Underappreciated horror movies give new tricks and treats this Halloween
Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 01:10
Why do we love to be scared? Is it the adrenaline rush? The pulse-pounding presence of an evil onscreen entity? Maybe it’s simply the satisfaction of lasting through a bloodbath of a film while your friend has to excuse himself to “take an important call.” Whatever the reason, horror films can be a ton of fun, and even though I have the resolve of a 12 year-old girl when it comes to watching zombies, vampires and ghosts wreak havoc on unsuspecting protagonists, I sifted through some of the lesser-known frightful flicks to bring you five underrated movies to watch this Halloween season.
This taut indie thriller makes the list to remind us that sometimes what we can’t see is often more terrifying than what we can. The English language becomes the vessel for a “28 Days Later” type of virus that makes people fixate on a single word before the host becomes incoherent and eventually homicidal. The first half of the film builds the characters and creates a strange sense of claustrophobia, as we never see the outside of the radio station. Stephen McHattie and company listen on in horror as colleagues are mangled and succumb to the infection, and the viewer learns what is unfolding along with them, creating a real-time sense of dread that is far more unsettling than most of the films I’ve watched recently. “Pontypool” is a refreshing take on your typical zombie flick that takes something inane and everyday - the words we speak - and turns them into something terrifying.
“Session 9” (2001)
This criminally underseen flick is easily the most underrated on this list, and could possibly be the most underrated horror entry of the past decade. The whole insane asylum angle is now considered a contrived part of the genre, but the atmosphere that director Brad Anderson creates is incredibly unsettling. The resulting slow burn leads to one of the most shocking endings I’ve ever seen in a psychological horror movie. The pacing, the creepy tapes that are found in the basement and the use of off-camera horror really hammers home the fright factor. Add in the fact that almost all of the scares take place during the daytime, and you’re left with one heck of an original film. Plus “Session 9” features a solemn, not-hokey David Caruso! If that doesn’t make you want to grab a copy, I don’t know what will.
“Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” (2011)
If you like horror/comedies, then put “Tucker and Dale” at the top of your to-see list. It plays on all of the typical scary movie tropes – the evil cabin with a tragic history, a group of unsuspecting college kids and a pair of backwoods psycho-killers – and flips it upside down. As you quickly find out, Tucker and his pal Dale are just two rednecks that want to go fishing, spend some time in their newly acquired vacation home and drink a few brews. In an unfortunate turn of events, the group of partying students think that our protagonists are out to get each and every one of them, leading them to fight back. There’s just the right balance of gore and humor to keep this story going, and you’ll be rooting for the two self-proclaimed hillbillies from start to finish.
“Trick ‘r Treat” (2007)
How many anthology films have you seen in the past 10 years that were actually enjoyable? Chances are you’re drawing a blank. Enter “Trick ‘r Treat,” an under-the-radar fright night tale that is directed and produced by the stellar team of Michael Dougherty and Bryan Singer (“X2,” “Superman Returns”). It’s not terrifying, but it does a great job of keeping the viewer interested by way of four stories that imply to the viewer that following Halloween traditions is a life-and-death business, with spoonfulls of dark comedy sprinkled in for good measure. With the exceptions of Brian Cox and Anna Paquin, the cast is relatively unknown but all put in good work as vampires, ghouls, murderous neighbors and more. “Trick ‘r Treat” is a sweet taste of underrated horror.
“The Cabin in the Woods” (2012)
The meta-horror hit of last year still doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I was coaxed into watching “The Cabin in the Woods” this summer and I’ve never been happier about being forced to watch a movie, especially because of how poorly I handle watching scary movies. I ended up having a heck of a good time watching Joss Whedon at his finest. Horror has not been this clever or this funny in a long time, and it’s a shame that potential audiences shied away from watching what they assumed would be an updated “Evil Dead.” Not to say that there weren’t any similarities - there were plenty of nods to legends of horror movie past - but “Cabin” employs clever writing and a scathing satirical voice that made me smile for the entire 95-minute run time.