With the ease of movie-making technology and the advent of numerous new venues for watching films, the number of releases per year has grown exponentially. It’s great for horror fans looking for new movies, but it can be tough for horror filmmakers to find an audience with the sheer number of films for viewers to choose from.
This is a list of five overlooked indie horror films that were unique, effective, or surprising, and they deserve a little more attention than they received. All of the films mentioned are available to watch on various streaming services…
WINNERS TAPE ALL: THE HENDERSON BROTHERS STORY (2016)
Call it a fictional version of American Movie or a horror film version of This Is Spinal Tap, Justin Channell’s Winners Tape All is a fake retrospective documentary about the very short (and very bad) film careers of Michael and Richard Henderson, West Virginia brothers who made two no-budget horror films during the video store boom of the 1980s.
The film is a love letter to the VHS era much like another recent entry, WNUF Halloween Special; the director of WNUF, Chris LaMartina, even has an on-screen role. The plot is little more than an excuse to show extended clips of the old films, Stabberman and Cannibal Swim Club, along with funny talking head segments with the brothers discussing their strange life behind the scenes. With plenty of humor and nostalgia, the film deserves a loyal following.
If you think you’ve seen everything the exorcism subgenre has to offer, and you haven’t seen Septien, then you haven’t seen it all just yet. Before director Michael Tully made the 80’s homage Ping Pong Summer, he created the delightfully dysfunctional Rawlings family. A former high school sports star comes home to the dilapidated family estate to see his reclusive brothers. What transpires… deserves to be seen unspoiled.
Outsider art, molestation trauma, sports hustling, and appearances from Summer of Blood director Onur Tukel and Spring Breakers star Rachel Korine are just some of the fantastic, bizarre, delightful elements of this uncategorizable film. Some might say it’s too funny, weird, and mixed-genre to be considered a true horror film, but viewers should decide for themselves and hunt down this one-of-a-kind movie.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE (2014)
Like Grace: The Possession (which came out the same year), You Are Not Alone is a horror film seen through the eyes of its female protagonist. Though there is no supernatural element at play in You Are Not Alone, the film is a fascinating first-person horror experiment. Natalie is a college student home for 4th of July weekend, and after a night of drinking and heading home to an empty house, she is stalked and attacked by a murderous lunatic.
Though the film is not perfect (it’s nearly halfway through the movie before the tension cranks up and we meet the stalker), director Derek Mungor and his crew deserve recognition for their execution of a difficult premise. What the film loses in classic filmmaking technique, it makes up for in sheer intensity in the last half of the film. Chaotic and punctuated with shocking violence, this movie can make for an uncomfortable nighttime view for the right viewer who can soldier through the opening forty minutes (or, frankly, fast forward through it).
Horror fans who like the films of Bryan Bertino or 2006’s foreign film Them will appreciate this new take on a similar subgenre. A married man, his wife, and his brother go on a camping trip, only to find their shoes missing from outside their tent when they wake up the next morning. As they try to get back to civilization, they discover that some people in masks are watching them, toying with them… perhaps even hunting them.
The film was directed by Christopher Denham, who directed the excellent found footage film Home Movie and has appeared in films like Shutter Island and The Bay. Though the lead cast is small, all of them are recognizable, with Aaron Staton from Mad Men, Wrenn Schmidt from Cinemax’s Outcast, and Pablo Schreiber from Orange is the New Black and a great turn in American Gods. The film has tension and a surprisingly dark sense of humor that makes it worth seeking out.
SHIVER (aka Eskalofrio) (2008)
This Spanish-language film is a fantastic modern reinvention of the vampire and werewolf mythologies in an unconventional and invigorating way. A single mother struggles to deal with her son, who has a severe sensitivity to light. She moves them to a mountainside village where the light is less extreme, but finds the town to be hostile to newcomers. When violence visits the community, the residents automatically assume the strange new young man is responsible. The truth, however, is much darker.
A film that mixes vampirism and the struggle of adolescence in a more organic and entertaining way than the Twilight series ever could, Shiver touches on themes similar to Let the Right One In but in a clever new way. Director Isidro Ortiz worked in horror before with Fausto 5.0 and and Somne, but his work was never more assured than in this film. Great performances from the young cast and a beautiful and haunting locale make this a film worth watching.