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15 Great Unknown Horror Movies

Anna is a writer, mom, crafter, and movie buff. Her favorites are horror movies and horror stories, thanks to some inspiring parents.

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I love finding horror movies that have flown under the radar. Some of these have been overlooked due to the fact that they had small budgets, were independent films, or were foreign films that never got the attention that they deserved here in the states.

Whatever the reason, I feel that these movies are truly deserving of greater attention. So many big budget horror movies fall flat in my eyes. They lack imagination, creativity, and are hardly scary. If it's not a sequel or a remake, it doesn't seem to be worth the time of the big movie studios. That is a shame.

Well, enough of my ranting. On to the movies. As usual, these are not in ranking order, but in alphabetical order. I dislike ranking movies based on how much I liked them, and would rather present the list as a total.

#1: Atrocious (2010)

Look at the fear in her almost pops out of the picture and grabs you.

Look at the fear in her almost pops out of the picture and grabs you.

Atrocious isn't a very long movie, but it packs a lot of tension, suspense, and fear into the short, 75 minute runtime. Think along the lines of a high intensity roller coaster.

It is a Spanish-language film, and if you have read my previous posts, you know I don't like dubbed movies at all. Watch it with the subtitles. I know that some people hate subtitles, and that's fine, but dubbed movies always sound fake and strange to me. I find that watching a movie with the subtitles causes you to pay more attention to a movie anyway.

The movie centers on a family, visiting the mother's old family vacation home in the countryside of Spain. It sounds absolutely beautiful, and it is. While there, they learn of the legend of a girl named Melinda, who got lost in a labyrinth near the house, and was never found. She is said to help those that get lost in the maze, and as the two teens take their video cameras out to explore the labyrinth, they soon learn that the truth is often far darker than any legend.

This is another one of those point-of-view, found-footage movies, but this one actually scared the crap out of me, and that isn't easy to do. I found this movie wonderful and scary, interesting and beautiful.

#2: The Cottage (2012)

David Arquette doesn't really look all that scary

David Arquette doesn't really look all that scary

The Cottage was an interesting movie to watch, and not at all what I had expected. It started out rather dull, and I almost shut it off. It felt silly at first. I am glad I didn't shut it off, because it got a lot better, and a lot more interesting. Apparently, there are two movies by this name, and I haven't seen the other one. (That is neither here nor there.)

The Cottage stars David Arquette (from the Scream movies) as a sweet and charming romance novelist who rents the guest house of a seemingly perfect family. It starts off rather dull, and kind of cute, but that doesn't last long. Well, appearances are often deceiving. Neither he, nor the family, are as perfect as they seem to be, and this is where the movie gets really interesting.

The movie is rather dark, and strange, but delightfully so. There are some scenes that are difficult to watch, and there is a bit of gore, but not to an overwhelming level. A lot of horror movies have a moral element to them, and this one is no exception. The moral of the story here is be careful who you invite into your home and into your life.

#3: Dead End (2003)

Road trips with family are always so much fun...

Road trips with family are always so much fun...

I almost didn't include Dead End in this list, but then, I changed my mind. The movie really stayed with me, and I find myself going back to it. I watched it about five or six months ago, and I can't seem to get it out of my head. Some movies just fade away not long after you are done watching them. This one does not. It isn't a fantastic movie, by any means, but it's interesting and different.

The movie starts fairly predictably, with a family on the road, heading to see relatives for Christmas. Following well-worn horror movie formulas, there is the typical tension between the various members of the family, and of course, the father decides to bypass the highway, and takes a deserted side road instead. We all know where this is going, or do we?

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Dead End stars Ray Wise (he played Robin's dad on How I Met Your Mother and he was in the original Robocop), and Lin Shaye (probably best known for playing Magda in There's Something About Mary), as the parents. The decent actors, paired with a unique and interesting script, make for a pretty good movie. I don't really know why I didn't want to include it originally. There were some elements that were rather predictable, but overall, it was a good movie. It really is a long, strange trip...that's for sure.

#4: Dread (2009)

Dread was part of the After Dark Horror Fest, a movie fest that is very near and dear to my heart.

Dread was part of the After Dark Horror Fest, a movie fest that is very near and dear to my heart.

Dread had an interesting concept, one which struck me, so I gave it a watch. It follows Stephen (played by Jackson Rathbone, who was in the Twilight movies), a film student, as he searches for an idea for his college thesis. He meets, and becomes friends with, a man by the name of Quaid, who gives him a great idea for his thesis: What is scarier than looking into people's deepest fears?

They begin to interview subjects, asking them about their deepest fears. Sadly, they are disappointed by the first batch of interviews which gave them nothing but bland, boring surface fears that weren't meaty enough. They proceed to look further, to discover real fear, real terror. Quaid seems to have his own motives for choosing this particular topic, and piece by piece, through disjointed flashbacks and nightmares, we learn what that reason is.

The movie is dark and strange, but compelling and interesting. There are some uncomfortable scenes, and some nudity, but it isn't over the top. The movie starts out strange, and rather confusing, with flashback scenes that don't make a lot of sense at first, but I feel that it works for the film, by putting the viewer in the uncomfortable position of not knowing what is going on. I find that movies that can do that are far more interesting than more predictable movies.

#5: Grave Encounters (2011)

This even looks a bit like the opening to Ghost Adventures

This even looks a bit like the opening to Ghost Adventures

Grave Encounters was a rather fun movie to watch. It pokes a bit of fun at the various paranormal investigation shows, particularly Ghost Adventures, by exposing some of the less-than flattering truths behind all of the shows like that. Lance Preston, the main investigator, even sounds a bit like Zak Bagans from Ghost Adventures. It was rather amusing. Having said that, the movie still provides an interesting story, and some really scary moments. This was a recommendation by my sister, and I found it to be as good as most of the other movies she suggests.

A ghost hunting film crew travels to an abandoned mental asylum (sounds pretty typical) for an overnight 'lockdown'. While I admit, that this isn't a particularly inspired premise, it was rather well done, and there were some decent scares, and interesting twists to the story. I won't give much more away than that, but I highly suggest you check this movie out. I have yet to see the sequel, but I look forward to it. At the very least, it's amusing, and a great horror movie is made all the better when it has some humor. It throws the viewer off a little, and lulls them into a false sense of security.

#6: High Tension (2003)


High Tension (or Haute Tension), is a really confusing movie at first. Some people just don't get it, and honestly, I didn't at first. I knew what the movie was, what happened and all that, but I just didn't get the movie. I had to watch it a couple of times before I really loved the movie. In fact, the first time I watched it, I thought it was interesting, then I kind of forgot about it. I stumbled across it again a few years later, forgetting that I had seen it already, and after that, I started to love the movie. I watched it again a week or so later, just to absorb all that I could from the movie.

High Tension follows two women, Marie and Alexia, who travel to Alexia's family's home in the country for holiday. What is supposed to be a nice, quiet break from school becomes anything but. It takes a decidedly dark turn from there. I won't say anything else about the movie beyond that. To say much more would give away too much about the movie. You just have to watch it for yourself. Watch it twice, in fact. It's better that way, and watch it in French if you can. I hate dubbed movies, but to each his own. There are a couple of uncomfortable scenes, and a few parts of the movie that left me feeling rather disquieted, but then, it's a horror movie, so I guess it did what it was supposed to.

#7: May (2002)

She looks relatively normal...

She looks relatively normal...

May is a truly strange and disquieting film. I can't put it any more plainly than that. The cast is very good! It stars Angela Bettis (Girl, Interrupted, and Carrie (2002)) as May, as well as Jeremy Sisto (Suburgatory, Law & Order, Six Feet Under) and Ana Faris (Scary Movie series). I know, Ana Faris in a horror movie sounds strange, but she is actually quite good. As I said, this is a strange movie. It has some amusing moments, but it's still a dark and interesting movie.

May is about a girl with no friends, well, no friends except a strange doll her mother gave her. She grows up to be just as awkward and lonely as she was as a child. She attempts to connect with those around her, including her co-worker, Polly, and a handsome mechanic (Sisto), named Adam. Her awkwardness and desperation just pushes away the people she tries to get close to.

This movie is dark, and incredibly unnerving. It is well acted, and wonderfully done.

#8: Nightwatch & Daywatch (2004 & 2006)


Ok, so, technically, these are two movies, but I put them together because they go together, and I watched them one, right after the other. Night watch (Nochnoy dozor) and Day watch (Dnevnoy dozor) are two Russian movies that I stumbled across on Netflix a few weeks ago. They are supposed to be part of a trilogy, but I have yet to find the third movie.

They take a look at the world of those with supernatural abilities, that they call "Others". Night watch is a group of light "others" that keeps an eye on the dark "others" and makes sure they behave themselves, and Day watch is a group of dark "others" that keeps an eye on the light "others" to make sure that they are not overstepping their bounds.

The movies are about the groups trying to maintain the balance that has existed between the groups for centuries, and centers around a light "other" named Anton, played by Konstantin Khabenskiy (Wanted, World War Z), who came to know who he was during a time of stress and personal crisis.

The movies were creative, interesting, more beautiful than I thought a Russian horror movie could be, and I really enjoyed them. Once again, they are subtitled movies, and while I do not know if they are available dubbed, but don't watch them that way, unless you have to.

#9: The Orphanage (2007)

Tomas, the "imaginary" friend

Tomas, the "imaginary" friend

The Orphanage, or El orfanato (original Spanish title), is a wonderful movie!! I often find that Spanish horror movies are fantastic and wonderful. This movie is no exception! Of course, I expect nothing but the best from Guillermo del Toro, the producer behind such great movies as Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone. This movie is visually beautiful and haunting, and the story is compelling and unnerving. It isn't a blood and guts horror movie, but the disturbing ghost story, and heart-wrenching mystery is wonderfully done.

Laura brings her husband, Carlos, and adopted son, Simon, to the deteriorating orphanage in which she grew up, in hopes of restoring the building and using it as a home for disabled children. Soon, Simon reveals to her that he has made several new friends. Knowing that there is no one there but them, she dismisses it as a child's active imagination. But, is it really just his imagination, or is there something else going on in that old orphanage?

I can't begin to tell you how much I love this movie, and wish I had come across it sooner. It is beautiful, well, as beautiful as a horror movie can be.

#10: The Pact (2012)

Casper Van Dien and Caity Lotz

Casper Van Dien and Caity Lotz

The Pact was an interesting movie. It does follow a familiar formula, but from a somewhat different angle. It isn't what you would expect, that's for sure. I stumbled across this movie by accident one night when I couldn't sleep. That's usually when I watch horror movies. It relaxes me for some reason.

A young woman, Annie, played by Caity Lotz (Arrow), gets a call from her sister, Nichole, informing her that their mother has passed away. Nichole persuades Annie to come out to their mother's home for the funeral, and to take care of some family matters. But, when Annie gets there, her sister is nowhere to be found, and her niece has been left in the care of her cousin, Liz. Annie assumes that Nichole has taken off in pursuit of her on and off drug addiction, but when Liz also goes missing, Annie begins to suspect something else is going on. She gets help from a detective named Bill Creek, played by Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) who isn't sure if he should be helping her, or arresting her. What they finds is far more than either of them bargained for.

Like I said, this movie follows a fairly familiar formula; family member mysteriously disappears, and then another, and something is wrong, but it is so much more than that. The story reveals so much more than that, relating to Annie and Nichole's childhood, to a whole host of other things. It is a creepy, creepy movie, but the story is still incredibly interesting. I still get creeped out by this movie.

They have since made a sequel, which is also very good.

#11: Pontypool (2008)

Aging shock jock as a movie hero?

Aging shock jock as a movie hero?

I can't even begin to explain how incredibly strange this movie is. It has an isolated, dark feeling. It is a captivating movie with a unique concept. It's a Canadian movie, which I find interesting, considering that I haven't come across that many Canadian horror movies, let alone any other Canadian movies. Having said that, this movie was very good.

Pontypool stars Stephen McHattie (A History of Violence, Haven) as a shock-jock type radio DJ, Grant Mazzy. We find him at the end of his career, and he has been sent to a small Canadian town to work. He has a strange encounter with a woman on his way to the radio station, and the day just gets stranger from there. What is going on? What is causing this?

I can't say much about the movie without giving anything away. I would love to talk about 'this' aspect of the movie, or 'that' scene in the movie, but I hate to spoil a movie watching experience by giving anything away. The movie is almost claustrophobic in it's isolating quality. I like the story, and it was interesting and different. You will just have to watch it for yourself, and see what I mean.

#12: The Shrine (2010)

What lies in the fog?

What lies in the fog?

The Shrine was another suggestion given to me by my sister, and as usual, she was right. This was a delightfully interesting movie. It starts out on a rather predictable course, but it has some interesting twists and turns in the common horror formula that made it worth watching. It is an eerie movie. My only wish is that the parts spoken in Polish had been subtitled in English, but I figure they did it that way on purpose, so you were just as confused as the others.

The Shrine starts out like a typical slasher-type movie, with the strange locals and the mystery in the woods, but it expands from there. A group of journalists, led by Marcus, who is played by Aaron Ashmore (Smallville, Warehouse 13), decides to investigate a series of strange missing persons cases in Eastern Europe that have occurred over the past fifty years. To help them on their way, is a journal left behind by the last person to go missing. The last entry in the journal mentions something about a mysterious fog. Where is Eric Taylor, the author of the journal? And what lies in the fog?

This was a creepy movie. From the settings, to the fog, it was all very eerie. I always liked Aaron Ashmore as an actor, so that helped out a lot. He is a fairly well-known face, unless you are confusing him with his twin brother, Shawn (The X-Men movies, The Following). All that aside, I did really like this movie, and the story was interesting and well done.

#13: Triangle (2009)

Capsized in the storm, and stranded at sea

Capsized in the storm, and stranded at sea

Triangle almost didn't make this list, because I just watched it the other night. I had my list all together, and had started working on the various sections, for the other movies, when I remembered that this movie was in my DVR, just waiting for me. I'm glad I hadn't finished writing this, otherwise it would have meant more work for me; or the start of another list. Well, Triangle made it on this list. It's a very strange movie, and you aren't really sure what is going on when you start watching it, you just know something isn't right, something just feels strange.

Triangle stars Melissa George (Grey's Anatomy, 30 Days of Night, The Good Wife) as Jess, a woman who heads out with a group of friends on a yacht trip in the Atlantic Ocean. When I first heard about this movie, I assumed it was about the Bermuda Triangle. I almost didn't want to watch it because of that. It isn't about the Bermuda Triangle, Triangle is the name of the ship. The group encounters a strange storm that leaves them stranded, until they stumble across a cruise ship. The ship appears to be abandoned, but is it, really?

The story threw me for a loop as I was watching it. Not exactly your typical ghost ship story, or your typical slasher film, but it has elements of both, with a little Greek mythology thrown in. I know that makes almost no sense, but you will understand when you see the movie.

#14: Walled In (2009)

Caretaker and her son (if he looks familiar to you, he was also in Butterfly Effect)

Caretaker and her son (if he looks familiar to you, he was also in Butterfly Effect)

Walled In was one of those strange movies that I stumbled across by accident. I was looking for a different movie, and this one came up as a suggestion of a similar type movie. I love Netflix for neat little features like this!! I also like that they change up the movies they have available for streaming. It's a pain sometimes, but it gives me a nice variety of movies to watch.

Sam, played by Mischa Barton (The O.C.), heads to an isolated building that is set to be demolished, but some of the residents haven't left yet. Sam is sent to do some investigative work, to determine the best way to demolish the building. The caretaker and her son are still there, along with a couple of other residents. The strange thing is, some of the residents left without taking their furniture. That is the first odd thing Sam notices. The other thing, or person, that strikes her as odd is the caretaker's son, Jimmy. He befriends Sam, but something seems off about him, and the building itself.

The story isn't perfect, but it's very good, and very interesting. I am not a huge fan of Mischa Barton, but she is a decent actress, and did well in this movie. The location is isolated, and there is something chilling about being trapped in an isolated location, without having help readily available. It makes you feel vulnerable and alone. I love movies that give you that feeling of disquiet, and discomfort.

#15: Yellow Brick Road (2010)

Follow the yellow brick road...

Follow the yellow brick road...


I was hesitant to watch this movie, for fear it was a bizarre take on The Wizard of Oz, and in a way, it is, but it really isn't. If that makes any sense. I suppose it isn't supposed to. Truthfully, this movie is kind of like that, it sometimes feels like it makes no sense. I actually liked that about this movie. I was also a bit put off by some of the bad reviews I saw on, but I tend to disregard those, since some people just like to put up bad reviews because it makes them feel better about themselves. Yellowbrickroad is a super strange and disturbing movie.

An author, along with his wife, gather a group together to go investigate the mystery of Friar, New Hampshire. In 1940, the entire population of the small town, just up and headed out and started walking out of town, and onto a trail through the woods and mountains. Some were found murdered, and some were never seen again. One lone survivor was found, but he seemed to have gone mad. What happened to those people way back then? Why did they walk? Where were they going? The group hopes to find some answers to those questions as they travel along the Yellow Brick Road.

There are some small scenes of gore, and one scene in particular that was quite disturbing, only in it's unexpectedness, and brutality, but most of the movie is more disturbing, uncomfortable, and chilling rather than gory or violent. I can't explain why I like this movie so much, other than to say that I do. It's those strange little movies that leave you feeling uncomfortable and uneasy when you are done watching them, that I love, and this is one of those movies.


JIM on June 10, 2020:

The Shrine was actually pretty good.


Yello Brick Road....Weird. Sheer dread. Depressing

Tabatha King on April 26, 2020:

The moral of the movie The Cottage was not just watch who you allow in your house, it was also, Father’s love your daughters well cause if you don’t another man will. That man may be a devil!!

Rick on February 15, 2020:

Great list! Pontypool, Triangle, The Shrine, Dead End are my favorites

Georg on January 09, 2020:

Some of these are very bad (but I will try some) but I can recommend these ones:, where suspense was killing me:

1. Motel (2007)

2. Collector (2009)

3. The Strangers (2008)

You`re welcome ;)

Matt on January 04, 2020:

Just watched a movie called "The Ruins." I had never heard of it before, but found it in a thriftshop. I don't get scared easily, but for some reason this one actually freaked me out. lol. It's a pretty short movie - maybe like 80 minutes - but you should definately give it a view if you haven't already!

Rick H on September 15, 2018:

Great choices and several of my faves on this list including Dead End, Triangle, Pontypool, The Pact. Both “Pontypool” and “Triangle” could have been modern-day Rod Serling creations.

Joe on November 29, 2017:

also, I thought May was boring and slow.

Watch Lucky McKee's other film The Woman. Much better.

Joe on November 29, 2017:

1. The Collector

2. Hell House LLC

3. The Host

4. Open Grave

5. Chained

6. Devils Candy

Dan on May 30, 2017:

Agree with Jason. avoid Pontypool, just watched it.. Complete rubbish!

Jason Nowak on April 09, 2017:

I wanted to like Pontypool but it was just terrible. Not scary, doesn't make sense, just awful. The Pact was good as was High Tension and The Orphanage. I'll check out the others too but please, avoid Pontypool

Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on May 12, 2014:

avian--A lot of them are available for streaming on Netflix. I wander through there every now and again to watch movies that I haven't seen before.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on May 09, 2014:

Good reviews. I haven't seen any of these movies, but I could rent them and view them on the computer. Thanks.

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