Thursday, October 12, 2017

Riske Business: 12 More Underrated Horror Movies

by Adam Riske
I haven’t done a Scary Movie Month underrated list in a few years. I owe you one.

Click here and here for my first two underrated horror columns!

Asylum – I’m a sucker for horror anthologies, so of course Amicus productions holds a special place in my heart. I’m working my way through their output, with The House that Dripped Blood and Vault of Horror up next. My favorites are Tales from the Crypt and Asylum, which boasts an amazing cast (Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Charlotte Rampling, Patrick “My Trauma Faces Scare Adam Riske” Magee), a script from Robert Bloch (Psycho) and a great wrap-around conceit for an anthology that turns the whole movie into a whodunit as well. Unlike most anthologies, I think every segment in Asylum works, the best being the last one, “Mannikins of Horror,” which is just nuts.
Bad Moon – Here was my favorite new discovery of Scary Movie Month 2016. It really caught me off guard. While modest in runtime and scale, Bad Moon is a great little werewolf tale of a cursed man (Michael Pare) trying to hide his new impulses from his sister (Muriel Hemingway) and nephew (Mason Gamble). The film features a great movie dog, ambient outdoorsy atmosphere perfect for the fall season and some awesome practical werewolf effects and gore.

Blood Feast – This could have easily gone to The Wizard of Gore, but that Herschell Gordon Lewis film is probably better known so I went with Blood Feast, which is equally gory, crazy and fun. Lewis’ films (of which I’ve seen a few) are ones I don’t want to like but wind up breaking through my defenses because of their humor. Blood Feast was the first one I saw and might be my favorite of all. I love how the feast preparation is given so much emphasis. Ingredients notwithstanding, this is a great cooking movie.
Burying the Ex – I can recognize this isn’t Joe Dante at the top of his form (and with budget limitations), but Burying the Ex is a movie I’ve really grown to love in the past couple years. Part of it is because it’s an upbeat horror comedy that loves the genre. Part of it is because it’s a little L.A. horror fan travelogue experience perfect for when I don’t have the cash for a weekend visit of my own. Part of it is because it’s a sweet romance and I’m a sucker for relationship movies. Most importantly, though, it’s a nice little picture (that was for you, Joe Dante) where Anton Yelchin isn’t being put through the wringer. He made better movies, but this is how I like to best remember him.

Dark Waters – I stayed for the first half of the 2017 Music Box of Horrors and Dark Waters was the pleasant surprise of the fest for me. What starts as a slow, not entirely involving religious horror movie becomes a moody, hypnotic blend of so many things I love like Lovecraft adaptations to Clive Barker to ‘80s era (era) Stuart Gordon Full Moon movies, etc. There’s even more than a little of The Wicker Man (the classic one) thrown in there. It’s a descent into craziness as a young woman (Louise Salter, aka British Neve Campbell) visits a remote island to solve a mystery about her father and a creepy monastery. I liked this movie so much I went out into the lobby at the Music Box to buy it on Blu-ray before the end credits were even over.

Deathdream – I’ve only seen Deathdream once when it was an overnight movie during a 24-hour Music Box Massacre marathon, but it riveted me even in that late hour. Bob Clark (Black Christmas) really knew what he was doing when it came to horror movies, and this one is unusually sad and moving (it is all about the post-war effects on soldiers and families of those who served in Vietnam) while also delivering the requisite genre goods. One aspect that has stuck out for me after all these years’ is John Marley’s (The Godfather) great performance as the fallen soldier’s father. I want to watch this one again, especially after revisiting Jacob’s Ladder earlier this month. Both are great movies.
From Beyond – Even though I’ve never met anyone who dislikes From Beyond, I still feel like it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s my favorite Stuart Gordon movie and one of my go-tos when I need an ‘80s horror fix. The movie has a fun, pervy haunted house vibe and a killer ensemble with a fun Jeffrey Combs, an amazing Barbara Crampton and a sublime Ken Foree, who in one scene is cooking what looks like oversized gefilte fish balls (?) I need to know what he was cooking! I never could figure that out and it looks kind of delicious. Fun fact: I met Stuart Gordon at a Music Box Massacre once and told him I enjoyed his movies. He asked about my Second City hoodie and I told him I was taking classes. He seemed interested and wanted to know more. I got nervous because for some reason I thought he might give me a job (I don’t know why I thought that) and then spent the next two minutes nervously telling him that I was not a star at Second City and he could do better because I was shit at acting.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – I saw this movie in IMAX 3D on opening night and was beside myself with joy the entire time. The action is hyper, it’s funny, Jeremy Renner gives a fascinating performance that is equal parts game and embarrassed and Gemma Arterton delivers the performance of her career. She’s perfect as Gretel. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s Edward the Troll. If you don’t love Edward the Troll, we can never be friends. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is the sequel to Army of Darkness I always wanted. This movie rules!

Hellbound: Hellraiser II – I like the first Hellraiser a lot, but I love Hellbound: Hellraiser II! The depiction of hell in this movie is bananas, the teenager girl (played by Imogen Boorman) looks exactly like Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire and Ashley Laurence has great moments, where she’s hilariously making deals and negotiating with the Centobites, who, imho, are very receptive to feedback and adjusting terms of their ultimatums. The Clive Barker universe is so in my wheelhouse.
Sleepwalkers – Along with Thinner, this is my favorite underrated Stephen King property (he wrote the screenplay here) and my favorite Mick Garris film. Sleepwalkers is an absolute blast. It’s so funny and weird and entertaining with ultra-game performances (Brian Krause, Alice Krige, Dan Martin as the funniest police officer in a ‘90s horror movie, Madchen Amick doing the movie theater dance) and tons of cameos from awesome horror icons (John Landis, Joe Dante, Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper). If you’re looking for a fun horror movie to put on when you have people over in October, Sleepwalkers is a great choice.

Son of Dracula – I saw this on a lark while watching Svengoolie and was taken aback by how sad and emotionally affecting it was for me. In many Universal Monsters films, the young lovers’ subplot is a chore, but here the relationship between Frank (Robert Paige) and Katherine (Louise Allbritton) is so interesting I actually got annoyed when Dracula (Lon Chaney, Jr.) returned to the scene. Son of Dracula is, at its core, about a doomed couple who want different things and how that’s a force stronger than their mutual love for each other. Story of my life.

Urban Legend – Until a recent re-watch, I wasn’t a fan of Urban Legend, but coming back to it away from the immediate wake of the Scream era (era) helps. The performances aren’t the best (although I appreciated Jared Leto’s off-brand “normal” performance) and the movie has endless stupid plot developments, but Urban Legend gave me a ‘90s teen nostalgia rush I wasn’t expecting. Plus, there are many little roles by performers I like (Danielle Harris, Robert Englund, Joshua Jackson with bleached blonde hair), the hook of urban legends sets up some creative and fun kills and the talking killer scene at the end has an actor/actress (no spoilers) that is so over-the-top (“Lucky for you, Ms. THANG…”) it becomes transcendent. Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

Happy Scary Movie Month everyone!


  1. Have you ever seen Blood Feast 2? It really amps up the gore and overall goofiness, basically becoming a comedy with some horror elements thrown in. It even has a cameo from John Waters as a creepy priest.

  2. Arrow is releasing a special edition blu-ray of Blood Feast on October 24th. “Looks like it’s gonna be another one of those long hard ones!”

  3. What a great and fun list! Sleepwalkers is so fun I got pretty upset at Chris Stuckmann for his terrible review of it. I finally came around to forgiving him and now watch his videos again. Don't push it again Chris....

    Glad to see Burying the Ex getting love too. It's a sweet movie.

  4. I really couldn't get into Dark Waters. Had I not been watching it at the Music Box, I probably would've turned it off. I liked a lot of the imagery, but ultimately I walked out not feeling like I had watched a movie at all.

  5. Fans of Blood Feast should also check out Blood Diner, which is a half-tribute half-parody of Blood Feast, and is one of the craziest movies you'll ever see.

  6. Interesting list. Adam.

    DEATHDREAM is a prime example of how the genre can be more than just frights and kills. The grief of the father character is palpable, and I remember the politics of the Vietnam War not being far from the surface.

    HELLBOUND is one of my watches this month. For some reason I was not receptive to the craziness you alluded to.
    Maybe I was not in the right mood for it.

    THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD is not quite at the same level as ASYLUM, but it was a fun watch. I did not like the first story much, but they get better. The last one is perfect horror comedy.

    BLOOD FEAST is one I have never warmed up to. Outside of H.G. Lewis' sexploitation films (The Alley Tramp is goofy fun), 2000 MANIACS is the only one I have liked.

  7. Hansel and Gretel is ridic in all the great Hansel's diabeeetus and insulin injections that work as a power up.

  8. Sleepwalkers is when I fell in love with Madchen Amick.

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