For me, 2017 has been a phenomenal year for horror/experimental and indie films in general. I have had the pleasure and privilege to watch and review many underground offerings from several directors. I definitely would not be able to narrow my favorites down to just one film, so I will mention a number of selections I feel are some of the best low budget/underground/indie productions of 2017. I have also watched a number of movies which I feel should also get honorable mentions, no matter how late I saw them. They were that good.
First up is John Miller’s Crackbaby Billionaire. This film was Miller’s own personal crackbaby if you will, and he faced many setbacks and challenges getting the project done. He eventually prevailed and released a sleaze/gangster/T&A classic which shall forever go down the underground toilet as a cult film of epic proportions. Unique, offensive and just entertaining as hell, Crackbaby Billionaire is memorable, twisted and a good time.
James and Mae Bell of Very Fine Crap Videos always deliver the most fucked up, offensive and experimental material in the indie scene. When I read that James is working on something and has a new film coming up, I know that it’s bound to be some out there shit that I just have to see. With each offering, Bell improves his filmmaking so it’s cool to watch the transition. Nutsack was probably my favorite film he has ever done, but Tantrum 2: Phantom Of The Demon introduces a lean and mean James Bell like I have never seen before. It’s more experimental, mature and accomplished than any of his previous material, and James is one of the best self-taught make up effects gurus out there.
The Sleazebox have a number of underground exploitation classics under their belts, but when they released the follow up to their original cult hit Deathscort Service, they reinvented the titties and ass genre. Deathscort Service 2: The Naked Dead is filled to the brim with perky tits, shaven pussies and lovely, freaky babes galore. The plot takes a back seat to all the carnal flesh and humorous sadistic sexual violence. When the Sleazebox come a-knockin’, panties start a-droppin’.
Yan Kaos has been a sole force in the practically non-existent underground Canadian gore scene. He is the zero budget gore movie maker who operates D.I.Y. Productions, a company that has also distributed select underground titles and has 4 international gore anthologies featuring some great productions from around the world. Kaos has low budget gore running through his veins and with his female partner in crime, Nemesis Bathory, they haven’t faltered delivering in their films. Meat Butcher Baby 2, the follow up to his anarchistic gore punk original, tips the scales in unbridled carnage. Although his other work such as Blood Orchestra and Necromance are equally as sick and impressive, Meat Butcher Baby 2 offers that little something more which brings it over the edge.
Director/Producer Domiziano Cristopharo has been making a splash on the scene since the 2008 with his film House Of Flesh Mannequins. This year has brought forth much promising work for the busy Italian maestro. Cristopharo produced Sacrifice with directing duties getting handed over to his good friend, Poison Rouge. Sacrifice is one of the most artistic yet graphic and gruesome films ever made. The film plays out as a spiritual journey through mutilation by opening up the eye of the mind. Originally, Sacrifice was part of a series titled The Trilogy Of Death which also features Torment and Xpiation. You can find out more here. Sacrifice was picked up to be part of the American Guinea Pig series as the fourth installment. Either way, Sacrifice is a powerful film and I believe one of the best of 2017.
This is the second mention of Domiziano Cristopharo on this list. Cristopharo also produced Torment, the dark tale of a twisted homosexual killer clown and the punishments and grotesque sadistic tortures he inflicts upon his male victims. Loosely inspired by John Wayne Gacy and directed by Adam Ford, this film is dirty, grimy and ugly, and it will make you feel the same after you watch it.
Todd Sheets has been in the indie horror scene since the ’80s. Bonehill Road is Sheets’ love letter to werewolf movies such as American Werewolf In London, Silver Bullet and The Howling. Sheets has accomplished a good story, characters and some utterly gruesome effects work in this film. All of the effects in Bonehill Road are 100% old school practical with no CGI in sight. With the help of some talented individuals such as Joe Castro, Sheets has accomplished some amazing work here with a low budget.
From Australia, Zeda Müller has created her own unique vision of horror with 13 Dolls In Darkness. Shot in black and white and completely silent, it beckons the days of old silent movies. Complete with the sound of the projector rolling and the dialogue screens, 13 Dolls In Darkness is one of the most unique indie productions of 2017. It is one of the most original and unique entries on this list.
From Germany, Kai E. Bogatzi delivers Scars Of Xavier, which is probably one of the most beautifully shot indie productions I’ve had the pleasure of watching this year. This seething serial killer epic features a very sleek and stylish Marc Engel enchanting women and then savagely ripping them asunder. The concept about a killer whose life was dictated and humiliated by his own mother is not new, but the way it is delivered here is simply magical.
From Brazil, Gurcius Gewdner follows up his short Good Morning Carlos with Pazucus: The Island Of Vomit And Despair. Pazucus is one of the most crazy, batshit movies I’ve watched this year and probably last year and maybe even the year before that. It’s that nuts. This film is brilliant, low budget filmmaking at its finest, with such unique vigor and insane audacity you can only sit back, smile and enjoy it unfold on the screen. Shit demons, vomit and a female goddess with fluffy blonde pubic hair… Pazucus is a magical experience.
From France, Fabian Delage delivers Cold Ground. This film is what the Blair Witch Project remake should have been. With the help of an amazing location, convincing characters and sense of impending doom, Cold Ground is a first person/found footage fan’s dream. As you are thrust through an never ending labyrinth of frozen landscapes and see the monsters closing in and jump out at every turn, this is the reason this film is one of my top picks of the year.
Lucio A. Roja’s Trauma is as much of a political statement as it is a tasteless kick in the guts. The film is full of brutal violence, beautiful women and a madman who enjoys inflicting as much trauma as he has been through himself. Expertly made, supreme make up effects and no holds barred, Trauma is one of the most intense, memorable and violent films of 2017.
Grammabum Motion Pictures are pioneers in making some great indie shit. Their feature, Pay To Play, is this awesome, no budget, twisted tale of madness and perversion. It possesses a style like I’ve never seen relying on a bizarre retro look with insane make up effects work and a plethora of blunt characters with shaky morals. Their other short, Creepies 2, released this year and is also equally as awesome. They are an indie company to watch.
Last but certainly not least, UK filmmaker Bazz Hancher released a compilation this year of all of his early short films. I absolutely love Hancher’s style of filmmaking. It always has this evil vibe and great characters. My favorite short on the compilation, titled A Blast From The Past, is The Kidderminister Killer. Bazz’s other collection of horror tales, titled Films From A Broken Mind, is even more impressive. A Blast From The Past is a nostalgic look at his early work and it’s absolutely awesome and necessary for fans of sick and twisted underground cinema.
This year was filled with impressive indie cinema from around the world. I love seeking out new directors offering up their visions or even seasoned filmmakers who are sculpting new territory or putting a new sharper edge on their signature style. I do still enjoy more mainstream films and love being able to pick from a variety of everything and anything. My heart will always be in indie/underground movies because these artists are doing what they love and are not afraid to push boundaries. They are pulling off spectacular things with little to no money and that, in my mind, is the meaning of passion. People who do something not for financial gain but because their hearts are firmly set on it out of love. Here’s hoping 2018 can hold up to this year.