The 13th Floor

The Wendigo, Burrowers, and More: 10 Terrifying Horror Movies Based on Native American Legends

Native American lore is full of amazing stories, many of which are quite frightening. (Check out our list of 10 terrifying Native American legends here.) Throughout time, many horror films have utilized the mythology, tropes, and history of Native American cultures – and adding to the list is THE DARKNESS, opening in theaters nationwide on May 13th.


Starring Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell, the film explores a family who becomes the focal point of a sinister supernatural attack after a trip to the Grand Canyon. In celebration, has gather 10 other terrifying Native American legend themed horror movies. Check them out below, and see THE DARKNESS, coming soon to a theater near you.


WENDIGO (2001)

This 2001 Larry Fessenden movie borrows from the Native American Wendigo myth to weave a rather disjointed and hallucinogenic tale about a family vacation in the woods and a dark force that seems to be surrounding their cabin.




This one film never made it past a VHS release (officially), but it is now often labeled as THE WITCH before there was a THE WITCH movie. It is a melding of multiple regions in frontier times. A group of Christian pioneers are traveling west. It is revealed that some may be practicing witchcraft, and then the Shawnee tribe enter the scene with their own set of beliefs and superstitions. For folks in Los Angeles, there is a rare theatrical screening of EYES OF FIRE happening at Cinefamily on May 25th!



THE BURROWERS (2008)(cover photo)

Set in the “wild west”, a group of pioneers encounter a strange species the Native Americans call “the burrowers”. They attack from underground injecting their victims with a toxin that paralyzes them. Victims are then buried alive and saved for a later meal. As everyone must work together to battle the monsters, the movie examines the historical attitudes towards Native Americans and African Americans during this time period.




Sometimes- dead is better. In this movie, the Micmac Indians have a place where if you bury a dead body, it comes back to life…but not quite the same as when you put it in the ground. Gah- this one has some disturbing scenes!




The concept of this one is just plain bizarre, but it is based on an actual legend from Algonquin tribes. A woman has a strange tumor growing on her neck which turns out to be an evil shaman trying to be reborn. She must find another shaman and use good magic to fight him all while he is fighting her from within. Creepy and weird.





A fave from my youth, PROPHECY uses horror to explore the environmental issues with logging in Maine. The pollution eventually leads to killer mutant animals. Or it could also be a vengeful Native American tree spirit who was released by loggers and is now hunting them down. Regardless, there is a giant salmon eating a duck and a mutated bear/beaver/reptile-type mammoth monster.




While most people falsely remember an Indian burial ground from the original POLTERGEIST (read about this misconception here), there actually is a Native American shaman in part 2 that is brought in by Tangina to protect Carol Anne from the creepy Reverend Kane.




Set during the Mexican-American War of the 1880s, RAVENOUS also uses the Wendigo myth. A group of of stranded men resort to cannibalism during a harsh winter war. At first, there is a belief that cannibalism will cause you to gain the other person’s strength, but they soon realize it may turn you into a monster.




Sad to say this horror anthology never made it past an official VHS release, even with notable stars like Brad Dourif and James Earl Jones. The movie contains four horror western stories that are told around a campfire. Though several of the tales have smaller Native American nods, one of them is a Native American revenge tale about the desecration of a scared burial ground.



WOLFEN (1981)

This is a werewolf crime story in New York City with a Native American myth as the backbone. In WOLFEN, a pack of wolf-like Skinwalkers are seemingly responsible for a series of brutal killings. And it is up to members of the NYPD to find out what is going on and stop the murders.