October 14, 2008


Indy Horror for October

I always feel like October is a great time to catch up on scary movies. Since there is no short supply of mainstream horror flick to check out I thought I'd make three independent horror recommendations: Severance, The Decent, and The Signal. Indy films, especially indy horror films, usually have to find more innovative ways to capture your attention, which is why I think you usually end up with a better film.

I remember almost seeing Severance (IMDb) at the 2006 Asheville Film Festival. Fortunately it made it to dvd. The story follows a group of civilian military weapons contractors on a tour across Europe to promote their products. While in route they become lost in the wilderness and ultimately targets of mysterious paramilitary sociopaths. It definitely has gory moments mixed with pretty funny dark comedy.

The Decent (IMDb) features an almost all female cast (not necessarily including the creatures in the caves) in a story about a group of female friends who regularly get together for some outdoors activities. For this particular excursion, which is set a year after the principle character lost her son in a auto accident, the friends go on a spelunking trip in unexplored caverns somewhere in rural Appalachian country. They become trapped and soon realize there are other creatures somewhat like humans stalking them in the dark. Overall very similar in concept to Alien, or The Thing; its a pretty frightening movie with some unexpected plot turns.

The Signal (IMDb) fits into the same mold as recent pandemic-survival films like the 'Happening' or 'I Am Legend' except that the story is told in three segments, each with a different kind of feel, and each from a different character's point of view. The first and third segment are mostly thrilling and unnervingly gory; the second segment is more of a dark comedy – of course, still very dark and grizly. The Signal is not gratuitously violent like the Hostel films, but it is disturbingly violent. And despite being an indy project; the filming quality, locations, and special effects live up to big-budget standards. So if you like films like 28 Days later, or the Zach Snyder remake of Dawn of the Dead, check out The Signal.

The story focuses on two lovers who part and plan on reuniting on New Years Eve. As the story begins a strange transmission is broadcasting through all major communication mediums as a colorful static on televisions and as static sounds on phones – thus eliminating all major methods of mass communication and preventing any warning from authorities or further information on what to do in the situation. The transmission also has an effect on anyone who's come in contact with it (which is pretty much everyone in a modern urban setting) causing them to become increasingly violent delusional and irrational towards each other -- which leads to an obvious pandemonium. The story is an interesting allegory on how dependent modern society is on the technology of modern communication.

There are similarities to the events in M. Night Shymalan's 'The Happening' (released after The Signal) but since the condition being experienced by society in The Signal is affecting everyone in the story there is an added thrill wondering just how affected are the characters. Its also worth noting that Stephen King has a novel with a similar pretenses called 'Cell'. In that story, something in cell-phone transmissions causes people to become violent and altered in a way similar to the to socially resemble the vampire hive-communities in I Am Legend. Its also worth mentioning that filming for The Signal started before the publication of King's 'Cell'.