There aren’t enough hours in the day to see all the great independent horror films that have been released in recent years since the DVD and online boom started. But for those dedicated horror film fans who pore over the internet, seeking out the small, the smart, and the surprising, Bloody Disgusting supports your worthy cause.
This is our third installment of the overlooked indie horror films that deserve more attention than they received.
Though American viewers know him best for his work on the REC series, director Jaume Balaguero is a brilliant filmmaker with several other great horror and thriller films, and Sleep Tight is one of his best. The film follows misanthropic apartment handyman Cesar as he tests the happiness of one of his tenants by slowly and anonymously making her life miserable, one painful and undignified act at a time.
The film is a brilliant slow burn, starting with acts that cause the viewer mild discomfort and escalating in severity until the woman’s suffering is nearly unwatchable. The performances from Luis Tosar and Marta Etura as polar opposites in a one-sided battle of ideologies are brilliant, and they stay with the viewer long after the film is over. Though it doesn’t match REC’s pacing and terror, this may be Balaguero’s most stylish and mature work.
Filmmaker JT Petty (playing himself) is making a documentary on voyeurism, and ventures into the underground world of fetish filmmakers and the dark cult cinema circuit; as he meets and follows a filmmaker known for one particularly gruesome series, he begins to question whether the films are grimy but effective movies, or something much darker.
The only thing more disturbing than the fictional narrative in S&Man is the fact that most of the interviews and footage are from real filmmakers talking about their actual work. A brilliant blurring of the line between fake documentary and actual reportage, filmmaker Petty (a brilliant filmmaker since his low-budget debut with Soft for Digging) interviews people along the horror spectrum from filmmaker Bill Zebub to college professor and author Carol Clover. Illuminating and terrifying in equal measure, this film deserved better than the questionable release it received, and it is one worth tracking down.
Creative sibling team Joshua and Jonas Pate are recently more well-known for their work on Caprica, Blood and Oil, and other primetime television series, but their most interesting work was their filmic output in the late 1990s, including this strange and fascinating gem. A southern gothic story about two criminals who escape prison to search for the buried treasure of a dead millionaire, The Grave is impossible to easily categorize. With black comedy, romance, hairpin story turns, and a plot that would suit an R-rated version of The Goonies, the movie never lets the viewers feel safe in their expectations.
The cast of this film is recognizable from end to end: Craig Sheffer, Josh Charles, Donal Logue, Keith David, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Michael Hall, Eric Roberts, Gabrielle Anwar, and that’s just the beginning. Fun, weird, and a little bit twisted, this film deserves a renaissance and some newfound appreciation.
Though it may end up a controversial choice for this list given that it is marketed as a psychological thriller rather than horror, David Barker’s Daylight is a beautiful and haunting film filled with quiet dread. A man and his pregnant wife are traveling through rural America when they are taken hostage at gunpoint by three desperate men. During their imprisonment, it is the pregnant wife who finds the courage and compassion to change their fate.
The film is the rare harrowing experience that also has a silver lining, and the performances are all-around subtle and compelling. The story turns kidnapping thriller clichés on their heads, and the film acts as a strangely hopeful mirror reflection of the similar events in Last House on the Left. At turns both poetic and unnerving, this film will connect deeply with the right viewer.
The premise is as simple as it gets: fifty people appear suddenly inside a single, bare room. Each has a position marked on the floor, and each gets one vote. A timer in the room counts down in two-minute increments, and every two minutes, the person with the most votes is killed. This continues until there is only one survivor. The simplicity of Circle‘s plot betrays the complexity and moral ambiguity at its center, and the film is a brilliant indictment of the ways the democratic system can be manipulated.
Directors Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione followed up their online series The Vault with this smart and controversial concept. Though most of the actors are unfamiliar, Dexter fans will recognize Julie Benz in the crowd. The whole film is tense and entertaining, but the final ten minutes are a tour de force of intensity where characters are trying to murder each other without ever taking a step towards one another. Circle is a big story in a small location that is definitely worth tracking down.