Top 10 Independent Horror Films

An independent film, in case you don’t know, is a film that is created mostly or entirely outside of the studio system. As such, “indies” are typically much more personal and much more daring and original than mainstream films, free from the tampering of a financially-concerned studio official. This of course pays off rather well for the horror genre, which is characteristically plagued by a lacking in originality; those studio heads only want the tits and the torture and the guts and the gore to be on display. Indeed, some of the best horrors ever made are indie films, whether they be B-movies, splatter-fests, zombie horrors or psychological chillers. So, let’s take a look at the ten best horror flicks to have ever gone through production without snobby studio heads constantly poking and nudging away at them; stay away, you money-grubbing swines!

10. “Paranormal Activity” (2009)

Budget:
$15,000

Plot:
In an attempt to capture footage of the supernatural entity they suspect is haunting their lovely suburban home, a young couple decide to film their everyday lives with a camcorder, with bloodcurdling results.

Why it’s amazing:
This super-low budget found-footage chiller from writer-director Oren Peli traumatised movie-going audiences the world over. Its deliberately slow pacing allows for a nail-bitingly tense mood as the supernatural goings-on (from doors moving to demonic possession) gradually become worse and worse. The film has become something of a phenomenon, having earned almost $200 million worldwide and spawned two incredibly successful sequels (so far). “Paranormal Activity” is hailed as one of the most effectively frightening horror flicks of recent years, though there are of course a bunch of hyperactive loudmouths who complain the film is “booorriiinnggg.” Oh, do be quiet, restless children!

9. “The Blair Witch Project” (1999)

Budget:
$20,000-$750,000 (figures vary)

Plot:
Three student filmmakers venture out into the Burkittsville woods to film a documentary on the local legend of the Blair Witch, but unfortunately find themselves lost, scared, hungry and being hunted by someone, or something.

Why it’s amazing:
“The Blair Witch Project” is the film that kicked off the modern age of the found-footage subgenre (which is sort of a good thing, sort of a bad thing). Receiving just under $250 million worldwide, the film is one of the most financially successful independent films the world has ever seen. Akin to “Jaws,” the film holds off on showing its villain, in this case a wicked witch (presumably), resulting in a suspenseful and mysterious experience for the viewer. The film very quickly became an iconic piece of horror cinema, if only for the scene in which a petrified Heather tearfully and booger-nosedly apologises to the camera (as seen above). Oh, and it’s also a little bit terrifying, especially for those who suffer from motion sickness.

8. “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974)

Budget:
Less than $30,000

Plot:
A group of friends travel through the sweaty state of Texas to visit the dilapidated old family home of two of the group, only to be greeted by a family of cannibalistic murderers, one of whom has a keen liking for a certain power tool.

Why it’s amazing:
Tobe Hooper’s guts-and-all horror flick is, frankly, disgusting; this is precisely why it’s so gosh darn effective. The very controversial film was rather expectedly met with repulsion from many viewers upon release but, funnily enough, the actual on-screen violence is quite limited; still, the implied violence is nauseating to think about. Iconic for creating the chainsaw-wielding nutcase known as Leatherface, “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” is a wonderfully crafted and surprisingly well-acted splatter horror from a very talented filmmaker. However, one wonders if it did good or bad for the Texan tourist industry.

7. “Shaun of the Dead” (2004)

Budget:
$5,000,000

Plot:
Shaun, a slacker salesman living in London, is utterly horrified when his girlfriend, Liz, dumps him. Waking up the next morning with a horrendous hangover, he determinedly sets out to go to Liz and win back her heart. Meanwhile, flesh-eating zombies take over the world.

Why it’s amazing:
Promoted as the world’s first ever rom-zom-com, director Edgar Wright’s feature-film debut is one of the most drop-dead hilarious films of the last decade. Making household names out of its two main stars, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the film is, fair enough, more comedy than horror, but still, it has a shitload of flesh-devouring zombies in it; isn’t that enough? Armed with a script that’s dripping with wit, heart, brains (mmmm, brains…) and general hilariousness, “Shaun of the Dead” is an incessantly brilliant and highly comical British satire of the zombie subgenre that just keeps getting funnier and funnier every time you watch it; I should know, I’ve seen it like a gazillion-bajillion times and plan on watching it like a gazillion-bajillion times more.

6. “Halloween” (1978)

Budget:
$325,000

Plot:
The quiet fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois is in for quite a surprise this Halloween, when homicidal maniac Michael Myers breaks out of his psychiatric hospital and returns to his hometown with his own special brand of trick-or-treating in store.

Why it’s amazing:
“Halloween” is seen to be one of the first slasher films to hit theatres, thus sparking a whole new subgenre of horror cinema. It not only gave the world of film one of its greatest villains, stalker-slasher Michael Myers, but also launched the careers of director John Carpenter, who went on to make “The Thing” and “Escape from New York,” and its star, Jamie Lee Curtis, who went on to star with Lindsay Lohan in “Freaky Friday” and show us her tits in “Trading Places;” I kid, she’s a fabulous actress. With nice tits. Anyhoo, “Halloween” is endlessly suspenseful, highly entertaining and rather ground-breaking for its time; it’s very rightfully heralded today as a beloved classic of horror cinema. And Jamie Lee Curtis has nice tits.

5. “Dawn of the Dead” (1978)

Budget:
$500,000

Plot:
At a time when the undead are literally consuming the world’s increasingly miniscule population, a small band of survivors horde up inside a gigantic supermarket, which kinda goes a little awry.

Why it’s amazing:
George A. Romero’s sequel to his classic “Night of the Living Dead,” one of the world’s first true zombie films, is a little different from its predecessor. For one, it’s not filmed in black-and-white, so all the gloriously grizzly gore can now be seen in vibrant Technicolor. The film is also not quite as serious as “Night of the Living Dead,” instead laugh-out-loud hilarious at several points. It’s a good bit broader as well, but not stupider; it’s very entertaining, very goofy, very tense and very smart. It also carries some important social messages (hmm, people barricading themselves inside a shopping mall filled with warmth and food, not allowing access to the sick and hungry who are loudly moaning outside, hmm..), though Romero has never admitted to them.

4. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)

Budget:
$1,800,000

Plot:
The teenagers of Elm Street are beginning to have horrible nightmares in which they are hunted down by a burn-faced psychopath clad in a fedora hat, a stripy sweater and a blade-fingered glove. But they’re just nightmares… right?

Why it’s amazing:
Obvious reason: it unleashed Freddy friggin’ Krueger upon the world. Yes, this is the film that started Freddy’s reign of stomach-slashing, flesh-tearing, catchphrase-spewing terror. Mr. Krueger, stripy sweater and all, is now an icon of horror cinema, created by famed screenwriter and director Wes Craven. The film itself, dated as it is, is thankfully worthy of such a magnificently entertaining character, equipped with a clever and original concept, decent acting, a whole barrel of effective scares and a young Johnny Depp being sucked into a bed; that’s always awesome.

3. “The Evil Dead” (1981)

Budget:
$350,000-$400,000

Plot:
Five college students venture out into the woods (never a good idea) for a relaxing vacation in an isolated cabin. Only problem is, they accidentally unleash a whole bunch of vicious demons who are determined to swallow the souls of the poor, stupid teenagers.

Why it’s amazing:
Initially dumped in the category of “video nasties,” many overlooked “The Evil Dead,” considering it to be just another dumb, disgusting, pointless splatter flick. However, the film is anything but this — well, aside from the “splatter” bit; that bit’s true. It’s gory, yes, in fact stomach-churningly gory, and on the surface it is indeed a stupid film, but the filmmaking, specifically the direction of up-and-comer Sam Raimi, is so original and so innovative that it could be called ground-breaking. The end result is a film that is eternally entertaining and has rightfully developed a committed cult following over the years. They want you to join them… join them… join us… join us…

2. “Night of the Living Dead” (1968)

Budget:
$114,000

Plot:
A small band of strangers barricade themselves inside a house when they discover that a plague that turns the dead into walking, moaning, mindless zombies is spreading throughout the globe.

Why it’s amazing:
As mentioned earlier, “Night of the Living Dead” is one of the first true zombie films ever released in theaters. As such, it set a trend, with the hundreds of zombie films released afterwards owing quite a debt to George A. Romero’s cult classic. Upon release, it was greeted with controversy, many being disturbed by the cannibalistic images of zombies gleefully munching away on human flesh. Even today, it’s still quite horrifying, though not quite as horrifying as Romero’s 2007 film “Diary of the Dead.” Seriously, did you see that shit? Horrifying indeed.

1. “Evil Dead II” (1978)

Budget:
$3,600,000

Plot:
Picking up where the first film left off, “Evil Dead II” allows us to happily watch as sometimes heroic, mostly cowardly hero Ash Williams runs about the woods, desperately trying to fend off the mischievous demons striving to possess his soul.

Why it’s amazing:
“Evil Dead II” is one of the most entertaining films of all time. This is down to several things. For one, the film is much more humorous than its predecessor; there’s quite a bit of “Three Stooges”-esque slapstick comedy going on. Also, the brilliant Bruce Campbell makes for an astonishingly amusing protagonist, Campbell having to carry the first half of the film all on his lonesome. The creativity on display is insane; writers Sam Raimi and Scott Spiegel milk the idea of naughty demons taunting and teasing poor Ash for all its worth, and the film is all the better for it. The visuals and the camerawork are mesmerisingly imaginative, with Raimi proving himself to be a true master of the camera. Overall, the film is just pure and utter fun, and not in a guilty pleasure kind of way, but in a genuinely fantastic and fascinating kind of way. It’s a spellbinding, side-splitting and endlessly entertaining thrill-ride of a horror-comedy that is furiously original and is one of the best horror films ever made; pretty good going for an indie flick.

By Stephen Watson

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