Each year horror fans are treated to some memorable and some horrifically bad films that either quench our appetites for shocks and scares or make us run for the exits of the theater. It’s no surprise that 2012 was any different. Although we had to suffer through such painful features as Silent Hill: Revelation, Paranormal Activity 4, and Chernobyl Diaries, at least we were given such terrifying treasures as Sinister, Silent House, and everyone’s favorite horror film of the year Cabin in the Woods. Unfortunately, there are so many independent horror films that get missed each year due to their lack of a wide release or only getting a DVD/Blu-ray release. We have all seen our fair share of direct-to-video crap, but there are always a few each year that stand apart from the rest. Just because it doesn’t have any major actors in it or doesn’t have a major Hollywood studio behind it, doesn’t mean it’s not worth a watch. In fact, I have composed a list of ten indie horror films that either had a limited theatrical run or saw a home-video release sometime in 2012.
The following films are not ranked or in order of importance but are listed in alphabetical order.
New Zealand may not be known anymore for low-budget horror like they did back when Peter Jackson was getting his start with Dead Alive, but director Paul Campion is here to prove us otherwise. Pay no attention to the misleading cover-art for this film; in no way does The Devil’s Rock resemble a sleazy Nazi-exploitation film in the vein of the Ilsa series. Campion’s film is mostly a tense cat and mouse game between two soldiers set in an underground German bunker on the eve of D-Day. For the first half of the film, the two must match wits and decide who is lying and who they can trust in a bunker full of massacred German soldiers and a woman chained-up in the back who may or may not be a demonic force. The later half may not be as strong as the set-up, but I still applaud this low-budget Kiwi horror film for it’s strong acting by the male leads and for delivering one of the bloodiest films of the year.
With The Innkeepers Ti West drops the retro homage act he first dabbled in with The Roost and later perfected with House of the Devil and instead goes for a traditional scary story with no gimmicks or winks at the audience. This is a film that Andy and I caught at Fantastic Fest in 2011 and was an instant buy for me on Blu-ray when it came out earlier this year. Aside from two very comedic and perfectly cast leads in the form of Sara Paxton and Pat Healy, tension is built throughout the film until a finale with some truly chilling imagery. West is a part of a large group of young horror directors working today that are continuing to push the genre into exciting territory; even if that means looking at the past for inspiration.
We have seen horror films before where the killer is inherently evil and simply kill for no good reason. We have also seen home invasion films where the intruders break in because they were home (The Strangers). But we haven’t seen a home invasion flick in awhile that gives us a good reason why someone wants to enter your home and possibly kill you. What could they possibly want if they aren’t after your money and belongings? In Their Skin answers this question, and the result is a thriller that rests entirely on a few amazing performances. It may not be the most in your face horror film of the year, but this little thriller will in fact get under your skin. Listen to Andy and I discuss it on the podcast HERE.
This is another film Andy and I caught at Fantastic Fest in 2011 and is still one that I frequently think about. Early this year A Lonely Place to Die finally made it’s way onto DVD thanks to IFC. The film seamlessly blends action and survival horror in an exhilarating manner. Melissa George and a group of mountaineers find themselves in a sticky situation when they attempt to help a young girl that they find at the bottom of a hole. I won’t reveal too much more as this is certainly a film that prides itself in changing the pace and tone on the audience several times before the finale. Siblings Julian and Will Gilbey are teaming up again for a heist film called Plastic that is set for release next year and previously made a splash with the film Rise of the Footsoldier. Until their new one next year, make sure to check out this feature that reminds me of a mash-up between the survival horror of The Descent and the early crime-dramas of the Coen Bros.
What a fun and sick little treat. This little Aussie flick packs a bloody punch but never in a mean-spirited or gratuitous fashion. For anyone who currently has a young daughter or plans on having a little girl someday, consider this a warning: Disney princesses and fairy-tale stories might mess with their head. The film seems to point out the absurdity of finding prince charming or the perfect guy through the actions of a father and daughter team as they attempt to recreate a school dance in their living room. Don’t let the fact that this film came out years ago across the pond but is just now making it’s way to the states scare you away from spending a night with this film. Save a dance for this one; It is worth the wait. You can listen to And and I discuss the film on the podcast HERE.
Just how good is Gretchen Lodge as the mentally unstable title character in Lovely Molly? It just might be one of the most memorable breakthrough performances in a horror film in the past decade. She is so good that you almost forget that you might have only wanted to watch this film because one of the directors of The Blair Witch Project (Eduardo Sanchez) directed it. Lodge delivers such a fearless and powerful performance that I don’t even feel the need to describe to you the plot of the film. Sure, I had some issues with the way the story was handled at times, but this is almost overshadowed by a spectacular one-woman show that this first-time actress puts on. She is the real deal and doesn’t even need her truly lovely looks to get by in this film. To hear more of my thoughts on Lovely Molly as well as Andy’s, check out the episode of the podcast where we discuss the film HERE.
Well, this was certainly a surprise. The Pact was originally an effectively creepy short film that was expanded into a full-length feature. While at times this feels like a case of a short film idea that might have been better left alone, I still felt like this was one of the better horror films to be released this year. In many ways The Pact reminds me a lot of Lovely Molly. Both films feature great performances from beautiful blonde actresses that deal with supernatural happenings that may have something to do with their troubled past. Unfortunately both also suffer from the problem of introducing one too many ideas into a film that is already chock-full of enough ideas. That’s not a bad problem to have though when most Hollywood films can’t seem to embrace anything new. The Pact proves that Nicholas McCarthy is another young horror director to keep an eye out for in the future. You can listen to Andy and I discuss the film on the podcast HERE.
Horror fans love a film that can combine blood and guts with side-splitting humor. The Revenant is just that . . . literally. A soldier gets killed in action but somehow manages to return and with a new-found taste for human blood. Imagine a buddy-cop movie like Lethal Weapon but instead of going out and fighting crime you have a duo that are committing the crimes, and you might have something close to this zany horror treat. As an added bonus, this film delivers one of the most laugh-out-loud moments this year that includes a unique motorized device used in an odd fashion. You can listen to Andy and I discuss the film on the podcast HERE.
What’s more terrifying than the idea that your very own neighbors may not be exactly who you think they are? Well, how about if one of those neighbors might be closer than you think . . . like hiding under your bed when you sleep at night. In Sleep Tight, Luis Tosar creates a complex and realistic villain that is one of the most memorable in recent memory. While most films amp up the gore as the film goes on, Jaume Balugero ([REC] and [REC] 2) does the same for suspense and turns the tension dial to eleven; to a point where you will be squirming in your chair. Sleep Tight is a taut thriller that harkens back to the days of Hitchcock and reminds horror fans that Baluguero can do a lot more than run around with handheld cameras. You can read my full review HERE.
This might be one of the more known titles on this list based on the controversy surrounding the film when it debuted at a certain film festival. And while the film is certainly shocking in more ways than one, you might be more shocked with how tastefully the subject is handled. Lucky McKee adapts Jack Ketchum’s story of a normal family who captures and restrains a wild woman in their cellar with the hope of civilizing her. It’s a bizarre story that sometimes feels like a black comedy while other times feels like a real-life scenario ripped from the headlines. In a time when certain factions of our society think they may be able to “cure” homosexuality or other ways of living, The Woman comes along and asks who are the real uncivilized ones and what is deemed unacceptable in society. Listen kids: your parents may not have all the answers.
As you know, there are plenty of horror films released each year. Some are covered on blogs and websites more than others while some may drift into obscurity. The ones I have listed above may not have been talked about as much as such Hollywood fare as Cabin in the Woods or even as much as some indie titles like V/H/S and Kill List were, but I think they all offer something promising and prove that horror is certainly not dead.