Tis the season to flick on the bat lights, roll around in cobwebs and drench yourself in blood, as my roommate does. It was a Halloween costume, but being happy drenched in fake blood is a state of mind. We are going to create a top ten list of Colleen and I's favorite Halloween movies but until we are able to do that, and by that I mean force Colleen to watch numerous Halloween themed movies, here's my personal indie Halloween darlings for you horror fiends out there.
There's something about Indie horror movies. Their endings are looser, more haunting if you will. They don't have to follow "the rules" of contemporary horror, the ending doesn't have to be an upper and sometimes the killer gets away with it all.
We've all had those moments when we feel like we're being followed. We chalk it up to us being paranoid or nerves, but what if something was following you? What if it was a monster? What if it was a sexually transmitted monster? In David Robert Mitchell's It Follows, Jay played by the lovely Maika Monroe has sex with who she thinks is a genuine guy only to discover she's inherited a monster dead set on murdering her in the worst way possible. It Follows is a terrifying masterpiece of world-bending and beautiful cinematography. What is most notable about Mitchell's fantastic tale is the monster doesn't act crazy. Like the great Scream, Mitchell's monster has rules it follows (unintentional joke) and sticks to them. It's clever and will haunt you in your dreams.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
A few years ago I got really lucky when I not only discovered this gem by sheer happenstance, but also that the writer and director Ana Lily Amirpour and the film's lead Sheila Vand were doing Q & A at the Nuart in Santa Monica. I managed to convince my roommate with the words "iranian vampire western" and we were there. The film is simple in all the right ways, the premise can be summed up as a vampire takes revenge on the bad men of Bad City, a fictional town in Iran. The vampire has no name, but she does have killer taste in music, major skateboarding moves, is one of few words, and a penchant for killing with flair. The film is shot in black and white going hand and hand with the vampire's assumed outlook of bad men being bad (and needing to be killed) and good men, like Arash Marandi cherished for their goodness.
I know, I know. I'm too into Adam Wingard's The Guest, but let me be honest and put my love of Dan Stevens smoking a cigarette in neon hues aside, this movie is dope and even after watching it maybe thirty times I'm still unsure of so many things, in the best way. While this film isn't necessarily a "horror," some aspects are downright frightening. Dan Stevens' ability to turn on his psychotic killer within him is so seamless and so jarring all at once. We want to love his character David because he's sweet, caring and will do just about anything to protect the Peterson clan, even if that means threatening a teacher or busting in the heads of bullies. The problem is, he's got something embedded in him to protect "his mission" at all costs, even the family he loved moments before. While there are some strange questions of plot within this film, namely the fact he's part of an experiment that doesn't quite make sense, the intentional cheesiness of chase scenes, incredible soundtrack and serious jumps make this movie not one to miss.
The Invitation is one of those movies that should be garnering more attention as a wonked out horror film. Karyn Kusama's recent gambit in horror is welcome after nearly six years of radio silence since putting out the delightful Jennifer's Body. It has value in the world we're living in, some of its themes grounded in what it means to be polite and overcoming grief. When Will attends a party thrown by his ex-wife, she and her new husband slaughter their guests for what? For religion? For a cult? To give people peace of mind? Who knows. The film is so shocking because for the first half of the film we question Will's state of mind, is he really paranoid of his wife's new husband that pulled her out of depression, after she and Will had lost their son years before, or is his paranoia valid? The film is freaky and thought-provoking, dark and caring all at once.
The Final Girls
I wish I could unsee The Final Girls, just so I could see it again. It's got 80's vibes, tunes and kickass outfits all the while having main characters grounded in the present. You've got some of the big players in television including Thomas Middleditch, Nina Dobrev, Alia Shawkat and Taissa Farmiga. This cast is unstoppable and the chemistry between Taissa and Malin Akerman is off the charts. What makes this film standout other than the many things I just mentioned, the film does the horror film rules right, in that they take them, pull them apart and reassemble them again. It's a film so aware of itself and doesn't doubt your intellect. It's just right.
There you have people. These are my favorite independent horror films. Keep calm and scream on.