10 Lesser-Known Horror Movies for Halloween

10/30/2010 Posted by Admin

10 Lesser-Known Horror Movies for Halloween

By our guest blogger, Jeremy Wilkinson

For every big horror movie out there ("Halloween," "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Nightmare on Elm Street") there are 10 other movies that most people never knew existed.

Granted, many are not very good but there are some gems, both polished and gritty--way out there. The following list is an introduction to a 10 horror films less-hardcore horror fans may not know about. While not all are ‘classics’ or perfect, they still bring something to the table – whether that’s fun, unexpected quality, or they’re merely better than you might think, these next ten films are more options for your Halloween horror movie viewings.

The Boneyard (1991; Dir: James Cummins)
This is a funny little horror flick that involves zombie children wreaking havoc in a mortuary. It’s not always entertaining, but there’s a good mix and funny and freaky. Honestly, though, there are two main reasons why one should watch this movie: Phyllis Diller and a zombie poodle.

Cube (1997; Dir: Vinchenzo Natali)
Seven strangers wake up in a cube, which has one exit leading to a safe cube and all the others leading to a trapped one. Like "The Thing," first-time viewers may be turned off or discount the movie because of its gore – but dig a little deeper and you find an intensely psychological horror film involving trust, humanity under duress and claustrophobia. Considering its budget, “Cube” is a very ambitious film that works far more often than it doesn’t. If you like horror films involving the above themes, you must see “Cube.”

The Dark Hours (1995; Dir: Paul Fox)
"The Dark Hours" is proof that a poor box office performance is not indicative of quality ("Wired" editor Chris Anderson reported that it made only $423 during its theatrical run in Canada). Psychiatrist Samantha Goodman develops a brain tumor that is growing. She decides to take some time off to go to her cabin, along with her husband and her sister. Things take a turn for the worse when a stranger seeks shelter in the cabin. He holds them hostage and brings in Harlan Pyne, an unstable former patient of Samantha’s. "The Dark Hours" has a cast of relative unknowns and was shot on a very small budget. Even with its limitations, it manages to create multiple moments of visceral tension that will not be soon forgotten after watching it.

Devil’s Backbone (2001; Dir: Guillermo del Toro)
Those that have seen “Pan’s Labyrinth” know that del Toro knows how to handle atmosphere, fantasy and horror, juggling each of these elements almost effortlessly. Prior to many of his American films, he made “The Devil’s Backbone.” “Backbone” is a sister piece to “Pan’s Labyrinth”--both are set during the Spanish civil war and both have children as their protagonists. Ten-year-old Carlos is forced to enter an orphanage where a ghost may reside. Though the supernatural is present, the film still manages to keep the human element important. Characters become more than just reactions to spooky events. Their actions drive the film, their psyches are interesting, and their history is fleshed out--and the scary bits are still scary. If you liked “Pan’s Labyrinth,” you need to see this movie.

Ginger Snaps (2000; Dir: John Fawcett)
Sisters Brigitte and Ginger are obsessed with death and the dark side of life. Shortly after Ginger has her first period, a large wolf attacks the duo--and poor Ginger suffers wounds in the process. Ginger then begins to go through changes that are not exactly normal for a girl her age. This is one of the best werewolf films to come out in the past decade (second only to “Dog Soldiers”).  It skillfully handles tension and gore. Sure, the metaphor of puberty and the difficulties that come from that are obvious, but that doesn’t mean the film is unworthy of critical attention. Dark humor abounds in “Ginger Snaps” without detracting from scares when the scares are necessary.

Motel Hell (1980; Dir: Kevin Connor)
“It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters”--and. boy. do the locals love them fritters! What sorts of critters does he use? Well, you’ll have to see the movie…or just the look at the poster for “Motel Hel,l” which give it away. This movie is an odd little gem--Vincent shoots out the tires of a couple on a motorcycle, and "gets rid of" the man. The woman, Terry, does not suffer the same fate. Rather, Vincent brings her back to Motel Hello to rest and recuperate from her ordeal. All the while, he attempts to woo her, but can he keep his secret from her? “Motel Hell” does not take itself too seriously, and itcan be a tad too silly in places (it was, after all, made for the Drive-In crowd). Still, it’s an enjoyable horror comedy--if you can get behind the off-kilter tone. And, if you still aren’t sold, I have two words for you--chainsaw duel.

The Resurrected (1992; Dir: Dan O’Bannon)
“The Resurrected” is an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story (“The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”). Let’s face it--Lovecraft adaptations have a spotty record. Stuart Gordon has done a fine job, even if his films could be considered "anti-Lovecraftian."  O’Bannon does a great job with “The Resurrected” despite the difficulty entailed in adapting the master of unspeakable horror. Concerned wife Claire Ward hires a detective to investigate her husband Charles because his behavior has become odd without explanation. This investigation leads to the discovery of Charles’ obsession with his ancestor, Joseph Curwen, and the occult practices the man undertook. O’Bannon’s production was plagued by studio changes and delays, both of which are noticeable during some parts of the movie. And yet, despite being able to see the scars of artistic change, “The Resurrected” stands up well.  It's easily one of the best Lovecraft adaptations. Check this out (especially if you’re a Lovecraft fan). It may just surprise you.

Session 9
The Hazmat Elimination Company wins the contract to remove asbestos from Danvers State Hospital. Each member has some kind of baggage--and tensions mount as the job goes on. One member of the crew stumbles upon tapes, which have the therapy sessions of one Mary Hobbes. The crewmember listens to the tapes, beginning with session 1, and as Mary’s story is revealed, the job becomes more difficult than they could have imagined. “Session 9” is a very quiet horror film, relying on atmosphere, tension and character interaction for the source of horror (shocking, I know). It builds slowly, and is not as forward with its mysteries as similar movies. “Session 9” shines as a restrained horror movie, proving one does not need gore to cause unrest in the viewer.

Shallow Ground (2004; Dir: Sheldon Wilson)
It’s hard to give a plot summary about “Shallow Ground” without taking a bit of punch away from the opening. So, if you’d rather go into this movie with virgin eyes, know that it is definitely a good movie and go watch it right now. “Shallow Ground” is about a small town where a teenage boy covered in blood is found and brought to the sheriff’s office. His arrival coincides with the one year anniversary of an unsolved murder Sheriff Jack Shepherd could not solve, and its haunted him ever since. What makes “Shallow Ground” so memorable is its shocking opening scene--and the fact it uses blood and violence in a way that facilitates a good film rather than masking a bad one. As much as I (and many, many others) like a good gore film like “Two Thousand Maniacs” every now and then, it’s really nice to see one that here, it doesn’t feel like the gore is for gore’s sake.  “Shallow Ground” was made on only $72,000 and it’s a wonderful little slice of terror.

Strangeland (1998; Dir: John Pieplow)
Out of all the movies on the list, this fits the definition of “cult” movie the best. It was written by and stars Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider, which should give you an indication on how the good the movie is. It has some major flaws, it's very depressing, it's unrelentingly graphic, and it's not fit for a non-horror fan. The plot goes something like this--Dee Snider plays Captain Howdy, a vicious killer and modern primitive that preys on people in chat rooms, luring them to his own personal version of Hell. Captain Howdy makes a mistake, however, when one of his victims turns out to the daughter of a local police officer who won’t stop until he finds her. More so than any movie here, you need to like a certain type of film to like this. It is a C (maybe B) grade torture/slasher film that can’t really be considered a classic. Most of its steam comes from Dee himself as the appropriately malign Howdy. Somehow, it’s charming in a blood-soaked horrifying sort of way.

There is plenty of other horror fare out there, and I can’t get into the many other wonderful movies that probably don’t get seen often enough ("The Beyond," "Jacob’s Ladder," "Pumpkinhead," "Creep"). The above will hopefully entertain and frighten you, and (if you’re new to the horror thing) will hopefully open up new possibilities for horror movie choices.

Do any of the WeekInRewind.com readers have other lesser known horror films they think would be worth watching?

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