Most horror films don’t get good reviews. I’d say maybe ten or twenty percent are well received by critics. Fans are a little more forgiving, granting a lot of bad movies a chance. This is why I would sooner listen to fans than critics. It seems that if a horror movie is not original, it is not worth a critic’s time. Some of my favorite horror films got ripped apart by critics. Horror movies, for the most part, are not projects for directors to develop characters, write endearing dialogue, or tug at your emotions. Besides offering up laughs (most of the laughs are unintentional), horror films are meant to scare the crap out of you, and give you the creeps. Fright films pose one question; what lurks in yonder shadows? Basically I am saying give horror a chance! Here are my top five (in no particular order) underrated horror films.
Exorcist III: Legion (directed by William Peter Blatty, 1990) This movie scared to living hell out of me. I saw it in the theater when I was 14, and it affected me more than any other horror movie. No word of a lie, there was a power outage that night because of a storm, and it just made the whole experience a little more hair-raising. Of course, this film can’t touch the original as far as being a complete film, but Legion, has a lot going for it. Jump scares, great tension build, and enough religious imagery to give anyone the creeps. The film is set in the year it was made, but the story connects right back to the end of 1973 classic original, The Exorcist. It also completely ignores the sequel to the original, The Exorcist: Heretic, which was a piece of garbage. Even if you have seen it, give it another shot. It’s worth while.
Lords of Salem (directed by Rob Zombie, 2012) Lords of Salem is a departure from the ultra-violent House of 1,000 Corpses, and the amazing Devil’s Rejects. This almost seems like Rob Zombie wanted to make an art film, as well as homage to Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch. The first time I watched it, I lasted ten minutes and was distracted by something shiny, so I shut it off. About a year ago, I decided to give the movie another shot. This time, it sucked me in. The story has holes, and confusing here and there, but the film is beautifully shot. Not to mention, with all Rob Zombie projects, Lords has an amazing soundtrack. Sheri Moon Zombie is great as a radio deejay that becomes the conduit for the witches of Salem to return to present time and get their revenge for being persecuted during the Salem Witch Trials. Great imagery and creepy atmosphere make Lords of Salem worth checking out.
Jason X (directed by James Isaac) Being the ninth sequel in a tired, dying franchise, it should be the worst one, logically thinking. What else could they do with Mr. Voorhees? Well, they decided to put him in space, and give him a robotic/cyber type makeover. Sound ridiculous, right? Well it is. It has bad acting, a really far-fetched story, and some cheesy effects. The film is dumb, but it is dumb in funny, inventive way. The kill scenes are far more entertaining and original than most of the Friday the 13th deaths, and there is humour! This film knows it’s not to be taken seriously, so it throws every cliche at you, and makes fun of it in the process. This is not my favorite installment of the Jason franchise but it is better than at least four of the others.
Idle Hands (directed by Rodman Flender, 1999) Idle Hands is a horror comedy that falls a little more on the comedy side. I think the writers decided to capitalize on two popular genres of the time; the teen horror film, and raunchy teen comedies. This was around the time films like American Pie and Scream were popular date movies. Idle Hands is a little bit of both. I suppose the horror aspect of the movie is used for comedic purposes, but it does the job effectively. Even Seth Green is funny. The main character, Anton, is a lazy teenager with no ambitions, with the exception of his right hand. His hand is possessed and has murderous intentions. This is a nice nod to another possessed appendage film, Evil Dead 2. Gore, violence, nudity, comedy, drug use and a fresh-faced Jessica Alba. What’s not to love?
Trick r Treat (directed by Michael Dougherty, 2007) To be fair, Trick r treat is widely liked by critics, but it does not get the recognition it deserves. The film follows four separate stories on Halloween, but all interweave in some aspect. The common factor in all the stories is Sam, the ambiguous little fellow that wears a burlap sack on his head, who is as deadly as he is adorable. Trick r Treat is right up there with Creepshow and Twilight Zone as far as horror anthology films go, and I’ll even go as far as to say it is my favorite. Anna Paquin and Brian Cox star in this new staple in my Halloween viewing arsenal. Above all things, Trick r Treat teaches us that Halloween traditions should be respected, or bad things can and will happen!