Friday, October 29, 2010

Underrated Horror Movies That Might Actually Creep You Out

All Hallow's Weiner is nearly upon us and to celebrate, I decided to compile a list of some of my favorite horror movies that are not only underrated, but may actually scare you.  Not only that, but you they will most likely not be rented out of your local video store such as your more common horror fare around Halloween season.  Listen, going out to the movies is expensive.  Especially if you were planning on paying the five extra dollars to see your shitty movie in 3-D.  So how about instead you save some pocket change, avoid social interaction, relax at home and curl up with a bowl of candy and a good horror movie on cassette with your video home system!  That's what Halloween is all about!

The Dead Next Door (1988)

Perhaps one of the most underrated zombie movies of all time, The Dead Next Door is an independent, low-budget, small town, post-zombie apocalypse tale about an "elite" group of soldiers known as "The Zombie Squad" who have been enlisted by the United States government to seek and destroy any and all zombies they come across.  Squad members not only have to drive around their Midwestern town and shoot mindless zombies all day, they also have to deal with the a religious cult who consider zombism a higher form of existence and are out to protect the zombies, sort of.  Kind of like a misguided zombie PETA.  Turns out though, the cult is really hiding a huge secret (religion and secrets?  Blasphemy!) and the real reason the cult leader is attempting to save zombies is to capture them and perform tests on them in order to save his son who is secretly zombified.  At some point in the film, one of the squad members is infected and the "Doc" back at government headquarters injects him with an experimental cure.  All it achieves is to accelerate the zombification process and leave the infected guy completely lucid, which is pretty torturous considering he is slowly rotting and is forced to eat people's brain meat.

Made on an extremely low budget, filmed entirely in Akron, Ohio and financed with royalties from Evil Dead 2 by Sam Raimi himself, The Dead Next Door is one of my personal favorites. Many of the characters names are homages to horror kingpins with last names like Savini, Carpenter, Raimi and Romero. Even Bruce Campbell dubs the voices for two of the characters.  This film isn't necessarily scary, but because it's so extremely low budget, the dialogue is mostly dubbed and many of the scenes are horribly lit and very dark.  This works to enhance a lot of the zombie makeup and adds sort of a shadowy mystery to the atmosphere of the movie.  It scared the shit out of me as a kid, especially the low-grade gore, but it's more creepy and unsettling now instead of scary.  Check out the carnage below.

Bad Moon (1996)

Based off a novel entitled Thor and written and directed by the writer of the vampire film Near Dark, Bad Moon has to be, and I'm absolutely sure of this, THE MOST underrated werewolf film of ALL TIME, SPOILERS to follow.  Basically it surrounds the story a photo journalist Ted, played by Michael Pare (Eddie and the Cruisers, Streets of Fire) who while on a expedition with his girlfriend in Nepal is attacked (in the middle of a graphic sex scene) by a cock-blocking werewolf.  His girlfriend is killed and he is scarred, but survives.  He then decides to take his inevitable curse with him to live in a van trailer by a river in the woods of Oregon near his older sister, a single mother Janet (Mariel Hemmingway) who is a tough-talking lawyer and lives with her cherubic son Dennis the Menace Brett (Mason Gamble) and their well-trained overprotective family dog, a German Shepard named Thor.  In congruent with the original novel, neither of these people are the main character, but rather most of the story, after the initial opening in Nepal, is told through the point of view of Thor 

Janet invites Ted to move his trailer onto her property to be closer to the family after she learns of his devastating loss in Nepal.  After much reluctance, he agrees.  The minute Uncle Ted arrives at their home,  Thor senses something off about him and begins watching him closely.  One night Ted leaves his trailer to enter the woods and Thor follows him.  What Thor eventually sees, is Ted chaining himself to a large tree and turning into a pretty frightening looking werewolf.  After this, Thor tries in the best way he can to warn his family by attacking Ted every time he comes near them, pissing on his feet and refusing to leave the spot from his watch of the front door of Ted's trailer.

In order to get rid of Thor, Ted frames him for the murders he has been committing in were-form and Thor is sent off to a dog pound to be euthanized.  Don't worry though, Brett knows this is all bullshit and sneaks out at night to help Thor escape.  Just in time too because stupid-ass Janet had just decided to go check out what all the racket in the woods was.  A full-on German Shepard vs. werewolf battle ensues and it sounds cheesy, but the fact that at this point you're sort of attached to this dog and seeing things through his prospective, you can't wait until he saves the family and kicks Uncle Ted's ass.  I absolutely LOVE this movie and not only because I found the story interesting and unique for a were-wolf tale, but also because the werewolf suit in it is totally legit and actually looks frightening in action.  If you like werewolf films, especially ones sans CGI effects, Bad Moon is a MUST see.  The trailer doesn't really do this film justice, but feel free to watch it below.

The Beast Within (1982)

I remember attempting to watch this movie as a young kid, probably around 8 years old.  Because I'm a germaphobe, I've always been easily scared by movies involving parasites or possession of any kind.  I'll be honest, I never made it through the entire first two viewings of this film.  The first time because I got way too freaked out and the second time was due to the fact my mom turned it off, but when I got older and no one was around to cock-block horrifying beast-rape scenes, I was able to finish the film.  If I didn't already give it away, this movie is largely about beast-rape.  A couple on their honeymoon driving through a sleepy Southern town in Mississippi are stranded when they're car gets a flat tire.  The husband leaves his attractive wife alone at night on a deserted road in the South so he can go alone to the nearest town to find help.  Not surprisingly, she is attacked and raped, but the surprising part is her rapist, who you never fully see on camera, is not a creepy toothless redneck, but a hulking mindless monster beast of some kind.  The rape scene is not entirely graphic, she is basically attacked and knocked unconscious by claws and dinosaur roars and while lying on the ground has her dress ripped off and is suddenly oddly moving in a up and down motion.  Still pretty bad and a little too brutal for an 8 year-old I suppose.  Her husband returns to find her naked, bloody and unconscious and rushes her to the police car he arrived in.

Cut to 17 years later and turns out they have a massive memory haunting them every day of that rape, a 17 year-old son named MichaelMichael becomes ill with a mysterious and possible fatal disease, so his parents decide they must return to that town in Mississippi in hopes of locating his biological father/mother's rapist whose genetic makeup may be the key to saving their son.  What happens from there are two basic story lines, the investigation of Michael's parents in determining exactly who or what is his father and Michael's story after he breaks out of the hospital and heads to Mississippi on his own and begins to transform into the beast that made him.

Although this film is considered campy by some, I've always found the gory effects rather gruesome and the overall acting abilities of everyone cast in the film helps to actually engage you into the storyline.  The story itself is rather disturbing I think and rape scenes included, this one may still be able to shock a first time viewer.  Michael's WTF transformation scene alone, although lengthy, is still rather effective and pretty nasty.  If you're a straight dude, this might not be the kind of movie you would want to pop in to impress a lady friend, but I still highly recommend it.  Check out the awesomely gimmicky trailer below. 

Don't Be Afraid Of the Dark (1973)

Originally released as a made-for-television film in 1973, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is surprisingly incredibly unnerving.  The storyline involves a young couple who inherit an old mansion from the wife's dead grandmother.  The husband, Alex, is a successful architect while his wife Sally resigns from her career to become a house wife and caretaker of their large estate.  The film opens with whispering demonic voices and a shot of the house before we are ever introduced to the main characters.  This kind of gives us an idea that shit is going to go wrong from then on and it does.  Sally finds an old den that has been boarded up and the fireplace sealed with an iron door.  She asks the handyman to clear it out so she can turn the room into an office with a usable fireplace.  The handyman, who has been working at the house for generations, flat out refuses and tells her to stop sticking her nose in places it doesn't belong.  Naturally, Sally defies this and on her own unbolts the door.  After this occurs, Sally experiences all sorts of strange phenomenon in the house, such as voices and sees little demonic creatures following her around and haunting her in attempt to take her as one of them.  Alex thinks she is going crazy and does not believe anything she tells him about the little creatures.

Eventually people start dying and the lights rarely come back on.  I don't want to give much more away at this point.  You should absolutely WATCH this movie.  The concept sounds cliche and the characters cheesy, but trust me, you will be surprised at how creepy this movie is and how it's able to get under her skin so effectively without the use of gory special effects or shock value.  Apparently this film has been remade by Guillermo del Toro (The Devil's Backbone, Blade) for release in 2011.  Until that creepfest comes out, make sure to check out the still pretty frightening original.  Try to ignore the cheesy narrator and music in the trailer below.  It's a pretty piss poor representation of the film.

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