I’ve found many lists around that gather the “best unknown horror movies”, but I don’t believe that most the films on those lists are really ‘unknown’. So I decided that the best way to put together this list is to use the number of users that rated a film on IMDb as a gauge. For the purposes of this list, ‘unknown’ will be defined as ‘less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb’ (if you do your research you’ll realize this is a hard number to meet, even Rawhead Rex has over 1,000 ratings). Now, if you’re reading this list sometime in the future and notice that one of these has more than 1,000 ratings, then I’ve done my job and stirred some interest. If you have seen all the films on this list then my hat is off to you. Without further ado, I present my list of the best unknown horror movies.
Top 10 Best Unknown Horror Movies
10. Open House (1987)
Open House is a lost and overlooked 80’s slasher. It’s the story of a killer that appears to target female real-estate agents exclusively. Scream queen Adrienne Barbeau stars as a real-estate agent trying to catch the maniac before he gets to her. The plot is nothing groundbreaking, but the effects are well done and the film is a great watch. For that reason, it certainly belongs on this list. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a DVD release of this film. If anyone is aware of one, leave a comment. But you can usually find the VHS at least.
9. Creatures From the Abyss (1994) – a.k.a. Plankton
Creatures From the Abyss is a mid-90’s film that is more reminiscent of an 80’s monster movie. In fact, I can’t help but compare it to The Evil Dead (1981). Now I am by no means saying that it is as great as The Evil Dead, because the quality of the acting, dialogue, and story line is nowhere close. So here’s my comparison: Creatures From the Abyss is a similarly campy story of possession…but not demon possession…fish possession. The poster shown here is actually the DVD cover for the Shriek Show DVD release, which can be found in their Mutant Monsters Triple Feature. Take my word for it and check this film out.
8. Girly (1970) – a.k.a. Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny, & Girly
Girly is a strange 70’s dysfunctional-family horror film somewhat in the shadow of Spider Baby (1968). A family without a father-figure kidnaps passing travelers and forces them to become part of the family. If they refuse or escape, they are killed. It’s not an original story, but for fans of Spider Baby or similar movies, this is a great watch. To be honest, I was surprised to see that it had less than 400 ratings on IMDb. There’s a few DVDs as well.
7. The Devil’s Nightmare (1971)
Long before Se7en there was The Devil’s Nightmare, in which tourists to an ancient castle meet their demise via the seven deadly sins. However, that comparison is not entirely accurate because this is not a serial killer trying to make a point. It’s cheesy, creative, and a hell of a lot of fun. If you like weird 70’s horror, this is exactly what you’re looking for. This hidden gem can easily be found in several public domain sets, like the Pure Terror 50 movie pack.
6. Night Train to Terror (1985)
Night Train to Terror starts out as a music video, then the plot reveals itself and we find ourselves listening to God and the Devil exchange stories. And the movie is just as strange as that premise makes it sound. Though I can’t figure out how the stories tie together, they are all thoroughly entertaining. This is another overlooked film that can be found on a few public domain sets, like the Drive-In 50 movie pack.
5. Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1968)
The second entry in the Filipino Blood Island trilogy is Mad Doctor of Blood Island. Although the entire trilogy is unknown, this is the best of the three. It starts with the ‘green blood oath’ and contains everything from mad scientists to killer trees. This campy gem is one that you’ll all want to see. Thanks to Alpha Video it’s available on DVD.
4. The Corpse Grinders (1971)
There is no shortage of cheese in Ted V. Mikels’ work, and The Corpse Grinders may just be his best. It’s an absurd premise that makes for an equally absurd film. But what other movie let’s you in on this little unknown secret: when you ground up human corpses to cats, they acquire a taste for it and become little flesh-eating monsters. It can fairly easily be found on DVD.
3. Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971)
The fact that Short Night of Glass Dolls has less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb really surprises me. This is not only Aldo Lado’s best film, but it certainly rises through the ranks to one of the top Italian giallos. For that reason, I can’t believe that it isn’t more popular. Thankfully, both Anchor Bay and Blue Underground (who likely has done the best job at perfecting DVD transfers) have released excellent DVDs (I recommend the Blue Underground one, personally). If you enjoy giallos, like those of Mario Bava and Umberto Lenzi, absolutely see this movie.
2. Night of the Seagulls (1975)
If you’ve read my Blind Dead reviews, you already know this is my favorite of the series. Night of the Seagulls is a brilliantly atmospheric film that portrays a community that has become accustomed to the ritual sacrifice of virgins to the Templars. I’ll agree that these films are certainly not to all tastes, but the series is absolutely spectacular in my opinion. So at least give Night of the Seagulls a chance. Thankfully they have all received perfect DVD transfers by Blue Underground. In fact, the best part of my horror movie collection is the killer Blind Dead box set.
1. Messiah of Evil (1973)
The number one of the ‘best unknown horror movies’ is certainly Messiah of Evil. This creative zombie film is far overlooked, and I can’t figure out why. Excellent tension and atmosphere put this film far above the films that it is generally lumped with. Since it is so underrated however, it is very easy to get a hold of. Like several other films on this list, it is available in a few public domain sets, like the Chilling Classics 50 movie set.