True fans know that the best horror films aren’t always blockbusters. Check out the top 10 most underrated horror movies that may have slipped under your radar. It’s that time of the year again: jump scares, creepy costumes, and cavities galore. Well, it’s also a good time to appreciate quality filmmaking, too. When it comes to underrated horror movies, a lot of them are perceived as cheesy, low-budget, or not even considered part of the genre. Broken internet movie ranking systems only add to the problem. The average person browsing for non-blockbuster horror movies would have to randomly click through titles to discover these gems. We put together a list of horror movies, old and recent, that don’t get the recognition they deserve. These ten movies are just a small sample of underrated classics you will not forget.
Top 10 Most Underrated Horror Movies of All Time
10. Bone Tomahawk
We begin our list with a movie that is only a few years old, yet was missed by so many. When you watch the trailer for this movie, you immediately think it’s just another Western. It starts out like one, too.
The pacing of this movie is excellent, and so is the acting. It sucks you in with its tense moments surrounding an underestimated enemy. This is a brutal horror flick that is sure to get your heart racing as you come to the realization that this ain’t your daddy’s cowboy film.
Directed by S. Craig Zahler
Official Synopsis: After an outlaw unknowingly leads a band of cannibalistic Troglodytes into the peaceful western town of Bright Hope, the monsters kidnap several settlers, including the wife of a local rancher. Despite his injured leg the rancher joins a small rescue party with the sheriff, his aging deputy and a strong-willed gunslinger. What follows is a journey into hell on earth as the posse comes to realize it is up against a foe whose savagery knows no bounds. The film takes place at the turn of the century around the border of what is now Texas and New Mexico.
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Sid Haig, Kurt Russell, Michael Paré, Richard Jenkins, Michael Paré, David Arquette, Sean Young, David Midthunder, Alex Meraz,…
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Drama, Adventure, Western
9. Session 9
There are some settings that are automatically disturbing to most of us, without even needing to add gore or scary enemies. Session 9 takes place in a real-life abandoned mental hospital.
That makes everything so much more visceral, as sometimes set-builders can struggle to replicate.
The story is simple, but the directing is anything but that. You’re almost lulled into thinking this movie is going to be predictable and one-track minded. The ending will sit with you long after credits roll.
Directed by Brad Anderson
Official Synopsis: An asbestos abatement crew wins the bid for an abandoned insane asylum. What should be a straightforward, if rather rushed, job, is complicated by the personal histories of the crew. In particular, Hank is dating Phil's old girlfriend, and Gordon's new baby seems to be unnerving him more than should be expected. Things get more complicated as would-be lawyer Mike plays the tapes from a former patient with multiple personalities, including the mysterious Simon who does not appear until Session 9, and as Hank disappears after finding some old coins.
Cast: Larry Fessenden, Josh Lucas, Brendan Sexton III, Paul Guilfoyle, Stephen Gevedon, Lonnie Farmer, Peter Mullan, David Caruso, Charley Broderick, Jurian…
Genres: Horror, Mystery
8. Daughters of Darkness
We move onto a slight departure from your traditional horror film. If you’re a fan of gothic art styles, sexy vampires, and elements of love, Daughters of Darkness is for you. Just a word of caution, though: this movie has lots of nudity and sexual sequences.
It’s a product of its time, being at the height of the sexual revolution in the 70s. Can a movie with such feminine qualities and artsy directing be horrifying? That answer is yes, the moody qualities add to the terror.
Directed by Harry Kümel, Harry Kümel
Official Synopsis: A chic, good-looking and suitably 70's couple arrive at an extravagant and deserted seaside hotel after eloping. Stefan is wealthy and happily English, with a hidden streak of sadism, while Valarie is intelligent but of inferior (Swedish) blood. To keep her with him at the eerie hotel he lies consistantly about his relationship with his mother and his plans to tell her of their marriage. Meanwhile he has mysterious phone conversations with an older, dominant and pampered sissy. Two fresh guests arrive; the Hungarian countess, Elizabeth Bathory and her voluptuous protege, Ilona. Virgin corpses begin showing up about the city drained of their blood. A wary detective lurks around the hotel taunting his only suspect, the Countess.
Cast: John Karlen, Delphine Seyrig, Danielle Ouimet, Andrea Rau, Paul Esser, Georges Jamin, Joris Collet, Fons Rademakers
7. The Descent
For a more traditional scare and horror cuisine, The Descent puts the audience into an inescapable cave from hell. Your natural fears of claustrophobia and feelings of powerlessness are tested in this movie.
The demonic creatures in this movie dance in the shadows and invoke that feeling of dread that every great horror movie does. Acting is great, the action is intense, and the ending is satisfying.
Directed by Neil Marshall
Official Synopsis: A woman goes on vacation with her friends after her husband and daughter encounter a tragic accident. One year later she goes hiking with her friends and they get trapped in the cave. With a lack of supply, they struggle to survive and they meet strange blood thirsty creatures.
Cast: MyAnna Buring, Leslie Simpson, Shauna Macdonald, Craig Conway, Tristan Matthiae, Nora-Jane Noone, Justin Hackney, Stuart Luis, Saskia Mulder, Natalie Mendoza,…
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Adventure
Psychological elements are often featured in underrated horror movies. Triangle is a movie that starts messing with your head early on. The iconic Bermuda Triangle sets the stage for a horror film that tests the limits of sanity.
The unpredictability of Triangle is what makes it a must-watch. Don’t let its indie production fool you into thinking that it won’t be scary.
5. Drag Me to Hell
Continuing on with unexpected horror movie gems breaking the traditional mold, we pick a horror-comedy for #5. Drag Me to Hell is all fun and plenty of horror, despite not being a bed-wetter on scares.
The brilliance of this film is hard to describe in words without giving too much away.
What you won’t be is bored, director Sam Raimi puts everything you know about horror into a blender and throws one of the most entertaining sequences at the end in horror cinema history.
Directed by Sam Raimi
Official Synopsis: Christine Brown is a loans officer at a bank but is worried about her lot in life. She's in competition with a competent colleague for an assistant manager position and isn't too sure about her status with a boyfriend. Worried that her boss will think less of her if she shows weakness, she refuses a time extension on a loan to an old woman, Mrs. Ganush, who now faces foreclosure and the loss of her house. In retaliation, the old woman place a curse on her which, she subsequently learns, will result in her being taken to hell in a few days time. With the help of a psychic, she tries to rid herself of the demon, but faces several hurdles in the attempt.
Cast: Ted Raimi, Scott Spiegel, Justin Long, Sam Raimi, Paul Edney, Bridget Hoffman, Octavia Spencer, Alexis Cruz, Bojana Novakovic, John Paxton,…
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Comedy
The pedestrian veneer of Spiral is what makes it so overlooked. The movie’s boring office setting works to make things seem very real and very believable. Threats being made by some psycho stranger whom you’d only just met is definitely nightmare-material for any 9-to-5’er.
The movie’s antagonist gives a convincing performance that plays on your feelings of empathy. You hate this guy, but not in a cartoon, black-and-white way that most horror movies present villains. It really messes with your head, in a good way.
Are you looking to start celebrating Christmas already? Well, why not get a taste of that holiday cheer before everyone else? Krampus puts you in the middle of a typical middle-class family, going through the motions of Christmas.
You learn a good lesson with this movie: don’t lose your holiday spirit or bad things will happen. The campy holiday film quickly turns into a creepy 90s horror story, complete with outstanding directing and animatronics. And, like any great classic horror film, it incorporates elements from real folklore.
Krampus is a type of demon that represents the "Satan" to Saint Nick on Christmas, punishing all the naughty boys and girls of the world.
Directed by Michael Dougherty
Official Synopsis: When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max (Emjay Anthony) is disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas. Little does he know, this lack of festive spirit has unleashed the wrath of Krampus: a demonic force of ancient evil intent on punishing non-believers. All hell breaks loose as beloved holiday icons take on a monstrous life of their own, laying siege to the fractured family's home and forcing them to fight for each other if they hope to survive.
Cast: Seth Green, David Koechner, Mark Atkin, Hong Chin, Toni Collette, Ivy George, Byron Schepen, Luke Hawker, Conchata Ferrell, Adam Scott,…
Genres: Horror, Action, Fantasy, Comedy
2. [REC] 2
If you’re a fan of movies like The Blair Witch Project or Unfriended, which places you in the first person view of the action, the sequel to REC is the creme de la creme.
This movie is best viewed on a big screen, so now is a good time to toss that old 32" dinosaur. Seriously, first-person movies cannot have borders.
REC 2 throws you right into the middle of a zombie outbreak, rushing you all around dark corridors and rooms. You don’t have any time to nitpick special effects or acting because the experience is bigger than that. REC plays on your most basic urges and does it without blinking.
Directed by Jaume Balagueró, Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
Official Synopsis: The medical Dr. Owen leads a three-men SWAT team inside the sealed off building to get blood sample from the girl Medeiros to develop an antidote. They are attacked by the zombie-like creatures and Dr. Owen locks a zombie inside a room using a crucifix. He discloses that the patient zero was possessed by the evil and the Vatican sent him to save mankind. Further, they will only leave the building under his voice command. Meanwhile, three teenagers follow a fireman and a man that breaks into the building through the sewage system to rescue his colleague and daughter respectively and they are trapped inside. They are lured and release the evil creature that was locked by Dr. Owen in a room. Out of the blue, the lead team meets the journalist Ângela Vidal hidden inside the building.
Cast: Javier Botet, Carlos Lasarte, Ferran Terraza, Manuela Velasco, Jorge-Yamam Serrano, Nico Baixas, Ana Isabel Velásquez, Pep Sais, Chen Min Kao,…
Genres: Horror, Thriller
1. Day of the Dead
George Romero is anything but underrated. The king of zombie horror movies has many awards and tributes to his work, including remakes of his best.
The original Day of the Dead has always been considered the least favorite and most underrated between its prequels Night, Dawn.
There is no better time to revisit this classic than now. With all of the zombie movies that have come out since Romero first made this classic, it still stands on its own.
The claustrophobia, the intentional pacing, and the amazing zombie makeup are all enough to make your skin crawl, no matter what you think of the acting.
Directed by George A. Romero
Official Synopsis: Zombies rule the world, except for a small group of scientists and military personnel who reside in an underground bunker in Florida. The scientists are using the undead in gruesome experiments; much to the chagrin of the military. Finally the military finds that their men have been used in the scientists' experiments, and banish the scientists to the caves that house the Living Dead. Unfortunately, the zombies from above ground have made their way into the bunker.
Cast: Greg Nicotero, George A. Romero, Michael Deak, Gary Jones, Howard Berger, Bruce Kirkpatrick, Mark Dodson, Debra Gordon, Joseph Pilato, Ralph…
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Drama, Action
More Underrated Horror Movies
We know this list is probably going to get a lot of criticism, but that’s the nature of Top 10s. Horror fans know that there are so many underrated horror movies out there that making a list of 100 films wouldn’t be difficult.
For this list, we wanted to mix as much old, new, obscure, and unexpected flavors as possible.
If you’re looking for more horror movies for your binge-watching pleasure, head over to our trailers section. We curate the best underrated films, so you don’t have to dig through the same recommendations on popular movie sites.