13 Lesser Known Horror Movies Worth Checking Out

Posted on October 31, 2013 by
13 Lesser Known Horror Movies Worth Checking Out

I would probably be about the ten-billionth person to recommend Night of the Living Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist, and The Shining. Hell, I could sit here all night and just rattle off well known horror movies that I think are awesome--which is just about every film regarded as a "classic"--and call it a night. The thing is about 9,999,999,999 people have done so before me, including folks like Rotten Tomatoes and AFI. Let's face it: the world doesn't need another list of horror movies everyone has heard of...

Instead I'd like to unload a list of horror movies that aren't as well known. Sure, big time horror fans have seen these films, but what about casual fans, non-fans, or anyone who occasionally dabbles in the genre (less so than casual fans)? These are movies that aren't always listed amongst the classics, and some of them definitely should be. Regardless of whether or not they're classic material, I still think more people should check these flicks out.



Absentia
13. ABSENTIA (2011)


Seven years after the disappearance of her husband Daniel, Tricia officially declares him 'dead in absentia'. Only after deciding to move on with her life does Daniel reappear, horribly emaciated and showing signs of physical abuse. Worse, he seems to have gained a terrible phobia of a tunnel near their house...

Absentia is not an assault on the senses. Rather, it's about as cerebral as a supernatural horror film can get, choosing to place a firmer emphasis on what you don't see rather than what you do see. Best of all, though, are the fantastic human character that play out this dark drama, most of which the audience can easily learn to care for and invest in before the film reaches its dreaded conclusion.


May
12. MAY (2002)


May is a socially awkward girl desperately in need of a friend. She attempts to remedy this by mingling with society, only to find that she doesn't quite fit in and that the people she attempted to associate with are pricks. However, she eventually learns to see the good in them....particularly their body parts.

May is a grisly look at the unpopular girl that everyone picked on in high school. It's also a pretty deep and moving--not to mention strange--piece of horror cinema that draws from both David Lynch's Eraserhead and Mary Shelley's novel "Frankenstein." Perhaps the best part of the film is the excellent performance by actress Angela Bettis, whose portrayal of the title character is fittingly peculiar and, strangely enough, relatable.


The Host
11. THE HOST (2006)


Gang-du and his father run a snack bar next to the Han River in Seoul, South Korea. While serving customers, he and a curious crowd spot a strange, immense amphibious creature that seems to be rather playful....until the being goes on a rampage. After munching several citizens, the monster manages to snatch up Gang-du's daughter Hyun-seo and seemingly devour her as well. Following the attack, Gang-du and his family find themselves placed in quarantine, under the suspicion that they may have contracted a new illness carried by the monster. While in quarantine, Gang-du receives a call on his cell phone from Hyun-seo confirming that she is alive, and trapped in the lair of the beast...

Combining elements of not only horror, but drama and comedy, The Host is a very moving, exciting, and terrifying feature. That's saying a lot coming from me, as I'm usually not a fan of CGI monster movies. While The Host may not outdo the best practical effects monster flicks like 1982's The Thing, it's still a knock out of a monster movie with a surprisingly human story and a creepy antagonist.


City of the Living Dead
10. CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (aka THE GATES OF HELL) (1980)


After hanging himself in a cemetery, Father William Thomas opens the gates to Hell. The end result: teleporting zombies under the command of an undead Father Thomas. One by one the zombies brutally slay townsfolk, bringing together a small group of strangers. Their mission: head to Dunwich and close Hell's gates before All Saints Day, or else the world will be overrun by the undead.

Does City of the Living Dead sport a schlocky, illogical premise? Oh yeah. However, it's also a gritty, graphic, exploitative, and freaky piece of Italian grindhouse cinema as only director Lucio Fulci can craft. City is not a stunning human drama with a supernatural plot. It's a balls out splatter flick, and one hell of a B-movie ride.


Don't Torture a Duckling
9. DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING (1972)


A superstitious village in Italy is plagued by a serial killer who targets young boys from the local orphanage. Only a detective and his attractive sidekick can crack the case before the village lynches the wrong person out of paranoia.

I listed this along with City of the Living Dead for a reason: to show how drastically Lucio Fulci's films--and Italian horror as a whole--can differ. Duckling is not as much of a gritty film, though it does sport some exploitation elements. However, Fulci's abilities to build tension and present highly resonant material are undeniable in this flick. Rather than a gory trip, Duckling is a thought-provoking, and sometimes touching, giallo.


End of the Line (2007)
8. END OF THE LINE (2007)


A religious cult initiates a spree of murder and mayhem, trapping a group of citizens in a subway tunnel. Also, demons and hallucinogens abound...

End of the Line may be a bit needlessly gruesome at times, but the gore doesn't detract from the film's astute ability to build tension or effectively deliver horrific imagery. It also doesn't beat its audience over the head with some of its messages and secrets, and trusts you to make all of the necessary connections regarding the true story behind the cult's killing spree and the horrific demons seen lurking in the subway's depths.


Infection (2004)
7. INFECTION (2004)


After committing gross malpractice that resulted in a man's death, an overworked hospital staff must also contend with an infectious virus that causes insanity and liquefies its victims.

Infection is one of those movies that asks you to be patient while watching it, to trust it because the finale will be worth the while. Depending on how you feel about J-horror, it will either disappoint the hell out of you or it impress the hell out of you--as it did for me. This movie has pretty much everything you could want from a J-hororr piece: a solid story, surrealism galore, supernatural terror, disturbing imagery, and heavy atmosphere.


Pontypool
6. PONTYPOOL (2008)


Trapped in a radio station, announcer Grant Mazzy attempts to keep the public informed while a zombie apocalypse builds outside the studio. Little does Mazzy realize, though, that the apocalypse is slowly coming his way...

You'd be hard pressed to find a zombie apocalypse that isn't the result of a curse, an illness, a chemical or gas, or something from space. Pontypool is one such movie that breaks from conventional zombie horror, creating shamblers who are infected with something completely unexpected. I won't spoil it here, but the zombies' origins make for some very thought-provoking storytelling in this taut and psychological zombie thriller.


Inside (2007)
5. INSIDE (2007)


On the eve of her child's birth, Sarah receives an unexpected guest: a crazed woman armed with a pair of scissors...

Inside is not for everyone, especially if you're squeamish. Though the film showcases some fine acting and a very well written antagonist, it is excessively bloody. I picked this title only to show that splatter horror isn't dead, and to show that the French mean business when it comes to horror films. They tend to be very uncompromising and, at the same time, fairly thought-provoking. I always dig that in a horror film, no matter how excessive the graphic imagery is.


Wolfen (1981)
4. WOLFEN (1981)


A string of brutal, animal-like murders in NYC prompts an investigation of the desiccated sectors of New York, where an unlikely predator awaits...

Often mistakenly referred to as a werewolf movie, Wolfen deals with far more creative and unique antagonists. It also features a wonderful mystery-driven narrative with a nice combination of '80s camp and tasteful storytelling.


Martin (1977)
3. MARTIN (1977)


Martin believes he is a vampire, and has even acted upon his belief by drinking human blood. However, now in the custody of his granduncle, Martin must find a way to behave before his old school relative stakes him. Unfortunately, lust and stress have a habit of bringing out the worst in Martin...

Though not a very terrifying film, it is an evocative low budget thriller with plenty of substance and a thoughtful script. Also on display is director George A. Romero's social commentary and satire in top form, possibly more so here than in 1978's Dawn of the Dead, and that's saying a lot.


The Devil's Backbone (2001)
2. THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE (2001)


Following the death of his father in the Spanish Civil War, young Carlos enters an orphanage. There he uncovers a variety of dark secrets, including a mental frail staff members and the horrifying specter of a missing child...

The Devil's Backbone is a terrific splice of human drama and horror. The two so seamlessly meld together to create a movie that's powerful, creepy, saddening, and wonderful, not to mention expertly written, directed, and acted. It's best when watched with the movies Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage.


Deep Red (1975)
1. DEEP RED (1975)


After witnessing a murder, Marcus embarks on an private investigation to reveal the identity of the killer. Little does he realize that the killer is on his heels, and that his quest may reveal more than he wanted to know about his acquaintances...

Arguably director Dario Argento's best work. Its inspirations can be seen in a wide variety of modern horror films, from contemporary slashers to Saw (the puppet Billy was inspired by a mechanical puppet used in this movie). It also features some of Argento's trademarks, such as artistic lighting, lavish sets, relentless terror, and excellent camerawork. On top of that, it boasts a strong script (as long as you watch the unedited Italian version) and a great character-driven narrative.


Runners up:

Student Bodies- An early slasher flick that parodies early slasher flicks. Also, horse head bookends...

Rogue- Australian killer croc flick that's arguably the best of its kind. Also, evidence that Sam Worthington can act...

Nomads- Evil spirits who have been wandering Los Angeles for centuries assume the form of bikers and bump off anyone who stumbles upon them. Also, Pierce Brosnan's wang...

Lake Mungo- Australian mockumentary about a girl's suicide and the ghostly phenomena surrounding it. Also, I... don't have anything for this one...