10 Underrated Films: Jordan’s Take

Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond in the dark thriller Surveillance

Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond in Jennifer Chambers Lynch’s dark thriller Surveillance

By Jordan

It’s good to give credit where credit is due, but with so many films released each year, sometimes it just isn’t possible. The below films (listed in no particular order) may not be the best of their genre or year of release (although, Watchmen comes close…), but the reception they received from critics and audiences alike, and the revenue they generated, I believe isn’t an accurate depiction of the qualities they offer.

To quote Eddie and the introduction of his list, I hope that you can find a new favourite in this list of underrated and unique films.

Happy reading! (also copied from Eddie’s intro…)

Plot summaries from IMDB – Reviews by Jordan

The creation of Dr Manhattan

The creation of Dr Manhattan

10. Watchmen (2009)

IMDB Rating: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 64%

Directed by: Zack Snyder (300)

Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino

In an alternate 1985 where former superheroes exist, the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own sprawling investigation, uncovering something that could completely change the course of history as we know it.

I’d confidently say that anyone who knows me knows my feelings towards the amazing accomplishment that is Zack Snyder’s comprehensive adaptation of Alan Moore’s ‘unfilmable’ graphic novel, and if you want to dismiss or hate on it, you better be ready to explain your reasoning. Whether you’ve read the source material or not, Watchmen stands as a masterful cinematic endeavor; a story so completely well acted, directed and produced that it is a borderline crime that a large portion of critics were so quick to heap negativity on it. At least the fans were sated… changed ending included.

Thomas Jane is superb in Darabont's Stephen King adaption

Thomas Jane is superb in Darabont’s Stephen King adaptation

9. The Mist (2007)

IMDB Rating: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 73%

Directed by: Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption)

Starring : Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden

A freak storm unleashes a species of bloodthirsty creatures on a small town, where a small band of citizens hole up in a supermarket and fight for their lives.

Not only is The Mist an unfortunately underrated horror/thriller, but the same word can also be used to describe Darabont himself; like Nolan, Spielberg and the Coens, the director of The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and the pilot (and best) episode of the hugely popular The Walking Dead (you’ll be able to spot half of the actors from season 1 here) should be a household name. His low budget, highly impressive film version of Stephen King’s novella features amazing performances from a talented ensemble cast (Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Toby Jones), the ability to be viewed in crisp black & white and an ending to leave you rattled.

Stephen McHattie as 'shock jock' Grant Mazzy in Pontypool

Stephen McHattie as ‘shock jock’ Grant Mazzy in Pontypool

8. Pontypool (2008)

IMDB Rating: 6.6, Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%

Directed by: Bruce McDonald (The Tracey Fragments)

Starring: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly

A psychological thriller in which a deadly virus infects a small Ontario town.

‘Don’t speak, don’t scream. Shut up or die.’ There have been few films I’ve anticipated more than Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool, and from seeing the early advertising, to reading the reviews in Total Film, finally seeing it and then reading Tony Burgess’ novel Pontypool Changes Everything, rarely have I been so impressed. An understated, expertly written gem; Pontypool offers a brand new take on the zombie apocalypse, and truly should be seen by anyone who questions the current state of horror.

Kathryn Morris and Christian Slater search for a positive Mindhunters review

Kathryn Morris and Christian Slater search for a positive Mindhunters review

7. Mindhunters (2004)

IMDB Rating: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 25%

Directed by: Renny Harlin (Deep Blue Sea)

Starring: Val Kilmer, LL Cool J, Christian Slater

Trainees in the FBI’s psychological profiling program must put their training into practice when they discover a killer in their midst.

Okay, so I wont argue that this is the best film ever made… but I will defend that it is one of the most fun. A whodunnit in the 10 Little Indians mold, Mindhunters remains surprisingly involving throughout, and brings together a band of off-kilter actors like no other: Val Kilmer, LL Cool J, Christian Slater, Clifton Collins Jr (great in everything he’s in… see below), Jonny Lee Miller and Cold Case’s Kathryn Morris. If you’re not convinced so far, I’ll also point out that there is one sweet fight scene at the movie’s end.

Famke. Enough said.

Famke. Enough said.

6. Deep Rising (1998)

IMDB Rating: 5.8, Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 30%

Directed by: Stephen Sommers (The Mummy)

Starring: Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Anthony Heald

A group of heavily armed hijackers board a luxury ocean liner in the South Pacific Ocean to loot it, only to do battle with a series of large-sized, tentacled, man-eating sea creatures who have taken over the ship first.

I remember catching this on VHS with the old man when I was far too young and impressionable, and it caused many, many nightmares for years to come. Watching it now it’s not quite as scary (nor scary at all), but it is unquestionably Stephen Sommer’s most enjoyably exhilarating film, featuring a plethora of hammy B-actors, a cool monster and an even cooler jet-ski chase. Also, Famke Janssen is in this. Deep Rising may not be an underrated masterpiece, but it is certainly underrated as a great, popcorn munching good time.

The Losers

The A+ Team

5. The Losers (2010)

IMDB Rating: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 49%

Directed by: Sylvain White (Stomp the Yard)

Starring: Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

A CIA special forces team are betrayed and left for dead by their superiors, galvanizing them to mount an offensive on the CIA.

Thanks to an average, bandwagon jumping action film that stole the blockbuster
season (yes, The A-Team), The Losers basically came and went without leaving
much of an impression in the heart of the film-going public. Shame, as its one
of the finest action films of the last decade. Beautifully shot, scored and
sharply scripted, the graphic novel adaption also boasts standout performances
from an iconic cast, including Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana and Chris Evans
and a villain straight out of a quality James Bond flick. There is humour, heart
and explosions galore… and a lot of fun to be had.

Tigerland

Colin Farrell is outstanding as Bozz in the unflinching Tigerland

4. Tigerland (2000)

IMDB Rating: 7, Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 76%

Directed by: Joel Schumacher (Falling Down)

Starring: Colin Farrell, Matthew Davis, Clifton Collins Jr.

A group of recruits go through Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Polk, Louisiana’s infamous Tigerland, last stop before Vietnam for tens of thousands of young men in 1971.

Colin Farrell won best actor at the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards for his moving portrayal as Pvt. Roland Bozz, a natural born leader whose resentment towards authority leads him to become a hero among the disenfranchised troops at Louisiana’s Tigerland, the last stop before Vietnam. Joel Schumacher’s most accomplished film (see my Top 10 Anti-Establishment Films list for proof I also love Falling Down), this stunning tale of reluctant fate in a time of great hostility is essential viewing in the war film cannon, yet rarely discussed among other classics such as The Deer Hunter and Platoon. There may not be any actual combat, but the war that these soldiers wage among each other and themselves is truly confronting and deserving of so much more recognition than it has garnered.

Surveillance. Dark stuff

Surveillance. Dark stuff

3. Surveillance (2008)

IMDB Rating: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 54%

Directed by: Jennifer Chambers Lynch (Boxing Helena)

Starring: Julia Ormond, Bill Pullman, Pell James

Two FBI agents attempt to clarify the murders occurring in a desolate region. They approach the witnesses of the latest incident with the help of the local police. All of them hide something and all have wildly different stories to tell.

‘It’s been a hell of a day on the highway’ boasts the tagline to Jennifer Chambers Lynch’s disturbing gem of a thriller. That’s the understatement of the century. Surveillance is a shot of strong black coffee at 6am; an eye-opener and a film of lasting impact which suggests that Jennifer is on the right track to continuing the legacy her incredible father created. This is brutal, deviously funny exhausting stuff, and comes highly recommended for those with a craving for a slice of horror with a side order of weird.

When Lynch and Herzog team up, expect ostriches

When Lynch and Herzog team up, expect ostriches

2. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (2009)

IMDB Rating: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 50%

Directed by: Werner Herzog (Aguirre, The Wrath of God)

Starring: Michael Shannon, Willem Dafoe, Chloë Sevigny

Inspired by a true crime, a man begins to experience mystifying events that lead him to slay his mother with a sword.

Another Lynch production you say? Why don’t you take an interest in another director for once? Well, be quiet, because not only is this intriguing experimental film produced by the Mulholland Drive visionary, it is directed by an equally impressive force in Werner Herzog; the man that tamed (to an extent…) Klaus Kinski and gave us Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Nosferatu the Vampyre and Fitzcarraldo. The problem My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? faced was being released so close to Herzog’s other great film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (being a vocal fan of Abel Ferrara and his 1992 original, it took a lot for me to admit that), because no matter how impressive Michael Shannon is as a mentally unhinged psychopath (a role he has recently made an art form), few actors can draw attention away from a crazed Nicolas Cage. If you’re hesitating in tracking this down, watch the trailer; you’ll be convinced in seconds.

I know I'd surrender to a Paul Giamatti this mad...

I know I’d surrender to a Paul Giamatti this mad…

1. Ironclad (2011)

IMDB Rating: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 43%

Directed By: Jonathan English (Minotaur)

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Jason Flemyng, Brian Cox

In 13th-century England, a small group of Knights Templar fight to defend Rochester Castle against the tyrannical King John.

It was a toss-up between two James Purefoy films for the final spot on this list, with Ironclad only just besting the brooding Solomon Kane by the whiskers on a medieval beard (I’ve noticed Jason Flemyng has been popping up in a lot of my choices lately – I can’t really explain it but I find it an interesting observation). Jonathan English’s entertaining castle siege bypassed theatres and arrived straight on disc in most countries, despite a fun ensemble cast (Giamatti being the highlight) and some fantastic old-school sword and spear brutality, and any fans of Gladiator, Centurion (another that could’ve made this list) or The Alamo owe it to themselves to grab it on Blu-ray. The tagline is ‘Heavy metal goes medieval’ for goodness sake… what are you waiting for?

Honourable mentions –

Doomsday, The Whole Nine Yards, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Ed Wood, The Ruins, A Serious Man, Killing them Softly, Hercules Returns, Dear Zachary: A letter to a son about his father, Event Horizon, The Joneses and The Rum Diary.

How does this list compare to films you feel are under seen/underrated? Let us know in the comments below!

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24 responses to “10 Underrated Films: Jordan’s Take

  1. You killed it for me (in the positive form of “killed”) with “Watchmen”, “The Mist” and “Pontypool” which are both consisting of a favourite “Superhero” film of mine and two favourite horror films of mine. So happy to see those three represented!

    And “The Mist” had the best ending-change ever. And I’d say it was a success, for being as controversial and talked-about, at least over here, in America, as it was. And it’s still occasionally talked about. Whether people like it or not, I have to say, it was rather successful for what it was. It certainly had people cringing and talking about it for a good while! And I totally loved the irony of it and, “Hey, was Carmondy right about killing the kid?” I do love the ending of the novella, but that was something that worked better for the written page. I can imagine the tons more complaints from people if the film ended with…driving toward Hartford (and they’d probably all die anyway, trying to fill up the car with gas).

    • Ha, glad it was the positive form of killed! I really wish more people jumped on Pontypool when it was released; such an original idea and impressive little film.
      I agree that the ending was changed for the better! And even King himself agreed I believe. Such a heart-wrenching moment.
      Jordan

  2. Great list Jordan! There’s a lot to enjoy about Watchmen, especially the Dr. Manhattan back story sequences – totally mesmerising, Phillip Glass and all!

    The Mist – definitely underrated, it drips atmosphere!

    There’s quite a few there that I’ll have to check out, Tigerland is definitely one I keep meaning to watch. Although Schumacher fouled up Batman he’s actually made some good stuff outside of that – Falling Down the obvious example (haven’t we all felt like Michael Douglas at some point? Oh just me then?), what a film!!!

    • Thanks mate; how great is that use of Philip Glass! such an incredible sequence.
      Haha na its not just you, D-Fens represents the repressed anger inside all of us. I hope you enjoy Tigerland!
      Jordan

  3. Watchmen was genius, and very faithful to the excellent source material.

    Great list. Even a few I wasn’t familiar with, so I have a couple to check out. It’s a shame A Serious Man wasn’t loved more. One of the Coen Brothers best.

    • Very happy with all this Watchmen love. As with The Usual Suspects its now got to the point where i can quote it word for word, ha, and I’m not at all ashamed by that.
      Ah nice – hope you enjoy them. The ending of A Serious Man was simply perfect; a truly wonderful film that one.
      Jordan

  4. Great list! Watchmen is criminally underrated. If I could add one: I only just watched Dredd this year and it’s great! Not an Award-winner, sure, but definitely a solidly enjoyable B action film.

  5. You are so right about The Mist! I have been meaning to read the novella, but the movie was incredible. I feel like a reason that could lead to it’s being underrated is because a lot of people were disappointment with the ending. I thought it was an incredible and extremely well done ending though, when you really think about what it means. Great post by the way, you’re blogs are so interesting!

    • Ah cheers Brian, and yeah you’re possibly right about the ending being its box-office downfall – not exactly the the finale a studio would get behind. Highly recommend grabbing the novella to complete the experience!
      Jordan

  6. I wanted to let you know i like this blog a lot and i’ve nominated you for “The Versatile Bloggers Award”
    Please keep up the good work!
    You ca find my nominations here: http://ladyfangtasia.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/my-nominations-for-the-versatile-blogger-award-and-7-interesting-things-about-me/#more-1084

    Moving on, there are apparently a couple of stipulations/rules when it comes to getting nominated for this thing.

    Here they are below:

    1. Display the Award on your Blog.

    2. Announce your win/nom/nod with a post and thank the Blogger who nominated you.

    3. Present 15 deserving Bloggers with the Award.
    4. Link your nominees in the post and let them know of their nomination with a comment.
    5. Post 7 interesting things about yourself.

  7. Yeah! Watchmen and Ironclad! Both are unbelievably awesome films: Watchmen has great visuals, soundtrack and good cast and, in my opinion, captures the atmosphere of the original graphic novel very nicely. And Ironclad… sickeningly violent, yes, but also very well made, well acted, brutal, powerful… an adrenaline rush.

    I also think that Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive could have been included. Many love the film and critics liked it, but there are also a large number of people, who hate the movie and think that it is boring. Maybe they were disappointed when they realized that Drive is not a Fast and Furious pastiche.

    • Its great to see so many Watchmen fans! Ironclad just had me 100% entertained; I loved it. Think Purefoy is a great actor too.
      Drive was a fantastic film, as are all of Refn’s up to this point. I think that now, a few years after its release it has found great acclaim though.
      Cheers, Jordan

  8. Hey, I love that phrase ‘slice of horror with a side order of weird’ .. Should come up with more food metaphors … May watch one or three of movies recommended on this list … I’m already a Darabont fan since The Shawshank Redemption … Another good job, guys!

    • Hey cinematicidiot, haha food metaphors do indeed help a lot in getting a point across. If you like Darabont (everyone should) then I’m pretty confident you’ll like The Mist – a very powerful and well crafted film.
      Cheers, Jordan

  9. Sorry to be that guy, but I just don’t dig Watchmen. Before you reach for your pitchforks and torches hear me out. I loved the title sequence, Doc Manhattan’s backstory, and Rorschach.

    Yet, I felt the film had this overwhelming stench of Adam West camp, while at the same time trying to be brooding like the financially successful Nolan Batman films. That inconsistency was a detriment. The sex scene to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was a short, but brain-piercingly unforgettable sequence. Casting Malin Akerman was the worst choice for Silk Specter II. Ozymandius was the physical exemplification of the “pencil neck geek,” for I couldn’t buy him as being able to beat Comedian. The slow motion sequences were as problematic as they were in Snyder’s other work.

    The ending: Look at it this way. Imagine if during the Manhattan Project, the bomb went off. What would be the world’s reaction? We got what we deserved for what we were trying to do. The same would apply to the film’s implementation of Doc Manhattan’s power. The world would say the US had it coming.

    Now, with the squid monster, there is a genuine worldwide concern. Are there more of these creatures? Where did they come from? If they show up again, we need to be ready. That means banning with our enemies to stand up against a greater threat. Plus, it was a threat not of the country’s own making. For me, that’s why the novel ending works while the film ending doesn’t.

    To make a long story short (too late), can we agree to disagree?

    • Haha I reckon we can mate, since you were able to back up your argument very well. I do understand what you’re saying in the last paragraph, but there’s simply no way in my opinion that uninitiated film audiences would’ve accepted the squid monster as anything other than ludicrous. I actually loved the casting decisions too, and the stylistic choices, but do have a few mates who hate the entire film with a passion.
      Ah well, I’m happy to re-watch the directors cut far too often myself ha.
      Thanks for the comment, Jordan

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