Sommerleigh Pollonais – Horror Head Writer
“It’s always about timing. If it’s too soon, no one understands. If it’s too late everyone’s forgotten.”
Anna Wintour said that (for the non-readers out there, that’s the lady Miranda Priestly of The Devil Wears Prada is based on) and, while she may have been talking about fashion when she said this, it applies equally to movies.
A great example is The Thing from legendary filmmaker John Carpenter. Initially this film bombed hard and critics hated it. Now it’s considered one of the greatest horror movies ever made (and my personal favorite of all time. Seriously it’s yet to be dethroned!).
But I’m not here to talk underrated movies my darlings. Oh no no no! That would be much too easy. I’m here to take a look at some not-so-well-known movies that somehow didn’t get the love they deserved AND starred A-List Actors! See? I always go the extra mile for you guys.
Here are my TOP 5 UNDERRATED HORROR/THRILLERS STARRING A-LISTERS:
#5 The Woman in Black (starring Danielle Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds)
It’s truly tough to do a good ghost story. Most movies go the lazy route of bombarding you with jump scares and loud noises, which only (and let’s be honest here) scare the horror noobs in the audience. The Woman in Black rises above that with eerie visuals, creepy atmosphere and those subtle moments of “I-swear-I-saw-something-there” that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Add to that a solid performance by Daniel Radcliffe, who has proven over the year he’s no one-trick pony, and you have an overlooked gem of gothic horror that deserves a lot more praise than it gets.
As for the sequel? Well, let’s just pretend that never happened and just re-watch the first film instead.
#4 Stir of Echoes (starring Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Morrison)
So for all you youngsters out there, lemme take you back in time (no DeLorean required) to the age of the Double Feature. It’s when movie theatres used to show two movies for the price of one and it’s how I found out that sometimes the movie you never heard of could be ten times better than the one you ACTUALLY came out to see!
This was how I was introduced to Stir of Echoes and boy was it an experience in fear! I knew nada about this movie going in (I was actually there to see The Haunting starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and friends) but while the main attraction turned out to be a pile of dried-up turds, Stir of Echoes was a fantastically frightening supernatural thriller, with an engaging mystery unfolding and the always dependable Kevin Bacon at the helm.
I think I know how this one got lost in the shuffle, as it came out the same year as The Sixth Sense, a movie with similar tones and a way bigger box office draw in Bruce Willis. So if you missed out on this one, and you thought Sixth Sense was the shiznit, definitely give it a go. Because in my humble opinion, it’s equally enjoyable and terrifying.
#3 Identity (starring John Cusack, Ray Liotta)
How the hell this movie didn’t get more love is beyond me! It’s Twilight Zone meets Friday the 13th meets another movie I won’t name because if you haven’t seen this film, I’ll be giving away the entire plot twist.
John Cusack has been dipping his toes in the horror/thriller genre for years now, with varying degrees of success. 1408 was stellar while Cell made me want to gouge my eyes out. Thankfully Identity was one of his winners. It hits the ground running from the first act and never really lets up. And not only does it star an A-lister like Cusack, we get a bunch of well-known actors like Ray Liotta, Rebecca De Mornay, Clea DuVall and Amanda Peet, just to name a few.
Now I haven’t seen this one in years and. not since the first viewing really. But I enjoyed the hell out of it and with all the downtime (movie-wise) that I have, now might be the perfect time to check back in with this fun filled thrill ride.
#2 Frailty (starring Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton)
Just like Stir of Echoes, this movie came out of left field and smacked me dead in the face (rude!). But like a masochist at a bondage convention, I enjoyed every minute of it!
It’s one of those movies where the main character is telling you a story, with said character being played by Mr. “Alright Alright Alright” himself, Matt McConaughey. Back then this wasn’t the kind of movie you would see him in, so you have no idea what to expect. And because the story is coming from one person’s point of view, you find yourself thinking you have it all figured out, right up until the big reveal in the end. And boy is it a doozy of a reveal!
The late, great Bill Paxton also has a big part to play in this film, and not just as one of the actors – Frailty was his directorial debut and the man smashed it. It’s a shame he didn’t get to direct more movies after this because he did an awesome job, and I would’ve loved to see what else he could’ve brought to the horror genre.
Honourable Mention: Predators (starring Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Laurence Fishburne)
Stripped down to the bare necessities with no unnecessary plotlines? A different planet? Multiple Predators, entertaining characters and an R-rating?! I don’t care what anyone says. Predators is THE BEST sequel of the Predator franchise ever! Fight me!
#1 Strange Days (starring Ralph Fiennes, Angela Basset, Juliette Lewis)
Let me list the levels of greatness connected with this movie for you.
1. It was directed by Kathryn Bigelow and was written by James Cameron
2. It has the combined star power of Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Vincent D’Onofrio and Tom Sizemore (just to name a few)
3. It’s the perfect blend of film noir and science fiction with some thriller thrown in for good measure. Not an easy set of genres to pull together effortlessly, matching the quality of similar flicks like Blade Runner, The Terminator and 12 Monkeys.
4. The story is as impactful today as it was when it came out way back in 1995, with themes of racism, abuse of power by police, rape and cybercrime all resonating in ways that make this a timeless piece of cinema.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg folks. Underrated is an understatement when it comes to Strange Days, and it always shocks me when people say they’ve never seen this movie. I can’t stop singing its praises and I highly recommend giving it a go if you’ve missed out on this one. It’s not an easy movie to watch, but it’s a damn good one!
These flicks may not have received the kudos they deserved when they first dropped (I STILL can’t believe Strange Days only made $8 million at the Box Office) but the wonderful thing about films in general is they are timeless and there’s always a second chance to make a first impression.
Well, at least when it comes to movies. We humans need to nail THAT landing on the first try!
So any fans of these horror/thrillers? For my Top 5 Great Horror Movies You Missed Out On (Probably) you can click here.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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Great list (with the possible exception of Predators!), but the emphasis given to Strange Days’s Social Relevance actually makes me want to watch it less.