Top 10 Best Low Budget Horror Movies



Top 10 Best Low Budget Horror Movies

VOICE OVER: Kirsten Ria Squibb WRITTEN BY: Jonathan Alexander
The smaller the budget, the bigger the scares! For this list, we'll be looking at our spooky favorites that stretched shoestring budgets into legitimate scares. Our countdown includes “Open Water”, “The Blair Witch Project”, “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”, and more!

Top 10 Lowest Budget Horror Films

Welcome to Watchmojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Lowest Budget Horror Movies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at our spooky favorites that stretched shoestring budgets into legitimate scares. As a baseline, each entry will have budgets under $1 million, adjusted for inflation. Keep in mind, however, as with much budget reporting, that all numbers are rough estimates, rounded to the nearest thousand.

Let us know your low-budget favorites in the comments below!

#10: “Open Water” (2003)

Budget: $745,000
When you think low-budget horror, dimly lit hallways and abandoned homes probably come to mind. But despite being almost completely funded by married duo writer-director Chris Kentis and producer Laura Lau, this destitute production managed to take its thrills all the way to the high seas. Shot on digital video with primarily two actors, what seems like budget-constraints end up lending the film a visceral, realistic atmosphere that only enhances the thrills of seeing a couple lost at sea. Of course, it helps that the production used real sharks in lieu of special effects, with the result being as terrifying as you’d expect. Despite limited funding, the creative team behind this stranded-at-sea spectacle certainly has us hesitant to scuba-dive any time soon.

#9: “Grave Encounters” (2011)

Budget: $146,000
At a time when the found footage subgenre was proving a highly profitable medium for spine-tingling adventures on the big screen, few others managed to stretch their comparably small budget as much as this meta flick. By following television personalities posing as paranormal investigators, the film sets itself apart from its found-footage contemporaries through justifiably setting up multiple camera angles at once. Alongside a traditional shaky-cam point of view, the film succeeds in placing an eerie emphasis on claustrophobia and mounting dread. But don’t think atmosphere is all this movie brings to the table - despite its tight margins, there’s enough disturbing imagery and suitably terrifying creatures to rival even its big-budgeted peers in the scare department.

#8: “The Signal” (2007)

Budget: $66,000
At a quick glance, you wouldn’t be able to tell each section of this film was helmed by a different director, or produced with a collective budget under $75 thousand. Despite a tight thirteen-day filming schedule, it transitions between several actors and locales more than most horror films with double the money. Against all restrictive odds, the film manages to be a bloody delight. One part splatter film, one part absurdist comedy, and one part love triangle - the trio of directors at the head of this apocalyptic adventure sure knew how to stretch a dollar to gleefully violent heights.

#7: “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” (1986)

Budget: $275,000
In a fresh change of pace for the genre, this indie slasher puts the audience in the eyes of the titular killer to bone-chilling effect. The film is a bold, innovative exploration of a real-life murderer, led by a criminally underrated performance by Michael Rooker. Despite its artististic merits, writer-director John McNaughton struggled finding distribution for the bloody flick. Due to budget concerns, corners were cut in most every scene of the film: extras were often passerbys caught on camera; family and friends were brought in to play multiple characters; and dialogue-heavy scenes were confined to small sets. But, rest assured, the penny-pinching paid off in a film that went down as one of the scariest and most inventive of its era.

#6: “The Eyes of My Mother” (2016)

Budget: $343,000
Don’t let the black-and-white fool you: this film was released in 2016, although its tiny budget puts it in the same league as movies released at a much different time. While it boasts no shortage of gruesome carnage, the film lowered costs by focusing more on disturbing imagery, vulgar characters, and a haunting atmosphere. By exploring the deep trauma of a girl named Francisca throughout her life, the film maintains a spine-chilling tone without the need of visual effects or excessive gore. It’s a twisted, shocking character study that’s almost too disturbing to sit through, making clever use of its limited budget to create a truly unforgettable fright-fest.

#5: “Paranormal Activity” (2007)

Budget: $284,000
In one of the genre’s biggest success stories ever, this film’s first cut was famously funded for a mere $15,000. It was shot in a single week, with no official script, and the actors were paid just $500. With profit margins like those, and a final box office tally nearing $200 million, it’s no wonder this goes down as one of the most profitable films of all time. As one of the most defining entries in the found footage subgenre, its commitment to a slow-burn pace, realistic interactions, and shaky camera movements make it really feel as though we’re witnessing the tragic haunting of a young couple. As far as profits go, it’s hard to compete with the success of this franchise-spawning horror flick.

#4: “Be My Cat: A Film for Anne” (2015)

Budget: $12,000
Found footage films are no stranger to tight budgets, but by expertly blending fact and fiction, this one goes down as one of the cheapest ever made. For the bulk of this meta film, it’s hard to tell if you’re supposed to be watching a movie or calling the police. With an appallingly tiny budget of just over $10 thousand, Adrian Tofei wrote, directed, starred and edited this chilling film about the extremes a man will go to to convince Anne Hathaway to act in his next feature. Disturbing and effective, this indie horror flick uses its lack of budget to create something that’s almost too realistic for comfort.

#3: “The Blair Witch Project” (1999)

Budget: $823,000
Haunted woods, a shaky camera, and a dysfunctional group of twentysomethings. Sound familiar? While its concept isn’t quite as fresh anymore, this film was actually one of the first to popularize the found footage subgenre. Shot over just eight days, the movie follows a team of investigators as they face the infamous witch in a cursed forest. At the time of release, the actors were said to be missing as a way to promote the authenticity of the footage, and the result was a massive box office haul. It’s a masterclass of generating tension without the need for fake blood or flashy effects, and more than deserves its title as one of the most successful independent films of all time.

#2: “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974)

Budget: $779,000
At a time when movie studios were still unsure about the widespread appeal of slasher films, this legendary, Texas-based tale found it hard to get distribution. Reportedly, some of the cast and crew had to defer salaries until the film found studio investment, and it’s easy to see why that proved so difficult. Even by today’s standards, the exploits of this chainsaw-wielding killer are incredibly gruesome. It may not have found much investor faith before production, but it certainly found an audience at the box office, to the tune of a legendary legacy and a spot among the most infamous horror villains of all time. It seems the bloody mayhem was worth the pay cut, after all.

#1: “Night of the Living Dead” (1968)

Budget: $899,000
It’s hard to picture this legendary George Romero film looking any different, but much of its final cut came as a result of budgetary restrictions. It was too expensive to film in color, the costumes were hand-me-downs, many of the cast were local stage actors, and that’s just the start. Everything had to be considered with a tight allowance in mind, even as early as the idea phase. Romero realized that such a modest budget forbade the expensive makeup required of aliens or monsters, and as a result, zombies as we knew them were born as a cheaper alternative. It just goes to show that sometimes, budgetary limitations can lead to the best kinds of creative breakthroughs.