Top 10 Best Scary Movies… You’ve Probably Never Seen2.11.09 # Top Ten # 19 Comments
What are the best scary movies to have been ignored, overlooked or forgotten? Some of the choices here you may have heard of but never seen, while others may mean nothing to you at all, but if you’ve walked the well worn path of horror movies, prepare to take some diversions you’ll find ghoulishly entertaining.
WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979)
This is a movie of two halves – the first 20 minutes, and the rest. The rest you can discard. The opening sequence is a complete short film in itself, telling the classic urban legend of the babysitter alone in a house who starts receiving strange phone calls asking her to “check the children”. Unlike the hamfisted remake, this is a masterclass of suspense that pulls no punches, and it’s accompanied by an excellent score.
SESSION 9 (2001)
Before he made The Machinist and (another) hidden gem Transsiberian, director Brad Anderson tackled this ‘ghost’ story set in an old mental hospital. The great cast – David Caruso, Josh Lucas, Peter Mullan – play members of an asbestos removal company contracted to go in and clean up. Before long the imposing energy and the influence of old patient case files is sending the group into madness. Session 9 makes full use of its creepy location, creating a foreboding sense of dread while keeping the scares grounded.
What if your seemingly normal parents were really cannibals? What if the meat you were being served at dinner was really the houseguest who visited yesterday? This 50s-set story taps into something eerie from the ‘perfect homemaker’ era, with Randy Quaid on career best form as the creepy dad. Directed by Bob Balaban, who went on to do Seinfeld, this sits on the nightmarish, skin-crawling side of black comedy.
BURNT OFFERINGS (1976)
Before Oliver Reed became the comedy drunk of the tabloids he was one hell of an actor. And he took leading man duties here in what was, in many ways, a precusor to The Shining. Ben (Reed) accepts a post as a caretaker, with his wife and young son, in an old gothic house. Unfortunately it’s a house from hell which rejuvenates a part of itself with each death on its premises. With great character actors like Bette Davis, Burgess Meredith and Karen Black, the top quality casting lifts the whole film. It’s a little slow perhaps but makes up for it with a truly chilling ending. Also features the scariest ever chauffeur in a movie.
THE EXORCIST III (1990)
After the absolutely disastrous Exorcist II, who would want to see Exorcist III? Well, it’s a whole different sort of film entirely. Unlike its predecessor it’s written and directed by Exorcist author William Peter Blatty, and based on his best selling novel, Exorcist: Legion – the true sequel to The Exorcist. Gone is Linda Blair, and it actually has very little to do with exorcism, instead focusing on a philosophical police detective (screen legend George C. Scott) investigating a strange series of satanic murders in Georgetown. The movie is full of visual invention, scares and creepy confrontations.
A modern updating of a classic 80s slasher (to say which one would give away the twist), Cry_Wolf slipped out quietly a few years back. It tells the story of eight students at a boarding school who spread a rumour about a serial killer as part of a lying game, only to find there really is a killer running around who matches the description. If you’re a slasher fan and you’re tired of the bad acting and poor writing that go with the genre this is well worth a look.
DEAD END (2003)
On Christmas Eve, Frank (Ray Wise) and his family are heading to the in-laws when they take a shortcut through the woods. It takes them onto a seemingly endless road, where time and space lose their grounding and a haunting presence seeks to destroy them. Dead End is smart, creepy and very atmospheric.
BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2006)
This is rapidly turning into a cult hit, but most of you still won’t have seen it. Behind The Mask is a slasher movie deconstruction ala Scream, only this time told from the point of view of the killer planning the murders, through a documentary crew who are following him. Full of smart laughs, the movie switches perspective to the victims in the latter half, and that’s when the scares really kick in.
A rare comedy-horror that actually works on both levels. Roger Cobb decides to take on the bizarre haunted house that kidnapped his son and killed his aunt by moving in and working on his novel about Vietnam. In between visits from the neighbours, the house sets about trying to kill him/frame him/drive him mad. The movie features inventive storytelling, a great central performance and has a mood all its own.
Those 9 you can put in any order, but our number 1 unfairly overlooked top scary movie is -
This uniquely offbeat and disturbing tale of cannibalism in California in the 1840s has so much going for it. Superb direction by Antonia Bird, intense performances by an excellent cast (Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones, David Arquette, Neal McDonough), and a brilliantly different score by Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn. The story, which takes some inspiration from the real life case of the Donner Party, bristles with tension and springs a couple of great twists that feel like they ‘reset’ the movie.
The Blob (Remake) (1988), The Mothman Prophesies (2002), Willard (Remake) (2003), Society (1989), Pumpkinhead (1988), The Stuff (1985), The Legend Of Hell House (1973),Alone In The Dark (1982)
What are the best scary movies you’ve seen that no one else seems to have watched? Leave your thoughts and recommendations in the comments.