I usually create book lists on this site. However, I’m gonna try something new today. In this post, I’ll share 21 of the most underrated horror movies of the last decade (2010-2019) – in my humble opinion, of course!
I’ll focus on slightly lesser known horror movies that you might not have seen yet – but are totally worth your time! Thus, I won’t include already-popular mainstream films like Hereditary, Halloween, It, and so on.
In addition, the movies I’ve chosen here can be considered ‘straight-up’ horror flicks. So, no abstract ‘arthouse’ stuff (sorry, Midsommar!)
Underrated horror movies from the last decade (lesser-known films)
1. Last Shift (2014)
Magnet Releasing has put out a good number of horror gems over the years. This includes Let the Right One and I Saw The Devil – two of my all-time favorites. While not of the same classic calibre as these two films, I think Last Shift is definitely a worthy addition to their line-up.
Rookie cop Jessica Loren is assigned the very last shift at an old police station. Alone at night, she suddenly receives a creepy phone call from a woman desperately asking for help.
Odd things immediately start to happen as Jessica is increasingly plagued by shocking and gruesome visions. Is she losing her mind – or is something far more sinister at work?
Last Shift contains plenty of great (i.e. not cheap) jump scares and uneasy imagery that only gets more intense as the story progresses. Juliana Harkavy (Jessica) in particular delivers a fantastic lead performance, helping this low-budget horror flick exceed expectations.
Reason to watch: An underrated horror movie that’ll gnaw at your fears of working alone at night.
2. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
I went in blind with The Autopsy of Jane Doe and was thoroughly entertained! The movie starts low-key before spiralling into full-blown supernatural horror.
Small-town coroner Tommy and his son are searching for an unidentified woman’s cause of death. However, they quickly discover several oddities that defy explanation.
Their ‘Jane Doe’ shows no signs of outer physical trauma – yet, some of her bones are completely shattered. Part of her insides are also burnt to a crisp even as her skin is left unscathed. What the hell is going on here?!
Overall, The Autopsy of Jane Doe does a splendid job at keeping you in suspense. I also like how much of the movie takes place in the same creepy location – a tight focus that cranks up the scares.
Reason to watch: This is a well-shot supernatural film that isn’t about your run-of-the-mill ghosts / spirits. It’s easily one of the most underrated horror movies in recent years.
3. As Above, So Below (2014)
While I’m a fan, I know not everybody’s keen on found footage horror movies. No surprise – since many of such films don’t live up to expectations.
However, I think As Above, So Below is a clear exception. In my opinion, it’s one of the most underrated horror movies of the last decade. It’s sad to see so many mainstream moviegoers miss out.
The movie follows a documentary crew’s journey into the dark underground Catacombs of Paris. Led by a Lara Croft-esque alchemy scholar, the team believes they’re on the cusp of locating the mythical Philosopher’s Stone – said to grant eternal life.
However, the deeper they go down the catacombs, the more terrifying things get. The scares are subtle at first (e.g. weird sounds in the distance) – but quickly devolve into a hellish nightmare.
The found footage gimmick works in creating a dreadful sense of claustrophobia. Thankfully, I don’t think the camera ever gets too shaky, allowing you to focus on what’s going on. The cast is also excellent, pulling you into their rising panic.
In short, I strongly suggest you give As Above, So Below a go – even if you aren’t normally a fan of the FF genre.
Reason to watch: This harrowing blend of The Descent and Dante’s Inferno is a recipe for great horror.
Also check out our beginner’s guide on the best King novels to start with!
4. What Keeps You Alive (2018)
What Keeps You Alive begins as many horror movies do. A couple goes on a forest retreat… and things go quickly south.
Sounds clichéd, right?
Well, don’t be fooled by this initially cookie-cutter premise. What unfolds is actually a nail-biting cat-and-mouse chase that, to me, qualifies the film as one of the most underrated horror movies in recent times.
I won’t spoil the story for you. What I will say is that this movie excels at building tension and rewards you with a satisfying end. The plot isn’t the most believable – but still manages to steer your typical hunter / hunted horror trope in exciting new directions.
Reason to watch: Revenge is the most delicious of dishes – and What Keeps You Alive serves this to you in spades.
5. The Ritual (2017)
A great mix of psychological / physical horror, The Ritual stands among the most underrated horror movies that hasn’t been watched by many.
Four long-time pals reunite after the tragic murder of their friend. Hoping to rekindle their bond, they go on a hike into the Scandinavian wilderness. However, a disastrous wrong turn leaves them stranded in a dark forest… and they’re not alone!
By creature feature standards, The Ritual shows a surprising amount of character development. The onscreen relationships are believably strained – which adds a solid backstory to the unfurling chaos.
In addition, I absolutely loved the ambitious cinematography. The movie begins with wide-open scenic shots that slowly ‘close in’ on you to create an atmosphere of impending doom.
Reason to watch: Horror fans looking for a quality monster flick won’t be disappointed. Realistic characters also mean they aren’t just cheap meaty fodder.
6. Downrange (2017)
Like The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Downrange mostly takes place in one fixed location, which is used to gruesome effect.
A group of carpoolers are traveling down a remote country road when their tyre suddenly blows out. No biggie, right? Only problem is… a deadly sniper starts shooting from a distance, taking them out one by one.
Downrange makes smart use of its low budget. While the acting’s a little hit-and-miss, the film’s practical effects are truly a splattering delight to behold. This is enhanced by great cinematography that gives the movie a consistently tense – and high quality – tone.
Admittedly, I found the ending a little lacklustre – kinda goofy. However, the rest of the film more than makes up for this. Downrange is easily among the most underrated horror movies that turns a simple idea into intense non-stop thrills. Give it a (sniper) shot!
Reason to watch: Fans of nasty kill scenes will love this movie. There’s no ‘deeper meaning’ other than uninhibited, horrifying fun.
7. The Cleansing Hour (2019)
I don’t blame you if you’re a bit cynical towards possession films. After all, the market has been endlessly stuffed with generic Exorcist copycats.
However, you’ll be happy to know that The Cleansing Hour adds a fresh twist to an otherwise tired sub-genre. Is the film a game-changer? Hardly – but it does earn big points for daring to try something different.
The Cleaning Hour weaves together a straight-up demon possession story with a unique reflection of shallow online culture. It centers on two media entrepreneurs – one of whom pretends to be a priest – who stage fake exorcisms purely ‘for the views’ and fame.
All goes well at first… until an actual possession occurs during one of their live streams. The two frauds must thus find a way to battle a real demon who seeks to publicly embarrass and punish them.
If I’m being honest, the special effects aren’t great – and at times, look fairly terrible. Nonetheless, I was able to overlook this thanks to the film’s original plot and oddly charismatic demon. The Cleansing Hour is also a little tongue-in-cheek, knowing when to embrace its genre cheesiness at the right moments.
Reason to watch: Tired of ‘by the numbers’ possession films? Then give this one a try!
8. Terrifier (2016)
Terrifier is equal parts retro slasher homage and a modern over-the-top gorefest. The story is barebones: a maniacal clown goes on a homicidal rampage, savaging his victims with excessive brutality. That’s the gist, really.
The movie really thrives on actor David Howard Thornton’s amazing characterisation of Art the Clown. He strikes a perfect balance between goofy and sinister, elevating what would otherwise be a forgettable villain into a true (and new!) horror icon.
Warning: Skip this if you’ve got a weak stomach. Terrifier pulls no punches with its bloodshed.
Reason to watch: Penny-who?! Art’s penchant for disgusting kills makes Stephen King’s alien look like a clownish chump.
9. Contracted (2013) & Contracted: Phase 2 (2015)
After a terrible encounter at a party, Samantha wakes up the next day with a strange condition. She’s suddenly ultra-sensitive to sound – and has developed a hideous groin rash that’s spreading. Her physical state quickly deteriorates as she loses her grip on sanity.
Like The Autopsy of Jane Joe, I stepped into the Contracted franchise totally oblivious to what it’s about. Thankfully, I was amply rewarded with two back-to-back films that do great justice to the body horror sub-genre.
In short, these underrated horror movies are kinda like zombie flicks – but not really. Instead of a horde, the story really stays focused on the disgusting physical metamorphosis that ensues from characters’ afflictions. You’ll lose your appetite – yet, be hungry to watch more.
Reason to watch: If you loved The Fly or the more recent Raw, Contracted checks all the right boxes. You’ll never think of STDs in the same way ever again!
10. The Invitation (2015)
I hate dinner parties – and The Invitation just affirms this.
A man gets invited to one such gathering, hosted by his ex-wife. Against his better judgment, he attends and is awkwardly reunited with his old ‘friends’.
Things appear normal at first. However, he soon notices that the people around him are acting increasingly weird – and malicious. Something is seriously not right (and it isn’t just his annoying ex).
The Invitation is easily among the best underrated horror movies I’ve stumbled across. The films teases you with a web of uncertainty, jangling your nerves as you try to piece together what’s really going on.
Overall, I suggest you skip the reviews and simply go in fresh. Avoid spoilers for maximum slow-burn intrigue!
Reason to watch: It’s an expertly crafted horror mystery that knows how to crawl under your skin – without the need for jump scares.
Side bar: Coherence is another dinner-party-gone-wrong movie. It’s more sci-fi than horror – but is most definitely a lesser known gem worth catching.
11. Life (2017)
I wanted to have at least one solid space-terror flick on my list of underrated horror movies.
To be honest, Life didn’t do too shabby at the box office – but was largely overshadowed by the close release date of a new Alien movie. And, in case you’re wondering, yes – Life is a blatant rip-off of Ridley Scott’s original classic. Still, it’s a very good rip-off!
The plot follows a space crew that’s just retrieved a single-cell organism from Mars. It initially seems harmless. However, during their study, the alien lifeform suddenly begins morphing, turning vicious.
Although lacking in originality, Life delivers some truly mesmerizing scenes akin to what you’ll find in Alien and Gravity. The movie also features a star-studded cast that includes Jack Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds.
For me, the real star of the movie is ‘Calvin’ (the alien’s ‘pet name’ given by the crew). It’s a memorably grotesque and intelligent monster that’ll make any grown-up wet their pants. And remember, no one hears you scream in space.
Reason to watch: In my opinion, Life is actually a better watch than Alien: Covenant. The movie will appeal to anyone keen on ‘back to basics’ space horror.
Love sci-fi? Have you seen our list of 15 addictive alien-invasion books?
12. Train to Busan (2016)
Train to Busan smashed box office records in South Korea and other parts of Asia. However, it remains criminally ignored by many US and European horror fans.
The plot centers on a zombie outbreak that happens onboard a moving train (and also the world at large). This enclosed setting is cleverly used to create incredibly tense moments as people run from carriage to carriage, trying to escape the hungry horde.
Apart from the terrifying undead, the shining strength of this movie lies with its main characters, who are far more emotionally nuanced than those found in most other zombie movies. Don’t be surprised if you shed a tear or two!
In short, Train to Busan isn’t just a good zombie flick; it’s actually one of the greatest films of its kind ever made, period.
Reason to watch: It’s a no-brainer. All zombie fans need to watch this! The subtitles are easy enough to follow.
Speaking of which, check out our exclusive list of best zombie books to read!
Other recent and lesser known horror movies worth watching!
13. Scare Campaign (2016)
The crew of a prank TV show targets an ex-asylum worker for cruel laughs – only for the joke to go terribly wrong. This is low-budget Australian horror done right!
14. The Pact (2012)
Returning to an old family home should feel nostalgic. However, in The Pact, the only thing waiting for Annie is an evil haunting. A great and unpredictable story!
15. Troll Hunter (2012)
Another found footage gem about – you guessed it – hunting trolls! With steady pacing and an enthralling concept, this expertly executed film proves that the sub-genre still has a lot to offer.
You might also want to give Creep a go. It’s another excellent FF film starring the very talented – and here, unnervingly creepy – Mark Duplass.
16. The Perfection (2019)
Two musical virtuosos seek revenge on each other in the cruellest of ways. This Netflix exclusive has plenty of great plot twists you won’t see coming.
17. Better Watch Out (2017)
Watch the family-friendly trailer first – then the actual movie. Trust me, Better Watch Out is way different than what you’re led to believe. This isn’t some lame Home Alone knockoff; it’s Christmas horror done right.
18. Hush (2016)
An underrated slasher / house invasion horror movie featuring a deaf protagonist who can’t defend herself in the usual ways. Worth a stream!
19. Don’t Breathe (2016)
Three burglars break into a blind man’s house, thinking he’ll be an easy target. However, he isn’t as helpless as he first appears to be…
20. Grabbers (2012)
An Irish horror comedy about invading bloodthirsty aliens who are somehow seriously allergic to alcohol. Thus, getting blind drunk is the best way to survive!
21. Mama (2013)
Mama is an excellent supernatural film with a strong backstory. Think The Ring – but with a dark maternal twist.
Fun fact: The movie stars Javier Botet, who was specifically chosen to play ‘Mama’ (the antagonist ghost) because of his unnaturally long limbs.