The 13th Floor

In Defense Of “Underrated” Horror Lists

As horror fans, we know all too well the feeling of scrolling through our Facebook or Twitter feeds and seeing lists pop up that boast “The 10 Most Underrated Horror Movies You’ve Never Heard Of,” only to click through and see titles like FROM BEYOND and MAY included. “These titles are not underrated!” we scream out to no one but our laptop screens. “I, and many horror fans like me, have loved these movies for years and talk about them constantly!” When a large section of the internet talks about underrated horror, what they’re really talking about is just plain horror. They just may not know the genre well enough to understand the difference.

There is a disconnect between what we fans talk about when we talk about horror and what the “outside world” talks about, and it has led to a stigma around the use of the word underrated. Just seeing it mentioned in the title of a piece about horror movies can cause our bodies to tense, steeling ourselves against the inevitable title inclusion that’s going to set us off and seemingly diminish a lifetime of loving horror movies by suggesting that EXORCIST III or PHANTASM (both actual titles from actual “underrated” lists…just Google it) aren’t respected or beloved enough. We fans can feel frustrated because we feel like our voices aren’t being heard – we are being represented by articles and lists that, frankly, don’t represent us.

But “underrated” is not a dirty word. We horror fans just have to reclaim it.

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I get it. When I see an underrated list posted on 95% of the sites online, the only reason I ever click on it is to see which movies everyone I know has loved for years is being called “underrated” by an author whose genre bona fides may extend only as far as liking THE CONJURING and watching THE WALKING DEAD every week. Those are good things! But an authority on horror they do not make. And the cumulative result of seeing so many of these lists popping up around the internet is that I start to resent the very idea of “underrated” lists. I shouldn’t. None of us should. Underrated lists are not the enemy. Bad underrated lists might be.

The truth is, most underrated lists have their hearts in the right place, trying to bring new attention to movies that need it. Unlike its poisonous counterpart, the “overrated” list — you know, the one that exists just to point out that you or everyone is wrong for liking something and confirm the writer’s superiority — the informed underrated list hopes to turn us on to a gem we might never have seen, or, at the very least, get us to reassess a horror movie we once dismissed or ignored. Without a segment of horror fandom beating the “underrated” drum for several years, it’s possible we wouldn’t be getting deluxe Blu-ray releases for titles like PRINCE OF DARKNESS or SHOCKER or any of the movies getting released by Scream Factory and the other boutique labels contributing to the Golden Age of horror home video through which we are currently living. A lot of the films we now consider to be classics were, at one time, being championed as underrated. Some of them still are. I’m looking at you, GHOSTHOUSE.

One of the reasons I love sites like this one is because when they publish a list of “great horror movies you’ve never heard of,” I know that there’s a good chance I will actually have never heard of them. I was not aware of THE NIGHT BRINGS CHARLIE or LEMORA: A CHILD’S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL before reading about them here, and the fact that I now plan to seek them out is evidence that underrated lists can do a lot of good. You just have to know which ones to trust. That may require some extra effort or additional digging on your part, but that’s part of the fun of being a horror fan – the more movies you check off your list, the deeper you need to delve to keep chasing the dragon.

So hopefully we can learn to embrace the idea of “underrated” and not treat it as something that’s obvious or beneath us as dedicated horror fans. Sure, those bogus lists are always going to exist (I don’t want to call you out by name, incredibly popular website, but contrary to what your list claims, I’m almost positive that THE HAUNTING and SUSPIRIA are not “underrated”). We can’t let that taint the spirit of the word. As someone who loves to champion the orphaned or unloved horror film, I will continue to defend the term “underrated” as a way of bringing new eyes to a movie that deserves it. Besides, even bad underrated lists can still do some good. If one of these otherwise-obvious underrated lists gets just one new person to check out something like THE FUNHOUSE, all will be right with the world.

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