Friday, October 28, 2011

My Favorite Obscure Horror Films

In honor of Halloween being Monday night, I thought I’d put together a list of great horror movies you can use to creep yourselves out. Boo! But rather than list the usual suspects like The Exorcist, The Sixth Sense, Poltergeist, and Alien, I thought I'd give you some more obscure films that I truly love.

The Others (2001): A psychological drama as much as a horror film, this story of a borderline-abusive mother (Nichole Kidman) who lives in a darkened old house with her two photosensitive children delves deeply into questions of paranoia and supernatural hauntings as an unseen enemy seems determined to destroy Kidman. This film also has a genuinely amazing twist you'll never see coming.

Phantasm (1979): A true cult classic, this independent film is well known among horror aficionados for a reason: it’s great! The story of a young boy who discovers something mysterious going on at the local graveyard, Phantasm has a truly original concept, a surprisingly strong execution, and gave us a murderous flying ball, an army of dwarves, and an iconic villain: “the Tall Man.”

Pontypool (2009): More a psychological thriller than a zombie film, Pontypool provides a very strong and unique take on zombies. This one is really gripping. (Reviewed Here)

Prince of Darkness (1987): John Carpenter’s scariest film, POD is the story of a group of scientists trapped in a church as the Antichrist tries to break into our universe. This film combines a very original premise with some fantastically creepy suspense and some really horrific moments to give us one of the more troubling horror movies in the past forty years. (Reviewed Here)

Session 9 (2001): I expected nothing when I saw this David Caruso/Paul Guilfoyle-led independent film late one night and I was amazed to find it tense, compelling and spooky. The story of an asbestos cleaning crew who freak themselves out as they work to clean up an abandoned mental hospital with a horrific past, this film provides enough tension to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983): Not a scary movie by any means, this is more of a mood movie, with Jason Robards as a father who fears he’s lost the respect of his boy, giving an opening to an evil circus ring-mastered by Jonathan Pryce to come to town and lure the townsfolk to their doom. The library scene alone is worth the price of admission. (Reviewed Here)

The Fog (1980): Staring Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh and Hal Holbrook, John Carpenter’s The Fog is a film that is so much better than it deserves to be. The story of a California fishing town about to be overrun by a fog seeking revenge for sins committed by the town’s founders 100 year before, this film will creep you out without grossing you out. Interestingly, the creepiest moments were forced upon Carpenter by the studio. (Avoid the remake.)

60 comments:

tryanmax said...

Something about the trailer got me wanting to see Session 9 in the theater when it came out. I haven't seen it since then, so my memory of it is hazy, but remember leaving the theater satisfied.

SWTWC was a staple of my childhood. I swear, they were trying to mess kids up in the 80's what with this and Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, even Beetlejuice was marketed to kids but it's not a kids' movie. I should know, I was a kid when it came out. Not for kids.

Tam said...

Phantasm scared the living daylights out of me as a kid. So did The Changeling. We watched The Changeling as an 8th grade class at school. Can you believe it? I'm sure my parents had no clue.

tryanmax said...

Oh, I wanted to add one of my favorite overlooked scary movies: Arachnophobia. Maybe it gets bypassed because it's a comedy, too. But it's a comedy in the same vein as Tremors, a humorous cast of characters in a seriously tense situation with some real scares thrown in.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I saw Session 9 one night on Showtime. It was in garbage time and I wasn't expecting anything -- especially as I don't care for Caruso at all. But I thought it was really good -- very tense and some great moments. The ending could have been a little better, but the rest of the movie made up for it.

SWTWC is one of those movies I love to watch in fall. It's just so well done with the leaves and the colors and everything. And I think the acting is great, especially Pryce and the writing in the library scene is truly inspired!

Labyrith was great! I'm a Bowie fan and I just liked the movie all around! the Dark Crystal was good too, though I didn't enjoy it as much as something like Labyrinth.

Personally, I like the stronger stories for kids. I think the weak-storied, non-scary stuff they make for kids today doesn't hold a candle to the more intense stuff from the past.

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, I loved Phantasm as a kid. To me, that movie is exactly what horror films are supposed to be -- creepy, cool and original with strange stuff going on all over the place that kind of makes sense. And yeah, it can get pretty scary. :)

The Changeling is really good too. I'm surprised they showed that to an 8th grade class? What kind of class? English?

T-Rav said...

Cabin Fever, perhaps? I don't know if it's a horror movie per se, and truth be told it's not all that good, but it is kind of creepy, since the foe is something you can't grapple with or even see. Or maybe it's just on the gross side. I'm not sure.

Joy Ride is another good but obscure one.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I've become a real fan of Arachnophobia over the years. It's one of the best "killer animal" type horror movies out there. Plus, I like all the actors! SciFi shows it now regularly too and I'm amazed how well it's held up over time!

Tam said...

My memory is a little fuzzy on exactly how it came about, but our whole 8th grade class (small town, small school...63 kids or so) was in the library for the movie. I think it was a reward for the end of the semester or something like that. It wasn't educational. It was a "party." And I think that at least 60 of us were terrified. The other 3 weren't paying attention.

BoilerRoomElf said...

Good list Bossman Andrew, but I don't see a lot of killer elves on the list. Sounds like anti-elf bias going on here!

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: I agree with you on both versions of The Fog. The original is chilling, the re-make is a stinker. The latter is another example of how CGI has replaced plot, atmosphere and character.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I like Joy Ride a good deal -- excellent premise. I even like the sequel oddly.

On Cabin Fever and others like it, I've really soured on the hillbilly slasher flicks that SciFi shows all the time now. I was ok with one or two, but there are many now and they are so unoriginal. Ug.


P.S. I had to chuckle a bit when I put The Others on the list because you're always complaining you haven't seen what I review and here's one I know you've seen! :) (Of course, I'm not reviewing... but it all works some how).

tryanmax said...

BRE: Does Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood count? I think the title alone is frightening enough. I don't think I'll ever actually see it.

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, Ah. I see. I think we got some of those too, though I don't remember any specific films. I went to bigger schools so we never did anything school-wide except assemblies. But I had several classes that watched films every so often.

AndrewPrice said...

BRE, There's no anti-Elf bias at Commentarama! To the contrary, we love elves, even killer elves and even drunken, cookie-making, unionized-thug boiler elves! :)

How about we add The Elforcist to the list? Or Eloween?

tryanmax said...

Ooh, ooh! I’ve got another one. Has anyone ever seen Duel? It caught my eye on Netflix a couple of years ago and I loved it. Really intense! I can’t think of another film even like it.

BoilerRoomElf said...

Those'll do, those will do! Keep 'em coming, lest you want ANGRY Boiler Room Elves hiding under your bed with sharpened candy canes!

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Very true. To me, the old Fog was a great example what a little creativity and some nice direction can do. And the new one is the perfect example of what happens when you make a movie for the sole purpose of making money.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Don't waste your time on Leprechaun. The premise is "we can make people see anything." It's really just a horrible film with no point whatsoever. :(

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Now Duel is an impressive film -- another cult classic in the horror field!

Interestingly, it's written by SciFi great Robert Matheson and was directed by Steven Spielberg of all people! In fact, it was Spielberg's first film.

I also recall a lot of people debating whether or not the truck is Satan. So there are some interesting undertones there too!

Good call! :)

DUQ said...

Nice list, I think I've seen most of those!

Andrew, You mentioned a foreign horror film a couple weeks ago. Do you remember what that was?

AndrewPrice said...

BRE, Sharpened candy canes! LOL!

"The Candy Cane Killer!" Wooo!

How about PolterElf or Elfzilla?

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, Yeah, it's Korean. It's called Memento Mori in English (which is actually Latin meaning remember your mortality). I can't think of the Korean title.

It's about two girls (lesbians) at a high school in Korea. One is driven to suicide and comes back to haunt the school. It's got a surprisingly strong story even apart from being a horror film and then adds a solid dose of horror on top.

The film is highly regarded, though it was barely seen in Korean because the lesbian angle caused people to avoid it.

If you're into foreign films and horror, I would check it out.

tryanmax said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't Duel just made for TV? If so, it's pretty amazing. It's better than many theatrical releases.

ScyFyterry said...

Thanks for the list! I know some of these, but not all of them. I love "Duel"! Good call on tryanmax!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That is actually true (I had to look it up to confirm) -- total budget... $450,000.

AndrewPrice said...

ScyFyTerry, You're welcome! Feel free to add anything to the list that you can think of!

ScyFyterry said...

How about "The Descent"?

AndrewPrice said...

Excellent film! I remember that was one of those surprise hits that was expected to just make a couple bucks and be forgotten, but people really flocked to it.

In fact, (had to look this up) it turn 3.5 million pounds into $57 million. Not bad at all.

Of course, being a great flick helped! :)

ScottDS said...

As you're no doubt aware, horror ain't my genre, but...

...tryanmax mentioned Beetlejuice, which is one of my favorite films and was pretty much weekly viewing for me as a kid. I don't think it's Tim Burton's best movie but it might just be his most interesting. I look at it now and the characters talk about life, death, suicide, etc. and I think to myself, "Did I understand even half of this stuff as a 7-year old?" :-)

In elementary school, whenever we had a free day, they'd often show us a movie called The Witches with Angelica Houston and a kid that turns into a mouse. I think it was a Jim Henson production. I haven't seen it in years - I should look it up. I remember liking it a lot, and Miss Houston's witch make-up was excellent.

tryanmax said...

You know what they say, if you can think it, it's on the internet. Well, I just had to google it to find out, and what do you know: LINK

Here's more: LINK

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, We should find a way to make horror your genre? Tell us where you live.... ;)

Beetlejuice was such a weird film I still don't know if I liked it or not -- it's the same thing with Edward Scissorhands.

I recall The Witches, but haven't seen it since it came out. I recall it being good, but don't recall many of the specifics.

Even if you don't like horror, you should check out The Others and Something Wicked -- both are well worth it, even outside of the horror genre.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Oh my! I guess we should have known someone would make Elf: the Horror story. LOL! I'm sure the BRE will be thrilled!

As a side note, the net is so crawling with everything that I've come to the conclusion that it represents the entire human subconscious at this point. And we're pretty messed up if you ask me.

ScottDS said...

Andrew - yeah, those two films are the ones on the list I would be interested in seeing one day.

You should check out Beetlejuice again one day. It's just so odd, no studio would ever make a movie like it today. It was only Tim Burton's second film so people didn't know what to expect. I believe the original drafts of the script were much darker but Burton (and Michael Keaton) made it much lighter and funnier than it might've been if it had been directed by someone like Wes Craven.

And movie trailers today still use Danny Elfman's theme from the film. It's become a bit of a shorthand for "madcap comedy with horror elements" (or vice versa).

As for Scissorhands, it helps if you think of it like a fairytale. I enjoy it but I find it hard to watch sometimes just because it's one of those "When will the other shoe drop?" films because you just know something bad is gonna happen to the character.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Beetleejuice is a very strange mix of funny and not funny which I have long suspected was a much darker script that got partially re-written to be funnier.

On that note, I find that very few movies can mix horror and comedy well. Ghostbusters does it by choosing the comedy route. But few others pull it off because I think they try to go the horror route and somehow it just never works. Frighteners is a good example of that, which tried to be sort of funny and sort of likable but still be a horror film at heart and it just doesn't work for me -- even though I like all the elements individually. It would have been better if they had decided to firmly go the comedy route.

Edward Scissorhands has always struck me as too depressing.

tryanmax said...

In spite of what I said earlier, I really like Beetlejuice and I also very much like Edward Scissorhands. In fact, I pretty much like all of Burton's work prior to Sleepy Hollow (what a let down).

Since then, nothing he has done has really resonated with me save for Sweeny Todd, and even that could have been done better, I think. I'll be interested to see what sort of treatment he gives his remake of Frankenweenie.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, My problem with Burton began sometime after Sleepy Hollow... probably around the time of Corpse Bride... and it's that he's just copying himself now. At one point, he could be counted on to deliver strange, strange films that were always interesting. But these days, he provides mostly commercial films set in a generic Tim Burton world. I would honestly like to see him get the old creative spirit back and just go try something truly crazy.

T-Rav said...

I'm not ALWAYS complaining about that, Andrew! Putting words in my mouth much?! ;-)

Anyway, thank you for putting "The Others" on there. (Although, to be honest, I sorta did see the twist coming. Maybe I heard a scrap or two of info from my friends first and put it together from there, I'm not sure.)

I like both "Beetlejuice" and "Sleepy Hollow." In fact, the latter is probably the last thing by Tim Burton that I cared for much. They're both a little tacky in their way, and Burton did kinda ruin Ichabod Crane a little bit, but I still thought it was an interesting twist on the story. For the record, I never liked "Edward Scissorhands," "Nightmare before Christmas," "Corpse Bride," or any of his other horror stuff.

T-Rav said...

Scott, I didn't understand three-fourths of "Hocus Pocus" when I was a 7-year-old, much less "Beetlejuice." (Honestly, HP should almost be a PG-13 movie, when you get right down to it.) And, of course, I still watched it a lot.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I only put a few words in your mouth! ;)

I liked Nightmare Before Christmas a lot, but not Corpse Bride. I liked Sleepy Hollow as well. I think it could have been better, but I enjoy it and I thought it was both excellently creepy and a good twist on the story. I'd give it a solid B.

On seeing the twist coming, I'm surprised unless you were given hints because I really think that like The Sixth Sense it is just a truly unexpected idea. I could be wrong, but that's how it struck me.

Ed said...

Andrew, Excellent list! And nice addition of "Duel" by and "The Descent."

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed! Anything you would add to the list?

Ed said...

Congrats to the Cardinals! A well deserved win.

AndrewPrice said...

Yes, Ed, congrats to the Pittsburgh Cardinales. I'm sure T-Rav is enjoying tonight now that his town has won the hockey crown! ;)

T-Rav said...

YEEEEEEE-HHHAAAWWWWW!!!!!!

AndrewPrice said...

Told ya! ;)

T-Rav said...

Andrew, don't make fun of them like that! You know he takes it out on us when you get his goat like that!!

T-Rav said...

That should read "T-Rav's Imprisoned Kittens," not "T-Rav." I hit publish too soon, I'm so full of energy! YEEAAAHHHH!!!!

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, LOL! I'm just yanking your chain. When it comes to baseball, I'm a true agnostic -- I suspect the game exists, but I've seen no proof that convinces me.

Now football on the other hand...

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Nice list Andrew!

Some good ones in the comments too. I'll add Eight Legged Freaks.
It's sort of like Arachnophobia but with bigger and many different species of spiders.
It also manages to balance the humor and horror quite well, I think.

Doug E. Doug as the radio host is hilarious! LOL!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Speaking of horror flicks, what scares me the most is films like Enemy Of The State, because Big Brother can actually happen if we liberty lovin' patriots don't stay vigilant.

Personally, I'd much rather deal with monsters, zombies, killer spiders, psychos, aliens and such than slimy, power hungry, corrupt politicians and like-minded people who love tyranny (whether they realize it or not)!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I recently saw The Rite, which wasn't well received by most critics but I liked it a lot.

Unlike The Excorcist there's no pea soup projectile vomit or 360 degree head turning (among other things).

Instead, the director, Hafstrom, chooses to be faithful to the book (the Making of a Modern Exocist)it's based on (and actual events) for the most part and that's refreshing.

I thought Anthony Hopkins gave a stellar performance!
Colin O'Donoghue was passable as the skeptical priest who had lost his faith.

The one thing that hurts the film the most is the uneven pacing, but it didn't bother me that much and I'm glad I stuck with it because it does build up into a great final act.

Interestingly, the same producers who brought us The Exorcism Of Emily Rose brought us The Rite.

Anyways, although this film is classified as a horror film it's also inspirational and IMO, enjoyable no matter what your religion or non-religion is.

I don't wanna give anything away, so maybe minor SPOILER:
I liked how the skeptical priest approached the idea of demon possession as psychological in nature (since he wasn't at all convinced of the possibility of possession or God for that matter).
Much like an honest scientist or psychologist seeking to be objective and get to the truth.

Wisely, the director leaves it to the audience to discern, like exorcist priests must do, whether this phenomena was psychological or supernatural.

One could make an argument for either one, but the evidence is compelling nevertheless (the power of Christ compels you!).

I may very well be alone in my assessment but I believe The Rite deserves at least 4 out of 5 stars or a solid B and is well worth watching.

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, Thanks Ben! :)

That's an interesting question that came up the other day (I think at BH): does an evil oppressive government like Big Brother constitute horror. On the one hand, it's a political film and it's not really a monster/supernatural film. But on the other hand, if serial killers are horror films, then why should we say an oppressive government can't be? I tend to separate them, but I definitely see an argument for combining them.

In either event, an oppressive government is probably the truer "horror" because they exist and what they do can be much, much worse than a simple monster running around.

On The Rite, I'm on the other side of the fence. I didn't see anything in the film that wasn't by-the-book generic exorcism film. On the other hand, I really liked Emily Rose.

Koshcat said...

I just watched Paranormal Activity. Scared the crap out of me!

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I took a peek at the synopsis and realized that I have not actually seen that -- I saw the horrid ScyFy Channel knock off instead. So I'm going to rent that asap. :)

Koshcat said...

Recommend a dark room, quiet house and low expectations. Did a little reading and for some the hype killed it. And others, probably torture porn lovers found it boring. But just remember that these are just two young, regular people who have a little problem.

El Gordo said...

For an excellent obscure horror movie I suggest "The Chaser", which is about a pimp trying to save one of his prostitutes from a serial killer. Like so many South Korean movies it is utterly bleak and violent and certainly qualifies as horror.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I am now actively trying to avoid learning anything about the film until I can see it so that I don't spoil it. :)

AndrewPrice said...

El Gordo, I haven't heard of that one. Thanks! :)

I find Korean films to be interesting. In many ways, they're just copies of Japanese films. But every once in a while, they really score with something very interesting and very different.

KNKhaine said...

Good list,
A couple of my all time favs
Exorcist 3 (Amazing! and completely overlooked due to E2 stinking)
The Church wasn't all bad and kinda creepy
How can you not mention Serpent and the Rainbow
I loved Event Horizon - actually made me jump a time or two
Devils Advocate may be the best K Reeves movie ever.

Anonymous said...

The original Last House On The Left is horribly underrated. Also recent The Green Marker Scare worth a look. Or Martin but the blood tone, it was the bad year for blood, when they only noticed it was showing up so bad on the film stock when all the film came back. So a lot of films were made with the bad fake blood that year. I think it was mid seventies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csh454VL550#t=1h10m19s

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