Films That You (probably) Haven’t Seen

Still form Messiah of Evil

Messiah of Evil

I’m a fan of lists although I fully recognize their weaknesses. Their purpose, I think, is to provide exposure to things that people may not be aware of (or to cause people to re-evaluate what they’ve seen). The problem with these “you haven’t seen” lists is that you will probably have seen one of these and then that sort of kills any “haven’t seen-ness” of the list as a whole.

I’ve decided, after less than 5 minutes of browsing, that the “you haven’t seen-ness” of a movie means a title that a)has under 5000 votes on IMDB and were made more than ~20 years ago or B) has fewer than 10,000 votes and were made in the last ~20 years (older films tend to have far fewer votes). If you want to look for something that’s more not seen than another I’ll include the votes after the title and the year: Title (year, votes). Also, as any genre fan will tell you, one of the difficulties of talking about 70’s horror movies is that they tend to have gone by different titles, so I noted a few of them where applicable.

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Noroi

Noroi: The Curse (2005, 4439)  One of my top 3 all-time horror films. As much a faux-documentary as found-footage, it’s a Lovecraftian mystery, a video essay on reality TV and filmmaking, and absolutely terrifying. It’s the only time I’ve had more trouble sleeping after the second time I watched something. It doesn’t have a proper Region 1 DVD release but can be found on Youtube. In some ways, Shiriashi’s faux-documentary films, through their subtle manipulation of the digital medium, make sense to watch on Youtube. If you like this, check out Occult or Shirome; his other efforts aren’t like this at all.

The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001, 5951)  One of my all-time favorite movies of any sort. Takashi Miike is probably crazy and this is maybe his best and craziest film: it’s a black comedy-musical with horror elements, claymation, and unlike his other far bloodier and sinister crazy films, this ones life-affirming, funny, and moving.

Dust Devil (1992, 2884) See my full review here

Messiah of Evil (1973, 1367) Made by pals of George Lucas, this is a moody, meditative, slow-moving art film disguised as a bloody drive-in exploitation flick. It was given a well-deserved DVD release a few years ago, a nice treat for a movie that nobody’s seen but those who have tend to love it.

The Addiction (1995, 5810) I talk about this film way too much, but it my be Abel Ferrara’s best melding of his exploitation roots and Catholic guilt. A satire of academia, a dark comedy about addiction, and an unexpected Catholic mystery play. Peter Bradshaw listed it as the greatest film ever made, but to be fair he filled out his Sight and Sound ballot in alphabetical order and probably included it as one of those annoying critic things to get people to see it or have it released on DVD (it’s out of print but you can find it streaming if you look hard enough).

Absentia (2011, 9737) I’ve been toying with doing an annoying critic thing and identifying a New American Horror. This would be the foundational film in that imagined movement. From Mike Flanagan (Oculus), it’s on Netflix instant. Full review here. 

Deathdream (1974) 3

Deathdream

Deathdream (Aka Dead of Night; 1972, 2197) Bob Clark is most famous for A Christmas Story (and the references to Porkies that still manage to survive) but this is his best film. A loose re-imagining of The Monkey’s Paw as a metaphor for PTSD. Probably the first post-Romero Zombie drama movie, it covered ground that They Came Back/The Returned/Resurrection would revisit some 40 years later.

Phantasm 2 (1988, 8123 [meh, close enough I’m putting it on here anyway]) It’s probably the most transcendentally insane American horror film ever made.

Long Weekend (1978, 1806) Full review here

Habit (1995, 987) Full review here

Anguish (1987, 1947) Another horror movie about movies. The great Zelda Rubenstein plays one of film’s most satisfyingly evil mothers and this has one of the smartest third-act twists in the genre.

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Eyes of Fire

Eyes of Fire (1983, 374) This became a favorite before it was even over and I’ll write more about this movie after I see it again because there is a ton going on it it (or if I can track down a better copy. The VHS rip I saw was terribly dark). This is everything I love about low-budget horror films; it doesn’t let production limitations get in the way of its imagination and this is one of the most imaginative American horror films I’ve ever seen. In 1750, after being kicked out of a town, charismatic and adulterous preacher Will Smith (no, not that one) takes his small band of followers (including the powerful daughter of a witch) deep into the wilderness. There they find a valley that the Shawnee refuse to enter with abandoned cabins and Smith sees this as a sign from God to be the place for his ideal community as well as a place to establish a mission to the Indians (this might be the direct-to-video American Aguirre: The Wrath of God, though the return of history is far more Evil Dead-like here). At first this looks like a 1970’s made for TV movie and starts out a bit slow, but don’t let that fool you as it becomes more and more it’s atmospheric, creepy, kind of crazy, and at times rather brilliant. It’s only on DVD in Thailand and Brazil for some reason (actually, from the Thai horror movies I’ve seen I can totally see this having a following there) but a kind of lousy copy of it is on Youtube.

Midnight Ballad for Ghost Theater (2006, 42) A comic-ghost-horror-musical is a tremendously fun and surprisingly moving ode to the power of movies. From what I’ve read the other 41 people who have seen it (according to IMDB) love it too.

Dark August (1976, 55) A New Age spiritual horror-drama about guilt. It’s a bit slow, and very 70s, but unlike a lot of things you’ve seen before.

Def by Temptation (1990, 788) This may not be for everyone, but man, I love this movie. The mark of a truly good bad-film is its sincerity and this is an earnest Christian-themed horror film about a succubus. The use of an under-used monster and its early 90’s Hip-Hop aesthetic make this a unique movie that is surprisingly effective.

The Silent Scream (1979, 804) I generally don’t like slasher movies, but this one, made between Black Christmas and when the genre would fall into the full of tediously gratuitous Friday the 13th rip-off 1980s, is full of interesting ideas, has a nice dream-like atmosphere, and better than average characters.

SimonRiordanSNBN-e1341159322197

Silent Night, Bloody Night

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972, 1600) A few Andy Warhol associates/hangers-on got together to make this haunting tale of children living with the sins of their fathers. It’s a more restrained, slower proto-Halloween; the sepia-toned flashback is the highlight here. Note: This is not the controversial Santa Claus-costumed killer movie whose sequel gave us “Garbage Day!”

The Creeper (Aka Rituals; 1977, 828) There were lots of Deliverance clones  in the 70’s and this is about city folks getting tracked by something in the wilderness, but it’s actually quite good; a harrowing and relentless survival movie with great performances.

Resolution (2012, 3076) See my review here. On Netflix instant.

Juan of the Dead (2011, 6467) Zombies have become too domesticated and far too safe. Here, informed by the kind of humor that a people need to get through a half-century of Castro, and impressive make-up effects,this  is the kind of hilarious, gross-out, socially interesting, anarchic zombie movie that I fell in love with. On HBOGO.

cswood

The Collingswood Story

The Collingswood Story (2002, 753) It seems that it’s taken a decade for people to copy this movie: Nacho Vigalando’s Open Windows and The Den come to mind. An absolutely no-budget horror movie (in this case that budget estimate may be correct or too generous) that takes place as a webchat that is surprisingly creepy and unnerving. It’s one thing to be inventive, it’s another to properly come up with a nice ghost story and this does both.

Silk (2006, 2367) A crazy, supernatural action film. Kind of a slick, serious Ghostbusters meets The Matrix. One of the joys of Asian horror movies is that they create some really imaginative worlds and then just dive right into them without the long exposition that an American film would provide. This is such a film and it’s a fun ride.

To Sir With Love (2006, 1500) First, no this isn’t the Poitier/Lulu film, and second, I’m not usually fan of revenge films but this is a bloody and artfully tragic one.

The Last Broadcast (1998, 3480) Made slightly before Blair Witch, this actually works as a deconstruction of the found footage film before that was actually a thing. Then again I haven’t seen this in years so it may not be quite as clever as I remember.

The Last Winter (2006, 6417) The second Larry Fessenden film on this list (along w/ Habit), is a solid, and timely environmental horror film. I’m also a sucker of movies and books that take place in frozen outposts.

The Shout (1978, 1905) A very British horror film. I had a professor show this as part of an avant-garde sound seminar as rare example of avant-garde sound techniques in narrative film.

Winterbeast (1991, 117) I was at the “world premiere” of this movie nearly 20 years after it was made and with about 40 other people (many of whom worked for Troma) in a sadly defunct Lower East Side theater. This should have a cult following; it’s hilariously bad. Parts were shot in 1976, but the film was abandoned (or forgotten). The filmmakers revisited it and “finished” it in 1989, and realizing the film was a train-wreck, decided to add in all sorts of in-jokes that give it a bit more watchability than many so-bad-its-amazing movies.

Lake Mungo (2008, 6932) An Australian faux-documentary about strange occurrences after a family loses their teenage daughter. Influenced greatly by J-horror, there’s something about it’s slow, talking head documentary pacing that makes this so tremendously unnerving by the end.

Shock (aka Beyond the Door 2; 1977, 1896) It’s the great Mario Bava’s last film and, if I remember right, it has some great, trippy dream sequences.

Alone in the Dark (1982, 2140) No, this is not the Razzie-winning Uwe Boll/Tara Reid effort. An excellent cast (Landau, Palance, Pleasance) highlights this uneven but sometimes interesting take on the slasher film. Both it’s strongest and weakest moments are when it tries to be a kind of parody on the slasher genre; the humor doesn’t always work. Tom Savini’s makeup also recommends this Jack Sholder (The Hidden) to a wider audience.

Nomads (1986, 2204) I’m surprised more people haven’t seen this since it’s by John McTiernan and stars Pierce Brosnan. It’s an interesting concept, defies several subgenres, and has a really cool, very 80s, atmosphere. Full review here

Movies I thought might make this list but had too many votes:

  • The Pact
  • Stake Land
  • Splinter
  • Ravenous
  • Shutter
  • [rec] 2
  • The Kingdom series
  • Dead of Night (1944)
  • May
  • The Burning
  • Dead and Buried

Movies that almost made it but I didn’t like quite enough:

  • Alice Sweet Alice
  • Friday the 13th: The Orphan
  • Undocumented
  • In Memorium (2005)
  • Shanks (1974)
  • S&Man
  • Don’t Look in the Basement (Aka The Forgotten; 1973, 1860) Edgar Wright made fun of the plethora of early 70’s movies with “Don’t” in the title for his Grindhouse trailer (the second half of the decade would be full of Houses “on/at/near/by” things). Most are absolutely terrible. This isn’t necessarily good, even by 70’s b-movies it has a garish, cheap look to it, but it’s effective. If I told you what mainstream, prestigious film is basically a remake (or dare I suggest rip-off?) of this low-budget ’70’s shocker it would ruin the twist, and the psychological confusion here is the best part of this film.

Movie that got cut because I decided it ultimately didn’t make sense on this list but is one of the best movies ever made:

  • Mother Joan of the Angels

Movie I removed because I decided wasn’t exactly horror:

  • Road Games (1981)
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