Underrated & Overrated Horror Films
5. "Scream" (1996)
Ah, the classic case of so overrated it became underrated. Actually, it's more that this movie was so good and influential that its hallmarks have become so deeply ingrained in moviedom that we can't imagine a time that existed before it. It didn't invent the slasher genre, it just brought it to a new level, adding humor and bringing a spot of intelligence to its leads. It was also a perfect parody of the genre while perfectly existing in that idiom as well. Honorable mention should go to "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" for serving as sort of a prelude to this film, but this is the one that got it right, and has somehow been virtually forgotten in return.
4. "Frailty" (2001)
This is the type of movie that you catch on USA at 1:00 in the morning because you see Matthew McConaughey pop up on the screen and end up sticking with it until the end. It could be because it features a rare case of its aforementioned lead actually acting, but it's probably because this is a gripping morality play with some phenomenal thrills. Directed by Bill Paxton (yes, that Bill Paxton) the film deals with a man telling the police he knows who the God's Hands killer is and recounts the story of his father (Paxton) - a nice man who one day says he's seen a vision from God and needs to start killing demons. We go through this roller coaster, watching him dispatch villains with an axe. This leads to some fantastic twists in the end worthy of "Touch of Evil" or "The Usual Suspects." A tremendous psychological thriller. Too bad nobody's ever seen it.
3. "Mimic" (1997)
This is a claustrophobic thriller every bit as good as "Alien." Starring the obscenely underrated Mira Sorvino and directed by everyone's genius, Guillermo Del Toro, this is a fantastic underground journey as a team of scientists try to hunt down the creature they created. This Judas Breed has been eating people since they created it to eradicate disease-spreading cockroaches and can also "mimic" their appearance. The result is a top-notch suspense thriller that never lets the audience get comfortable. It's also never been seen by anyone, including the most hardcore Del Toro fans.
2. "The Thing" (1982)
Speaking of claustrophobic thrillers worthy of "Alien" how about a claustrophobic thriller featuring an alien? It also features oatmeal and diabetes spokesperson Wilford Brimley losing his mind in an arctic research station. Like "Mimic", the audience can never grow comfortable as nobody's ever sure what or who The Thing is. This can make the audience almost as crazy as the alien's victims and the harsh and enclosed setting only adds to the suspense. It bombed when it first came out and despite a small cult has been largely forgotten since, despite its being directed by "Halloween" maestro John Carpenter.
1. "Suspiria" (1977)
Hard to say why this film became so underrated, could be just that everybody forgot about it. It's too bad because it's one of the most chilling and gloriously violent horror films ever made. It concerns a girl attending a dance school in Germany and slowly realizing that the school is actually a witch's coven. Brutal murders, occult rituals, and hallucinations follow creating a perfect cocktail of suspense and creepiness. Since it's almost certain nobody who's reading this has seen it - check it out, you won't be disappointed.
5. "Saw" (2004)
The fact that it's only four years later and we're already being subjected to fifth installment of this ugly gorefest should be enough of a point. It's not just that though, this film launched the whole "torture-porn" genre which could be the worst film genre outside of films featuring Dane Cook. Despite that, it's hailed for its influence. Look, should we be hailing "The Osbournes" for giving us "Denise Richards: It's Complicated"? Absolutely not. And this is along the same lines.
4. "The Blair Witch Project" (1999)
(Note: Author unable to write supporting paragraph due to crippling nausea brought on simply from remembering what it was like to sit through this shaky handheld-camera journey through the woods in the theater.)
3. "J-Horror" Films
If you ever want to kill about nine hours, ask a film nerd to tell you about Japanese horror films. He will inevitably become about as excited as a dog in a hydrant factory as he regales you with tales of "Audition", "The Ring", and "The Grudge." When you remark that you saw that latter two films and thought they were okay, he will fly into a condescending rage normally reserved for people asked if they liked a movie based on a book they just read. You'll hear infinite reasons why the Japanese versions were far superior to their American counterparts. He'll then start naming other movies that Hollywood will certainly ruin in the upcoming years. The conversation will eventually climb the hyperbolic scale to the point that you'll believe he thinks these are the best films ever made. Sad thing is that he does. Too bad they're just pretty good horror films and not the finest movies of the young century as many often claim.
2. "Night of the Living Dead" (1968)
There's no ignoring the original's influence but as an actual scary movie this is more like "Night of the Living Dud" (oooo, Best. Pun. Ever.) Are we really that scared by drunk people in makeup staggering towards a barn filled with people and guns? Didn't think so. The zombie genre didn't really unleash the scares until "28 Days Later" gave them the ability to move. A horror movie needs to be someone scary, and in retrospect it's hard to see how anybody ever got nightmares from this flick.
1. "The Exorcist" (1973)
Eh. Not very impressive. It's a good movie, that's for sure, but the best horror movie of all time as is almost universally agreed upon? Don't think so. The horror in this film comes from about an hour in a bedroom where a girl levitates, spits pea soup at a priest and lip-synchs to a devil voice while wearing a lot of gross-out makeup. There's some interesting build-up to that point, but it's really just delaying the inevitable, and the end is a little over-the-top. It's not that this is a bad film, it's just nowhere near as great as anybody thinks it is, Patrick Ewing cameo nothwithstanding.
Check back next week for the most overrated and underrated movie theme songs of all time.
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Story by Andrew Payne
Starpulse contributing writer
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