Ten of the Most Questionably Great Horror Movies in Recent Memory
The List's Criteria
I have a passion for horror movies, especially ones that are full of camp, one-liners, fake blood, dark comedy, and attempts at subverting horror tropes-- all while having a grand time. This never-ending search for great horror movies has introduced me to some fantastic, little-known horror flicks and some horror flicks so terrible you couldn't pay people to watch them. Today I'd like to share with you some of my favorite intriguing horror movies, and I want to help set your expectations accordingly: If you are reading this expecting game-changing horror films, you'll likely want to look somewhere else. If you've come to this list equipped with a willingness to have a bloody, rollicking good time, then you've come to the right neck of the woods!
I had a few particulars in mind when I came up with this list. I wanted to include items that were at least several of the following things:
- Low-budget but still well-filmed
- Hilarious one-liners
- Lots of action
- Some sort of plot-twist
- An attempt at subverting horror tropes
- Immensely rewatchable
- Didn't have a huge marketing campaign
Given these stipulations, a lot of the movies I chose ended up being B-rate movies. I tend to prefer B-rate movies because they don't have as much at stake as a huge blockbuster (like The Avengers or Mad Max) might. And because B movies get less money, I have found that they tend to have to get more creative with many aspects of their production, including acting, special effects, and plot. In short: B-movies get crazy because there's arguably less at risk compared to huge blockbusters, and B-movies tend to be more creative with their resources since those resources are often so limited.
10 B-Rate Horror Movies That Are Perfect for Halloween
Here's the list you've been waiting for, arranged from "Will show to most people with mild enthusiasm" at the top to "MUST SHOW EVERYONE WHO WILL LISTEN" at the bottom:
Jack Frost (1997)
The Awakening (2011)
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
Stonehearst Asylum (2014)
You’re Next (2011)
The Haunting of Whaley House (2012)
All Cheerleaders Die (2013)
- Zombeavers (2014)
1. Jack Frost (1997)
I'd likely have to pinpoint Jack Frost (1997) as the beginning of my love affair with terrible, campy, bloody horror movies. It's worth pointing out that this Jack Frost isn't the 1998 family movie of the same name that stars Micheal Keaton. However, the Frost we're talking about is hardly a family movie (for the record, it's not a family movie at all, unless your family is either quite grown or a clan of murderous snowmen).
Synopsis: Frost, as the name suggests, follows the story of a serial-killer-turned-homicidal-snowman. Jack, the movie's serial killer namesake, is on his way to his execution when the prison truck transporting him collides with a semi towing hazardous toxic material. Reinvigorated—and turned snowman—by this collision, Jack is able to start his killing spree all over again-- and winter's just begun.
Why I liked it: Frost is a seasonal delight for me. It's worth watching about once a year for it's humorous one-liners (it's most famous line being, "Well it ain't -- Frosty!!"), Yuletide attitude, and zany plot. Oh-- and there's a sequel. Can you guess where? On a tropical island! You're totally right!
2. The Awakening (2011)
The Awakening (2011) falls into a very curious niche for me. I tend to like horror movies with lots of blood. Awakening is surprisingly not that bloody at all. More than that, it's a period piece set in 1920s England. I was impressed by Awakening's ability to maintain my attention without resorting to cheap tactics.
Rating: R | Run Time: 1 hr 47 m | Genre: Thriller, Ghost Story, Horror | IMBD
Synopsis: The Awakening centers around Florence Cathcart, a published author who galavants around the English countryside thwarting supernatural hoaxes. A man from a local boys' school approaches her, wondering if she might help them figure out what sort of ghosts haunt their halls-- as a young boy was recently murdered, and that murder has been causing some serious disturbances. Things take a turn for the curious when Florence's iron resolve starts to diminish: Maybe this isn't one ghost story she can debunk.
Why I liked it: As I mentioned, I don't typically care for ghost stories, as they usually like to rely too heavily on jump-scares (which I find to be terribly boring and a cheap tactic) or are downright terrifying (Sinister-- I couldn't sleep the night I accidentally watched this. I didn't think it was going to be scary. I was so, so wrong.). Awakening doesn't want to scare you, per se. It aims to be more of a psychological thriller that has ghosts in it, rather than an out-right "let me terrify you" ghost story. So, it has enough twists, turns, action, and thought put into it to keep the viewer entertained. The more you watch it, the more that reveals itself to you.
3. Intruders (2015)
Did you watch the TV show Leverage? If you did, you're sure to recognize Beth Riesgraf, who played Parker in Leverage, as Anna in this thriller. A fun fact about this movie is that it's had at least three working titles, including Deadly Home, Shut In, and Intruders.
Synopsis: Anna has severe agoraphobia. She hopes to work up the courage to leave her house in order to attend her brother Conrad's funeral. As Anna is trying to convince herself to go to the funeral, three armed men break into her home. The robbers don't realize that Anna's armed with her own weapons...
Why I liked it: Home invasion movies can feel a dime a dozen. This one sets itself apart by presenting what feels like an authentic representation of someone who has a severe mental illness and has experienced various forms of trauma. As the story unfolds, it gets more and more morally complicated, putting it above most home invasion movies that offer little to no reason for why things are happening.
4. Housebound (2014)
This campy, Australian horror/thriller is more cute than terrifying or bloody. This one is a nice middle-ground if you don't want something that's particularly heavy or if you're trying to just ease someone into the horror genre.
Synopsis: What's worse than living with your parents? Being forced to live with them by the government. Kylie, played by Morgana O'Reilly, gets caught breaking into an ATM, and it's her last judicial straw. The judge presiding over her case recommends her for house arrest. At a loss for what to do while on house arrest, Kylie tries rummaging through her basement and finds far more than she's bargained for.
Why I liked it: Housebound makes a concentrated effort to be quirky, cute, and charming. It's not one of your heavy-hitting, blood-flowing horror movies. It's more of a humorous romp around a potentially haunted house-- what that house is haunted by is up for debate; it could be people, it could be spirits, or it could be bad memories. It gets points for its "grate" puns-- watch the movie and you'll know what I'm talking about.
5. Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil (2010)
Hillbillies, cute college girls, a secluded lake, and a lone cabin in the woods. Sound like every other mainstream horror movie ever? That's because Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2011) sets out to maim every trope it gleefully partakes in. This movie has something for everyone, from the horror new-comers to the horror savant, you're sure to laugh and enjoy this cute film.
Synopsis: Two best friends buy a secluded cabin in the woods together-- a real fixer-upper. They want to spend some quality best-friend time together fixing the place up, but when a group of college kids crashes their quiet weekend, things don't go exactly as planned. In fact, they go horribly, horribly wrong.
Why I liked it: The crux of Tucker and Dale's humor relies on being somewhat familiar with mainstream horror tropes (like a secluded cabin in the woods, homicidal hillbillies, and unwitting college kids). T&D goes all out, playing on pretty much every horror trope you can think of-- and then turning that trope on its head or doing the complete opposite of what you expect. The result is a cute, campy, enjoyable, and humorous foray into the lighter side of horror.
6. Stonehearst Asylum (2014)
Stonehearst Asylum (2014) has perhaps the biggest budget of any film on this list, as indicated by its impressive musical score, star-studded cast, elaborate costumes, and overall pristine presentation. Its notable cast includes Micheal Caine, Jim Sturgess, Kate Beckinsale, and the immaculate Ben Kingsley. Stonehearst is loosely based on the Edgar Allen Poe story "The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether." As such, you can expect a sombre, twisting tale with heavy gothic influences.
Synopsis: A young, recent Oxford medical school graduate Edward Newgate travels to a far-off insane asylum, Stonehearst, under the pretense of wanting to study progressive medicine. While there, he encounters Eliza Graves, a woman committed for "female hysteria" by her overbearing husband. Newgate quickly realizes that the unorthodox methods being used at Stonehearst aren't the only unorthodox plot unfolding there.
Why I liked it: Similar to The Awakening, Stonehearst is an absolutely enrapturing tale. One minute you think you know something, then you realize you know nothing! These plots, twists, and turns don't stop until the very end of the movie-- which ends on a curious note. I'm not typically a fan of Victorian genre films, but this one keeps the intriguing plot twists coming from start to finish. And how can you say no to Ben Kingsley? If you want an edge-of-your-seat, beautifully filmed, well-acted story, this is a great place to start. You can get your horror fix without too much screaming or blood!
Where you can watch it: Netflix (Streaming), (Rent or Buy), or you can buy the DVD/Blu-ray. Amazon
7. You're Next (2011)
This movie is 100% blood and gore plus 100% badass female lead, equalling a 200% thrilling movie. Erin, the female lead of the movie (played by Sharni Vinson), will have you engaged the entire movie, based solely on how she is able to use her very specific set of skiils. You're Next (2011) also has one of the highest RottenTomatoes ratings of any movie on this list, coming in at a decent 75% approval rating.
Synopsis: Crispian, Erin's boyfriend, invites Erin to his family's reunion. Tensions between the family are clearly running high, and it doesn't take long for the family's deep-seated issues to flare up. The tentative family dinner is almost immediately interrupted by several crossbow bolts being lodged in two of the guests. From there on out, the movie is a bloody mess and begs the question "Who's Next?" Erin struggles to make sense of and survive the apparently random violence around her-- turns out she's fairly hard to kill.
Why I liked it: First off, Erin is an un-killable badass in this movie. She more or less carries this entire movie. You're Next stands apart from other home invasion movies because of the sheer number of "oh... Oh... OH SHE DID THAT!" moments. It's hard not to root for Erin, and it's even harder to know what's going to happen to her. Does she make it out? Doesn't she? What happens to everyone else? This story is nonstop action from the moment that first cross bolt is fired to the last... well, you'll have to watch it to find out.
Where you can watch it: Netflix (DVD), (Rent or Buy), or you can buy the DVD/Blu-ray. Amazon
8. The Haunting of Whaley House (2012)
Whaley House is an actual place in San Diego, California (though the Whaley's did have significant ties to San Fransisco, California, as well.). The historic Violet Whaley committed suicide after divorcing her insufferable husband, George T. Bertolacci. The Haunting of Whaley House (2012) claims to be "based on true events." But that's using the phrase entirely too loosely. It would be more accurate to claim that the film uses the historical events as inspiration, but ultimately weaves its own tale.
Synopsis: The Haunting of Whaley House opens on a dark night with three rowdy teenagers goading each other into throwing rocks at the allegedly haunted Whaley House. After a few quipping and clearly satirical one-lines (like, "Breathing's for gays!"), we're introduced to daylight and a set of twenty-somethings. One of these twenty somethings is Penny, a tour guide at Whaley House. Her friends convince her to help them break in to the house after dark to see if there really are any ghosts. Penny eventually caves. Nothing could possibly go wrong... right?
Why I liked it: Whaley does something I've seen few other movies do and do well: it makes the transition from campy horror to almost frightening with uncanny grace. For the majority of the movie, we've got hilarious one-liners (even one that says. "I'm outta here. I'm not trying to get murdered. I'm getting sushi!" or something to that effect) and only semi-believable acting. Near the end of the movie, there's a huge tonal shift, and the movie actually gets scary and tense for a minute-- then it ends. This shift and the way it was handled really set Whaley apart from a lot of the other low-budget films that I've watched. So, given its quipping one-liners and that awesome tonal shift, it's one of my favorite movies to share with people.
Where you can watch it: Netflix (DVD), (DVD), or buy the DVD/Blu-ray. Amazon
9. All Cheerleaders Die (2013)
Think Bring it on (2000) meets The Craft (1996), but with more attitude, Wicca magic, blood, and murder. Curiously, All Cheerleaders Die (2013) is actually a remake of an earlier film of the same name by the same people. This movie is notable for the extordinary attention to detail it has-- more on that in a minute.
Synopsis: After one of Maddy's childhood friends dies in a tragic cheerleading accident, Maddy sets out to create a tribute video that includes interviews of the people who were closest to Alexis, the friend who died. Maddy comes into contact with Terry, captain of the football team and Alexis' ex-boyfriend. That interaction is the impetus for the rest of the movie. One that results in an epic battle for revenge on both sides: cheerleaders vs. football players.
Why I liked it: I'll be the first to admit that Bring it on was one of my favorite movies growing up. I've always had a penchant for cheesy, campy movies. So, when I saw this cheesy cheerleading horror movie, I was in. I was even more excited to find out how intricate the plot ends up being. A good plot twist isn't one that just comes out of the blue, a good plot twist is one that makes you go "I SHOULD HAVE SEEN THAT COMING" when the truth is revealed. All Cheerleaders Die has several of those moments, with intricately laid, inconspicuous-seeming details hiding throughout the movie. More than that, Maddy and Leena are quite openly together, aren't objectified, and their relationship isn't the center of the plot. Finding these three things together can be a Herculean feat. So, the fact that those three factors exist in a horror movie—a good horror movie no less—endears this movie to me that much more. At any rate, you're bound to have a great time with this movie!
10. Zombeavers (2014)
Without a doubt, hands-down, one of the best campy horror movies I have ever had the privilege of stumbling across in my life. To help qualify this, I've watched almost every horror movie available on Netflix, and this is still my go-to recommendation. I mean, its tagline is "They'll dam you to hell," but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Synopsis: Zombeavers starts out with a premise like every other horror movie: three stereotypical white college girls scamper off to a secluded-ish cabin for a weekend away from the boys. Of course, the boys follow and "surprise" the girls. After a quick dip in the lake, something seems wrong, very wrong. It is: there are zombie beavers afoot!! Will the twenty-somethings escape, or will they be dam-ed to hell?
Why I liked it: I like this one so much it gets bullet points.
- Fun for (almost) everyone: My girlfriend's rancor for horror movies is palpable. She tends to find that they're pointless, unnecessarily violent, and weakly written. And you know what? She. Likes. Zom. Beavers. I not only got her to watch this movie, she also liked it (after I finally convinced her to give it a shot). What I'm getting at is that even people who probably hate horror movies can enjoy this one because it's just that charming.
- Wordplay: Moving on, this movie is full of portmanteaus (Zombie + Beaver = Zombeaver) and puns-- good ones, no less. And you can bet they make double entendres whenever they possibly can. (Sounds like a good rule for a drinking game.)
- Trope-smashing: Similar to Dale and Tucker, Zombeavers laughs in the face of tropes, running them to their groan-worthy end, and then does something reinvigorating with them. I'd like to tell you my favorite one, but I don't want to ruin the end of the movie for you.
- Zombeavers: Maybe it's childish, but the idea of zombeavers is inherently hilarious to me.
- Rewatchability: I could watch this movie over and over because it's so comical and outlandish. Does it have plot twists and well-thought out dialogue? No, not really. Is it a wild ride full of puns, zombie beavers, laughs, and hilarity? Yes. Yes. It. Is. That's what it really comes down to: Zombeavers is funny, and that makes it really rewatchable.
- Fan interaction: I like this movie so much that I felt compelled to make an art piece out of the movie poster. I posted the piece on Instagram, and Courtney Palm, who plays Zoe in the movie, (@vegan_actress) liked it! It's always a neat feeling when people from your favorite movie take a second to recognize a fan, something that you typically don't get with more mainstream movies.