While most genres have waxed and waned in popularity, the horror movie has been ever-present and ever-profitable since the inception of cinema.
It’s a uniquely primal genre, one whose express aim is to make its audience uncomfortable. Never mind deep themes and relatable characters; if you can make a packed cinema leap from seats and hurl popcorn skywards in unison, you’ve done your job right as a scary movie maker.
But even some of the greatest horror movies haven’t received the respect or recognition they deserved on initial release. Perhaps they were overly ambitious, attempting layered storytelling that wasn’t yet in vogue. Maybe they came to a genre years or decades too early, setting out the playbook to be followed by genre filmmakers for years to come. In other cases, the critics of the day just didn’t take to them at the time.
Whatever the case, these movies were criminally underseen, underrated, or undervalued in their day, and with spooky season very much upon us, it’s time to give them their due. Some have since become classics of the genre; others remain cult favourites or obscurities. All, though, deserve the praise or recognition they didn't get in their day.
9. Thirteen Women
The slasher subgenre would have its heyday from the mid-1970s through the1980s, with hugely lucrative franchises built around the super simple formula of unstoppable monster + shrieking, often stupid victims + gruesome murder. At their best, they were incredibly tense, visceral pictures, bolstered by now-classic horror characters. At their worst, they’re the grimiest kind of schlock imaginable.
For better or worse, much of the subgenre’s lineage can be traced back to 1932’s Thirteen Women. Directed by the prolific George Archainbaud, it establishes many of the format’s tropes long before “slasher” was a thing.
As the title suggests, the film’s victims are a baker’s dozen of college friends, pursued to deadly ends by a childhood enemy who the gaggle dismissed for her mixed race heritage. It’s 1932, so the historic racism is unsurprisingly never addressed, but slasher flicks aren’t famous for their social awareness.
Thirteen Women could be said to establish the Final Girl, here in the form of Laura, played by the hugely talented Irene Dunne. Cut to bits by the studio (whose 59 minute version makes “Eleven Women” a more accurate title), it’s an intriguing cultural curio, if not a must-watch.