10 Great Horror Movies You Probably Missed

February 18th, 2010 by Ben

Christian Toto is a veteran journalist and film critic whose movie reviews are heard on WTOP radio and “The Dennis Miller Show.” He blogs on film at What Would Toto Watch?

Horror fans can’t be pleased about the state of the blood-soaked genre. Hollywood seems more interested in cranking out tepid remakes and reboots of classic horror movies (see the upcoming Nightmare on Elm Street) rather than surprising us with something original.

The shock success of Paranormal Activity in 2009 stands as a rare – and welcome – exception.

Plenty of smart and creepy horror films have come out in recent years, but there’s a good chance they never played at a theater near you. No matter, since the DVD shelves are a fine place to discover some buried horror treasures.

Consider these 10 films the next time you’re in the mood for a good fright and want to steer clear of another mindless slasher film.

1. Splinter (2008)

The setup is simple. Two couples seek shelter in a convenience store after someone – or something – attacks them. The dynamic between the couples provides its own sense of danger, but so, too, does the mysterious creature slamming itself against the store’s window front trying to break in. The clever visual effects leave audiences unsure exactly what’s trying to gobble up the protagonists, and you’ll be rooting for the film’s heavy, played with gusto by Shea Whigham.

2. Eden Lake (2008)

This British chiller follows a couple eager for a romantic camping trip. What they stumble onto is a pack of unruly teenagers who terrorize them at every turn. Lake doesn’t need monsters or vampires to leave us breathless. It’s the thought of everyday kids running amok that does the trick.

3. Rogue (2007)

A killer croc movie? Pass. Not so fast. This Aussie import provides some beautiful scenery and expertly crafted thrills. The attractive cast doesn’t hurt, including Michael Vartan of Alias fame and the under-rated Radha Mitchell (Melinda and Melinda)

4. The House of the Devil (2009)

This 2009 film paid homage to the early ’80s horror movies with one big difference. It’s actually smarter and more satisfying than the films from the time period it’s emulating. A broke college student decides to take a babysitting gig in a creepy old mansion. Bad move. Fun movie. Just be patient. The film starts very slowly and takes some time before it reaches the boiling point.

5. Shuttle (2008)

This shocker is less a pure horror film than a nail-biting thriller, but there’s enough blood spilled to qualify for the genre. A group of travelers make their way onto an airport shuttle to deliver them back home. The shuttle bus driver has other plans. You might not believe some of the twists that soon unfold, but the film barrels forward at a breakneck pace.

6. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

The slasher genre gets skewered in this sly horror comedy. A wannabe serial killer named Leslie Vernon hires a documentary crew to shoot the dawn of his killing spree. This no-budget affair offers some funny observations on the horror genre and manages to be creepy as Leslie goes to work.

7. Wolf Creek (2005)

This one is unsettling, plain and simple. Three travelers, lost in the Australian Outback, run into a charismatic local who knows the lay of the land. That’s all that can be shared about the film without giving too much away. Director Greg McLean, who is also responsible for Rogue, takes his sweet time before unleashing the evil. But when it comes … it hits about as hard as a horror film can. Not for the squeamish.

8. Pontypool (2008)

This sleeper might be the most cerebral shocker on this list. It’s the tale of a wizened disc jockey trying to maintain his cool as a zombie-like outbreak spreads across the town. Don’t expect blood and guts mayhem, just psychological terror anchored by a great lead performance from Stephen McHattie.

9. The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

Horror fans couldn’t wait for this feature, an adaptation of one of author Clive Barker‘s creepier tales. But the film’s studio rushed it into but a few theaters before it raced to DVD. Train isn’t a classic by any means. The ending is a bit bloodless, dramatically speaking, but it’s one of the more brutal horror films in recent years, should that be your cup of joe. Vinnie Jones provides a terrifying screen presence as a passenger to be avoided at all costs.

10. Slither (2006)

Think horror-comedy and films like Shaun of the Dead and An American Werewolf in London rush to mind, and for good reason. But this no-nonsense thriller is a perky blend of laughter and gross-out moments. A meteor crashes to earth, bringing with it a creature eager to infiltrate a small Midwestern town. Firefly‘s Nathan Fillion finds the right tongue in cheek groove to make this romp a guiltless pleasure.

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