Join me for another plunge into the menacing darkness of underground fringe cinema. You’ll find zero Hollywood stars down here, and the budgets for these indie flicks would only pay for one or two takes on a Steven Spielberg shoot. For many horror fans accustomed to fright films that spend millions on advertising alone, the tiny budgets and lack of celebrity actors are enough to motivate a “No, thank you.” …but for the adventurous and steely-nerved, there is a lot of fascinating cinema to discover down here beneath the currents of the mainstream.
Enthusiasm and persistence don’t always make up for feeble funding, but sometimes, exceptional and compelling movies are birthed by rebellious and tenacious micro-budget filmmakers who refuse to let their financial woes derail them. Here are three standout examples of recent indie alternatives to the safe and often-overrated mid-to-major studio product…
Director: Jeremy Berg
After inheriting a house, Samantha and three friends take a road trip to inspect the remote property. There they discover horror and brutality that may be tied directly to Sam’s past.
The press release for director / writer / cinematographer Jeremy Berg’s feature film debut states Sader Ridge was shot in 7 days for only $11,000. Despite the time and money constraints, Berg pulled off a compelling, beautifully shot, tension packed melodrama / thriller. The film is well written, and the characters are interesting. There is very little music score, but when it’s there, it is extremely effective. The skillful editing never lets the film drag, and Berg’s expertise behind the camera proves a mega-huge budget is not required to make a good looking movie - nearly every shot is superbly executed. Trin Miller, as Samantha, and D'Angelo Midili, as Eric, are the standout actors, carrying the ensemble with very impressive performances. The rest of the cast can’t quite keep up, but every actor in the film has their moments to shine.
As one more horror movie in the ocean of fright films available to you, Sader Ridge is above average and definitely worth checking out. As a movie shot in only 7 days by a first-time feature film director, on the insanely low budget of eleven grand, Sader Ridge is a genuine miracle.
Director: Marcus Koch
After Bill hits rock bottom, losing his job and his girlfriend, he enters a deeper level of bewilderment and sanity-erosion when he discovers there is a dead body in his bathtub.
Some of the ringleaders behind the killer clown slasher film 100 Tears (2007) - director Marcus Koch, actor Jeff Dylan Graham, and producer Elmar Berger - reunite to deliver Fell, a stripped-down, extremely effective psychological thriller. The low production values are eclipsed by a creatively sinister plot, inventive storytelling, and exceptional performances, especially from leading man Jeff Dylan Graham. Fell is capably shot and edited (though a couple of the early sequences would have benefitted from some trimming), but this movie is less about dazzling visuals, and more about Graham’s downward spiral through a fascinating, twisty-turny plot, chock full o’ diabolical surprises.
If you’d like to enjoy a cleverly written and skillfully executed thrill ride into one man’s madness, this movie is very much recommended.
A Measure Of The Sin
Director: Jeff Wedding
Young Meredith’s enchanted seclusion is shattered when she is deprived of her mother. Desperate and alone, Meredith joins a household with other women and their children, a sinister man who controls every facet of her existence, and a vicious bear that only she can see.
It’s exciting when talented filmmakers possess the daring to create something absolutely original. Shot on 16mm, A Measure Of The Sin is one example of such a rare gem - a film that journeys far from the beaten path, and is written, shot, directed, and acted with great skill. Visually and tonally, A Measure Of The Sin is extraordinarily unique - a haunting, harrowing, fascinating piece, saturated with creativity, striking images, a highly imaginative narrative, and excellent performances… especially from producer and lead actress Katie Groshong. It took bravery for the director, producers, cast, and crew to delve into these uncharted artistic waters, instead of navigating their project through safe and comfortable territory. I wish more indie filmmakers exhibited this kind of courage, instead of trying to make safe, comfortable, auto-pilot, low-budget retreads of higher-profile, bigger-budget films.
A Measure Of The Sin has not yet been released, but keep this title on your radar and be sure to hunt it down when it becomes available. Films this interesting don’t come along very often.
Thanks for reading.
- Eric Stanze