Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Heard Of (or Maybe You Have, in Which Case, Shut Up)

You may think in perusing this site that I watch far too much bad horror. In fact, I was beginning to think so myself. Bad horror is fun, but spending too much time with it can skew your perspective – all of a sudden, that movie about the people who turn into turkeys after smoking too much weed (and go on a subsequent human-eating munchie-spree) doesn’t seem so bad. Sidebar: that movie actually exists, BTW; it’s called Blood Freak (1972) and is hailed as “the world’s only Turkey-Monster-Anti-Drug-Pro-Jesus-Gore Film.”

But I digress, which proves my point. The hostage and I were getting bogged down in bad horror; we needed to switch things up. The problem is that, given our insatiable horror appetites, we’ve done A LOT of the good horror movies out there. We have to actively seek out alternative lists, some of which still start with Saw (2004) or The Ring (2002). After scouring the internet (and with the help of a few friends – shout out to Ashley!), we found a number of films worth a potential look. They weren’t all keepers, but we discovered a few really interesting gems. Some are more well-known than others, and apologies if you are a more avid fan who has already tracked these down. But for anyone looking for something different from the typical horror fare popular today (torture porn and remake overload here), these may be worth your time:

Lake Mungo (2008): Recently there have been a lot of horror mockumentaries released. I prefer this format to the found-footage style; it maintains the “it really happened!” vibe, but avoids the pitfalls, such as “why are these people still filming?” and “I think I’m going to be sick,” and “soooo…. how do we stretch this to 90 minutes?” Lake Mungo is an Australian horror mockumentary that never quite knows what it wants to be; is it a thriller? A mystery? A ghost story? It’s kind of all of these things. A young woman is found accidentally drowned and her grieving family begins to realize strange happenings are afoot (pretty standard fare, really). While it may not work in its entirety, it is interesting and engaging, with some seriously creepy imagery.

 


The Other (1972): Twin boys grow up on a small farm; Niles learns to play “the game” (derived from a family-shared supernatural ability) from his grandmother while trying to control his possibly evil brother, Holland. The Other is a patient, unsettling film. Unique to the genre (and to its credit), it mostly takes place during the day, but manages to maintain a sinister feel. And thank the cinema gods for children who can act! The young twins are excellent; Holland manages menacing with barely more than a sneer, while Niles’ fear and desperation to be wrong about his brother is palpable. Not your traditional horror film, The Other plays on a more psychological level, and does so effectively.

 


Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974): Britain’s response to Night of the Living Dead (1968), Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is a tense zombie flick with underlying themes of bigotry and environmental exploitation (what is it about zombie movies that makes them so ripe for social commentary?). Two hippies are pursued across the English countryside by the police for murder; little do the police understand, the real murderers are already dead! Very dissimilar from the Romero (and all subsequent Romero-inspired zombie movies), in that the zombies do not signal the apocalypse. Instead we get a new slant on the idea – what if we not only had to fight the zombies, but also ourselves? It loses some of the impact this way; for me, the most terrifying thing about zombies has always been that it doesn’t matter how slow they are or how fast you are, or where you hide or how you escape – they will get you in the end, because there’s just too many of them. Yet the idea of the human monster is an interesting one (which pops up again in 28 Days Later) – a problem with a less clear-cut solution than is typical for zombie movies. A more polished film than Night of the Living Dead, it may not quite live up to the originality of Romero’s vision. However, it is a tight film with exceptional gore effects, and captures the sociopolitical climate of the time well.

 

Shutter (2004): NOT the crappy American remake, but the original Thai version. With the J-horror influx that followed the success of The Ring and The Grudge (2004), the creepy, long-haired Asian girl turned into a tired cliché. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the reason she became so ubiquitous was because, when done well, she can be freaking terrifying. Shutter works this angle very well, creating a narratively cohesive and well-constructed story with great visual impact. A young man and his girlfriend hit a person while driving home from a wedding, and the man insists they drive off without checking the injured woman. Soon, it seems that they are not as alone as they thought, although the storyline is far from that straightforward. Very creepy; the final, haunting image is sure to send shivers down your spine.*


Santa Sangre (1989): People will either find this film a compelling experience or a hot mess – or maybe a little from column A, a little from column B. Reviews describe it as “fascinating”, “ridiculous”, “pretentious”, “strange”, “unforgettable”, “surreal”, “gorgeous”, and “nighmarish”, often in the same sentence. It is a cinematic experiment that doesn’t completely work, but is riveting to watch unfold. The director, Alejandro Jordorosky, is considered a bit of an auteur in some circles, and the man undeniably has a vision. This outing is obviously influenced by a myriad of sources, but mostly it felt like Santa Sangre would have been the result if Fellini had directed Freaks (1932). The story revolves around a man and his mother who travel in a circus. The mother has her arms brutally severed, and her son becomes her arms for all endeavors – including murder. I’ll admit that it is certainly pretentious at times, but it also showed me visions/ideas I have never seen before; perhaps when pushing the boundary so habitually, Jordorosky is bound to step over the line a few times.  I’m not sure I’m convinced it’s as deep as it thinks it is, but it stayed with me long after the movie had ended.


I Saw the Devil (2010): It had been a long time since I had seen a great serial killer thriller, along the lines of Seven (1995), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and Copycat (1995). (Ok, maybe Copycat is just a personal fave.) Turns out, I just had to go to Korea, where Jee-woon Kim is getting down with his horror self. I saw A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) a few years back, and was greatly impressed with the quiet little ghost story. I had no idea what a drastic departure I Saw the Devil would be from his previous work. A policeman’s wife is murdered by a serial killer, and the man swears vengeance. Violent, epic, complicated, and disturbing, I Saw the Devil is a tense thriller; running close to two and a half hours, it somehow maintained a taut storyline as the game played between hunter and hunted takes turns neither of them expects. Beyond a simple revenge flick, Kim takes the time to explore the idea of revenge; what we give up for it, what it does to us, and what we ultimately get out of it. Highly recommended, although the faint of heart be warned; the violence is not glamourized or stylized in any way, and can be very disturbing (although it isn’t gratuitous either).

Well there it is; hope you were able to find one or two that piqued your interest. Until the next time,

K

*not guaranteed

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~ by K. Harker on March 7, 2011.

2 Responses to “Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Heard Of (or Maybe You Have, in Which Case, Shut Up)”

  1. […] Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Heard Of (or Maybe You Have, in Which Case, Shut Up) (errantcinephile.wordpress.com) LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  2. Absolutely..”I saw the Devil” was one of the better horror/thriller films of the past 20 years. To add to this list I would like to recommend “The Thirst”,”Dead Girl”, “Let the Right One in”, to those who don’t know, this is the original version of “Let Me in”, “Old Boy”, and for those who have been living under a rock or are afraid of subtitles, get over it!!!, “Audition” along with most of the films I have listed are not to be missed.

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