As Halloween approaches, I find myself watching more and more horror films. We can always turn to classics like “Halloween” and “Scream” to get in the spooky spirit, but there are so many underrated horror films that deserve attention too. These five lesser-known horror films are sure to leave you spooked and excited for the upcoming holiday.
“The Dead Don’t Die” (2019), director Jim Jarmusch
Upon its release in 2019, “The Dead Don’t Die” was met with mixed reviews. The film definitely has its flaws, but I find myself returning to it in the years after its release. The zombie film follows a trio of policemen played by Adam Driver, Bill Murray and Chloë Sevigny as they struggle to defend their peaceful town from a hoard of the undead. The film is bloated with dry, deadpan humor that isn’t for everyone, but works with the cynical tone presented. It’s an absurd horror comedy that features an ensemble cast consisting of Tilda Swinton, Selena Gomez, Austin Butler, Tom Waits, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones and Iggy Pop.
“Evil Dead II” (1987), director Sam Raimi
You may be wondering why I’m including a sequel on this list without also mentioning its predecessor, “The Evil Dead.” Well, Sam Raimi — being the amazing weirdo that he is — took a unique approach when writing “Evil Dead II.” The first ten or so minutes of the film are spent reenacting everything that happened in the first film. "Evil Dead II” is incredibly bonkers. It oozes borderline slapstick comedy and includes iconic quotes from Bruce Campbell. The horror comedy is a tight 84 minutes with an ending so absurd and outlandish you’ll immediately want to rewatch it.
“What We Do in the Shadows” (2014), director Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
“What We Do in the Shadows” is a horror mockumentary about vampire housemates learning to live in modern New Zealand. Some people may be more familiar with the hit FX series of the same name, which was also created by Jemaine Clement. I’ve watched this film over a dozen times, and the dialogue is always as funny as it was the first. You can tell that Clement and Waititi come from strong comedy backgrounds, especially considering much of the film was completely improvised. The film features other New Zealand comedians in supporting roles which ensures there’s never an unfunny or dull moment. You’ll have “You’re Dead” by Norma Tenega in your head long after the credits roll.
“Censor” (2021), director Prano Bailey-Bond
Unlike the films I’ve mentioned above, “Censor” is by no means a horror comedy. The film follows a film censor, Enid, played by Niamh Algar. Enid spends her days combing through grotesque film footage and filtering out what’s deemed too obscene for audiences. When she’s assigned to review a disturbing film that eerily echoes her traumatic childhood memories, reality begins to blur. This film is drenched in 1980s aesthetics and dreamy visuals, but it’s also incredibly horrific — the final ten minutes are like a feverish nightmare. “Censor” explores the effects of horror films and how they can be used to suppress or create dark inner desires.
“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956), director Don Siegel
I’ve noticed that young people tend to ignore horror films made before the 1980s, most likely because they aren’t explicitly horrific or violent. But the horror films made before then are what established the conventions of the genre, and most of them favor a spooky atmosphere over cheap special effects and scares. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is a perfect example. People may be more familiar with the 1978 film of the same name, but the original is just as good. It contains a looming sense of dread and paranoia making it the perfect October watch.