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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

Maybe it’s just me, but the month of January really sucks, doesn’t it? The exciting hustle-bussle of the holidays is over, it’s cold, dark, lifeless and just blah. So if you’re anything like me and get a serious case of the Winter blues, you just want to stay inside and wait out this dull month with movies in front of your face and wrapped up in hoodies and blankets.

Here to keep your dull January days moving is a list of films that will hopefully leave you entertained along the way, including one that will require you to move off your couch and make a trip to the theater, a rarity for this monthly release article that focuses mainly on VOD releases. That said, let’s take our monthly stroll down the video aisle and pick out some movies to watch!

STAFF PICK

Rabid

(Available now on VOD)

Rabid has been highly anticipated for a while now, as is the case with every new project from directing duo Jen & Sylvia Soska since their 2011 breakout hit, American Mary. But Rabid had a different kind of anticipation to it: how will the Soskas handle a remake of a David Cronenburg cult classic? The result is a bit of a mixed bag, but overall an extremely watchable film with a modern message about beauty and modern medicine.

What hurts Rabid the most is the surprisingly lack of energy that is found in other Soska sisters movies. The pacing is unsteady in the middle section as Rose juggles a blossoming role at work, a quasi-relationship, and the growing effects of her experimental surgery. It’s in these moments, where Rose is dealing with her uncontrollable urge for blood, where the film gets the kick it needs to keep the second act interesting and just engaging enough for the viewer. And all of this pays off big time in the final act, where the Soskas implement stunning practical effects that are impossible to look away from.

I’ll remain vague to avoid spoilers, but the creation is both grotesque and breathtaking in what is the best practical effect of the year. Yes, it’s that good.

What really holds Rabid together is the strong performance from Laura Vandervoort as Rose. She has a remarkable range and is able to successfully convey the shy Rose in the beginning of the film, the one with a blotchy complexion, as well as the bloodthirsty beauty after her surgery. The memory of her horrible facial disfiguration from the accident also left a mark on Rose and her psyche, and the Soskas use the accident to further Rose’s fashion designer aspirations in a very clever way.

When she begins to design a fashion show for her boss, who now takes notice of Rose’s new, flawless, post-surgery face, the clothes are bright reds with sharp and jagged angles that recall her violently disfigured mouth shown on the film’s poster. It’s a smart metaphor that reminds us that the events in our lives make us who we are. And there’s enough in Rabid to remind us who the Soska sisters are: ambitious filmmakers who, even when not wholly successful, are always exciting to watch. 3.5/5, Rent it!

“Rose works in women’s fashion clothing, hoping to be a designer. A traffic accident damages her face. She gets experimental stem cell treatment, leaving her stronger and prettier than ever – but there’s a side effect.”                   

FIRST LOOK: THE TOP OF THE RELEASE PILE

Lost Gully Road

(Available now on VOD)

Say what you will about big studio films (I have plenty of gripes myself), but there’s no way a script like this would get past a Hollywood script reader, and for good reason. The first 20 minutes consists, quite literally, of nothing. Our main character, Lucy, walks around the house she’ll be staying at for the first 10 minutes. Then she goes to the store where we meet a perverted store clerk who’s a little too on the nose (subtext be damned), and then it’s back to the house to follow Lucy again as she walks around. Nothing interesting, nothing compelling, no character development. For a film that’s a mere 80 minutes long, the first 25% of its run time is all filler, and boring filler at that.

What happens for the next 45 minutes is even more shocking. We get some flickering lights, a creepy voice that whispers “Lucyyy” a half dozen times, a couple phone calls with her sister, and a few strings on a guitar on an endless loop that is supposed to tell the viewer that something creepy is happening when nothing (nothing) actually is.

Lost Gully Road is a joke of a “feature” film, it’s a 10 minute short at best. How this got picked up by Wild Eye Releasing is beyond me. Stay as far from this snooze fest as possible. 1/5, Leave it on the shelf.

“Lucy travels to an isolated house in the forest to wait for her sister. They have worked out a risky scheme for their future and all she needs to do is sit it out. However, a sinister presence may have something different in mind.”

Inner Ghosts

(Available 1/7 on DVD and VOD)

If the idea of sitting in a lecture hall listening to a professor read (a lot) from a text book about communicating with spirits as she flips through a very limited slide show sounds appealing to you, you just might find a little enjoyment from Inner Ghosts. The film is extremely talky, and not in a character development kind of way, but rather in a plot explaining kind of way. All of this dry exposition had me looking at the clock a few times within the first 30 minutes.

With language like, “I can tell by your silence that I’m right,” “you’re lucky I believe in you,” “this doesn’t make any sense,” and ‘”we must be missing something,” the script has no confidence in the action to tell any of the story and doesn’t even make an attempt at subtext. And “are you out of your mind” gets spat out twice, with the same characters saying it back to each other in completely different scenes.

Every time something spooky pops up on screen to grab the viewer’s attention, it is followed immediately by more heavy explanation, sucking the viewer right back into the lecture hall feel, and dissipating any excitement faster than it appeared. The film falls completely flat from a redundant, poorly paced script that is devoid of any character that never had a chance to produce anything memorable.

Save for one incredible, bloody practical effect late in the film, Inner Ghosts is full of a whole lot of nothing and feels dead inside. 2/5, Leave it on the shelf.

“A woman who gave up on her life as a medium receives a gift from the afterlife: a device that can perform wonderful things – at a price.”

MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASES

The Sonata

(Available 1/10 on VOD)

I am really liking everything this trailer has to offer: the moody, foggy atmosphere, shadowy, old house, and a supernatural piece of music that has the ability to conjure the anti-Christ! What’s not to like there? Freya Tingley looks promising as the lead, and The Sonata should be on your must watch list.

“A young violinist unravels her long lost father’s past, triggering dark forces that reach beyond her imagination.” 

The Wave

(Available 1/17 in select theaters and on VOD)

This trailer is a fun, colorful, and fast assault on the senses, and The Wave looks to be an absolute trip and a half. I’m all for the casting of Justin Long here, an actor who seemed to suddenly vanish after a fast rise to fame in the early 2000s. Long has what it takes to capture an out-of-his element character like this in such an offbeat and wacky film.

“When Frank goes out on the town with his co-worker, Jeff, their night takes a turn for the bizarre when Frank is dosed with a hallucinogen drug, taking him on a psychedelic quest through board meetings, nightclubs, shootouts, and alternate dimensions while on a mission to find a missing girl, himself, and his wallet.”

Color Out of Space

(Available 1/24 on VOD)

“The color…the color.” When I hear that at the end of this trailer I can’t help but think of “the horror…the horror,” from Apocalypse Now, and what a spectacular way to end this incredible looking trailer! Nicolas Cage returns once again to this list in what promises to be one of the best films of the month. The producers of Mandy dazzled us with incredible cinematography, and the same look returns for Color Out of Space, only this time the cinematography seems to contain the antagonist in a wild looking film. Get excited for this one!

“A town is struck by a meteorite and the fallout is catastrophic.”

Gretel & Hansel

(Available 1/31 only in theaters)

Gretel & Hansel may not be an indie film, but I’m including it because of the sheer joy that filmmaker Oz Perkins has brought to the indie horror world with his previous two features I am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House and The Blackcoat’s Daughter, my favorite film of last decade (you read that right, of the decade). Gretel & Hansel has Perkins’s visual style on full display here and the casting of the talented Sophia Lillis is more reason to put this film on your must watch list.

“A long time ago in a distant fairy tale countryside, a young girl leads her little brother into a dark wood in desperate search of food and work, only to stumble upon a nexus of terrifying evil.”

ALSO AVAILABLE THIS MONTH

Snatchers

(Available 1/7 on VOD)

Snatchers is obviously geared towards a younger crowd, but it looks like adults looking to enjoy a quick burst of fun can still enjoy this one. The film doesn’t seem like it’s offering anything new regarding the possible-creature-growing-in-your-belly consequences of casual sex, but it does look pretty damn entertaining with likable leads who, based on the trailer, appear capable of capturing the humorous tone of the movie.

“After status-obsessed teen Sara has sex for the first time, she wakes up the next day nine months pregnant-with an alien.”

Blood Hound

(Available 1/7 on VOD)

I’ll admit that the poster for this has the look of a rather lame, generic action thriller, but watching the trailer will leave a different impression. Blood Hound actually has a quietly quirky feel to it (perhaps by accident, but hey, we’ll take it), with a murderous mystery at its center. It helps that there is a mask wearing, slasher inspired killer doing the murdering. Smoke some or drink some, and I can see Blood Hound being a decent distraction.

“Private investigator Abel Walker along with his cameraman, Jim, are on the hunt for a missing woman. As they unravel the mystery of her disappearance, they become caught in a sick and violent game that will end in murder.”

Dark Encounter

(Available 1/7 on VOD and DVD)

The trailer for this one seems to start off the same way I’m guessing the film does: a slow unfolding of events. Slow burns often lead to more character development, which I’m all for, but it could also lead to an uneventful script. Dark Encounter seems to pack enough punch in its trailer to make me view it as something that is worth seeking out. Besides, some of the visuals bear a resemblance to Fire in the Sky, and that should be enough to catch your attention.

“8 year old Maisie went missing in 1982 and a memorial is held a year later. That evening, strange lights, sounds etc. are observed in the woods outside. Aliens.”

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