We’re in the mood for some scares, here’s our very own Charlie Bleecker with his definitve rundown of 10 great horror movies you might not have seen.
ATRM have scoured our video vault to bring you a list of those horror films that have gone unnoticed. Don’t worry, these aren’t the splatterfest films, so vivid with their cover art, that adorned the VHS shelves in the 80s. What we have here are genuinely great movies that we believe deserve a second chance.
10. Summer of 84 (2018)
A glut of missing boys in Oregon kickstart a group of teenage friends to track down the perpetrator. Following some clues, they lay their sights on a local police officer and set about strengthening their case that he is the Cape May Slayer.Jumping on the 80s nostalgia bandwagon, Summer Of 84 doesn’t quite have the charm of Stranger Things or It but it comes mighty close. The performances are all top rate and the chemistry between the kids is superb. The huge slice of nostalgia on offer here is a little too much to take the film seriously but it’s got a sharp script and some really effective jolts that make this perfect viewing in the lead up to Halloween.
9. Someone’s Watching Me! (1978)
New to Los Angeles, TV director Leigh Michaels moves into a swish high-rise apartment block and her new life seems to be going just fine. She makes friends at work and has a new man in her life but things take a turn for the worse when she receives unsettling prank calls, gifts and letters from an unknown admirer. Struggling to get the police to believe her, Leigh has to deal with things her way.
Directed by John Carpenter (yes, that John Carpenter), TV movie Someone’s Watching Me was filmed before Halloween but aired afterwards to capitalise on its success. The acting is hammy at best and the score is a little too dramatic, taking cues from Hitchcock. However, working within the confines of TV regulations, Carpenter manages to make a film that has moments of sheer panic & fear. He uses the camera to dazzling effect, ratcheting up the tension as he goes; you can see the Hitchcock inspiration all over. Carpenter stalwarts Adrienne Barbeau & Charles Cyphers are along for the ride in this forgotten gem.
8. Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
Toby Jones’ movie sound man, Gilderoy, arrives in Italy to work on Giallo horror film The Equestrian Vortex. As post production rolls on, Gilderoy has to deal with a sexist director, a tardy expense department and rotting fruit and veg as his foreign surroundings and increased alienation begin to play havoc with his conscious and unconscious state.
Not your typical horror film, Berberian Sound Studio relies heavily on bold sound and stark imagery. Writer/director Peter Strickland seamlessly shifts from one scene to another before you realise what’s happening which further adds to the disorientation reflected in the mind of our lead. With metaphors abound, you’ll be trying to work out just what the hell this one was all about long after the credits roll.
7. The Changeling (1980)
A celebrated composer, John Russell (George C. Scott), moves into a Seattle mansion following the tragic death of his wife and daughter. It’s not long before apparitions begin to make their presence known, playing tricks on John’s psychological state of mind. He’s determined to uncover the truth about the building’s history, but will anyone believe him?
Based on the alleged true story of the film’s co-writer, The Changeling is a wonderful haunted house tale, invoking the spirit of The Haunting for an 80s audience. The settings are eerily creepy, the locations are beautifully captured and the gravitas brought to the screen by Scott’s performance is worth the admission price alone. It’s is easy to understand why The Changeling has been overlooked (slasher films were all the rage at the time and there has been an endless glut of haunted house films since), however this one requires a larger fan base, rush out to find it.
6. Session 9 (2001)
Peter Mullan stars as the psychologically scarred, desperate for work new father who takes on the job of asbestos removal from an abandoned mental hospital in Massachusetts. Working to a tight schedule, he and his team begin to fall foul of the ghosts of the previous hospital inmates.
It’s a familiar story, however Session 9 is elevated due to its tight script and fantastic tortured lead performance by Mullan. The scares don’t come thick and fast but the tension builds to an almost unbearable crescendo. Director Brad Anderson allows the eerie setting to do all the work by using dark underground tunnels and long whitewashed corridors for maximum impact.
5. Creep (2014)
Not to be confused with the London Underground horror of the same name from 2005. Creep sees videographer Aaron drive to a remote location to meet Josef, a stranger he’s agreed to do a ‘day in the life of’ video diary for in exchange for $1000. Josef’s behaviour becomes increasingly stranger and Aaron quickly realises that all isn’t quite as it seems.
As found footage films go, this is one of the best in recent memory. Made on a shoestring with a cast of two, Creep’s tone gets more and more unsettling during the course of its super lean 77 minute run time. The tension builds throughout and there are some nice jump scares along the way, this coupled with some pitch-black comic moments make Creep a Halloween must. The sequel is well worth checking also.
4. Just Before Dawn (1981)
Five teens, including Gregg Henry & Chris Lemmon (Jack’s son), head up into the mountains to stay at a recently inherited property. They ignore the familiar warnings of evil goings on and, predictably, get picked off one by one. George Kennedy stars as the old stable hand who knows more than he’s willing to let on about the locals who have a secret to hide.
Classic slasher movie fare but this one has got a lot more going for it than you’d expect. The location of Silver Falls State Park, Oregon is perfectly captured by the glorious cinematography, it has an effectively eerie score by Brad Fiedel (The Terminator) and who’s going to say no to George Kennedy on horseback? There are some moments of genuine terror too, guaranteed to make you think twice the next time you go skinny dipping.
3. Cropsey (2009)
A documentary film about the urban legend of Cropsey and it’s link to an alarmingly high number of child kidnappings in Staten Island, New York City. Filmmakers Joshua & Barbara set about establishing the truth about the legend, uncovering dark secrets along the way.
Ok, this isn’t a horror film but it’s as scary as hell. Using unsettling archival footage and a journalistic approach to tracking down the facts, the filmmakers put forward a compelling case of who they think is behind the mystery. There are a number of skin crawling moments that linger long in the memory and will have you reaching for the light switch at night. Considering how popular true crime documentaries have been over the last 5 years or so, it’s surprising that Cropsey isn’t mentioned among the best.
2. The Final Girls (2015)
5 teens go to the cinema to see a horror movie double header. After a fire in the theatre they are transported as characters into the movie they were watching, 80s slasher Camp Bloodbath. In the thick of all the mayhem, they have to deal with booby traps, a machete wielding killer and do everything they can to ensure the movies characters don’t have sex.
A love ode to 80s slasher films, The Final Girls knows all about the genre tropes and magnificently celebrates them. The script is fun and inventive and if you’re a fan of the genre you’ll be knowingly chuckling throughout. It has great comic relief in the form of Adam DeVine & Angela Trimbur and a surprising layer of emotional heft which is beautifully played out by lead Taissa Farmiga.
1. Wolfen (1981)
A wealthy city magnate and his wife are brutally murdered in downtown Manhattan and New York detective Dewey Wilson (Albert Finney) is assigned to track down the killer. He starts to connect the dots with similar grisly murders in the slum areas of The Bronx but can’t quite believe what the evidence is suggesting.
Wolfen was one of three werewolf movies to be released in 1981 but it was overshadowed by the huge success of the other two (An American Werewolf In London & The Howling). It has a wonderfully laconic performance from Finney who is aided and abetted by Gregory Hines; other familiar faces pop up in early roles too. The inventive werewolf POV shots predate the Predator heat sensing POV by some 6 years and the incredible on location shots of New York capture the city at its most glorious and grimy. That this film doesn’t get talked about alongside the more successful werewolf films from 1981 is a crime because Wolfen is a horror classic that is ripe for rediscovery.
Not quite making the list (as they’re a little more well-known), the following films are also worth checking out:
Cube (1997) – pre-dating Saw by seven years, five strangers wake up in a mysterious room and have to put aside their differences to traverse a series of deadly traps.
The Last Broadcast (1998) – claiming to be the inspiration for The Blair Witch Project, The Last Broadcast is a found footage film about the Jersey Devil urban legend.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) – unreleased for years because of the problems at MGM, this disturbing true crime mockumentary has some bone-chilling moments.
Frozen (2010) – far from the warmth of the Disney movie, two people are stranded on a broken ski lift with rabid wolves circling below them.
Hush (2016) – a deaf and mute (but resourceful) young woman is attacked by an unknown assailant in her idyllic, isolated lodge in the woods.
We have new podcast episodes out every other Friday; listen to our Halloween and The Exorcist episodes to get the full behind the scenes story of two horror classics, along with the usual laughs and big opinions.