50 greatest Indie horror films

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.

Halloween (1978)

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.

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.