The Seven Most Underrated Horror Movies

Horror is such a large genre — sometimes the truly great films are lost in the shuffle of gore and splatter. Here are the top seven most underrated horror movies.

1. The Gate (1987) Dir. Tibor Takacs

The Gate is a 1987 horror film starring a young Steven Dorff in a tale of a demonic portal opened up in a suburban backyard. An really, this film SHOULD be terrible. One character is stabbed with a Barbie Doll. The fashions are very 80s. The cast is entirely child actors. It’s directed by a guy who now makes Hallmark movies. But guess what?

IT’S GREAT!

And I don’t mean in an ironic way either, this is a very well made, atmospheric and just fun movie that is genuinely TERRIFYING in parts.

The story is very simple, concerning Steven Dorff’s character Glenn and his metalhead friend Terry discovering a pit that releases demons in their backyard. Weird stuff starts to happen around the house after Glen’s parents leave, and he, Terry , and Glens sister Al are forced to stop the demons.

Al’s two very stylish, and extremely 80s gal pals tag along, providing some very funny comic relief, and some fantastic fashions.  In fact, this whole movie is actually quite funny in places. Terry, in particular, is a very nerdy, matter of fact kid who listens to a lot of metal and takes everything quite seriously. In his room, we see he has trash bags taped to the wall with the word METAL scrawled on them. The film is PG-13, and is considered part of the “kid horror” of the late ’80s, along with Monster Squad and Gremlins. But for a supposed family-friendly movie, it’s pretty violent and intense in places. Glen grows an eye on his hand after an encounter with a beast, which is a fantastic visual and then stabs the eye on his own hand with a shard of glass. It also has a family dog being killed by demons. Yikes!

This film also captures kids perfectly. Terry isn’t your standard metalhead, he’s also just a lovable nerd with some issues. There’s a real bond between him and Glen. Al, the teenage sister, is also a very believable character. While she is obviously trying to impress her high school aged friends, she has a love for her brother as well and seems conflicted between family and friends.

This movie is EXTREMELY underrated. It deserves more fans, goshdarnit! It’s a fantastic, and extremely fun, 80s horror movie.

2.  Prince of Darkness (1987) Dir. John Carpenter

I already talked about this film in my John Carpenter review. I still have the same opinion about the movie: Its a terrifyingly tense supernatural horror film with some great special effects. It still holds up today.

3.  Seconds (1966) Dir. John Frankenheimer

A psychedelic horror movie, that, unlike most 60s horror films, actually holds up remarkably well. It’s similar, in a way, to the films of David Lynch. It uses lots of trippy camera angles and some frenetic editing, which gives the scenes a dreamlike quality befitting its intertwining plot line. It’s black and white photography ranges from beautiful to creepy, with the editing and music sometimes reminding me of Lo-Fi 90s music videos. The movie was a little TOO ahead of its time and was buried upon release.

4. The Twilight Zone Movie (1983)

Forget the undercooked first two segments, one of which was responsible for the death of Vic Morrow. The last two segments, directed by Joe Dante and George Miller, are creepy re-imaginings of great Twilight Zone episodes with some inventive special effects. The highlight is Joe Dante’s remake of “It’s A Good Life”, which has an anarchic charm to its wild claymation effects and several inventive kills. Just skip the first 2 segments.

5. Invaders from Mars (1986) Dir. Tobe Hooper

Tobe Hooper is one of the most famous horror directors ever, having directed two of the best horror films ever: Poltergeist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But a movie that gets lost in the shuffle is Invaders from Mars. It’s not a perfect movie, of course, suffering from some 80s clunk and some occasionally measly special effects. The acting is pretty cheesy, but well, who can resist its charm? The film is at its best during its more horror-inflected moments, which makes sense given Hooper’s background. Timothy Bottom’s creepy performance is also a highlight, as is the atmospheric score.

6. The Stuff (1985) Dir. Larry Cohen

It’s rare you see a combination of horror and social commentary, but while George Romero’s Zombie movies are most famous for it, The Stuff was more creative, and funnier. A biting commentary on the rampant capitalism of the 80s, the film was written and directed by prolific blaxploitation and horror maven Larry Cohen. The films interesting plotline concerns a mysterious food product called the Stuff that slowly hypnotizes and kills everyone who eats it, often in creative ways.

The special effects in this movie are excellent, with the ice cream-esque Stuff murdering people in increasingly elaborate death scenes. The movie is also astonishingly clever for a horror movie, with fake commercials and a story-line that exposes the corporate greed of the 80s in a way no other horror film has.

The movie has mostly been forgotten today, but of all the movies on the list, I think it deserves a sequel the most. Perhaps it could be a social commentary on i-phone culture? Or Vegans? I dunno.

7. Creepshow (1982) Dir. George Romero

Anthology films are a bit of a mixed bag. Most of them have one good segment and the rest are forgettable or boring. Creepshow is one of the few, however, that continually hits. Creepshow is a 1982 anthology movie directed by George Romero (director of Night of the Living Dead) and written by Stephen King (my favorite author). The film’s set up is an old Tales From the Crypt style comic book, and the movie is filmed in that manner.  When each story begins, we see a comic book drawing, which then morphs into a live action shot. In addition, the transitions between shots are turning pages and movement from panel to panel.

We also see glimpses of inside the comic books other pages, catching a glimpse of various advertisements contained within. This helped keep the movie interesting, and also elevated it from the usual horror anthology setups. Close up shots have backgrounds that look abstract, much like in comic books. 

Creepshow isn’t appreciated by the general public, although it does have a large fanbase. (It’s the most well-known movie on this list.) It’s segments all work (again, a rarity) and it has some excellent special effects. Check this one out if you’re a fan of classic horror.