10 Underrated Horror Movies You Might Have Missed
When I was young 3D movies weren’t so popular and horror movies were considered unworthy of good movie theatres. That didn’t stop me, though. I have seen every horror movie I could find. Sometimes it was a filthy movie theatre where I could smell the restrooms. Other times, it was either too cold or too hot. Sound systems distorted the audio to the point where you would go: “Damn, my guitar would sound better this way too!”
Cashiers tried to understand what kind of a pervert you are and still, they would check you out and give you the impression that if you bought a cheap meal, they would definitely put out. It’ll sound crazy to you, but after a while I began to enjoy this. Did I lose my mind? No! Since what I was watching was surreal, whatever stimuli low budget productions unintentionally created has enhanced it. It was like watching the movie in 4D.
You may say that creating a dream world is just another way to make life more interesting. A poor man combines what he’s seen in the movies with what he is seeing in his surroundings to create a richer and more enjoyable environment. Because of this method, I never got bored in a city populated with bureaucrats, soldiers and students… you know, boring people. This city, full of people who thought that they always knew exactly what to do suffocated me.
Despite their seriousness and projected success, all I have seen was nothing but incompetence. After I learned to be silent about it, I have found a variety of ways to indulge in my creativity. I considered the cashier girl a lost soul in a vampire’s castle whom I had to tease. That guy, desperately trying to sell crackers was just Count’s servant Igor and he was worried about what the Count would say when he opened the cash register.
The simplicity of these movies attracted me. That low budget soundtrack, often ‘composed’ by the director himself (sorry ladies, they were all men), excited me as if something deep inside me was waking up. What a thrill it was! Living in a community where everyone took every precaution to be fake, it was a revelation.
It made me understand why teenagers often do stupid things. They don’t know what to do, but they feel whatever else everybody’s doing is wrong. They are just trying to get real. Of course, the movie is fake and there are no monsters. On the other hand, when you learn that reality is always manufactured and inevitably fake, you come to realize that the only way to live with this realization is to make it your own.
Sometimes it’s the old folks who come up with a more interesting story, but being young (and obviously, restless), one cannot accept the realities manufactured by older folks (those who are conforming to the ‘natural order’ of things). You have to come up with original ideas, your own stuff. It’s a part of growing up. When you tell your friends about your ideas and hear your friends saying that you are full of crap, it just makes you feel good.
Though what you can come up with will be fake as well, the courage you display when you pick a dark alley to go home is good enough. It’s all that matters. Once again, you have shown everybody that the world is much bigger than they have ever imagined. At that time of our lives we all have the guts to delve deep into places where dreams are made of, where it’s dark, where nothing is fake. That’s why the hero or the heroine in the movie keeps going into these dangerous places despite our warnings and along with them, we do too.
When asked about my preferences about something, usually I try to explain it by saying that it is complex. For example, I like Richard Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen (1876), because it’s the most complex opera you’ll ever find. To me that’s a good thing.
When something requires more of my mental capabilities, I consider it to be good. Because regardless of what it is, just by provoking me it gives me pleasures I might not find elsewhere. Good horror movies are like that too. They are a mixture of various conflicting emotions taken to the extreme. They are abstemious and sensual, threating and comforting, crude and classy, ugly and beautiful at the same time.
Unlike many other works of art, when a horror movie gets more extreme, it gets much better. Therefore, I have developed this tendency to expect the climactic end in the beginning as a lower point, so to speak. Examples are very rare, but you can’t punish a guy just for asking. What I mean is, when the Devil is supposed to come in the end of the movie, he never comes.
So, I think he should just quit playing around and come in the beginning of the movie. Otherwise it’s for the children, you know: Will he come or not come? Who cares? Come already and let’s have some fun, man! Because without a complex character, a horror movie is nothing. And, you can never find a more complex figure than the Devil, a guy supposedly betrayed God just because he loved him so much (according to Yezidis).
I love watching bad guys win, don’t you? It makes so much more sense, because they all win in real life. But, more than that, bad guys are direct and always true to themselves. They are not fake. They are not cowards hiding behind kind words or fashionable attire. They are what they are, nothing more and nothing less. I appreciate that. A child molesting pervert never goes out of his/her way to hand out teddy bears and expect nothing in return. He/she stays in character all the time. He/she is predictable and that’s a good thing. You wouldn’t know what a clean cut kid would do under pressure.
It’s a great relief too, because everybody else in the theatre is watching the movie from the perspective of the victims. Not me, I find it boring. So, another blonde with big breasts will die… who cares? This way you get to explore all the gray areas of human existence. It’s so much more fun. And for the record, “No, I didn’t kill little furry animals when I was a little kid. I was the one protecting them.” It’s a movie, man. Get over it.
This viewpoint is the key that turns crappy movies into virtual reality simulations you can enjoy. We should pick our villain carefully, though. Just another rapist will not cut it. As we have previously pointed out, our villain must be complex like Count Dracula or The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008). That’s how we are going to interpret the following movies. We will try to figure out how the bad guy/gal feels.
Though some of the movies in this list suck in so many ways, they are chosen because of the original ideas they inspired. Perhaps, that should be the way we evaluate works of art, not by their apparent quality, but by the quality of the horizons they point out.
If it gets us to think about new, interesting ideas, then, it’s a good film. In other words, its goodness does not lie in its décor or how well the script conforms to our own ideas about what’s good. When we get out of the movie theater, if we are still thinking about it and considering what we are thinking about a possibility in the real world, then our time has not been wasted.
1. The Howling (1981) – Joe Dante
This is an example of losing the ability to distinguish what’s fake from what’s real.
Back in the high school days, during lunch a couple of my friends and I would designate our time to other things as well. We would eat as fast as we could and spend the remaining time by watching movies. As a result, I have seen only the beginning, the middle or the end of more than a hundred movies.
Because of this fact, I have learned to enjoy a story without knowing where it’s been or where it’s going. That particular experience even helped me in my adulthood. When everybody stared at each other with blank faces, I always had an idea to connect the dots. It was familiar territory for me.
When it comes to this movie, it’s a little bit different, though. I didn’t have to connect the dots, because everything was so obvious. You have your usual screamers, idiots and monsters. Wallace is an extraordinary screamer. If I had met her I would have said: “Baby, you get scared so wonderfully” as if this could be a compliment.
Dante’s visuals are exceptional as well. Also, the way werewolves portrayed here has always been my favorite one, kind of scary, kind of funny, which gives you mixed emotions which is a very good thing when it comes to horror movies. When you are unsure of how you feel, your receptors are ready for new sensations.
Despite their quality, these are ordinary things however. Every good horror movie has them. So, what was different here? This movie gave me a unique experience. I had the privilege of experiencing virtual reality, way before it became mainstream. Once again, we finished lunch in record time and headed to the nearby movie theatre.
We were running in the streets to not to miss the good parts of the movie. When we get there, we hurried to the front seats. Unlike my friends, I stopped in the middle of the corridor. It was that part of the movie, when you’d see the blue light and hear the seducing organs playing. I felt as if I was in that forest waiting for the werewolf to appear.
Then, a man came out of the shadows and met an attractive woman. As they walked, I too walked as if we were sharing the same world. They both turned out to be werewolves and that was the first and the only time I have seen werewolves making love. It was beautiful. When the full moon reappeared and they howled, I barked at the moon too.
Being the only person ‘walking the path’ and not just knowing it, I have learned that there is no difference between dreams and reality long before I have learned about Donna Haraway’s Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1991).
2. The Entity (1981) – Sidney J. Furie
This is an example of enjoying politically incorrect things and expending your horizons.
It’s the stupidest script you will ever read. An entity turned on by Carla pays a visit to her once in a while… to have sex. Some people try to find a reason for this. You know, whether the house is haunted or not… Well, my friends, reason is a broken ladder. There are no deeper motives here. It’s just a sexploitation movie! If you think there is a deeper meaning here, please get help.
Let’s dwell on the subject a little bit more, though. Didn’t the entity have anything better to do? Why does he want to pay a visit to this unsuspecting mother? Look at her, I mean, who wouldn’t? This movie may have been the reason behind the VCR craze back then. You know, skip back and forth and watch only the good parts of a movie.
Why fake it? Why would anyone watch the scenes in between? One could almost pray to Mr. Entity to come more often. He is a little bit rough, though. Maybe entities like it that way, I don’t know. Where are the gentler entities, by the way? Aren’t we stereotyping them? What an entity has done to you? Your congressmen are much worse. Don’t you think so?
Take it from the Entity’s point of view. Do we ask ourselves how he is living over there? Maybe he had a messed up childhood and he doesn’t know his manners. Maybe he is like Lennie Small in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (1937). He just doesn’t know how heavy his touch is. Shouldn’t we all get together and give a helping hand here? Take the position of a good lawyer once: “Yes, ladies and gentlemen he killed her… he killed her. But, I ask you… why… oh, why did he kill her?”
On the other hand, he didn’t have to be that rough now, did he? He could have easily brought flowers and bought dinner first. Are you kidding me? How can this be impossible for something who can travel between different realms, go anywhere undetected? Is it in his contract to act like that, so that he can get these powers? Also, why do we presuppose it to be male? It could have been a pissed off woman as well. In my experience, a pissed off woman is way more dangerous. I would prefer an entity any day.
I can go on and on, if I take it seriously. And, that would be a mistake. So, forget about the troublesome past of the entity, eat your popcorn and try to enjoy it. Well, how shall I put it? There isn’t much of a movie here, but after watching it, I wasn’t a virgin anymore. I guess, that was the beginning of cybersex as well. What’s more, you didn’t need any gadgets. Instead, you communed with the entity.
That approach gave me the idea about switching perspectives to get a peek at someone else’s experiences. Wouldn’t it be neat? Do you remember Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days (1995)? You know, how they used to record experiences of select individuals and then, sell them in the black market to those looking for excitement and vulgar pleasures? It would be a great way to explore the psychotic mind. Also, as a byproduct, we would have better horror movies. Don’t you think so?
3. Prince of Darkness (1987) – John Carpenter
This is an example of when it’s time to stop being a spectator and become a storyteller.
Do you remember when I said that I preferred the end in the beginning? That’s one of the movies that gave me the idea. It’s a typical John Carpenter flick with the music and everything. You watch people being possessed by the Devil one by one.
Most of the movie is a documentary about how they attack each other. Alice Cooper has a minor role that counts, if only he was the Devil too. But, the Devil never comes. We see the girlfriend of the Devil, disciples of the Devil and Devil’s son in his mother’s womb, but not him. Well, Carpenter “you tease and tease, but never please” (One of Pinhead’s favorite lines, Hellraiser, Clive Barker, 1987).
As usual, he almost comes right in the end. However, all you get to see is his hand which looks disgusting, not worthy of the Devil at all. Then, a stupid priest breaks the mirror he was using as a gateway and you guessed it, the Devil cannot come. Damn! I bet Ozzy Osborne is more punctual than that.
Watching such power repelled by just shattering mirrors is such an insult. He should have come regardless. I mean, look at the competition: a nutty professor, a couple of students who are more interested in getting under each other’s pants than saving the world and a stupid priest who is scared of his own shadow. And, they beat the Devil? Yeah, right! What kind of a prince is he anyway?
I would rearrange the movie in this way: First, I would get rid of all of the symptoms of ‘something bad is happening’ like the homeless lady eating maggots and smiling as if she is eating chocolate. Instead, I would have everything nice and in order. Making nasty things not so obvious makes them more challenging puzzles and also, it doesn’t giveaway the plot that easily.
What, Hollywood audiences wouldn’t get it? Who cares? There are millions who will get it elsewhere. Secondly, I would get rid of the happy ending. This is a horror movie, people! I mean, if you need happy endings so bad, get a six-pack and watch the Hallmark channel.
Let’s try to fix this story, shall we? What you come up with doesn’t need to be long and you don’t have to have twenty ideas. One original idea will be good enough. In this case, for example, I have realized that I could put the end of the movie right in the beginning. Some may say that this approach will hurt the story and we wouldn’t be able to see the battle between the good and the evil. Why would we want to see it, when we all know how it ends?
As Lewis Black points out: “The good die young and the pricks live forever.” More importantly, being only half a chromosome away from chimpanzees, you can be sure that we will come up with new dramas regardless of our current circumstances. So, there’s nothing to worry about there.
Therefore, I find it more amusing when there’s an absolute power in charge. Seeing the way people live then is more interesting. Just like in the case of George Orwell’s 1984 (1949). The condition of cherished human qualities in the face of total destruction… what would become of them? That is grounds for heroic acts, if you ask me.
For example, when the Devil’s in charge and he unmade existence as we know it, what would you do? What would change? Music will get better for one thing. Also, we will have lots of time. Because, we won’t have to waste our time with the news, stock exchange or the Sunday school anymore. It will all be in ruins. When there is a battle between the good guys and bad guys, you have options. What would you do if there were no good guys, no options?