Independent movies are movies made outside of the major film distribution companies. Typically, they have a much lower budget than mainstream films, although that is not always the case. Indie movies generally are released with smaller, limited releases, than wide national theatrical debuts, but again, there is no rigorous protocol that all independent films must follow.
You might be surprised to learn how many of the iconic horror films in existence are independent movies. Even big slasher movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Saw, and Halloween initially began as small movie productions. This list details the most popular indie horror movies of all time, according to IMDb.
10 Green Room (2015)
A punk rock band gets the chance to perform at a new venue, but while they're there, they accidentally uncover a grisly scene of violence. Due to what they saw, the band becomes a new target by violent skinheads attending the concert. They attempt to murder every witness to the terrible crime viciously.
Green Room starred Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, and Patrick Stewart. Praised as one of the best independent horror films of all time, Green Room is known for its gritty violence and tense atmosphere. It's not your typical slasher film. Green Room depicts a fierce battle for survival.
9 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was released in 1974 and has long since become a staple in the slasher genre. It is an iconic horror film, and its legacy continues to this day with countless films in the franchise at large. But did you realize that Texas Chainsaw was an independent horror film?
It had a tiny budget and became one of the highest-grossing independent films of all time, although Halloween eventually overtook it. The small budget is part of the reason the shooting and production schedule of this film was so grueling. Cast members were forced to be outside in intense heat with real dead animals surrounding them to create the horrifying atmosphere.
8 The Evil Dead (1981)
In addition to being considered one of the best horror movies and one of the best cult movies of all time, The Evil Dead is also one of the most successful independent films ever made. The budget for this movie was pretty small, and the crew shot on location in a real cabin in the woods.
The living conditions were not comfortable; many of the crew members slept in the house. The plot of the movie follows a group of five college students who stay at a cabin in the woods where they uncover a mysterious book. Upon reading a passage from it, they unwittingly unleash a demonic horde.
7 Man Bites Dog (1992)
Man Bites Dog is a Belgian black comedy horror independent film shot on a shoe-string budget by a group of student filmmakers. The movie came out in 1992 and received an NC-17 rating. Filmed in mockumentary style, the movie follows a serial killer's horrific crimes.
As the film crew gets increasingly embroiled in the serial killer's path, they come in contact with depraved and appalling acts of violence. The movie won the International Critics' Prize at the Cannes Film Festival that year. Critics were impressed with Man Bites Dog's stark, downright nasty, moments of horror depicted in this small black-and-white movie.
6 REC (2007)
Made for only $2 million, REC is widely considered one of the best movies in the found footage genre. It follows the perilous journey of a reporter and cameraman investigating an apartment building in Barcelona only to realize there is something extremely disturbing about the buildings' inhabitants.
REC is a Spanish supernatural film. An American version called Quarantine received similar praise during its release, although it never quite met the same success as the original. Due to the success of REC, it spawned three sequel films, REC 2, REC 3: Genesis, and REC 4: Apocalypse. REC premiered at the 64th Venice International Film Festival.
5 Funny Games (1997)
There are two versions of Funny Games, the original 1997 Austrian psychological film and the 2007 remake starring Naomi Watts. The 1997 version is a highly-praised independent horror movie due to its incredible tension, unsettling scenes of torture and violence, and its subversion of American slasher film tropes.
Due to its popularity, Funny Games is available in the Criterion Collection. The film starred Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering, and Stefan Clapczynski with Michael Haneke serving as the movie's director. Two young men break into a family's vacation home to torture them with sadistic games and hold them hostage for seemingly no reason.
4 Saw (2004)
James Wan is an established horror legend these days with mega-hits like The Conjuring franchise under his belt. But he got his directorial debut with a little film we all know and love called Saw. The 2004 horror-torture movie made more than $100 million on a $1 million budget and became one of the most profitable horror movies since the debut of Scream.
Many people know Saw now because it is a multi-million dollar horror franchise with eight films and a reboot by Chris Rock in the works. Ironically, Saw received mixed reviews, but that didn't stop it from becoming iconic.
3 The Skin I Live In (2011)
Nominated for Best Foreign Film by the British Independent Film Awards, The Skin I Live In is a disturbing Spanish horror movie. The movie is based on Thierry Jonquet's novel Mygale. A disturbed doctor becomes hellbent on creating an artificial skin that could save burn victims.
He is motivated by his wife's terrible car accident that left her severely disfigured. Eventually, Doctor Legard achieves his vision and to experiment on whether or not it works, he and his housekeeper test it out on a woman imprisoned against her will. The Skin I Live In stars Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet, and Roberto Álamo.
2 Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (2010)
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is a horror-comedy film that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010. Two hillbillies are mistaken for psychotic killers by a group of idiotic college students. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil has a pretty surprising legacy given the movie had a limited release when it debuted.
The film didn't have a large budget and didn't make back all of its budget costs, yet it went on to develop a loyal and passionate fan following. There was initially a sequel in the works for the movie back in 2014, but unfortunately, it never came to fruition.
1 Halloween (1978)
As one of the most famous horror movies and iconic slasher films of all time, it may be hard to believe that Halloween is an independent film. The movie was made for less than $1 million, which is a rare achievement. Even in the modern era, it's rare to find a film that goes on to make millions made for less than one million.
Halloween follows the story of serial killer Michael Meyers after he escapes from a sanitorium and goes on a rampage against teenage babysitters in the town of Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night. The movie helped launch the career of a renowned scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis.