Horror movies are pulpy, delicious, and indulgent. If you like to be scared and nuzzle up to a buddy under the covers, a good horror movie can really set the mood. Suddenly every snap, crackle, and pop, familiar in the daytime, becomes a ghost or ghoul ready to whisk you away. There are some staples and old favourites -- go-tos that everybody agrees are the absolute creepiest. However, here are some movies that do not get enough love but can be just a effective with the lights turned way down low.
Roman Polanski lived through real horror and Mia Farrow's life seems to have followed the plot of a schizophrenics journal, but together, they created a masterpiece. The movie isn't necessarily underrated by critics but as far as our more contemporary sensibilities go, a lot of people dismiss it as overly long and poorly paced. It might not be what we're used to but it is pretty creepy. It's isolating and tense with a real sense of foreboding -- which under the right circumstances gets the blood pumping. There's an unnerving uncertainty present throughout the film and Mia Farrow is excellent as the childish new bride. There's mystery and intrigue and at the very least, it will ensure that you never trust old people again.
The Paranormal Activity Series
A good horror movie has a good mix of suspense, intrigue, and creepy goodness. Paranormal Activity broke the mould when it came out because it created a fantastic sense of tension without really doing anything other than fastening a camera to a ceiling. It didn't wholly rely on jump scares and it wasn't afraid to be a little dull because the long stretches of nothing lull you into an intense boredom so that when the scare does come you are completely unprepared. The sequels do an okay job for a night at home alone in the basement with all the light turned out, but for the most part they're nothing to write home about. Still, let's applaud the franchise for proving that night-vision does not in fact require shaky cam.
It's hard to discuss this movie without tons of spoilers, but suffice it to say that it's got just about all it needs to keep you watching and keep you worried. There's an intense feeling of unease throughout the film that draws the audience into the plight of the family. In a lot of ways, it's about watching a family implode after a crisis -- a father loses his job and a mother struggles to keep it together for her kids. But good horror writers know how to turn those unspoken fears and insecurities into tangible monsters. It's definitely worth a viewing, best done at night with your windows open just enough to hear the ambient noises from outside. It's everything Signs could have been and more, though it did boldly set itself up for a sequel. Speaking of that humble Philly native..
M. Night He Who Shall Not Be Named might have put a black mark on his name with just about everything that came out after The Sixth Sense (even before The Last Air Bender people were wishing The Happening hadn't), but he's actually got a knack for creating an immersive world. Despite the odd casting choices for The Village, the movie gets way more flak than it deserves. I was lucky enough to have watched it before I ever saw The Sixth Sense or pretty much anything else from him. A lot of people went in expecting another quiet spookfest and were disappointed when it wasn't a supernatural fright fest. However, it does set an amazing, intense mood and it gets extra props for being colourful and proving that you don't need to be in various shades of blue to be creepy.
The Ring and The Grudge
I know I know. I hear you. But everybody saw those! They aren't underrated! We love them! Well, we all loved The Ring, anyway. Sarah Michelle Geller didn't exactly thrill audiences with her foray into the horror movie genre, but under-performing vampire slayers aside, I'm talking about the originals too. Japan has a knack for gruesome horror and suspense that should not be taken for granted. The Western remakes are to these movies what American remakes are to British tv shows -- watered-down interpretation of something awesome but still really fun to watch. Ringu and Ju-on: The Grudge are spectacular films that don't attempt to make up for a weak plot with heaving bosoms. The Western versions retain a pretty strong sense of foreboding and do really well with the rotten gory aspects of the movies. If you don't mind subtitles though, the originals really are great and explain away some of the weirdness that makes the English versions confusing.
This really should be under inspirational films as Sean Bean proves that even he can live to the end of something as terrifying as a pyramid head attack. If you're somehow not familiar with the games, Silent Hill is possibly one of the most messed up series ever devised. Even the awful fourth instalment (based on the same Stephen King story as the movie 1408), is best played in the daytime with lights on, clutching a blankie. The movie does a really good job of bringing that pants-ruining, inescapable fear to the forefront as a mother desperately tries to save her daughter from a crazy town while also avoiding Pyramid Head -- since a town full of loons isn't quite terrifying enough. The sirens alone will give you nightmares. The detail in the movie is incredible and they bring in just enough fan favourites to make it a worthy game-to-film adaptation.
These movies have fans who swear by them, and that's great because they deserve to be watched. These are all best watched on dark, rainy nights when you're looking to get your heart pumping without the hassle of exercise. And they might not make you scream, but I can guarantee you won't feel safe in your own bed when you're through.