We as avid horror movie fans all have different ideas of what “underrated” means. Some associate the word with films that don’t get discussed very often. Or it’s for movies that are simply less popular or obscure. Other usages include films that didn’t get a fair chance when they were first released, or they have positive qualities to them that are overlooked. However you define “underrated,” just know that you’re not wrong.
Amazon’s Prime Video has been pretty amazing lately with their horror offerings. They update their selection weekly, and you’re more than likely to find something you forgot about, or something you’ve been meaning to watch. It may take some digging and filtering to get results, but that’s what makes Prime Video so much fun.
For the people out there who need a nudge in the right direction, I’ve compiled a short list of horror films that I consider to be underrated in some aspect.
THE NEW KIDS (1985)
Two years after making her horror debut in Amityville 3-D, Lori “Aunt Becky” Loughlin returned in a little-known flick by the name of The New Kids. This Sean S. Cunningham thriller didn’t fare as well as the director’s Friday the 13th at the box office, but it’s a hidden gem for those who likes a splash of terror in their coming-of-age stories. After the sudden death of their parents, Loughlin’s teenage character and her brother (Shannon Presby) go to stay with family in Florida. It’s there that they become targeted by a violent gang of youthful misfits led by James Spader (Supernova). Despite being described as a slasher by many outlets, The New Kids is more like a precursor to Joel Schumacher’s 1987 pubescent classic The Lost Boys. Except, you know, without vampires. While it may lack a consistent level of horror like its contemporaries, it has a pretty violent conclusion that helps the film end on a high note.
UNDER THE BED (2012)
Childhood fears come to light in Steven C. Miller’s Under the Bed. Two young brothers who are reunited after some time apart must soon confront the monster they claim only comes out at night. This movie is another iteration of that familiar story where people return home to battle various evils from their past (think Darkness Falls). It spends a sizable chunk of time on the protagonists’ characterizations and relationships with their parents, but that helps make the finale well worth the wait. The demon seen in the conclusion is pure nightmare fuel.
If you’ve ever worked in the food or bar industry, then you’ll understand how the main character feels in the British crime-horror K-Shop. Well, maybe not exactly. Salah (Ziad Abaza) has become fed up with the drunken riffraff who frequent his late father’s kebab shop. And when he starts to run out of meat, he has to procure a “suitable” alternative. This dour import runs too long, but it offers some biting commentary on drinking culture and classism. Very few horror movies are willing to broach racism like K-Shop either.
THE FORSAKEN (2001)
Once regarded as only another puerile teen-horror entry from the early 2000s, audiences and critics have come to realize The Forsaken is more than just two WB era heartthrobs fighting vampires. It was a thinly veiled metaphor for AIDS. In addition, the writing for the male lead characters has a discernible homoerotic undercurrent. Something else that should be appreciated here is how the film refuses to sanitize its bloodsuckers.
DEVIL IN THE DARK (2017)
This Canadian-made film about two adult brothers reconnecting on a camping trip may a lose some of you because it’s not a straight-up creature feature. In fact, the monster (a Wendigo?) has very little screen time. This horror drama saves its devilry for the end, but in the meantime, you get a study of two siblings who come together after being divided for so long. This character development is what helps make the ending so effective.
Fatal Attraction had just dropped the year before Spellbinder was released, and eighties yuppie culture was thriving. This supernatural mystery about a lawyer coming to a mysterious woman’s aid commendably steers away from erotomania, a theme that would pop up too often in films to come. It also subverts the “damsel in distress” trope in such a mean-spirited way that you can’t help but be taken aback by the twist ending.
After slapping the hell out of a coworker and being put on forced leave, a stressed-out woman from Seoul visits a childhood friend on a remote, rural island. She quickly notices her friend is treated like an indentured servant by the men and other women. Yet it won’t be long until she takes revenge on her oppressors and anyone who stands in the way of her personal liberation. This South Korean film doesn’t come up a lot when discussing revenge horror, but Bedevilled is important as it brings up internalized misogyny under a patriarchal regime. Though there are no likable characters here in this severe and brutal parable of vengeance, it’s still so cathartic to watch.
SPECIES II (1998)
The Species franchise was not heralded by critics, but the first sequel is worth revisiting if you crave practical visual effects and makeup. In the second installment, a hybrid is cloned from the alien in the original film. Natasha Henstridge returns to play this new specimen named Eve. Eventually, it’s revealed that there’s another alien roaming the city, and it’s looking for Eve to be its mate. The unmemorable writing of Species II is negligible when it comes to the film’s biggest draw—an array of visceral special effects. Your eyes will be astounded and your gag reflexes will be tested.
LONG WEEKEND (1978)
This Australian chiller is well heard of and distributed, but it still has a limited audience after four decades. In Long Weekend, a squabbling couple goes on vacation near the beach. Their disregard for the environment and local wildlife traffics a dangerous response from nature. Sorry to say, this film never verges into unadulterated “when animals attack” territory. Instead, it presents a haunting and disquieting scenario where the pain humans inflict upon Mother Earth will no longer be tolerated. Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend) crafted a serviceable 2009 remake—titled Nature’s Grave—that is also available on Prime Video.
WOLF GIRL (2001)
It’s easy to mistake this Canadian-Romanian telefilm as a Ginger Snaps clone, but Wolf Girl (also known as Blood Moon) stands on all fours just fine. It’s not a story about teenhood and maturation; it’s about accepting and loving who you are. A message that is just as important and relatable for everyone. In the movie, a sideshow carnival star named Tara is stricken with hypertrichosis, a condition that causes excessive hairgrowth. Her desire to be an ordinary teenager leads her to an experimental cure, which ironically turns her into a violent, animalistic killer. This underseen movie favors drama to gore so don’t expect too much bloodspill. Nonetheless, it’s still worth watching if you like character driven horror.