The horror genre is enjoying a historic decade, with multiple films joining the ranks of the greatest scary movies ever made. Apart from those films, however, the 2010’s have also brought with them several incredible indie horror efforts worth raving about, especially in regard to their performances. When the budget is low, acting can make or break a film, and these five indie horror performances carried their respective flicks to soaring heights.
Russell Geoffrey Banks (Who’s Watching Oliver)
There are few true indies that boast the type of powerhouse performance that Banks manages throughout nearly every frame of Who’s Watching Oliver. His performance of the titular character is reminiscent of Jack Nicholson’s turn in 1980’s The Shining, albeit in reverse. Oliver is psychotically unhinged, but this mental state is not his doing. Every murder he commits is practically forced upon him by his abusive mother, and, perhaps even greater than the snarling, killer side of Oliver that is frequently showcased, Banks displays a compelling and heartbreaking conflict within the character. As the audience, we feel remorse for a character that would have been a simple villain in the hands of a less dynamic actor. Banks consistently elevates the film around him, making for one of the greatest indie horror viewings that the decade has to offer.
Tianna Nori (The Sublet)
Also known as The Resident outside of the states, The Sublet is undoubtedly one of the most psychologically effective horror films that I’ve seen this decade. Personally, I frequently suffer from crippling anxiety, and this film put me through the wringer in regard to that. It’s an unnerving mind-fuck that demands to be witnessed. At the heart of that film is Tianna Nori as Joanna, a young mother who moves into a sublet apartment with her lover and is haunted by the dark past of the location. Nori brings a significant amount of loving charm to the character, which instantly attaches us to Joanna. However, as her sanity begins to dwindle and unravel entirely, the actress commands the screen in gut-wrenching fashion. Few performances stand up to this one, regardless of genre.
David Howard Thornton (Terrifier)
If you’re afraid of clowns, you ought to stay as far away from Terrifier as possible. While I have a few issues with the film as a whole, there’s no denying the horrific brilliance of Thornton’s central performance. The actor speaks nary a word, miming each of his sadistic actions in darkly comedic fashion- “sadistic” being the key word. The brutality and sheer creepiness of the villain would make him feel right at home among the popular slashers of the 1980’s, and Thornton’s performance can almost be mentioned in the same breath as Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger without being blasphemous. The actor’s work makes Terrifier an unforgettable experience, despite its flaws.
Lauren Ashley Carter (Darling)
Having already established herself as a darling of the indie horror scene, Lauren Ashley Carter establishes herself as an almighty force that cannot be reckoned with as the titular character in this near-masterpiece from Mickey Keating. Classical in style and execution, Darling is influenced by films like The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby, and the performance of Carter elevates this indie flick to heights that are deserving of comparisons to those. Carter showcases an equal amount of heartbreak and malice, earning the sympathy of the audience in one scene and causing them to be genuinely unsettled in the next. She’s a revelation.
Adrian Tofei (Be My Cat: A Film for Anne)
Writer/director Adrian Tofei’s twisted story of obsession has made quite the name for itself in the underground indie horror scene, but I’ll confess that I don’t love the film quite as much as most. With that being said, it cannot be denied that Tofei, who also stars as the Anne Hathaway-obsessed lead, is a fucked up powerhouse. There is a childlike charm and excitement present in Tofei’s character, but it’s offset by a physical awkwardness and psychotic intensity that allows the villain to feel every bit as dangerous as he eventually proves to be. He’s so great, in fact, that you’ll likely find yourself wondering where the character ends and Tofei begins. This is Tofei’s passion project, and he carries the film with a bizarre, unforgettable performance.
What are some indie horror performances that you personally love? Sound off in the comments and on social media to let us know!