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Happy Halloween! Here Are 10 Indies That Changed the Face of Horror

Happy Halloween! Here Are 10 Indies That Changed the Face of Horror

Horror films have long been a mainstay on the independent film scene. Considering the relatively inexpensive production costs and devoted fan-base that promises returns for financiers, countless filmmakers have taken the plunge and painted the screen red with blood. Many of these filmmakers, with their unique visions of the low-budget horror troupes, end up altering the genre itself and changing the direction of cinema. Below, just in time for Halloween, are 10 horrors that changed the game. (This is by no means a comprehensive list of every horror film that has made a dent on indie cinema. Please include your own picks in the comment section below.) Click on film title for more info.

“Nosferatu” (1922)
Despite a few tactful changes to naming the undead, “Nosferatu” was deemed the unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and was doomed to be destroyed. However, a print of the film emerged and was duplicated, saving this German expressionistic horror. As you watch the film below, notice how Max Schreck’s Count Orlok eyes never seem to blink which adds even more to his unnerving performance. 

“Night of the Living Dead” (1968)
The Godfather of today’s cultural craze for all things zombie, “Night of the Living Dead” actually never once referenced these creeping ghouls as zombies. These flesh eaters were actually the result of nuclear radiation which is just one of the many Cold War and cultural critiques laid out in this film. “Night of the Living Dead” is worth watching if only to first see all the troupes of the zombie genre picture as they are first established by  legendary horror director George A. Romero.

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)
Though initially banned in several countries, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is now considered one of the greatest horror films of all time. The film which follows a group of teens as they eventually fall prey to an impossibly terrifying family of cannibals and the hulking screaming monster that is Leatherface, is a prime example of 1970s exploitative cinema. The truly shocking feature of this film however is the difference between the amount of blood on screen and how much you think is there.


“Suspiria” (1977)
Despite blood red making a prominent mark in this Italian horror, director Dario Argento makes all his colors vibrant in this 1977 classic. Drastic lighting and a near perfect soundtrack breathe a nightmarish quality into “Suspiria” that is ultimately enthralling and terrifying.

“Halloween” (1978)
“Halloween” helped define the art of the slasher film. Departing from the screaming monsters and crazed killers, John Carpenter’s Michael Myers is slow moving, unemotional, and effective. With a featureless white mask (the painted mask of William Shatner), the audience is able to project anything they want on this single murderous force. However, the true genius of “Halloween” is the use of point of view shots that puts Myers’ mask on the audience and the knife in their hand.


“The Evil Dead” (1981)
Giving rise to director Sam Raimi, “The Evil Dead” has achieved cult status for combining laughs with buckets of blood. Spawning a trilogy and a successful re-make in 2013, “The Evil Dead” is one of the few horror films that will have you terrified and smiling.

“The Blair Witch Project” (1999)

“The Blair Witch Project,” when it was released in 1999, was such a phenomena that many movie-goers literally thought they were seeing the actual found footage of three film students who disappeared while hiking in the Black Hills. The pieced together film which was shot for $40,000 and ultimately grossed $240.5 million, brilliantly lets the audience imagine the horror just beyond the campsite. With a few screams in the woods there and a few well placed cracklings in the darkness, “The Blair Witch Project” presents a sense of fear few films have.
“Saw” brought psychological horror and grisly gore to a new level. Shot in just 18 days and kicking off James Wan’s horror career, “Saw” centers on two men as they are tested by serial killer Jigsaw to see if they truly appreciate life through a trial of brutal self sacrifice. Wan quickly introduces his Chekhov’s gun of two hand held saws and we slowly see that these saws are not designed for the chains around their legs but something much more painful.

Many will argue that “Shaun of the Dead” should not be on this list but let’s consider a few things before we rush to judgement. The film despite being a comedy is no less of a horror film and hilariously executes many of the zombie picture staples that had become cliche over time. I would also argue that despite the alpha-male hero complex many have when fantasizing over the zombie apocalypse, “Shaun of the Dead” is how most people would handle it. “Have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over.” 

One of producer Jason Blum’s centerpiece micro-budget films, “Paranormal Activity” spawned a massively successful franchise. Using the ‘found footage’ directorial style, a couple attempts to record the strange phenomena in their house and discover a demonic presence. What terrifies the audience though is not the actual paranormal activity but the waiting. There are long sequences where nothing seems to be happening but the fear that something is just within the shadows will leave you clinging to your chair. 

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