Halloween with the Dispatch: Ten underappreciated horror movies

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I was going to write a budget story. Really, I was.

But while I was waiting to get a detail confirmed, I found myself thinking about the best underappreciated horror movies.

This isn’t a list of the best horror movies, mind you. But if you’ve already seen Psycho, Alien, and that movie where the vampire sparkles, maybe we can help.

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Anyway, here’s the list of our favourite horror movies you might have missed. (Look for the budget story next week.)

The Invitation (2015)

According to Rotten Tomatoes, this is better than The Exorcist.

Ridiculous, I know. But while that ranking makes me despair for the state of film criticism and tomatoes, it’s also a testament to the impact of director Karyn Kusama’s terrifying dinner party movie.

The setup is simple: just a gathering of old friends at a nice house in the hills.

Picture it: you’re at a table with people you love . . . only you don’t know them anymore. And the more they talk about their lives, the more you wonder if you ever did. It works on the same principle as Invasion of the Body Snatchers but – if you know anyone who’s been radicalized one way or another – this one hits closer to home.

The gang’s all here. But oh how you wish they weren’t.

The Parallax View (1974)

So, you’re not scared of vampires, zombies or werewolves? But how about the government, man?

Made for people who have spent far more time than is healthy thinking about grassy knolls, this represents the pinnacle of director Alan J. Pakula’s paranoia films.

The film stars Warren Beatty as an implausibly good looking reporter who investigates a political assassination and finds the They the conspiracy-minded always suspected.

It turns out lone nuts fall from one big tree.

Invisible Agent (1942)

No, it’s not as iconic as The Invisible Man with Claude Rains, but it has its own charm.

The 1942 movie centres around the grandson of the original invisible man after he’s recruited by the government to use his family’s deep dark invisibility secret to help fight the Nazis.

Yes, the movie has flaws. But on the other hand, you get to watch Nazis get punched a lot.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

It’s a Dracula movie without a vampire.

Instead of a castle in Transylvania, there’s a mansion in Beverly Hills.

And inside that mansion, the air grows stale. Years pass. The aristocratic occupant eschews sunlight. She is unchanged, out of sync with the world, and thirsty for the stardom that once belonged to her.

Night of the Hunter (1955)

As a director, Charles Laughton was a one-trick pony. But what a trick it was.

Robert Mitchum stars as a conniving “preacher” with love tattooed on one hand, hate on the other, and greed in his heart.

There’s hidden money in town. The children know where it is. The bad man chases them. A few twists and turns aside, that’s the plot, but I don’t think anyone remembers the plot.

It’s not just that the bad man chases the children – it’s that he pursues them with the inevitability of a nightmare.

The Black Swan (2010)

Asked about the movie, my wife said: “It’s about ballerinas but it’s all messed up.”

There’s dance, liberation, hallucination, sex and Tchaikovsky.

Race With the Devil (1974)

It’s not the devil that’s scary in this movie. It’s the devil worshippers.

And who are the devil worshippers? Well, you just can’t tell and that’s the problem.

Drive-in dynamo director Jack Starrett ratchets up the tension with shots that linger just a little bit longer than they should. Was that gas station attendant just doing his job, or . . . is he in on it too?

The movie also features a sequence in which the great Warren Oates tries to outrun a swarming cult of Satanists in a Winnebago.

The Devil’s Advocate (1997)

The devil is real in this one. And he practises law.

Director Taylor Hackford does everything right. The courtroom scenes are strong. The depiction of those small, selfish choices that can ruin a marriage are real.

It’s a very good movie heading into the third act. That’s when Al Pacino goes for the gusto.

Pacino sets celluloid and everything else ablaze in his magnificently over the top performance.

“Oh, I have so many names.”


“Call me Dad.”

Creepshow (1982)

Like many anthology horror movies, this one’s hit-and-miss.

“The Crate” is particularly slow and tedious. But in the last chapter, we get to the good stuff with a story called: “They’re Creeping Up on You.”

It’s about a titan of industry who views the rest of humanity as insects. And it’s about the night he gets what he deserves.

“They’re Creeping Up on You” is a bit like that portrait of Kramer on Seinfeld. You’re repelled. But you cannot look away.

The Innocents (1961)

Sixty years after its release, this adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw remains one of the finest horror movies ever made.

The story revolves around a governess looking after troubled children at a country estate. It’s been done before and since, but never quite so well.

Is it a psychological thriller? A ghost story?

Either way, you’ll sleep with the lights on.

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