5 Groundbreaking Indigenous Horror Movies to Watch Right Now

Indigenous filmmakers from North America, New Zealand, and Australia are putting their mark on a genre that has often utilized their culture but excluded their voice.

by | October 28, 2020 | Comments

Blood Quantum

(Photo by © Shudder / Courtesy Everett Collection)

For decades, the horror genre has fed on Indigenous stories for inspiration like a horde of zombies feasting on the body of a victim. “Ancient Indian burial ground,” anyone?

While there is plenty of Indigenous-themed horror out there – 2017’s Mohawk, Ozploitation classic Dark Age, and Pet Sematary, for example – few have been made by Indigenous filmmakers and told from that perspective. Now, Indigenous creators are exorcizing their demons by reclaiming the narrative and making horror on their own terms.

These filmmakers are using the genre to comment on the effects of colonization (Blood Quantum), imagine ancient worlds (The Dead Lands), question what and who you believe (The Darkside), and represent themselves where they haven’t been represented before (The Dead Can’t Dance). And they’re doing it all as they challenge assumptions about the form of cinema itself (BeDevil).

Below are some of the most inventive horror and mixed-genre films of the last few decades – all made by and featuring Indigenous artists.

About the author: Rhianna Patrick is a Torres Strait Islander media professional with over 20 years experience. She’s worked across news, television, radio, communications, and Indigenous Australian mediaDive deeper on these titles and more in a piece she recently wrote for website IndigenousX. Follow her on Twitter at @RhiannaPatrick.

Blood Quantum (2020)


Written and directed by Jeff Barnaby
Steaming on Shudder

What is it? A zombie movie with a twist, Blood Quantum centers on an outbreak in which the non-Indigenous locals are turning into the undead and the Indigenous population finds itself immune.

Mi’kmaq director-writer Jeff Barnaby’s second feature is an exploration of indigeneity and the ongoing effects of colonization. The film is set in 1981, which is a reference to the Alanis Obomsawin documentary Incident at Restigouche, about the raids on Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation by Quebec police over salmon fishing rights, an act Barnaby witnessed as a 4-year-old. This film is layered with history like this throughout – including some eerie use of undead fish! – and also features zombie film references and animated interludes.

The Dead Lands (2015)


Directed by Toa Fraser, written by Glenn Standring
New Zealand/UK
Streaming free (with ads) on Tubi, and on Shudder; available to rent or buy on FandangoNOW, Vudu, YouTube Movies, Amazon Prime, and iTunes

What is it? The Dead Lands follows Maori teenager Hongi as he seeks revenge for his slain father in order to bring peace and honor to his tribe.

Although pegged as an action adventure, the level of blood loss pushes this Fresh New Zealand film into the horror realm – and there are plenty of bone crunching battles to keep gore hounds happy. What makes this film unique is that the script was originally written in English and then translated into Maori. The linguist who worked on the translation searched to find ancient words and expressions which might have been used 500-600 years ago, the time in which the film is set – prior to British colonization.

The Darkside (2013)

- -

Directed by Warwick Thornton
Available to rent or buy on iTunes

What is it? Acclaimed director Warwick Thornton developed The Darkside after a callout seeking first-hand ghost stories from Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Some 150 ghost stories were submitted for The Darkside, and the 13 that were selected were recorded by the filmmakers; three of the original recordings feature in the film, along with 10 more delivered as monologues by Australian actors like Bryan Brown, Claudia Karvan, and legendary Indigenous actor Jack Charles. It’s tough to describe, and more of a mood piece than a conventional genre film, but Thornton’s presentation of believable, everyday creepy tales will leave you unnerved.

Written and directed by Rod Pocowatchit 
United States 
Available to rent or buy on Amazon

What is it? Shaun of the Dead was the inspiration for this zombie comedy about three Comanche men who discover they’re somehow immune to a mysterious plague after their car breaks down.

A journalist by trade, Rod Pocowatchit started making genre films because he wanted to see Indigenous people represented in pop culture. The Dead Can’t Dance sees Pocowatchit apply his Indigenous perspective to a zombie comedy which delivers on the laughs but also on the Indigenous twists for the genre. Despite being obviously low-budget flick, Dead is entertaining, thought-provoking, and speaks to the DIY horror filmmaking tradition.

Bedevil (1993)

- -

Written and directed by Tracey Moffatt
Available on Ovid (with subscription)

What is it? BeDevil is a trilogy of ghost stories that follows characters having real, remembered, and imagined visions.

This was the first ever feature film by an Australian Aboriginal woman and it’s an experimental feast for all the senses – although can be hard to find. Shot on highly stylized sets and on location – frequently cutting dreamily between both – it’s a mixture of theater, film, and art. The opening notes of the score are not what you expect for a horror film, but the music perfectly sets up the strange and captivating journey on which director Tracey Moffatt takes you.

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

docuseries Legendary Oscars Cannes teaser travel miniseries 2016 Character Guide YA DC Comics comedies Holidays Action politics GoT football emmy awards Creative Arts Emmys LGBT Alien richard e. Grant Mary Poppins Returns saw BAFTA Mindy Kaling justice league finale Spike worst hollywood robots AMC Hear Us Out BBC One Rocky comics parents joker sports Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt crime thriller Television Academy Rom-Com Box Office The Walt Disney Company cooking Academy Awards ratings Reality Competition dramedy HBO Mary Tyler Moore prank Pop TV 21st Century Fox venice festivals series RT History Esquire halloween james bond 93rd Oscars Rock LGBTQ game of thrones comic Comedy Central olympics The Witch new star wars movies scene in color kaiju Super Bowl comiccon Women's History Month Tomatazos 72 Emmy Awards high school Drama book Arrowverse The CW unscripted See It Skip It Superheroe Grammys discovery superhero revenge historical drama Summer Disney Plus SXSW australia reboot Baby Yoda political drama Country VOD NYCC Interview DC Universe Wes Anderson docudrama know your critic sequels Chernobyl Film Festival TV king arthur Martial Arts Image Comics Best and Worst Trailer cartoon kids Schedule Comic-Con@Home 2021 indie RT21 fresh anthology adventure nature Fox Searchlight streaming movies spider-man TCA Winter 2020 Exclusive Video Syfy razzies Sundance TV award winner transformers king kong die hard Family GIFs cars what to watch dceu Crackle Kids & Family science fiction Apple IFC Funimation GLAAD Walt Disney Pictures movie period drama Fall TV Amazon marvel cinematic universe Photos Lucasfilm TCA 2017 A24 TV One DirecTV composers Election TV movies Disney serial killer The Arrangement TNT supernatural MCU theme song directors 2017 dragons BBC America aapi Marathons cops slashers canceled Fantasy canceled TV shows Bravo VICE Mudbound Stephen King romance Dark Horse Comics WarnerMedia 20th Century Fox festival ABC thriller Tokyo Olympics Tumblr screenings The Purge latino psycho blockbuster National Geographic video asian-american psychological thriller Apple TV+ NBA Writers Guild of America deadpool Certified Fresh medical drama Hallmark Christmas movies 2019 popular 2020 Film tv talk comic books trailers X-Men Fox News Britbox renewed TV shows Star Wars Anna Paquin Toys Quiz cancelled IFC Films Thanksgiving romantic comedy Comedy 4/20 CMT Hallmark hidden camera Masterpiece Horror scary movies Pixar ESPN FX Emmy Nominations PBS Food Network 007 hispanic Calendar golden globes 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards monster movies Superheroes Ovation Mystery worst movies stoner E! Comic Book Amazon Prime cats Starz fast and furious Turner technology television strong female leads Black Mirror Adult Swim Musicals The Academy Spring TV Countdown blaxploitation based on movie international werewolf golden globe awards Ghostbusters indiana jones spanish 99% Pet Sematary zombies anime dark PlayStation Travel Channel Amazon Prime Video criterion USA Network remakes new york child's play spinoff USA jamie lee curtis Lifetime Christmas movies PaleyFest lord of the rings Sundance Now Peacock suspense MSNBC disaster women Brie Larson biography crossover twilight Spectrum Originals police drama pirates of the caribbean Hulu Shudder 2021 NBC natural history Trivia FXX Western superman films Freeform Nominations versus Paramount Network mission: impossible ghosts news ABC Family satire batman Lifetime Netflix The Walking Dead Showtime Black History Month Star Trek laika Acorn TV Valentine's Day space Reality Marvel Emmys children's TV spanish language Winners Nickelodeon book adaptation Pop Amazon Studios Marvel Television Biopics E3 Sci-Fi concert Awards Shondaland 2018 ID christmas movies dogs Awards Tour OneApp Discovery Channel all-time adaptation basketball cancelled TV shows Nat Geo SundanceTV adenture binge wonder woman CBS Cosplay diversity Tubi ITV 2015 archives A&E war TBS Epix zombie sag awards Warner Bros. Musical Year in Review American Society of Cinematographers OWN cancelled TV series Opinion ViacomCBS singing competition HBO Max sequel HBO Go sitcom Ellie Kemper Disney+ Disney Plus cancelled television Avengers Song of Ice and Fire VH1 Netflix Christmas movies dc boxing documentaries scorecard crime Animation Turner Classic Movies boxoffice telelvision TV renewals MTV Sneak Peek FOX El Rey rotten movies we love CNN french Disney Channel quibi Television Critics Association talk show italian nfl japan obituary nbcuniversal TruTV DGA TIFF facebook Captain marvel crime drama true crime toy story New York Comic Con Pride Month FX on Hulu vampires Endgame Logo doctor who stop motion streaming Extras 90s harry potter Winter TV new zealand rotten aliens Paramount Plus Disney streaming service movies black free movies legend casting Cartoon Network video on demand animated live action First Reviews reviews universal monsters Christmas Polls and Games chucky BBC TV Land godzilla hist critics jurassic park mutant zero dark thirty Lionsgate Crunchyroll YouTube Red japanese classics President ABC Signature Classic Film Comics on TV Pirates Sony Pictures Chilling Adventures of Sabrina CBS All Access mockumentary Paramount breaking bad Video Games Watching Series Binge Guide documentary 1990s franchise heist movie rt archives 24 frames witnail Premiere Dates WGN TLC 45 Vudu screen actors guild Podcast halloween tv rom-coms Set visit Heroines DC streaming service Pacific Islander Apple TV Plus social media Teen BET target cinemax blockbusters foreign Columbia Pictures independent Infographic BET Awards cults kong elevated horror Sundance a nightmare on elm street Broadway best 71st Emmy Awards CW Seed Mary poppins APB stand-up comedy spain Rocketman TCM Holiday spy thriller History San Diego Comic-Con TCA Awards Trophy Talk YouTube Marvel Studios Tarantino YouTube Premium Elton John toronto Universal south america Red Carpet green book TCA name the review Music game show First Look SDCC