DECEMBER 2 — The indie horror scene never ceases to amaze me on what seems at least like a monthly, if not weekly, basis.
I’m not saying that these surprises are masterpieces, but they’re of impressive enough quality and have enough ingenuity to stand out in a genre that’s more often than not guilty of being a bit too generic and one-dimensional.
This year alone has seen under-the-radar gems like The Void, A Dark Song, Hellhouse LLC, The Devil’s Candy, Scare Campaign, It Stains The Sands Red, The Triangle, The Belko Experiment and 68 Kill blaze their own kind of special trails in the horror/genre film landscape amidst all the noise made by mainstream horror hits like Annabelle: Creation, Get Out and Happy Death Day.
And when you consider the poverty of resources that a lot of these projects had to make do with, their critical success makes their minor victories even sweeter.
Since we’re fast approaching the end of the year, I really didn’t think I’d come across any more new films to add to that list of pleasant surprises, but trust the indie horror scene to always come up with the goods in the most unexpected places, and so I found myself admiring three wonderful new films, which of course I think you should check out!
Better Watch Out
This one really came out of nowhere for me, with writer-director Chris Peckover (and his previous film Undocumented) a pretty much unknown quantity before this film’s breakout success at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival and Frightfest, and the subsequent word-of-mouth buzz that comes along with it.
Beginning very much like a tween version of Home Alone, with the lead character left home alone with his babysitter near Christmas, Peckover then proceeds to systematically upend all our expectations by then turning the movie inside out with so many twists and reversals that to call it a reverse Home Alone does not even begin to describe it.
There’s still a home invasion and a siege going on here, but who does what and why is something that I’ll leave you to experience for yourself as you watch the movie.
What’s clear though is the delight that Peckover and his brilliant young cast had when it comes to messing with the audience’s minds. Evil has rarely been this fun.
The latest film from the still underrated Joe Lynch (the brilliant mind behind Knights Of Badassdom and Everly) is another fun and brutal bloodbath, and plays like a mad blend of 28 Days Later, High Rise and The Belko Experiment.
Telling the story of a corporate attorney having a really bad day at the office (after being framed by a co-worker and getting fired for it) which then turned even worse because the whole office then got quarantined because it was infected by a virus that causes people to act out their worst impulses, Mayhem gets it beautifully right both as a satire of the dog eat dog corporate world and as a brilliant display of zombie movie-esque mayhem.
The humour is pretty biting and hilarious, the revenge against the higher ups in the corporate hierarchy is something that anyone watching will be able to get behind, and the action and gory set-pieces are always creatively staged.
Lynch has again proved himself to be a really steady hand at genre filmmaking. Here’s hoping he gets his due soon.
Never Hike Alone
Despite the prevalence of things like cosplay and comic book fandom over here, I think it’s quite safe to say that horror fandom here has not reached levels wherein there are fans making fan movies (or even fan edits) of their favourite horror films here.
The 53-minute long Never Hike Alone is one of those — a fan movie. It pays tribute to the Friday The 13th franchise by making its own movie version of the iconic Jason Voorhees character, without any involvement (and I assume, without even permission) from the studio owning the movie property.
It’s just a bunch of fans who want to make their own Jason movie, only this time the fans are talented enough to have actually made a movie that can even be mistaken for a proper, official and studio-backed Friday The 13th movie!
Available to watch for free on Youtube and Vimeo, this fantastic fan film will surely be writer-director Vicente DiSanti’s calling card to a Hollywood career, as fans everywhere went wild for his unofficial entry into the Friday The 13th saga in which a nature Vlogger comes across the long abandoned Camp Crystal Lake and is then forced into a life and death battle with the menacingly scary Jason.
DiSanti expertly lays out all the scares, shocks and suspense, and even makes Jason genuinely scary, with one particular set-piece sure to haunt your nightmares for days afterwards.
It looks and sounds so professional that I can barely believe that this one’s a fan film. And I can’t wait to see what DiSanti and gang will come up with next!
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.