For some strange reason the horror genre has more underrated and undervalued films than pretty much any other genre. The reason for this seems to be that despite films like “The Exorcist,” “The Thing” and “An American Werewolf in London” being considered classics, the genre still isn’t taken seriously. Roughly 75% of the straight to DVD market consists of horror films and with so much produced with critics ready and waiting to give it a kick, it’s no surprise that a great many titles go by without any attention or love.
So here are five horror movies that didn’t get the attention they deserved and are well worth seeking out if you aren’t really in the mood for another Paranormal Activity film.
5. Daybreakers (2009)
It may not ever have lived up to its amazing trailer but “Daybreakers” is in many respects an incredible film in terms of world-building and telling a different take on the vampire myth.
Here a vampiric plague has meant that there are not many humans left and the ruling vampires are dying due to a lack of available human blood. Ethan Hawke plays a vampire scientist who must convince everyone with his pro-human stance when he finds a cure, which doesn’t help when the starving vampires are reverting back to primal bat creatures.
4. Ravenous (1999)
“Ravenous” has Guy Pearce’s scarred civil war veteran banished to the middle of nowhere in a tedious fort where he is suddenly menaced by Robert Carlyle’s Calhoun who has turned to cannibalism after hearing the Wendigo myth.
“Ravenous” is based on the Donner Party disappearance but has such style, such a great script and such great performances that it becomes more than just theorizing on a historic mystery. The last ten minutes is brutal and thrilling in a way that few films manage.
3. Frailty (2002)
At its core, “Frailty” is the Stephen King-like story of a couple of kids whose father one day wakes them up and tells them that he has received a message from God informing him he has to slay demons who have assumed human form on the Earth. The younger kid goes with it, the older one is more suspicious.
The film studies what it would be like to have this happen to you at such a young age and is creepy and suspenseful in all the right ways with great performances from Paxton and the two kids who play his sons. It also has a great ending which means it rewards repeat viewings.
2. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
This small low budget movie has the genius central conceit that the maniacs we all know like Michael Myers, Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees were all actual real things in the real world and a documentary crew is following Leslie Vernon as he stalks his victims so he can follow in his heroes’ bloody footprints.
It may become what it is parodying in the last twenty minutes but with scenes about the importance of cardio and the selection of the “final girl,” these things can be forgiven. If you consider yourself a horror fan then this one is essential viewing.
1. The Mist (2007)
I feel like Frank Darabont’s 2007 adaptation of Stephen King’s short story should be considered up there with the likes of “The Thing” and “The Exorcist” as a classic but the world doesn’t seem to have quite caught up yet.
The film flopped mightily when released and it feels like another case of America not liking it when you hold up a mirror to them. On the surface this is a monster tale of everyday folk trapped in a supermarket as a mist descends on their town and monsters hide in the fog. However looking closer at this film and it’s very much a reflection of where the American public was as a society towards the end of George W. Bush’s presidency.
Frank Darabont made an angry, angry film about what he saw happening at the time but though the film may be bleak and filled with vitriol, it’s focused and well-structured. Darabont is saying that gathering people in a smaller location with no hope of escape and faced with the end, we will eventually turn on each other in the name of religion and the need for someone to “save us.”
The film has a lot on its mind but also has great monster action with some brilliantly designed and executed sequences of carnage and terror and then it has the biggest gut punch ending since “Seven.” “The Mist” is everything horror should be: scary, exciting and with something to say about the real world.
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