Now Watch This: The Best Underrated Indie Horror You May Have Missed in 2017
As another year comes to a close, we celebrate the wonderful indie horror films that may have flown under your radar this year. From modern slashers to horror comedies to tense thrillers and surreal psychological nightmares — we’ve got it all covered. Whatever your personal tastes, there’s bound to be something here you’ll love, as submitted by our writers from their personal Best of 2017 lists.
1. Mayhem (Dir. Joe Lynch)
A virus infects a corporate law office on the day attorney Derek Cho is framed by a co-worker and wrongfully fired. The infection raises stress hormones and is capable of making people act out their wildest impulses. Trapped in the quarantined building, Derek is forced to fight for his job, and his life.
What I love so much about Mayhem is that it never lets up. It is relentless, dark and amazingly funny. I almost felt guilty that I enjoyed the violence so much. There is something going on every second, and I had to watch it a second time just to catch some of the amazing vignettes of the background characters. So much down and dirty fun! When we peel away the thin veneer of civilization that covers us all, there is some really crazy stuff underneath.
Mayhem could have turned into some sort of silly overdone zombie movie, but director Joe Lynch took this parody about Corporate America gone wrong to great heights. You are guaranteed to love this dark, wonderful comedy. (– LA Zombie Girl)
2. Never Hike Alone (Dir. Vincente DiSanti)
Yes, it’s a short film — but damn it packs quite a punch! In what may be one of the greatest indie fan films ever captured on film, Never Hike Alone captures the complete essence of Friday the 13th. While there is no sex or nudity (which is a staple of the series), every other trope is represented. The hero of the film is actually pretty smart and able to survive in the wilderness. However, these are Jason’s woods, and he is its lethal protector.
There is a huge surprise at the end of the film, and it can be seen free on YouTube. Fans are beginning to consider this film from Vincente DiSanti to be not only canon with the series, but far superior to many of the later sequels. (– Nico Nice)
3. The Evil Within (Dir. Andrew Getty)
What a movie this is…and could have been. The 15 year troubled production is evident in the final product: it feels messy and over edited. But this adds to my fascination with this very weird and eerie story. It’s borderline brilliant, and Frederick Koehler gives a powerful, all-in performance as the troubled main character. The Evil Within is very strange, sometimes creepy, and always captivating. The climax is bonkers. Check it out. (– Jason McFiggins)
4. Nightlight (Dir. Kyle Daly & Taylor J Martin)
For 2017, I loved exploring the unknown and tapping into the talent of upcoming filmmakers and creators. These are the individuals that poured their hearts and soul into their work, and audiences have taken notice. To me 2017 was unveiling all the potential for those that not only believed in themselves, but also those that were afraid to tap into the unknown. One of my favorites of 2017 was Nightlight.
Kyle Daly and Taylor J. Martin have brought forth a fresh approach to things that go bump in their night with their short horror, “Nightlight.” The four minute reel introduces Steven (Tony Harutyunyan), a young boy who relies on his nightlight. However, when a strange being (Ryan Andrew Campbell) threatens his luminosity, he makes the decision to run from this being or face it head on.
Evidently apparent in this film is the creative approach and direction by Daly and Martin. In four, short minutes, the audience is immediately immersed. Amazingly enough, there are no words spoken in the entire film. Instead, the film relies on a cinematic approach with scintillating lighting and haunting yet charming audio. Watch it on Amazon Prime. (- Pricilla Kumar)
5. The Babysitter (Dir. McG)
A visually stunning film that makes effective use of the babysitter tropes while back-dropping it with a satanic cult spin, The Babysitter is quite gory and comedic at the same time. The dynamic between the babysitter and the kid feels believable and the twist ending is worth the wait. Catch this one on Netlix. (- Michael “The Dedman” Jones)
6. Raw (Dir. Julia Ducournau)
It’s refreshing to see a horror story that also serves as a coming-of-age for girls, from a woman filmmaker. There are some gross-out scenes, but Raw is a beautiful and meaningful film, and that is what sticks with you. (– Jackie Ruth)
7. Here Alone (Dir. Rod Blackhurst)
Actress Lucy Walters carries this film with a courageous and powerful, yet soul-baring and vulnerable performance. There is a surprising balance between heartbreak and suspense in the film, as she fights for survival against other humans, zombies, and perhaps the most formidable foe: her memories. A melancholic and quiet tale of survival that shocked me and moved me to tears. (- Argalin Darkscares)
8. Tragedy Girls (Dir. Tyler MacIntyre)
This film filled my gore loving heart with joy. And gore there is!! The story follows two girls from the small Midwest town of Rosedale who are so obsessed with serial killers that they’ve created their own online show, @TragedyGirls. Like, retweet, follow! (Don’t forget your hashtag!) When their sleepy little community is ravaged by a series of brutal murders, the girls take the opportunity to make a name for themselves.
Kidnapping and locking up the real killer, so they can take his place, the two sociopathic best friends fit their killing spree in between cheerleader practice and planning their senior prom — while sharing everything on social media.
A sharply written script by director Tyler MacIntyre and Chris Lee Hill delivers quick wit, and you can’t help but enjoy all the character performances in the film. Tragedy Girls would not have worked so well if it had not been perfectly cast. I loved this movie a lot! (– LA Zombie Girl)
9. Super Dark Times (Dir. Kevin Phillips)
If anyone recommends this to you, please watch. It’s a powerful coming-of-age story that will incite you with real life terror. The 1990s vibes are eerily spot on, and you’ll enjoy being transported back in time. It has one of the best scores from 2017, too. (– Ahlissa Eichhorn)
10. Slasher House 2 (Dir. Mj Dixon)
Financial woes are reduced to an insignificant technicality when passion exceeds limits. Slasher House 2 is just that, passionately innovative and emotionally heartfelt. It takes a ridiculous amount of talent to produce a film this astonishing with virtually no backing. An astute eye and a desire to continually push out quality films, assists director Dixon in overcoming any obstacles that may surface and arise. There isn’t one director out there who provides such a high quality of film on a dust budget. (- Monster Dugan)
11. Primal Screen (Dir. Rodney Ascher)
Yes, it’s technically a TV series, but Primal Screen is a documentary about why we fear the things we do. Huge pop culture phenomena, like the first episode’s 1978 film Magic, cemented our fear of the uncanny valley mainly seen in ventriloquist dummies. And while Magic, a horror movie, was always intended to scare, it shows how movies like this can impact us well into adulthood. What’s funny is that these same childhood terrors often create horror fanatics like you and I. Catch this one streaming on Shudder. (– Celia Thomas)
12. mother! (Dir. Darren Aronofsky)
For me, one of the most controversial and polarizing films of the year was also one of the most unforgettable. Darren Aronofsky’s disorienting and richly layered allegorical tale “mother!” was both scorned by audiences and lovingly fawned over by critics, appealing most to cinephiles with a love of atypical and thought provoking film. Love it or hate it, this film is unlike anything you’ve ever seen — and it’s definitely one that stays with you long after the credits roll.
There is an infinite amount to unpack here, and one viewing is barely enough to scratch the surface. It’s a film best viewed with friends, as it’s one you’ll want to talk about in depth afterwards — debating and dissecting what it all means. From religion to gender roles to the raping of Mother Earth, Aronofsky gleefully slaughters sacred cows with both beauty and ferocity. (- The Angry Princess)
13. It Stains the Sands Red (Dir. Colin Minihan)
Zombie films are a dime a dozen, so when one offers a new angle, it tends to stand out. The film hinges on the performance of Brittany Allen, and she nails it creating an unexpected and very human relationship with the zombie chasing her. The story also surprises with character depth and development which made me truly care about and root for Allen’s character. It Stains the Sands Red is an entertaining and fresh take on the genre, and I appreciated the hell out of it. (– Jason McFiggins)
14. Don’t Fuck in the Woods (Dir. Shawn Burkett)
Well done creature features WITHOUT CGI are rare, but Shawn Burkett does an amazing job taking the adage of sex=death to a higher level. Great FX, witty dialogue and plenty of gratuitous nudity sprinkled with humor certainly makes Don’t Fuck in the Woods one of the most underrated films of the year! (- Michael “The Dedman” Jones)
15. Hounds of Love (Dir. Ben Young)
In suburban Perth during the mid-1980s, people are unaware that women are disappearing at the hands of serial killer couple John and Evelyn White. After an innocent lapse in judgment, Vicki Maloney is randomly abducted by the disturbed couple. With her murder imminent, Vicki realizes she must find a way to drive a wedge between Evelyn and John if she is to survive.
The film, which had been off-putting to some film festival audiences, is difficult at times to watch. But that being said, it is still a riveting and suspenseful film. Hounds of Love is a movie that stayed with me a while and kept me up some nights wondering, ”Where is my teenage daughter right now?”
As a parent, these types of movies morph from the horror genre into something much more genuinely sinister — and scare the crap out of me. But I think it was handled well, by keeping most of the violence insinuated and off screen. I’m also pretty sure I will never listen to the Moody Blues song “Nights in White Satin” without getting cold chills and having this movie coming to mind. This movie affected me a lot, on a personal level, and for that reason I think it was one of the best of 2017. (– LA Zombie Girl)
16. Gerald’s Game (Dir. Mike Flanagan)
What was deemed unfilmable when the novel was released has finally been unleashed for the world to see. A couple go to their secluded cabin to spice up their marriage by getting a bit kinky when the unthinkable happens. Shot on a low budget, this adaptation of Stephen King’s tale is surprisingly faithful to the source material and fires on all cylinders.
Carla Gugino has the daunting task of carrying the weight of the film on its shoulders. Thankfully, she is up to snuff and delivers one of the most fearless performances this year. Mike Flanagan keeps the King train moving on course following It and a slight detour to The Dark Tower. Gerald’s Game was easily one of the best movies Netflix has picked up for their service. (– Nico Nice)
17. Psycho Therapy (Dir. Staci Layne Wilson)
Philly Chick Pictures and Staci Layne Wilson bring audiences a new short horror dubbed “Psycho Therapy” that is a tale of a wounded soul Tonia (Brooke Lewis) who confronts her therapist Dr. Walsh (Ricky Dean Logan) on one fateful afternoon.
IMDB Synopsis: When emotionally exhausted Tonia visits her esteemed psychiatrist, Dr. Walsh, to discuss her husband’s infidelity, the therapy session takes an unexpected turn. Tonia does not respond well to her doctor’s advice and he finds himself locked in a game of psychological hide-n-seek with a painfully disturbed patient.
The popular short has gone on to win many awards, including Honolulu Film Awards, Los Angeles Movie Awards, and Spotlight Horror Film Awards. Recently, Wilson and Lewis attended the prestigious Shriekfest event in Los Angeles where they enjoyed watching their work of art on the bring screen. (- Pricilla Kumar)
18. A Dark Song (Dir. Liam Gavin)
The Irish movie A Dark Song is incredibly atmospheric and spooky. It may feel slow to some people at first, but as you really get to know the two characters central to it, you retain a feeling of dread until after the movie is over. (– Jackie Ruth)
19. Pitchfork (Dir. Glenn Douglas Packard)
Glenn Douglas Packard’s feature film debut Pitchfork, is as bloody and ridiculously fun as you’d hope for in a slasher film, while also being surprisingly smart and refreshingly original. It works as both a loving homage to the great hack and slash films of the past as well as a unique, modern take on the well tread sub genre. The cost is solid and a joy to watch. Packard creates interesting and likable characters worth investing in — and a menacing but strangely sympathetic killer with the potential to launch a franchise. (- The Angry Princess)
20. 1922 (Dir. Zak Hilditch)
Yes, another Stephen King adaptation on the list. Netflix kept feeding the fire for fans that were hungry for more King after It and Gerald’s Game. This low budget chiller was adapted from a novella written by the author, and it is endless creepy. It is a bit of a slow burn, but it works for this film. I’m a sucker for period pieces, and the level of authenticity to the early 1920s is painstakingly recaptured with such success that you actually feel like you’re in that time period.
Now one of my biggest fears is rats, and this movie does its job of making your skin crawl when the little furry bastards show up. Thomas Jane knocks it out of the park as a simple farmer that devises a plan to kill his wife, and things go haywire from that point on. (– Nico Nice)
21. The Ice Cream Truck (Dir. Megan Freels Johnston)
The Ice Cream Truck was an entrancing night terror, smothered in underlying darkness. It’s an ethereal, dream like nightmare that burrows inside your mind, nesting in your subconscious. The visuals and the quiet, yet savage performance of Emil Johnsen thrust this film into a well-deserved cult status. It’s captivating and brutally ferocious, while silently remaining polite and friendly. Youthful innocence takes a wicked turn in this beautifully attractive display of childhood lore. (- Monster Dugan)
22. Humbug (Dir. Justin Lee, Matt Thiesen)
Christmas tales dripping with the dark and dreary are a personal favorite of mine. Writer Milly Sanders (alongside Matt Thiesen, Justin Lee, and Jessee Foudray) brings us a tale of a moody and scrooged young goth girl who hates the sounds of Kris Kringle. When she confronts her all too cheery neighbor who has a penchant for Christmas lights and baking sugar cookies, she is met with quite the surprise. The short horror comedy film explores the dark side of Christmas. Visually the film is stunning and both Sanders and Foudray do an excellent job in their respective roles. (- Pricilla Kumar)
23. Creep 2 (Dir. Patrick Brice)
Creep, written by and starring Patrick Brice (who also directed) and Mark Duplass, was one of my favorite films of 2015 — a brilliantly executed low budget horror thriller that breathed new life into the found footage sub genre and proved there were still many creative and compelling places to take the worn out sub genre. The 2017 sequel, Creep 2, takes everything great about the original and makes it even better.
While this isn’t your typical horror film (the are virtually no real scares), it’s incredibly smart, wickedly funny, exceptionally acted, and endlessly entertaining. Mark Duplass is flawless as the strangely endearing and lovable serial killer suffering a mid-life crisis, while seeking to revive the spark that once made him so passionate about his “work”. Be sure to check this one out on Netflix when you get a chance. (– The Angry Princess)
24. It Comes at Night (Dir. Trey Edward Shults)
It Comes at Night does tension better than anything, and it helps drive the story along. The entire cast is strong, and this movie too features a very different type of coming-of-age for its main character. (– Jackie Ruth)
Imagine the end of the world. Now imagine something worse. Unfortunately, the film’s marketing created some false expectations that resulted in disappointed horror fans who came for a pulse-pounding, post-apocalyptic thrill fest. This is not that kind of movie. The fear you experience watching It Comes at Night comes from real human drama, not from the creatures that go bump in the night. It’s a slow burning, psychological thriller that is beautifully shot, well crafted, and tension filled — featuring extraordinary performances and a very unique take on the sub genre. (– The Angry Princess)
25. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
With its chilling music, unnervingly detached performances, and sharp script, The Killing of a Sacred Deer kept me riveted from beginning to end. What appeared as an initially predictable story quickly morphed into something wholly original and disturbing. (- Josh Hancock)
Both a thriller and a parable, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is about a brilliant but detached neurosurgeon (Collin Farrell) whose seemingly perfect suburban life (at least by surface appearances) is shattered when a past mistake comes back to haunt him — forcing him to make an impossible choice to save his family. Visionary Greek Director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, Dogtooth) creates a chilling and haunting tale of guilt and retribution, karmic justice, and the dangers of playing God.
With exceptional performances from the entire cast and an effectively ominous soundtrack, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a tough but deeply satisfying watch. (- The Angry Princess)
26. Jackals (Dir. Kevin Greutert)
A well mixed blend of cult/slasher horror that makes excellent use of an isolated location and a terrific cast. The sheer brutality of the cult set against the angst of the family all over the son/cult member is gripping and will have you on the edge of your seat. (- Michael “The Dedman” Jones)
Mix a murderous cult with a family willing to risk it all and you get Jackals. It’s a run-of-the-mill home invasion film, but the “cult deprogrammer” spin and less-than-deserving family makes Jackals a breath of fresh air. Great performances from Ben Sullivan as Justin and literally every cult member. The Sinister-esque opening sequence is anxiety-inducing, as are scenes of the cult members waiting threateningly outside the family’s cabin. We can’t see their faces, but their Jackal masks give an unshakeable creepy vibe. (– Celia Thomas)
27. The Blackcoat’s Daughter (Dir. Oz Perkins)
A quiet masterpiece featuring a very creepy, slow building tension. The chilling atmosphere is matched only by the performance of Kiernan Shipka (she left me breathless, I consider it the performance of the year). James Remar and Lauren Holly are also excellent, especially Holly’s monologue in the middle of the film. Turn off the lights, turn off the phone, and watch this one alone. It stays with you. (– Jason McFiggins)
Officially released in 2017, this film by Oz Perkins haunts me till this day. Certain scenes stay with you and the mood of the film is just so suppressing. Amazing performances within it as well. (– Ahlissa Eichhorn)
Against the backdrop of a nearly deserted boarding school, The Blackcoat’s Daughter neatly sets up the trope of teenaged females in various stages of sexuality and rebellion. However, the quintessential coming of age story ends there. A beautiful slow burn film, directed by Oz Perkins (the son of Psycho’s Norman Bates) is surrounded by eerie atmospheric tones, sinister metaphors, and an ending worth waiting for. Be prepared to be thinking about this film long after the credits roll. (– Chelsea Opperman)