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.
Can you believe we’re at the halfway point of the year already? There have been many great indie horror releases so far and I’d like to take a moment to look back at some of my favorite movies that have been featured in this article. Think of this as a quick catch up guide before you get to this months movies.
Book of Monsters is a practical effects horror fun house, Close Calls is a dizzying trip with a star making performance from Jordan Phipps, and Starfish is an achingly beautiful and unique experience. Those are my top 3 of 2019 at this point. I would also highly recommend Scary Stories, Body at Brighton Rock, The Wind, Crossbreed, Lords of Chaos, Piercing, and Vox Lux.
Now that we’re all caught up, let’s take a look at this month’s releases as we take our monthly stroll down the video aisle!
(Available now on digital)
Starfish is an intensely emotional film that focuses on small moments to indicate larger themes such as grief, loss and friendship. As Aubrey wanders her recently deceased friends apartment, we see her looking at the common things her friend owned, taking a shower in her bathroom, laying on her couch, and even sleeping in her bed. Virginia Gardner as Aubrey shines in these moments, she gives a sincere and heartfelt performance that had me feeling the pain she was experiencing.
This is why I view Starfish is not merely as a film but an experience that washes over the viewer. Mixed into the bereavement are recently unleashed monsters that threaten all of humanity. Although jarringly different, these two story lines work remarkably well together as the monsters are smartly underplayed and Aubrey’s relationship with her deceased friend connects to the apocalyptic happenings in surprising and touching ways.
Beautifully shot and acted, Starfish wonderfully strums the heartstrings while potentially apocalyptic monsters roam around the world. It’s a unique film indeed, and one well worth experiencing.
“A unique, intimate and honest portrayal of a girl grieving for the loss of her best friend. That just happens to take place on the day the world ends as we know it.”
FIRST LOOK: THE TOP OF THE RELEASE PILE
Matt Smith is inspired casting to play Charles Manson. He effortlessly exudes the charismatic confidence needed while also doing great things with his eyes that constantly hint at a hidden darkness. The dynamic between the three imprisoned Manson victims and the teacher of the courses they study while there brilliantly demonstrates the childlike naivete of the women. This dynamic between the women at the prison is the most powerful part of the film that showcases the manipulative evil that Manson possessed. The idyllic setting and soft look of the film contrasts with the unhealthy brainwashing that takes place on the Manson ranch, smartly hinting at the violence the viewer knows is coming. Smartly, the imprisoned Manson women are the true focus of the film and they all give strong performances, especially Sosie Bacon as Patricia. Director Mary Harron has crafted a very well made, and I’d argue important, film that should be seen. Be sure to check this one out.
“The tragic tale of an all-American girl who was transformed into a cold-blooded killer in the summer of 1969.”
The easy comparisons here are David Lynch with some Terry Gilliam mixed in. But make no mistake, director Gabriel Bartalos displays a style all his own. The seemingly absurdist visual style is accompanied by a world of off beat characters framed in awkward, point of view angles and disorienting, sometimes fish eyed, close ups. Bartalos successfully pulls off what Lynch is able to by convincing the viewer there’s a meaning and a deliberate, although maze like, design holding the story of the film together. That’s no small feat for a film that is just as far gone as the insanity its protagonist is spiraling into. There’s a questioning visual in every shot that will make you look harder, a curious sound that will make you listen closer. This is how Saint Bernard tells its story and it’s absolutely glorious. I was told this film was a wild ride and that is the best way to describe it. Saint Bernard is a chaotic visual feast matched by its intense focus on music and sound, a straight up injection of madness. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
“The film focuses on a classical musical conductor who unravels into the abyss of insanity.”
The Child Remains
The Child Remains is one of those movies that sucks you in with its intense atmosphere and keeps your eyes glued to the screen with an intriguing story. The film pours on the haunted house and cursed land aesthetic with lots of fog, gloomy days, and dark woods and hallways inhabited by curious characters. Suzanne Clement gives a strong performance as Rae, the woman who feels the secret, chilling past of the house. While The Child Remains stumbles just a bit in the final act and runs a tad long, it unravels the story at a tension building pace and effectively immerses the viewer in the evil and heavily shrouded history of the house and surrounding land. It’s a solid and well made film and I recommend it.
“An expectant couple’s intimate weekend turns to terror as they discover their secluded country inn is a haunted maternity home where infants and mothers were murdered.”
After a tense opening, Winterskin slows down and offers a lot of exposition essentially explaining the current situation. It takes a while to get back going but Rowena Bentley as old, kooky Agnes gives a gloriously theatrical performance that is fun to watch and kept things just interesting enough to hold my attention. I really liked the skinless creatures that wandered this winter landscape. They looked fantastic and the noises they made were a sort of feeble cry, a sound of eternal hunger with a menacing and dangerous edge. This dangerous edge was on full display as the creatures quickly and rigidly lunge for Billy and Agnes, desperate for their flesh. I just wish we saw and heard a little more of them, they equate to a cameo appearance. Featuring strong practical effects and cinematography, Winterskin offers a decent, late payoff for patient viewers, but is rather talky for the majority of its runt time. I feel as though there was a lot of unexplored potential involving the creatures. That said, proceed with caution. Winterskin is a decent film but its slow burn, play-like approach may not be for everyone.
“Gunned down in the snowy wilderness and desperate for shelter, Billy Cavanagh is taken in by kooky old lady Agnes, unaware that her isolated log cabin is being stalked by a bloodthirsty skinless creature hellbent on getting inside.”
This one was a bit of a rough watch for me. While everyone in the film is game, the acting isn’t always up to the task. There’s a scene early on where the overly loud, doom announcing music plays over a half baked attempt at a scream that comes across as parody. Don’t Look may be aiming for over the top slasher tropes, but I don’t think parody was the goal. The over the top approach does work well with Sherri Baby and Kelley (Hailey Heisick and Jarrod Robbins), the hillbilly, possibly related lovers. The redneck neighbors from backwoods hell hit all the notes in their limited roles. Aside from some pretty decent practical effects there’s really not much to see in Don’t Look. Our city dwelling group of friends come to the farm house and just complain and make fun of the area. From there they make goofy decisions and eye rolling comments while being terrorized by a killer. Unless you like uninspired, by the numbers slasher flicks, (hey, some people do), I can’t recommend this film.
“In the tradition of classic horror movies, Don’t Look is the story of five friends who leave NYC for a weekend they’ll never forget.”
TO BE WATCHED: MORE GREAT HORROR
Who doesn’t enjoy a good cult in the woods looking for a sacrifice story? Hallowed Ground appears to offer up a nice mix of WTFs and gory backwoods thrills. Some creepy imagery going on here, too. Should be fun!
“A married couple, trying to rebuild their relationship after an affair, travels to a secluded cabin and stumbles into a blood feud between the Native American owners of the property and the neighboring clan, who obsessively guard their land and punish those who trespass on it in terrifying ways.”
I enjoy how this trailer makes you think early on that this is either a creepy kid movie or a creepy adoptive parents movie, but then shifts to an all out apocalyptic thriller. Just what the hell is going on here? I’m interested to find out!
“After her son’s accidental death, young wife Cynthia risks redemption at the hands of an otherworldly intruder who appears in the couple’s home during a night of apocalyptic world events and somehow knows every detail of Cynthia’s guilt-ridden past.”
Exploring unfamiliar territory as a recreational outing and accidentally unlocking an evil, mysterious force is always a good time. Head Count may have an on the nose title but the trailer looks like a solid descent into deadly chaos.
“A group of teenagers unknowingly summon a paranormal presence during their weekend trip to the Joshua Tree desert. This monster mimics their appearances to hide among them and seeks to separate them into groups of five to complete its deadly ritual.”
Nightmare Cinema brings together 5 very solid horror directors to create one extremely fun looking anthology! And Mickey Rourke as a creepy, nightmare giving projectionist in an old, haunted theater? I’m all for it!
“Five strangers converge at a haunted movie theater owned by The Projectionist (Mickey Rourke). Once inside, the audience members witness a series of screenings that shows them their deepest fears and darkest secrets over five tales.”
Wow… this movie looks like one hell of a mind bending acid trip. Its dark tone, nightmare imagery and gritty science fiction elements have me really looking forward to this.
“Garrett, an emotionally-troubled young man, is sent to a clinic, whispering soothing promises of perfection. By planting characteristics directly into his own body, he’s relieved of his dark visions, but pays the price for purity of mind.”