The horror genre is built on filmmakers who defied the odds and changed the rules of the game. Many of these creative types undoubtedly had to start somewhere low on the totem pole, and that somewhere tends to be indie films. Plenty of these independently produced horrors receive acclaim, whereas others remain unnoticed.
Now, the words "underrated" and "overrated" come up a lot in all genres of film. Horror alone is full of so many movies that we undoubtedly become overwhelmed and lose track of the hidden gems. Then, we also gravitate towards some movies that others might deem overvalued.
So, with an open mind and good intentions, let's now check out five "underrated" indie horror movies from the 2000s as well as five "overrated" ones.
10 Underrated: Laid to Rest (2009)
After breaking out of a coffin in a funeral home, a woman with amnesia is immediately attacked by an armed man wearing a chrome skull mask. Now, this mysterious killer with a sinister M.O. stalks her across a rural town.
There is no doubt slashers enjoyed a resurgence after Scream came out in 1996. Yet the average person may have trouble naming any other 2000 slashers besides the Scream sequels. That's mainly because big studios eventually lost some interest in the subgenre. Luckily, slashers still appear frequently in indie horror. One of the better ones from the end of the 2000s is Laid to Rest, a movie produced by Dry County Films and distributed by Anchor Bay. This delightfully gory mashup of old school slasher tropes incorporates isms intrinsic to torture flicks like Saw. The movie was later followed by a sequel called ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2.
9 Overrated: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)
When her popular classmates notice Mandy Lane has physically blossomed over the summer, they become more interested in her. Especially the hormonal boys. This development doesn't bode well with Mandy's nerdy best friend Dylan, though. When they are both invited to a pool party, Dylan plays a hand in a peer's accidental death. Now, Dylan is ostracized while Mandy enjoys newfound popularity. During a weekend getaway at a remote farmhouse, Mandy and her friends are terrorized by a deadly prowler.
Occupant Films' All the Boys Love Mandy Lane didn't reach the U.S. until 2013. This was due to its complicated distributor issues. Today, Mandy Lane is viewed as a solid salute to grindhouse horror by most viewers. On the other hand, Rotten Tomatoes said it was not original enough for mainstream audiences.
8 Underrated: May (2002)
May is a socially awkward and very lonely woman working at an animal clinic. Due to her eye condition, May has never felt like she truly fits in with others. Although she has two people in her life who like her quirky behavior, she is ultimately rejected by those same people. Now, May becomes emotionally unhinged, and she will act out in the most shocking way.
Produced by 2 Loop Films and distributed in the U.S. by Lionsgate, May became a critical darling. The key point to this off-center psycho-horror was Angela Bettis' heralded performance as the titular character.
7 Overrated: Love Object (2003)
An incredibly shy technical writer named Kenneth has trouble communicating with those around him. Particularly women. So, he purchases a love doll and names her Nikki. Kenneth develops a bizarre relationship with Nikki mainly because Kenneth thinks the doll is somehow alive. To complicate matters, Kenneth starts to date a coworker named Lisa. But upon learning about Nikki, Lisa ends things. Sadly for Lisa, this won't be the last she hears of Kenneth or Nikki.
Love Object is considered a male counterpart to May. Like May, though, this Lionsgate acquisition performed poorly at the box office due to it showing in only one theater. Nevertheless, Love Object has found its own audience. If there is one flaw people have with this twisted movie, it's might be the lead's casting. Some found Desmond Harrington almost too handsome for the role.
6 Underrated: Satan's Little Helper (2004)
When College student Jenna returns to her hometown for Halloween night, she brings her new boyfriend with her. Jenna's younger brother Dougie is not happy about this news, though. So while sulking, Dougie befriends a costumed man who he assumes is just someone partaking in the Halloween spirit. Rather, this stranger is a serial killer using the guise of All Hallow's Eve to wreak havoc. This includes killing everyone — even those close to Dougie — he crosses paths with.
Universal Studios smartly picked up this shot-on-video slasher, which is directed by Jeff Lieberman (Just Before Dawn). This is one delectable dark comedy whose antagonist is one of the most dastardly in recent memory.
5 Overrated: Hatchet (2006)
Two college teens visiting Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana take a boat tour out to a supposedly cursed swamp. Once there, they and the other tourists are pursued by the infamous Victor Crowley.
Before nostalgia was more prolific in all forms of contemporary horror, films like Hatchet referenced the past in more organic ways. This plucky splatter film has a sizable following, and many critics responded positively to the movie's nod towards old-school slashers. Be that as it may, a few critics such as Neil Smith pondered if Hatchet had "anything else to offer besides self-conscious homage."
4 Underrated: Session 9 (2001)
A crew of asbestos removal workers is given the task of cleaning out an abandoned state mental hospital. They feel uneasy there as no one in the town comes near this place because of its reputation. But now that new bodies have stepped inside, it's highly likely none of them will be leaving.
People love Session 9 because it is one of the most atmospheric horror movies to come out in the last two decades. It indeed uses familiar tropes, but the film handles them in the best way possible.
3 Overrated: Pontypool (2009)
While live on the air, a radio host and his staff learn there's a dangerous virus spreading outside. This is no simple head cold, though. To everyone's surprise, the contagion is somehow transmitted through words in the English language. Now, it's up to the host to warn his listeners of the virus and how it spreads.
This Canadian zombie-ish horror is rightfully acclaimed. For starters, Pontypool does a lot with so little. It remains thoroughly taut and funny in spite of the looming threat at hand. For anyone who doesn't quite understand this movie's love, that may be because of the pacing. In his review, critic Steven Farber found Pontypool to be "tedious."
2 Underrated: 5150 Elm's Way (2009)
Yannick has a bike accident on Elm's Way, an outwardly serene and idyllic street to live on. When he enters a nearby house without invitation to get help, though, he hears a suspicious scream. The house's owner, Beaulieu, then locks Yannick up. He is afraid his unexpected guest will call the police and alert them of his unseemly activities.
This underseen French-language thriller goes by the name of 5150, rue des ormes in Canada. It's a gripping cat-and-mouse film that utilizes its talented leads and inordinate scenario all to their fullest.
1 Overrated: Hard Candy (2005)
A 14-year old named Hayley begins an illicit online flirtation with a 32-year old man named Jeff. They meet at a coffeehouse before Jeff takes Hayley back to his place. There, Hayley drugs her date and ties him up. She reveals she knows Jeff is actually a murderer. Of course, Jeff denies her accusation. It's now up to Hayley to get the truth out of Jeff no matter the cost.
Is Hard Candy actually overrated? Seems unlikely as it has far more acclaim than scorn. The problem a very few have with this indie thriller is the execution of the story and its themes. In his review of Hard Candy in the Los Angeles Times, Kevin Crust said the movie is "maddeningly exploitative."