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Jakub Paulík
January 22, 2021, 12:36pm
Reading time: 7:57

10 Independent Horror Films That Will Beat Hollywood Horror Flicks Any Day

Are you bored with mainstream horror films? Try diving into the independent waters.

Jakub Paulík
January 22, 2021, 12:36pm
Reading time: 7:57
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10 Independent Horror Films That Will Beat Hollywood Horror Flicks Any Day
Zdroj: Entertainment One / Umbrella Entertainment
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If you're already fed up with cheap scares, pretentious exorcisms and possessed dolls, you may be pleased to hear that there are horror movies out there that take a different, more ambitious path. There's a reason why they say that the horror genre thrives mainly in the independent waters


Sure, there are some mainstream motion pictures like The Conjuring or It and we're not against them at all, quite the contrary. These two horror films in particular are more than solid and deservedly enjoy all of the praise from both critics and viewers. 


However, we consider it important to draw attention to a few perhaps lesser-known, but even better genre films. On this list are some of the best independent or arthouse horror movies that were brought to silver screens in the 21st century. We're convinced you'll find your favorite here. 


In this article you'll read about:
  • Why Robert Pattinson fits the horror genre
  • Which is the best independent  film of the 21st century in our opinion
  • Which film from mental health hospital environment really scared us 
  • Two directors that "stole" more than half of the ranking spots in this list
  • Deadly plague-themed horror you should definitely give a chance to 



10. The Lighthouse (directed by: Robert Eggers, 2019)

Director Robert Eggers became famous for his impressive horror The Witch and in 2019 he's brought us The Lighthouse, starring the talented Robert Pattinson and the experienced Willem Dafoe.


Pattinson portrayed a young man, Thomas Howard, who's tutored at work by an old lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake, brilliantly portrayed by Dafoe. Over time, the isolation of the deserted island begins to drive both protagonists crazy, so they begin to waste some time by drinking alkohol, for example. Robert Pattinson is especially prominent in several scenes, since the horror role has really fit him perfectly. 


The Lighthouse plays with the viewers senses in a very unpleasant way, often not knowing whether you're watching reality or ordinary delusions. Therefore, The Lighthouse is relatively inaccessible for the average viewer, but the genre lovers will absolutely find something of their own in this motion picture. 


9. It Comes at Night (directed by: Trey Edward Shults, 2017) 

It Comes at Night belongs to those films that most viewers looked forward to and majority of them was left disappointed. To some extent, this is due to somewhat misleading trailers. In our opinion, this film by Trey Edward Schults is an extremely powerful horror drama


We'll be transported to an unspecified future, when the world became flooded with an unknown disease. Paul and his family are trying to find escape in an isolated cottage in the woods and follow strict safety rules. However, once desperate Will breaks into the house, looking for food for his wife and son, Paul decides to invite them to live in his house. 



The film is full of immersive dark atmosphere, excellent actors such as Joel Edgerton (who also contributed as a producer) and thoroughly animated characters. The director does not try to kiss viewers ass in any way and dares to leave certain questions irritably unanswered, so you'll really have to use your brain in this one. 


Shults has fortified the thought stimulus aspect of this film and it can be discussed for hours after it's over. It might not be for everyone, but it's an intelligent and unique genre-piece that has righteously been recognized by the critics as well. 

8. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos, 2017) 

Yorgos Lanthimos is a truly original filmmaker and his films are very disturbing and scary. In a way, funny and surreal as well. This also goes for his unconventional horror The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The main character is the successful cardiac surgeon Steven who lives a peaceful life with his wife and children. 


He spends his free time with a 16-year-old Martin, a mysterious teenager that gradually becomes part of his family. However, this will have very unexpected and tragic consequences.



The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a slow, focused and tremendously dark experience. Lanthimos refers to Stanley Kubrick here. Bizarre atmosphere and dark humor might reveal his inspiration by the absurd theatre and, of course, the motif of ancient tragedies is abundantly present. 


The entire film is dominated by the fantastic Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and especially the demonic Barry Keoghan. The result is a work of art, where you'll have to decipher many things on your own. However, if surreal films are what you're into, do not hesitate. 

7. It Follows (directed by: David Robert Mitchell, 2014)

One would think that quality and original Slasher-style horror is basically no longer possible to shoot today. However, David Robert Mitchell has completely stunned the audience with the hit film It Follows, in 2014. In it, a mysterious deadly curse is transmitted between teenagers through sexual intercourse


That's exactly what happens to the young Jay. She winds up having to fight for her life after having sex with a good-looking young man. Ghosts are beginning to haunt her. But how do you break such a curse? The film scored with likeable characters, great idea and confident execution. 



It Follows has deservedly become a sensation among the critics. It was slightly more difficult among the viewers at first, but it has found its audience eventually. Furthermore, it managed to stir up numerous live discussions and interpretations. Mitchell's film can be viewed through a strictly horror angle, but you can also find parallels for the themes of intimacy, human sexuality and their social perception.

6. Midsommar (directed by: Ari Aster, 2019)

In 2018, Ari Aster shook the horror world with his brilliant Hereditary film. Fans of the director therefore expected another load of unadulterated goosebump material. Young actress Florence Pugh stole the show by portraying the role of Dani. 


Together with her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and friends, they go on a Scandinavian trip, where they plan to celebrate the summer solstice. Shortly, they realize that the locals have very strange ways about them and the celebration doesn't only include non-traditional fun, but also human sacrifice.



Midsommar is initially mysterious, later thrilling and horrifying. The viewer suspects since the very beginning that there's something wrong with the locals and their ways, but you never know what to expect from them. This creates intense and extremely unpleasant atmosphere of uncertainty, that lingers from opening of the films all the way through to the closing credits. 

5. Session 9 (directed by: Brad Anderson, 2001)

With a little perspective, we could say that Session 9 is slightly ahead of it's time. The year 2001 was mainly favorable towards the average "ghostly stories" or horror remakes. However, director Brad Anderson came with a very consistent and slow genre film that chilled multiple viewers spines. 


A group of workers has to repair a former mental health hospital in a week. One of them discovers old recordings of sessions with a dissociative personality disorder patient and strange things begin to happen in their environment. If you expect something like the next Grave Encounters, you might as well just tune out. 



Because Anderson's film is a full-fledged psychological horror intended for receptive and reflective viewers. You will have to interpret its events as well as the conclusion on your own to some extent. 


The atmosphere is brilliant and fans will find numerous memorable and hair-raising scenes. It's a pity that the film didn't make it into the awareness of broad audiences. Nevertheless, if you like quality and elaborate horror movies, don't hesitate with this one. 

4. Get Out (directed by: Jordan Peele, 2017)

The inconspicuous genre film Get Out by the comedian Jordan Peele has caused a great stir in America, mainly by weighing in on the sensitive issues of racism and prejudice. Peele's film was accompanied by enthusiastic criticism and the film itself has made it to the Oscars. Out of four nominations it won an award for the Best Original Screenplay. Great accomplishment for a horror movie, don't you think? 


Young photographer Chris and his girlfriend Rose head over to Rose's parents house. Chris is slightly worried, since the parents of his girl have no idea that he's a black man. But can this still be a problem nowadays? The welcome is warm, but the old couple and two black servants are acting really strange. Is this visit really safe? 



Peele succeeded in combining great insecure and nervous atmosphere with really dark humor and satirical elements, which gained him the approval of American audiences. Outside of the States, the film didn't do so well financially, but we're really glad that it eventually made it all the way to our cinemas. If you still haven't seen the movie, now's the time to fix it. Tension throughout the entire duration of the film is guaranteed. You'll even get a few good laughs. 

3. The Babadook (directed by: Jennifer Kent, 2014)

The Babadook by Jennifer Kent can probably be advised as the first significant representative of this decade that launched the current wave of independent horror films. At the centre of the story is the widow Amelia that has raised her very problematic son by herself. He even begins to insist that an invisible monster lives in their house. As soon as Amelia discovers the mysterious book Mister Babadook, strange events begin to occur around their house. 



The Babadook combines psychological drama with horror elements in a great way. The result is a really dark and atmospheric ride that zoomed in on themes of grief, depression and mental illness.


Essie Davis gave a greatly concentrated performance in the lead role and the film received enthusiastic responses from critics and viewers alike. The Babadook was also accompanied by great reputation, but the hype itself wasn't nearly as big as in other similar films. 


After all, the film didn't even make it to our multiplex cinemas. Thus it has found a circle of grateful festival viewers that prefer slow and more sophisticated scare.

2. Hereditary (directed by: Ari Aster, 2018)

Hereditary by Ariho Astera has fascinated us with it's spine-chilling trailer already and we've been looking forward to the film ever since. It has earned applause from film festival critics and after viewing the film, we had to indisputably agree with them. We were graced with a delightfully chilling, depressing and psychologically sophisticated terror.


For the best viewing experience, it's good not to know too much about the film. Perhaps we can reveal that the Graham family is in the center of the story. When the mother of Annie dies, family members happen to find out just how many secrets the old lady has kept. The film boasted petrifying music, amazing camera and attentive emphasis on sinister details.



Toni Collette in the main role has performed an absolute acting masterpiece, with the convincing and young Alex Wolff right next to her in the role of her son. Gabriel Byrne and wonderfully disturbing Milly Shapiro were also excellent. The reception of the film by the wide audiences was mixed. Many considered the film boring and pointless. But in general we can say that the positive reactions prevailed. 

1. The Witch (directed by: Robert Eggers, 2015) 

Brilliant historical horror by Robert Eggers caused a complete sensation at festivals. Local critics and audiences have praised it as one of the most impressive horror films of recent years. The gloomy and depressing film tells the story of farmer William and his family, rejected from their city after many disputes. 


The family builds a farm nearby an obscure forest, but the problems soon arise. The youngest son, Samuel, gets kidnapped by a witch. From this moment on, the family sinks deeper and deeper into the quicksand of religious fanaticism and mutual distrust.



The Witch is abundant with fantastically dark atmosphere, elaborate historical realities that arise during the dialogues and the structure of sentences. Eggers was inspired by many fairy tales, folklore legends, court notes and testimonies from the time of the witch hunts (he was also inspired by the infamous Salem witch trials).


Of course, the brilliant acting performances are a given here. Leading with Ralph Ineson, Katie Dickie of the young Anya Taylor-Joy, whom we immediately fell in love with. When the film reached the cinemas, popcorn audience couldn't handle it and their reactions were mostly negative. For horror connoisseurs, though, it's an absolute genre pearl. 

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