There can never be a perfect explanation as to why people get fascinated with horror films. It could be a combination of many things. Horror films can be exciting, thrilling, and downright so scary that the rush of emotions can be a little addicting. It’s sickening, of course, but there are different levels of horror and scary, and we’ve seen a share of great horror films throughout the history of cinema. While this may be true, there have been plenty of awesome horror films that have gone unnoticed by critics or even the fans.
We’ve listed here 20 of the most underrated scary films of all time.
1. The Strangers (2008)
It’s enough that this horror film is actually based on a true story that happened not too long from our time now. In 2005, what happened to Kristen McKay and James Holt was truly something you can only see in movies, but it happened to them on February 11. It’s a typical story of a night gone sour, except it went to the extreme. With the tremendous acting of Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, this movie literally made us double check our doors constantly for a long time to make sure they were locked. Invaders get what they deserve at the end of the day, but it also shows how much normal people can really end up doing in order to fight for survival.
2. 30 Days of Night (2007)
The idea itself is scary. There are places on earth that goes through months long of nighttime, or polar nights, when the sun doesn’t come up for at least 30 days. It’s the perfect setting for a horror story, let alone a vampire story. In this movie, Josh Hartnett and Melissa George star as an estranged couple living in a small Alaskan town that was about to go into a month-long polar night. The town ends up getting ransacked by vampires in that entire period, but there’s more to this story than just vampirism. It’s a story of survival and fighting for life that will leave you speechless in the end. It has an unforgettable twist that will make you believe in humanity again, but watching the entire film will probably make you swear off going to Alaska anytime soon.
3. Wrong Turn (2003)
Cannibalism is a gory thing, especially if you’re somehow stuck in the woods and become food for the taking for the cannibals. Wrong Turn is the kind of movie that will keep you on the edge of the seat not only because of fear but also because of disgust. It’s simply a couple of trips gone wrong, and a reminder to us all never to go out into a backwoods that we aren’t familiar with. Or maybe, we just shouldn’t go out into the woods at all because there might be some disfigured human cannibals habituating close by. It’s a little too far-fetched to be believable, but it’s still a good thrill to watch. The story line is simple and easy to take; it doesn’t try so hard to be meaningful. It’s all about finding escape or get eaten.
4. Let Me In (2010)
If there can ever be romance in horror, this film is easily it. This is a remake of a Swedish film of the title, Let the Right One In, both being based on the same book. It’s about a boy who befriends a young vampire girl in New Mexico in the 80s. There’s nothing innocent about this film—no Twilight-esque convictions. This is straight up vampire-drinks-blood type of film that will give your hairs a bit of a rise. However, at the same time, there’s also a sentiment of humanity that’s just downright confusing. As great as this film was, it didn’t do so well in the box office as it should have. It’s worth a watch, but it will make you keep an eye on random children from here on out.
5. Vacancy (2007)
It’s another wrong turn—another breakdown in the middle of the road. It’s just another motel story that will guarantee you never stay at another random motel again. Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale play a couple that does all of that in a motel in the middle of nowhere. According to the manager, they’re the only ones there, but the noises and banging tell the couple otherwise. Other creepy things happen that force the couple out of the motel and into the woods, not quite the best thing to do in a horror film. They’re left with no choice though, and they do this a few other times, each time being forced back into the motel to their doom. There’s not much to the story here but the thrill is just the right amount to make it worth the time.
6. Drag Me to Hell (2009)
Curses. Spells. The supernatural. This movie showed us that all of those things can be truly scary, and at any point in time, you can be cursed to your damnation here on earth. That’s exactly what happens to Alison Lohman on the film as she plays the role of Christine Brown, a loan officer that simply denied an old woman of a loan. Christine ends up getting cursed for it, despite her just doing her job, and it literally made her life a living hell. The rest of the movie is Christine trying to fend off evil forces and trying to reverse the spell so she can continue to live her life normally. The real question is, who could ever really live a normal life after going through something like that?
7. Trick ’r Treat (2007)
This list wouldn’t be complete without some real Halloween scare. This anthology film tells us all the reasons why we should really be scared on Halloween night. There are different stories to be scared of. One is about breaking Halloween traditions and what happens when you do. Another is about the many creepy stalkers that come out in costume on Halloween night. There’s also the supernatural to fear, the evil that supposedly only comes out that night. Whatever it is that you may or may not believe in, this movie will give you definitely something to be scared about. It’s a good film to watch just as the night comes on Halloween.
8. 28 Days Later (2002)
Even with so many zombie things that has come out in the last couple of decades, this movie shows us that we can still be afraid of them. 28 Days Later is about an experiment gone wrong, peaceful protesters going too far, and what could really happen if we all don’t get along. Imagine waking up in a hospital all alone to find that everything around you has been destroyed, and then later on you realize that you aren’t really alone in the most frightening sense of the idea. This movie came way before we ever knew a zombie is something that we should really be terrified about one day becoming reality. Of course, we’re pretty sure the government’s been prepared for them at least decades ago.
9. The Ring (2002)
We’ll never forget the long hair and the white tattered dress. That’s just something our generation will have to live with. We’ll also never forget the fact that we only find out our impending doom is coming in seven days after we’ve already seen the film. Naomi Watts stars as the investigative reporter Rachel who has to figure out what this curse is before it gets to her. Yes. She watched the film also. The worst part of it all is that in order to be saved from the curse, you’ll have to curse someone else. It’s a classic story of survival with a really horrifying twist. This is a movie we probably won’t watch again unless absolutely necessary, and we suggest people to do the same.
10. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
It’s teenage curiosity gone too far. It’s another place in the woods that should’ve been left undisturbed. It’s way before Chris Hemsworth started wielding a giant hammer to save us all. The Cabin in the Woods is a combination of sci-fi and horror. It’s a sickening thought to how humanity could one day really end—which is under the hand of a “director” overseeing its demise. The storyline is quite interesting and the horror action in the film is nonstop. It’s definitely worth seeing if not to see Hemsworth before his glory days. This horror film may not scare you too much, but the idea of it certainly will. It’s something that you can probably watch over and over again.
11. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
At the time of its release, this movie was considered groundbreaking because of the way it was filmed and its extremely low budget. However, many film experts criticized the film for lack of structure and so on. The documentary feel of the film actually made some people question whether the movie was actually real or not. It’s not, but it will still make you feel the closest to reality as possible. The movie is set in the Black Hills Forest as three people film their demise. They disappear and nobody knows what happens to them until the tapes they used were recovered and spliced together to make the movie. It’s a genius piece of work that didn’t have all the hype of a blockbuster film, but it definitely has the bones for one.
12. Candyman (1992)
Can urban legends be real? We certainly believed so back then when this movie was released. There was a period in time when saying “Candyman” in the mirror five times was a big scare dare. It no longer has the effect today, but in the movie, the same thing happens. The existence of Candyman is discredited by a grad student, which led Candyman to shed innocent blood in order to prove that he is real, all the while perpetrating the grad student for all the killings. She ends up in the crazy house and somehow ends up teaming with Candyman himself to escape. In the end, she becomes an urban legend herself but only after her untimely death. Believe it or not, there’s more to this story than we’ve just told, and it’s also as interesting as it could be.
13. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
We know it’s another zombie film, but it’s a good one. This 2004 version is actually a remake of a 1978 film of the same title. While the story of survival amongst the living dead is more cliché than anything, there’s more to the movie than just the cliché. The action is surprising, and the little stories in between are interesting. There’s also apparently no hope in survival in this film, opposite of what many zombie films try to produce. It’s a different approach and it works. While we think that some of the characters have finally survived the raging zombie attacks, we’re proven wrong and left at the end of the film to our despair. It’s everything we should expect from a horror film. No one should ever leave feeling hopeful after watching any horror film.
14. The Crazies (2010)
In the world of biological warfare, a future that might be closer to ours than we think, people might not be caused to be sick. Instead, they might be infected with insanity, something that will literally drive them crazy. It happens in the film in a small town in Iowa in what seems like just a normal day. There was no warfare involved. The infection spread through a chemical plant accident that caused the spread in the nearby town. Of course, the military sacrifices civilians in order to contain the infection, and the result is just horrific. People are killing each other. Soldiers are killing civilians. No one is safe, infected or not infected. It’s a nightmare that can easily find its way into reality one day. Better watch the film to learn how to be prepared to survive.
15. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
There hasn’t really been another great exorcism movie since The Exorcist came out in 1973. The Exorcism of Emily Rose comes fairly close and probably because it’s kind of based in a true story. The story is about an American teenager who ends up dying of wounds and malnutrition after an attempted exorcism. The film ties legal threads with the Catholic Church and the existence of the supernatural and events of possessions into a decent film that full of truly bothersome and unforgettable visual cues. In short, the film looked scary, and it’s the type of film where you have to constantly shield your eyes a little bit in order to avoid some of the scenes that you wouldn’t want engraved in your memory.
16. 1408 (2007)
Nothing less can be expected from Stephen King, of course, and John Cusack is excellent in a scary film. This movie is about a horror writer, who really lacks the imagination for the genre. He only believes what he can see, and so he’s written a few bestsellers that discredit paranormal events as commonly known in history. That changes when he checks into the Dolphin Hotel, specifically into room 1408, where he experiences the scare of his life. We experience it too as we watch the events unfold. Cusack’s character Mike Enslin is the first person in years to stay in the infamously haunted room, and for good reason also. The room is obviously really haunted, and it takes Enslin an entire night of terrifying survival to become a believer.
17. Krampus (2015)
Technically, all spooky things should be left in Halloween. Nothing spooky should ever happen during Christmas, right? Wrong. You better get in the Christmas spirit during the holidays because if you don’t, you’ll release the spirit of Krampus. Krampus’ only motive is to punish those who don’t believe in Christmas, and it uses every single holiday icon to scare you into believing. The movie might sound silly in writing, but the film is actually fairly scary. It’s going to make you want to hug your family during the holidays for fear of being forced into doing it by ancient evil force. It’s a unique film about an unusual concept that will give you a quick scare about the holidays.
18. The Boy (2016)
The premise is weird altogether, but the movie itself is really scary in a sickening kind of way. An American nanny, Greta, has been hired to watch an English boy, but as it turns out, the boy is actually a doll. The Heelshires call the doll “Brahms” and treat it like their actual kid. Greta is given a set of rules to follow about the house and taking care of Brahms. She initially ignores these rules and thinks nothing of it. After Greta finds out that Brahms was alive at some point but died 20 ago in a fire when he was only 8, weird things started happening. Greta begins to believe that the spirit of Brahms lives in the doll. The rest of the movie happens in the creepiest way, and it’s just that: creepy, scary, and everything else in between.
19. Sinister (2012)
The movie starts everything off just right and sets the mood for the entire film. It’s about murder and terrible discoveries. Ethan Hawke stars as true crime writer Ellison Oswalt. Oswalt moves his family into a home that was the site of a family murder years ago. This murder was actually filmed and Oswalt discovers the footages in their attic. The story becomes complicated shortly after this, requiring the help of an occult expert played by Vincent D’Onofrio. Let’s just say that the Oswalt family doesn’t last in that house very long and ends up moving back to their old house, where they continue to be haunted by the same murderous spirits that continue to live on from house to house. It’s truly sinister and quite disturbing to say the least.
20. The Orphanage (2007)
A mother returns to an orphanage where she once grew up with plans to reopen the facility to help disabled children. She brings along her husband and their son, Simon. Shortly after their arrival, Simon befriends an imaginary child, whom Simon draws as a kid with a sack mask. Pretty soon, we learn that this imaginary friend is Tomas, and he is actually influencing Simon’s thoughts and actions. Eventually, we see enough deaths to deal with for a lifetime and tons of scary situations to keep us awake at night. The end of the movie is haunting to say the least, but the orphanage where it all happens still lives on.