There are myriad reasons why some horror films don’t make a connection with moviegoers and in turn fail to live up to expectations set by the studios that financed them. Sometimes it’s because a movie simply isn’t good, but often a film’s lack of box office success can be attributed to circumstances beyond the filmmakers’ control: factors like lack of appropriate promotion, bad marketing, poorly-timed release dates and unduly harsh critical reception can work against an otherwise good film's success. There are countless well-made movies that do not succeed for one reason or another, and we think it’s a damn shame that the majority of movie fans wind up missing out on quality films.
Because we love an underdog story and love to advocate for the little guy, we ran a piece in November that celebrated five of our favorite underrated horror films; as it proved popular, we are back with a second installment. Check out part one here.
Below, we're showing our appreciation for four more of our favorite under-appreciated horror titles.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
This brilliant slasher film takes a very Meta approach to filmmaking; it’s sharp wit and self-awareness predated films like Cabin in the Woods and Detention by several years. Before the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is highly inventive, has several great cameos from genre film personalities, and although, at first glance, it seems like a run-of-the-mill slasher, it is anything but run-of-the-mill. The film’s theatrical release was a bit of a joke; it was released in one Hasidic neighborhood in New York to guarantee a review from some of the top critics in the New York area – namely to secure blurbs for the film’s DVD release. Had Behind the Mask been given a proper theatrical run and the associated promotion that goes along with, it would likely have a much larger fan base outside of the horror community.
Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things
Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is a classic Bob Clark film that predates the release of Black Christmas. Strangely, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things has never been given its due as the well-made horror film that it is. I suspect that Bob Clark making the film under the name Benjamin Clark prior to the advent of the Internet may have contributed to the films obscurity - as it didn’t provide for name recognition. But today, there is no good reason why the film does not have a larger fan base. Regardless of the reason the film has not really developed a substantial following, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is a lot of fun and a must see for nearly any fan of zombie films or macabre enthusiasts.
One of the most enticing films ever to feature a chainsaw, Pieces is a genre film classic. It has an ending that is so farcical and surreal that it still drops my jaw upon multiple repeat viewings. The film has a giallo-esque quality about it that keeps the viewer on their toes until the big reveal that lets the viewer know who the chainsaw-wielding maniac really is. The film is a bit cheesy in nature but that works perfectly with its grindhouse aesthetic. There are a few possible explanations as to why Pieces doesn’t have a larger following: it has been in and out of print several times in recent years and all of the film’s DVD releases have been by way of smaller distributors, which has quite possibly kept Pieces from garnering greater recognition with genre fans and mainstream audiences alike.
Humongous is a bizarre but fun horror film from the early 80s that has flown under the radar with a very small following. It follows a fairly formulaic pattern common to slasher films of its time but that doesn’t stop it from being an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes. There are a few things that may have led to this film being largely unappreciated: Humongous was released at a time when slasher pictures were a dime a dozen; it was not granted a U.S. DVD release until recently; and the film was shot using very poor lighting which resulted in a transfer that made the picture very difficult to see. Upon receiving a rerelease via Scorpion Releasing’s Katarina’s Nightmare Theatre, the film appears to have been digitally enhanced to brighten the picture and provide for a better viewing experience. Any slasher fan that hasn’t seen it should check it out.