Independent films are both the bounty and the bane of horror cinema. Within each frugal fright lays the possibility of witnessing the birth of the next Peter Jackson or Sam Raimi, but also the fear of having to sit through boring bargain store bile for the better part of two hours. More importantly, however, is that indie horror provides a venue for those not affiliated with Hollywood to make their own media and create entertainment they want to see and want others to see. These films are important to horror, which is why this post will be the first of a bi-weekly column that focuses upon the good, the bad and the ugly of independent horror. Being that this is the first entry, I thought we should start off with a pair of promising films: Mimesis and The Hounds.
BLOOD: A nice frothy layer of plasma is strewn about appropriately and in good measure.
BUDGET: Estimated at $500,000
We’re at a point in movie culture where even complaining about the steady stream of horror remakes, rehashes and re-imaginings is tired and redundant. Night of the Living Dead, which festers in the public domain, is a great example of how many re-dos can be done to a single intellectual property, such as its two official remakes, the classic parody Night of the Living Bread, a plethora of animated shorts based on the film and the list goes on.
By now, one might figure its death rattle would have been well shook long ago. Enter Mimesis (pronounced “mim-ah-sis,” a word with a wide range of meaning relating to realism in art), a sort of anti-remake that proves there’s somehow still life in Romero’s deadly debut yet.
Creeping into territory best described with a wink and a nudge, the film opens at a horror convention where a manic pixie-goth girl invites two unlikely friends to a mysterious party that turns out to be a ruse to lure horror fans into the ultimate LARP game where they are forced into a scenario incredibly reminiscent to the plot of Night of the Living Dead.
Admittedly the premise is a tad scoff-worthy, but the director keeps the chamber drama aesthetic of its source material, using the location to full potential and backing it up with well-written dialogue for a pretty exciting film that cleverly plays with expectations.
Solid acting talents coupled with technical polish really also do wonders for this frugal flick and practical, non-CGI gore effects exceed expectations.
Also notable is the casting of Sig Haig as a horror director, who delivers a diatribe on violence in film and culture over the opening credits to set up an over-arching theme of life imitating art. Although under used, Haig still adds to the film as he preaches to the choir, claiming horror films aren’t to blame for violence in society (hear, hear!).
Director Douglas Schulze is no slouch; he has a filmmaking career spanning two decades, and proves in Mimesis that a post-modern re-hash can still kick some post-modern re-ASS.
BLOOD: Not enough to drown in but more than enough for a good swim
BUDGET: Approximately £35 000
With a misleading name, this slow-moving Britain-based boiler rewards those who sit through the set-up with one heck of a brutal second half.
Like Rosemary’s Baby, for the first 45 minutes or so, you might mistake The Hounds for a stale drama involving two seemingly unrelated plots: one about a group of lovable pals on a camping trip, and the other about a troubled detective tracking down a vicious gang. I’m not against a film developing some back story, but watching a group of buddies mess around in outdoors inter-cut with a seemingly unrelated police story (the connection isn’t revealed until the very end) was pretty confusing, kind of boring, and really got my goat. At about the midway mark, I was getting ready to pack it in, which is right when this little pearl got a hold of its “awesome” knob and cranked that sucker all the way up to eleven.
See, what the first half lacked in visceral thrills, the latter makes up in spades. Bloody, gruesome spades.
There is nary a vital organ safe as eyes, liver, hearts, etc., get torn out of bodies with reckless abandon. If the beginning was a Roman Polanski-style slow burn, then part two is a Sam Raimi-inspired free-for-all gore fest, with some pretty swell-looking effects and zero trace of a computer-generated graphic. There’s even a handful of fun Evil Dead-style camera trickery, like a shot from inside a mouth as it chomps away and a divisive dangling eyeball POV sequence.
The killer(s) of the piece aren’t dogs (despite the name of the film) but instead a dead body… kind of. The reveal of the antagonist(s) is a bit of a twist (two or three twists, actually), so you’ll have to watch this one to get the full picture. Trust me, it’s worth it.
So crack a beer, relax with a few pals, and be patient with this one, baby bird. The worm you’ll get in the end is a horrifically juicy one.
Read more by Patrick at Jive Turkey Video.