50 Greatest Indie Horror Films
8th Aug 2012 | 07:00
My Name Is Bruce (2007)
The Indie Horror: Tongue-in-cheek geekfest in which Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell is mistaken as his most famous role - zombie-killer Ash - and must fight a real monster in Oregon. Campbell himself is behind the camera.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: They would’ve been able to pay Sam Raimi to direct.
Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead (2008)
The Indie Horror: Outrageous exploitation horror that satirises the fast food industry. Trapped inside a fast food restaurant, a group of people are targeted by zombie chickens that have been brought back to life by an Indian burial ground.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: They could’ve forked out enough cash to get JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson to cameo.
The Indie Horror: Most notable for its unique score (composed by Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn), this little-seen horror is a tale of cannibalism set in 1840s California.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: Original director Milco Mancevski may not have left production two weeks into shooting.
I Come With The Rain (2009)
The Indie Horror: Neo-noir chiller starring Josh Hartnett as an ex-cop who journeys to Hong Kong in order to track down a billionaire’s missing son.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: Hartnett would travel to the, uh, moon…
Satan’s Little Helper (2004)
The Indie Horror: Visually inspired by Blue Velvet, this pop-hued, cultish horror is great for morbid humour and wouldn’t look out of place on your DVD shelf next your favourite ‘80s horrors.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It would’ve received a cinematic release rather than going straight to DVD.
Murder Party (2007)
The Indie Horror: Comedy-horror about a guy who attends a Halloween ‘Murder Party’, only to find it’s a gory experiment led by a group of nutty art students.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: The costumes would’ve been up to Hollywood standards.
The Lost (2006)
The Indie Horror: Before he went on to make the atrocious I Know Who Killed Me, director Chris Siverston directed this cult hit about a teenager who kills two women at a campsite.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: The teenager would kill 20 innocent campers.
The Indie Horror: A young couple are trapped in a petrol station with a convict who they have to co-operate with as they’re threatened by a deadly Splinter parasite that turns people into murderers.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: The Splinter would transform a lizard into a giant killer dinosaur.
End Of The Line (2007)
The Indie Horror: Canadian film in which nurse Karen (Ilona Elkin) takes the tube home, only for it to get stuck in a tunnel. As other people are murdered before her, Karen bands with other survivors to battle supernatural forces.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It would involve a massive tube crash, like the one we just glimpsed in the Skyfall trailer.
The Indie Horror: A disturbing, oddly moving little horror following May Dove Canady (Angela Bettis), who’s bullied for her lazy eye. When her favourite doll is broken, she decides to create a life-size version using the best parts of those around her…
If It Had A Bigger Budget: May would decide to create guests for a whole doll’s dinner party...
Home Sick (2007)
The Indie Horror: Despite a miniscule budget, Home Sick isn’t lacking in quality – from the surprisingly top-notch acting, to buckets of gore. When Mr. Suitcase (Bill Moseley) turns up at a party, he asks each of the revellers to name somebody they hate – before killing each one of those people.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: Mr Suitcase would be a talking CGI suitcase.
The Signal (2007)
The Indie Horror: Three-part horror film directed by the triumvirate of David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry. A signal transmitted via technological devices turns people into killers.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It would have had more room to explore its big ideas.
Hell’s Drifter (2009)
The Indie Horror: Twisted horror in which a vagrant gets his revenge on a man who once abused him. A game of cat and mouse ensues.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It would actually be set in Hell.
The Indie Horror: Produced via Project Greenlight, the TV show that helps filmmakers get their projects of the ground, Feast has everything you want from a low-budget film – including drunk people trapped in a bar fighting monsters. Oh yes.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: The running time would’ve been three hours, with even more monster action.
The Indie Horror: A rare high point in Danny Dyer’s career, Severance is a black comedy equipped with a very British sense of humour. A group of co-workers go on a team-building exercise only to get targeted by bloodthirsty killers.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: They could’ve paid for Ricky Gervais to make a cameo as the group’s hideous boss.
The Stink Of Flesh (2005)
The Indie Horror: Black comedy in which a group of people attempt to survive in a zombie wasteland. Think brutal, gory deaths and a fair bit of nudity.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: Actress Kristen Hansen could’ve convinced her uncle Gunnar Hansen (TCM’s Leatherface) to be in the film.
The Indie Horror: Gory horror that takes its cue from Night Of The Creeps, with a small town infested with slithery alien menaces that transform people into horrific monsters. Nathan Fillion adds jaw.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: The monstrous creations would’ve been even more ‘out there’. Not that that’s even really possible…
The Indie Horror: Takes a similar idea to The Signal but tells it entirely from the perspective of radio DJ Grant Mizzy (Stephen McHattie) as an audiological virus takes over an Ontario town.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: Forget about that – if it’d had a smaller budget, the entire film would’ve been a single digital effect of an audio wave as writer Tony Burgess read the script.
Spring Heeled Jack (2008)
The Indie Horror: The titular serial killer awakens in 2004 after sleeping for the best part of a century, and decides to add more bodies to his stockpile. His main target is teenager Sam Walker, who attempts to stop the supernatural villain.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It wouldn’t have taken a year to film.
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
The Indie Horror: Disturbing horror from director Adrian Lyne. A Vietnam vet mourns the death of his child while attempting to differentiate reality from fiction.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: The in-camera effects would have been done in the computer afterwards instead. Which would’ve been rubbish, frankly.
Red, White & Blue (2010)
The Indie Horror: Disturbing revenge thriller in which Erica (Amanda Fuller) is targeted by a jealous ex (Marc Senter) as she drifts through Austin, Texas looking for love.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It’d break out of Texas and be more transcontinental to really show how adrift Erica is.
The Girl Next Door (2007)
The Indie Horror: According to Stephen King, the most shocking American film since Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer. No, not the Elisha Cuthbert comedy, but a horror about a young girl who silently suffers torture and abuse.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: Stephen King would’ve written the script.
The Indie Horror: Mind-bending Canadian sci-fi directed by Vincenzo Natali. Seven strangers find themselves in a booby-trapped environment that seems to be just one massive cube.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: The entire cube could’ve been made – as it was, only one 14ft set was built and set-dressed to look like different rooms.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
The Indie Horror: Reigniting the craze for found footage horror, Oren Peli’s slow-burn chiller was made for just $15,000 and made $193m at the box office. It’s a formula that has also worked for the film’s two sequels. Activity 4 is out this October.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: The demon in the film would be a full-on CGI creation instead of the invisible presence presented here.
The Indie Horror: Not an all-out horror, but one that contains elements of monster movie madness, Gareth Edwards made his directorial debut for just $500,000, and shot it on the fly throughout North and South America.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: The film would be set in Tokyo, and involve a giant reptile smashing its way through the city…
The Indie Horror: Supposedly made for just £45 (we’re assuming that doesn’t include post-production), Colin put a spin on zombie horrors by taking a surprisingly emotional approach to the gore-soaked sub-genre. The result is an effective genre-buster.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: Director Marc Price could’ve afforded to use a camera that wasn’t a decade old. And probably pay for catering.
Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)
The Indie Horror: The film that turned Lucio Fulci into a horror icon, and a much-loved video nasty that didn’t get an uncut release in the UK until 2005.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: The shark vs zombie skirmish would’ve been a full-on fist-to-fin fight that lasted at least 30 minutes.
Switchblade Romance (2003)
The Indie Horror: French slasher also known as Haute Tension, Switchblade Romance is a bloody tension-cranker that comes equipped with one of the coolest twists in horror movie history.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: Director Alexander Aja probably would’ve thrown in a few CGI piranhas for good measure.
Tucker & Dale Vs Evil (2010)
The Indie Horror: Tongue-in-cheek comedy horror that lovingly sends up slashers in gushes of arterial spray. Eponymous duo Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are harmless hillbillies whom a group of college grads mistake for serial killers.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It wouldn’t have made a jot of difference – even on a tiny budget, this film manages to cram in a Bond-style razor-blade-between-the-legs finale that truly impresses.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
The Indie Horror: Canadian horror that plays around with werewolf mythology, cleverly giving it a menstrual skew. Kooky sisters Ginger and Brigitte have their sisterhood tested when Ginger starts going through some changes…
If It Had A Bigger Budget: Ginger and Brigitte’s death scenes would’ve been even more elaborately OTT – we’re thinking death by Empire State Building and highway pile-ups.
The Devil’s Business (2011)
The Indie Horror: Genre-bending mood piece from director Sean Hogan. Assassin Pinder (Billy Clarke) tells Cully (Jack Gordon) a story as they sit and wait for their target to return home.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: The film would be an artillery-spewing blow-out from start to finish – that’s what you want from assassins, right?
The Indie Horror: Supremely gory film directed by Pascal Laugier, and now something of a modern cult classic, renowned for its overt violence and brutal twists and turns.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: Laugier could have hired a professional Tear Artist – he says the hardest part of filming was getting the actresses to keep crying the whole time.
The Indie Horror: Nightmarish, um, celluloid nightmare from director David Lynch, in which Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) struggles to deal with his girlfriend and their newborn mutant child.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: Lynch could’ve made the film in one go, rather than to-ing and fro-ing on it over the space of six years.
Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
The Indie Horror: Spaced trio Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost make the jump to the big screen with one of the funniest, goriest and cleverest Brit horrors we had seen in years. They also created a new genre, the zom-rom-com.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It would’ve contained more Cornettos.
The Indie Horror: A screaming, balls to the wall gore-fest, Braindead is the kind of film Peter Jackson liked making before he got all whimsical with Middle-earth.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: Jackson might have shot a few more scenes of bloody mayhem. When the film came in under budget, he shot the park scene that has gone on to be his favourite scene in the movie.
I Saw The Devil (2010)
The Indie Horror: South Korean film from director Kim Ji-woon, with a secret agent going after the serial killer that has just murdered his pregnant wife.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It might have been able to find a way around the issues of gore that meant it had to have 80-90 seconds snipped from its cinematic release.
Harold’s Going Stiff (2011)
The Indie Horror: Remarkably clever zombie film that plays with the idea of dementia, as Harold Gimble (Stan Rowe) descends into zombieism. Shot as a mock doc, it’s one of the most moving horrors you’ll ever see.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It wouldn’t need it – this is an intimate little film that doesn’t rely on tons of cash to tell a cracking yarn.
Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
The Indie Horror: A sequel to Night Of The Living Dead directed by George A. Romero, and a far more ambitious picture that deals with the larger ramifications of a zombie apocalypse.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It would take the Contagion route and follow the spread of the zombie virus throughout the entire world.
Funny Games (1997)
The Indie Horror: Home invasion thriller that packs a real emotional punch. The plot revolves around a family taken hostage by two boys, who torture them both physically and mentally. Michael Haneke remade it himself in 2008.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It would have starred people like Naomi Watts and Tim Roth…
Kill List (2011)
The Indie Horror: Ben Wheatley’s masterful second feature film (after gangster pic Down Terrace), and a twist-filled, bloodstained curio that never reveals its hand.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: The list would've been a lot, lot longer.
The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
The Indie Horror: Gothic thriller from Mexican supremo Guillermo del Toro. Set in 1930s Spain, it was independently produced by Pedro Almodóvar and shot in Madrid. Talk about scratching backs.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It wouldn’t have mattered. With del Toro and Almodóvar involved, this was never going to be anything other than hauntingly beautiful.
Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer (1986)
The Indie Horror: Based on the life of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, here played by Michael Rooker. It was shot in just a month on 16mm, with a miniscule budget of $110,000. Roger Ebert branded it a “low-budget tour de force”.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: They would have tracked every one of Lucas’ supposed 600 murders.
Let The Right One In (2008)
The Indie Horror: Swedish adaptation of John Ajvide Linquist’s chilly tome. Director Tomas Alfredson draws fantastic performances from his young leads, and paints a beautifully sinister mood. It was remade two years later.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It would have included a car crash scene like the one in Matt Reeves’ 2010 remake.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Indie Horror: The little horror that could, The Blair Witch Project became a global phenomenon upon release, when clever marketing led people to believe its found footage was legit.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: We imagine a bigger budget would’ve meant studio involvement – and the studio would probably have insisted we glimpse the witch herself. Cue some expensive CGI…
Black Christmas (1974)
The Indie Horror: A precursor to Halloween, Bob Clark’s sorority-set slasher established many of the tropes of the sub-genre, including POV killer shots and the ‘rules’ of having sex/drinking/etc meaning you’d die. It also features a stunning turn from Margot Kidder as the spiky and perfectly-monikered Barb.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: They probably would’ve been able to land Bette Davis for the role of Mrs Mac. As it went, Marian Waldman got the part – and killed it dead.
The House Of The Devil (2009)
The Indie Horror: A glorious return to the horror filmmaking of yesteryear, Ti West’s third feature film is a thoroughly modern horror that feels like it was made in the 1980s. So there’s an effective slow build, well-drawn characters and one heck of a blow-out finale.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It’d be a mess – this film doesn’t need a massive budget, and to throw money at it would’ve diminished its gritty, grubby power.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
The Indie Horror: Tobe Hooper’s terrifying sophomore feature, which introduced the world to a little guy called Leatherface. It was made for just $300,000, and is notable for its lack of gore and fantastic use of sound design.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It’d probably resemble the Jessica Biel remake.
Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
The Indie Horror: George A. Romero’s genre-defining groan-fest, which has become the godfather of all zombie films and a bona fide cult classic. As well it should be.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: According to producer Hardman, a bigger budget would’ve meant a much bigger film in the same vein as the classic horror films of the ‘30s and ‘40s. Romero got his wish when he directed Dawn Of The Dead…
The Evil Dead (1981)
The Indie Horror: First in Sam Raimi’s trilogy of zombie movies, starring Bruce Campbell as all-American hero Ash, who fends off terrifying creatures of the night. The love for it is still strong – it’s 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It would be more like Evil Dead II, which is essentially a bigger budget replay of the first film – with added chainsaw action. Nice.
The Indie Horror: Made for just $320,000 by director John Carpenter and producing partner Debra Hill, Halloween is the most successful independent film ever made – in today’s money, it grossed $234m worldwide.
If It Had A Bigger Budget: It would’ve looked more like Halloween H20, and included a scene where Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) takes on Michael by ramming him with her father’s four-wheeler.