Spooky season, or “spooky szn”, (or whatever the kids these days are calling it), is upon us! Thanks to streaming services like Netflix/Amazon Prime/Hulu, scary movie fans have found a new appreciation for the horror genre. Heck, a whole new streaming service called Shudder has capitalized by offering only horror-related content. Every month is Halloween now, but, during the actual “All Hallow’s Eve” month, it gives me one more excuse to watch. The more I watch, the more I find undiscovered gems tucked behind the running list of suggested scary movies. Since scientists have decided that Sinister is now the scariest movie ever, I can no longer include it on my list of underrated horror flicks. It’s a damn shame, because, while it is scary, it’s not that scary, and certainly felt like a hidden gem to me. But, without further ado, here is a rundown of just a few spooky movies that you might not have seen, but you should…IF YOU DARE!
V/H/S Series (2012-)
Directed by: various directors
It’s hard for me to decide if V/H/S or V/H/S2 is the scarier one, but the series—which also includes V/H/S: Viral and was once covered by Grantland back in the day—is the scariest movie franchise I’ve ever seen. Combining two genres—found footage and anthology—each film mentioned here has the main story of a fearless person (or persons) coming across a stash of VHS tapes and viewing them. Each segment includes a newly unearthed horror where the hapless cameraperson comes across terrifying, heartbreaking, and shocking events. There are ritual sacrifices, zombies, and alternate dimensions. Found footage can be stale, but if done well, it can lead to the scariest moments that feel real in a way that your standard horror may not be able to pull off.
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
Directed by: Adam Robitel
Another found-footage film, this one seems quaint by most horror standards. A film crew comes to document a woman dealing with Alzheimer’s, and for at least half of the movie, it feels like a touching portrayal of a once-proud woman succumbing to old age. Yet, throughout our journey, subtle creepy behaviors slowly reveal the real culprit of her change, and it’s more demonic than the disease. I won’t spoil it, but the end is the most chilling ending I’ve ever seen.
The Ritual (2017)
Directed by: David Bruckner
I may not be the only one to find this underrated but you probably won’t find it on your Netflix suggestions unless you’ve already browsed through the usual suspects. This is not a found-footage film, but that doesn’t stop you from feeling like you’re a part of the four men on a hiking trip in Sweden. What starts as your standard bro trip turns into a case of in-fighting and paranoia as they soon lose their way, and the audience is left to determine what is and isn’t real. By the end, we find out that the things that are really happening are worse than any imagination.
Would You Rather (2012)
Directed by: David Guy Levy
Brittany Snow is not known for acting in horror movies, but she is certainly game for, well, the game played in the movie. A rich philanthropist, played by Jeffrey Combs (Justice League Unlimited, Star Trek), invites her and a bunch of down-on-their-luck guests to his home to play a game of “would you rather?” The game gets out of hand quickly, and what is most horrifying is not what the guests must do to win, but what the winner discovers once they come back home.
Last Shift (2014)
Directed by: Anthony DiBlasi
A rookie police officer, played by Juliana Harkavy (Arrow) takes on her first assignment on the last shift of the station before it is permanently closed. What starts as a tedious and boring gig slowly turns bizarre, then sinister, as she slowly loses her sense of reality. I’ve found that the best scary movies usually have a slow-burn, and this one definitely takes it to the next level.
Happy Halloween everyone! I hope it’s SPOOKtacular. (See what I did there?)