Horror Redefined: Terrifying Sundance Films to Check Out on AMC+

IndieWire Staff
·6 min read

We are living in the age of extraordinary horror films. The cinematic offerings to satisfy our cravings for a good scare or a story so terrifying it gives us nightmares have taken on many new forms, all exciting — and sometimes challenging. With the 2021 Sundance Film Festival wrapping up, let’s acknowledge that the Park City event has consistently been a great launching pad for new genre voices from around the world (Check out the AMC+ collection of past Sundance winners and festival favorites). Movies that begin their journey there go on to haunt audiences and often reshape our perception of the genre.

In the robust library of AMC+, you can see quite clearly how horror is no longer limited to studio-made films. In indie auteurs’ hands, horror has become the vehicle for stories with distinct points of view. And there are even non-fiction efforts that dig deeper into the significance and craft of revered classics. We are also witnessing talented filmmakers from around the world utilizing the tropes of the genre to address sociopolitical issues in an allegorical way. And then there are other movies so singular they defy classification altogether. You’ll find all of these among the horror films below that are currently streaming on AMC+.

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“The Babadook”

Jennifer Kent’s astonishing debut is one of the most terrifying films in recent memory. What begins as a narrative about a single mother, Amelia (Essie Davis) grappling with her husband’s death quickly turns into a twisted story of demonic proportions. When her son’s behavior begins to change for the negative, everything points to a seemingly harmless fable about the movie’s title character. However, the Babadook proves to be a very real and very scary presence.

“Antibirth”

A few years before her hit series “Russian Doll” earned wide critical acclaim, actress Natasha Lyonne took a wild ride into body horror. This psychedelic trip about a woman whose unplanned pregnancy is destroying her from within delivers inventive grossness and morbid humor in a uniquely colorful package. If you are looking for a WTF movie that will equally weird you out and scare you, this is the winner.

“The Hallow”

Director Corin Hardy, who went to “The Nun” for Blumhouse’s “The Conjuring” Universe, kicked off his career with this creepy stunner about a British couple who moves to a remote town in Ireland. As soon as they get settled, malevolent creatures that inhabit the nearby forest begin haunting them. Fearing for the safety of their infant child, the parents fight to find a way out of the hellish place.

“The Killer Inside Me”

Oscar-winner Casey Affleck stars as deputy sheriff Lou Ford, a perverse sexual criminal hiding in plain sight under the façade of his respectable job. Set in Texas, this superbly acted adaptation of the novel by Jim Thompson sees the sociopathic protagonist as his web of lies and unspeakable acts begins to crumble when those around him begin to suspect he is not who he claims to be.

“The Pact”

A truly bone-chilling experience, this supernatural movie might force you to keep the lights on at night. After her sister Nicole (Agnes Bruckner) disappears while visiting their childhood home, Annie (Caity Lotz) goes looking for her only to confront a series of increasingly violent incidents involving otherworldly entities. The more time she spends in the property, the clearer it becomes she didn’t know everything about her family’s history.

“Grabbers”

This laugh-out-loud Irish horror comedy follows an odd pair of police officers as they investigate the extraterrestrial creatures invading their small coastal town. Soon they discover the tentacled creatures hate alcohol, so, obviously, the best way to not get attacked and defeat them is to be perpetually drunk. An absurdly entertaining concept paired with superb visual effects makes for great fun.

“We Are What We Are”

Based on the 2010 Mexican film of the same title, this English-language remake centers on a religious father and his two devoted daughters holding a horrific secret that may be linked to the disappearance of multiple people over several decades. The film’s gothic aesthetic and strong performances make it an unforgettable, and effectively frightening, look at family loyalty.

“Room 237”

Decades after its original release, Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” remains an enigmatic and disturbing triumph from a visionary director working at the peak of his powers. Taking its title from one of the rooms in the film’s Overlook Hotel, this shrewd documentary aims to elucidate some of its mysteries and analyze why it has stayed in our psyche for so long.

“Impetigore”

From the brutal opening scene, Indonesian director Joko Anwar shocks the audiences with touches of culture–specific folklore in a tale about an old curse. Maya (Tara Basro) returns to the small village where she was born to reclaim her family’s house. But as she and her best friend interact with the locals, a secret that has tormented all the inhabitants for years floats to the surface.

“78/52”

The shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is undoubtedly one of the most iconic movie moments. From its piercing music to how it implies gore without showing it, it’s brilliant. That’s why filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe created an entire documentary about it, featuring the likes of Elijah Wood and Karyn Kusama, dissecting every aspect of that blood-curling scene and the effect it has had in culture.

“Leap of Faith”

This insightful documentary allows acclaimed director William Friedkin to set the record straight on what’s considered his most accomplished directorial work and one of film history’s most terrifying films, “The Exorcist.” Speaking about everything from how he fell in love with cinema and to how he adapted the source material, he lays it all out in this must-see for horror buffs and cinephiles in general.

“Mandy”

A deranged Nicolas Cage battles a vicious cult in a movie tailored made for midnight screenings. This descent into psychedelic madness pushes the actor to give one of his most uncompromising performances as Red, a man who must avenge the woman he loves (the always amazing Andrea Riseborough) at all costs. Bloody and visually stunning, this is a one-of-a-kind experience sure to make your jaw drop.

“La Llorona”

Guatemalan auteur Jayro Bustamante takes on the famous Latin American legend of a ghostly weeping woman and transforms it into an eerie and topical tale. When justice fails to condemn a dictator responsible for the genocide of indigenous people in the Central American country, a vengeful spirit infiltrates his life to demand retribution on behalf of the souls of those murdered under his orders.

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