Low-budget or independent horror films are nothing new, but they’ve experienced a mini-resurgence in recent years. The trouble is, many of the best and most interesting examples are extremely difficult to find, and even the most discerning horror fans are left scrambling for what to watch. To help, then, here’s a list of some of the genre’s undiscovered gems you’re perhaps yet to discover.
A deep dive into the legendary mythical (or not?) creature, Discovering Bigfoot is the first full-length documentary to allegedly capture real live footage of wilderness experts and professors – including the renowned Dr Jeff Meldrum – interacting with the elusive Bigfoot. The film follows the brave researchers as they explore Sasquatch Country, discovering along the way that what we knew about human evolution may be quite different from the truth, and that the Sasquatch may in fact be a modern day descendant of the creature we now know as Bigfoot.
Stepping away from real-world thrills, this modern-day horror for the internet generation brings the scares by playing on our paranoia around technology and privacy. When a young woman studying how people behave on webcam chats witnesses a horrific murder, she’s quickly embroiled in an elaborate murder plot in which the killer targets her own loved ones in the same way. Most of the film takes place on smartphone and computer screens, adding to the voyeuristic feel.
As Above, So Below
This film, set in the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris, made some noise for it’s interesting premise back in 2014, but is still relatively unknown. The film posits that the city’s twisting underground tunnels are the final resting place for countless lost souls and, when a team of explorers venture beneath, they discover a dark secret hiding among them. Offering much more than your standard jump scares, As Above, So Below plays with the human psyche’s darkest fears.
An offbeat addition to the Francis Ford Coppola canon, Twixt went generally unnoticed despite the talent in front of and behind the screen. When a declining writer visits a small town on his book tour, he is haunted by the ghost of a young girl. The town is also embroiled in a murder mystery, which ultimately entangles the writer’s own life more than he could have predicted. The whole film has a decidedly eerie feel, only enhanced by narration from Tom Waits.
Alien Contact: Outerspace
Humanity has been fascinated with space since we knew it was there, and many sci-fi films have attempted to tap into that obsession. Alien Contact: Outerspace flips the script instead by suggesting that aliens have already arrived on Earth, sending probes as early as the 1600s. What are the implications of making contact with extraterrestrial life? What if the aliens are already here and living among us? This unsettling exploration of what could happen poses these questions and more.
A well-made and effective single location horror, Splinter traps its protagonists in a gas station as they attempt to figure out the effects of a mysterious splinter that has turned its victims into deadly, murderous hosts. Fear and distrust spreads throughout the group – a young couple and an escaped convict – as the threat escalates and they try to survive, while the film smartly uses the tropes of its various sub-genres.
A post-apocalyptic zombie horror, The Defiled plants us in a world in which science and technology have backfired and left a world littered with destruction and chaos. Among these man-made problems is a mysterious virus that appears to be turning ordinary people into vicious cannibals, and those left to exist in and rebuild the planet have to fight against their fellow survivors. Minimal dialogue and an original concept make this a great one to seek out for zombie fans.
The original vampire flick, Nosferatu is well worth checking out for any horror fan. When a German estate agent is called to Count Orlock’s Transylvania castle, it’s clear from the start that all is not as it seems. The townspeople refuse to take him anywhere near the Count’s home and once there, he soon discovers that Orlock is actually one of the undead, escaping to the down in a shipment of coffins to begin his reign of terror and death. A classic and genuinely creepy watch, even for a modern audience.
Another Bigfoot story, this time bypassing the ‘real’ tale and instead going full horror with the monster movie concept. When a group of hikers travel deep into the woods, they ignore the grave warnings of a guide and travel off the path despite the reported presence of the Sasquatch. The further they travel the more they suspect that they’re not alone, making the mistake of provoking the wood’s deadly predator and finding their path back to safety has been blocked.
Insane asylums are creepy places to begin with, so it’s no wonder a horror movie set inside a disused facility has the power to scare the bejeezus out of you. In Session 9, an asbestos abatement crew wins a bid for a job at an abandoned asylum, believing it will be a quick and simple operation. As the personal issues of the crew become more pronounced, they discover the taped sessions of a former patient with multiple personalities – one of which does not appear until the ninth session.
Before he was an unlikely gay icon, the Babadook was a terrifying storybook character come to life in this excellent Australian horror, terrorising the home of a young boy and his single mother. After losing her husband in a car accident, Amelia becomes concerned with her son’s overwhelming fear of monsters she believes to be merely fictional. But the Babadook, a creature that hides in the darkest corners of their home, starts also to affect Amelia, and she desperately tries to destroy the book in which he exists.
A revenge thriller in the Instagram era, #FromJennifer follows a girl down on her luck, fired from a movie shoot, dropped by her manager and dumped by her boyfriend all in one week. When she finds out that her ex-boyfriend has also released a sex tape of them together, she launches a scheme she dubs Revenge Porn Revenge in order to turn things around. If she becomes famous in the process, then that’s just a bonus. Of course, not everything goes to plan, and the elaborate video ultimately leaves a trail of carnage.
A Dark Place Inside
A film in which the audience follows the killer, rather than their victims, A Dark Place Inside allows us to get to know a barely-functioning psychopath who, disatisfied by the state of society, kills people in order to cope with his rage. As with any story in which we’re placed in the villain’s point of view, this can be a difficult watch, but one that’s interesting in its take on how people react to trauma.
Based on real improvised conversations between Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass, this slow-burn two-hander black comedy/horror is genuinely different from anything you’ve seen before. When a videographer agrees to a Craigslist ad to record the last messages of a dying man, he travels to a remote mountain town for the one-day job. He grows suspicious when the messages begin to grow darker and darker and, when it’s time to leave, he discovers that his keys are missing.
Under The Shadow
Film critic Mark Kermode’s favourite film of 2016, Persian-language horror Under The Shadow is still criminally under watched. Based in war-torn Tehran in the 1980s, the film follows a mother and daughter as they navigate the difficulties of living in their country following the revolution. Simultaneously, something evil can be felt haunting their home.
Released around the same time as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Peeping Tom got the short end of the (sharp) stick when it was deemed too offensive for release and subsequently banned for many years. Following a voyeuristic serial killer who kills his victims as he murders them, the movie is strangely prophetic to the ways in which documenting our lives has led to more sinister consequences, and its use of POV shots and a sympathetic villain was hugely influential.
An exorcism thriller with a unique tone and style, Accidental Exorcist follows Richard Vanuck as he struggles with being the best ‘natural born exorcist’ in town. Drinking and taking drugs to get through the day, he’s also booked solid with work. The film is an effective comedy-horror, and one that doesn’t skimp on the gore despite the lack of budget. If you’re looking for a genre film with a little more emotional depth and untraditional filmmaking, this is well worth checking out.
Perhaps a modern play on the horror genre’s difficult relationship with female sexuality, It Follows creates a monster that acts like a sexuality transmitted infection. After a sexual encounter, 19-year-old Jay finds herself being followed by strange visions and the overwhelming sense that someone is watching her at all times. Based on a recurring dream the director had as a child, the whole film is told with a loose grasp on time in order to recreate the nightmarish feeling.
60 Seconds To Die
Based on real life occurrences, this anthology horror collection of tales focuses on some of the world’s most bizarre and heinous crimes. The film’s 60-second short film format offers a relentless thrill ride utilising the talents of new and emerging filmmakers from across the globe, depicting death and murders that are sometimes ‘too real��� to even be believed. Described as a “Nightmare Bonfire”, 60 Seconds To Die is a fresh take on a classic sub-genre.
Before director Ben Wheatley hit the mainstream, he’d already cornered the market on delightfully weird and disturbing British horror mixed with suburban mundanity. That mix is arguably at its best and most effective in Kill List, as two hitmen take on a new assignment that promises a bigger payout for three targets. What begins as a simple mission, however, soon becomes much more than that, sending the two men down a rabbit hole of violence and terror.
This inspired take on the home invasion thriller creates added tension and claustrophobia to the mix by making its protagonist deaf and unable to speak. After moving to the countryside to live a quiet life of solitude, a writer is forced to reckon with a masked intruder who appears at her window one day. Reliant on a clever score and genuine scares, Hush plays with the well-established tropes of the genre.
Ever wish you could be as awesome in real life as you are in video games? Well, Gary and his friends see the dark side of that fantasy when, while playing medieval board game 13 Demons, they discover that it was banned across many countries due to mysterious deaths attributed to the game. After completing their ‘holy mission’, however, they discover several reports of local deaths disturbingly similar to those played out during the game. The line between reality and fantasy blur, and the players realise they may be responsible.
Inspiring walkouts from various screenings, Raw is the intensely gory tale of a college freshman who, after being raised as a devout vegetarian all her life, is forced to eat a raw offal as part of a hazing ritual. Immediately, she is filled with the urge to eat raw meat wherever she finds it, eventually leading her to full cannibalism. More than a gross-out horror, Raw explores what it’s like to be thrown into unknown and frightening territory as a young woman still figuring out her identity.
3 Hours Till Dead
A zombie outbreak film with a difference, 3 Hours Till Dead follows an AWOL soldier with PTSD as he goes into hiding in the Canadian countryside. With his brother and some friends, he arrives in a rural farm area and loses touch with the outside world just as humanity is taken down by a deadly infection. When the group returns to civilization, they are attacked by an infected farmer and discover that the disease allows victims to live for three hours, but only as rabid animals craving human flesh.
Living in New England in the 1600s, William and Katherine live with their five children on the edge of deep wilderness. Devout Christians, when their newborn son suddenly disappears and the crops on their farm start to die, they nevertheless turn on each other. A uniquely terrifying horror, the film is shot on the rarely used 1:66:1 aspect ratio in order to give it a more classic and timeless feel.
After losing their son, Eden disappeared leaving her partner Will alone. Two years later, she returns with a new life, a new husband, and a strange new attitude. Will is caught off-guard by the eery changes to her personality and, when he is invited over for a dinner party, begins to deduce that Eden and her new friends have a potentially deadly agenda. Struggling to trust his own instincts, he must uncover the truth.
A big found footage hit back at the start of the decade, Norwegian thriller Troll Hunter follows a group of film students who decide to investigate the mysterious death of bears in Norway. They follow the trail of hunter Hans, who agrees to let them film his efforts to solve the mystery after initially running from the students. Soon, it is revealed that Hans is actually a government-deployed troll hunter, tracking down and neutralising a number of escaped creatures.
A group of tourists visit Mexico for a holiday and run into trouble when their remote archaeological expedition unearths something evil living amidst the ruins. Based on a novel the rights to which the rights were bought before it was published, it’s an interesting pairing with the author – who also wrote the screenplay – changing many of the plot points and character deaths.