As an avid fan of the horror genre rather than feeding you with a list of the typical blockbuster horror fare that you are already aware of I am all for sifting through as many independent pieces of work as possible. As a result I have come up with ten indie/low-budget horror films that you should certainly check out if you haven’t already done so. Obviously different films bring different opinions but here follows a list of those I enjoyed and think deserve championing. If you have seen any recent indie horror movies that you think are worthy of a mention please add them in the comments section below so we can all check out your recommendations too.
Here we go with the list of films, in no specific order:
This directorial debut shock horror from CGI effects guru Toby Wilkins set in and around an abandoned gas station rivals classic sci-fi greats with a vicious, parasitic creature infecting its human victims, instilling in them a gourmandizing hunger for human flesh. In a somewhat similar vein to The Thing the unlikely heroes, a couple on a camping vacation, end up in a situation where there’s just no telling who has been infected and who they can still trust.
Given the shoestring budget, Splinter is a highly effective infection-sci-fi-thriller that pays homage to genre classics such as The Thing, The Blob and, to a lesser extent, The Hand whilst adding its own eco-elements to the table making it a very singular and worthwhile piece of work.
Some Guy Who Kills People (2011)
Whilst director Jack Perez here follows up the stinker that was Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, this little indie gem features one of the better written scripts (by writer Ryan A. Levin) on the list by an large thanks to its more than healthy side order of humour.
Fresh out of the local mental asylum, Ken (Kevin Corrigan) is a 30 something comic fan still living with his mother (Karen Black). An estranged young daughter he never knew he had turns up out of the blue whilst he finds a love interest in the form of an English tourist (Lucy Davis from The Office and Shaun of the Dead). Just as things start looking up for the protagonist, the bullies that tormented him during his troublesome childhood start to turn up dead and, of course, it’s only a question of time before Ken becomes the prime suspect.
The film’s fantastic script is coupled with exuberant performances all round and some more than memorable cameos with the most fun provided thanks to the rather surreal persiflage flung around between Sheriff Walt Fuller (Barry Bostwick) and his Deputy (Eric Price).
Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (2010)
Although it was never going to steal the prize from Deliverance for the hillbilly horror movie of all hillbilly horrors, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil cuts about as close as they come in this comical Texas Chainsaw Massacre inversion.
This gleefully gruesome and hilarious take on the age-old slasher genre finds director Eli Craig bring a long-yearned-for original spin on said horror sub-genre.
Tucker and Dale are the anti-heroes of the century as they play two bumbling hillbillies taking a break at their derelict mountain cabin, being mistaken for murderous backwoods hillbillies by a group of abhorrent college goers. Oh yes, it’s brimming with stereotypical horror characters but all for the sake of comedy and the film never, never, never sets out to take itself seriously.
To cut a long story short, the kids own imaginations end up playing out. Most deaths, if not all of them, are purely by accident and for some reason this seems to make them all the more gruesome than had they been intentional.
If you’re not a fan of the genre then you’ll maybe come out of this finding it pretty thin but, if you fancy a blood soaked horror with jokes that are actually funny then Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil is what needs popping into your DVD player this evening and many more to come. Best enjoyed with friends.
The Tunnel (2011)
The Tunnel is an independent Australian film which is certainly unique in the fact production frames went on sale to partially fund the project. It then went on to be released as a freely available download via legal bittorrents (also now available here as a hard copy). The Tunnel is for fans of the likes of The Descent, and lesser-known Stag Night, providing audiences with a seriously claustrophobic fly-on-the-wall view of a small group of news reporters as they head down into a network of abandoned underground train tunnels to investigate reports of a creature discovered living hundreds of feet below Sydney.
Once they get down into the darkest, dingiest sectors of the labyrinthine tunnels they discover what they set out to find just as their battery packs and lights begin to die.
All horror fans shouldn’t be put off by the tiny budget, freebie promotion surrounding the film. Director Carlos Ledesma has certainly created quite the tension builder here and, despite sharing with us which characters survive the ordeal, it’s irrelevant once you discovering what really lurks down their waiting for us all.
The good news is that Ledesma is currently in talks to direct a sequel, The Tunnel: Dead End.
The Pact (2012)
Whilst Nicholas McCarthy’s The Pact (based on his short film) may slow down towards the end, the first 30 minutes couldn’t get much scarier as the director manages to provide scares that can’t be seen coming from a mile off.
The plot finds Annie (Caity Lotz) arrange to meet her older sister to sort out affairs following their mother’s death. On arriving at the family home, her sister has disappeared inexplicable and it’s not long before paranormal activity takes centre stage as Annie’s cousin also disappears whilst in the house with Annie having to resort to reporting the strange goings-on to somewhat skeptical police. The protagonist ultimately finds herself contacted from the afterlife which leads to the discovery of a hidden room in her childhood home with some rather grim secrets.
What makes The Pact particularly appealing is a clever and unexpected about-face in the final act which, whilst nowhere near as tension rousing as the first act, flips things on their head, almost switching to an entirely different genre.
Despite the aforementioned slowing down, as an overall package The Pact packs in enough thrills and adrenaline to keep genre fans more than content and certainly on the very edge of their seats.
Exit Humanity (2011)
Exit Humanity is an outstanding period zombie feature completely driven by performances by lead Mark Gibson, Bill Moseley and Stephen McHattie whilst bursting with gore and eye-opening practical effects.
I’d go as far as saying this is one of the best films in its genre based on premise alone – a Western setting following a man who sets about finding his missing son after having to kill his own wife as a result of a zombie outbreak towards the end of the Civil War. Some of you may be sighing and thinking how many period films have followed a man who has lost his wife and son but believe me when I say the plot plants the lead in a totally sui generis set of circumstances.
Exit Humanity certainly stands on the same pedestal as other zombie classics, even those provided by Mr. Romero himself.
While the premise of staging a forced detoxification, involving supernatural forces stalking the protagonists will have you recalling the somewhat feeble storyline of the recent Evil Dead reboot, bear with me. Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have created a smart and chilling piece of work thanks to the implementation of an eerie and totally unpredictable turn.
The film is particularly bolstered thanks to Vinny Curran‘s portrayal of the recovering Chris, toing and froing from a drug-fueled lunatic to cynical depressive to accepting the turn of events in an outstandingly calm manner.
The winning element to the whole experience though is Benson and Moorhead’s talent at portraying the strange goings-on in the tautest possible way. By the ending credits there’s little doubt that the filmmakers succeeded in their intention: dead set on terrify the hell out of us all.
I Am A Ghost (2012)
Winner of Bram Stoker International Film Festival UK 2012 Best Picture, H.P. Mendoza‘s I Am A Ghost is a joy to watch with an altogether unique premise: a young woman, Emily, finds herself trapped in a repeating cycle in her Victorian home as she performs her daily chores. Granted that might sound extremely humdrum but, as you will have imagined by the title, she has to learn to come to terms with the fact that she is indeed a ghost.
The plot thickens as Emily is contacted by a medium trying to exorcise her from the house. Unfortunately for both parties, the house plays host to a number of dark secrets that could mean the end for both of them.
While the key to the success of the film is the fact it is so heavily driven by it’s characters performances, particularly that of Anna Ishida playing Emily, the film boasts some of the most terrifying moments put to film, something I in no way expected given the minimalist filmmaking devices at play.
Although I Am A Ghost‘s experimental, unmethodical approach may disuade many horror fans from giving this the time of day, I recommend riding this out to the very end, particularly if you have a penchant for horror that succeeds in making the viewer feel particularly uneasy.
You know that you’re heading into something special when a movie begins with a 12-year-old boy coming across a severed head in his older brother’s bowling bag.
Found explores the disquieting results bullies have on young Marty whose only friend ultimately turns on him too, in the belief that association has lead to him being bullied too. Marty finds a way to escape the torment by retreating into monster movies. He comes across a messed up film called Headless in his brother’s collection that has a serious effect on him. Wondering if said film may have trigger for his brother’s killer instincts, Marty feels the desire to go out and try killing for himself.
The film is based upon a novel by Todd Rigney, and co-writer and director Scott Schirmer has adeptly adapted the book into a fascinating character study with the horror of it all slowly reaching a crescendo as blood and guts explode into the forefront in the final act.
DVDs are extremely scarce but you can get hold of a copy here.
To save you Googling it, the word comes from the French word thanatomorphose which means “The visible signs of an organism’s decomposition caused by death.” Right there I’m guessing you can imagine where we’re going with this one. I’m hard pressed to think of any other film that has made feel so queazy so have your sick bags at the ready.
This almost Cronenbergian feature provides an unyielding body horror narrative, painting a picture of the most disturbing images and thoughts you could ever imagine. The film follows actress Kayden Rose, as she finds herself litereally devoured by a horrific process starting of as simple skin blemises, followed by hair loss and climaxing with her insides seeping out and the loss of numerous body parts. If all that wasn’t enough, director Éric Falardeau films every horrific ailment in unblinking close-up detail.
Although it may not sound so, I can assure you this isn’t gore for the sake of it ‘a la Serbian Movie’ and this is a truly en(gross)ing experience that will stick in your brains for years to come.
With Falardeau’s allusions of death, sex and gore, Thanatomorphose certainly tips various hats to the Lars Von Triers and Clive Barkers of the world, based on this truly unique debut, this is one director you should be keeping an eye on before they both fall out.
Although not available in the UK you can purchase the DVD from Spain here.