I could attempt to list my top ten(Couldn’t keep it to just five…couldn’t.)horror movies of all time, but that’d be me telling you what I think about a bunch of movies you already know all about. You’re already intimately familiar with Freddy, Norman Bates, Dracula, Damien and the rest of those guys. There’s really nothing left to say about them, at this point. Yawn, right?
If you’re looking for something different to occupy your holiday viewing hours, here’s five of my favorite underrated horror films, in no particular order.
Late phases is a low-key, slow-burn film about werewolves that isn’t really about the werewolves. It’s about aging and the loss of dignity and respect that accompany the “Late Phases” of life. It’s about a specific aspect of being human.
Reporter Lee Taylor (Lee Tracy) is investigating a series of pathological murders that have taken place over a series of months in New York City. The murders always take place at night, under the light of a full moon (the newspapers dubbing them the “Moon Killer Murders”). Furthermore, each body has been cannibalized after the murder has taken place. Witnesses to the events describe a horribly disfigured “monster” as the killer.
I used to own this on VHS, but I haven’t seen it in ages. Truly spooky and shockingly explicit(for its time) horror noir from pre-code Hollywood. The atmosphere it conjures with its muted two-color technicolor look is as lovely as it is terrifying.
Horror Hotel/City Of The Dead
I believe this movie, which was released under two different names, is public domain. It can be found on any cheapo $5.99 20-movie horror dvd set in any retail store anywhere. The atmosphere of this thing is untouchable. Foggy graveyards, satanic witches engaging in sinister, clandestine midnight rituals…beautiful movie. This one would actually have to make my top ten for the atmosphere alone.
Shadow of the Vampire(2000)
What if the vampire from F.W. Murnau’s 1922 masterpiece “Nosferatu” was a real vampire who was promised the blood of the film’s leading lady as payment for playing the part?
That’s the premise of this severely underrated jewel of a film. And I hate saying “film,” because it sounds so pretentious, but this is most definitely a “film.” Classy and brilliant. I revisited it recently and it’s as striking as it was when I saw it in 2000.
If “The Goonies” belongs to a genre, “Monster Squad” is in it. It’s the Goonies covered with cobwebs, except it’s also entirely its own thing. Hard to explain, really. It’s the kind of magical, imaginative movie that could only have been made in the ’80s, proudly wearing its cheese on its sleeve without a trace of irony. Even if you aren’t a fan of horror, this is just a great, forgotten release that belongs right up there alongside “Ghostbusters,” “Back to the Future,” and “E.T.” I mean, maybe directly beneath them, but it’s way better than “Mac And Me” or “Flight of the Navigator.” It’s “Lost Boys” and “Gremlins” level, at least. Great stuff.