16 underrated horror films to watch this Halloween

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Happy Halloween! The last day of October is dedicated to all things spooky, so here are some underseen and underrated horror films for your viewing pleasure.

Horror is a genre that often divides audiences; the gore and frights (justifiably) aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s also a phenomenon that brings people together. Most of them, from personal experience, are lovely.

It’s also a genre that really flourishes outside of Hollywood. There are literally hundreds of incredible horror films out there, but you simply wouldn’t know they existed because they never played at the local multiplex. Cue this list: the underseen horror films we feel deserve a spotlight. Our list has a bit of everything for everyone: we’ve got early James Gunn, found-footage horror, vampires and scary people with knives.

Without further ado, here is our list of underappreciated horror gems.

Starry Eyes (2014)

starry eyes

Credit: 101 Films

Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Starry Eyes is really quite horrific, making it an absolutely perfect Halloween watch. Alex Essoe’s young, aspiring actress arrives in Hollywood with her head full of dreams, but she quickly finds that in La La Land, fame comes at a terrifying price.

The film cleverly mixes the spectacle of horror with a critique of Hollywood, but it’s never preachy. There’s a particularly nasty vomit scene, so maybe put your trick-or-treat takings down for this one.

The Roost (2005)

the roost

Credit: Revolver Entertainment

Ti West’s career has skyrocketed since 2022’s excellent slasher X and its fascinating prequel, Pearl. The director already had a solid reputation in genre circles, thanks to films such as The Innkeepers and The House Of The Devil, but his first film, The Roost, rarely gets a mention.

The Roost is a loving homage to the 70s B-horror movies and while it’s a little thin on plot, it more than makes up for it with its unnerving ambiance and impressive visuals. In West’s debut, it’s not so much ghosts or knife-wielding killers you should be scared of, it’s vampiric bats. If that doesn’t sell the film to you, I don’t know what will.

Livid (2011)


Credit: StudioCanal

It’s impossible to make any film list without having at least one French flick in the mix. The country has long been producing some of the genre’s best, most innovative films and for this list, we’ve gone with Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo. If those name’s ring a bell, it’s because the duo also helmed the French New Extremity classic Inside.

Livid follows a group of petty thieves who break into a large mansion, where the lady of the house is in a coma. Let’s just say their burglary goes terribly, supernaturally wrong. Part of the charm of Livid is being completely blindsided by what the film strives for. The film has a strong Guillermo Del Toro vibe when it mixes graphic horror with fairytale elements.

Lake Bodom (2016)

lake bodom

Credit: Future Film

Lake Bodom, a Finnish slasher from 2016, takes its inspiration from Finland’s most infamous unsolved murder. In the 60s, a group of teenagers were slaughtered near the titular lake, and the killer was never caught. Instead of focusing on the original murders, director Taneli Mustonen is much more interested in our current obsession with true crime, as a bunch of modern-day teenagers go to the lake with the intentions of recreating the murder scene, but find themselves at odds with the original murderer.

Lake Bodom feels almost refreshingly old-fashioned in its approach to the slasher genre, but also includes enough twists and turns to keep us locked in. A true slasher gem.

Lake Mungo (2008)

lake mungo

Credit: After Dark Films

Another film about a lake! Before Talk To Me brought more attention to horror from Down Under, Lake Mungo scared our socks off. After Alice tragically drowns, her brother sets up cameras to hopefully capture her spirit in the house, which sends the family on a pretty scary journey into discovering who Alice really was.

Lake Mungo is slow-burn for sure, but director Joel Anderson crafts a uniquely oppressive mood. The film also contains one of the most disturbing, genuinely surprising jump scares that’s enough to leave you in need of new underwear.

Can’t Come Out To Play (2013)

the harvest

Credit: IFC Films

Can’t Come Out To Play, also known as The Harvest in the US, leans a little more into thriller territory than outright horror, but it’s certainly worth a mention. Starring Michael Shannon and Samantha Morton, the film aimed for a PG-13 rating, but was granted an R, just because the film was found to be so morally dark.

Teenager MaryAnn befriends a boy, who uses a wheelchair, next door, but something is very off about his parents, who insist he’s ill and must remain at home. Are they, perhaps, hiding something? John McNaughton, who also helmed the excellent Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, veers slightly into Mommy Dearest territory, but there is something thoroughly terrifying about Can’t Come Out To Play.

The Transfiguration (2016)

the transfiguration

Credit: Thunderbird Releasing

We love vampires, but we’re also big fans of coming of age films, so a film that combines both? A winner! The Transfiguration follows 14-year-old Milo, a boy who desperately wants to be – and to some degree, genuinely believes he is – a vampire.

The story that The Transfiguration tells is a heavy one; themes of sexual assault, self-harm and suicide are strong throughout, but there is also wonderful, intimate chemistry between Eric Ruffin and Chloe Levine, who plays Sophie, Milo’s love interest. Their connection is sweet and juxtaposing that with the bloodcurdling horror that comes is an inspired choice.

Pontypool (2008)


Credit: Kaleidoscope Film Distribution

Pontypool is terrifying because yours truly would be dead within minutes if this really happened. The film depicts a zombie virus that spreads like the plague, but there’s a catch. It doesn’t require any bodily fluids to spread, just words. That’s right, you get infected by hearing certain words.

Arguably, Pontypool is more of a comedy, but there is something primal about words being the source of infection. It’s a clever metaphor that seems to have only gained relevance since the film’s premiere in 2008. Stephen McHattie carries the film handsomely on his shoulders.

My Little Eye (2002)

my little eye

Credit: Universal Pictures

There’s always a film that your entire class is buzzing about. Someone’s parents rented it, their older sibling watched it while they were out, and the next thing you know the whole school is buzzing about the scariest, freakiest film ever made. For me, that film was 2002’s My Little Eye.

The mystery around it proved to be more effective than the film itself, but it’s still a nifty slice of early noughties horror. Made when Big Brother was at the height of its popularity, the film finds a group of people taking place in a similar programme, only to find out they’re part of a much more sinister game. Come for young Bradley Cooper, stay for the outlandish horror.

Spring (2014)


Credit: Metrodome Distribution

We at Film Stories are big fans of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who have just taken the job to direct the new Daredevil series. Their sophomore feature Spring remains one of their most beautiful, haunted films.

Evan has just lost her mother and to keep from spiralling completely out of control, he goes travelling. He meets Louise, a beautiful woman, who turns out to be an immortal, Lovecraftian creature. Spring might occasionally dip into sentimentality, but the mixture of romance and horror is a positively dizzying one. The ending will divide opinions, but it’s also achingly romantic.

The Nightmare (2015)

the nightmare

Credit: Altitude

Let’s mix things up a bit. While every other entry on this list is a work of fiction, The Nightmare is a documentary – and most of the terror comes from blurring the lines of what is real and what is not. Director Rodney Ascher explores night terrors and the hallucinations that often accompany bouts of being unable to move or speak.

Ascher recreates the terrifying ordeals his subjects describe in detail and while you can dismiss all the other entries in this list as pure fantasy, The Nightmare never lets you forget that this is very real, and very horrifying. It’s a film that will keep you up at night – night terrors or not.

Slither (2006)


Credit: Universal Pictures

Before James Gunn went on to make the Guardians Of The Galaxy trilogy for Marvel and helm the newly-formed DC Studios, he made his name with a bunch of terrible horror films, most of them in very bad taste. His 2006 feature Slither is probably the most mainstream film he made early on in his career and it still requires you to have a pretty strong stomach.

In the film, a small town is infected by a slithering, slimy alien parasite. The impressive cast includes Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Gregg Henry – and Gunn himself makes a cameo too!

Leatherface (2017)


Credit: Lionsgate

There’s no beating the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Tobe Hooper’s film is a certified classic, but if you’re after some extreme gore, may we recommend Leatherface? It’s directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo who have already made an appearance on this list, but Leatherface is so ultra gory that we just had to include it.

The film serves as an origin story for the titular villain, but the real star of the show is a brilliantly deranged Lili Taylor as Leatherface’s mother. The film was a clear attempt to restore the franchise to its former glory and while that largely failed, Leatherface is certainly worth a watch.

Blue Ruin (2013)

blue ruin

Credit: Picturehouse Entertainment

Blue Ruin is another one that is perhaps more a thriller than it is a horror, but Jeremy Saulnier’s sophomore feature is gloriously grim stuff, earning its place on this list. Macon Blair’s Dwight, a drifter living out of his car, sets out to avenge his parents after their murderer is released from prison.

This is visceral, economic and focused filmmaking from Saulnier and Blair’s finest role to date. The violence is appropriately brutal, but it’s the heavy, paranoia-laced mood of the film that really lingers in your mind well after the credits have stopped rolling.

A Ghost Waits (2020)

a ghost waits

Credit: Arrow Films

Most of the entries on this list are designed to shock or traumatise you. Adam Stovall’s A Ghost Waits is like a warm hug on a cold winter’s day. It’s a singular, unique take on the haunted house movie and one that never aims to scare, but to comfort.

MacLeod Andrews plays Jack, a man hired to fix up houses for new tenants. His job is complicated when the latest house he works on turns out to be haunted. Natalie Walker Muriel, a ghost, is a professional haunter, and what follows is an exceptionally quirky romance between the two. Think Romeo and Juliet but with (even) more death.

The Incident (2011)

the incident

Credit: IFC Films

We’ll wrap up this list with another brutal entry. The Incident, which is also known as Asylum Blackout, follows three friends working in a prison kitchen when a riot breaks out during a storm. Alexandre Courtès’ film is lean and mean and it really nails that claustrophobic atmosphere as our trio tries to stay alive.

It doesn’t exactly reinvent the genre, but there are some really special set pieces here. The human body is violated in many ways; someone gets their nose bitten off and heads come off in frequent fashion. There’s also a pretty grim twist – but you’ll need to watch the film to find out what it is.

There’s plenty more brilliant horror films out there that haven’t been seen by enough people so please, let us know your favourites in the comments! Make sure to also check out our tips on the best horror films that you can stream right now!

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