The 10 best horror movies that you've never heard of - these are the films that will shock and surprise the hardiest of horror fans
It’s Friday the 13th and what better way to celebrate this most ominous of dates than with a round-up of the 10 best horror movies that you’ve never seen. These classic chillers range in tone from the bonkers ultra-violence of The Beyond to the ‘psychic thrills’ of Don’t Look Now, but all of these films have a capacity to induce horror, dread and out-of-your-seat shocks that will surprise and delight the most discerning of horror fans.
So sit back, relax on the sofa and turn down the lights – the ghoulish fun is about to begin…
The Exorcist III
This 1990 sequel to The Exorcist was written and directed by the original writer, William Peter Blatty. If you’re expecting more spinning heads, spouting vomit and speaking in tongues you’ll be sorely disappointed. Instead you’re served up an intelligent, psychological horror film with the hint of supernatural. A real treat for Friday the 13th…
The Night of the Demon
This atmospheric 50s horror film is loosely based on MR James’ classic short story, The Casting of the Runes, and concerns the fate of an American academic investigating the sudden death of a colleague – possibly at the hands of a vengeful demon. Director Jacques Tourneur avoids the obvious horror tropes to build tension and fear out the seemingly innocuous. I challenge you to find another film that can make a gust of wind in woods at daylight seem profoundly scary.
Don't Look Now
Nick Roeg’s ‘psychic thriller’ is not, strictly speaking, a horror movie, but it contains one of the biggest scares in the history of cinema and so makes this list. It’s based on a Daphne du Maurier short story (like Hitchcock’s The Birds) about a couple trying to cope with the loss of a child. Autumnal Venice has never looked creepier, and the ending will mess with your head – and your sleeping patterns – for a long while after.
If you’ve never seen anything by the cult Italian horror meister Lucio Fulci then The Beyond is as good a place as any to start. It has all his trademark tics – ultra-gory violence, fluid camerawork, nonsensical plot, metaphysical themes – and turns it all up to eleventy-stupid (to coin Mark Kermode’s phrase). A great film to watch after closing time, when it should start to make some kind of surreal sense.
The Devil's Backbone
16 years in the making, Guillermo Del Toro’s Spanish Civil War-set ghost story is very much the companion piece to his more famous Pan’s Labyrinth. A young orphan boy ends up in a strange orphanage where things go bump in the night. Splendid gothic horror, moving and scary in equal measure with the creepiest ghost child you’ll ever see.
This is Martin Scorsese’s favourite horror film and even though it’s in black and white and over 50 years old, it still has the power to shiver your timbers. Not with obvious and boring sudden scares but through slowly building a sense of dread and paranoia. The best haunted house film ever made.
The situation may be a bit hokey: a family driving home at Christmas takes a short cut through the woods and pick up a creepy hitchhiker. Bad things ensue. But the execution of this 2003 indie horror is first class all around. The acting, directing and photography are all exceptionally done, and the scares are that much more effective because you care about the characters.
Dead of Night
The original ‘portmanteau’ horror film with 5 scary tales linked by an ongoing story. It’s most famous for the story about Michael Redgrave’s gentleman ventriloquist and his demonic dummy and the circular nature of the narrative which literally ends where it begins. 70 years young, Dead of Night remains one of the most chilling films ever made.
This is the film that kickstarted the lats 90s, early noughties fad for J-horror and its easy to see why. It takes a creepy urban myth – a ‘cursed’ videotape that kills anyone who watches it – and takes it to the next level with its deliberately paced build-up of tension and dread. The English-language remake with Naomi Watts is a decent spooky movie but the original will have you fearful of answering the phone or switching on the telly for weeks.
This found footage Spanish horror movie spawned a brace of inferior sequels and a US remake, but the original is by far the scariest of the lot. It combines the tropes of a haunted house and zombie movie and adds a liberal dash of shaky-cam to create a cocktail of terror and dread that will have the hardiest of horror fans reaching for a cushion for protection. Oh and like in 28 Days Later, these zombies don’t half shift.