2019 was by no means the best of the decade, but we still had some heavy hitters like It: Chapter Two and Us at the box office. Meanwhile, indie darlings like One Cut Of The Dead and Midsommar took many by surprise, providing hope and inspiration to filmmakers the world over. But the past is past, and now we turn our attention to 20 independent horror films that you should keep on your radar in this new year, in no particular order.
1. A Good Woman Is Hard To Find
A recently widowed young mother will go to any lengths to protect her children as she seeks the truth behind her husband’s murder. [Review] Abner Pastoll’s feature-length debut is a nightmare of crime, murder, and dismemberment. One of the highlights of 2019’s Fantasia Fest, we can’t wait until the rest of the fans can get eyes on this visceral crime-thriller.
2. Color Out Of Space
A town is struck by a meteorite and the fallout is catastrophic. [Review] This modern-day retelling of a classic Lovecraft story updates the setting and characters, but otherwise sticks to the source material. This Richard Stanley film features another manic Nicolas Cage performance and goes full-tilt into body horror and uncanny psychedelia. Look for it in January.
Two New Orleans paramedics’ lives are ripped apart after encountering a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug with bizarre, otherworldly effects. Unfortunately, we’re largely in the dark on this one, with no review and nary a trailer to be found. But this latest, and most ambitious, effort from the directors of Spring and The Endless is not to be missed!
A group of war veterans must defend their local VFW post and an innocent teen against a deranged drug dealer and his relentless army of punk mutants. [Trailer] The latest film from Joe Begos (The Mind’s Eye, Bliss) appears to be his first time adapting someone else’s screenplay, which is something we’re really interested in seeing. VFW has been making noise on the festival circuit for months, but now we have a confirmed release date of February 14th, 2020.
5. The Wretched
A defiant teenage boy, struggling with his parent’s imminent divorce, faces off with a thousand year-old witch, who is living beneath the skin of and posing as the woman next door. [Review] The Pierce Brothers (Deadheads) sophomore effort is The Changeling meets Rear Window. Blending a manipulative-monster movie with a middle-class community mystery, The Wretched features a tight script, outstanding performances, and expert cinematography. Look for this to make several ‘best of 2020’ lists.
6. Come To Daddy
A man in his thirties travels to a remote cabin to reconnect with his estranged father. [Review] Elijah Wood takes center stage in the latest SpectreVision release, a feature film debut for director Ant Timpson. This weird and wild slice of cinema comes complete with a script by the co-writer of The Greasy Strangler. ‘Nuff said.
A small-town Oregon teacher and her brother, the local sheriff, become entwined with a young student harboring a dangerous secret with frightening consequences. Antlers is one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. With veteran director Scott Cooper (Hostiles, Black Mass) at the helm, and featuring performances from Keri Russell and Jesse Plemmons, look for it this April.
8. The Lodge
A soon-to-be stepmom is snowed in with her fiancé’s two children at a remote holiday village. Just as relations begin to thaw between the trio, some strange and frightening events take place. [Review] The sophomore narrative feature from directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (Goodnight Mommy) shocked audiences at 2019’s Fantastic Fest. This tense tale features striking cinematography and excellent performances.
9. The Invisible Man
When Cecilia’s abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her a fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see. Leigh Whannel (Upgrade) brings us a new twist on a classic Universal monster. We can’t wait to see Whannel and lead actor Elizabeth Moss (Us) bring this tale of paranoia and abuse to the screen.
After status-obsessed teen Sara has sex for the first time, she wakes up the next day nine months pregnant-with an alien. [Review] Jessica already said it best: Snatchers has the fun, modern gleam of Tragedy Girls and Happy Death Day, the dark humor nostalgia of Army of Darkness, the style of Shaun of the Dead, the wit and heart of Juno, and the atrocious, yet hysterical gore of Drag Me to Hell.
A group of young people is attacked by three individuals. Cruel games and tortures will be broadcast in live streaming. [Review] We know … we know. At this point it’s become tradition, but fingers crossed that we actually get a US release this year. Back in 2017, co-founder Jacob Hopkins lauded director Marc Martinez Jordán’s ability to take the concepts of home invasion, torture, and the social media craze and spin it into one hell of a ride.
12. The Vast Of Night
In the twilight of the 1950s, two youths seek the source of a mysterious frequency that has descended upon a town in New Mexico, in Andrew Patterson’s pitch-perfect sci-fi thriller. Director Patterson’s feature debut is an effective sci-fi throwback, influenced by The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. The Vast of Night also stars Sierra McCormick, taking on a much different role than her turn in VFW. Amazon Studios picked up the film for distribution prior to its screening at Fantastic Fest. They are currently planning a limited theatrical release, soon followed by streaming on Prime Video.
13. After Midnight
When his long-suffering girlfriend disappears suddenly, leaving a cryptic note as her only explanation, Hank’s comfortable life and his sanity begin to crack. Then, from the woods surrounding his house, something terrible starts trying to break in. [Review] Jeremy Gardner is set for one helluva 2020, with this first entry showcasing his talents in a love story crossed with a monster movie à la Spring. After Midnight combines elements of heartfelt relationship drama, character study, paranoid thriller, and creature feature. Currently slated for a February 14th release.
14. Sadistic Intentions
A psychotic musician lures a fellow bandmate and an unsuspecting woman to a remote mansion for a night of romantic deceit and grinding metal mayhem. [Review] Make it a double-date with Jeremy Gardner on February 14th, with his second leading role in a horror-romance on the same day! This sweet and sadistic genre gem leaves you satisfied with a feverishly executed crescendo from first-time filmmaker Eric Pennycoff.
When five teen employees at the local movie theater in a small Christian town discover a mysterious old film hidden in its basement, they unleash an alluring succubus who gives them a sex education…written in blood. [Review] It may be the worst title of the year, from an SEO perspective, but Porno is a shocking, charming supernatural thriller featuring fun, over-the-top performances and one of the best–or worst, depending who you ask–peen shots of the year. This one is not to be missed, in particular for former (or current) movie theater workers and anyone raised with a strong Christian upbringing.
Members of a family find themselves terrorized by their eight-year-old son’s imaginary friend. Brandon Christensen’s followup to Still/Born [Review] shows that his terrifying debut was no fluke. Z is a good old-fashioned scary movie featuring a creepy kid and an apparently demonic presence. Playing out a bit like a narrative version of Paranormal Activity 3, the film explores everything you’d expect it to with the ‘imaginary friend’ setup, culminating in a tense, satisfying conclusion.
17. Last Night In Soho
A young girl, passionate in fashion design, is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters her idol, a dazzling wannabe singer. But 1960s London is not what it seems, and time seems to fall apart with shady consequences. Edgar Wright (Shaun Of The Dead) is back in the genre with this horror-thriller featuring Anya-Taylor Joy. Do we need to say more?
18. The Turning
A young governess is hired by a man who has become responsible for his young nephew and niece after the deaths of their parents. A modern take on Henry James’s novella “The Turn of the Screw”. Gothic horror is hot, and this iconic story is now in the hands of veteran director Floria Sigismondi (American Gods, Daredevil, The Handmaid’s Tale). Throw in Mackenzie Davis (Blade Runner 2049) and Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things, IT) and you’ve got the potential for an all-time classic.
19. Gretel & Hansel
A long time ago in a distant fairy tale countryside, a young girl leads her little brother into a dark wood in desperate search of food and work, only to stumble upon a nexus of terrifying evil. [Trailer] The latest iteration of this classic fairy tale comes from director Oz Perkins (The Blackcoat’s Daughter, I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House). Dripping with cold, contrasting colors, and an immense feeling of dread, the trailer promises a dark, moody story with a sinister twist.
When worlds collide following a botched robbery, a group of would-be criminals get more than they bargained for, and are tested to their limits in a desperate attempt to survive a predator of monstrous proportions. [Review] This twist on home invasion took home several festival awards last year before landing a distribution deal with Gravitas Ventures. This slow burn builds tension with a relatively unknown cast, culminating in a bloody, satisfying climax with award-winning special effects.