With Halloween just around the corner, it’s the perfect time of year to turn off the lights, grab some popcorn and watch a slew of scary movies. All you need are horror films that actually offer up real scares, instead of scenarios that leave you laughing rather than screaming in terror. Low budget horror films are typically associated with being over the top, cheesy, ridiculous and plain and simple, a B-movie (which just means bad). However, Hollywood has found a way to stretch their dollar far enough to offer up horror films that are actually horrifying. With that being said, here are 10 low budget horror films that offer up the biggest scares.
10. The Strangers – $9 million
The Strangers was released in 2008, and starred A-List Actress Liv Tyler. Produced on a $9 million budget, the film grossed more than $82 million in the box office. The Strangers is about a young couple that, while staying at a vacation home for the evening, are terrorized by three unknown assailants.
Scare Factor: Being terrorized by a group of strangers late at night, while stuck in the middle of nowhere with no way of getting help, is the premise of the film. The story is not far-fetched. There’s no monsters, ghouls or ghosts, and that’s what makes it truly terrifying – because it could happen, and it did happen.
9. 28 Days Later – $8 million
28 Days Later was released in 2002 and was produced on an $8 million budget. It grossed over $82 million in the box office and spawned a sequel titled, 28 Weeks Later. The plot centers around a group of people who have managed to survive an incurable virus that spread throughout the UK 28 days prior.
Scare Factor: 28 Days Later successfully takes the zombie genre to a whole new level that offers genuine scares. The zombies/infected are faster, more terrifying and they turn instantly. The film offers fully developed characters, which makes the audience actually care what happens to them. As a result, 28 Days Later will keep your heart racing and your palms sweating as you pray they make it out alive.
8. The Descent – $7 million
Released in 2006, The Descent was produced on a $7 million budget. The film exceeded all expectations, earning over $57 million in the box office. The plot centers around a group of girlfriends whose caving expedition goes terribly wrong, when they become trapped and become the prey of a strange breed of predators.
Scare Factor: This group of friends may as well be on another planet, because no one can hear them scream. Knowing there’s no help on the way, there’s no way out and that you’re being hunted, is beyond scary.
7. Oculus – $5 million
Oculus was released in 2014 and was produced on a budget of $5 million. The supernatural film earned an impressive $44 million in the box office. Oculus is the story of a woman who tries to prove her brothers’ innocence, by proving that the murders he was accused of committing as a child, were actually carried out by a supernatural phenomenon.
Scare Factor: The film switches back and forth between reality and fantasy so seamlessly, that you yourself will have a difficult time determining what’s real and what’s not. Oculus will have you at the edge of your seat wishing and hoping that reality is fantasy and fantasy is reality.
6. Sinister – $3 million
Sinister was released in 2012 and although A-List actor, Ethan Hawke starred in it, the film only had a budget of $3 million. Sinister was a box office hit, earning more than $77.7 million. The film centers around a true crime writer who discovers a stash of 8mm home videos, which suggests that the murder he is researching is the work of a serial killer that is still on the loose.
Scare Factor: Through the sporadic use of grainy 8mm film, Sinister burns truly gruesome images into your mind that you won’t soon forget. The film offers plenty of scares and serves up a twist ending you’ll never see coming.
5. The Last Exorcism – $1.8 million
The Last Exorcism was released in 2010, and was made on a budget of $1.8 million. It went on to earn over $67.7 million in the box office and spawned a sequel. The film tells the story of a minister who allows a documentary crew to film the last exorcism he’ll ever perform.
Scare Factor: The Last Exorcism skipped the gross out and effects for true horror, that keeps you guessing right up until the very end. No matter what special effects, monsters or gore you can put in a horror film, when it comes down to it, there is nothing scarier than a young girl dressed in a white night-gown who’s been possessed by some sort of evil presence.
4. Insidious – $1.5 million
Insidious was released in 2011, and was created on a budget of $1.5 million. It went on to gross $97 million in the box office. The film centers around a family who is trying to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose son in a realm called, “The Further”.
Scare Factor: Insidious packs astounding cinematography, creating an atmosphere right from the beginning that is downright creepy and disturbing. The film takes you along on a horrifying haunted house ride and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. With a PG-13 rating, Insidious skips the gore and instead, builds tension and offers genuine scares throughout.
3. Saw – $1.2 million
Saw hit theaters in 2004 and shocked audiences everywhere with a twist ending no one saw coming. The film was produced on a $1.2 million budget and went on to gross over $103 million in the box office. Thanks to its success, Saw became a franchise, releasing six more films with its last film released in 2010.
Scare Factor: Saw uses excessive gore and psychological twists to scare audiences on a surprisingly deeper level. Live or die, is the central question victims that are tested by Jigsaw are asked, and each scenario leaves you wondering would you, yourself, live or die? Turning life and death into a game, now that’s scary.
2. The Blair Witch Project – $60,000
In 1999, The Blair Witch Project launched the modern found footage genre with a budget of approximately $60,000. The filmmakers built up hype by using the internet to market the film and claiming the movie was “real”. The Blair Witch Project earned a staggering $248.6 million, and it tells the story of three film students who vanished, while documenting the Blair Witch Legend.
Scare Factor: The Blair Witch Project blends the line between reality and fiction, leaving you question whether the story of these three film students is in fact true. Throughout the film, you don’t know why you’re scared, but you’re just scared. The Blair Witch Project never shows you what you’re supposed to be afraid and instead, let’s your brain fill in the holes, creating an even more terrifying experience.
1. Paranormal Activity – $15,000
In 2009, Paranormal Activity seemed to come out of nowhere, suddenly hitting theaters everywhere. With a budget of $15,000, movie goers wouldn’t have been expecting much if it wasn’t for that clever marketing campaign behind Paranormal Activity. They generated buzz by screening it at college campuses and filming the audience watching the film. They then used the audiences’ reactions as the movie trailer and it worked. The film earned $199.3 million in the box office and has spawned four sequels, and counting.
Scare Factor: The found footage genre is a hit or miss, but for Paranormal Activity, it works. The film offers the types of scares that get under your skin and stay there. It’s not riddled with gore or monsters and you never see the paranormal entity, but that’s what makes it scary, because you know it’s there – but you can’t see it and you’ll never see it coming.