There’s a thrill in unraveling those diamonds in the rough, especially within the thriller genre. A cornucopia of underrated thrillers float around, whispering tales of suspense and excitement, waiting to be discovered by the avid cinephile. What, then, elevates a thriller to the status of “underrated”? It’s when a movie, dripping with riveting plots and pulse-quickening twists, doesn’t quite receive the standing ovation it deserves from critics or gets overshadowed by blockbuster giants.
So, let’s traipse through the cobwebbed corridors of forgotten thrillers and shine a spotlight on those that might not have basked in the glory of high critic scores but indeed painted the canvas of thrill with unparalleled strokes.
Consider the overlooked gem, “Frailty,” a thriller from 2001 directed by and starring the illustrious Bill Paxton, alongside Matthew McConaughey. This sinister tale weaves through the labyrinth of a father’s dangerous faith and his sons who are witnesses to his alarming deeds. Despite its ingenious narrative, Frailty didn’t quite make the headlines, overshadowed perhaps by the large-scale productions of its time.
Circling back to the 90s, “The House of Yes” presents itself as another underappreciated piece. In this grotesque dance of dark comedy and thriller, Parker Posey dons the cloak of a Jackie Kennedy-obsessed woman, ensnared in a dysfunctional family web. The film’s unconventional texture wasn’t a darling of the masses but did encapsulate a certain allure for those with a palate for the offbeat.
A thriller often finds itself veiled in underrated whispers when it treads the line of unconventional, exploring the oddities of narrative and character arcs. “The Box” from 2009 directed by Richard Kelly is one such treasure. It unravels the moral dilemmas of a couple entrapped in a mysterious and macabre choice, offered a box that brings fortune at a deadly cost. Despite the engrossing moral quandaries it posed, “The Box” didn’t quite receive the rhapsodies it merited.
Diving into the world of psychological thrillers, “Session 9” from 2001 by Brad Anderson beckons with its haunting ambiance and chilling plot. Set against the eerie backdrop of an abandoned mental hospital, the film delves into the minds of asbestos removal crew members as they’re encroached upon by a lingering darkness. This unique concoction of atmospheric horror and psychological thriller elements didn’t seem to gather the flock of thriller enthusiasts but remains a masterpiece in its own right.
“Exam” from 2009, directed by Stuart Hazeldine, crafts suspense in the confines of a single room. A group of candidates vying for a prestigious job is hurled into a game of wit and strategy, leading to a cascade of tension and revelations. Its limited setting and high stakes unveiled a new dimension to thrillers but didn’t strike a chord with a larger audience.
It’s fascinating to witness the dance between character development and tension in underrated thrillers. “The Gift” from 2000, directed by Sam Raimi, illustrates this with a paranormal twist. Featuring Cate Blanchett as a psychic embroiled in a murder mystery, this film, despite its star-studded cast and intricate plot, didn’t bask in the limelight as much as it could have.
Sometimes the theatrical curtain doesn’t rise high enough to unveil the true brilliance of a film. “Cop Car” from 2015, directed by Jon Watts, stages a tension-laden cat-and-mouse game involving two boys, a stolen police car, and a relentless sheriff. This road thriller, laden with heart-racing chases and nail-biting sequences, drove past the theaters without making much noise but certainly played the thrilling notes right.
Another dimension to an underrated thriller is its ability to intertwine emotions with thrill. “The Secret in Their Eyes,” an Argentinian film from 2009 directed by Juan José Campanella, beautifully blends romance with a gripping murder investigation. Its oscillation between past and present coupled with poignant moments makes it a roller coaster of emotions, but it seems to have skipped the heartbeat of the mainstream viewer.
Waltzing through the corridors of underrated thrillers, “Hard Candy” from 2005, directed by David Slade, emerges with its disturbing and provocative narrative. The film, a cat-and-mouse chase between a teenage girl and a photographer with sinister secrets, engages with its sharp dialogues and intense plot but didn’t echo loudly in the halls of widespread acclaim.
While these films might not have been serenaded with laurels and applause, they are the silent carriers of inventive storytelling and stirring suspense. The underrated tag doesn’t diminish their essence; rather, it accentuates their uniqueness, waiting to be unwrapped by those seeking thrills away from the limelight’s glare.
The underrated thriller’s charm lies in its silent crescendo, building a symphony of suspense and revelation for those who venture into the uncharted territories of cinematic brilliance. For the thrill-seekers thirsting for uncelebrated masterpieces, the voyage through these shadowed gems can be as exhilarating as deciphering a cryptic puzzle, hidden away in the attic of forgotten cinema. Whether it’s the pulse-quickening chase in “Cop Car,” the haunting echoes of “Session 9,” or the moral intricacies of “The Box,” the journey is laden with unseen treasures and unspoken marvels. It’s an odyssey for those who fancy the whispers of the unseen, the murmurs of the untold. The magic of the underrated is the secret thrill it harbors, waiting to be unveiled, ready to enrapture the soul with its untold tales and unexplored territories. And so, the dance of the underrated thrillers continues, quietly, mystically, in the unseen corners of the cinematic universe.