The Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen

Hidden Horror/Suspense Gems

If you're like me, you enjoy finding "hidden gems," so I decided to create a list of good horror/suspense movies that have been unfairly overlooked over the years. Of course, "overlooked" is a relative term, so I decided to define it as films that have received fewer than 500 votes on IMDb as of the time of publication. I hope to make this list an ongoing effort that will grow as I come across more movies that fit the mold, so check back often, and feel free to suggest your own hidden gems.

36 Pasos (2009)

36 Pasos DVD
© Maya Entertainment
Before Cold Sweat, and , writer-director Adrián García Bogliano helmed this gritty low-budget Argentinian production, AKA 36 Steps, that has a premise that sounds like typical "torture porn" -- six young women are kidnapped and held captive -- but is treated with unique flair. The women aren't chained in a dingy basement; they're free to roam around a luxurious house with a pool and tennis court. The catch is that a hulking Leatherface-type character with a sledgehammer will pop up if the rules are broken: they must be happy, they must dance on cue, they must stay on the grounds, they must follow directions on mysterious notes. It all plays like a warped version of The Real World, with a wicked sense of humor and surreal, kinetic direction propelling the twisty plot.

Al Final del Espectro (2006)

Sort of a Columbian version of an Asian horror movie, Al Final del Espectro features the familiar female ghost with long, dark, stringy hair, this time in a Columbian setting. The film presents the intriguing scenario of an agoraphobic woman whose new apartment is haunted, meaning she must decide whether it's worse to stay in her comfort zone with a ghost or venture out into the non-haunted public world. A remake starring Nicole Kidman, called At the End of the Spectra, was at one point slated to go into production, but that now appears to be dead.

Blood on the Highway (2010)

Blood on the Highway DVD
© E1
If you don't mind the low production value, you'll find plenty of laughs in the raunchy dialogue, over-the-top characters and sly social commentary of this vampire flick that plays like Clerks meets From Dusk Till Dawn.

The Boneyard (1991)

The Bone Yard
© Zia Home Entertainment

A grisly fun tale about ancient demons disguised as decayed child corpses that come to life in a morgue and trap a group of workers inside. Creative creature design (including a mutant poodle), well-rounded characters, a strong cast highlighted by comedy veterans Phyllis Diller and Norman Fell and a refreshingly unconventional heroine (a portly, middle-aged woman) make this a real stand-out.

The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942)

The Boogie Man Will Get You
© Columbia
Enjoyable horror-comedy farce featuring a series of convoluted madcap antics centered around a woman who buys a hotel with a mad scientist living in the basement (and no discernible "boogie man," despite the title), featuring surprisingly lighthearted performances from horror legends Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre, along with a strong supporting cast of comedic actors.

Cemetery of Terror (1985)

Cemetery of Terrror DVD
© BCI Eclipse

This so-bad-it's-good Mexican flick, AKA Zombie Apocalypse, proves that cinematic teenagers are stupid in any language. On Halloween night, a group of teens thinks it's a good idea to sneak into an abandoned house and use a satanic book they find to raise the dead. It's such a good idea, in fact, that they go out of their way to break into a morgue and steal a body suitable for raising. Too bad for them they end up stealing a claw-handed satanic serial killer. Bad things ensue, including a rousing ending that turns the film from a slasher into an all-out zombie movie.

Corpse Mania (1981)

Corpse Mania DVD
© Image
This grisly Hong Kong fare is part slasher and part exploitation sleaze about a serial killer with a penchant for necrophilia -- even when the corpse is covered with maggots. It's fascinatingly icky stuff, kind of like a Far East version of .

Crooked House (2008)

Crooked House
© Tiger Aspect Productions

This centuries-spanning British anthology aired on BBC as a miniseries in three 30-minute episodes, each telling a ghost story from a different era set in and around the same cursed house and each creepier than the one before it. This is classic, old-fashioned haunted house stuff.

The Echo (2004)

Sigaw The Echo
© Regal Entertainment
In this creepy, twisty Philippine film, AKA Sigaw, a man recently released from prison moves into his deceased mother's apartment and discovers that ghosts frequent his floor. Its 2009 remake was more widely seen, but the original is the superior movie.

Effects (1980)

© Synapse
What begins as a slow-moving drama about the behind-the-scenes workings of a horror movie shoot turns into something much darker midway through when we discover that the crew has something sinister in mind for the special effects guy (Day of the Dead's Joseph Pilato). In real life, horror icon Tom Savini provided the special effects for the film.

Exhibit A (2010)

Exhibit A
© IndiePix

This well-acted, frighteningly realistic British "found footage" feature takes the form of a video tape found in camcorder at murder scene, revealing the secrets of a seemingly normal middle class family that implodes over the course of a few short weeks.

The First 7th Night (2009)

The First 7th Night
© East Act Entertainment
Emotional, well-acted Hong Kong ghost story that borders on supernatural drama with an involving Roshomon-ish plot device of two characters telling their own versions of a ghostly legend. One comes from a taxi driver and the other from a deliveryman who hires him to act as his guide to a remote location that only the cab driver knows. Along the way, they relate their versions of the dark tale behind their destination point.

The House in Nightmare Park (1973)

The House in Nightmare Park
© Anglo-EMI

Amusing, if overly long, send-up of "old dark house" fare and Hammer horror films buoyed by a hilarious lead from popular British comedian Frankie Howerd. Fans of the more popular UK horror spoof Carry on Screaming should find plenty to enjoy in this less over-the-top tale of a thespian invited to perform at a spooky old home, only to find the eccentric family (led by Ray Milland) resorting to murder to get their hands on the patriarch's inheritance.

Night of Death (1980)

Night of Death / La nuit de la mort!
© Synapse

An atmospheric score and a dark sense of humor color this occasionally grisly French offering (AKA La Nuit de la Mort) about a nurse who gets a new job at an old folks' home, only to find the senior citizen residents have a taste for blood.

The Pack (1977)

The Pack
© Warner Bros.
Like Cujo times 20, this tale of a roaming pack of mad dogs terrorizing a small island's residents features harrowing action and inventive set pieces, but perhaps most impressive is the technical aspects of how the filmmakers managed to coordinate so many dogs performing so many stunts -- things that these days would no doubt be accomplished with CGI. It's actually hard to watch at times, because it's hard to believe claims that "no animals were harmed in the making of this film."

A Reflection in Fear (1973)

A Reflection in Fear
© Sony
An atmospheric, slow-boiling, somewhat perverse thriller with a set-up a bit reminiscent of 2013's : an odd, reclusive teenage girl who lives at home with her repressive mother (and grandmother) forms an all-too-deep attachment to her absentee father when he comes for a visit, trudging up dark family secrets that result in murder.

Ring of Curse (2011)

Ring of Curse
© Tokyo Shock

I know what you're thinking: not another Japanese "curse" movie! However, despite the generic title, this isn't just another Ring or Grudge retread with a long-haired female ghost killing people right and left. No, the long-haired female villain -- a morose teen outcast -- is very much alive, and she's found a way to take revenge on those who've wronged her by using her gift of writing. Words hurt, people! Ring of Curse plays like a prequel to a Ring/Grudge-like film, detailing what would lead to such a supernatural curse, and it does so in a remarkably reserved, introspective, downright dramatic manner, topping it off with a shrewd twist that you can't help but applaud.

The Selling (2012)

The Selling
© Grand
Wonderful comedic performances and delightful dialogue highlight this indie flick about a real estate agent desperately trying to sell a haunted house that's funnier than most major studio comedies.

Strange Girls (2011)

Strange Girls
© Vanguard
This quirky micro-budget horror-comedy revolves around the oddball adventures of codependent twin sisters who haven't spoken a word in public in years and embark on a fish-out-of-water excursion after they're released from their psychiatric hospital by administrators who fail to recognize their psychotic tendencies.

Trapped (1982)

© Code Red

Also known as Baker County, U.S.A., this surprisingly dramatic, not overly exploitive backwoods survival thriller about a group of city folks who run afoul of some country yokels when they witness a murder. It's Backwoods Justice 101, but it refreshingly doesn't paint all of the country folk as uniformly bloodthirsty, ignorant heathens.

U.F.O. Abduction (1989)

U.F.O. Abduction (The McPherson Tape)
© Axiom Films
Very much ahead of its time, this essentially real-time early found footage film, AKA The McPherson Tape, came a full decade before The Blair Witch Project. Presented as home video of an alien encounter that takes place during a birthday party at a rural house, it's hyper-realistic -- for better and worse (e.g., inane dialogue with multiple people speaking at once) -- remarkably well done for a low-budget movie shot without the benefit of having a bunch of similar films to use as a template. That said, those viewers who complained about the rough-around-the-edges style of Blair Witch and its ilk (shaky camera, poor lighting, obscured action) will no doubt find it a bit frustrating.

El Vampiro (1957)

El Vampiro
© Cinematográfica ABSA
What this Mexican vampire movie, AKA The Vampire, lacks in pacing and plot it makes up for in style and innovation, with beautiful, noir-ish cinematography, surprisingly effective special effects, a modern edge (including being one of the first films to feature a vampire with canine fangs) that pre-dates Hammer's Horror of Dracula by a year and a captivating performance by Germán Robles as the titular vamp.

Wild Country (2005)

Wild Country
© Lionsgate

Poor lighting hinders an otherwise strong low-budget effort from Scotland with a simple yet effective plot about a group of teens camping in the Scottish Highlands who discover an abandoned baby and end up being pursued by werewolves. The unorthodox, bear-like creatures are designed by the same man responsible for the werewolves in Dog Soldiers.

X-Cross (2007)

X-Cross DVD
© Tokyo Shock

This energetic Japanese mix of slasher and backwoods survival horror is fun and fast-paced with a playfully constructed script and a warped sense of humor that lets us know not to take anything in it seriously; the story, after all, revolves around a small village with a penchant for luring young women to the local spa and chopping off their legs.

You'll Like My Mother (1972)

You’ll Like My Mother
© Universal
This taut thriller plays like a mix of Misery and Flowers in the Attic, as dark family secrets and homicidal mania erupt when a pregnant woman (Patty Duke) decides to visit her late husband's mother for the first time, arriving during a snowstorm that traps her in her mother-in-law's mansion for days.