- Underrated horror movies explore the depths of the ocean, depicting Lovecraftian horrors lurking below the surface.
immerse viewers in claustrophobic, deep-sea suspense and terrifying battles with grotesque monsters.
offers a lighter tone with a mix of comedy, horror, and action, while
delivers a bloody twist on Lovecraft’s eerie tales.
While a lot of famous horror movies have made the sea scary, underrated outings that explore the depths of the ocean can be particularly chilling. Horror movies set largely at sea are nothing new. Ever since Steven Spielberg’s Jaws helped define the summer blockbuster back in 1975, creature features have seen beaches flooded with all manner of sea monsters. From 1978’s Piranha all the way to 2018’s The Meg, the multiplex has often been home to sea-based horror stories. However, only a few choice horror movies explored the darkest depths of the ocean and depicted the Lovecraftian horrors that lurk down there.
Some documentaries scarier than any horror movie have introduced viewers to the strange, unimaginably huge sea creatures that live on the ocean floor. However, most sea-centric horror movies only spend a little while hundreds of feet beneath the surface. Most horror movies, including The Meg and 2010’s Piranha 3D, allow their monsters to escape from a deep-sea hiding place and travel to the surface to terrorize their victims. However, some of the most claustrophobic horror movies ever made start on the ocean floor and stay there, taking place almost entirely in the depths of the dark, lonely ocean.
10 Leviathan (2014)
1989’s appropriately titled Leviathan is named after the mythical sea beast that resurfaces throughout various religious texts. This intense sci-fi horror sees a group of doomed ocean explorers board a sunken shipwreck where they encounter a grotesque monster. Soon, the beast has infected the crew and the survivors, resulting in a terrifying battle between the humans and the infected. With a stellar cast including Peter Weller, Daniel Stern, and Ernie Hudson, Leviathan is one of many great horror movies with a bad Rotten Tomatoes score.
9 Underwater (2020)
Like Leviathan, 2020’s underrated Underwater strands an impressive ensemble cast deep beneath the ocean’s surface. In this Lovecraft-inspired effort, Kristen Stewart plays an ocean researcher whose work for a deep-sea drilling company comes to an abrupt end when her team is disrupted by the presence of a mysterious, monstrous species. While Underwater’s ambitious ending turns the movie into a loose, jaw-dropping adaptation of a famous Lovecraft short story, most of the preceding movie’s tense runtime is dedicated to nerve-wracking scenes of deep-sea suspense.
8 Deep Rising (1998)
Deep Rising takes itself a lot less seriously than both Underwater and Leviathan, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Following a gang of amoral jewel thieves who come across a seemingly abandoned luxury cruise liner, Deep Rising provided future The Mummy director Stephen Sommers with an early opportunity to nail his signature balance of comedy, horror, and action. While many of the darker movies listed have endings that make the movie feel like a waste of time thanks to their oppressively bleak tones, Deep Rising instead opts for an enjoyably corny ‘90s action movie climax.
7 The Deep House (2021)
2021’s The Deep House is an ambitious fusion of deep-sea horror and a traditional haunted house plot as a pair of YouTubers explore an underwater home. The remnants of the house are creepy from the outset, even if the couple’s bickering grows tiresome fast. However, the real surprise comes when the duo discovers that just because the home is submerged in water doesn’t mean it is free from paranormal activity. Strange, inventive, and above all scary, The Deep House is a different breed of deep-sea horror movie.
6 Sphere (1998)
Sphere was adapted from Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name. For the first half of the movie’s runtime, viewers could be forgiven for assuming that its story of deep-sea explorers studying an abandoned spacecraft is a rip-off of The Abyss. However, Sphere is a horror movie that improves its story by abandoning its original premise as the movie reveals that what lurks in the craft is stranger and spookier than anticipated. Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson, and Livev Schreiber ensure this one has a stacked cast as well as a solid story.
5 Below (2002)
2002’s Below saw Pitch Black‘s David Twohy return to lone-location siege horror with the story of a submarine crew who are plagued by paranormal occurrences while on a routine rescue mission. This twisty horror was a box office flop upon release, but its clever revelations and mysterious plot remain thrilling upon a re-watch. The story of the USS Tiger Shark was originally intended to be a historical thriller, only for Twohy to revamp the script during revisions. This resulted in a tense horror that feels as believable as it is brutal.
4 The Rift (1990)
Released in 1990, The Rift stars Full Metal Jacket’s breakout star R. Lee Ermey. The movie follows the crew of an experimental submarine that is sent deep below the sea’s surface to find the remnants of its missing predecessor. After encountering a tangle of toxic seaweed, the crew eventually discovers that their colleagues ran afoul of monstrous beings created by generic engineering. The Rift is an old-fashioned B-movie and a lot of fun, even if its gory thrills aren’t quite as slick as Leviathan’s comparable story.
3 DeepStar Six (1989)
Released within a year of both Leviathan and The Rift, DeepStar Six was another submarine-based sci-fi horror that many viewers missed out on. In fairness, James Cameron’s legendary The Abyss arrived around the same time, so it is understandable that director Sean S Cunningham’s corny sea-set monster movie was under seen as result. However, DeepStar Six’s story of a doomed crew facing off against what looks like a gigantic sea scorpion features tense set-pieces, gruesome deaths, and a monster that could make anyone scared to go back in the water.
2 Sea Fever (2019)
2019’s Irish indie horror Sea Fever follows a group of fishermen who encounter a lethal parasite while far from shore off the West of Ireland. Claustrophobic and skin-crawling in equal measure, Sea Fever avoids the monster attack thrills of other movies listed here in favor of grisly body horror. As a chamber piece, it is an impressively intense thrill ride and, as a bizarrely timely commentary on the COVID-19 pandemic, Sea Fever proved surprisingly prescient.
1 Dagon (2001)
While viewers never got to see Guillermo del Toro’s unmade Lovecraft adaptation, Dagon proved that the director’s work could be brought to life on the big screen despite what some naysayers claimed. Directed by Stuart Gordon, Dagon is a loose adaptation of the author’s famous short story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” Dagon’s plot sees its hero uncover a creepy conspiracy in a small seaside town but, by the movie’s wild ending, this has transformed into a bizarre, bloody deep-sea horror movie thanks to one shocking, downbeat twist.