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Top 10 Underrated Films That Will Give You The Creeps

Listverse Staff

Halloween is fast approaching, and we here at Listverse like to get in the mood early. We think you do too, since you’re reading this, and are we ever here to help. Here are some films which you may not have given a second thought to, but that you won’t soon forget.

10Stir of Echoes (1999)

Starring: Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe
Director: David Koepp

While it failed to make a splash in theaters, Stir of Echoes is an original, supremely creepy horror gem based on a story by the legendary Richard Matheson. After being hypnotized at a party, everyday lunkhead Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) begins seeing and hearing strange and disturbing things, all compelling him to uncover an awful secret about his close-knit neighborhood.

This is only the second directorial effort from David Koepp, one of the most successful screenwriters of all time. He’s responsible for Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, among many others; Stir of Echoes is perhaps his most overlooked film, with fine performances and an utterly haunting story.

9The Gift (2000)

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi
Director: Sam Raimi

Speaking of Raimi, his last effort before diving into the superhero world with both feet is a remarkable exercise in restrained, slowly building tension. The story of a widowed small-town psychic (Cate Blanchett) who becomes convinced that the town bully is also a murderer, The Gift features superb acting from Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi.

Also, and without hyperbole, this film features the absolute best performance of Keanu Reeves’ career. He is nearly unrecognizable and completely convincing in his role, which goes about as far against type as it was possible for him to go. It is stunning, and will make you see Reeves in a whole new light.

8You’re Next (2011)

Starring: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci
Director: Adam Wingard

Aside from a jarring opening, You’re Next spends most of its first act establishing a family in conflict, trying to navigate their reunion at a rural vacation home. You’ll probably be wondering where the scares will come from right up until the moment when all hell breaks loose, and from then on, the film does not let up.

One of the most nerve-wracking horror films of the last decade, You’re Next is the most assured feature from director Adam Wingard, who also made the excellent psychological thriller The Guest, and whose latest project (no pun intended) is the upcoming Blair Witch.

7Frailty (2001)

Starring: Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey
Director: Bill Paxton

The directorial debut from veteran actor Bill Paxton, Frailty is designed to get under the skin by forcing the viewer to question the narrative being presented. It is told largely from the point of view of Fenton Meiks (McConaughey), who in the film’s opening arrives at the police station to claim that his brother, who recently committed suicide, had been the “God’s Hand” serial killer sought by the police.

This is only because- as revealed in flashback- the boys had been raised by a violent, delusional fanatic (Paxton) who believed that God had appointed his family to kill “demons” on Earth- which, of course, look just like normal people. The tense and twisty narrative will leave you unsettled and off balance until the end, which… well, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

6The Mist (2007)

Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden
Director: Frank Darabont

This criminally underrated gem, adapted from a novella by the great Stephen King, finds an ordinary man going to extreme measures when an oppressive mist rolls into town, covering everything and bringing with it… things. Horrifying, slimy things that are very hungry.

Thomas Jane is brilliant in the lead, and Marcia Gay Harden is chilling as a religious fanatic who begins to seriously divide the survivors gathered in a supermarket. The ending differs dramatically from King’s story, a change of which King himself wholeheartedly approved, and there is no warning strong enough for this- it is one of the biggest cinematic gut punches ever.

51408 (2007)

Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Mikael Hafstrom

Another wildly underrated King adaptation from 2007, 1408 fleshes out one of the master’s most surreal and disturbing short stories. Published in the collection Everything’s Eventual, “1408”- at under 30 pages- didn’t necessarily have the makings of a great film, but this adaptation defied expectations with its sublimely creepy imagery and a great performance from John Cusack.

Mike Enslin (Cusack) is a hack author who writes cheap paperbacks about haunted houses, truck stops and hotels. The subject of a chapter in his latest book, room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel in New York City, gives Mike more to write about than he ever could have possibly bargained for. Delightfully unsettling, 1408 is one of the better King adaptations and is criminally underseen.

4Joy Ride (2001)

Starring: Paul Walker, Leelee Sobieski
Director: John Dahl

Critically praised but a flop upon release, 2001’s Joy Ride features the late Paul Walker and Steve Zahn as brothers on a cross country trip who, in playing a careless prank over their CB radio, run afoul of a terrifying and murderous trucker. The story takes some interesting and unexpected turns (no pun intended, really) and is helped by some great performances, especially that of Zahn.

Journeyman director John Dahl hasn’t done much before or since to indicate his deftness with this type of story, but this suspenseful and well-acted film fires on all cylinders. Television and film powerhouse J.J. Abrams co-wrote the screenplay, which probably helped a lot.

3Session 9 (2001)
$19.99 Blu-ray

Starring: Peter Mullan, David Caruso
Director: Brad Anderson

Session 9 is a fever dream, a hallucinatory, scary and tragic film of the type that sticks with you long after viewing. Director Brad Anderson, perhaps best known for his similarly disturbing 2004 film the Machinist, crafted a disorienting film that constantly forces the viewer to question what they’re seeing.

The story follows an asbestos removal crew working in an abandoned asylum, who begin to butt heads as one crew member obsessively listens to the taped sessions of a mysterious patient. We will reveal no further details. If you’re a fan of cerebral, mind-bending horror, this film deserves to be in your collection.

2Evil Dead (2013)

Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez
Director: Fede Alvarez

The recent wave of classic horror remakes has largely fallen flat, with one giant exception: among the middling Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street retreads, director Fede Alvarez’ revisiting of Sam Raimi’s classic Evil Dead stands as not only the best modern horror remake, but one of the very best horror films of the last 20 years.

It’s a familiar story: four friends staying at an old cabin read some demon-invoking passages from the wrong book, and have one hell of a night. The remake forgoes any semblance of the slapstick comedy with which Sam Raimi infused his originals, going straight for sheer pants-wetting terror. Expert practical special effects work heightens the realism, superb acting builds the tension, and the film’s insane final five minutes must be seen to be believed.

Alvarez’ latest work is the well-received 2016 shocker Don’t Breathe.

1In The Mouth Of Madness (1994)

Starring: Sam Neill, Jurgen Prochnow
Director: John Carpenter

No list of this type would be complete without the Master of Horror, John Carpenter, who has just as any underrated gems in his filmography as he does classic milestones. With 1994’s In The Mouth Of Madness, inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Carpenter created his most over-the-top disturbing work, complemented by a brilliantly unhinged performance by the great Sam Neill.

Hired to track down reclusive author Sutter Cane (based heavily on Carpenter’s good friend Stephen King), whose stories have an unsettling effect on some of his fans, insurance investigator John Trent (Neill) struggles to hold his grip on reality when his search seems to lead him right into one of Cane’s novels. Masterfully shot and directed, In The Mouth Of Madness is one of the most underrated horror films of all time- John Carpenter operating at peak lunacy. Enjoy!

Listverse Staff

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