More often than not, horror and thriller films do not get a large theatrical release. That being said, the straight-to-DVD (or straight-to-Netflix) approach to releasing a movie can be a mixed bag. Most of them, for lack of a better way to put it, are crap. It would be a fair assessment that a small minority of independent releases in the horror genre are even watchable, let alone “good” movies. Here are a few of the entertaining releases from the second quarter of 2015.
Extraterrestrial – Directors Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, also known as the Vicious Brothers, reteam and tackle a tough subject and an often not-scary one at that: alien abductions. A cast of their regular usual genre suspects rounds out a clever plot with a decent budget and makes for a fun watch. This is a great addition to the resume that already includes cult classics Grave Encounters and Grave Encounters 2.
The Captive – Ryan Reynolds leads a star-studded cast in this kidnapping thriller. It has several twists and turns along the way, but the ending, though a bit anti-climactic, seems to be the film’s greatest strength in its realistic approach to a tough topic. Scott Speedman, Kevin Durand, Rosario Dawson, Mireielle Enos, and Bruce Greenwood also star.
The Voices – Not satisfied with just one straight-to-DVD release this quarter, Ryan Reynolds also stars in this off-the-wall dark comedy about a man who kills because his pets tell him to. Literally. Directed by Marjane Satrapi (of Persepolis fame), this film suffers from a lack of experienced directing, but Reynolds delivers a complex yet hilarious (and quite frightening) performance as he works his way up the food chain of Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver, and Ella Smith. Reynolds also provides the various pets’ voices, which is another level of amusement in an already silly film.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Ana Lily Amirpour writes and directs a comic book movie of her own, giving us a potential new genre that we never knew we wanted: a skateboarding vampire vigilante on the streets of a fictional Iranian western town. Think Frank Miller’s Sin City meets 30 Days of Night and you’ve got this movie in a nutshell. Plus some random side characters who are way too developed and take far too much focus away from the main character, who is destined to get the sequel treatment or possibly even an American remake sooner rather than later.
Home Sweet Hell – Patrick Wilson shines in this extremely dark comedy about a man who makes a huge mistake and cheats on his homicidal wife. The best friend, played by Jim Belushi, the mistress, played by Jordana Brewster, and the wife, played by Katherine Heigl, all do a great job, but it is Wilson’s leading character’s complete and utter lack of courage that drives this film. Though silly at times, the darkness within it is enough to keep it from the comedy shelves, made it hard to put into a genre, and ultimately, kept it out of theaters. It is a hidden gem with a rare strong performance from Heigl.
Late Phases – Actor Nick Damici is a secret horror legend, but he has continued to deliver time and again, whether it be in the form of Mulberry Street or Stake Land or even In the Cut. His acting chops have never been questioned, but this would be a difficult role for anyone. A blind Vietnam veteran whose son drops him off at a retirement community populated by werewolves. The subtle nature of his acting is enough to drive the movie to its end, but the real reward comes in the reveal at the end. And the special effects. This is a must-see for fans of the genre and a good potential jumping on point for those not familiar.
Open Doors – Elijah Wood is expertly cast in a thriller about a computer hacker who takes advantage of unsuspecting men and women on the internet and makes them do unthinkable things to one another. It is a mixture of Saw (without the intense torture porn gore and gross-out factor) and Phone Booth (without Colin Farrell). The twists and turns throughout more than make up for the fact that the director is relatively new and the lead actress is a porn star. This is by far one of the most cleverly-written movies of the year.
And there you have it. Please check back in a few more months for a third quarter of horror. And be sure to check out full reviews for theatrical releases and the criminally-under-released straight-to-DVD horror classics.