Independent horror films don’t have to be hampered by low budgets, but they do need to get creative.
Let’s bitch it out…
Watching writer/director Brett Kelly’s Countrycide proves to be a frustrating affair. The film, about a couple on a road trip who are terrorized by a hunting party of local rednecks, is a decidedly low-budget affair, but the lack of funds isn’t the problem. The film is let down by a bare bones screenplay that fails to invest in its characters and a narrative unwilling to ventures beyond the rote antagonistic relationship between aggressors and hunted.
The biggest issue is the lack of fleshed out characters, most problematically Robin Hodge’s “final girl” Abby. She cries, she runs/limps, and she eventually fights back, but there’s nothing discernibly unique or interesting about her, especially after her boyfriend/not-boyfriend Mike (Joel Elliott) disappears and she is almost literally on screen by herself for the remainder of the film. The result isn’t particularly watchable, especially since the woods all look the same and the attackers are generic hicks.
Watching Countrycide is frustrating not because of the film’s obvious shoe-string budget, but because of its assumption that putting a woman in distress in the woods is enough to justify a feature film. As it stands, Countrycide needs more novelty, more innovation and stronger character work.
Countrycide is playing Spring of Horror on Friday, April 6 at 9pm EST.
Forgotten Scares: An In-Depth Look At Flemish Horror Films
The title says it all: this informative – and highly entertaining – documentary is a historical overview of the horror genre in Belgium. Director Steve De Roover uses (uninformed) reviews of promising young director Jonas Govaerts’ film Welp / Cub (2014) as a jumping off point to explore the lack of awareness by the country’s journalists and the long history of the genre in the national cinema (and sometimes in opposition to it). Starting with Harry Kümel’s 1971 cult break-out Daughters of Darkness (known principally for its lesbian vampires), the documentary tracks the evolution of Belgium’s horror output film by film from the 70s to the present.
Forgotten Scares is an integral overview of a national cinema’s genre output and the documentary’s greatest strength is its inclusivity. This is an exhaustive reclamation project, highlighting films great and small alike. The inclusion of production and distribution information is invaluable for understanding how many of the films were made(think coproductions, foreign funding and the occasional bewildering national film grant) and have survived thanks to cult and exploitation collectors, magazines and international distributor Troma.
The film does contain two drawbacks, albeit small ones: the first is that the instigating purpose – the lack of journalistic awareness – is never again raised since all of the talking head interviews are done by filmmakers, actors and producers. The second issue is De Roover’s bias for certain films and personalities, which is evident in which projects and parties get screen time. This is most significant in the bafflingly long inclusion of Pieter Van Hees’ Left Bank / Linkeroever (2008), which even the talent describes as more of an artsy psychological thriller and less of a horror film. This discrepancy between the length of time dedicated to certain films becomes increasingly more evident as the documentary progresses and occasionally makes the pacing feel off.
Overall, however, Forgotten Scares is vitally important. Not only is the documentary significant as a commemorative record of the genre films that Belgium has produced, it is an entry point for horror fans around the world who may not have known about this unholy treasure trove of undiscovered films. The existence of the film alone ensures that Belgium’s horror content will not be forgotten (as the title threatens). I, for one, can’t wait to track down Rabid Grannies.
Forgotten Scares is playing Spring of Horror on Saturday, April 7 at 1pm EST.