20 of the Best Unknown Horror Movies
Some Great Movies Go Unnoticed
I have already covered some of the best horror films of all time, but there are other movies, great movies, that go unnoticed by most people. Ofttimes, these movies don't get the same attention as the blockbusters because they are independent or lower budget movies.
Nonetheless, sometimes these films offer something the big-budget movies just don't have. Some big-budget horror movies just seem to be slapped together, copies of other movies, or tired remakes. But these lesser known films seem to try harder to deliver something good, a unique take on a genre that has become somewhat predictable.
I watch a lot of horror movies and have found some very good ones you may not have heard of but should definitely check out.
1: Amusement (2008)
Amusement combines classic elements from popular horror movies and urban legends in a truly original way. I have read reviews that panned the movie, but as a fan of classic horror, I found the movie amusing. The use of classic urban legends, such as the killer who's in the house while the babysitter is there, is what makes this movie fun. We have all heard those stories as children. I know I have.
The movie follows three, seemingly unrelated girls, as they each encounter separate scenes of horror. The man known as "The Laugh" is a classic horror movie killer. We discover a bit about the characters over the course of the movie, and see where they connect. The creepy clown, is of course, excellent. Who doesn't love a creepy clown?
The acting isn't perfect, but for the budget the movie had, it was done well. As I've said, horror movies have an element of humor. This movie definitely has that.
2: The Bad Seed (1956)
The Bad Seed is a classic horror movie. I love movies with evil little kids. It is the turning of innocent into evil that really gets to me.
Christine Penmark's seemingly perfect family, including her perfect daughter, may not be all that they appear to be. Christine's beautiful, sweet, little girl may, in fact, be a psychopathic killer. Of course, what mother wants to believe something like that about their own child?
The Bad Seed is a great black-and-white horror movie, made at a time when terrible creature features were the flavor of the month. This is one of my all-time favorite movies for the sheer chills it gave me. Fitting in with the time that it was made, it isn't overly violent or gory, but it was terrifying, nonetheless. A truly great movie!
A TV version of the movie was made in 1985 starring Lynn Redgrave and David Carradine. I have not seen that version, so I can't really comment on it.
3: Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Imagine a documentary crew being given unprecedented access into the life of a serial killer. That is the premise for this movie.
Leslie Vernon, the budding slasher, invites a crew into his world, allowing them to view his reign of terror. Horror great Robert Englund (best known as Freddy Krueger), plays Doc Halloran, and Zelda Rubinstein (best known for her role as Tangina in the Poltergeist movies) appears in her last feature length film role. She died in early 2010.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to get inside the mind of a serial killer? To follow one around? This movie gives you a taste of what that might be like. Serial killers often have a cult following, and of course, there are always the strange groupies that fawn over them. I don't pretend to understand it, but it's real. This movie taps into that darker side of people, and plays with it in remarkable fashion.
4: Breathing Room (2008)
A lot of people pan this movie as a rip-off of Saw. In reality, there was a movie called Cube, that came out before either of these, that set the precedent for the formula. Both Saw and Breathing Room follow in Cube's footsteps, and if you liked Saw, you should also check out Breathing Room.
A group of people wake up in a room to discover they have all been given numbers. They come to realize they are all "contestants" in some game, and there is no escape. Violence and mayhem ensue, with some great twists and clever angles. I liked this movie. It has elements similar to Saw, as well as Cube, but takes a slightly different approach. It is cast with unknown actors, which I tend to like—after all, seeing Brad Pitt in a slasher flick would be a bit strange and would take you out of the movie.
5: Bug (2006)
Bugs creep me out, gross me out, and just give me the chills. I hate bugs. This movie explores the irrational fear of bugs, along with overwhelming paranoia and delusions. It really does make your skin crawl when you watch the movie.
Ashley Judd stars in the movie, as does Harry Connick Jr. Ashley Judd plays Agnes, a waitress living in a motel, in rural Oklahoma. Agnes begins a relationship with a man who says he was discharged by the Army. He begins to discover bites across his body caused by bugs that Agnes cannot see, bugs that he says live in the blood and feed on the brain. The movie is strange, disturbing, and thought provoking. You are never really sure what is real, and what isn't. Are they really being infested with bugs? The lengths they go through to protect themselves from this potentially imaginary infestation are truly horrifying.
6: The Cellar Door (2007)
I love movies about crazy people! Mostly because these movies touch on things that could really happen, and that is what really scares me.
My sister recommended this movie, and it did not disappoint. I will have that childhood rhyme stuck in my head for a while:
Say say old playmate,
Come out and play with me,
And bring your dollies three,
Climb up my apple tree,
Slide down my rainbow,
Into my cellar door,
And we'll be jolly friends,
The movie is about a very lonely, very disturbed man named Herman and his recent obsession with a sexy, seductive woman named Rudy. When she awakes from an ether-induced sleep to find that she's been kidnapped by a sociopath, she must use her wits to survive. This movie amazed me. It's hard to believe that it hasn't received more attention. It had a small budget, but what it lacks in big budget polish, it makes up for in talented acting and a great script.
7: Cube (1997)
Cube is a cult horror classic!! I stumbled across this movie by accident about eight or nine years ago. I found it captivating, remarkable, and terrifying. It has inspired movie makers for years, and I see why.
Seven strangers wake up to find themselves in separate rooms of a seemingly endless and incredibly deadly maze. Cube after cube, reveals new terrors, new traps, new ways to die. The strangers must navigate the maze and find the way out in order to survive. If it hadn't been for Cube, there would be no Saw.
A sequel and prequel have been made. The sequel, Cube 2: Hypercube, offers a more futuristic look at the same premise, while the prequel, Cube Zero, takes a look at the early days of the plan. Both are decent, but not nearly as good as the first.
8: Death of a Ghost Hunter (2007)
I covered this movie in my article on ghost story movies, but I still felt it worthy of mention. I will say that the acting isn't anything remarkable, but the story is very compelling.
The movie is portrayed as though it were based on the journal of a real ghost hunter who died during a paranormal investigation. In the film, Carter is a ghost hunter who is hired, along with a videographer and journalist, to investigate a house in which a family was murdered years before.
The movie is interesting and spooky. The characters are believable, and the little twists on the typical haunted house movie are what make it really good.
9: The Entity (1981)
The Entity stars Barbara Hershey as Carla Moran, a woman who is attacked, beaten, and raped by an unseen force. She struggles to figure out what is happening to her. She feels as if she is going crazy and seeks the help of a psychiatrist, and later, a parapsychologist, in an attempt to put an end to the attacks. Is she going mad? Is all of this really happening? The movie is supposedly based on a true story. I found the plot chilling, disturbing and very good! I love Barbara Hershey in this role. She is remarkable!
10: Funny Games (2007)
Funny Games is a remake of a movie of the same name, from 1997, and stars Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. A family, taking some time off from daily life at their vacation home, are taken hostage by crazy serial killers and forced to act out their sick, sadistic games. The killers seem intelligent and well mannered at first, but turn vicious and cruel once their real intentions are discovered. I have seen both versions of the movie, and both are worthy of watching. It is hard to imagine surviving something like that.
11: The Girl Next Door (2007)
I am not talking about the comedy about the kid who lives next door to a porn star. This movie is much more chilling, much more disturbing, and a great movie. It made me sad, it scared me, and it made me think.
Two young girls go to live with their aunt after the death of their parents. The aunt is friendly and carefree with the kids in the neighborhood, but terribly cruel to her nieces. She abuses and tortures them, and even gets her children and the neighborhood boys in on the abuse. It only gets worse from there. This movie is very hard to watch. It even made me cry at certain points.
What's more, one of the things that makes it really hit home is the fact that, while many horror movies say they're "based" on a true story, this film actually is based on the lives of two girls, Sylvia and Jenny Likens.
12: Grace (2009)
Grace is a movie that intrigued me. I read the basic plot overview, and knew that I wanted to see this movie. I wonder what that says about me?
A young woman who is eight months pregnant is involved in an accident, which results in the death of her unborn baby and her husband. She is determined to carry the baby to term and deliver it, just the same. Then a strange thing happens: Baby Grace comes back to life. Grace is a hungry baby, and mother's milk is not what she hungers for. The movie is truly disturbing and remarkable in its originality. The role of the mother-in-law is also terribly disturbing. The movie's slower, less hurried pace sets it apart from other horror movies.
13: The Hamiltons (2006)
The Hamiltons is about your average, everyday, suburban family. Upon the deaths of their parents, the four young adult siblings must learn to fend for themselves. Or, at least this is how it all looks on the surface. The siblings keep referring to some "disease," and then there is the issue of what they are keeping, and feeding, down in the basement. A strange story, to say the least. The movie is cast with unknown but talented actors. It's a movie I had never heard of until I happened upon it one night. I am really glad that I did.
14: Hard Candy (2005)
Ellen Page (star of Juno) plays a remarkably mature 14-year-old in this movie. Hard Candy is about a young girl who meets an older man on the internet. She suspects that he's a pedophile, and attempts to expose him. Less a true horror movie and more an indi-psychological thriller, it is still a great movie, which turns the tables on Internet predators. Ellen Page is chilling in her role as Hayley Stark.
15: House (2008)
After being stranded in the middle of nowhere in rural Alabama, two couples seek refuge in an old bed and breakfast. They quickly discover that their hosts are not all they are cracked up to be, and neither is the house. The hosts make reference to "The Tin Man," and state that the couples have drawn him there. The truth, though, is so much worse than they can imagine. In this movie, Michael Madsen plays a mysterious cop, and Leslie Easterbrook and Bill Moseley, who starred as a mother-son pair in The Devil's Rejects together, play mother and son once more.
16: Let the Right One in (2008)
Let the Right One in is the original, Swedish, version of a movie titled, Let Me In, that came out in theaters in 2010.
I found the film remarkable! It has a quietness to it that you rarely see in horror movies. It leaves you with a disturbed feeling, a sense of sadness, and the overwhelming sense that sometimes a monster isn't really a monster.
Let the Right One in is about a bullied, lonely boy named Oskar, who makes a new friend on the playground by his apartment building. Eli is a sad little girl who befriends the equally sad Oskar. You really feel for these characters, even after you discover Eli's true nature. Since writing this, I have seen the American remake, and while it is good, it does not even begin to compare with the original.
17: The Midnight Meat Train (2008)
I will say, the ending to this movie was a bit much, but I thought the movie was excellent nonetheless!
For a movie with a great cast (Bradley Cooper, Vinnie Jones, Leslie Bibb, and Brooke Shields), this movie did not receive the attention that it so greatly deserved. It's so little known that it's included as an Easter egg in Cooper's Oscar-nominated film Silver Linings Playbook: If you watched closely, you may have noticed a scene with a movie marquee reading "Midnight Train." It's a reference to this film, which Cooper says he's very proud of.
The movie follows a photographer (Cooper) who has stumbled upon a potential serial killer. His curious nature leads him to follow this killer. The movie delivers some gore and great twists. This was another recommendation of my sister's, and once again, she was right. My fiancé even liked it, despite not being a fan of horror movies.
18: Pandorum (2009)
This movie is great! It has elements reminiscent of the Alien movies. Two crew members awake from their hyper-sleep chambers to discover that all is not well with their ship. Bower, played by Ben Foster (known for roles in 3:10 to Yuma, 30 Days of Night, and Six Feet Under), goes looking for a way out, his wife, and some way to gain control of the ship. Along the way, he is met with some resistance from the others who have wakened from hyper sleep, as well as from some strange creatures that seem to have invaded the ship. Survival may turn out to be more important than originally thought as chilling secrets are revealed about what really happened aboard their ship.
19: Pathology (2008)
In this film, medical students play God in their simple "game." The game is to see which of them can commit the perfect murder.
The movie stars Alyssa Milano (Who's the Boss? and Charmed) and Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes) and was better than I had expected it to be. My sister recommended this movie, and while she is usually great with her recommendations, I wasn't entirely thrilled with what I had read of the plot synopsis. But I gave it a shot, and she was right. This movie was far better than I had expected.
20: Tideland (2005)
At first glance, this film appeared to be less horror than fantasy. I was wrong. It is a fantasy, but it is also dramatic, frightening, and beautiful. Pre-teen Jeliza-Rose's parents are drug addicts and far from ideal parents. After her mom ODs, her father takes her out to his family place to hide out. Jeliza-Rose transports herself to a strange fantasy world. Jeliza-Rose is played by Jodelle Ferland, who stars in Silent Hill and Case 39. She is a compelling, wonderful young actress.
© 2010 Anna Marie Bowman
More by this Author
Countless hours of research has led me to these 20 awesome horror movies from just the past few years. All of them are well worth watching.
A list of some great lesser-known horror movies that I have come across in the last few years.
Horror movies are often bad, some really bad. Some are good. The movies on this list are the worst of the worst. A list of some of the worst horror movies of all time.