Friday, October 16, 2009

underdog horror flicks

In celebration of upcoming Halloween, I thought about my Top 10 underdog horror flicks. Here are 10 oft-forgotten-about horror gems.

Tourist Trap (1979) is an enjoyable, campy film with Chuck Connors as the owner of a spooky roadside museum populated with life-like mannequins. The score by the great Pino Donaggio is one of the film's highlights.

A handful of ghost stories are told in an old farmhouse in the moody Dead of Night (1945). Naturally a ventriloquist and dummy doll figure in the creepiest one. It's an interesting, curious picture that remains influential.

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987) is ridiculous 1980s horror fun. Remembered less but far and away better than its predecessor. Endearingly pays tribute to Carrie and chock full of bad 80s fashion.


A strange film obsession of mine that will never go away. In Bert I. Gordon's Empire of the Ants (1977) a group of prospective buyers of phony Florida real estate are attacked by menacing giant ants. And all of it is played straight. Pamela Susan Shoop utters one of the better lines: "they're herding us like cattle!"

The Boss's sister, Pamela Springsteen is winning as the tormented camp counselor Angela in Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988). The original is a favorite as well.

Much more well-known now with no thanks to its terrible remake, Black Christmas (1974) still holds up well as a slick, creepy phone-caller-is-in-the-house horror film. Margot Kidder's performance and the film's ending are both bizarre.

Unlucky passerbys are dead meat in the bizzaro pro-vegetarian horror film Motel Hell (1980). Over-the-top but very unnerving.

William Castle's The Tingler (1959) is pretty avant-garde for B-horror movie standards. A "metafilm" with audience participation gags, literal shocks and some trippy sequences. Somewhat uneven but Vincent Price is magnetic.

Malevolence came and went in 2004. It's pretty dark, and the plot is somewhat preposterous but it delivers good scares.

Similar to The Fly, The Alligator People (1959) is another fun entry in the science-gone-wrong genre of the 1950s. Scream queen Beverly Garland at her best.

What are some of your underrated horror flicks?


  1. I have real soft spots for "Sleepaway Camp" and "Dead of Night", and think I need to check out "The Alligator People"!!

    A few underrated gems: "The Deadly Spawn", "Deathdream" and (no, I'm serious:) "Nightmares in a Damaged Brain".

  2. Thanks for the comments... I haven't heard of any of those, will have to check out. The Wicker Man is on my list.

  3. I do have to warn you that I seem to be the only person to take "Nightmares in a Damaged Brain" seriously, but I can recommend the other two with relative confidence!!

    "Deathdream" in particular is a gem... 1974 by Bob Clark, and a fantastic analogy for the experience of Vietnam vets returning home. Coincidentally, it was also called "Dead of Night" at some point.

    "The Wicker Man" is a bona fide established classic now and seriously worth watching.