Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Favorite and Not Favorite Films of 2015

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2016
Images from the Internet

As I said this before, bear with me. I have an issue with “Best of” and “Worst of” year-end lists for the following reasons: most are chosen from either those that play in theaters, or viewed on PPV such as Netflix and film channels by the television provider. For me, I like to watch not the major indies, such as It Follows or The Green Inferno, but rather the DIY ones. These tend to have more heart, where often the cast and crew overlap, and it is pretty common that the films cost less than $5,000. Most of these can be viewed for a small fee.

Because I don’t often go to theaters, I rely on what is sent to me via discs or links, which means it may be a while before they get to my player or computer. Therefore, my list consists of films that I saw in 2015, not necessarily ones that were released in that year.

As for Best and Worst, I never liked those terms; art is just way too subjective, which is why I called them Favorites and Not Favorites. That being said, even the “Not” ones have redeeming qualities, and the fact that they don’t touch me means nothing. I’ve hated films that have won tons of awards, so don’t take anything I say, good or bad, as the law. It’s just opinion, and I welcome you to agree or disagree. It’s all good.

These lists are alphabetical, rather than ranked.


 Bite School
Directed by James Balsamo
Filmed and released in 2015
Writer / director James Balsamo’s films are like cotton candy: they may not be heavy in nutrients, but they fill a need for goofy, frat boy fun. It’s pretty obvious that the cast is enjoying themselves, which makes it that much more pleasurable for the viewer. There are two stories running throughout – one of a rich, spoiled brat (Balsamo) being stripped of his wealth until he gets his GED, and a sexy female vampire (Mandy Kat Kitana) who is trying to break her own bonds of boredom after many years of throat-biting. Balsamo manages to get a lot of music and genre film world cameos into his film (e.g., Hershell Gordon Lewis) to create a culture of obnoxiously loveable characters. It is self-mocking and well-written, and easily Balsamo’s best film to date. [Original full review HERE]
Bloody Indulgent
Directed by Ken Roht
Filmed in 2014 / released in 2015
This film is an absolute mess, trying to be a comedy, musical and gory vampire flick at the same time, with Kevin Richardson of the Backstreet Boys as its lead villainous anti-hero. And somehow it all comes together. It may not always make sense, but outrageous characters and not taking itself too seriously helps rather than hinders. Its self-sarcasm and mostly bad songs (e.g., Diva Zappa’s dance number) work; the occasional decent song (such as the opener) is a bonus. It’s the kind of film that, if you turn your Spidey-senses off, can be a hoot. [Original full review HERE]

Caesar and Otto’s Paranormal Halloween
Directed by David Campfield
Filmed and released in 2015
This updated Abbott and Costello-ish meets the Three Stooges-ish franchise has grown up a bit from its earlier releases, much to its own and the viewer’s benefit. The characters have matured (somewhat) and the storytelling is more gelled to spoof with wit, rather than relying mainly on slapstick and insults. Caesar is less of a clown making him a bit more realistic and therefore more identifiable. There’s still plenty of yuks and silliness to keep it consistent with the rest of the films, but I like how it has grown into its backstory. With genre-referential nods both subtle and writ large, it is an enjoyable release. [Original full review HERE]

Flesh for the Inferno
Directed by Richard Griffin
Filmed and released in 2015
The first Griffin release on this list, the prolific director takes a page from the Fulchi / Argento Italian Giallo video nasty films from the 1980s to bring ghostly killer nuns (back) to life, free to terrorize a group of overaged teens who are in the process of cleaning up a church. There is a lot of mayhem, blood, and a sizeable body count making this an incredibly joyous release from a creative team who appear to be dedicated on being a force to be reckoned with on the micro-budget front. The strong cast and crew, as well as writing and cinematography make this even more watchable. [Original full review HERE]

Directed by Phil Stevens
Filmed and released in 2015
Sometimes being arty gets in the way, and others it enhances the experience for the viewer. Fortunately, this falls into the latter (obviously, since it’s on this list). This is a sort of anthology about half a dozen women who have met up with a specific serial killer, picking up after their demise, and their struggle with their post-mortem fate. With no dialog, striking images and ambient sounds, Stevens’ feature debut is a strong entry into the genre. There are plenty of gross images and intense situations, not to mention intriguing locales (such as a disgusting bathroom) that make each individual story compelling, but having enough consistency to keep them all flowing in a similar motif. [Original full review HERE]

Killer Rack
Directed by Gregory Lamberson
Filmed and released in 2015
It is what it says. Tentacle boobs with a bite that takes a shy lass (Jessica Zwolak) and turns her into a killing machine, thanks to the machinations of an insane doctor (Debbie Rochon). What would have been a completely silly exercise in sexist politics actually turns it into a raucous (and yes, often silly) look at culture and the way it produces unrealistic body images to keep both genders distracted and depressed. While doing this, it remains smartly funny under the guise of fluff (think of how adult Bugs Bunny could be). On the surface it’s WTF, but underneath, there is a level of truth without being at all preachy. [Original full review HERE]

Motivational Growth
Directed by Don Thacker
Filmed in 2013 / Released in 2014
As with some of the releases mentioned above, on the surface this is a pretty silly film about a weird loner named Ian Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni) who is in an Audrey II-ish power relationship with a big glop of mold in his bathroom that has a mouth and teeth, and spouts philosophical inanities like, “The mold knows, Jack; the mold knows.” Through a mixture of flashbacks, hallucinations and reality, it’s actually a deeper story of transition, if one is willing to look under the rock. So many of us have felt like this guy at least once in our lives, so the identifiablility level can be high. That the mold is voiced by indie genre idol Herbert Wes… I mean Jeffrey Combs is a large bonus. [Original full review HERE]

Directed by Richard Griffin
Filmed in 2013 / released in 2015
Griffin, oft known for his horror comedies, succeeds where Woody Allen failed here, by releasing a dead-serious, creepy as all hell scenario of a serial killer. We see both what is in his head, and the results of his actions in the real world, brought to life beautifully by Michael Reed. The supporting cast of Griffin regulars ebb and flow around Reed’s character in a way that is not only intriguing, but important information is given away early on, and rather than making what comes after anti-climactic it merely adds to the texture of what is to come. It is a thought piece that can and should be discussed and debated. [Original full review HERE]

Shadow World: The Haunting of Mysti Delane
Directed by Daniel E. Falicki
Filmed in 2014 / Released in 2015
I’m not quite sure why I haven’t heard more about Falicki until recently. Sure, sometimes his films can be arty and a bit opaque, such as Awaken the Devil, aka The Un-American [2014], but most are intelligent set pieces centered on a central locus of activity. He seems to specialize in the supernatural (demons, ghosts, and vampires, for example), and this mostly two-person treatise on spiritual addiction is no different. He takes a somewhat simple premise and makes it quite intriguing. I’m quickly becoming a big fan. [Original full review HERE]

She Kills
Directed by Ron Bonk
Filmed and released in 2015
Grindhouse genres fly by in this spoof of ‘70s and ‘80s video nasties about a poor woman (Jennie Russo) who is cursed with a firecrotch. Apparently the aroma of her womanhood as she becomes aroused drives everyone into hysterics of lust. This is the second film on this list where women’s body parts are killing machines, used to both amuse and give a bit of a batshit lesson of our modern mores. Overacting, over-arching and over-ridiculous, one familiar with the revenge subgenre especially will find a lot to recognize in “a-ha” moments. It is funny, fast, and smarter than it presents, if the viewer is paying attention to the subtext. Plus, some of the quotable dialog (to the right person[s]) had me in hysterics. [Original full review HERE]

The Sins of Dracula
Directed by Richard Griffin
Filmed and released in 2014
More than Hammer (though some of that is here), this is a witty and sharp playing of the Christian scare films of the ‘70s. Writer Michael Varrati mixes in just the right amount of comedy, horror and gore to keep the story going and yet acknowledging the references without pandering to them (such as a recent vampire floating outside a window who does not follow the rules). It’s a gorgeous feast for the eyes, and the acting really is superb, especially for this genre. Michael Thurber’s silent Dracula is played with his eyes and enormous ring to incredible strength, and lead Jamie Dufault just nails it as a tempted pure religious soul. Even if you are not aware of the style it is based upon, there is certainly enough here to fill your cup of…wine. [Original full review HERE]

Spider Baby
Directed by Jack Hill
Filmed in 1964 / released in 1967 / rereleased in 2015

It took me decades to finally see this creepy and dark comedy that has finally been released on DVD/Blu-Ray. Gorgeously shot in high-contrast black and white, we follow an insane family as they self-destruct through greed, murder, and general mayhem; and yet keep you laughing from beginning to end, when the back of your neck isn’t twitching. In one of Lon Chaney (Jr.)’s last roles, he play the caretaker of the nutzoid group with charm and with some effective emotional baggage. It was certainly worth the wait, and if you like dark films such as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, but want to see a witty side to it, this is your chance. [Original full review HERE]

Angel Maker: Serial Killer Queen
Directed by O.H. Krill
Filmed in 2014 / released in 2015
Amelia Dyer was definitely one sick 19th Century woman whose murderous spree over the years had resulted in the death of numerous babies, for profit. This documentary of her life tries to be like many of the television shows that focus on these kinds of actions, but to much less success. The problem is that it draws the story out much longer than is necessary or that there is sufficient footage for usage, so we are shown the same images over and over, with large gaps between the set pieces with no real substance. This would have made an interesting half-hour program (including commercials), but the content does not justify the length, leading to ennui of the viewer. [Original full review HERE]

Dark Mountain
Directed by Tara Anaise
Filmed in 2013 / released in 2014
Despite decent acting, this found footage (ff) film falls short of its potential. Full of clichés and borrowing way too much from previous releases like The Blair Witch Project, we are subjected to multiple scenes of running through the dark with the lights of the camera as the only source of vision, and a convoluted story of greed and possibly supernatural subjugation. This is only one example of how much the ff genre is bleeding the indie releases by making the cast and filmmaking simultaneous, therefore saving on crew members, but, well, enough already. Having cast and crew is fine, but enough already. [Original full review HERE]

1 comment:

  1. The 2 of the 3 Scorpio films I have seen kicked ass.