10 Bizarre but Great Horror Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen
From grisly human BBQs to sickening subway scenes, these unsung heroes of horror demand your attention.By Jessica Ferri
As any true horror fan knows, it’s worth going the extra mile for that unforgettable scare. For whatever reason, these 10 bizarre but great horror movies haven’t gotten their fair shake. Some are modern classics, while others are pioneering works of the genre. Whether it’s demon possession, art house indie, or splatter pulp that you’re after, here are ten little-known horror gems you need to see now.
1. Possession, 1981
This completely insane, thoroughly disgusting and emotionally scarring film from writer/director Andrzej Zulawski is perhaps one of the most difficult horror films to track down. You will not find it streaming on Netflix. It seems only the most knowledgeable and bravest horror fans know of its existence, which is strange considering it stars two well-known actors, Isabelle Adjani (Queen Margot) and Sam Neil (Jurassic Park).
The plot centers on the total breakdown of the marriage between Anna (Adjani) and Mark (Neil), who share a young child. The passionate hatred between the couple seems to manifest itself physically—Anna is hysterical, indulging in episodes of disturbing self-harm, including what may be one of the most disturbing scenes ever filmed … in the subway. Mark, meanwhile, begins to suspect that Anna is unfaithful. But it’s who—or what—she’s been cheating on him with that makes this one of the most bizarre horror movies ever made.
2. Pontypool, 2008
The terrifying events of this under-the-radar indie horror take place in a radio station in a small Ontario town. Strange calls begin to worry the station’s staff, and as the night wears on, it becomes clear that a deadly virus has spread outside the studio’s doors. What is going on, and how will they keep it outside?
Reminiscent of Orson Welles’ infamous radio broadcast The War of the Worlds, Pontypool is an incredibly smart, subtle film that doesn’t let its intelligence infringe upon its ability to deliver nearly unbearable suspense.
3. The Vanishing, 1988
Whatever you do, make sure you see the original Dutch version of this film. (The 1993 remake, starring Kiefer Sutherland, is an absolute travesty.) The original Vanishing is not just an overlooked horror movie. It’s a perfect example of a film that transcends genre.
Rex and Saskia are on their way to a much-needed vacation when Saskia disappears, seemingly into thin air. Rex goes mad trying to find out what happened to her, even putting his own safety in jeopardy. The conclusion to this brilliant thriller is one of the most terrifying, bone-chilling endings in all of cinema history. It will haunt you for years to come. You’ve been warned.
4. Don’t Look Now, 1973
Continuing in the vein of emotionally-scarring horror movies, Don’t Look Now stars Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as a couple attempting to recover from the tragic death of their young daughter.
Christine (Christie) and John (Sutherland) travel to Venice to escape their problems, but it seems that the specter of their lost child has followed them. With a serial killer on the loose, and an unfortunate run-in with a psychic, Christine loses it, and John begins to see a childlike figure in a red-coat, much like one that had belonged to his daughter, around Venice. Don’t look now, but all that is not well … does not end well.
As a fun side note, this film also contains one of the most notorious sex scenes of all time: it’s rumored that the sex between Sutherland and Christie is not simulated. You’ll have to watch to decide for yourself.
5. The Brood, 1979
This wacky movie from shock-director David Cronenberg pokes fun at the crazy therapy movements of the 1970s, like Primal Scream Therapy. When Nola and Frank separate, Nola goes to an unconventional therapist to deal with her rage and gain custody of the couple’s daughter, Candice. But after a series of bizarre murders committed by dwarf-like monsters seem to link Nola and her psychotherapist to the crimes, it becomes clear that Frank is dealing with much more than a crazy ex-wife.
6. Funny Games, 1997
What’s more terrifying than a killer motivated by revenge? Two killers motivated by nothing at all.
It’s not that you’ve never heard of Funny Games—it’s just that you haven’t been able to sit through it. In this harrowing thriller two young men torture a family of three through sadistic games, making a bet on whether or not they’ll survive to see the next day. In 2007, director Michael Haneke completed a remake of his own film, this time with an American cast, including Naomi Watts and Tim Roth.
7. Two Thousand Maniacs, 1964
This lost gem plays on tensions between the North and South when some unwitting Yankee tourists find themselves at a small Southern town’s 100th anniversary celebration. As it turns out, these confederates are out for revenge, and theirs is blood sport. Many critics suggest that this film gave birth the murderous redneck archetype. One memorable scene includes a woman’s dismembered limbs being roasted over the barbeque. Not exactly a friendly welcome, y’all.
8. House of the Devil, 2009
With a budget of under a million dollars and a limited release, horror fans had to work to get their paws on House of the Devil, director Ti West’s homage to the horror films of the 1970s and 80s. But once they did, they weren’t disappointed: demon possession, punishment for promiscuity, neon 80s fashion, and pizza deliveries are among the familiar motifs referenced in this romp down horror movie lane. As a bonus, mumblecore actress Greta Gerwig turns up for a cameo, and nearly steals the show.
9. Repulsion, 1965
It’s hard being Carol (Catherine Deneuve) in 1965. All you want to do is daydream, and hang out with your sister. Unfortunately her oafish married boyfriend is always cramping your style, and some random dude keeps asking you out on a date. Ugh, annoying.
Though you may have heard of Roman Polanski’s other horror film, Rosemary’s Baby, its precursor Repulsion has been hailed one of the most unusual psychological horror movies of its time. As Carol retreats into herself, the apartment begins to morph into a threatening force. Centered on the decidedly taboo subject of female sexual repulsion, this nightmarish thriller paved the way for many excellent horror movies to come.
10. The Last House on the Left, 1972
A Swedish film called The Virgin Spring inspired Wes Craven’s first film. In both movies, two teenage girls are brutally raped and murdered by a gang of thugs, and one girl’s parents, later realizing they have the murderers in their charge, decide to take revenge.
When The Last House on the Left appeared, it faced censorship in theaters around the world. For years, it wasn’t available in any form that resembled Wes Craven’s original intention. Though Craven is mostly remembered for his later work, including Scream and The Nightmare on Elm Street series, The Last House on the Left is, in many ways, the pioneering film of modern horror, in particular revenge porn. As Craven said, “horror films don’t create fear. They release it.”
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Featured Still from "Possession" via Limelight International