Underrated Horror Movies
By Sadira Sittampalam
Ceylon Today Features
Horror has been making a big comeback these days with a lot more original and enticing films that explore the genre in some pretty interesting ways. With October being informally dubbed “spooky season” in the lead up to Halloween, it is time to explore some of the more underrated horror movies that are criminally unnoticed and overlooked. I also made sure to add some of the older overlooked horror films that are equally as exciting as the ones made now and which are still as relevant as they were back then as they are now.
This experimental psychological horror film tells the story of a couple who after the death of their child, retreated to a cabin in the woods where the man experiences strange visions and the woman manifests increasingly violent sexual behaviour and sadomasochism. This movie is just haunting, not only with the imagery of the cold dark forest and the chillingly lonely cabin in the woods but just with the journey of the characters and the wife’s descent into madness, abandoning her views for a darker more sinister outlook on life. There is just so much to unravel with themes of the interconnectivity of nature and religion as well as mental health and depression, posing various philosophical questions to make us question ideas that we have generally come to accept.
Possession is a movie that I’d never heard of and randomly decided to watch one day after seeing it in some horror film list, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. This film absolutely blew me away, following the lives of Anna and Mark, as Anna reveals that she is having an affair and leaves him and their son. While this is a pretty standard synopsis, the film is anything but standard. There is so much brimming under the surface that by the end the film comes to a full and aggressive boil, with the kettle screeching incessantly. Moreover, there is so much to interpret, which only serves to make the movie even scarier, as the scariest thing is truly our own imagination. At the end of the day, whether you consider this film a relationship drama, a mental health study or a dissection of what it means to possess something, it still asks questions that we can discuss at great length.
Taking place in the winter of 1996, the film features a large dance ensemble who throw an after party after a rehearsal with the celebrations soon taking a darker turn as everyone becomes increasingly agitated and confused after consuming sangria laced with LSD. This film explores the dance troupe and their relationships with one another, until they are all consumed by the LSD, and the movie then follows how each one of them navigates this disastrous situation. Unlike Gasper Noe’s other film, he does not use sounds or visuals to replicate what the experience would feel like, rather he follows them from the outside, making the audience a normal person watching this absolute breakdown. While some may consider the film unnecessarily challenging to watch as it features a lot of sex, violence and provocative dialogue, this is actually one of Noe’s most accessible films. It is very unique in its presentation, and consistently uses some pretty inventive techniques that elevate the increasingly horrifying level of horror.
This film follows stringent vegetarian Justine as she begins veterinary school. During her first week she goes through the traditional hazing, and desperate to fit in, she strays away from her principles and eats raw meat for the first time. While this film is also pretty heavy on the sex and violence, this one is done in a pretty tasteful way, owing to the immersive atmosphere and the deep symbolism that keeps you guessing. This film is absolutely relentless in its intensity and power, exposing us as monsters each harbouring our own quelled desires and how we grapple with this every day whether we realise it or not. This movie just strips down our walls and reveals our raw and tender interior in a way that is entirely disseminating, while also providing a really grotesque, disturbing and shocking experience.
A young woman and her tranquil life with her husband at their country home is disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious couple. This line was the only information given to us about this Darren Arnofsky film before its release, as he was unwilling to give out too much information about this film, and for good reason as this is the type of movie that you should go in for knowing nothing about it. With an ambitious artistic vision, this film is quite the slow burn, however, the final act more than makes up for it with an ending that no one likely saw coming. Everything was so beautifully staged and choreographed, building up the claustrophobia, tension and hysteria of the film in a way that is uniquely affecting and entirely horrifying.
When prodigal son Thomas Richardson returns home to London, he learns that his sister is being held ransom by a religious cult. Determined to get her back, Thomas travels to the idyllic island and infiltrates the community learning some disturbing secrets along the way. This film resists easy scares for long sustained suspense that builds up slowly but surely. The grimy and creepy island cult town was also designed in such a way that everywhere felt unsafe and exposed. While the terror is certainly enough to carry this movie, underneath there is another more compelling story presenting organised religion in all its forms as a destructive, malicious and repressive force. The director Gareth Evans, famous for the iconic action film ‘The Raid” also managed to include some really suspenseful action scenes, which combined with all of the horror, made these sequences so exhilarating and shocking.
Max Renn, the president of a trashy TV channel is desperate for new programming to attract viewers when he happens upon “Videodrome”. On the outset, Videodrome seems to be a TV show dedicated to gratuitous torture and punishment, which Mac immediately sees as a potential hit for his channel. However, when his girlfriend auditions for the show and never returns, Max starts to investigate the truth behind Videodrome. This film is visually audacious, perpetually disorienting and occasionally just plain strange; giving us a journey that neither we nor Max can explain. Nevertheless, Videodrome’s ideas and predictions on technology, entertainment and politics are still quite startlingly relevant, showing us that while this movie can certainly scare, it is the real world we have to worry about.
Eyes Without a Face (1960)
Dr. Genessier is riddled with guilt after an accident that he caused disfigures the face of his once beautiful daughter Chrisiane, who outsiders believe is dead. Dr. Genessier then begins kidnapping young women and bringing them to his mansion to remove their faces and attempt to graft them on to Christiane’s. This movie is so limited in its production and yet manages to induce such a deep state of discomfort while showing practically nothing. While the film itself is pretty creepy, it is such a horrific tale of guilt and obsession that even to this day, remains chilling. The cultural impact of this film can be seen to this day in a variety of movies, which makes it all the more disappointing that such a terrifying film is so underrated and overlooked.