Dark Universe note: If you enjoy the following underrated horror movies list, any and all feedback would be highly appreciated. Chelsea Burnham can be found on Twitter.
It can be said that there has been a resurgence in the world of horror within the past decade as filmmakers have worked to push the limits of the genre and present us with concepts that are both new and revitalized, as well as old and familiar. In a world that is wrought with remakes, reboots, and sequels, there are some films that have taken a backseat to the more widely recognizable films that have been released. These films can be considered to be underrated as they do not get as much attention or recognition as other films within the genre. For the purpose of this article, we will be looking at films that are not as widely recognized or discussed, but can be appreciated by any horror enthusiast.
Listed in no particular ranking order, but rather in order of release, below are twenty films that you should consider checking out if you haven’t already.
1. You’re Next (2011)
You’re Next is a fresh take on the home invasion – slasher hybrid that regained popularity following the release of The Strangers. Members of the Davison family find themselves falling victim to masked attackers who seem to have a motive that hits pretty close to home. As the film progresses, it presents the viewer with twists to keep them thinking as well as bloody kill scenes that any horror fan can appreciate. However, the most appealing aspect of this film is how director Adam Wingard makes this installation in the sub-genre stand out by presenting us with a final girl that survives based on her knowledge and experience rather than her luck.
2. Would You Rather (2012)
Marketed as a psychological thriller, Would You Rather is a low-budget film that makes the effort to turn a classic party game into something more sinister. This attempt is something that has been effectively done in the past, but that we have seen many movies fall short of successfully executing. David Guy Levy presents us with victims who must face torture that is both physical and psychological in order to gain a prize that can help change their lives forever. Brittany Snow stars as Iris, the protagonist of the film, who acts as the loving caregiver for her younger brother, whom she wants the best for. Presented with the opportunity to play the game, she agrees in order to secure the necessary funds and connections needed in order to save her brother’s life. She reluctantly braves this game that becomes increasingly twisted for the severity of the prize on the line, before the film presents one final twist in an ending that you will not see coming.
3. Oculus (2014)
Mike Flanagan has most recently gained notoriety for gifting us with the Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House”. Prior to this project, Flanagan co-wrote and directed Oculus, which stars Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites. This is one of those films that presents the viewer with two different stories at once; one that is occurring in the “present”, while offering flashbacks of the characters’ past. Gillan and Thwaites portray siblings Tim and Kaylie who were orphaned as children following supernatural events that could not be explained. They attribute their parents’ fate to a mysterious mirror that their father had brought home when they were children. Kaylie has spent her life tracking down this same mirror in order to prove her brother’s sanity, as well as his innocence. Once in possession of the mirror, Tim is reluctant to participate in his sister’s experiment, which does successfully prove to the siblings that there was something much more severe at play in their childhood than their imaginations. Oculus is a film that distorts the reality of the world that it is set in, begging the question of what events truly occurred and what presented itself as the mirror wanted it to appear.
4. Clown (2014)
A movie that combines the idea of murderous clowns and possession, Clown could be argued as serving as a more adult take on R.L. Stine’s The Haunted Mask. In an effort to save the day when the clown for his son’s birthday party cancels, Kent McCoy is lucky enough to stumble upon a clown costume and surprise his family. Unfortunately, when Kent wakes up the next morning, it appears that the costume is stuck to him. Slowly, he begins to transform as the costume becomes a part of him, while also developing a dark and inexplicable hunger that threatens the lives of the children around him. What makes Clown worth the watch is the focus that the filmmakers put on the plot of the movie. Some horror movies often suffer from deviating from the plot or abandoning it halfway through the film, but that is not the case here, as the origin of the costume will give anyone another reason to be weary of clowns.
5. Spring (2014)
Following the death of his mother, Evan gets into an altercation that leads him to question where he is going with his life. With no family left to turn to, he chooses to journey to Italy in an effort to escape the fate that he finds himself stuck with. During his travels he meets a young woman named Louise, who appears to be his dream girl, and finds himself settling down in the small town in an effort to pursue a relationship with her. However, Louise is mysterious and appears to be harboring a dark secret that is more dangerous than Evan could imagine. A body horror with the premise of a romance, Spring is a mysterious film that is sure to keep you captivated until the ending.
6. The Final Girls (2015)
The Final Girls is equal parts comedy and slasher, presented as a hybrid meta film in which the characters enter a classic horror movie in their world that appears similar to Friday the 13th. Max, portrayed by Taissa Farmiga, must also grapple with the fact that the specific movie that they were pulled into was one that her deceased mother starred in. She, along with her friends, must attempt to survive the movie until the end in hopes of making it back to their own reality. The film borrows concepts from genre favorites such as Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp, while also poking fun at them in the way that Scream had previously done with the slasher genre. Although more fun than scary, it is an enjoyable watch for any horror fan.
7. The Invitation (2015)
From the director of Jennifer’s Body, Karyn Kusama, comes a psychological thriller that becomes increasingly tense as time passes. After two years without any contact, Will finds himself, his current girlfriend, and a group of their friends, invited to a dinner party that is being thrown by his ex-wife and her new husband. As Will deals with the heaviness of feeling like an intruder in what used to be his own home, he finds himself feeling as if the party hosts are hiding something. Will can only take so much of feigning politeness out of respect for his hosts before he reaches his breaking point and makes some wild accusations. Kusama succeeds in immersing the viewer in the story, making them feel just as anxious and awkward as the party guests that they are watching by slowly building the tension of the film throughout.
8. Terrifier (2016)
Damien Leone’s Terrifier is an independent film that has been gaining increasing amounts of recognition since its release, but still appears to be greatly overlooked. The film opens with a talk show segment that recounts the horrific events that occurred on Halloween, before flashing back to the night in question. David Howard Thornton stars as Art, a homicidal clown that wipes the floor with his predecessors. Despite the silent archetype that has previously been perfected by classic villains, Art’s vow of silence feels fresh as he does not wear a mask and allows his victims to see his exaggerated facial expressions in a way that is both over the top and disturbing. Art shocks his audience by offering more than one memorable and bloody death scene, as well as arguably cheating his way to victory in the end by breaking free from the cliches of traditional horror villains.
9. The Belko Experiment (2016)
Written by James Gunn, The Belko Experiment plays with the idea of traditional social experiments, but on a much darker scale. Set in Colombia, employees of Belko Industries find themselves locked inside of their office building by unfamiliar security. With the doors and windows of the building sealed off, the only way out of the experiment is for the office workers to turn on one another, with a mysterious voice through the intercom instructing them that thirty employees must die within two hours, or sixty employees will be killed. This ultimatum leads to two groups forming among the workers, with one group aiming to survive by any means necessary, including murder. At the end of the two hours, it is revealed that the group had been short one death and as a result, an additional thirty-one employees must die. The scope of the study appears to continue to change until one sole survivor remains, only to learn that the experiment is much bigger than originally anticipated. The Belko Experiment is an excellent choice for fans of gore with an abundance of deaths that range from heads exploding, fire, impalement, and having one’s face bashed in with a tape dispenser.
10. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
Director André Øveredal presents the story of Tommy and Austin Tilden, who find themselves tasked with the autopsy of an unidentified woman. What should be a routine examination for the town coroner and his son soon takes a strange turn as multiple causes of death can be found, but without any external trauma to the body. As they progress throughout the autopsy, making further disturbing discoveries, strange events begin to occur around them. Their initial belief that Jane Doe had been killed and that her murderer had gone to extreme lengths to avoid being caught soon dissipates into something much darker. What makes The Autopsy of Jane Doe so compelling is that as the story unravels it only continues to evolve.
11. Hush (2016)
Hush is another film presented by Mike Flanagan who wrote it alongside his wife, Kate Siegel, who also stars in the film. Slightly reminiscent of Wait Until Dark, starring Audrey Hepburn, Hush tells the tale of a woman who suffers from sensory disabilities. Maddie (Siegel) is an author who is both deaf and mute. She finds herself the victim of a masked killer after he attacks and murders her friend Sarah right outside of her door. Unable to hear Sarah’s cries, Maddie does not realize that anything is amiss until her phone goes missing and she begins receiving photographs of herself on her computer. Using her imaginative ability to envision different endings to the stories that become her published books, Maddie attempts to figure out the best scenario in which she will survive the night. Full of suspense, Hush is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat until the end.
You Can Check Out Hush on Netflix RIGHT HERE!
12. Don’t Breathe (2016)
During an era of poorly done remakes, in 2013 Fede Alvarez brought us a reimagining of Evil Dead that knocked all other remake attempts out of the park. In 2016, he directed Don’t Breathe, and brought back Jane Levy to star. Alvarez turns the table on home invasion horror by presenting the homeowner as the villain of this film. A group of friends break into the house of a blind man in an attempt to steal a rumored fortune that he has hidden away. Unfortunately for this trio of would-be robbers, they underestimate the homeowner that they are up against. It is interesting to see the movie unfold from the point of view of the invaders as more is revealed about the homeowner through the story’s progression. Alvarez succeeds in presenting a film that deals out a more realistic form of stomach-churning horror than the copious amounts of bloodshed to be expected following his success with Evil Dead.
13. Tragedy Girls (2017)
Tragedy Girls is a satirical take on the slasher genre that has been popular for decades. The earliest twist of the movie occurs within the first five minutes as the film introduces the two main characters who will do just about anything to gain internet stardom. As the operators of a true crime blog and YouTube-esque channel that has been titled Tragedy Girls, best friends Sadie and McKayla realize that they need to be involved in some sort of actual tragedy in order to gain the views and followers that they crave. The film does a great job at placing the obsession that youths have with social media and the idea of instant fame under a microscope for audiences, a concept that was previously introduced in Scream 4. With over-the-top death scenes that often occur with more luck than things going according to plan, it’s a film that any horror-comedy lover can appreciate.
14. The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017)
Starring Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, and Lucy Boynton, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a psychological horror that moves slowly, but in a way that makes it both bewitching and memorable. Layering two different stories, writer and director Osgood Perkins works to weave a tale that provides a sense of unease that sticks until the very end. The movie begins with Kat (Shipka) and Rose (Boynton), two teenage girls who have been left behind at boarding school during a break. It soon becomes apparent that there is something wrong with Kat, and Rose becomes more and more unsettled by her as the time passes. Joan (Roberts) makes her first appearance in the bathroom of a bus stop, though much about her remains a mystery aside from the fact that she appears to be interested in getting to the same town that the boarding school is located in. As her journey progresses, it appears that Kat descends further and further into the darkness that has consumed her.
15. Doctor Sleep (2019)
Doctor Sleep is, notably, going to be the biggest name on this list. Released during a time of year in which many people are more focused on the holidays, and following the release of IT: Chapter Two, Flanagan’s sequel to The Shining is one that appears to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, the film follows Danny Torrance’s struggles following the events that took place at the Overlook Hotel approximately forty years prior to this film’s setting. After finally finding his footing in the world, Danny has the rug ripped out from under him when he comes across a teenager named Abra that has the same abilities that he has repressed. Danny finds himself working to help protect Abra from a dark group that has been feeding on similarly gifted individuals in a vampire-like effort for eternal life. Filled with easter eggs that connect to the original film, Flanagan succeeds in paying a respectable homage to The Shining in a way that fans will appreciate, while continuing Danny’s individual story.
16. Eli (2019)
A direct to Netflix release, Eli breaks free of the stigma that is often associated with direct to video (or video on demand) releases. The title character, Eli, is a young boy that has a rare disease that forces him to live a sheltered life. In a last-ditch effort to find a cure for his illness, his parents bring him to a specialized facility that claims to be able to treat impossible cases such as Eli’s. He goes through a series of treatments that appear to be draining and painful, before befriending a young girl that he only ever sees through the windows of the facility. Believing the grounds are haunted, Eli finds himself investigating the previous patients only to find that they have each met an untimely demise. There is much more to the experimental therapy that Eli’s parents have signed him up for, and just when it appears that you might think that you have the ending figured out, it throws one last curveball that you might not expect.
You Can Check Out Eli on Netflix RIGHT HERE!
17. 1BR (2019)
A new addition to Netflix, 1BR follows the cliché of a young woman leaving home to start a new life in Los Angeles. Sarah, portrayed by Nicole Brydon Bloom, easily finds a job as an office temp and lands what appears to be her ideal apartment despite being amongst dozens of applicants for the space. However, it appears that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Her dream apartment soon turns into a nightmare as she is kept awake at night by strange noises in the wall, which send her into a state of exhaustion that leaves her vulnerable to the dark inner workings of her new complex’s community. A tense, psychological thriller that moves fairly quickly, 1BR offers a look at how easily cult-like communities can weave their way into society and become bigger than one would initially think possible.
18. Haunt (2019)
Written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place), Haunt offers a more imaginative take on the familiar storyline of a haunted house that is much more dangerous than it appears. After leaving a Halloween party, a group of college students stumble across a mysterious haunted house attraction along the side of the road and decide to enter, despite the necessary requirement of having to relinquish their phones until they exit. Under the illusion that this haunted house is just like every other over-the-top holiday thrill, including having to sign a waiver to enter, the group makes light of many of the elements of the attraction. However, it soon becomes all too clear that none of the violent scenes they have witnessed were fake and that the men working the attraction are far more sinister without their masks.
19. We Summon the Darkness (2019)
Set during the midst of the Satanic Panic era within the United States, We Summon the Darkness is a fun love letter to the horror B-movies of the age that it attempts to simulate. Alexandra Daddario stars as Alexis, who is travelling with her two friends Val and Bev, portrayed by Maddie Hasson and Amy Forsyth respectively. When they meet a trio of boys at a heavy metal concert, they invite them back to Alexis’ house for an after party despite the murderous rampage that has been occurring as a result of the growing Satanic cult in the area. What is supposed to be an enjoyable night quickly takes a turn for the worst. Arguably lighter than any of the other movies on this list, We Summon the Darkness is easily an enjoyable film from start to finish.
20. The Hunt (2020)
While Blumhouse Productions has previously brought forward some rather popular films, including Paranormal Activity, The Purge, Get Out, and the 2018 sequel to the original Halloween, The Hunt fell short of gaining the same recognition despite its fairly star-studded cast. Taking the position of being a film that is equal parts horror and political satire, it still offers the unpredictability and gratuitous violence that audiences crave. When a group of strangers wake up in a clearing with access to weapons that become necessary in order to defend themselves, they begin to try and figure out what has led them to be chosen to be hunted. The real stand out character in the film is that of Crystal May Creasey, portrayed by Betty Gilpan. Crystal is strong, resourceful, and a complete force to be reckoned with – relenting in a way that is impressive, while still maintaining her own humility.
What other horror movies do you consider to be underrated in the genre? Let us know about it down in our comments section below this article.
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