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13 Indie Horror Films to Watch on TUBI in October 2023

Two men stand side by side with anguished looks on their faces. In psychedelic fashion, their faces are repeated kaleidoscopically in the frame.Phillip Andre Botello and Trevor Dawkins in All Jacked Up and Full of Worms.

in Filmmaking
on Oct 2, 2023

With October upon us—and specifically the spooky season, with all the “Shocktober” viewing plans that come with it—we’re drawing upon our deep well of festival dispatches and interviews with indie horror creators. Here’s 13 (mostly) recent indie horror films we’ve written about, all currently available to stream on widely-beloved ad-supported streamer service TUBI.

All Jacked Up and Full of Worms

The psychedelic potency of fictional invertebrates is pure nightmare fuel in Alex Phillips’s feature debut All Jacked Up and Full of Worms. Yet worms alone don’t drive the film’s deviant characters past the brink of sanity. Rather, the creature’s hallucinogenic properties serve as unfortunate conduits for their most depraved intrusive thoughts. There’s no shortage of  gross-out bodily functions and overtly taboo images on display here—milky vomit, slimy appendages, an infant sex doll which must have put Phillips or another crew member on some sort of watchlist. The film follows scuzzy motel janitor Roscoe (Phillip Andre Botello) as he embarks on an extended worm bender with his best friend Benny (Trevor Dawkins), who has become creepily obsessed with the aforementioned baby doll. They encounter an assortment of equally down and out individuals, who take a break from their various lives of crime and destitution to partake in the highly coveted slithering substance. Set on some of Chicago’s most sordid streets, Worms descends into a gonzo amalgamation of tangible grime and absurdist terror that will make even the most seasoned genre afficionados squirm. [TUBI]—Natalia Keogan

Are We Not Cats

Xander Robin’s nearly unclassifiable debut feature—let’s call it a mashup of downtrodden NYC romantic slacker drama and fantastic body horror—premiered at the 2016 Venice Film Festival. What makes it particularly worth a watch is Robin’s sure storytelling voice and ability to navigate multiple genres in a single picture. It’s also got a plot twist tied to an extraordinary fetish, one you haven’t seen onscreen before: trichophagia. For those of you to lazy to look that up, that’s eating hair. The film follows Eli, played by up-and-comer Michael Patrick Nicholson, as he’s left homeless with only a moving truck and a desire to find a new beginning. When he meets Anya (Chelsea Lopez) at a shadowy and seductive underground rock club, he’s hooked. Fast forward a few hangouts and they’re consuming each other’s hair. As clear as it is that this bizarre act is, in fact, very dangerous, you root for the two — Are We Not Cats is a love story, and one anchored in the universal desire to connect with someone else who’s as “bizarre” and damaged as you are. [TUBI]—Meredith Alloway


Sonny Mallhi’s Anguish depicts a troubled teenager struggling with the at-first-not-all-too clear fact that spirits from beyond the grave wish to use her body to communicate with the outside world. From a well-composed prologue featuring the first of many unexpected jump scares, Malhi creates a simple narrative through line as to who’s possessing the young girl and why. While there are some familiar beats on display here (if you can’t manage your possessed kin, go with the familiar trick of locking them down in the creepy cellar, a la Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead), Malhi provides some standout subtle images involving the girl’s premonitions; the appearance of a invisible spirit’s breath on a glass pane, a silhouette of hands almost beckoning to the teen. [TUBI]—Erik Luers


Not as well-known as Stuart Gordon’s breakthrough H.P. Lovecraft adaptation Re-Animator but considerably more faithful to the author’s morbid spirit, 2001’s Dagon starts badly (poorly performed couple fights, a bad CG thunderstorm) but swiftly gets down to business. Washed up on the shores of an obscure Spanish village, Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden) spends the majority of the film running from a horde of Cthulhu-adjacent creatures that register as half-man, half-seal and 100% less goofy than that sounds. Wearing glasses in homage to Harold Lloyd, Godden spends the movie running in fright from one gloomy street to another as monsters make unpleasant noises at home, a hilariously repetitive shakedown that gives way to a genuinely and unexpectedly haunting ending. (This month, New Yorkers can also take advantage of an H.P. Lovecraft series showing just about everything but this film at Anthology Film Archives.) [TUBI]—Vadim Rizov


Depraved is Larry Fessenden’s modern retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Like many of Fessenden’s films, it remains an intricate New York artifact (our lead gets stabbed to death in DUMBO, a flashback between he and his girlfriend takes place at the Strand Bookstore, she works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and the choice was appreciated by this New York native. Fessenden’s city that never sleeps is forever dark and dreary—never put to better use than in 1995’s Habit—and the filmmaker loves casting himself as the biggest creep in the room. Here, he’s a barfly at a local watering hole where the Frankenstein monster flirts with a woman before murdering her. [TUBI]—EL

Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism

There’s definitely a scrappy quality to Godless, but knowledge of its creators’ sheer gumption makes the film all the more impressive. The misty, rolling hills of Western Victoria couldn’t have been more fitting for the film (DP Carl Allison’s camerawork is sleek but never blandly polished). As beautiful as these images are in their own right, actress Georgia Eyers is the film’s greatest strength. Eyers plays Lara, a woman experiencing a clear mental health crisis who’s been prescribed antipsychotics by her well-intentioned psychiatrist Dr. Walsh (Eliza Matengu). When the meds make Lara lethargic and emotionally distant, her husband Ron (Dan Ewing) decides that Lara’s condition would significantly improve through divine intervention. After the Vatican hesitates to send an official exorcist, Ron’s parish leader asks zealot Daniel (Tim Pocock) to pay a visit. Lara is strapped to a chair, deprived of vital nutrients and withstands abuse for several days until the Catholic ritual finally comes to a bloody end. It’s interesting to see a horror film, call out dangerous religious rites instead of sensationalizing them—and even more so for one that’s “based on true events” (a case from 1994) to present tangible facts in lieu of obscuring them to create a more compelling narrative. [TUBI]—NK

Knives and Skin

Knives and Skin grounds its story in a trope we know all too well — the “missing dead girl.” One night in a small midwestern town, teenagers Carolyn (Raven Whitley) and Andy (Ty Olwin) meet by the lake. When the romantic adventure goes wrong, Carolyn disappears, leaving Andy with a mysterious “C” etched into his forehead with her fingernail. It glows, and it won’t seem to heal over the course of the film. The rest of the town, particularly Carolyn’s mother Lisa (Marika Engelhardt), is crushed. The incident opens up the wounds of both the parents and teens, with the adults seeming to spiral in their mistakes,and the young women stepping into their power.  In one scene,  Laurel (Kayla Carter), a cheerleader with her own fresh storyline, tells Andy, “You treat girls like shit,” repeatedly. It’s one of many moments in the film that feels refreshing. The farther Carolyn disappears into the town’s consciousness, the closer their secrets are to bubbling up and encouraging confrontation. [TUBI]—MA

Most Beautiful Island

It takes a herculean effort to produce a first film that’s accepted to festivals and showered with praise (and prizes – SXSW handed it the Narrative Feature Grand Jury Award), but first-time director Ana Asensio pulled it off in her debut Most Beautiful Island, a grounded-in-reality genre film following a Spanish immigrant who moves to New York City to start a new life. Emotionally distraught over the death of her child, Luciana (played by Asensio) works dead-end jobs—in one scene, dressing up as a chicken to promote a local poultry joint—trying to make ends meet and keep the growing guilt at bay. One afternoon, her co-worker informs of a well-paying gig requiring minimal effort: dress sexy and be gawked at at an undisclosed location for rich party guests who need something to fantasize over. She agrees to attend (the money is solid), and, after a series of unfortunate and nagging hiccups, arrives in a decrepit basement under circumstances she never could’ve anticipated. [TUBI]—EL

The Outwaters

Robbie Banfitch’s found footage gem The Outwaters defies genre expectations while showing seasoned gore hounds exactly what they want to see (and perhaps a few things they’ll probably wish they hadn’t). The film’s writer, director, cinematographer, editor and producer, Banfitch also stars as Robbie Zagorac, the camera-wielding member of a friend group that ventures into the remote Mojave desert to shoot a music video for aspiring singer-songwriter Michelle August (Michelle May). As they camp below the stars, the group slowly becomes involved in eerie and otherworldly phenomena. The audience only sees what unfolds via three memory cards retrieved by police after their collective disappearance, allowing viewers to act as speculative detectives for a mystery that becomes increasingly surreal and metaphysically confounding. Banfitch is clever when it comes to revealing blood and guts on camera, as pitch black darkness and sparse illumination from flashlights obscure much of the group’s initial descent into peril. Depictions of bodily harm and maiming only become overt as the maddening landscape—and whatever resides within it—begins to take over Robbie’s very psyche. [TUBI]—NK

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street

Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen’s new documentary, Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, reexamines both the time period in which A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 was released (Ronald Reagan in the White House, the spread of the AIDS epidemic) and the career trajectory of its star, in the closet at the time and soon to be outcast from Hollywood. For decades, Mark Patton has held a particular grudge against screenwriter David Chaskin, who has gone on the record as saying that he wrote Nightmare 2 as a homphobic (rather than homoerotic) movie and that he blames the casting of Patton as making his screenplay as gay as it was ultimately rediscovered to be. Much like the reclaiming of the 1985 film, Patton, now living in Mexico with a husband, spends much of Scream, Queen! seeking to right his image by emphasizing the downward trajectory of his career that came as a result of Hollywood homophobia. [TUBI]—EL

Tales of Halloween

Featuring some of the most acclaimed directors currently working in the genre—Lucky McKee (May), Neil Marshall (The Descent) and Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II – IV) to name a few—each tale in this omnibus had only a few rules to follow: each had to be set on Halloween night, take place within the same suburban town, and last approximately ten minutes. As is the case with so many anthology films featuring multiple cooks in the kitchen, the best way to sum up its worth is by figuring out whether or not more than half of the shorts satisfy. Luckily, they do, Bousman’s especially: after being dared to egg the house of a rarely seen elderly curmudgeon, a fearful boy gets taken under the wing of the old gent (a literal demon played by Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Barry Bostwick) as they terrorize the community on Halloween night. What’s great about most of the shorts stems from their dark sense of humor; whether focusing on killer jack-o-lanterns, a kidnapping gone so horribly awry that the kidnappers attempt anything in their power to give the kid back, or a blood-soaked take on slasher films in which the killer and The Final Girl’s roles are hilariously reversed, Tales of Halloween has lots of fun being both homage and critique. Cameos by horror legends such as Adrienne Barbeau, Mick Garris, John Landis and Joe Dante only add to the fun. [TUBI]—EL

Trash Fire

Written when director Richard Bates Jr. was suffering from severe depression, Trash Fire features a pessimistic leading man (played by Entourage’s Adrian Grenier) who, after impregnating his increasingly fed up girlfriend (Angela Trimbur), comes to terms with his Christian family’s dark past. Visiting his grandmother and estranged sister, the young man’s spiteful view of his family grows justified as the narrative digs deep into long buried tragedies and those responsible for them. Bates loves close-ups of his actors’ faces, so there’s a compelling power when he intentionally chooses to obscure them, the facially scarred sister (played by AnnaLynne McCord) being the most prevalent example. Also impressive are Bates’ tracking shots surveying the various rooms of the grandmother’s house at night and the way he playfully teases out tension: there’s something remarkably reliable about showing a snake being placed in a toilet and just waiting for an inevitable poor sap to unknowingly sit down on the throne. [TUBI]—EL

The Wind

In her narrative feature debut The Wind, Emma Tammi brings a unique point-of-view to the 1800s American frontier story and all of its psychological terrors. Combining well-crafted scares with the complexity of Teresa Sutherland’s script, the film takes us on a journey of solitude, loss and the demons that can be dredged up in the Wild West. Lizzy (a wonderful Caitlin Gerard), lives on the plains with her husband Isaac (Ashley Zukerman), and we learn she has recently suffered the loss of a child. When a new couple moves in nearby, Lizzie’s anxieties amplify. She wonders if her husband is having an affair with the other woman, Emma (Julia Goldani Telles), or what her intentions are all together. The more isolated Lizzy becomes, the more she believes she’s being haunted by a devilish presence. Is it her own fears driving her insane, a supernatural force or is it just the wind? [TUBI]—MA

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