10 Horrifying hidden gems

As we enter Spooky Season, UNIfied is here to help you get into the Halloween spirit!
One common tradition in the run up to the holiday is watching scary movies.
So, to help you decide what to watch, here are some recommendations for horror films that aren’t the classics. Let’s begin…

Dolls (1987)

Last year in 2020, cult filmmaker Stuart Gordon passed away. He was an interesting figure in the realm of genre filmmaking. He began his career in the Chicago theatre scene but later got into the moviemaking business. His debut film was Re-Animator, an adaptation of a HP Lovecraft short story.

Gordon made a variety of films that ranged from horror like his other Lovecraft adaptations such as From Beyond and Dagon to science fiction like Robot Jox and Space Truckers, to crime films like King of the Ants or the David Mamet adaptation Edmond.

But one of his films I feel like isn’t discussed enough is Dolls. 

Dolls is a killer toy movie, a popular subgenre of films made in the 80’s and 90’s, with one of the most well known examples of the genre being the Child’s Play movies. But, Dolls predates that film by a year.

The film is set in an old mansion where a variety strangers are tormented by a cascade of killer dolls. The premise may seem a bit thin at some points, but it’s a lot of fun and also surprisingly wholesome at times.

2. Bit (2020)

This recent movie has gotten an appropriate amount of attention, but I still wanted to talk about it.

Bit stars Nicole Maines as a graduate who originally was going to spend the summer with her brother (played by James Paxton, son of Bill Paxton) in Los Angeles. But, she ends up with a gang of punk feminist vampires after being bitten.

The film is fun and has an after dark, neon aesthetic and does an interesting spin on certain aspects of vampire mythos. 

3. Dead Heat (1988)

Remember when there was like a deluge of zombie stuff in films, TV and video games for the early parts of the last decade? Well Dead Heat was made in the 80’s and is a very different film from your standard zombie movie.

The basic premise is a buddy cop movie except one of them is a zombie.

Yes, this is one of x meets y genre mashups movies and it is pretty fun with some good creature effects and action scenes which take place in a butcher shop.

4. Theatre of Blood (1973)

Vincent Price is awesome. A great actor whose been in several different horror movies like his two William Castle collaborations, House on Haunted Hill and the Tingler or the influential folk horror film Witchfinder General.

But what many consider his best film was 1973’s Theatre of Blood.

Price stars as a former Shakespearean actor who, after faking his death, becomes basically a Batman villain (again) and starts to murder his critics.

It’s a fun film with a lot of creative kills which are appropriately theatrical in nature.

The film also boasts a good supporting cast that includes Diana Rigg and great character actors like Arthur Lowe, Harry Andrews and Robert Morley.

5. Kill List (2011)

British films have a strong connection to the horror genre, with production companies like Hammer Studios or Amicus being big in the 70’s to modern horror films like His House. But one of the most eerie films of the last decade is Ben Wheatley’s Kill List.

Director Colin Burstead also directed films including Free Fire and Happy New Year.

The film is about two hitmen who do a job for a guy who is slightly odd (and the job their doing is even odder.)

The film is eerie, creepy, and probably one of the darker films on this list, but it’s still an interesting watch.

6. Season of the Witch (1972)

While George A. Romero will probably be remembered for defining and influencing the zombie movie that helped kick start the golden age of the horror anthology films, he’s also made other movies and one I discovered recently was his 1972 film Season of the Witch.

The film is a surreal domestic drama dealing with a woman named Joan who is unhappy with her life as a domestic housewife. So, she turns to occultism.

The film is more of a mood piece, and Romero gives the film an overwhelming sense of the surreal but has a subtle message to it which Romero was known for that makes it an interesting watch.

7. The Stuff (1985)

Wow! So far this list has covered a lot of icons so let’s focus on Larry Cohen.

Like Romero, Larry Cohen was a filmmaker who specialised in horror films that dealt with heavy social themes including the dangers of environmental degradation in ‘It’s Alive’ (AKA the Killer Baby movie). Other films such as ‘Uncle Sam’ look at the dangers of nationalism. The Stuff is probably one of Cohen’s more well known movies. 

It’s about an industrial saboteur who discovers that the latest addictive food craze sweeping America is actually an alien substance that is taking over the bodies of the people who eat it.

Bonkers premise? Yes. Subtle commentary of the American consumer culture of the 1980’s? Also yes.

The Stuff is a silly film but it is worth a watch. But, there is one moment that doesn’t age too well… To defeat the Stuff, the main characters have to team up with a right-wing militia run by Paul Sorvino, and BOY does that age really poorly now, huh?!

8. Psycho II (1983)

A lot of people’s reaction when they discover they made a sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho are either A.) They made a sequel to Psycho? And B.) It’s probably not as good. But actually I would argue that it’s quite good.

Set 22 years after the original Psycho, Psycho II sees Norman Bates released from prison and is now trying to reopen his motel. But, Norman is haunted by his past actions and people are being murdered around him.

The film is quite good and it has a good mystery that keeps it interesting. Anthony Perkins who respires his role as Bates, delivers a great performance showing a vulnerable and troubled man who makes you sympathise with him.

The film was a financial success and earned two sequels, Psycho III which Perkins directed is worth seeking out, but Psycho II is the much stronger sequel in my opinion.

9. Parents (1989)

Man, a lot of people are nostalgic for the 80’s right now aren’t they? Stranger Things, that last Wonder Woman movie and the first It movie. They are all period pieces made by people who grew up and came of age in the decade.

This isn’t a new thing because in the 80’s a lot of people were nostalgic for the 1950’s; in America they elected a B-movie actor from that decade as President on the promise to “Make America Great Again.”

This 50’s nostalgia was prevalent in a lot of films in the decade, and especially in the horror genre where the image of 50’s suburbia was used in a variety of ways: Like in the film I’m talking about called Parents.

Directed by Bob Balaban and starring Randy Quaid, the film is about a young boy who moves to the idyllic suburbs but something is… off. And that’s all I’m going to say.

While I am recommending this film, I can’t say why without spoiling it, but you should definitely watch it.

It’s the right amount of creepy and disturbing and Randy Quaid is great in it. An underrated entry in the dark suburbia genre.

10. Tales from the Darkside (1990)

The anthology genre is going through a resurgence in TV right now.

Shows like Black Mirror and Inside No. 9 have been keeping the anthology series alive on TV, but there was a golden age of horror anthologies on film throughout the 1980’s.

There are several noteworthy examples to list but this film, Tales from the Darkside isn’t talked about enough.

A film version of George A. Romero’s anthology TV series, the film has three stories that range from comedic to tragic. It’s fun and probably best remembered for being one of Julianne Moore and Steve Buscemi’s earlier movies before they made it big. 

Most of these films are available on several different streaming services. I hope you enjoy what I recommended and Happy Halloween.

source: Unsplash

Featured image credit: Unsplash

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