As an avid fan of the horror genre, instead of simply serving you up a list of the usual mainstream blockbuster horror fare I’m sure you’re all too familiar with, I much prefer taking a step back to sift through as many independent productions as possible. Long story short, I’ve settled on ten indie/low-budget horror films that you absolutely must check out, whether you’ve seen them before or not. Obviously, everyone has their own opinions as to what makes for the perfect horror movie so, if you have seen any recent indie horror films that you think deserve a mention, please do recommend them in the comments section below so we can all root them out.
So, without further ado, here is what we’ve come up with, in no particular order:
Shunji Iwai’s much more grounded take on vampire lore makes this unlike anything else on this list, and the most enjoyable, in this writer’s humble opinion.
The film stars Kevin Zegers as Simon, a seemingly ordinary biology teacher that spends much of his spare time caring for his Alzheimers-ridden mother Helga. But there is far more than meets the eyes to Simon as he believes himself to be a vampire and spends much of his time looking at online sites for suicidal women who would make for easy prey to satisfy his taste for blood. What makes this film all the more fascinating, and shocking, is the fact that rather than Simon’s thirst for blood prompting him to take violent actions, his acts are quite peaceful and always consented. Ultimately, when Simon meets a girl named Laura, things begin to unravel, as she grows obsessed with him to the point where she breaks into his home, putting his secret life in danger of being exposed. And to make matters worse, Renfield (Trevor Morgan), a man who also believes himself to be a vampire, emerges onto the scene who is far more violent than Simon ever dared to be.
In short, Vampire is a bold exploration that twists vampire tropes into terrifying new territory; an exploration that deserves both admiration and undivided attention. We cannot recommend this film enough.
THE TUNNEL (2011)
The Tunnel is an independent Australian film which is certainly unique in the fact production frames went on sale to partially fund the project. It then went on to be released as a freely available download via legal bittorrents (also now available here as a hard copy). The Tunnel is for fans of the likes of The Descent, and lesser-known Stag Night, providing audiences with a seriously claustrophobic fly-on-the-wall view of a small group of news reporters as they head down into a network of abandoned underground train tunnels to investigate reports of a creature discovered living hundreds of feet below Sydney.
Once they get down into the darkest, dingiest sectors of the labyrinthine tunnels they discover what they set out to find just as their battery packs and lights begin to die.
All horror fans shouldn’t be put off by the tiny budget, freebie promotion surrounding the film. Director Carlos Ledesma has certainly created quite the tension builder here and, despite sharing with us which characters survive the ordeal, it’s irrelevant once you discovering what really lurks down their waiting for us all.
THE INNOCENTS (2022)
We’ve all heard the horror stories: the sleepless nights, the weapons-grade diaper content, and the drastic life changes that come with bringing a child into the world. But, despite all the hardships that every child brings with them, most parents agree that having a baby is simply the single best thing that can happen to anyone. Parenthood is always going to be an arduous task, but one can’t even begin to imagine what life would be like if your seemingly innocent and curious bundle of humanity suddenly turned into something far more sinister?
This is exactly what Academy Award® nominated writer Eskil Vogt‘s supernatural shocker The Innocents addresses as a group of children suddenly reveal their dark and mysterious powers when the adults aren’t looking.
The film revolves around four young children who become friends during the summer holidays. When left to their own devices, they discover they all possess special powers. Being the curious kids that they are, as they explore their new abilities in the woods and nearby playgrounds, their innocent fun and games soon turn into something downright disturbing when terrible things start happening to the few local residents still in the area over the course of the holidays.
THE TRANSFIGURATION (2016)
Boasting a killer ensemble cast: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine, Larry Fessenden and Lloyd Kaufman, to name just a few, O’Shea’s poignant and chilling tale follows teenager Milo, who lives alone with his older brother. Bullied at school, he finds solace in his somewhat unorthodox hobby: vampirism, which he has developed a taste for through his vast collection of vampire films.
Ruffin and Levine’s chemistry is simply perfect, and with such a tightly structured script, this is a must-see for anyone who prefers vampire tales firmly grounded in reality.
THE PACT (2012)
Whilst Nicholas McCarthy’s The Pact (based on his short film) may slow down towards the end, the first 30 minutes couldn’t get much scarier as the director manages to provide scares that can’t be seen coming from a mile off.
The plot finds Annie (Caity Lotz) arrange to meet her older sister to sort out affairs following their mother’s death. On arriving at the family home, her sister has disappeared inexplicable and it’s not long before paranormal activity takes centre stage as Annie’s cousin also disappears whilst in the house with Annie having to resort to reporting the strange goings-on to somewhat skeptical police. The protagonist ultimately finds herself contacted from the afterlife which leads to the discovery of a hidden room in her childhood home with some rather grim secrets.
What makes The Pact particularly appealing is a clever and unexpected about-face in the final act which, whilst nowhere near as tension rousing as the first act, flips things on their head, almost switching to an entirely different genre.
Despite the aforementioned slowing down, as an overall package The Pact packs in enough thrills and adrenaline to keep genre fans more than content and certainly on the very edge of their seats.
STORM WARNING (2007)
Directed by Jamie Blanks (URBAN LEGEND, LONG WEEKEND) and with a screenplay by one of Australia’s hottest horror writers, Everett De Roche (RAZORBACK: THE HELL’S HILLS, VISITORS), you really can’t go wrong with this classic survival horror tale.
On a weekend boating excursion, husband and wife, Rob and Pia end up completely lost on an island in the middle of nowhere. With their boat in disarray, their only solution is to look for help or seek shelter of some kind. They come across a decrepit barn with no one home although there are definite signs of the house being inhabited, and the enormous crop of marijuana in the barn suggests the homeowners may not welcome their presence. When the deranged, redneck owners, Brett, Jimmy and their even more sadistic father Poppy return, they imprison and torture Rob and Pia, who fearing for their lives, submit to appalling degradation and humiliation. When the couple realise their kidnappers have no intention of letting them go alive, they finally understand they must do whatever it takes just to survive, and whatever it takes means going to a limit they could never have imagined.
The story moves at a breakneck pace and the action shifts shrewdly from escalating menace to violence and shocking extreme gore.
Penned, directed, produced, scored, and edited by Toby Poser, John Adams, and Zelda Adams (The Deeper You Dig) – who also star, alongside Lulu Adams, Hellbender is the sixth feature released under the Wonder Wheel Productions banner, the family-run company founded by Poser and Adams and their children. And as if those weren’t enough super skills already, the family also produced the music for the film providing tracks from their experimental punk band H6LLB6ND6R.
The film tells the coming-of-age tale of 16-year-old Izzy (Adams), who suffers from a rare disease that has kept her cooped up in the confines of a mountaintop home with her mother (Poser) since birth. Hitting adolescence, Izzy’s inquisitive mind starts to question her condition, prompting her to rebel against her confinement and secretly befriend Amber (Lulu Adams), another girl living on the mountain. But Izzy’s newfound happiness is short-lived when she eats a live worm as part of a game that triggers an insatiable and violent craving inside her. In order to make sense of her new urges, Izzy will have to learn the dark secrets of her family’s past and the ancient power of her lineage.
A critical hit at the Sundance Film Festival, Carlota Pereda’s story of Sara, an isolated and misunderstood teenager at the mercy of a particularly vicious group of bullies is a bold and strikingly ominous adaptation of the filmmaker’s award-winning short film of the same name.
Persecuted because of her size, and accustomed to her space in the margins of society, Sara faces a grueling dilemma when one of the girls who bullies her is kidnapped by a violent stranger. The film stars an exceptional Laura Galán alongside Richard Holmes, Carmen Machi, Irene Ferreiro and Camille Aguilar.
EXIT HUMANITY (2011)
Exit Humanity is an outstanding period zombie feature completely driven by performances by lead Mark Gibson, Bill Moseley and Stephen McHattie whilst bursting with gore and eye-opening practical effects.
I’d go as far as saying this is one of the best films in its genre based on premise alone – a Western setting following a man who sets about finding his missing son after having to kill his own wife as a result of a zombie outbreak towards the end of the Civil War. Some of you may be sighing and thinking how many period films have followed a man who has lost his wife and son but believe me when I say the plot plants the lead in a totally sui generis set of circumstances.
Exit Humanity certainly stands on the same pedestal as other zombie classics, even those provided by Mr. Romero himself.
You know that you’re heading into something special when a movie begins with a 12-year-old boy coming across a severed head in his older brother’s bowling bag.
Found explores the disquieting results bullies have on young Marty whose only friend ultimately turns on him too, in the belief that association has lead to him being bullied too. Marty finds a way to escape the torment by retreating into monster movies. He comes across a messed up film called Headless in his brother’s collection that has a serious effect on him. Wondering if said film may have trigger for his brother’s killer instincts, Marty feels the desire to go out and try killing for himself.
The film is based upon a novel by Todd Rigney, and co-writer and director Scott Schirmer has adeptly adapted the book into a fascinating character study with the horror of it all slowly reaching a crescendo as blood and guts explode into the forefront in the final act.