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Each month, we’ll take you on a trip down the proverbial video aisle to look at some of the latest and best indie horror releases you need to check out.

Down the Video Aisle

What a weird time we are living in. With COVID-19 essentially shutting down the world, let alone the film world, there’s a lot of uncertainty and “social distancing” and “self isolating” going on. I certainly hope that anyone reading this is safe, healthy, and gets through this situation financially if you have lost hours at work or forced to stay home.

If you do find yourself with a few extra bucks to spare, it’s a good time to support some indie filmmakers and films while we’re all waiting this pandemic out in our homes. There’s a lot of great titles to check out this month. And if you do pick a few to watch and like them, I urge you to help spread the word on whatever social media platform you use. Supporting and spreading the love on some indie films and filmmakers is just a little something positive we can all do right now, and anything positive is both welcome and needed right now.

With that, let’s take our monthly stroll down the video aisle and pick out some movies to watch!

STAFF PICK

The Hunt

(Available now on VOD)

It comes with a price tag of $20, but that’s still a great deal for the opportunity to watch a film that would normally still be in theaters for at least the next month or so and not even hit VOD until Summer. But these aren’t normal times, and in an unprecedented move Universal has released Blumhouse’s The Hunt for us to watch at home. It’s a good thing they did because the film is a welcome distraction to what is going on.

Viewers get thrown into the middle of things right away, figuring out just what is going on as the characters figure it out themselves. And what a fun time it is as the mystery unfolds! The main ingredient to this fun is lead actress Betty Gilpin, who will have you cracking up with her hilariously off kilter and dead pan humor in one moment and then will have you wide eyed and punching the air in the next. Gilpin is both a commanding comedic talent and an electric action star, and she gives The Hunt an explosive presence at its core.

The film does get political at times but it does so at the expense of both sides of the aisle, and just like in real life when it comes to politics everyone ends up looking like a jackass in the end. One such figure representing a political side is Hilary Swank, who gleefully chews the scenery and is the perfect foil to Gilpin’s red state representation (the two share an extended fight sequence that is thrilling and extremely well choreographed).

The Hunt doesn’t delve too deep into its political themes, but it doesn’t have to, nor should it have. What it presents instead is an exciting, funny, and entertaining look at the ideological divisions in the world (and the smug self-righteousness of it) in a rousing and bloody action film. And like Samara Weaving in last year’s Ready Or Not, it gives a new star for audiences to root for in Betty Gilpin in what is the breakout performance of the year so far.  4/5, Rent it!

“Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don’t know where they are, or how they got there. They don’t know they’ve been chosen  — for a very specific purpose  The Hunt.”       

FIRST LOOK: REVIEWED RELEASES

Rootwood

(Available 4/7 on VOD)

The frantic and desperate screams from Elissa Dowling in the opening scene as she calls out for her friend Will will make your blood run cold. Just as she did in last year’s Automation, Elissa Dowling steals the show as the down to Earth Jessica. She plays Jessica as agreeable but hesitant about the idea of searching for a Satanic myth deep in the forest known as The Wooden Devil. Dowling also adds a layer of amusement to it all that gets the viewer on her side, an ability that comes naturally to the talented actress.

Playing opposite Dowling is Tyler Gallant as her podcasting partner Will, and their mutual friend Erin played by Sarah French. Gallant is great at portraying the overeager but perhaps in over his head Will (the quick scene of him trying to set up a tent shows you all you need to know), but he’s a little flat in the more serious scenes. And finally Sarah French is superb as Erin, the fun, material possession loving, always-has-to-look-her-best (easy to do when you’re Sarah French) friend who can be a downer when things get tough (tough as in hiking) but is also a shot of lively energy in most situations. There’s also a fantastic appearance from Felissa Rose as the pushy, self-important film producer who hires Jessica and Will to make the documentary.

As the three characters venture deeper into the forest and closer to the area of The Wooden Devil, they come across one strange thing after another, naturally. The film has a nice pace to it as things get more and more strange, building to the point of terror. In this way Rootwood has a Blair Witch Project vibe, minus the full-on found footage approach. Because Jessica and Will are filming a documentary director Marcel Walz cuts to the handheld footage during moments of action, giving those scenes an added sense of chaos.

The script may be a little thin, only hinting at character development and not doing much to raise the stakes, but the cast have great onscreen chemistry and Elissa Dowling’s performance is a must see. Rootwood offers enough spooks and thrills to be a solid horror flick, including several stylish, WTF moments, making for great midnight viewing.  3/5, Rent it!

“Two students are hired by a Hollywood film producer to shoot a horror documentary about the curse of The Wooden Devil.”

Getaway

(Available 4/14 on VOD and DVD)

When Tamara (Jaclyn Betham) is heading to the lake for a weekend with her friends, Maddy and Brooke, she runs out of gas, and pulling up behind her are two men to give her some, but not before coming across as completely creepy. When the two men find Tamara and her friends at the lake, they kidnap her and one can assume she’ll end up in a grave. The two men are brothers, Merv and Kib (Lane Toran and Noah Lowdermilk), and with their father these three religious nuts twist their beliefs and “send angels to Heaven.” Little do they know Tamara is no angel, and no ordinary girl either.

Getaway is a dark film that leans on wind-like ominous music and sounds of nature to emphasize its isolation and in turn its hopelessness. It’s a film about wicked people doing demented things, but it’s also a film about the inherent power women hold over men, for better or for worse. Conversely, it shows how men can be oblivious and blatant scumbags when it comes to a pretty face, as well as the violence that can be a reaction to that power.

As Tamara puts up a fight the men didn’t see coming, strange things are happening around their backwoods household, things they determine to be the work of the devil by way of Tamara. Jaclyn Betham is excellent with her facial cues that make the viewer think she just might be working for the devil, and then a moment later that she’s just a girl scared for her life. Scout Taylor-Compton and Landry Allbright have some great moments as Maddy and Brooke, especially Allbright who all but steals the show in one particular badass scene.

Highly entertaining, well crafted, and with great performances featuring a healthy dose of female empowerment, Getaway is definitely worth a watch. 3.5/5, Rent it!

“Tamara Miller has planned a weekend lake getaway with her two best friends. When she gets kidnapped by a backwoods cult, eerie and unexplained occurrences arise. Will she make it out alive or become the treasure of these deranged lunatics?”

MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASES

The Platform

(Available now on Netflix)

This one already has a lot of buzz since it premiered on Netflix in late March. The plot alone is intriguing enough to want to check it out, but this trailer is about as intense and stressful as any I’ve seen! And that’s meant as a compliment, of course. The Platform looks like a brilliantly done dark and relentless exploration of man at his most primitive, the kind of horror movie that leaves you thinking for a long time after watching it.

“Inside a vertical prison system, inmates are assigned to a level and forced to ration food from a platform that moves between the floors.”

Cursed Films

(Available 4/2 on Shudder)

This five-part series is enough incentive to sign up for Shudder for a month and see all the great content the platform has to offer. Who wouldn’t want to see behind the scenes footage from films like The Exorcist and The Crow mixed with interviews and exploration of how the mind may aide in the creation of so called curses based on how it processes information? Looks absolutely fascinating.

“A documentary series which explores the myths and legends behind some of Hollywood’s notoriously “cursed” horror film productions, revealing the events through interviews with experts, witnesses and the film crews who experienced them.”

Sea Fever

(Available 4/10 on VOD)

The ocean hides the most mysterious (and scary) creatures on Earth, things completely unknown to man. It’s a great setting for any type of horror or thriller movie due to its built in fear-of-the-unknown factor. Sea Fever looks to play on this fear in surprisingly timely fashion about the spread of an unknown virus from the water. The film looks absolutely thrilling and it’s one of my most anticipated releases of the month.

“The crew of a West of Ireland trawler, marooned at sea, struggle for their lives against a growing parasite in their water supply.”

We Summon the Darkness

(Available 4/10 on VOD)

Originally scheduled for release last December, I’m happy to see this movie is finally coming out because it looks like an insanely fun time! Johnny Knoxville playing a pastor comes across as stunt casting but I think it works here because the film seems like it’s in on the joke. Alexandra Daddario feels pitch perfect with her wild eyes and confident sex appeal mirroring the tone of the film.

“When Val, Beverly, and Alexis meet a group of fun-loving dudes in the parking lot of a heavy metal concert, they all decide to have an after-party. But it isn’t long before the group finds themselves caught in the middle of a killing spree of murderous Satanists and  fighting for their lives”

Underwater

(Available 4/14 on VOD)

Not exactly an indie film by any measure, but Underwater does have the spirit of an indie production, invoking those straight to VHS sci-fi/horror films from the early 1990s — the kind you wish you saw in the theater. It’s a shame this one was underseen on the big screen. But if we’re all still confined to our homes come April 14th, the claustrophobic atmosphere of the film will hit a little closer to home. Kristen Stewart is all-out awesome, and Underwater is a must see so be sure to give this watch, you will not be disappointed.

“A crew of aquatic researchers work to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory. But the crew has more than the ocean seabed to fear.”

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR THESE

The Dare

(Available now on VOD)

The Dare looks pretty relentless and scary. There’s nothing more terrifying than being trapped knowing there’s a maniac just outside the door and that he can come in at any moment and do whatever the hell he wants. And the waiting for that to happen is almost as torturous as the violent acts themselves. Actor Richard Brake is so damn good that him being in this movie automatically raises the interest level. Looks like it could be a solid flick.

“A rare family night for Jay takes a brutal twist when he awakens in a basement with three other prisoners. As their vengeful captor runs riot, Jay engages in a twisted battle to solve the puzzle to his past and save his family’s future.” 

Behind You

(Available 4/17 on VOD)The reason why these types of movies work so well is because if a house has a secret it can hide that secret anywhere it wants. There’s something inherently creepy about that, and in this case Behind You hides that secret within a mirror in the basement, pretty much as creepy as you can get! I’ll dismiss the annoying and done-to-death horror trailer tropes (jerky cut up scenes, broken, shuttering audio) and say this movie looks like a decent spook-fest for late night viewing.

“Two young sisters find that all the mirrors in their estranged aunt’s house are covered or hidden. When one of them happens upon a mirror in the basement, she unknowingly releases a malicious demon.”

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