Since we started the site back in 2001 I’ve been sharing my picks for the best and worst films of the year. 2013 was godawful to me; it was easily one of the worst years of my life.
After 12 months of pure shit, I don’t really feel like going into 2014 with negative energy, so I decided to put something positive into the end of this dreadful 2013. Instead of sharing my picks for the worst of the year, I’ve decided to celebrate 20 awesome independent films that the horror community should really be supporting.
Looking back, there weren’t even that many terrible films, and for once it was hard to decide on which 10 to include in my “best of the year” feature. As I was digging through all the gems, I realized that 2013 was quite the year for independent film. I mean, we finally saw the release of All the Boys Love Mandy Lane(!), there were also the releases of bizarre documentaries Room 237 and My Amityville Horror, and Magnet released a ton of horror from our V/H/S/2 to the unique ABCs of Death.
If you haven’t been paying attention, there are so many tremendous films that are now available for rent on VOD, and even on Blu-ray and DVD for your collections. I hope that, even if you thought you’ve seen them all, we’ll shine the light on one or two that you missed.
In no particular order, enjoy 20 noteworthy indies from 2013!
Israeli directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, the duo behind Rabies, are back with another horror thriller, this time being hailed by Quentin Tarantino as one of the best of the year. The production value is a shocking jump from Rabies, and the screenplay by the duo shows some serious growth. Big Bad Wolves is a crime thriller “whodunit” that’s cloaked in tension, and carries more than a fair share of cringe-worthy moments. While on the surface this may look like a “torture” film, it’s far from it. Do yourself a favor and see this in a theater if it’s playing near you.
Jonathan Levine’s 2006 thriller All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is finally available on home video after several years of collecting dust in Dimension’s shelf. Starring the stunning Amber Heard in her breakthrough role, this astounding indie has been in release hell after Dimension Films acquired out of the Toronto International Film Festival. Those of you who enjoy the rarities should embrace finally being able to see Many Lane, about “a good girl” who becomes the object of everyone’s affection after returning from summer break. You too will become infatuated with this film. Dig on Tex Massacre’s review from 2007(!) here.
After a nice festival run, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s creepy, slow-burn Resolution was released in January by Tribeca Film. In the film, “Michael (Peter Cilella) is committed to getting his best friend Chris (Vinny Curran) to sober up and get his life back on track. But what begins as an attempt to save his friend’s life quickly takes an unexpected turn as the two friends confront personal demons, the consequences of past actions, and forces beyond their control.” Just wait until you see the finale! John Marrone was one of the first ever to review the film and brought it to Bloody’s attention.
While you won’t be able to see Ti West’s latest genre offering until 2014, The Sacrament, produced by Eli Roth, was acquired by Magnolia out of its festival run. It’s one of West’s best films to date, and features tense performances by Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, Kentucker Audley, Amy Seimetz, and Gene Jones. While the beats of the film are all original, The Sacrament truly is based on the mortifying true story of Jonestown, an cult that shocked the world with its gut-wrenching conclusion. Sacrament is a powerful movie that taps into the real-life trauma from the 1979’s. Read Mike Pereira’s review here and watch for more leading up to its relase.
An incredibly ambitious indie undertaking, ABCs features a whopping 26 short films from the top independent filmmakers across the globe. While they can’t all be winners, I said in my review: “ I’d focus on creating some sort of party atmosphere to watch ABCs of Death. The only thing that can kick-start some energy into this anthology is you, and a group of screaming and laughing friends. There’s plenty here worth seeing.” You’ll get all the blood, sex, and violence you can handle here…
I’m already sick of all of the Amityvile Horror films in the works, but what makes Eric Walter’s beautifully shot My Amityville Horror documentary so engaging is that it’s NOT about the infamous house. In fact, its prime focus in on Daniel Lutz as he recounts his version of the infamous Amityville haunting that terrified his family in 1975. The viewer is put in the position of focusing on Lutz’s recollections while outsiders question the validity of his stories. It takes viewers down the path that eventually leads to the following conundrum: is Lutz lying or does he believe his stories? The film reveals a few shockers, such as the alleged physical abuse inflicted by Daniel’s stepfather, the infamous George Lutz, and that Daniel rocks the guitar (ok, these shots are just funny). The movie works because Walter dissects Lutz and not the house, which makes for one compelling hour and a half.
I reviewed this underrated remake out of the TIFF last year. It’s now available on home video. “While the remake doesn’t progress the story in any positive direction, it’s still pretty good and something easily recommend,” I explained. “If anything, Come Out and Play is generic to the core, a cut and paste horror thriller that still manages to deliver on both production value and intensity. And while most of the remake is a slow burn, the finale will have most viewers on the edge of their seat in absolute shock. Could you kill a child?”
This Sundance documentary is the source of a lot of criticism, but what it is more than anything is entertaining. Fans of The Shining will be intrigued by the shocking allegations made by filmmaker Rodney Ascher. Ryan Daley explains in his review, “Many of the ideas presented are preposterous and absurd, but every interview subject has a point or two that’s surprisingly relevant. The film as a whole is insanely thought-provoking. And more importantly, whether it’s discussing subliminal Hitler mustaches or implied erections, Room 237 is consistently entertaining. But this is coming from someone who has seen The Shining more than 20 times.”
Conor McMahon’s Irish splatterfest, starring Ross Noble, made my top 10 of 2013 and is also now available on home video everywhere. It’s also the first ever recipient of the Bloody Disgusting Editor’s Choice award. The pic is an old school slasher that really hones in on its 80’s roots. While a fun horror comedy, the film takes itself absolutely serious. As I explained in my review “Completely under the radar, the slasher has the potential to be the next Hatchet, only with clowns.”
Speaking of Hatchet… BJ McDonnell took the reign on this third entry and righted the ship, so to speak. “The audience will enjoy a plethora of death sequences that range from beheadings to entire spinal columns being ripped out,” I explain in my review. While the sequel gets lost in an effort to be a Friday the 13th film, there’s a lot of heart that went into this, and hardcore slasher fans will relish in the 80’s homage that slashes across the screen.
IFC nabbed this freakish commentary on celebrity worship out of the TIFF. It hails from the son of David Cronenberg, and stars Caleb Landry Jones in a slow-burn semi-creature feature that I call a “deep, engaging, and beautifully shot art house horror film.” While I feel some viewers may find the experience tedious or exhausting, it does carry quite a few twists and turns, not to mention the much-desired “Cronenberg” imagery that will delight the hardcore horror nuts.
Chad Crawford Kinkle’s slow-burn follows the potter of a backwoods community who has crafted a face on a ceramic jug of the person that the pit wants sacrificed. This causes a domino effect of a shit storm in this May-like thriller. it’s carried by strong performances, and a few explicate shots of gore. Read my review here. Don’t fuck with the pit.
Fantastic Fest screened this hidden gem back in 2012, and it’s now on home video from XLrator Media. In the film, two young documentary filmmakers are drawn into a shadowy world of secret societies when the subject of their film simply disappears. Have his investigations led to his demise? I explain in my review, “The film builds tremendous amounts of suspense as they go from a safe place of laughing at a “wacko” to the sudden haunting realization that all of this “may be true.” And, if so, are they in danger? The tension builds to an incredible third act that can best be described as Eyes Wide Shut with more scares, but less boobage.” While the finale lacks punch, I’m actually a huge fan of Christopher MacBride’s found-footage thriller that deserves more attention than it has received.
I seriously can’t believe how much people hated +1, IFC Films’ bizarre alien thriller from The Last House on the Left director Dennis Iliadis. I thought it was a beyond smart, engaging, and trippy take on doppelgängers that also delivered some really insane shocks. Even Evan Dickson was a fan out of the SXSW premiere back in March of 2013. He sort of nails it when he says, “Go with an open mind and you might just have a lot of fun with it.”
As I explained in my best of the year list… Critics were way too harsh on this experimental art film that was looked at, for whatever reason, like it should have been some perfectly generic Disney-themed thriller. It’s anything but generic, and goes for the throat with its trippy imagery, demonic spirit, and blatant attack on consumerism. Randy Moore’s commentary on how Disney sells “happiness” is right on the money, and his depiction on a nightmarish vacation is something that I’m sure many people can relate to. The idea that Moore snuck into Disneyworld and EPCOT in Orlando, Florida to film this is to be commended on the highest accord, and the end result is something that’s about as magical as Disney itself. This is a discovery film, one that you find and brag to your friends about seeing first. Even if you weren’t the first in line, I’m quite sure that the lot of you will be enchanted by this Willy Wonka-esque ride through the Disney parks. Personally, I’d enjoy this “dark ride” an infinite amount of times. Patrick Cooper was also a fan of the film. You can read his review here.
A remake of the Mexican cannibal film of the same name, Ryan Daley quite liked Jim Mickle’s interpretation that he calls “a crafty exploration of familial ritual.” It follows a seemingly wholesome and benevolent family, the Parkers, whom have always kept to themselves, and for good reason. Behind closed doors, patriarch Frank (Sage) rules his family with a rigorous ferver, determined to keep his ancestral customs intact at any cost…
Centering on a couple’s children who go missing in the caves of Tijuana, this bizarre and sexy exorcism pic hails from Adrian Garcia Bogliano, who is making a name for himself here in the States. Next up is his werewolf flick Late Phases – Here Comes the Devil will give you a taste of what kind of horror offering he’ll be delivering. For a guy with nearly a dozen indie pics under his belt, this is the one that shows his true promise. Check out my review out of the 2012 TIFF.
Harking back to cheesy 80’s movies like Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case, Bad Milo! was the surprise indie of the year delivering tons of gore, laughs, and of course the underrated Ken Marino. The concept of an evil demon that comes out of a man’s ass is just the tip of the iceberg as this genre film proves that, despite what history says, horror and comedy can live together. Bad Milo! is a must-see for all horror fans, and is even worthy of owning for those “what should we watch tonight?” parties.
E.L. Katz breaks into the indie scene with this violent and crazy thriller that asks one simple question: “What would you do for a dollar?” Get ready for an intense, engaging, and shocking film featuring an incredible performance by Pay Healy. Also starring Sarah Paxton, the pic “tells the story of a new father facing eviction who is reunited with a high school friend when a wealthy couple challenges them to the ultimate game of dare, testing the limits of physical pain and morality in exchange for cash.” Click here to read Evan Dickson’s positive review in which he calls it “A great horror satire that would incidentally make a great stage play, this is a 100% can’t miss film for any viewer that wants to be sickened, surprised and impressed.”
One of the most beloved indie films in the horror community this past year was Jeremy Gardner’s awesome The Battery, in which he writes, directs and stars in. This character piece follows the personalities of two former baseball players whom clash as they traverse the rural back roads of a post-plague New England teeming with the undead. Instead of focusing on the zombies, like “The Walking Dead” does, Battery features two quite lovable protagonists who’s bickering is reminiscent of early Kevin Smith banter, soaking the film with a charm that will have you smiling just as often as you squirm. “The Battery proves something about the depths of the horror genre. There is very little gore, there is very little action – however the cinematic quality and the emotionally charged atmosphere are sculpted in the right manor to make it an excellent example of what can truly be considered horror,” Lauren Taylor explained in her review.