Monday, 14 February 2011

Top 10 Criminally Overlooked Horror Films

The last two decades have seen an overabundance of horror films flood the market, with many of these being ridiculous attempts at making a quick buck, whether it be sequels or poor cash ins on successful films. Hell, look at IMDBs bottom 250 and just count how many are recent, awful horror films. But in this barrage of crap, some truly worthy fare gets lost along the way. Now, a truly good film will always find its audience, but for those that have it a bit more difficult, there is this list.

10. SEED OF CHUCKY (2004)

For many, this fifth entry in the long-lagging Child’s Play series seals the nail in the coffin that the previous instalment, Bride of Chucky, had hinted at. A film about two maniacs trapped in dolls bodies attempt to transfer their souls into human vessels, many fans found the film stupid and completely devoid of scares.

The film is a comedy!

I swear...


Let’s face it, everyone was bored of the killer-doll-trying-to-find-a-human-body angle about halfway through the second film. This, however, is a film for the fans, being the most self-referential horror since Scream (and cheekier by far). The film is genre pop culture in a can, with a cast bound to catch your attention one way or the other, with the likes of Jennifer Tilly, Billy Boyd, John Waters, Hannah Spearritt (of S Club 7 fame) and rapper Redman. Throw in Brad Dourif as the always delectable Chucky, and you have one insane tongue-in-cheek thrill ride.

Think of it like a live action version of The Simpsons… with killer dolls.

9. SPHERE (1998)

This sci-fi horror about a group of scientists sent to examine an alien spacecraft found in the Pacific Ocean, who discover a mysterious sphere that unleashes an entity that creates a nightmare situation, was bashed by critics upon release, yet…

It’s terrifying. And not in ‘loud noise/soil your whites’ kind of way. It is all about playing on your paranoia about the person next to you, and it plays on this fear well. Samuel L. Jackson delivers solidly as a ridiculously disturbing potential villain, and even Sharon Stone works well. Give this film the attention it deserves and deny the chill running down your spine during the book scene, I dare you.

Pictured: Samuel L. Jackson and two people who are yet
to be tired of the mother fuckin snakes on the mother fuckin plane.


8. DAY OF THE DEAD (1985)

This one might be a bone of contention, as it has quite a large fan base, but George A. Romero’s zombie apocalypse of scientists and soldiers taking refuge in a missile silo was lambasted when first released and for years considered the weakest of the original trilogy.

“Let’s see, I’ve my keys… My wallet… I feel like I’m
forgetting something…”

But this film was released in the 80s, a time of fun and frolics and bad hair dos. Horror was dominated by lighter fare like Return of the Living Dead and Fright Night. Romero’s previous Dead film, Dawn of the Dead, was a comic book come to life and people were expecting more of the same. What they got was a dark and gritty portrayal of humanity losing. This film dares you to hate the protagonists, putting you uncomfortably in their. Really, it is a film before its time and can maybe now be re-evaluated as the people piece it is.

7. HELLRAISER 4: BLOODLINE (1994)

Some don’t know the Hellraiser films number eight entries and counting, but number four is an interesting specimen. Director Kevin Yagher took his name off the film when it was recut by the studios, and it was dismissed by fans as, well, rubbish. But hear my argument.

Three words: No. More. Disco. The previous film tried its hand at being modern and contemporary but what we got was cocaine and dance clubs. The first two films will always be remembered as some of the finest horror cinema. I recommend you follow my lead and pretend that part three never happened. Though flawed, part four is Citizen Kane to part three’s Deuce Bigalow.

Bad hair day.


6. JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 (2003)

Another monster picking off annoying high school clichés, this film was trodden upon by everyone. How can I defend it?

You guys are SO in a horror film right now.

It is a film with a monster picking off annoying high school clichés, and it is fantastic at it! Shot amazingly, with a simple premise and no holds barred attitude, Jeepers Creepers 2 is one of the rare films to deliver on the idea of mutilating those stereotypes we all knew from school with such a glee and malice but we can relate to them, making it all that more bearable as we watch them dissipate one by one, as opposed to, say, the Friday the 13th films, where we don’t care. Oh, speaking of which…

5. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 6: JASON LIVES (1986)

This film brought Jason back from the dead as a zombie and, with him, a sense of humour about the stale slasher genre. This did not go over well.

He doesn’t take criticism well.

Now, this film and its self-referential nature can finally be appreciated. This is easily one of, if not the best, of the series. This one isn’t lumbering or stupid. It’s witty, fast-paced and is giving a wink to horror fans. The characters are relatively throwaway, but even they seem to know it. Plus, the sounds of gunshots in this film are ridiculously EPIC!

4. SILENT HILL (2006)

The big screen adaptation of the popular Silent Hill video games was quickly dismissed and forgotten about by pretty much everyone.

Uh-huh… Fuck this noise.

It’s sad, because this is one of the few hopes in an abysmal year (and, I’d argue, decade) for horror. The plot isn’t slow, it’s methodical. We are still getting to grips with the mother searching for a child who seems to have entered hell when suddenly we are faced with monsters and cults. Shot amazingly, with a creepy score and oodles of tension, this is a film that I think will be rediscovered down the line as an above average offering from the decade that brought the world Twilight (yeah, I went there).

3. THE HAPPENING (2008)

M. Night Shamalamafamagama…. The Sixth Sense guy returns with another horror, this time centring around the sudden mass suicides of large groups of people. With M. Night you already know you are going to get a twist, so I won’t spoil that for you, but after snorefest Lady in the Water, people were ready to tell M. Night where to go with his ‘twists’.

But this is pure B-movie fun. You know those nuclear horror B-movies of the 50s? Well, The Happening is our version of irradiated ants. Come on, do you really think we are supposed to seriously buy into a film that has both Marky Mark AND John Leguizamo as teachers? It was never going to win an Oscar, but it’s a bit of fun.

He’s wearing glasses. That’s how you know he’s smart.

2. THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1999)

A horror remake before Michael Bay made horror remakes popular, House on Haunted Hill was a haunted house film labelled as unoriginal, non-scary, and dumb.

What film were people watching? I have honestly been unable to find any decent haunted house films between this and 1963s The Haunting. Ok, it is not a perfect film, but it looks amazing (ever see the Beautiful People video by Marilyn Manson? Now make that a feature), is genuinely creepy, and has the brilliantly Vincent Price-esque performance by Geoffrey Rush. Its ending is a little bit ‘Hollywood’, but if you buy in for the ride, it won’t disappoint you.

This film tried to bring back pencil moustaches single-
handed. It was a noble effort.

1. BLAIR WITCH 2: BOOK OF SHADOWS (2000)

I can almost hear people arguing already. The Blair Witch Project was arguably one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons of the late 90s and you could hear the cash registers ring when this sequel abruptly found its way into cinemas. Fans hated the departure from the originals style, critics found the film messy, and director Joe Berlinger was vocal about the studios interference.

Imagine a world where this film was a horror about people obsessed with the Blair Witch film, then the freaky events start happening, but it is in no way tied to the film. It’d be amazing. A non-sequel sequel. Sure, the characters are loosely drawn in places, but they are well cast (Erica Leerhsen always
awesome) and the script is WTF enough to be odd and exciting.

Erica Leerhsen: I melt every time.

Even better, the DVD has a gimmick called The Secrets of Esrever (‘reverse’ backwards, in case you missed it) and this adds a new layer of images to some scenes. I’m man enough to admit I had to turn the light on when I noticed some of the secret images.

So, in terms of hate:quality ratio, Blair Witch 2 is a winner in my books. It has layers to explore and some brilliantly mind-twisting ways it gets there.

Did I mention Erica Leerhsen is in it?


I now have some articles being published with the good folks over at Best For Film.  Articles I post there will make their way here after a few days, but do check out their site. There are some decent articles by writers who are probably better than me!