I call the following films “under-appreciated” because they were not hugely successful or mainstream when they came out, or because they have not been widely praised as classics. I came across them mainly by taking a shot in the dark at Blockbuster (or on Netflix), looking for something new to watch. Many times this leads to a waste of 2 hours (I’m lookin’ at you, Nightmare on Elm Street remake), but sometimes it yields a great discovery.
So here’s a little list, in no particular order. Note: I’m pointing out the thing that makes each movie surprisingly awesome (in my opinion) in the list.
Dead Silence, in which a man battles the spirit of a ventriloquist, who kills people by making them into “dummies” to add to her collection.
Element that makes it especially awesome: Ventriloquist’s dummies are creeeeeeeepy, and this film really knows how to play that up, but it doesn’t just rely on that for cheap scares. In fact, there are a good amount of plot twists, and the set design is darkly old-fashioned (think abandoned vaudeville theater).
Ginger Snaps, in which a teenage girl goes through her pubescent change…into a werewolf.
Element that makes it especially awesome: The dark humor reminds me of Heathers. The adults are hilariously oblivious to all the gruesome dealings of the teens–and these dealings are indeed gruesome (the filmmakers surely must have gone over budget with the fake blood).
Silent Hill, in which a woman ventures into an abandoned, haunted town situated above a perpetually burning coal mine (like Centralia, PA) to find her daughter. And yes, it was based on a video game.
Element that makes it especially awesome: The monsters. They seem to have been created by some diabolically creative, sick genius. They’re very original and strangely European…reminiscent of the intense images in the Cremaster Cycle.
May, in which a girl who likes to sew “makes” herself a friend by killing people and sewing body parts together.
Element that makes it especially awesome: The main character, who is weird and desperate enough to make you feel sorry for her. It’s fun to watch an awkward outsider finally gain some confidence…even if this confidence is a result of going on a killing spree.
Ju-On, in which restless ghosts terrorize people who come into their house.
Element that makes it especially awesome: The sound effects. Watch this one right before you go to bed, and then just try NOT imagining that “creepy throat croak” sound emerging from the darkness.
Final note: Session 9 could also easily be included here, but I gave that film its own post last year. Feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments!