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Great low-budget horror films you probably missed

Jerry Taylor agrees with Ralph Waldo Emerson's observation that, "Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis." Read about Jerry's favorite low-budget screamfest movies and then share your picks from that genre.

Almost all great horror movies are low-budget efforts from independent companies with special effects made up from whatever is available from someone's basement or garage. While these films often suffer from inane direction, horrid acting, bad lighting, insipid dialogue, etc., there are some very rare gems to be discovered in the slag heap, should one care to look.

Most of these films had very abbreviated releases or were directly released to video or DVD. I know that a number of people believe that a straight-to-DVD release always means a film is cheap or poorly made; but, in the current theater environment, this is simply no longer true and has probably not been true since the explosion of VCR technology into the consumer market. The simple truth is that nearly 50% of the revenue from movies these days is from the sale of DVDs and not from theater ticket sales. A number of independent companies have decided to avoid the issues with releasing a film into theaters and release directly to DVD. Someone tell the MPAA that it's gonna be out of business in about another decade, just like the Hays Act, but I digress.

Let's start with a chick flick. John Fawcett's Ginger Snaps tells us the story of two sisters, Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald, who enjoy such activities as creating and photographing staged death scenes for a school project, dissing the reputation of people they dislike, and imagining how they may die -- all the normal dysfunctional teenager activities. Deciding that kidnapping their hated rival Trina's dog is the best revenge, they have a little misadventure near the woods with something that's mean, hairy, has big sharp teeth, and has a taste for teenager. Ginger is mauled by the beast, and Brigitte saves her -- or so she thinks at the time. By linking menstruation to lycanthropy, the film becomes a feminist critique on sexual desire and feminine bonds and the difficulty maintaining them. This film is highly recommended, as are the sequel Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, which is Brigitte's story, and the prequel Ginger Snaps Back, which is a horror western!

Alex Turner's Dead Birds tells the tale of a group of runaway Confederate soldiers who, with the help of an escaped slave and an Army nurse, stage a bank holdup and proceed to escape to Mexico with the loot. The thieves decide to stop in at an abandoned plantation for the night and inevitably begin to fight amongst themselves.

Turner went on in 2009 to make Red Sands, a war horror movie set in Afghanistan in which a U.S. solider relates to an officer how he was the sole survivor of an extended combat mission. Turner is a director to keep your eye on.

David Prior's AM1200 is a Lovecraft Festival award-winning short 40 minute movie that packs a nasty punch. Sam Larson is a crooked investment analyst who decides to get in his car and try and outrun his guilt when the investment scam goes bad. Unfortunately, he missed that signpost up ahead and drove straight on into the Twilight Zone. See the trailer at http://www.am1200.com/.

Lucky McKee's 2002 May starring Angela Bettis, Anna Faris, and Jeremy Sisto is the story of a lonely young woman. May is a young woman who has been teased since childhood about her lazy eye and has real trouble making friends. Roger Ebert really like it, I like it, and you might just find this disturbing character study a real treat.

J. T. Petty's The Burrowers is another horror western set on the Dakota plains and is the tale of settlers, Amerinds, and something else on the Great Plains of the Dakotas. The film is very dark and shows the West as a brutal place filled with injustice, hatred, and spectacular vistas.

As a bonus, you can see the prequel Blood Red Earth for free, courtesy of FearNet, which I do recommend, so that you can get some idea of the quality of the film.

 

Neil Marshall's Dog Soldiers is the story of a British army unit that runs into some very unfriendly residents of the Scottish highlands, who just happen to be werewolves. With riffs on Southern Comfort, The Evil Dead, Zulu, Aliens, The Matrix, and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, this gem is not to be missed!

The Hamiltons is an award-winning film that tells the story of Francis in a video documentary of his life and his strange family living in a quite California suburb. His parents are deceased, and the family has lost the family farm. David, his oldest brother, is an in the closet gay funeral home director that kidnaps young girls on the side and keeps them in the basement and brings home men for one-way, one night stands. The twins, Wendell and Darlene, seem to share a bizarre incestuous bond that separates them from the rest of the siblings. Oh, and youngest brother Lenny is kept locked up under the stairs. The film offers a very disturbing look at what you believe are a pack of serial killers ala the infamous Hewitt of Texas; the final revelation that reveals something entirely different has been going on.

Antibodies, a German language film with English subtitles, is a very disturbing film. A serial killing pederast is caught after a violent shoot-out with police. The murder of a young girl is unsolved, so the police officer who caught the serial killer goes to interview him, and the mind games begin. Thankfully, most of the violence is implied, but the question of whether evil is a contagious virus is at the heart of the film.

The real question is: What are your favorite low-budget horror films?
64 comments
AmishCake
AmishCake

Seriously low-budget, and starts out kind of funny, but after a while the real creepiness begins. Don't miss it!

mmccole
mmccole

Giant carnivorous bunny rabbits run amok and besiege a town in Arizona. This was a Creature Feature fave for ten years. Janet Leigh, Stuart Whtiman, Rory Calhoun and you can find out what Dr. McCoy was up to during the Star Trek interegnum. This movie has only two competitors that rival it in entertainment quality, Plan 9 from Outer Space and Murder by Television.

srk2010
srk2010

Always thought these two were very good for low budget horror. I even saw Scarecrows on Hulu a week or so ago.

jdclyde
jdclyde

a good monster/ghost flick is often just what the doc ordered. You can usually tell the level of the film by how long it takes the women to disrobe or not. Jer, I will be checking most of these out, and report back after the weekend. :D Hope all is well?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Is one that always sticks in the head. Reasonable acting, good use of music and lots of boo ! s. I'm not a big fan of gore fests, so most modern horror films do nothing for me at all. I like atmosphere, hints to the imagination for a scare, hosing blood everywhere is merely disgusting.

chris.ball
chris.ball

Red Victoria is an outstanding very low budget film where a serious and struggling writer curses himself by accidentally calling forth a (horror) muse. It is funny and dark. Trailers are avaliable on the net.

melias
melias

Greate B&W movie, complete with mansion, new bride and deceased wife. Scared the H*ll outa me when I was a pre-teen.

Daughain
Daughain

How about Love Object and Dead Doll? And the list goes on...

thall
thall

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TNT
TNT

I liked Dog Soldiers as well, but the "Ginger Snaps" movies were just okay. Kind of campy and low-budget, but well thought out and entertaining are the "Waxworks" and "Waxworks 2" movies from the late 1980's. And though it was a theater release it was still pretty low budget (I think) and very entertaining was "Drag Me To Hell".

thall
thall

Franka Potente (Bourne's girlfriend) starred in this award winning German killer thriller... the great McGuffin is injecting victims with stuff that turns their flesh to plastic, but that's not the worst of it! (DVD is passably dubbed into English, frequently found in the bargain bins.)

rob_g3
rob_g3

Scare the b-jesses out of me

LouCed
LouCed

Saw May and Dog Soldiers. Really, really liked Dog Soldiers, will have to check out the Ginger Snaps movies. Enyone remember "Motel Hell"? Great old flick, a true Shaggy Dog story.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

There's one I saw as a kid, a black and white. Guy goes home with his fiancee to meet her family. They live on a hill/mountain the viewer later discovers is radioactive. Grandma is hidden away from him, maybe always kept locked up because she's mutating somehow, but I think she escapes and sneaks around at night. The plants in the greenhouse are mutant, and I'm thinking carnivorous due to the radioactive rocks. The whole thing is rather eerie and scared the begeezus out of me. I'm sure the duck and cover drills that were standard at the time helped with that. Got any ideas what this one might be? It's been driving me nuts for years.

johnpall
johnpall

I think these stupid movies/games about youth & VIOLENCE are part what's wrong with this world & why people laugh about young kids getting into fights & Jealousy & so on, we should be teaching all people to try & understand one another and that religions segregate people the sooner we get serious about all this the better.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

Robot Monster is the film for you sir! There are some movies that are just so plain awful they can't be explained by a lack of understanding of the culture that produced it, like say the Nigerian horror movies. Check out the trailer for Last Occult, which is a total scream! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ha9t5S26vj4

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

Other than my standard aches, creaks and grumpiness, I am pretty much the same as usual. Just been buried at work. I have about 5 gazillion DVD and BluRay discs piled up here around the office I need to watch, if I ever get the time.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

A greatly unappreciated horror film from a great Matheson novel. How could you top dialogue like this? Ann Barrett: What did he do to make this house so evil, Mr. Fischer? Benjamin Franklin Fischer: Drug addiction, alcoholism, sadism, beastiality, mutilation, murder, vampirism, necrophilia, cannibalism, not to mention a gamut of sexual goodies. Shall I go on? Ann Barrett: How did it end? Benjamin Franklin Fischer: If it had ended, we wouldn't be here...

Azathoth
Azathoth

Read the book when I was in High School.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

The HP Lovecraft Film Festival always has some really interesting submissions. I really recommedn there site at lurkerfilms.com.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

Thank you very much for the suggestion. I really look forward to seeing it based on the trailers and your recommendation.

AmishCake
AmishCake

Killer Clowns from Outer Space. Seems kind of funny at times, but with a dark side to that humor. Very low budget, but if you're scared of clowns, you REALLY will be after watching this one.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

I catch that one a couple of times per year and it is always a great popcorn and groaner. You can tell the film maker had a real warped level of respect for the horror movies and took the "What if a horror museum was REALLY a portal to a bunch of worls we thought were imaginary, but aren't?" The sequel left a lot to be desired.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

I did think highly of that one; but, Antibodies is simply the much more disturbing film, with its very nasty answer to all those cop versus serial killer films and ask some truly disturbing questions about the nature of evil.

Azathoth
Azathoth

Man, I loved that film. Might watch it again this weekend.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

I thought I was a mild mannered kinda guy. Have you discovered that secretly that I am Darkness Incarnate? Damn there goes another secret identify on the Internet. :)

JamesRL
JamesRL

I loved Ginger Snaps.... Dog Soldiers was good too. James

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

John Ratzenberger appears briefly in that film as a member of the punk rock group Ivan and the Terribles.

Azathoth
Azathoth

This kinda sounds like it might have been based on "The Color Out of Space" by H.P. Lovecraft which makes me think it might be "Die! Monster Die!" but it's been a long time since I saw that movie so I can't say for sure.

zlitocook
zlitocook

It is the person. A million people can watch movies like A dunwitch horror (a 80s film about demons sort of) or Death race 2000 (a film about people in prison trying to get released). It is not the movie, game or internet! It is the person! If you think that watching a movie or playing a game will make a person become a killer or some thing that they are not. You need to look with in your self because you are saying that movies or games change you. And with most of the on line people and people that like to watch movies and play games it is just that. We relax and have fun with them, we don?t dream about killing people or starting fights. We avoid things like that because it would interfere with what we like to do.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

[i]far more than art imitates life.[/i] Oscar Wilde

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I think real life is way more horrifying than anything you could see on film. The young are naturally violent, of course they get into fights. They should fight, they've alot to fight for and against. Especially people like you trying to wrap them up in cotton wool, so they are unfit to survive. Freddy Kruger was obviously not real, Freddy West was....

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

Let me see if I understand you here. You believe that any work which shows that human beings/creatures/forces of nature that causes another character to experience spirtiual, physical, emotional or psychological stress has no merit as a work of art and is actually detrimental to the human condition? In addition, all religious view points teach the believers to not be tolerant of others views and cause further stress in the world? Is that correct?

maecuff
maecuff

wasn't created in movie theatres. Or by music. Or books.

jeb.hoge
jeb.hoge

There's an unusual amount of creative psychosis that goes into making some of these films. It's gone past the notion of "things that go boo" and monster stories into not only playing with societal taboos, but taking them out into the street and raping them. I don't watch these movies, but I do read about some of the imagery, and I cannot imagine how people can see the movies and process them without inducing some sort of mental trauma (example: the scene(s) with the baby in "The Hills Have Eyes").

TNT
TNT

To what do you attribute all the violence of history? The struggles man has with evil haven't changed over the centuries. To borrow from the Catholics, "The world, the flesh and the devil" are our enemies, not horror movies. Stop blaming media and start placing the responsibility where it belongs, on our own nature. We are all flawed and sometimes our flaws (or evil, if you prefer) get the better of us. Violence and evil are our fault, no one elses.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

I'm a black and white kind of person (you may have noticed that in previous postings). I watch one of these, I get pissed off at the injustice and cruelty of the antagonists and I want to go out and save the world. Anyone seen where I put my black spandex suit?

bkatzman
bkatzman

Although I may agree with you somewhat as far as the boon placed on society by reality tv, your argument that horror films/games have a drastic negative effect on society is a played-out attempt to simplify the ills of our peoples. If two different folks watch the same flick obviously there will be two different reactions to it considering that each person comes from different backgrounds and inclinations. Although there may be an extremely small percentage of people who see these types of movies, or play horror-themed games and decide to go Dahmer, the fact that they do so is a reflection of society's inability to adequately reach these people, not a testament to a product's ability to motivate people to kill. I find it interesting that you target horror movies specifically as being the source of violence in our world. I'm unsure if we truly do live in a more or less violent world today, but if we do it would do more good to look at the causes in a more systemic or holistic manner.

jdclyde
jdclyde

worth seeing? I have seen the original many times and always loved it. Never was able to bring myself to watch the remake yet. Should I?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

The thing about early 'horror' films is the gore fest wasn't an option, so they just suggested things. For a chap with an active imagination that was way more than enough. I remember when Doctor Who was scary. :p

Azathoth
Azathoth

In my Netflix queue, can't wait.

Azathoth
Azathoth

I just view them as incarnations of pure evil. No wonder Stephen King used one as a manifestation of "It".

Firedrake
Firedrake

Killer Clowns is defintiely a Classic, along the lines of The Devil's Rejects. Another sleeper, though maybe closer to mystery than horror, was The Grave.

TNT
TNT

LOL. Yes, the most amazing thing about Waxworks is that the script was written in a single weekend. I think you do a disservice to the sequal though. It's not really a horror movie like the first one, it's more like an adventure story. It's still fun, but if you're expecting a horror movie like the first one I could see why you might be disappointed.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

Ginger Snaps is really a feminist horror movie. The men in the film are incidental and only there to drive along the plot, which is why it is a powerful film. You might also like Teeth, which is a black comedy that really takes female sexual enpowerment to a whole new extreme.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Looks from Wiki to be the one. Might have to see can I rent it somewhere... :D :D :D

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

I am in agreement that does indeed sound like the Boris Karloff film. Nick Adams, plays an American scientist the lead in that one and Boris - of course- is chewing scenery as the demented fiance's father and it is indeed based on Lovecraft's tale The Color Out of Space. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die,_Monster,_Die!

jdclyde
jdclyde

a sickness that feeds upon it's self. While movies/music didn't create crime, it did plant the evil seed more than once, just like real life copycat crimes. Is there a line? Is it anyones place to make that call for someone else? Or how about punish "copy cat" crimes twice as harshly as the original? Oh well, that is as serious as I am willing to get for now.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

Just today, British scientists announced the results of a study finding that violent psychopaths have defects in their nural wiring, which could explain a whole host of behaviors observed with people that have impulse control issues. See http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE5764NI20090807 for more details. I am still waiting the commentor to reply; but, my prime observation is that they have a history of drive-by commentary. I see that Jay edited the commentary once; but, he's a nice guy. I believe in letting people learn from their mistakes and sometimes a severe thrashing at the hands of your peers is very instructive.

sreid08
sreid08

My question answers your question about whether people can watch these type of movies and not have some sort of mental trauma. I watched The Hills Have Eyes and I don't remember the scene with the baby. Frankly - I don't remember much about it other than the fact that I liked it! Frankly - that is about all I remember from all of the horror movies I watch - did I like it or not. Some I remember a little more than others, but even these I don't remember the majority of the plot line or images from the film. I think this is because they aren't real to me. On the other hand, I can remember horrible images from Schindler's List - a movie I actually didn't see till many years after it had been out because I wasn't sure I could handle it. And what about the movie Pearl Harbor? I can still see the relentless and horrific onslaught of the Japanese planes on Pearl Harbor in that movie. Those two movies are more 'horror' movies to me than horror movies because they depict real events in our world history. To me - a horror movie is fun compared to watching Schindler's List or Pearl Harbor.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

There's a long running UK crime mini series called Prime Suspect. Right and the end of the first one they find conclusive evidence against the bad guy in his garage. A wire brush with bits of flesh still in it. That was just dialogue. The real problem with teh slash and gore films is they aren't real enough to be horrifying.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

Though, with everything I read & see in the news, it hardly takes a fictionalized portrayal of human depravity to keep me motivated. Enough of the real thing all around to keep me on my toes. Tomorrow, it is muy thai training, as a matter of fact! As JD would say, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away! ;)

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

Could be. Take those google eyes mutants from the hills out west and their demented city puppet buddy with the sicko traps with them! Probably give the poor thing indegestion tho!

jdclyde
jdclyde

and as I don't recall any of them having COLD weapons, they will all be digested by the blob in short order..... :D Maybe it will eat Freddie and Micheal while it is at it? :D

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

The 1988 film is a mix of horror, science fiction and action. If you enjoyed Cameron's Aliens, I am confidant that you will like The Blob. I've heard they are at work on yet another remake. I want to see The Blob versus Predators and Aliens. Now that would be one demented movie mashup!

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

True enough, but I really expected an expansion of the concept of the museum as doorways to other times and places, rather than the God's Warriors idea that was in the second film.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I probably enjoyed it for the same reason I liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer series - its the mosters as a metaphor for all the challenges that these girls go through in their teens I have a 13 year old who just loves the Twilight series. I keep reminding her of Buffy. I think my 11 year old is with me... James

Azathoth
Azathoth

You can get it from Netflix, of course you have to be a member, either by itself or as part of a double feature with The Dunwich Horror. Enjoy!

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