Underrated Spooks


By Emily Hyatt

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrPin on PinterestPrint this page

Top 10 Films to See Before October is Over

October is the time for gore, monsters and screams. Well…not firsthand experience of those things. No, October is the month of horror movies. It’s a time when freaks like me, who enjoy watching terrifying content on every day of the year, can help people out. I’d like to think I have fairly good taste when it comes to horror films, especially films that fly under the radar. Some of my all time favorite films don’t get the love they deserve and I’d like to change that. Don’t worry, I’ve added a warning on whether or not the film contains any violence, sex and/or strong language, in case anyone is sensitive to that content.

10. Quarantine (2008)

Directed by: John Erick Dowdle

Starring: Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez

Violence: YES

Sex: No

Strong language: YES

“Found footage” is a subgenre of film that is loved by many horror fans, myself included. Found footage films are made to look like they were shot first-person by one of the characters. This technique was widely popularized by the release of “The Blair Witch Project” in 1999. 

I offer context because this is how “Quarantine” was filmed. It’s shot from the perspective of a news cameraman as he and a reporter shadow a couple of firefighters during their night shift. Not long into the night, the two firefighters answer a call about a disturbance at a nearby apartment complex. The firefighters, reporter, and cameraman are sucked into a whirlwind of terror as the tenants of the apartment complex grow increasingly violent and more questions are raised than answered. They soon learn that people on the outside know more than they’re letting on when they decide to quarantine everyone inside. 

Note: “Quarantine” is a remake of the 2007 Spanish film, “REC.”

Why I Like It: Jennifer Carpenter is an amazing actress. I originally fell in love with her when she portrayed the lovably foul-mouthed Deb on the television show “Dexter.” The whole cast is great at building up the tension and lashing out at one another as the uncertainty of the night drags on. I’m a big proponent of well-done gore and this film does it oh-so-well. Also if a film is shot as found footage, there is an 80% chance I’m going to love it.

Available on Starz Play (if you have a subscription) or for rent on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, and iTunes!

9. Apostle (2018)

Directed by: Gareth Evans

Starring: Dan Stevens, Lucy Boynton, Michael Sheen

Violence: YES

Sex: A bit

Strong language: A bit

You might not recognize Dan Stevens without a giant CGI suit and three-foot-tall boots. (He portrayed the Beast in the 2017 remake of “Beauty and the Beast.”) In “Apostle,” he stars as a rugged ex-missionary that must break into a mysterious cult in order to discover the whereabouts of his missing sister. While he is undercover as a new convert to the cult, he witnesses horrifying rituals and a hidden secret that will reveal who the true villains are. 

Why I Like It: Dan Stevens has such a soothing voice, I want him to sing me to sleep. Besides my affinity for male British voices, Lucy Boynton and Michael Sheen steal every scene they’re in and when they’re together, it’s magic. There are also several scenes in this film that truly scared me, which is typically hard to do. The gore is beautiful (There’s a blood river!!), the cinematography is top-notch, and it delivers a powerful message about religion and the way society abuses nature for their own benefit. 

Available on Netflix!

8. XX (2017)

Directed by: Karyn Kusama, Jovanka Vuckovic, Roxanne Benjamin, St. Vincent

Starring: Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Angela Trimbur

Violence: Yes

Sex: No

Strong language: A bit

“XX” is an anthology film, which means that it is composed of several smaller, independent plots that compose one giant movie. There are four short films featured:

“The Box”: A woman and her family face drastic consequences after having a mysterious encounter with a strange man on a train.

“The Birthday Party”: A mother works hard to have the perfect birthday party for her daughter even though everything seems to be going wrong.

“Don’t Fall”: A woman and her girlfriend go camping with friends but things soon take a dark turn when they discover an ancient cave.

“Her Only Living Son”: A single mother fears her son’s impending birthday and the return of his father that is sure to follow.

Why I Like It: Unfortunately for me and other female filmmakers, the horror industry is particularly saturated with testosterone. Luckily, there are films like “XX” that are all written and directed by women. What a time to be alive. I love supporting other women’s art and “Don’t Fall” is definitely my favorite. I’m also a sucker for anthologies.

Available on Netflix or for rent on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, and iTunes!

7. You’re Next (2011)

Directed by: Adam Wingard

Starring: Sharni Vinson, A.J. Bowen, Barbara Crampton

Violence: YES

Sex: Yes

Strong language: YES

If you saw “Ready or Not” this year and loved it, I can almost guarantee that you will also be a fan of “You’re Next.” The film follows a young woman and her boyfriend as they travel to his family reunion. The family is, of course, rich and snooty but that changes when the house becomes under attack by unknown outdoor assailants. Little do the attackers know, the young woman grew up on a survivalist compound in the Australian outback and she’s not about to back down without a fight.

Why I Like It: Strong, well-written Final Girls are the key to my heart; especially when said Final Girl is a kickass Australian who’s not afraid to draw some blood. (Final Girl = the female main character who lives throughout the storyline and eventually defeats the antagonist, a common trope in horror, ex. Laurie Strode in “Halloween” or Sidney Prescott in “Scream”) There are also some great fight scenes that really put the audience on edge. Not to mention that twist at the end…

Available on Vudu and Tubi or for rent on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, and iTunes!

6. The Descent (2005)

Directed by: Neil Marshall

Starring: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid

Violence: YES

Sex: No

Strong language: Yes

Not recommended for those with claustrophobia or fear of caves…Six women go spelunking a year after one of them loses her family in a horrific car crash. Once in the cave systems, they end up getting trapped inside after part of the cave collapses. While trying to find a way out, they discover strange cave paintings and must face the unnerving fact that they may not be alone. 

Why I Like It: Just as rarely as you see women in horror film production, women are hardly ever featured in horror films without getting naked or brutally assaulted. The characters in this film are well written and it’s all women that are tremendous actors. The color scheme is incredible, the creature design is truly disturbing and the sound design…my God, the sound design. Oscar-worthy, in my opinion.

Available for rent on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, and iTunes!

5. Cargo (2017)

Directed by: Yolanda Ramke & Ben Howling

Starring: Martin Freeman, Simone Landers, Susie Porter

Violence: Yes

Sex: No

Strong language: YES

Ah, it’s so hard to find a solid zombie movie so take some notes on this one. A family living in Australia is torn apart by a violent disease making its way through the world and the father must quickly find someone to care for his infant daughter. During his harrowing journey, he meets a young Aboriginal girl who is trying to protect her sick father and a power-hungry rancher that abuses the Aboriginal community around him. 

Why I Like It: Yes, it’s a zombie movie but it also carries a lovely message about humanity and the bonds we create during our darkest hours. Oftentimes it’s hard to find a film that casts Aboriginal peoples in a positive light but this film does just that and they do it so well. It will definitely pull at your heartstrings in the best possible way.

Available on Netflix!

4. Overlord (2018)

Directed by: Julius Avery

Starring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbæk

Violence: YES

Sex: A bit

Strong language: YES

On the eve of D-Day, paratroopers are sent into the heart of battle to destroy a church that contains a radio transmitter for the Nazi regime. A young American soldier, his Corporal and two other Privates are the only ones to survive the beginning of the siege and they seek refuge with a young woman in a French village. While hiding in her home, they confront one of the SS officers that is in charge of the headquarters they were sent to destroy. Their mission is blown to horrid new proportions when they uncover the dark experiments taking place by the Nazis and the plans they have to expand their “science.”

Why I Like It: Again, the representation here is so well done. The lead character is African-American and minorities in horror films are all too often seen as expendable. However, in this film, he survives and is the hero of the story. So satisfying! I’m also a big fan of Pilou Asbæk because of his work in “Game of Thrones.” The results of the Nazi “experiments” are truly unnerving and there’s a woman with a blowtorch, which I have been in support of since Sigourney Weaver did it. 

Available for rent on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu!

3. Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Directed by: Sam Raimi

Starring: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Dileep Rao

Violence: YES

Sex: No

Strong language: Yes

Sam Raimi has been a horror icon since he made his low-budget masterpiece, “The Evil Dead,” in 1981. Raimi continues his legacy with modern classics like “Drag Me to Hell.” The young woman in his film is looking to move up the chain of command at the bank she works at. In order to do that, she denies an old woman an extension on her home loan, leading to a curse that throws her life into a tailspin. She scrambles to find a way to break the curse before her soul is damned to a fate that is much worse than a stagnant job at a bank.

Why I Like It: I’m a BIG fan of Sam Raimi, I think he’s a genius and a wonderful filmmaker. This film does a great job of scaring the crap out of the audience while also offering some comic relief to alleviate the terror. The cast does a great job of balancing the two objectives, all the while making the audience root for them in their endeavors. 

Available for rent on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, and iTunes!

2. The Ritual (2017)

Directed by: David Bruckner

Starring: Rafe Spall, Rob James-Collier, Sam Troughton

Violence: YES

Sex: No

Strong language: YES

Six months after the death of one of their best friends, four old university buddies meet up for a hiking trip in the Swedish wilderness. After a storm strands them in an abandoned cabin, the group is plagued by nightmares and a foreboding that there is a darkness lurking in the woods around them. Things grow increasingly heated when the group gets lost and internal grudges come out to play. However, drama amongst the friends soon becomes the least of their problems.

Why I Like It: David Bruckner is one of my absolute favorite filmmakers but I promise that bias only has a small factor to play in my recommendation. It’s a truly unsettling film with solid internal conflicts and disturbing external conflict. Plus, they all have British accents, so you know I’m here for it.

Available on Netflix!

1. Southbound (2015)

Directed by: Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath

Starring: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Fabianne Therese, Mather Zickel

Violence: YES

Sex: No

Strong language: YES

This is yet another anthology film. Shocker, I know. There are five different shorts in this one and they’re all interconnected:

“The Way Out”: Two men run from mysterious creatures that are after them for something horrible they’ve done in their pasts. 

“Siren”: A rock band gets stranded on the side of the road and hitchhikes with a seemingly friendly couple but once they reach the couple’s home, they realize their rescuers are not as well-meaning as they originally seemed. 

“The Accident”: A man rushes to save a young woman’s life after he accidentally hits her with his car.

“Jailbreak”: A man forces his way through a creepy town in an attempt to find and rescue his missing sister.

“The Way Out”: A family is attacked in their vacation home by three masked men.

Why I Like It: This film checks a lot of boxes for me: David Bruckner, anthologies, strong female characters. It’s also exceedingly creepy and unfolded in such a smart, interesting way. I’m a big fan of films that are open-ended and this one is full of open-ended questions that remain unanswered so that the audience can fill in the holes.

Available on Hulu or for rent on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, and iTunes!

I hope you enjoyed my list! Please check out at least a couple of these films, I promise they’ll be worth your time.

Have a spooky October and a happy Halloween!