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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014

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While you're waiting for "The Possession," check out these five underrated horror flicks.
While you're waiting for "The Possession," check out these five underrated horror flicks.

Five underrated horror movies

"The Possession," the new Sam Raimi-produced horror flick coming out this weekend, looks pretty solid. Then again, the same thing could have been said of "The Apparition" before audiences found out they could find more scares in "Diary of a Wimpy Kid."

Horror movies are often boom or bust, and at $10 a ticket, it's an expensive gamble. So, in case this latest exorcism chiller falls on its pea-soup vomiting face, here are five underrated horror films that you can watch in the comfort of your own home (probably with the lights on).

"The Descent"

This terrifying 2005 British horror saga about a posse of female friends on a caving trip hits almost every phobia a person could have. If you're afraid of the dark, most of the film takes place in a pitch-black cave with only flashlights and glow sticks to light the way. Claustrophobic? Try to watch a scene in which the women squeeze through a shudder-inducingly tight tunnel. There's even a gnarly leg fracture for squeamish viewers.

And that's all before the cave-dwelling, bloodthirsty crawlers show up.

Between the creepy creatures and gore (it's most known for a sequence involving a massive blood pool), there's plenty to be afraid of in Neil Marshall's cult horror classic. What makes the film really stick, however, is the tense psychological conflict between our heroines. As they journey further into the cave, the women's bond becomes strained as secrets and sad pasts come to the surface. It's viscerally and mentally chilling, especially if you watch it with the far superior original ending.

"Inside"

The premise of "Inside" is one of the most disturbing concepts to hit the screen. The 2007 French horror film follows one night with a very pregnant young woman who is being terrorized by a mysterious guest who wants just one thing: her unborn baby. And she plans to take it by force.

Many people reading that synopsis are probably incensed, disturbed and will avoid "Inside" for the rest of their movie-watching lives. Considering its graphic violence, as well as the tragic and horrifically similar crime that occurred in Milwaukee less than a year ago, that's a very understandable reaction. If you can stomach the premise, though, "Inside" is a terrifying horror film that will have you hiding behind you chair in fear.

It's not just the gore. Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury create a dread-filled, tension-soaked atmosphere for a maternal battle so intense, it makes Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton's iconic mothers look like characters out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

"The Strangers"

The right mask can take a horror movie villain from creepy to legendary. Jason has the hockey mask, Michael Myers has the William Shatner mask and Leatherface has, well, the leather face. 2008's "The Strangers" may not be up to the level of those horror classics, but it's got some great, creepy masks. It also helps that the whole movie is pretty spine chilling as well.

The film is an old-school horror flick about two doll-masked women and a bag-headed man tormenting an already on-edge couple. "The Strangers" isn't about big gory set pieces. Instead, it's all about pure tension as the three intruders haunt our lead characters. The best parts are when the attackers quietly appear in the background of a scene, calmly watching the couple come apart. It's the all-too-real horror of someone watching you, and you'd never know.

"The Orphanage"

As the "Scream" and "Scary Movie" series have taught us, horror movies have their share of overused tropes. One of the most popular clich├ęs is the use of creepy kids (bonus points if they have long black hair). "The Orphanage," a 2007 Spanish ghost tale produced by the ridiculously imaginative Guillermo del Toro, has plenty of spooky children scattered throughout its story, but it never once feels tired. Instead, the kids are used in some great set piece moments (a chilling and tense game of "red light, green light" for instance). They're just one part of the film's beautifully gothic atmosphere that manages to be scary, tense and at the end surprisingly touching.

"Piranha 3D"

Who says a horror movie has to be scary? 2010's "Piranha 3D" has almost no scary moments in it besides a couple of cheap jump scares. Director Alexandre Aja's ("The Hills Have Eyes" remake) campy horror comedy is so delightfully absurd, so goofily gory and so aware of its ridiculousness that it turns into 90 minutes of bloody fun.

The set-up, filled with winking cameos (including "Jaws'" Richard Dreyfuss and the perpetually frazzled Christopher Lloyd) and gratuitous nudity, is giddily entertaining. Then, when the murderous fish show up and the gore finally starts flying, "Piranha 3D" becomes bloody, gleeful insanity. Ving Rhames takes a propeller to a school of piranha. Jerry O'Connell's sleazy "Girls Gone Wild"-esque videographer gets offed in the most gloriously gross way possible. One character just ... disappears from the movie, but who cares? It's a B-movie made to A-plus perfection, like Nicolas Cage's "The Wicker Man" if it was supposed to be hilarious.

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