Hello my fellow scary movie lovers. As October crawls to its end and Halloween fast approaches, the time for bundling up and immersing yourself in a fictional fright fest is alive and well. A couple weeks ago my fellow GlitchUp co-founder wrote a similar piece on underrated horror films, a fantastic list to reference when getting in the spooky mood. As I was called out by Andy to write my own list (after I disagreed with a few of his), I figured I would indulge him and you readers with a heartily balanced frightening list of my own.
*I’ve tried to avoid well-known ones, but alas, my passionate love for some wouldn’t let me leave them out. Sorrey!
Of course, right off the bat I’m throwing out the strict horror conventions. This is more of a psychological, sci-fi thriller. I really don’t even know entirely to be honest. After watching it at 2AM one day, I had to do another hour of research and forum scouring to even grasp the movie. It is heady for sure. But! Even if you can’t wrap your mind around it entirely, Coherence is extremely tense, as things slowly escalate throughout. For a movie maybe featuring parallel universes, it is extremely personal, close, and contained which pushes the tense atmosphere higher.
Coherence centers on a dinner party of friends. Some like each other, some don’t, some have some issues; it’s your typical gathering where tensions rise. But with the story throwing in a sci-fi element, those tensions are able to bubble up and burst reasonably. I’ll stop there but even if it’s not strict horror, it’s well worth a watch.
Fun fact: I just watched Children of the Corn for the first time last night. Wow! Did that movie suck or what. Kids being dangerous and crazy has never scared me and it takes a truly smart storyline and character personalities to make it work at all. Luckily, Eden Lake has that. To be fair, the kids tormenting in this are teenagers so the playing field is a bit more balanced, but it still focuses on the fact that they are just children and, let me tell you, that emphasis ends the movie in a true gut punch.
Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly play a couple taking a trip to a remote lake, who run into some juvenile delinquents. Things slowly escalate in terms of what these local youths do to torment the couple, and it jumps to some pretty shocking acts. As I said, the end brings the whole situation back to a grounded, realistic level that makes me terrified to get into it with some random British hoodlums.
This movie looked so bad when the trailers first came out! I made fun of people for days for saying they wanted to see it. Boy, was I wrong (and also rude). Unfriended is one of my favorites of the past 10 years, quite honestly, and the way it flipped the found footage genre into an interesting storytelling format should be lauded. Unfriended takes place in a Skype session (stop rolling your eyes) between 6 high schoolers on the anniversary of the suicide of one of their friends. Shortly into their session someone joins their chat and won’t leave. They can’t figure out how to get the person out, and slowly weird, spooky things begin to happen.
It all plays out through the screen of one girl, our main character, which sounds terrible but it works beautifully. It feels like you are just doing stuff on your computer. The filmmakers here understood how high schoolers act, how social media works, and avoid all the typical brutal misunderstandings people making these kinds of movies tend to make. While listening to high schoolers talk about their high school problems can be a bit annoying and unrelatable, it doesn’t matter here. The tension that arises from those builds with the growing concern over this mysterious chat visitor, and the main group’s issues with each other specifically slowly creep out. The visitor causes these but the terror from the spooky, maybe paranormal events is a nice balance with the personal relationship downfall that happens throughout.
The House of the Devil
This is slow burn done right. A college aged woman is struggling for money and desperately wants to move out of her dorm (a roommate from hell* is the issue there) and into an apartment all to herself. She finds some flyers asking for a babysitter and gives it a call. She sets it up, drives out to the house which is a bit spooky but not entirely off, and settles in for the night. The people she is babysitting for are a bit weird, but that’s to be expected in what amounts to a pre-Craig’s List version of finding a babysitter. The scares slowly build and build, but despite the snail natured pace of the film it never feels boring. You are constantly clenching, gritting your teeth, worried about what may happen. Director Ti West’s ability to make your expectations grow, be let down, and then get hit hard is what puts this a notch above the rest.
This is on a lot of underrated lists, so I hesitated to put it on here but alas, I couldn’t pass it up. You’re Next isn’t quite a horror-comedy but it balances the scares and action with laughable moments in an effective manner for a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is, in simple terms, a fun horror flick.
You’re Next focuses on a family gathering at their parents home for a weekend. Everyone seems pretty shitty and they all get into little spats with each other. The family is full of different characters and personalities that keeps the dialogue zipping and interesting. The issues each person has with each other feel earned and not entirely ridiculous, although some characters are just utter assholes. Obviously, eventually a group of people begin to terrorize them.
Cool original plot, Austin! Thanks for the recommendation! NOT! You may be saying that right now. Fair. But, without giving the main twists away, let’s just say the film flips the regular house invader conventions in favor of something much more exciting. Featuring creepy masked villains, a bad ass protagonist, and consistent tension or action, You’re Next is a must watch.
Cabin in the Woods
Yeah yeah, another cliche pick. It’s impossible to keep this off an underrated list because there are still so many people who either haven’t seen it or have completely forgotten about it. Everything one can say about Cabin in the Woods has been said before, but I’ll do a quick overview to represent the greatness that is.
A group of five friends, each a clear stereotype from every horror movie ever, go out to a cabin in the woods. As any cabin out in the woods would be, it is very eerie. They find some weird stuff down in the cellar and soon after, bad shit happens. All this time (non-spoiler, you literally find out right away) two guys in labcoats have been watching the group in what looks like a high tech government bunker facility. This is already a wrench in the cliche story, one that is wrought with them. That’s the whole point of the movie. It takes every horror cliche, sets it in the story, and gives it a funny spin.
I don’t think Cabin is as clever as everyone makes it out to be, but the way the strings are pulled in the movie is a clear parallel to the filmmakers behind every horror movie. It’s meta, original, and entertaining every single second.
While the original Evil Dead movies are well known and two of the most beloved horror flicks ever, the reboot faltered. It was a big studio movie that actually changed the entire tone from the originals, something you would think would be welcome in an age of constant rehashes. Directed by Fede Alvarez, who is most known for the horror hit Don’t Breathe, this iteration of Evil Dead is pure horror.
A cliche story (this is the rehash aspect) of friends going out to a cabin in a secluded area, wherein something demonic/paranormal begins to take over. There’s not much more to it, honestly, and I can see how that could lead to people shrugging this off, especially since it lacks the comedic elements of the Sam Raimi directed classics. But what makes this stand out is the tone, atmosphere, and scares Alvarez creates. There are many movies that claim to be scary and intense but ultimately end up being more tense with no payoff. This is payoff times a thousand. It builds to a scare, scares you, continues to scare you, and goes off the rails terror. This entity doesn’t just hang around causing things to slowly build into a few scares. This entity is outright terrorizing the group. In a time of unoriginal reboots and the favoring of atmosphere over actual payoffs, Evil Dead is a movie that stands above and outside the rest. It feels like what you would describe a horror movie to be.
A (kinda) zombie movie! Told you this would be balanced. I’m not a fan of zombie movies but shoutout The Crazies. A sheriff (Timothy Olyphant, the GOD) in a small town begins to experience some very weird things after finding a downed plane in a local river. People seem to be going crazy, turning into psychopathic killers. Olyphant tries to get his family out of town and to safety, while doing slow work to understand what is happening.
An overall twist doesn’t land or shock as much as they wish it would have I think, but the movie doesn’t suffer from it. It’s simply a reason for the craziness and that’s all. It adds an extra element of horror to the proceedings, in a movie that is packed with intense outright terrifying sequences. This is another scary movie that just gets the job done without trying to do too much.
Your story is this: Dan Stevens arrives at the home of a family of four, saying he served in the military with their son (who died). He says he’s only stopping to give condolences and talk to them about their son, but is eventually invited to stay with them. He seems a little off, despite being a seemingly perfect human, and does questionable things that may not feel entirely questionable because they are for the family. Things build as suspicions mount until his true motivations are revealed.
Featuring Dan Stevens, before he became the Beast, and Maika Monroe, before she became a star in It Follows, this was directed and written by the same guys behind You’re Next. It turns into a straight action flick at a certain point, which can disappoint, but it manages to keep you on the edge of your seat most of the time. Stevens has a killer jacket, is suave and cool as all hell, and knocks it out of the park. This is the most non-horror of the entire list but it’s a favorite and is a load of fun.
This pops up on no one’s lists! As a matter of fact, when I remembered this I had to make sure I wasn’t just making it up because nobody ever talks about it. And that’s surprising! Because this is a great little thriller with a legitimately creepy villain that is reminiscent of some of the best slashers ever created (Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers).
The Collector focuses on an ex-con who is working as a handyman. His wife is in a bit of financial trouble, so he resorts to his old ways to fix the problem. He sets out to steal a ruby from the family and house he is working on. He breaks in only to find out someone else is already inside, rigging the house with elaborate traps. In a setting with essentially no exit without brutal pain or death, our main character has to decide whether to save the family, escape, or kill the intruder.
The movie veers into the torture-y ways of Saw at points (not surprising, it was originally planned as a Saw prequel) but isn’t overbearing with it. It was fairly panned upon release but has developed a deserved cult following. For a home invasion flick with an immoral protagonist, this stands out in the pack.
That’s it for my list! If you’ve seen these, give me a holler on Twitter (@aystub_) and let’s chat about them. Remember to like all of GlitchUp’s social media, and sound off on who had the better list: Me (obviously) or Andy.