The most underrated horror movies of the last 15 years

It's been a banner year for horror, especially with the success of Jordan Peele's Get Out. Over the past three years, we saw the release of what will certainly become two modern horror classics, It Follows and The Witch. But for every movie that gets its time in the spotlight, there are many that fly right under the radar into obscurity. These are the most underrated horror movies of the last 15 years.

The Descent (2005)

This English all-female flick is a favorite among horror buffs, but for some reason it rarely gets mentioned in most roundups. Sarah is on her way to a much-needed girl's trip to go exploring in a cave after the tragic death of both her daughter and husband. Sounds like a great idea, right? Unfortunately, the girls aren't alone in this endless cave, which contains not only the bones of animals, but the remains of human victims as well. Add in the extra drama of the frenemy relationships between the women, and you get a masterpiece of tension, gross-out horror, and badass final girl triumph. That is, depending on which version you watch. The ending of the U.S. and U.K. releases differ wildly. Watch both and decide which suits you better.

The House of the Devil (2009)

This kitschy throwback horror release from director Ti West pays homage to many classic horror tropes: demonic possession, the babysitter on edge, and the real star being killed off surprisingly early in the film. It's the 80s, and college student Samantha accepts a babysitting job. But once she arrives at the house, things get stranger and stranger—it turns out, there's no kid to watch but instead an ailing relative. Despite its limited release, horror fans found their way to The House of the Devil, and critics praised its cultural cachet.

Thirst (2009)

Another fantastic Korean horror film takes the cake in the form of 2009's Thirst, from brilliant director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Stoker). A Catholic priest, who has fallen in love with his best friend's wife, volunteers to undergo the trial of a vaccine. The results are less than favorable when he is morphed into a blood-sucking vampire. Park turns the vampire fable on its head while still maintaining the classic analogy of the genre—vampirism as an expression of lust or forbidden love. Though the film won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2009 and debuted at No. 1 at the Korean box office, for American audiences, the movie was easy to miss. If you haven't seen Thirst or Park Chan-wook's other work, do not pass go. Need extra incentive? (Or just a warning, depending on your preferences?) Thirst was the first mainstream film in the history of Korean cinema to feature full-frontal male nudity.

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

This Korean horror movie is based on an old Korean folktale that tells of one sister who escapes from a mental hospital to return home and find that all is not well in the family manse. A darker version of the Cinderella story, the two sisters' step-mother is not well, and the story of how she came to be a member of the family is deeply disturbing. With all the wonderfully horrific elements of K-horror, A Tale of Two Sisters stands above a slew of other fantastic Korean films from the last decade. Of course, an American remake was released under a different title, The Uninvited, in 2009. Do yourself a favor and go straight to the original.

Pontypool (2009)

This Canadian horror movie was barely released theatrically in the states. After a short theatrical run in New York, it went straight to DVD in 2010. Based on his novel, director Bruce McDonald's Pontypool tells of a radio DJ who's determined to broadcast in the midst of a blizzard. But once he arrives at the station, reports of strange behavior and a series of violent deaths in the small town rattle the station's staff. A fascinating psychological thriller on the nature of violence inspired by Orson Welles' radio broadcast War of the Worlds, Pontypool is a forgotten gem. Not bad for a movie that earned just $32,118 at the box office.

The Human Centipede (2009)

When the trailer for The Human Centipede dropped, people were flat out appalled. Either you were too grossed-out to even fathom sitting through the movie or you were convinced the whole thing was one stupid joke. But—insert small violin for The Human Centipede here—the first movie delivers. Yes, there are moments where you ask yourself, what does it say about me that I'm laughing through this scene? But it makes you wonder how audiences must have reacted to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The Human Centipede is a natural evolution after the punishing torture porn horror of the previous years. Like its spawn, the controversial Kevin Smith film Tusk, in the midst of ridiculous, laugh-out-loud moments, there are also real moments of terror.

The Loved Ones (2009)

Usually it's the male psycho or stalker who creates all the problems in your typical torture porn, abduction-type horror movie. But in this Australian horror movie, it's a girl named Lola, and all she wants is a date to the prom. Thanks to help from her dear old dad, Lola abducts the object of her affection and proceeds to torture the living daylights out of him at their kitchen table. This movie never lets up. The scenes of torture are absolutely terrifying. It's unbelievable that The Loved Ones didn't get more attention, especially since it features a female villain worthy of Mrs. Voorhees.

High Tension (2003)

This excellent French slasher film turns the genre on its head, playing with gender roles and the identity of its killer. Fans of blood spatter will get more than they could have dreamed of, and those who watch horror movies for their cultural commentary will have plenty to discuss on gender dynamics over a glass of wine after the movie. As part of cinema's New French Extremity movement (basically the French version of body horror), High Tension is as shockingly scary as it is psychologically disturbing, making it a horror film for the ages.

Green Room (2016)

This claustrophobic movie, about a punk band that finds itself trapped in the green room of their concert venue, surrounded by murderous neo-Nazi skinheads, was the toast of nearly every critic's list in 2016. But outside of movie-obsessed and horror circles, the movie seemed destined to fly under the radar. Luckily, film distributor A24 (of The Witch fame) stepped in, allowing the film to get the wide release it deserves. With a fantastic cast that includes none other than Patrick Stewart, Green Room seems destined for modern classic status.

The Invitation (2015)

Suspicion and paranoia are at the heart of this film from director Karyn Kusama, the director of Aeon Flux, Girlfight, and Jennifer's Body. Will receives a dinner invitation from his ex-wife Eden and her new husband David. But once they arrive it's obvious that the two hosts have bought into some kind of brainwashing cult to deal with psychic pain. By the time that Will realizes that his paranoia might not be unfounded, it might be too late for escape. Movies with this kind of mounting suspense (rather than shock jumps or gross-out effects) are rare, but they also receive mixed reviews from audiences, claiming they aren't "scary" enough. (See criticism of 2015's The Witch.) But for those who prefer a subtler, slower burn, The Invitation is for you.

We Are What We Are (2013)

This American remake of a 2010 Mexican film of the same name takes on a profoundly disturbing topic: cannibalism. And with this story, it's all in the family. A father initiates his daughters into the family tradition, claiming "we are what we are." But what if the sisters don't go along with what's for dinner? With a subject as tough as this one, both critics and audience members alike were perplexed, with Jeannette Catsoulis at The New York Times calling it "a dreamy commentary on the ravages of extreme religious observance." Despite its lukewarm reception, We Are What We Are is a well-executed, stylized addition to the modern horror canon.

The Strangers (2008)

When are home invasion movies not scary? Those who were lucky (or unlucky enough) to see 2008's The Strangers, starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, are still having nightmares nine years on. Unlike other films on this list, The Strangers was a commercial success, grossing $82 million worldwide. It was the critics who didn't like it. Stephen Hunter called the movie "a fraud from start to finish" in his review for the Washington Post. But viewers were most likely responding to an atmosphere that nearly every person can relate to: being home alone or the idea of falling prey to a violent crime at random. As one of the invaders says to Liv Tyler's character when she asks why they are doing this, she responds, "because you were home."

Evil Dead (2013)

This soft reboot of horror classic The Evil Dead is beloved by die-hard horror fans who know a great thing when they see it. With so many remakes in the horror genre, this Evil Dead stands out. It's both a natural evolution of the series and can stand alone as its own film. Flipping the protagonist's gender from male (Bruce Campbell as Ash in the first film) to female (Mia, played by Jane Levy) does interesting things for the plot and endears the movie to female horror fans. Equally gory and horrifying as the original, Evil Dead can't quite claim mainstream appreciation. But that's just fine with critics and horror fans, who have been singing its praises for years.

V/H/S (2012)

Perhaps because V/H/S is an anthology of short films rather than one narrative film, many fans forget to rank it among their favorite movies of the last 15 years. More than one of these mini-movies are completely terrifying (like "Second Honeymoon," which will give you the chills for years to come) and "10/31/98," a terrifying take on a possession/haunted house story. Critics called the collection "uneven" and two sequels or spinoffs just aren't so good. But mention "Second Honeymoon" or "10/31/98" to anyone who's seen it, and you're guaranteed to get the "oh, yeah, that was scary" acknowledgment.

Inside (2007)

The only reason this excellent horror movie on the abduction of a pregnant woman and the attempt to deliver and steal her baby is on this list is perhaps because it's a French film. Critics everywhere praised this unrelenting movie, undoubtedly another entry for the aforementioned New French Extremity movement. Due to its popularity among dedicated horror fans, an English-language version has been completed by Spanish director Miguel Vivas and is slated to be released (at least in Spain) this summer. But why wait? The original version is perfectly terrifying as it is.