While we enjoy our over the top big budget horror movies just as much as anyone else, there are true gems in the genre in the independent category. More often leaving us feeling something deeper inside of us, these films are produced outside of the big studios, usually with a very small budget. Recently, the independent studio A24, which focuses much of its productions and distributions on the horror genre, has become a hit with audiences and has really shown that indie films can be both critical and financial successes. As you look for something to watch this Halloween, leave some time for these indie horror movies that will likely change you forever.

The VVitch

Horror, Movies, The Witch, A24

2015 Directed by Robert Eggers

Horror movies revolving around witches are nothing new (in fact, there’s another one on this list) but The Witch (stylized VVitch) does something different. Set in 1600’s New England, this film follows a Puritan family that has been excommunicated from their colony and is living in isolation in the forest. Speaking in old English and highlighting strict religious ideology, this film is incredibly immersive, and the sense of dread throughout is pervasive. You begin to empathize with Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy in her feature debut) as her family begins blaming her for the actions of the Witch when it begins to terrorize them; starting with the theft of the family’s infant. The film’s bleak ending is a jolt, and a reminder that witches in English mythology are truly evil; but the film also leaves you with a sickly feeling after realizing that much of this could have been avoided had the ideology of the family been less extreme. 

Possession

1981 Directed by Andrzej Zulawski

Possession follows the story of Mark (played by a pre-Jurassic Park Sam Neill) a West Berlin spy who returns home and finds that his wife, Anna, wants a divorce. What follows is a psychological horror story involving multiple murders, doppelgangers and a disgusting tentacled creature. The duality of the division of Germany by the Berlin Wall and the disintegrating marriage of Mark and Anna play a factor in why the film sticks with you, as can Anna’s secret derelict apartment, housing the creature and the crimes she commits can be seen as a sort of metaphor of the secretive violence of the Cold War. The genre bending of the movie being part spy thriller, part drama, and part psychological horror is also standout, and you’re unlikely to find another movie quite like it.

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The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project, Horror, Movies, Indie

1999 Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez

This film made viewers everywhere have a permanent fear of the forest. Virtually creating the found footage genre, The Blair Witch Project scared audiences because many were so convinced that the story was actually real and that this was truly found footage. Missing posters featuring the characters were even released and the actors weren’t allowed to speak about the film for quite some time, adding to the realism. The lack of knowledge about the witch in the film, and the scares only build as our characters become increasingly irritated with each other as they become more and more isolated, contributing to the sense that these are real people. Though the franchise has branched out and may not be at the critical height it once was, the first film will leave you with a sense of dread whenever you enter the woods alone and that final shot will haunt you for a long time.

Hereditary

Hereditary, Horror, Movies

2018 Directed by Ari Aster

After the death of her estranged mother, Annie Graham and her family begin to experience unexplainable events. After another tragedy forces a wedge between the remaining family members, the true nature of Annie’s mother begins to reveal itself in terrifying fashion; she was a member of a Coven worshiping the demon king Paimon. Though the film has a slow (yet effective) build until the climax, it’s worth it. The invasion of the Coven into the family’s lives and homes is truly terrifying, and the constant weight of grief on the family is relatable but also unsettling as we know something isn’t quite right. The film’s unique miniature shots and a certain attic scene are sure to stick with you for some time after viewing, and the disintegration of a family is always a harrowing watch.

It Follows

It Follows, Horror, Movies, Indie

2015 Directed by David Robert Mitchell

After having a sexual encounter with her boyfriend Hugh, Jay Height awakens bound to a chair. After explaining that he passed a demonic STD to her, Hugh tells her that “It” will follow her unless she passes it onto someone else. Taking the form of anyone, you never quite know who the entity is at any given time, though if you watch closely you can see it staggering in the background of certain shots. A few scares in this film gave me a feeling of dread deep down in the pit of my stomach, and the film definitely haunted me for a while after viewing. Director David Robert Mitchell explained that the film can be a way of viewing that we can’t really escape our own morality, but that we have ways to push the thought away by using our own self-expression. 

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Horror, Movies, Indie

1974 Directed by Tobe Hooper

You may be surprised to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on this list, but it’s earned its place. A revolutionary horror film, this really set the precedence for slasher films going forward. Polarizing critics at the time, it is now considered one of the greatest horror movies of all time and is considered by many as one of the most terrifying as well. Leatherface has become one of the most iconic horror villains of all time and his basis in real life serial killer Ed Gein makes the movie all the more terrifying. The film’s underlying themes about violence against women and animal cruelty have stuck with audiences, with many becoming vegetarian as a result, director Tobe Hooper included.

The Dark and the Wicked

The Dark and the Wicked, Horror, Movies, Indie

2020 Directed by Bryan Bertino

Horror films set in secluded farms and forests aren’t a new idea, in fact there’s quite a few on this list. And like others on our list, The Dark and The Wicked sets itself apart from most mainstream horror movies with the quiet, yet constant feeling of dread throughout its runtime. When two siblings return to their family farm to visit their sickly father, they are warned by their mother to leave. After their mother commits suicide, things only worsen at the farm, and it seeps into the lives of the siblings as well. While the other horror elements of this movie might not be anything new, they are done masterfully. The Dark and the Wicked will leave you with a sense of hopelessness that many horror films attempt to capture but fail. 

It Comes At Night

It Comes At Night, Horror, Movies, Indie

2017 Directed by Trey Edward Shults

Surprise, another A24 movie! This film is especially effective in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. After a mysterious virus plunges the world into apocalypse, two families make a shaky alliance and begin living together. As infection within the house becomes apparent, the thin trust between the two disintegrates and devolves into violence. As we’ve all experienced isolation in the last few years, we can relate to the characters more than we could at the film’s release, and the disturbing result of distrust and death after a widespread pandemic is all the more unsettling upon watching after we have experienced our own. 

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Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob's Ladder, Horror, Movies, Indie

1990 Directed by Adrian Lyne

Jacob’s Ladder follows Vietnam veteran Jacob Singer as he begins to experience disturbing hallucinations of a tentacled monster. After no records of his military service are found and being told he is dead by a psychic, Jacob has a delirious fever dream of an alternate life. When he is told that his former platoon mates are having similar experiences, Jacob’s faltering grip on reality continues to slip. A warning of the effects of chemical warfare on the psyche, this film will leave you with a sense of despair, and is without a doubt one is of the most horrifying movies of the 1990’s, and you will feel the weight of the film for quite a long time after watching. 

Johnny Got His Gun

Johnny Got His Gun, Horror, Movies, Indie

1971 Directed by Dalton Trumbo

While not classified completely as a horror movie, this is a true lesson on the horrors of war and is anything other than terrifying. After being mutilated by shrapnel, American WW1 soldier Joe Bonham is left limbless, deaf and mute; trapped in a void of nothing, unable to effectively communicate with the world or move. After being refused his request of traveling in a Freak Show as a display of the horrors of war, Joe’s begging of euthanasia is denied and his fate is sealed as he must live out his life trapped in his own body. Intercut with his time in the hospital is Joe’s life before the war, and it’s heartbreaking to see what he had planned for himself. A true showcase in anti-war filmmaking, this movie will leave you with a sick feeling in your stomach, and a longing for there to be peace in the world.

Honorable Mentions

Midsommar

Halloween

Suspiria 

The Babadook

The Ritual

More Halloween Scares

While this has our list of 10 Indie Horror Movies that Will Change You Forever, the amount of great independent horror films is nearly to large to count, and more standout movies are sure to come from fantastic companies like A24. If you’re still looking for more to watch this Halloween, check out our article for some scary TV show recommendations.

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