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by Eric Kohn
October 28, 2011 4:58 AM
18 Comments
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The 13 Best Recent Indie Horror Movies to Watch at Home on Halloween

Scary movies don't deserve recognition only at the end of October, but we're grateful for this dubious American holiday in that it always confers instant legitimacy -- however briefly -- on a genre too often dismissed. Of course, studios love to take advantage of Halloween with the latest installment of a horror franchise, but the buck doesn't stop at "Paranormal Activity 3." We recommend considering these home entertainment options -- the better to be entertained while handing out cavities -- using this spooky list of 13 recent titles as their guide.

"Antichrist"

Lars Von Trier is generally considered more provocateur than horror auteur, but "Antichrist" deserves recognition as the freakily brilliant work of body horror that led genre fans to embrace it even more than the Cannes crowd. The eeriness is rooted in quietly unnerving performances by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a couple coping with the death of their child, but once "Antichrist" settles into a portrait of the bereaved Gainsbourg character losing her mind, chaos reigns.

"The House of the Devil"

Ti West has quickly emerged as one of the most effective young horror directors working today, not because his vision is original so much as incredibly precise: His recent movie, "The Innkeepers," cleverly uses the tropes of an '80s comedy before transforming into an utterly terrifying ghost story. But nothing so far in the West oeuvre can top his emulation of grindhouse insanity in 2009's "The House of the Devil," the slow-burn tale of a young babysitter (Jocelin Donahue) whose gig takes on a satanic twist in the explosive final moments.

"Inside"

The best pregnancy thriller since "Rosemary's Baby" is also, frankly, one of the most unnerving slasher movies ever made. French directing duo Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (whose comparatively understated "Livid" is currently playing the festival circuit) held nothing back for this tale of a pregnant woman fending off a home invader who wants the child in her womb. Never released in American theaters, "Inside" contains some seriously demented imagery, but not before setting up the scares with a technical efficiency that's downright Hitchcockian.

"Insidious"

One of the highest-grossing horror movies of the year isn't the best, but "Saw" director James Wan delivers a textbook example of old school frights with this super-fun haunted house treat. With elements of everything from "Poltergeist" to "Ghostbusters," Wan's ghoulish story of a troubled couple (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) grappling with the supernatural force keeping their son (Ty Simpkins) in a coma builds to a series of phantasmagoric images straight out of an E.C. Comics classic. It made money, so hopefully it will make a difference: Few commercial horror movies are so perfectly enjoyable.

"The Loved Ones"

It's technically cheating to put this entry on here since you won't find it on DVD in the U.S. Committed audiences, however, can track down the U.K. copy. They won't be disappointed: Australian writer-director Sean Byrne's deliriously frightening tale of a teen heartthrob (Xavier Samuel) kidnapped and tortured by the psychotic outcast (Robin McLeavy) he wont' take to the prom suggests "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remade by John Hughes. It's a terrifying masterpiece that turns high school drama into a literal dead zone.

"The Orphanage"

Warner Bros. has been trying to finish a remake of this classically frightening Spanish horror work, produced by Guillermo del Toro, for quite some time. But it seems unlikely that anyone can replicate its skillful use of shadows and implication to create a mixture of dread and serious emotional depth. Director Juan Antonio Bayona starts his movie more as a mystery, with a woman returning to the mansion of her youth to open up an orphanage for handicapped children and then coping with her own son's mysterious disappearance. Issues of traumatic memory and nightmarish imagery converge in a near-perfect union.

"Paranormal Activity" (alternate ending)

Been there, done that. Right? Wrong. Flashback to 2008, when "Paranormal Activity" was just a made-on-a-cheap horror experiment by former videogame developer Oren Peli. Before DreamWorks nabbed the movie and turned it into a blockbuster franchise, "Paranormal Activity" wasn't just a small production; it was a different one. Pick up the DVD of this essential found footage scarefest to watch the original version that contained a more distinctly creepy ending before the studio tinkered with it (and created a handy opening for sequels).

--Continued on next page--

"[REC]"

Then again, forget "Paranormal Activity": The best found footage horror movie of the decade is this supremely fast-paced Spanish take on the zombie genre from co-director Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, which finds a news reporter trapped in a building with doomed firefighters and fending off hordes of demonically possessed undead. Sony picked up the rights and buried it on DVD, only to release the shot-for-shot remake "Quarantine." One can get the idea from the English language version, but the original retains its visceral immediacy.

"Red, White & Blue"

British director Simon Rumley went beyond the call of duty with this microbudget look at an apparent nymphomaniac (Amanda Fuller) who draws numerous dangerous men into her world and then deals with the horrific outcome. At first more sexual drama than outright horror, the movie eventually reaches a point of no return where torture and cold revenge take center stage. Don't let the cheap look fool you; Rumley holds nothing back for the grim finale.

"The Roost"

Ti West will inevitably show up on most top lists of recent horror, but the reason for putting him on this list twice isn't because he's just that good, but because each of his movies stands out for a different reason. "The Roost," an undervalued directorial debut that led to his ill-fated studio gig directing a sequel to "Cabin Fever," takes the form of an old-fashioned scary TV special. But the hokey black-and-white intro eventually erupts into a relentlessly stream of gory mayhem involving carnivorous bats and their rabid victims.

"Slither"

Troma alum James Gunn ("Super") does his roots proud with this intentional cheesy sci-fi tale about a monstrous alien invasion taking over a small town. Strong casting (Elizabeth Banks and Nathan Fillion star) as well as enjoyably gooey special effects, make this raucous take on the "Invaders of the Body Snatchers" formula into one of the best guilty pleasures to come along in years.

"Thirst"

South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook has made far better movies ("Oldboy" and the rest of the Vengeance Trilogy are unparalleled works of genius), but his Cannes-competing vampire saga mixes sadness, warmth and gruesome showdowns, going places with graphic imagery that few recent entries in the "Twilight"-stricken genre dare to explore. And it's genuinely touching, to boot.

"Three...Extremes"

Rounding up a group of master horror directors and letting them run wild doesn't always guarantee great results (see: most episodes of "Masters of Horror"). But it certainly worked out well for this trilogy of shorts from East Asian auteurs Fruit Chan, Park Chan-wook and Takashi Miike, none of whom disappoint. Miike's "Box" elegantly evokes the terror of being buried alive and Park's "Cut" is a bloody crazy satire of the film industry in which a director faces revenge from a bitter extra. But nothing tops Chan's "Dumplings," an alternately gorgeous and disgusting tale of cannibalism that takes the fountain of youth saga to supremely morbid heights.

TAGS: Reviews

18 Comments

  • PLAYWITHDEATH | May 6, 2014 7:09 PMReply

    You guys should check out play with death dot com for horror film reviews

  • tom cruise | October 16, 2013 7:37 AMReply

    I came here from rotten tomatoes because of your moronic reviews. 'the loved ones' is a masterpiece?

    you ignoramus hipsters use the word "masterpiece " too loosely. You shouldn't be reviewing movies

  • The Master of The Underworld | August 19, 2012 8:51 PMReply

    Greetings,

    In The Best Horror Movie List you will find more horrors inspired by my muses http://www.besthorrormovielist.com/

  • serbian dude | July 27, 2012 5:18 PMReply

    A Serbian Film is one of the most terrifying and grotesque films to ever be made, using sex to lure in the viewer before hitting them with some exceptionally controversial scenes. Make sure you see the unrated edition. Not for the faint of heart.
    Three Extremes was great, dumplings was brilliant.
    Martyrs is definitely worth a watch too.
    Most of the crap on this list is exactly that... Crap.
    Found film movies are rarely scary, and the horror genre is made poorer by the recent influx of movies. They are only tense to the uninspired viewer who is superstitious or narrow minded religious. Lack of decent story telling abound.
    Insidious was truly terrible.
    Slither is definitely more comedy than horror, but it's still a great film.

  • Brian BarrSinister | June 28, 2013 6:15 PM

    There were a couple of gems in this lot (Vanishing on 7th street, Absentia, etc.) There are a couple of obscure ones that I had the recent pleasure of watching (Livide, Lovely Molly was especially terrifying in places). A Serbian Film is truly an ugly, evil-spirited movie that should never eeeeeever be watch. Some things you can't un-see.

  • Jonathan | June 8, 2012 9:31 AMReply

    http://serverfilme.hubpages.com/hub/Best-Horror-Movies-2012

  • Best Scary House | May 11, 2012 9:40 AMReply

    http://bestforhalloween.com
    Horror and Halloween Link Directory. Add your site for free. Horror authors, artists, halloween props, music, goth, costumes, paranormal, virtual haunted houses, all horror related sites are welcome to join. Best Scary House

  • Matthew Zivkovic | March 11, 2012 5:38 PMReply

    Great article. The 2012 Indie Horror Film Festival just came out with the new nominations.

    What They Say grabbed 5 top nominations.

    http://www.indyhorrorfilmfest.com/

    You can find out more about that movie here: http://www.whattheysayfilm.com/

  • Jeani | November 3, 2011 5:36 AMReply

    Great movie i have watched it . It was so Horror.
    Watch Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn part 1 Movie

  • diane Rubinstein | October 30, 2011 2:37 AMReply

    Great list! I have seen half of them

  • Jeff | October 29, 2011 4:14 AMReply

    Re: the Paranormal Activity alternate ending.

    (SPOILER)

    It really doesn't make any "sense"--why would the demon want to
    possess Katie just to kill her.

    And the other alternate ending--check YouTube--sounds great
    on paper (days go by with Katie standing over Micah's body while the time code rushes by, only to stop when the phone messages are left by people wondering where the couple are and finally the police come in and shoot Katie dead) but is really very boring and the cops are terrible actors.

    I think Spielberg was correct with his ending since it gives you the final jolt you need and yes, allows for some pretty creative prequels!

  • Eric | October 28, 2011 10:38 AMReply

    Thanks, John. I haven't seen the Japanese films you mention but MARTYRS and FRONTIER(S) are both truly terrifying.

  • John Wildman | October 28, 2011 9:47 AMReply

    Love this list and have all but a couple in my DVD library. For potential additions to the list, I would also add the French duo of Xavier Gens' FRONTIER(S) (2007) and Pascal Laugier's MARTYRS (2008), and while they have a little more dark humor intertwined with the horror, the Japanese tandem of Kenta Fukasaku's XX or X-CROSS (2007) and Yukihiko Tsutsumi's 2LDK (2003).

  • Eric Kohn | October 28, 2011 8:36 AMReply

    ...um, I don't think so? The description for "Insidious" stipulates that I don't think it's the best movie of the year; indeed, it's not even the best horror movie of the year, but it's still a lot of fun. It should be noted that nearly everything here is less than five years old. The aim of the list is to give you some recent options; obviously, a list containing older titles would have to run much longer. But I stand by the quality of everything on here.

  • James | October 28, 2011 8:11 AMReply

    I'm with Steve on this one and I don't think he needed to share some movies to give his opinion on these ones... and seriously? Insidious? u mad bro?

  • Eric | October 28, 2011 7:45 AMReply

    Steve: Lists are inherently limiting, especially when they involve matters of personal taste, so it's completely understandable to take issue with them. But since your missive includes no counterexamples (which, by the way, we encourage you to offer up), you would be well-advised to take your "crap" spitballs elsewhere.

  • Dustin | October 28, 2011 7:32 AMReply

    Great article, regardless of time of year. Some (Antichrist, Thirst) I've seen and fell in love with, others I'm excited to watch and hope I can love them too. I think you can take out the original ending Paranormal Activity, it was good, but nothing compared to the rest of these. Thanks again.

  • steve | October 28, 2011 6:44 AMReply

    Seriously??? That's a real crap list. The Horror genre is such an indie-heavy genre that you could have thrown darts at the horror section of any mom and pop video store and likely come up with a better (and certainly more interesting) list.