The 50 Best Sundance Horror Movie Premieres

'Hereditary' made a big splash at last year's Sundance, but it's not the only horror movie to have premiered at the film festival. Here are 49 others.

Sundance Horror Movies

10. Saw (2004)

Saw

While the franchise this movie spawned is predominantly concerned with gore gags and gimmicks, not to mention how the film paved the way for the ‘torture porn’ boom of the 2000s, sometimes it’s easy to forget that the first Saw flick is a captivating mystery-thriller. The film also birthed a modern horror icon in the form of Jigsaw, and let’s be frank: his reveal in this one was a big surprise first time around. James Wan and Leigh Whannell were clearly inspired by Cube and Se7en here, but just because they wore their influences on their sleeves shouldn’t detract from the fact Saw was a bloody breath of fresh air at the time. (Kieran Fisher)


9. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Blair Witch Project

When we talk about horror movies that changed the game, we have to talk about The Blair Witch Project. Although the film didn’t invent the found footage concept, it did popularize the technique when it premiered at Sundance and effectively created scares with a marketing campaign that promised the film was real. Twenty years later we’re all familiar with found footage horror, but The Blair Witch Project’s truly unsettling story and imagery ensures that it remains a film capable of terrifying audiences. The Blair Witch Project is a textbook example of what so many horror fans love about the genre: that a few cameras and a good idea is all you need to make a legendary film. (Anna Swanson)


8. Tucker & Dale vs the Evil (2010)

Tucker And Dale

Sundance 2010 remains forever blessed for gracing us with one of the most iconic team-ups of all time: two backwoods buddies, just trying to take a vacation to their fix-er-upper lake house. Taking aim at genre cliches with a genial grin and a gory penchant, we follow Tucker and Dale’s disastrous weekend getaway as a group of dickhead teens readily mistake them for killers. Through a series of physical comedy accidents (the best kind of accident), the bodies begin to pile up. The goofs are grounded by a truly lovable duo, whose sweetness is unparalleled and the perfect weapon to take on villainous teen entitlement. Can you ask for anything else? (Meg Shields)


7. The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook

Writer-director Jennifer Kent rolled into Sundance 2014 armed with one of the boldest first features in horror history. The Babadook is grief made manifest; a steampunk Murnauesque by way of Edward Gorey. A dark, evocative mass of a demon, the Babadook has descended onto this innocuous suburb to plague a grieving widow and her renegade son. As spooky as we imagine the boogeyman to be, far more terrifying is the realization that the Babadook has been summoned by Amelia herself; that her anger, pain, and feelings of maternal failure have invited in this spirit and given him permission to crawl down her throat. When the scariest thing in your film isn’t a child-eating demon, you’ve got a banger on your hands. (Meg Shields)


6. Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary

Last year’s most psychologically scarring horror movie had a reputation for unsettling audiences long before its official release thanks to its early Sundance reviews. The terror only grew when the film, which posted A24’s biggest opening weekend box office numbers to date, hit theaters last June. The film is director Ari Aster’s nightmarish portrait of a family wracked by grief, mental illness, and — possibly — some sinister unseen force. Alex Wolff and Toni Collette both give award-worthy performances, and newcomer Millie Shapiro is at the heart of both the disturbing story and viewers’ nightmares. Hereditary has garnered comparisons to paranoia-inducing classics like Rosemary’s Baby for a reason: it’s an ambitious, upsetting movie and an unforgettable viewing experience. (Val Ettenhofer)


5. Under the Shadow (2016)

Under The Shadow

Babak Anvari’s directorial debut is a Sundance favorite (it was acquired by Netflix at the 2016 festival) that delivers gorgeous visuals, strong performances, and frights aplenty. Set in 1980s Tehran, the film follows a mother, Shideh (Narges Rashidi), who is left to look after her daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) alone when wartime pressures call her husband away and keep her from attending medical school. Soon, strange things begin happening in the house, especially to Dorsa’s favorite doll Kimia. Under the Shadow seamlessly blends cultural commentary, realistic family dynamics, and genuine scares to create a one-of-a-kind viewing experience on par with other great single-mom horror films like The Babadook and The Others. (Val Ettenhofer)


4. Mandy (2018)

Mandy

A bearded Nicolas Cage battles demon bikers and a cult of hippie-dippie Jesus freaks in an effort to get vengeance for the murder of his girlfriend in Panos Cosmatos’ LSD-laced masterpiece. It’s the perfect midnight movie, and it’s also perfect for the other 23 hours of the day. (Chris Coffel)


3. Get Out (2017)

Get Out

With Obama in the White House and the Civil Rights movement diminishing in our rear view, white America confidently declared “Mission: Accomplished” on racism. Having sharpened his storytelling and social commentary on Key & Peele, writer/director Jordan Peele obliterated such progressive pats on the back with his feature debut. Get Out may have only offered revelations to the ignorant, but in highlighting righteous hypocrisy Peele ignited a conversation that was eager to erupt. The film is funny, awkward, scary, disturbing, and genuine. Underneath every laugh or fright is a sin most of America had happily ignored, but one that must seemingly be confronted every generation.  (Brad Gullickson)


2. The Witch (2015)

The Witch

Robert EggersThe Witch premiered at Sundance in 2015 to an unparalleled level of acclaim for its terrifying take on a story about paranoia and the supernatural in seventeenth-century New England. It nails the period piece setting and demonstrates why breakout star Anya Taylor-Joy is one of our best young actors. The Witch is also, to put it simply, fucking scary. It perfectly builds tension, gets under your skin, and never lets up. Even though it’s only been four years since the film premiered, I think it’s safe to say The Witch’s emphasis on atmosphere has shaped modern horror and made a mark on genre fans that won’t go away any time soon. (Anna Swanson)


1. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

What We Do In The Shadows

Sure, there are more culturally “important” horror films that have premiered at Sundance over the years and, of course, plenty of them are great, but none are as utterly and completely entertaining and eminently re-watchable as Taika Waititi‘s vampire comedy. it is ridiculously quotable — the sandwich gag alone is worth repeating to everyone you know — tremendously funny, surprisingly emotional (?), and absolute perfection. ( Rob Hunter)

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