You might hear some bitching around the internet about how Horror is dead or dying; about how there are no truly scary horror films being made anymore; about how the classics are untouchable and nothing today really compares. Well, fuck that noise. Those are the same people who would have bitched about Evil Dead II, saying it was too preoccupied with comedy to be scary. They would have said that Texas Chainsaw Massacre wasn’t really frightening because we never saw any gore. That Halloween was just a bunch of clichés. Again, fuck that noise. The internet is full of people who are full of shit and thrill at the prospect of spewing their negativity and condescension on folks who actually got their acts together enough to organize and complete a feature film. And that is no small feat. Filmmaking, by its very nature, is a chaotic beast, prone to failure from the very start. It requires money, vision, and the ability to orchestrate a variety of people at all hours of the day or night. That last bit might be the most difficult to manage, really. Frankly, it’s a miracle that any film is finished when it doesn’t have a studio backing it, guaranteeing that something gets to screen. When it’s an Indie production, you never know what might scuttle the entire project. So here’s my list of the ten best Indie horror films to make it to your screens in 2015 from around the world. Disclaimer: I didn’t see everything that was released this year, of course. I wish I could have. So of the films I did see, these were the ones that held together the most and were the most completely satisfying. For example, White God should have been on this list, but it became so stupid in the final act that it made all the excellent work that came before just seem insipid. What we have here, are the films that maintained their focus and gave us a solidly enjoyable viewing experience from start to finish. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night Director/Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour (@Lilyinapad) It’s very difficult to make a good vampire movie these days. Almost impossible, really. But what first-time feature film director Ana Lily Amirpour has done is channel the best of Jim Jarmusch and give us a glimpse of what it might be like if he directed a vampire film. Oh wait. He did direct a vampire movie, didn’t he? Let’s just skip over that. That’s not to say that A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is derivative or unoriginal (check the link to see how much we loved it). There’s just a certain aesthetic that is captured here that recalls the very best of late Eighties indie film while still bringing something totally original to the party. It’s something that’s been lost in film over the past decade, especially as we’ve moved from film to video. There’s a tendency to gloss over the basics, to rely on the tech to make the shot work, to fix things in post. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is beautiful filmmaking at its purest. The film follows the events of a few nights in the Iranian ghost town of Bad City (actually it was filmed in Taft, California) as Arash (Arash Marandi) tries to make enough money to take care of his heroin-addicted father (Marshall Manesh). At the same time, The Girl (Sheila Vand) is a vampire living in town, making ends meet by feeding on bastards and listening to Western pop music. The film plays around with our perceptions of twenty-somethings, junkies, and prostitutes (and vampires, really) to give us a glimpse into the world of everyday people dealing with everyday troubles. There’s an almost distracting attention to the characters’ attempts to find happiness and satisfaction in a colorless town with no real future. The film is bleak, for sure. But it also has a tragic sense of hope and romance that we kind of know just isn’t going to work out because it’s built up around a solid core of unending loneliness. Choosing to film in black and white helps to accentuate these themes and helps make Amirpour one of the best young directors to keep eye out for. Look out for Amirpour’s next film, The Bad Batch, starring Jim Carrey, Keanu Reeves, and Jason Mamoa. According to IMDB, it’s a “dystopian love story in a Texas wasteland and set in a community of cannibals.” It’s due to hit theaters this year. Bone Tomahawk Director/Writer: S. Craig Zahler Working from one of the tightest and well-crafted scripts to make it into production this year, Bone Tomahawk is equal parts a classic western and a modern horror story. When murderers Purvis (David Arquette) and Buddy (Sid Haig) stumble across the sacred lands of a group of cave-dwelling, cannibalistic troglodytes in the 1890s west, you just know bad things are coming. But Arquette and Haig simply force things into motion and in the process cause the kidnapping of Samantha (Lili Simmons) and Deputy Nick (Evan Jonigkeit). The rest of the film is a character study of Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell), Samantha’s husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson), back-up Deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), and arrogant Indian-hunter Brooder (Matthew Fox) as they travel to the home of the troglodytes in the hope of rescuing the captives before they are eaten. This cast is superb and while the pacing might be a little slow for some, and the horror comes a bit late, Bone Tomahawk is one of the best films of the year, much less one of the best Indie horror films. This is very much the year where Kurt Russell’s facial hair should at least win some sort of award. Bone Tomahawk is the directorial debut of Zahler, working from his own original screenplay. He is a novelist, songwriter, cinematographer, and musician with fans ranging from Walter Hill to Joe R. Lansdale, which had to have helped getting this project off the ground. He also wrote the 2011 French horror film The Incident (also known as Asylum Blackout), and after seeing what he’s capable of here, I’m intent on tracking that one down too. Deathgasm Director/Writer: Jason Lei Howden (@JasonLeiHowden) The first horror-comedy on the list is another feature film debut as writer/director Jason Lei Howden put together the goriest, heavy metal party movie of the year. Essentially the story is this: a couple of New Zealand metal heads inadvertently bring about a demonic apocalypse and have to save the world. The film won Make My Movie in NZ with a script written in nine days (with two more weeks spent tightening it up) for the last round of competition and Howden put in everything his 16-year old self wanted to see in a horror film: “gore, brutal metal, tits, more gore, dick jokes” and more. While there are some digital effects added, of course, most of the gore relies on practical effects, making it a refreshing change from a lot of the higher budget gore films that hit the market these days. The humor in this is childish, the music is loud, and the overall effect is like watching some early Peter Jackson for the first time – you know, back before all he could make were bloated CG crapfests. If you love metal music and old-school gore films that you would have found on a beat-up VHS tape at your local video store, then Deathgasm is the film you should be watching right now. It’s literally the most fun film on this list. And the only one where sex toys play a crucial role in saving lives. And the good news is Howden just finished the script to Deathgasm 2: Goremageddon and claims that there’s more gore in the first ten minutes than in all of Deathgasm 1. And that’s good news for all of us. The Hallow Director: Corin Hardy (@corinhardy) Writers: Corin Hardy and Felipe Marino (as Olga Barreneche) The first feature film directors continue as we move from New Zealand to Ireland for Corin Hardy’s creature-feature, The Hallow. That isn’t to say that Hardy’s new to all this though. He’s a successful video and short film director with a penchant for dark fantasy. The Hallow (also known as The Woods) tells the tale of Adam Hitchens (Joseph Mawle), a British conservationist who ignores the warnings of the locals (particularly fellow Game of Thrones alum Michael McElhatton) and enters the Irish woods, drawing the attention – and wrath – of the fair folk. His wife, Clare (Bojana Novakovic), being the more sensible of the two, urges caution but still has the poor sense to remove the iron bars from the windows of their cottage. Hardy pitched the film as “Straw Dogs meets Pan’s Labyrinth” and it does a pretty good job maintaining that sort of a balance, although without a delToro-sized budget, when the supernatural creatures do arrive – and they arrive in force – they’re not as magical as we might hope. Instead, they’re hideous and frightening, both humanoid and insectlike, screeching and lurching at our heroes in the Irish night. There’s also a fair bit of body horror injected into the proceedings as Adam is infected and slowly transforms into a grotesque monster-version of himself. And I almost forgot that we have a Michael Smiley sighting! He’s only in the film for a few minutes, but everything is better with Michael Smiley. This is a gorgeous-looking film that makes excellent use of the countryside, building up a very nice sense of isolation, paranoia, and claustrophobia (even when out in the woods). It’s not a surprise that a rough-cut of The Hallow is what got Hardy the job as the latest poor sap to sign on to direct the ill-fated The Crow remake. All signs point to him moving on from that job as Relativity’s going bankrupt. It Follows Director/Writer: David Robert Mitchell (@DRobMitchell) I would be hard pressed to say anything better than our own Keith Silva did when he reviewed It Follows back in April. So what is there to say about maybe the most written-about horror film of the year? Well, it’s the most clearly inspired by the work of John Carpenter than any film on the list, right down to its synth soundtrack. It Follows feels like it could have been made anytime from the late Seventies to the mid-Eighties, but with a stylistic umph that filmmakers of that period rarely got to explore. In part, that’s due to a change in the technology of low-budget filmmaking. Shooting in Detroit and utilizing wide-angle lenses to help make the film look expansive, Mitchell succeeds in making one of the most visually-interesting films on the list – projecting a sort of existential dread onto the broken and battered cityscape of Detroit and a paranoid angst onto its suburbia. When you’re dealing with a supernatural creature that can look like anyone, every time there are characters other than our heroes, there’s a tension that is palpable. That dread, that angst, that tension. That’s what makes It Follows more than just a simple anti-sex monster movie in the tradition of Friday the 13th and such. That’s what makes Jay (Maika Monroe) more than your everyday Final Girl. The thing following her isn’t some superficial STD made manifest. It’s the transition from innocence to experience, from childhood to adulthood, from the blissful ignorance of life to the awareness of the ever-present possibility of death. That’s why It Follows seems to resonate more than some other films that hit this year and why it made it onto this list. Let Us Prey Director: Brian O’Malley (@TheBrianOMalley) Writers: Fiona Watson and David Cairns With Brian O’Malley’s debut feature film, Let Us Prey, we move back across the ocean; this time to Scotland and the one-two punch of actors Liam Cunningham and Pollyanna McIntosh. Set in a remote Scottish police station in an oddly abandoned city, a stranger has come to town and there’s going to be hell to pay for anyone with dark, evil secrets. O’Malley was brought on to direct, so the script isn’t his – although he apparently had free rein to tinker with it as need be – and what initially could have been a cheesy supernatural version of Assault on Precinct 13 turns into something much more stylish and grand. Cunningham is perfectly cast as the character Six and if the film was only made up of the beautiful imagery of him emerging from the sea and crossing the countryside into town, Let Us Prey probably still would have been a strong contender to make the list. It’s a stunning opening sequence. Add to that McIntosh’s strong performance of damaged PC Rachel Heggie, a survivor of hinted at but never fully explored captivity and abuse as a child. Her performance always hints at that history, but uses it to inform her character rather than wearing it on her sleeve. In fact, at McIntosh’s urging, her character’s past was reworked a bit, making her more of a strong survivor rather than being seen as victimized. O’Malley has called her his Ripley and that’s pretty on target. The supporting cast is effective as a group of sinners isolated together on the worst night of their lives. But nothing that happens is by accident, and Six has pulled the strings to make sure that the worst people in the area are all available for easy pickings. The lingering shots around town, where nobody else seems to be up and about help add to the supernatural tension that builds slowly but surely as the film moves from the Ocean to the Land to its conclusion in Fire. The final moments are perhaps a bit much, with Six presented as lonely and PC Heggie ready and willing to stay by his side harvesting the souls of sinners, but you know what? If Liam Cunningham showed up on my doorstep with a righteous mission, I’d be hard pressed to turn him down, too. Spring Directors: Justin Benson (@JustinHBenson) and Aaron Moorhead (@AaronMoorhead) Writer: Justin Benson I loved Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s first feature, Resolution, and while I enjoyed their contribution to V/H/S: Viral, “Bonestorm,” this is the film I was waiting on. I’m going to go ahead and say that this is quite possibly one of my favorite movie love stories in years. The story is simple enough. After the death of his mother, Evan’s (Lou Taylor Pucci) life goes into a tailspin and at the urging of his stoner best friend (played to perfection by The Battery‘s Jeremy Gardner), drops everything to fly to Italy and get away from everything. Once there, he meets a mysterious woman named Louise (Nadia Hilker) and they fall in love. At this point, Spring has that eternal romantic feel that one would expect from something like Before Sunrise (1995). There’s a constant feel that this relationship may be delicate and fleeting, making it all the more precious to Evan. But Louise has a secret that Julie Delpy probably wouldn’t have kept hidden quite as well. All I’m going to say about that is that Spring is ultimately a monster movie, but it does everything it can to keep it from becoming something supernatural, instead providing us with characters who feel real and grounded as they deal with the horrifying truths lurking beneath the surface. It’s one of the smartest horror films of the year, at times one of the grossest, and also the most romantic. On the technical side, Benson and Moorhead made waves during the production not only by utilizing tax and other incentives to shoot in Italy, but also with their use of a drone camera to capture some breathtaking panoramic shots of the Italian countryside. With that simple and affordable move, they made Spring look like a much more expensive film that looks as good as its script. The last I’d read, Benson and Moorhead were working on a biographical horror film about the life of Aleister Crowley called Beasts, but I haven’t heard much about that lately. I hope that’s something that actually happens. We Are Still Here Director/Writer: Ted Geoghegan (@tedgeoghegan) Ted Geoghegan has extensive experience as a writer and producer, but We Are Still Here is his feature film directorial debut. The film stars Andrew Sensenig and horror icon Barbara Crampton as grieving parents who have only recently lost their college-aged son Bobby in a car accident. To help Anne (Crampton) deal with her grief, the couple moves to a small New England home hoping for some closure. Rounding out the cast is Lisa Marie and Indie-film icon Larry Fessenden, with a guest-appearance by classic character actor Monte Markham. The film is a fairly traditional haunted house story set in 1979 New England, which gives it a bit of visual depth – especially with the gorgeous house the characters move into. Seriously. Dr. Girlfriend and I were drooling over the décor and everything from the molding to the door frames. And while that basement was frighteningly unfinished, even it was packed with so much character and history, just going down the stairs was like entering another world. According to Markham’s Dave McCabe, the house was built in the 1800s by the Dagmar family who lived and ran it as the town funeral home. The way Dave tells it, the Dagmars were run out of town for swindling customers and supposedly selling corpses for science while burying empty coffins. Of course the truth isn’t quite what it appears. The house itself, or the land it’s built on, is an ancient evil that requires the sacrifice of a family every thirty years or death and destruction sweeps the town. The burnt ghosts of the Dagmars are trapped there, serving the evil and claiming souls right on schedule. But this time is different, as Anne and Paul have brought the spirit of their dead son along with them, which for some reason convinces the Dagmars to turn on the townsfolk for their ritual sacrifices. Honestly, there aren’t a lot of surprises here, which is why I’m being liberal with the plot description. The strength of the film is in its performances, its cinematography, set design, and effects. It’s clearly a love letter to classic ghost stories with just enough of a Lovecraftian hint to move it beyond a simple tale of devils, good, and evil. Geoghegan’s next project is Satanic Panic and centers on a minimum-wage delivery girl forced into battling the rich leaders of a suburban community / satanic cult. What We Do in the Shadows Directors/Writers: Jemaine Clement (@AJemaineClement) and Taika Waititi (@TaikaWaititi) What We Do in the Shadows is another entry from New Zealand. This time, a mock-documentary about a group of vampires who live together in Wellington. The film was written, directed, and stars Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame and Taika Waititi who was recently signed to direct the next Thor film, Thor: Ragnarok. If you’re a fan of Flight of the Conchords or Waititi’s offbeat romantic comedy Eagle vs Shark, then I don’t have to really tell you what to expect here. The film is quirky, sometimes subtle, sometimes broadly hilarious, and has a surprising amount of heart. Most of the humor develops from the character interactions and the housemates’ attempts to exist in the 21st century. As such, there are quite a few moments that play on classic vampire tropes, but also just as many that parody both the Anne Rice and the Twilight schools of film vampire. But there are also nice moments about friendship, loyalty, and adapting to a world that has moved beyond you. To be honest, I probably would have added this film to the list if only for the surprise guest-appearance of Conchords regular Rhys Darby as the werewolf Anton. His “We’re werewolves, not swear-wolves” was what sold me on the film from the first time I saw the trailer. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead Director: Kiah Roache-Turner (@wyrmwoodmovie) Writers: Kiah Roache-Turner and Tristan Roache-Turner As I said when I reviewed Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead back in April, if George Miller and Peter Jackson had a zombie rage-baby, it would be Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is the Australian zombie-action feature film debut from the Roache-Turner brothers. It was filmed over four years of weekend shoots and cost an estimated $160,000 dollars ($37,000 of which was raised via Indiegogo), but may actually have up to a million dollars’ worth of work on the screen thanks to performers and crew deferring payments. That’s the fucking definition of a labor of love. It may also be the definition of madness. Wyrmwood is a chaotic grindhouse explosion of gore, violence, and jokes that isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you’re a splatter fan with a twisted sense of humor (and don’t take yourself too seriously), you’re probably going to love this. We’ve got Benny (Leon Burchill) who opted to shoot the leg off of his zombie brother rather than kill him the morning after a strange meteor shower that triggered the zombie infection of seemingly random people all over the world (?). He meets up with Barry (Jay Gallagher), a mechanic who had to kill his wife and daughter and is now driven to find his sister, Brooke (Bianca Bradey), an artist who has been captured by what may or not be a mobile government lab run by a mad scientist (Berynn Schwerdt). Along the way, Benny and Barry are joined by Frank (Keith Agius) and together discover that during the day the zombies breathe methane which inspires Barry to rig up a zombie-fueled armored truck that would be right at home in The Road Warrior. The Roache-Turners have come up with a clever way of having both the slow-moving and sprinting zombies that kind of makes sense and follows the internal logic of the film, as well as come up with a novel concept for the initial spread of infection. What they’ve also done (there’s really a lot going on here!) is craft an origin story for Brooke, who is transformed into a zombie-controlling superhero of sorts, which sets up the potential for any number of sequels. At the moment, the brothers have announced their next project as a “mental ghost” film that hearkens back to Ghostbusters with a touch of Lovecraft and Stephen King, and they have every intention of returning to the world of Wyrmwood in 2017 with as much of the original cast as possible. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 3 Responses Deathgasm (2015) Blu-ray Review - Psycho Drive-In January 5, 2016 […] which I mean it’s AMAZING (and made my Top Ten 2015 Indie Horror Films list just […] Log in to Reply ABCs of Horror 2016 Day 6: C is for Barbara Crampton - Psycho Drive-In October 6, 2016 […] one of the best was We Are Still Here, a haunted house story set in 1979 New England that made my Best Indie Horror of 2015 list. It features Crampton in one of her meatier roles, as a grieving mother searching for some […] Log in to Reply Women in Horror: Barbara Crampton - Psycho Drive-In February 3, 2017 […] one of the best was We Are Still Here, a haunted house story set in 1979 New England that made my Best Indie Horror of 2015 list. It features Crampton in one of her meatier roles, as a grieving mother searching for some […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.