‘Tis the season for ghouls and goblins, witches and wizards, clowns and cadavers, and of course a Sundance horror flick. The Sundance Film Festival’s Park City at Midnight category has been home to some of the most iconic, disturbing, and downright sinister horror films of the past few decades. Here’s our short list of Sundance films most deft at evoking discomfort and an occasional shriek or two:
The Blair Witch Project—Arguably the most seminal horror film to descend upon daring Festivalgoers, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s genre-spanning psychological horror left some audiences traumatized, and others simply nauseated.
Dead/Alive—Well before his Lord of the Ring endeavors, Peter Jackson developed a quirky knack for splatter comedy films (see Bad Taste). His 1993 Park City at Midnight Selection Dead/Alive is, put simply, a fantastic display of flying limbs and severed heads, seasoned with a touch of wit. Keep it classy this Halloween.
28 Days Later—Danny Boyle’s (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) thriller tracks the ramifications stemming from a radical group of animal-rights activists who break into a primate research lab to free caged chimps. What ensues is a terrifying post-apocalyptic world infested with crazed, genetically mutated humans—aka zombies.
Haute Tension—Nothing escalates the tension in a horror film like subtitles. So, unless you’re French, you’re in luck. Alexandre Aja’s Haute Tension is a refreshing take on the classic suspense horror, chronicling two college girls’ vacation-gone-awry at a relative’s country home. If a film laden with gore could ever be deemed beautiful, Haute Tension would certainly qualify.
Open Water—Straying from the traditional horror themes frequenting this list, Christ Kentis’ Open Water explores an innovative and unconventional format brewed on a tight budget. A couple on a scuba diving trip are inexplicably abandoned by their dive boat and left to fend for themselves in unchartered waters. Most frightening of all, the plot closely mimics a couple’s real life experience.
Saw—James Wan’s chilling torture flick undeniably tops this list in terms of commercial success. Two men attempt to navigate their way out of a sadistic killer’s series of traps and spare their lives in this intelligently crafted thriller.