The list consists of 13 films that either fell under the radar recently or are just classics that are bastard hard to find and may not have been seen by casual horror viewers. Most, if not all, horror aficionados will know these films for sure. This is simply a list to give them a bit more popularity because I believe they should definitely be seen!
13. Pontypool (2008) – Dir. Bruce McDonald
This Canadian gem takes the zombie genre to a world it’s never been to before. Stephen McHattie plays a DJ who, along with some of his co-workers and a few strangers, gets trapped in his radio station on a cold, snowy night, fighting off hoards of what are seemingly the undead!
Alas, I can’t say anymore about it because it would spoil it but this is a delightful romp with a few silly but somewhat creepy moments. McHattie is always a pleasure to watch. In some ways reminiscent of The Thing, but that might be the snowy atmosphere. Great violent fun too. Very clever story that some people didn’t seem to enjoy, but that’s their loss!
12. The Borderlands (2013) – Dir. Elliot Goldner
This British found footage masterpiece is quite literally brand new to DVD so it might seem unfair to include it. But considering it got dick-all cinema time it’s only fair to put it here.
It follows three men on a mission to debunk a religious miracle in a church that took place in the back arse of nowhere in the south of Britain. One is a hardened veteran in the world of debunking myths and miracles, one is a techy there to document everything that goes on and the last is a priest who is also there to debunk said miracle. Little do they know, the horrors down there appear to be real and bring them on a hellish journey beyond their expectations!
Mostly shown through POV head cams, this film truly brings you into the world of terror, making it one of the only found footage movies to send chills down your spine and have you right on the edge of your seat. Even Mark Kermode was uncomfortable watching this, in the best way possible! Brilliantly executed and though it was much better in a cinema than at home, it still absolutely holds up. The atmosphere, effects and pacing are all tremendous. Definitely keep the volume up loud! It’s not often I give found footage movies very high praise but this deserves it.
11. Them [Ils] (2005) – Dir. David Moreau & Xavier Palud
In this French skin-crawler, a school teacher and her husband relax in their massive estate in Bucharest only to be terrorized through the night by murderous, hooded psychopaths.
With an infuriating American remake on the way and a big inspiration for The Strangers in 2008, this film should definitely be more known! Sadly it’s not. It is one of the finest horrors of the 00’s and I reckon it should be plastered around everywhere so people can get to see it! One of the few films that relies 100% on atmosphere and intensity. The sound design and digital style make this all the more intense, each scene has you guessing and the fact it’s based on true events makes it all the more chilling. A prime example of less is more.
10. The House of The Devil (2009) – Dir. Ti West
Ti West takes us back in time to 1983 in this legitimately 80s-looking modern-retro horror masterpiece. A young college student, desperate to make quick money to afford the deposit on her own home, takes a babysitting job way out in the middle of nowhere, unaware that the house owners have sinister satanic intentions.
This film is literally like watching a truly old school horror, you would swear it was lost in the archives and only recovered now (‘sorta like Miami Connection, only this doesn’t have the same rectum-tingling action). This is truly old school with its slow, atmospheric pacing and build up to insane horrific madness. They got absolutely every aspect of 80s horror down to a T. Music, cinematography, costume design, make-up and especially, the gore. No CGI bollocks here, true bloody violence. To add an even more retro feel, the whole film was shot on 16mm film and was released on VHS as a rare special edition. A very overlooked film and the best of Ti West’s career so far! Though he’s done some garbage lately, The Sacrament was a delightful step up!
9. Deadbeat At Dawn (1988) – Dir. Jim Van Bebber
A true hidden gem of 80s trash here. Jim Van Bebber’s debut took him 4 years to make and though it’s not strictly a horror film, it definitely deserves a place on this list with it’s horrific violence and about 20 mins of psychedelic nightmares. Jim Van Bebber plays Goose, the leader of “The Raven’s”. When his girlfriend is brutally killed by the leader of “The Spiders”, he goes on a a nun-chuck wielding revenge spree, taking out everyone involved in her murder with vicious results!
This film is basically every action story I used to make with my Corps. & Action Man toys years ago. Insanely violent, high flying, martial-arts madness. (Perhaps I should have had therapy). Whatever about it looking cheap and being cheesy, this is a quality action film… and loose horror. Van Bebber is actually really convincing in it and actually did all of the fight scenes insanely well. This is a film I recommend film-makers watch because there’s so many simple and effective techniques in it! They’re also hilarious. It’s as trashy and violent as they come and not NEARLY as well known as it should be.
8. Tony (2009) – Dir. Gerard Johnson
Another British gem here that plays out more like an intense drama than a horror but trust me, it’s seriously grim! Tony is a quiet, lonely, mild mannered man who loves to collect violent 80s action films and wanders the streets in search of love. But finding love proves difficult as he is a brutal serial killer, preying on junkies, gay men and possibly children?
This is a tremendously bleak horror film, it’s shot in the grimiest parts of London and feels like watching a Ken Loach film with a serial killer. The acting is totally believable all the way through and some of the things he does are absolutely psychotic. Channeling a bit of Otis Driftwood in The Devil’s Rejects with his sleeping habits… There is a lot of love for this film among the horror community but the average horror viewer may have missed this one. Definitely worth seeking out!
7. The Ordeal [Calvaire] (2004) – Dir. Fabrice Du Welz
Another slice of French madness here. A travelling singer’s van breaks down in the middle of nowhere in Belgium. A strange man comes to the rescue and invites him back to a small B&B, where the landlord promises to change his van battery for him. Unbeknownst to him, the landlord has a much more sinister plan in mind. Cue schizophrenia, botched hair cuts & nightmares.
This is definitely one of the most unsettling horrors I have watched. It’s not that bad in terms of violence or anything, that image above is about as violent as it gets. It’s the tone and atmosphere that leave you uneasy in this! Most horrors you watch that are supernatural or zombies or whatever, they’re tense situations, but they’re never going to be real, this is DEFINITELY something that could happen to someone and I spent the whole film delighted that I was sitting comfortably on my couch in the safety of my own home. Seriously uncomfortable viewing! Brilliantly executed. Another that is big enough amongst aficionados but the every day horror viewer may not have heard of it.
6. A Horrible Way To Die (2010) – Dir. Adam Wingard
This film is basically invisible! Adam Wingard and Simon Barret on top form here just before they’re hugely popular and incredibly enjoyable slasher comedy, You’re Next. A young woman dealing with the trauma of finding out her ex-boyfriend was a deranged serial killer finds solace in a new man she met in group therapy, while her ex-boyfriend evades police custody and is murdering his way back to town to find her.
Unlike most of their other work with the rest of the mumble-gore bunch, this is a straight up horror drama. The pacing is at a fucking snails speed but it works incredibly well. It does have an unorthodox filming style that garners a lot of hate but after about ten mins I grew to love it. It’s like a lighter, less disorientating Gaspar Noe style. Very engaging story and no shortage of dread. This is not one to be missed, provided you can get your hands on it!
5. Session 9 (2001) – Dir. Brad Anderson
Et’s giid tae see Peter Mullan deen a fuckin’ horrdor aye! (Read that in your best Scottish accent) – When an asbestos cleaning crew are cleaning out an abandoned mental asylum, an evil force emerges and reveals the dark past of some of the crew, slowly turning them against each other while they’re trying to solve the mystery of what happened to the building.
Though this film has a bit of a TV-movie look, it doesn’t take away from the atmosphere at all. It relies heavily on that and acting rather than being visual. A lot of it is left to your own imagination and makes it all the more intense. A criminally underrated and under seen film. Peter Mullan is fantastic to watch in anything and especially in this because HE actually is scared. He’s generally hard as fucking nails. David Caruso is unfortunately in it but don’t let that deter you, he has probably the funniest delivery of “Fuck you!” ever in a film. It’s tremendous!
4. Prison (1988) – Dir. Renny Harlin
Viggo Mortensen stars in one of his earliest films here. After a prisoner is executed by electric chair, his spirit returns years later to have revenge on the new governor, while mercilessly slaughtering anyone who gets in it’s way. The prisoners must band together to ensure their survival.
This is easily one of the most unheard of films in this list. A true hidden gem that I believe is making its way to Blu Ray within the next few months. This is a wildly forgotten about film that Harlin should be milking considering his career has nose-dived over the last few years. Excellent atmosphere, surprisingly violent and with cracking special effects, especially for its time! I can see it as a definite inspiration for The Suffering games.
3. The Battery (2012) – Dir. Jeremy Gardner
Probably one of the best underrated films on this list, as well as the best zombie film in years. Two baseball players are partnered together in a zombie ridden world and they fight their way through the back roads of New England to a potential safe camp. That is if they don’t kill each other first!
I feel the less I say about this the better. The chemistry between the two leads is fantastic. Easily the most realistic zombie story I’ve seen, with more drama-based scenes and intensity than run and gun, zombie beheading left and right. A seriously new take on the zombie survival horror. A solid 40 minutes of the film is set entirely in a car too, which is some of the most engrossing and riveting stuff I’ve seen in a horror in all my life! One of the best films of 2013 (Saw it at a film festival then so I count it as that) – Extremely highly recommended!
2. Kill List (2011) – Dir. Ben Wheatley
This film to me is the best horror film I’ve seen in at least the last 10 years, maybe more and is most certainly one of the best of all time. Absolutely stands above them all. Two ex-soldiers, now hitmen are given a kill list of 5 targets that they must take out. One of them, mentally scared from the war, begins to lose his grip on his sanity as the weeks go on.
I shan’t say anymore about this utter work of art because I don’t want to spoil any of it. Ben Wheatley is this generations Stanley Kubrick as far as I’m concerned, mainly with A Field In England, but atmosphere-wise he is asserting himself as a modern horror mastermind. The entire tone of this film is the most unnerving and dark thing you’re likely to see for years. Sure, the likes of The Human Centipede II and A Serbian Film are more fucked up in content and atmosphere but this is simply more eerie and real. It’s effectively three genres: The first 30 minutess is an intense, family drama, the next 30 minutess are a brutally violent and bone-chillingly tense hitman thriller and the final 30 minutess is a trippy, Wicker Man-esque, pagan horror. All three genres blend brilliantly together and leave you scratching your head in confusion while emptying your arse with fear. An unforgettable modern masterpiece, criminally underrated. Seek it out asap!
1. Angst (1983) – Dir. Gerald Kargl
Well you’ve finally reached the end of my tremendous list! Cheers for reading this far! (If you bothered and didn’t just skip to the end like a prick) – I’m gonna finish on a virtually unheard of German horror that literally blew me away not only with the brutally intense story line, but the cinematography and camera work is out of this world!
A man who murdered an elderly woman is released from prison, seemingly a changed man, until his blood lust can’t be contained. He breaks into a house in the middle of the woods in a desperate attempt to find somebody to kill, setting off a horrifically violent series of blackly comic events.
This film is absolutely gob-smackingly good, the story, pacing, acting, violence and camera work are all untouchable. It utilizes the snorri-cam in such a way that I have never seen before, especially for it’s time! It revolves around him as he runs. It’s disorientating and incredible! The strange electronic music works a treat too. You will be kept on the edge of your seat for the whole thing, wondering what is going to happen next and what will go wrong! There is some horrendous scenes towards the end that make this all the more unsettling. Out of all these films this is the most unheard of. It simply MUST be seen. It deserves it’s plaudits as a exceptional horror and for it’s miles before it’s time technical achievements.
Thank you for reading my list! Hope you enjoyed it! There will be more to come so please keep an eye out! Also, go watch all of these films.