5 Underrated Horror Movies

Michael myers in halloween

There are countless films that do not connect with audiences upon their initial release. Given time, however, a select bunch of lucky flicks—once forgotten and ignored—can find a new life and appreciation among critics and fans.

Here’s a small list of underrated horror movies that I recommend you check out.

“Dead & Buried” should be a better known film. Period.
“Dead & Buried” (1981) should be a better known film. Period.

Dead & Buried

“Dead & Buried” boasts one of the best horror movie posters ever! It’s very Dali-esque and just really cool. Scripted by Dan O’ Bannon and Ronald Shusset (though O’Bannon has claimed he only wacked his name on the front of the page to help get it financed), and directed by Death Line’s Gary Sherman, the 1981 suspense shocker has got a supremely brilliant ending which rewrites all we have come to know about the plot and makes it a humdinger of a finish. “Dead & Buried” owes a sizable debt to the macabre tales of HP Lovecraft and was once banned as a Video Nasty in the UK.

Michael Mann’s only horror film to date makes for a beguiling experience.
Michael Mann’s only horror film to date makes for a beguiling experience.

The Keep

A lot of people forget that Michael Mann directed a WW2-set horror movie. An adaptation of F. Paul Wilson’s novel, “The Keep” boasts stunning photography courtesy of Alex Thomson and a brilliant score by Krautrock outfit, Tangerine Dream. The original rough cut ran 3 hours plus and the studio vetoed it. Fans hope that one day Mann will show the world the excised footage and/or re-cut the entire thing. But he probably won’t.

The released film is a total mess, sometimes incoherent, but possesses a devious beauty and is a truly original take on both wartime drama and supernatural chiller. Gabriel Byrne as the wicked Nazi officer, Major Kaempffer, is a highlight.

Uncle Mike returns to town.
Uncle Mike returns to town.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

When franchises hit their fourth entry they rarely rock the house. In fact, they’re most likely to have run out of ideas completely and will have resorted to a dull redressing of past glories. “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” (an underrated gem too) dispensed entirely with the iconic Michael Myers figure all together for a movie about demonic masks, but he returned to Haddonfield for more slashing and terror in Dwight H. Little’s film.

“Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” was a very smart remake of the first movie that replaced John Carpenter’s elegantly staged chills with a full-throttle and hectic pace. It’s also a little bit like a Western with the villain coming to town and the sheriff having to deal with the baddie once and for all.

Father Karras talking to his old buddy Lt. Kindermann in The Exorcist III. Only problem is, Karras is dead.
Father Karras talking to his old buddy Lt. Kindermann in “The Exorcist III” (1990). Only problem is, Karras is dead.

The Exorcist III

William Friedkin’s 1973 masterpiece continues to obsess fans and John Boorman’s sequel (made in 1977) is still publicized as one of the worst sequels of all time. It’s rather easy to forget a third entry was made by author, screenwriter and director William Peter Blatty, in 1990. Although a compromised work–the studio interfered with the production and demanded a new ending which included a dog and pony show exorcism–”The Exorcist III” (originally titled “Legion”) is a very creepy movie with two fantastic performances from Brad Dourif and George C. Scott.

Vampire in a gas mask!
Vampire in a gas mask!


After the French Extreme delight that was “Inside” (2007), all eyes were on Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo to produce another blood-soaked gore flick. They didn’t. Instead, the duo made a gorgeously melancholic tale of teenage burglars coming across an elderly vampire and her daughter in their magic manor house. Sounds wacky, right? “Livid” is one of the best horror films of recent times and must be taken on its own rich and rewarding merits. Watch out for the very clever reference to “Suspiria (1977)”, which makes “Livid” and Dario Argento’s masterpiece connected to the same movie universe.

Photos © respective film studios.
Martyn Conterio

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Martyn is a freelance film writer. He has had work published by Little White Lies, The Guardian, Total Film, Sight & Sound, British Film Institute among others. He is the author of a monograph on Mario Bava's classic horror film "Black Sunday" and a forthcoming book on "Mad Max." Follow the author @ Instagram , Twitter, and view more articles.

December 28, 2013 Cinema Horror