Horror films with terrible Rotten Tomatoes scores that you should watch anyway

Horror is one of the genres most often maligned by critics, coming in below "movies starring Robert DeNiro as someone's dad" but above "movies about sentient emojis." On one hand, this is because a lot of horror movies are pretty awful. They earn their bad reviews and then some. 

But horror is also the genre most often misunderstood by critics, largely because what makes a good horror movie isn't always what constitutes a good film in the context of other genres. Because of this, a number of great horror films happen to be critical failures. The average viewer might avoid some of these movies for their low Rotten Tomatoes scores, but that number can be deceiving—many of horror cinema's critical failures are actually very much worth your time.

Lords of Salem (2013)

Rob Zombie followed up the critically reviled second chapter of his Halloween double-header with a weird little flick that viewers and critics largely ignored. It's a shame, because while 2013's Lords of Salem might not reach the levels of exploitation nirvana Zombie achieved in The Devil's Rejects, it's perhaps his most interesting project—the surreal tale of a woman who finds herself in the snares of a centuries-in-the-making plot initiated by a coven of witches.

Critics slapped it with a 44 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, complaining that it failed to deliver the scares it seemed to promise. To be fair, it's not an incorrect observation. Relatively free of gore, the film is instead something of an experimental tone piece, drawing equally from Dario Argento and Don Coscarelli. It also heavily utilizes music, both in its story and composition, creating something more focused on symphonic unity and less on narrative. The result is a hypnotic, atmospheric, and beautifully shot film that's sure to unsettle and intrigue viewers willing to embrace abstract thrills.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Perhaps the poster child for misunderstood horror films, it almost feels unfair to put the third Halloween on a list like this. Upon its initial release in 1983, film fans and critics alike were infuriated by the film's lack of relevance to the original franchise chronology; it was a deliberate choice on the part of the filmmakers, who wanted to veer away from Halloween's slasher roots and make it an anthology series, but it left the film with bad reviews and a horrendous reputation. A paltry 37 percent of critics gave it positive reviews.

But time has been kind to Season of the Witch. Viewers have since come around to the film's campy storyline involving mysterious Halloween masks, robots, and a sinister plot rooted in ancient witchcraft. When viewed outside the context of the Halloween franchise, Season of the Witch stands tall as a fun flick with a lot to offer. It might not feature Jamie Lee Curtis or the infamous Michael Myers, but it's deserving of the cult it's acquired over the last 30 years.

Event Horizon (1997)

Why critics hated Event Horizon enough to saddle it with a mere 24 percent on Rotten Tomatoes is a mystery. Telling the story of a crew of deep space travelers stumbling across a distress signal from a ship that disappeared years before, it boasts an exceptionally impressive cast, including Laurence Fishburne, Jason Isaacs, and Sam Neill, as well as some absolutely horrifying special effects. It's such a shame that the movie attracted such negative reviews. 

The bright side, however, is that audiences since have embraced the film in the years since—and not as some kind of campy cult classic. The diehard fanbase that's grown around Event Horizon regards it an exceptionally made horror film, and they're not wrong. It may not possess the restraint of sci-fi horror classics like Alien, but really, who wants self-control in a movie about astronauts discovering a portal to Hell in outer space? 

Dead Silence (2007)

Dead Silence might be the worst horror movie James Wan has directed, but considering that the rest of his filmography contains classics like Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring, that's not too much of a knock. While far from perfect, it utilizes the classic horror technique of taking things that are already frightening in real life—in this case, ventriloquists and their terrifying puppets—and then making them the sources of actual supernatural phenomena. Even a middling horror movie is going to be pretty scary when the protagonist is facing a ghost ventriloquist who cuts the tongues out of her victims. 

All things considered, it's admittedly not anything special in terms of plot or writing, which is likely why it didn't stick with the critics who gave it a 21 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  But boasting some great production design, a perfectly solid cast in Ryan Kwanten and Donnie Wahlberg, and a killer twist ending, Dead Silence is still a fun little entry in the filmography of a director who has helped shape mainstream horror over the last decade. It might not belong on a double feature with The Shining or A Nightmare on Elm Street, but it's a whole lot of fun for what it is. Plus, as previously mentioned, those puppets? They're the stuff of nightmares.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2013)

Occassionally a movie's poor Rotten Tomatoes score is less indicative of a lack of quality and more an indicator of a film's divisiveness. Count Jonathan Levine's All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, which was shot in 2006 and then delayed due to studio bankruptcy for seven years, among these films. It's a polarizing effort that boasts a critical reception split almost right about down the middle, with a 40 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Detractors felt it was unable to stick the landing of some of its bolder decisions and found it to be nothing more than a run-of-the-mill slasher movieand not a very good one, at that. However, fans of the film laud it for its innovative visuals and storytelling restraint, which create something resembling an early Terence Malick film rather than a Texas Chainsaw Massacre ripoff. 

Starring Amber Heard as the titular Mandy Lane, it's a gutting story about a girl for whose affections are relentlessly pursued by every boy at her school. When a few of them invite her to a secluded ranch for a weekend getaway, they quickly find themselves being picked off one by one by a deranged stalker. The movie seems to take no delight in its kills, instead making the audience recognize the gravity of each. Levine tapped into something very special with this one, and even if you find it to be a failure, it's an interesting one.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)

Throw maxed-out horror camp and a movie trying to address some heavy themes (but clearly punching above its weight) in a blender and you get the bizarre-beyond-belief A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. We can't stress enough how absolutely insane this movie is, and it's largely responsible for Freddy Krueger being utilized in a more comedic role as the franchise progressed. In the Elm Street canon, it comes sandwiched between the genuine masterpiece that is the original and arguably the best sequel of them all in Dream Warriors. It's not an enviable position for a movie to be in, and it definitely works against Freddy's Revenge

That's a shame, because while it's far from the best in the series, it's worth a watch despite not going over too well with critics at the time—it currently sits at a less-than-stellar 40 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The thematic premise alone, that Freddy Krueger is a manifestation of the main character coming to terms with his closeted homosexuality, should be enough to sell you on giving it an hour and a half of your time. Later Elm Street entries would commit the cardinal sin of being both bad and dull. But while this first sequel is far from perfect, it's anything but boring. 

Jennifer's Body (2009)

There's something to be said for a movie that knows what it is, and Diablo Cody and Karyn Kusama's 2009 horror romp Jennifer's Body knows exactly what it is: the kind of film you'd watch with your friends at a slumber party long after you were supposed to be asleep. It tells the story of a rock band's satanic ritual gone wrong, leaving high school It Girl Jennifer (Megan Fox in the role she was born to play) possessed by a demon that feeds on the flesh of men—and only men. It's up to her best friend, played by Amanda Seyfried, to keep Jennifer's demonic bloodlust contained. 

Featuring a hilarious supporting cast that includes J.K Simmons as a teacher with prosthetic claw hands (plus keep your eyes peeled for the blink-and-you'll-miss-it Chris Pratt appearance), the most quotable horror movie script in decades, and a killer soundtrack, it's some of the most fun you can have watching a modern horror movie. Throw in a career-best appearance by Adam Brody as a sleazy indie rock singer dabbling in the occult, and you've got the complete package. Unfortunately, critics weren't quite sure what to make of it in 2009, and it's got a bummer of a Rotten Tomatoes score at 43 percent

Jennifer's Body isn't quite old enough to have built up a cult following or to have received a critical reevaluation, but we get the feeling it's coming. This flick, like a fine wine, will only get better with age.

Nightbreed (1990)

This entry from horror mastermind Clive Barker fell victim to a pretty horrendous marketing campaign that skewed critics' perceptions. Advertised as a traditional slasher film, what the audience instead received was a dark horror fantasy that feels more like a great young adult novel. That's not to say it skimps on the scares, mind you—as you'd expect from any Barker story, it's full of bizarre creature designs, blood, and plenty of frights. It just happens to also contain the worldbuilding and character arcs you'd find in Harry Potter or Star Wars

The story focuses on the journey of a young man named Aaron Boone who discovers the underground city of Midian, the home of the undead creatures known as the Nightbreed. When Aaron is killed, he's resurrected as one of the Nightbreed and finds himself their only hope when the human world clashes with theirs. The film came out about 20 years too early, as it's the stuff that blockbuster franchises and cinematic universes are made of today. But instead, it found itself in the hands of critics who weren't quite sure what to make of it, and it sits at 36 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Make no mistake, though—Nightbreed is very much worth your time. It's fun, innovative, and totally singular. 

Final Destination (2000)

You don't always need a compelling plot, award-worthy performances, or poignant thematic content from a horror movie. Sometimes you just want to watch some conventionally attractive teens make bad decisions and end up dead. 2000's Final Destination took our love of slasher flicks and removed any sense of pretense: what if a movie literally just consisted of kids trying (and failing) to escape death? Not a serial killer, not a monster, just actual capital-D Death. 

It might be a simple premise, but it's potent. The series spawned a number of sequels, all revolving around roughly the same plot. Each film ramped up the gore factor when it came to killing off their ill-fated characters, but sometimes you really can't knock the original—watching a gang of high school students repeatedly try and fail to cheat death makes for a solid movie night. 

Final Destination is a gleefully sadistic, nihilistic take on the slasher film. The kills are fun, it never takes itself too seriously, and despite a poor critical reception at 34 percent it's still a ton of fun to watch almost 20 years later. Movies like these aren't made to be critical darlings, and they shouldn't be. They should just be a good time, and the original Final Destination fits the bill.

The Wicker Man (2006)

Please don't let the notoriously poor reception that greeted 2006's The Wicker Man remake dissuade you from giving it a watch. Don't get us wrong, the reviews are absolutely correct: it earned every bit of its 15 percent Rotten Tomatoes score. But avoiding this movie means you miss out on the definitive Nicolas Cage Acting Like A Crazy Person performance. 

The movie is full of hilariously questionable choices as it is (the opening credits are displayed in Papyrus font) but without Cage in the lead, it'd just be a cut-and-dry bad movie. He elevates it to levels of histrionics cinema might never reach again. From his straight-faced delivery of head-scratchers like "What's in the bag? A shark or something?" to him going full Cage, spitting out lines with intensity that makes you wonder how he isn't foaming at the mouth, it's the ultimate so-bad-it's-good horror movie of the modern era. You'll be laughing too hard at this fever dream of a movie to feel like it's wasted your time.