• Daniela Urzola

Top 10: Underrated Horror Films

<<Underrated (adj.): Not rated or valued highly enough.>>

On this list you will find my personal pick of horror films that I believe are not as famous as they should be. Films that, for whatever reason, did not get the appreciation they deserved and are still almost unknown to most people. So, call this unpaid publicity if you want, because these are the films that I will forever promote and recommend for people to know and love them, and spread the word on their amazingness.

DISCLAIMER: Jennifer’s Body should be on this list, but I did not include it because I just talked about it on my guilty pleasures list last week.

10. Thesis (1996): The debut for Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar, who is better known for films like Open Your Eyes and The Others, Thesis is a thriller that revolves around the issue of snuff films, a subject that is very disturbing today. So, you can only imagine how innovative and unsettling it was to make a film about this back in 1996. This is a movie that actually received a lot of praise when it was released, winning the biggest accolade in the Spanish film industry: the Goya Award for Best Film -also taking home the awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director-. However, it is not a film that is included in many lists or rankings in the internet, and yes, that’s probably because the horror community tends to be American-centric. Well, that is what we need to change. Thesis is an outstanding example of foreign horror. It is one of the best Spanish horror films I have seen and one of the best thrillers in general.

9. Drag Me to Hell (2009): After spending most of the early ‘00s in a completely different realm, that of superhero movies, Sam Raimi returned to the horror genre in 2009 with the black horror comedy Drag Me to Hell. It was a movie that was widely acclaimed by critics but not that well received by the audience. And I think this was due to a misunderstanding of Raimi’s work, because I actually think his comeback to the genre could not have been any better and truer to himself. Drag Me to Hell is a thrilling piece that lives up to the legacy of his Evil Dead trilogy. It sees Raimi at his very best, with all the gore, gruesomeness and absurdity that he added to the genre back in the ‘80s. And I, for one, am here for it all.

8. Lights Out (2016): Underrated and often unnoticed, Lights Out is a run of the mill supernatural horror movie that, even if it might not make it into the annals of modern horror, is still proof of the great Horror Renaissance of the 2010s. There’s actually not that much to say about Lights Out, other than the fact that it is an amazing pick for movie night if you want a good scare. It is not a film that brings anything particularly new to the table, in terms of the supernatural subgenre, but it is still a genuinely scary movie with a well-developed story that will keep you entertained and terrified at the same time.

7. Shutter (2004): I previously included Shutter in another one of my lists, where I ranked the films that have scared me the most. And I think that says it all. Shutter is a terrifying piece of Asian horror that has great scares and a chilling story. It may be a bit formulaic but it’s very scary nonetheless. And because of this, I will never understand why this film did not get as much love as other films from its time. The film premiered during the height of Asian horror, with films like Ringu (1998), Ju-On: The Grudge (2002), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), and so on, making their way into the horror canon. But for whatever reason, Shutter was left out and no one ever paid a lot of attention to it. And to me, that was one hell of a mistake in the horror community.

6. The Visit (2015): M. Night Shyamalan is not always the director to count on, and I usually don’t have a lot of love for him. Ever since his definitive masterpiece in 1999, he has paraded a series of so-so thrillers and horror movies that always seem to have an interesting premise but often rely on unnecessary plot twists and mediocre resolutions. However, in 2015, Shyamalan redeemed himself with The Visit. Though far from achieving The Sixth Sense’s level of greatness, this director’s take on the found footage subgenre is an exhilarating ride that proves you can in fact surprise the viewer without resorting to the same formulas over and over again. It is by far his most accomplished film from recent times and it’s one that will give you some pretty good scares.

5. The Invitation (2016): I’m just going to say this: The horror community does not deserve Karyn Kusama. Here we have yet another underestimated piece by the brilliant female mind behind Jennifer’s Body. This time presenting a male protagonist, The Invitation is an unconventional thriller that is built upon solid performances by its cast and a magnificent use of tension. It is a psychological thriller that is full of suspense and mystery. It uses the popular setting of a dinner party to place an original horror story that allows the viewer to confront the dangers from the outside world to those inside one’s own mind. The Invitation is a great thriller that will keep you on the edge of your sit as it builds up to a fantastic, terrifying, and unexpected outcome.

4. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016): Boy, was 2016 an underrated year for horror. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is one of the movies that have scared me the most in the last decade, and also one of the films I have found most interesting. And even though it did get some love from the critics, I believe it did not get as much as it should have. The film has a plot that is filled with suspense and intrigue, and it introduces a novel touch to the genre, all the while remaining true to classic horror. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a film that I will always recommend to anyone who wants to have a good scare and watch a well-written story too. It is definitely an exceptional horror film from the 2010s, even if you may not find it in every top 10 out there.

3. Oculus (2013): Today, every horror fan must know the name Mike Flanagan, probably because of films like Doctor Sleep, Gerald’s Game or Ouija: Origin of Evil, but mostly thanks to his magnificent 2018 TV show The Haunting of Hill House. But back in 2013, Flanagan would release his sophomore film: a clever piece of psychological horror, Oculus is one of the lowest rated films on this list, and I have no idea why. It is an original, ambitious movie with a premise that is amazingly thought-out and thoroughly done. The entirety of the story takes place in a continuous back and forth between past and present, which is something that can result in a poor screenplay if it is not well-done. This isn’t the case for Oculus. Flanagan did such an amazing job with a simple yet confusing story that finds the best ways to play with the viewer’s mind. It is one of the best pieces of psychological horror from the last decade, and to me, it is the film that made me instantly become a fan of Flanagan’s work.

2. The House of the Devil (2009): One of the things that I will never get in life is how The House of the Devil has flown under so many people’s radar for so many years. I don’t think a lot of people I know have seen this film -or even heard of it-, and that is an absolute crime to humanity. Ti West’s film from 2009 is an exemplary piece of true horror, creating an homage to ‘80s slashers without resulting in the same nostalgia fashion that has been overplayed in the last years. Everything about it is perfectly done (the work cinematography, the score, the cast…). It is an utterly terrifying film, and it accomplishes that with a simple, classic babysitter story. It is slow-paced but ultimately climactic, and it plays with the tropes it references in a brilliant way. It’s one of my recent favorites and one that you will definitely read more of very soon…

1. You’re Next (2011): You will hear a lot more about You’re Next in a few days (spoiler alert), so I will just lay a few things here in advance. You’re Next is a criminally underrated gem of modern horror. This 2011 home invasion movie is one of my all-time favorite films. It has a wonderful throwback vibe to the classics, an amazing score, a story full of thrills, a great ending, and on top of it all, the best final girl of the decade -or as I would argue, the best final girl ever-. On my account, You’re Next is the ultimate revival of the slasher in the 2010s -for a number of reasons that I will discuss on a different entry-. And as a slasher geek, it is a film that I have watched a million times, with each viewing making me love it a little bit more. This is an absolute essential for anyone who loves the subgenre and, quite frankly, for anyone who loves horror.

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