The Horror movie genre is a genre that is very accessible to young aspiring filmmakers. This has several reasons. The first reason is that you don’t need a huge budget to create a shock effect or to set a creepy atmosphere. Nor do you need professional actors, a huge crew etc etc. The second, and perhaps main reason is that horror fans are extremely dedicated and tend to watch almost every horror flick that comes out. This means that new indie filmmakers can make a name for themselves, and can also make some money for future projects. It’s for that reason that a lot of established indie filmmakers that now make studio movies started of with a horror movie. We have listed the best low-budget indie horror movies of all time.
Green Room (2015)
This low budget horror flick is written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier. Even with a budget of USD 5 million, it got stars like Anton Yelchin (his last film), Imogen Potts, and Patrick Stewart. Unfortunately, despite its popular lead stars, Green Room only grossed USD 3.8 million. Its saving grace is the praise from critics and nominations. Critics lauded it for the story’s intelligence and its cast’s performance. It was first previewed at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2015, then at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2015.
Award-winning director Julia Ducournau writes and directs Raw, a horror drama movie. Raw was produced with only a budget of USD 3.8 million. It was critically acclaimed, winning several Best Film awards from different film festivals. However, it only earned USD 3.33 million at the box office. Further, it was panned for its graphic content. It was said that some viewers needed emergency medical attention during the Toronto Film Festival screening. Some critics defend the graphic content as integral to the story. Critics lauded it for its intelligent take and symbolisms involving cannibalism.
Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead co-direct Resolution, a horror movie about drug addiction. Critics lauded its direction, storyline, and cast performance. They noted the underlying tension and suspense throughout the film. Benson and Moorhead won Best Director from the Macabro and the Fantastic Planet Film Festival. They also won Best Screenplay and Most Innovative Film from the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
It Follows (2014)
David Robert Mitchell writes and directs It Follows, a horror film about the supernatural. With a budget of USD 2 million, it was able to gross USD 23.3 million at the box office. RADiUS TWC took care of its worldwide distribution. It Follows is inspired by a recurring dream Mitchell had when he was young. He wrote the screenplay in 2011 and was able to start on production in 2013. Critics sang the movie’s praises because of its ability to sustain that creepy feeling in the movie.
Lucky McKee writes the screenplay for May, which also serves as his directorial debut. The psychological horror flick was produced by 2 Loop Films for USD 500,000, and distributed by Lionsgate Films. Unfortunately, it only grossed USD 150,277 given it was only shown in 9 theaters in the US. Even with its limited release, it received positive feedback from critics, praising it for its ability to move and disturb the viewers. Lead actor Angela Bettis won several awards for her acting chops. She took home the Best Actress award from the Malaga International Week of Fantastic Cinema, the Sitges-Catalan International Film Festival, and the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film. McKee also won two Best Director awards.
Damien Leone helms Terrifier,a horror film based on Leone’s short film of the same name, from his anthology All Hallow’s Eve. Terrifier was shown at the Telluride Horror Show Film Festival in 2016. Then at the Horror Channel Frightfest in 2017. It is due for international release in 2018 through Dread Central Presents and Epic Pictures. Critics praised it as an ode to classic slasher movies of the 80s. The film was able to deliver that thrill-and-kill vibe so effectively it is haunting. The technicality of the film is praiseworthy, with the appropriate balance of light and dark in the scenes to give it an eerie feel.
For her directorial debut, Alice Lowe writes, directs and stars in Prevenge, a comedy slasher movie. Prevenge was produced for only USD 104,000 and it only grossed USD 94,100 at the box office. Lowe won the Monster Innovation Award from Monster Fest 2016. The movie is about a widowed pregnant woman on a killing spree, believing that her unborn child compels her to kill to avenge the death of her husband. Lowe shot the film while pregnant in real life.
Mitchell Lichtenstein directs Teeth, a horror comedy flick starring Jess Weixler in the title role. Lichtenstein writes the story and co-produces the USD 2 million film with Joyce Pierpoline. Though it only broke even by the skin of its teeth, pun intended, with USD 2.3 million, many critics celebrated the movie for its humour and wit in relation to feminism. Weixler was lauded for her performance and won some acting awards.
A Dark Song (2016)
Liam Gavin writes and directs A Dark Song, a horror film for his directorial debut. Critics lauded the twists and turns the movie took as it unraveled the story a grieving mother and occultist as they communicate with the dead. This movie about a seance gone wrong did its round of film festivals. It kicked off with the Galway Film Fleadh in July 2016. Then on to the Fantastic Fest, the BFI London Film Festival, and the Boston Film Festival. In April 2017, A Dark Song was released in theaters, on video, and streaming platforms.
Let The Right One In (2008)
Tomas Alfredson helms Let The Right One In, a horror romance film. The movie is based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist of the same name. Lindqvist wrote the movie’s screenplay. Casting took a year to find the best actors to bring the characters to life. It only took USD 4.5 million to produce the film yet in raked in USD 11.2 million at the box office. Not only that, it won several awards from various film festivals in Europe, Canada, and the US. Alfredson was lauded for his innovating storytelling of an age-old story about vampires. The cinematography was described as fresh and inventive. An American remake came out in 2010, with the same title, but did not do well at the box office. It did receive critical acclaim however.
The Witch (2015)
For his directorial debut, Robert Eggers also writes the screenplay of The Witch: A New England Folklore. The supernatural horror first came out via the Sundance Film Festival in January 2015 and made its theater debut in February 2016. It was produced for only USD 4 million and the producers laughed all the way to the bank with USD 40 million in gross profit. Eggers was already fascinated with witches since he was young. After being rejected several times by film outfits, he came up with a story that was not too weird or too unfamiliar. It took him awhile to find the perfect location to shoot the film. He finally settled on Kiosk, Ontario. To give that eerie feeling, he chose to shoot using natural light and candles for indoor shoots. The film was lauded by critics for its compelling storytelling and visual appeal.
Kill List (2011)
Ben Wheatley helms Kill List, a psychological horror which he co-writes and co-edits with Amy Jump. It was produced for only USD 800,000. It performed dismally at the box office, only grossing USD 462,206. Wheatley directed the film in a such a way that viewers may have their own interpretation of the scene or the story. He shot scenes twice; first, based on the script, and the second is improvised. Upon release, the film got positive reviews from American and British critics alike, lauding it for its unnerving quality. It was nominated for several awards from the British Independent Film Awards, and won Best Supporting Actor for Michael Smiley.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Ana Lily Amirpour helms a vampire movie called A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. It earned USD 628,000 at the box office. To produce the film, an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign was launched in 2012. They were able to raise USD 56,903, with the support of 290 people. The horror film was inspired by Amirpour’s short film of the same name. She entered this short film in film festivals and won the Best Short Film award at the Noor Iranian Film Festival. Critics lapped the movie up, honoring it with a Certified Fresh approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was praised for its engaging storyline, not focused on the horror but on other issues like feminism. The movie was also atmospheric and not all about exposition.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)
Oz Perkins surprises audiences with his directorial debut via The Blackcoat’s Daughter where Emma Roberts and Kiernan Shipka share top billing. It earned USD 20,435. Perkins wrote the script in 2012 but film production only began in 2015. Perkins said he had difficulty getting funding for the movie. The film was originally entitled February and was later changed to The Blackcoat’s Daughter. The film was first seen at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2015. A24 Films and DirecTV bought the rights to distribute the film but the release did not happen until February 2017. It received favorable reviews from critics, especially Perkins’ non-use of feminist cliches.
Bruce McDonald brings to life the novel of Tony Burgess, Pontypool Changes Everything. Simply entitled Pontypool, this horror flick was put up by Ponty Up Pictures and Shadow Shows. It was shown in Canada in March 2009, only gross USD 32,118 at the box office. It was made available on DVD and Blu-ray in January 2010. Critics lauded the film’s originality and adding a twist to the usual zombie flick. The movie was nominated for Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay at the 30th Genie Awards but did not win any. A special screening of Pontypool was held at the Toronto Underground Cinema. A Q&A with Tony Burgess and the two lead actors, Stephen Hattie and Lisa Houle, followed.
Hounds of Love (2016)
Ben Young offers Hounds of Love as his directorial debut. He also writes the screenplay of this psychological horror drama. Critics lapped it up offering praises left and right to Young calling him a promising talent. The film received very positive feedback regarding the cinematography, the storyline, the direction, and the cast’s performance. This was confirmed by the nominations and awards the film received from different award-giving bodies in Australia, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Romania, and the US. Young won three awards, including Best Film, while cast members Emma Booth and Ashleigh Cummings won acting awards for themselves. Michael McDermott won WA/SA Division Awards from the ACS.
The Void (2013)
Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie work in tandem to co-write and co-direct The Void, a supernatural horror film about hostages of a cult. An Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign helped raise USD 82,510 to produce the film. The film eventually earned USD 149,365 at the tills. The movie was released in the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom, after its premiere at the Fantastic Fest and Toronto After Dark Film Festival in 2016. Critics lauded the film’s ode to 80s horror films and commended the live-action monsters used in the movie. Gillespie was inspired to write the movie based on a quip he overheard from Guillermo Del Toro. Del Toro said he wanted to make a unique Lovecraftian flick. From there, Gillespie thought of ambiguous concepts open to various interpretations.
Berlin Syndrome (2017)
Cate Shortland helms Berlin Syndrome, from the screenplay written by Shaun Grant. Grant based it on Melanie Joosten’s novel of the same title. Critics lauded Shortland’s directing and Teresa Palmer’s performance in the movie. Shortland was able to bring to life the disturbing quality of obsession to film. The film was nominated for several awards from different award-giving bodies but was only able to nab one award, Best Original Score from the FCCA Awards, which went to Bryony Marks.
Paco Plaza, of REC fame, comes back with another horror film called Veronica. Plaza does not disappoint again with Veronica, a movie loosely based on the real events related to the death of Estefania Gutierrez Lazaro, who died after a few months after using a Ouija board. Plaza treated the reported events as unreal and did not feel obliged to present them as is. And critics agreed with the angle Plaza took in making the film. Critics lauded the film’s unnerving atmospheric feel. It was even called “the scariest horror film ever.” It turned in USD 6.2 million in gross profit.
The Girl With All the Gifts (2016)
Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, and Glenn Close topbill the horror drama The Girl With All the Gifts. Directed by Colm McCarthy from novel of the same name by M.R. Carey, which he adapted for film. It also stars breakthrough young actress Sennia Nanua. The film was produced by Altitude Film Sales, BFI Film Fund, and Poison Chef for USD 5.25 million. Warner Bros. Pictures distributed the film internationally. It earned USD 4.8 million at the box office. Lionsgate Home Entertainment released it on video to an estimated gross profit of USD 756,000 in the US.