November 12, 2007

Director Jim Mickle, whose unconventional zombie flick Mulberry Street screened in TFF ’07, offers up his list





Director Jim Mickle’s hair-raising Mulberry Street, which played TFF ’07′s Midnight section, will roll out on more than 300 screens nationwide on November 9th, as part of After Dark Films’ “8 Films To Die For” series. The story, which takes place on a sweltering Manhattan summer day, concerns a rat-borne virus that turns civilized city dwellers into bloodthirsty, rodent-like creatures dying to sink their teeth into one another—a kind of Dawn of the Dead for the modern-day Lower East Side. Mickle has more than 40 credits to his name working on feature films, TV, music videos, and commercials, including such noteworthy films as Monster’s Ball and Transamerica. Mulberry Street, his first feature, terrified audiences not only at Tribeca, but also at SXSW, Fantasia,  


As an avid movie watcher and freakishly obsessive horror fan, it’s pretty disheartening to see the genre repeatedly undercut itself with terrible choices and mass-marketed, formulaic dreck. For every horror classic, there are at least a thousand botched disasters that wind up at the front of the video store, or worse, in the multiplexes. So it’s little wonder that the genre’s reputation is only slightly above pornography.

But outside of the studio slop, the sequels, prequels, remakes, and “Americanizations,” there’s a wealth of hidden gems, most of which are readily available for anyone looking to discover some original dark voices this Halloween. Below is a list of extremely rewarding films, pulled from outside the mainstream, which can be categorized as horror but range from the terrifying to the hilarious to the jaw-dropping.



Winter1 The Last Winter
Dir. Larry Fessenden, 2007
Great cast, creepy as hell, and maybe Larry Fessenden’s best movie to date. This film shows the director’s remarkable ability to shift from scrappy, low-budget efforts like
Habit and Wendigo to a carefully composed and choreographed film that feels a lot like a Japanese horror movie. Very smart, and a great setting.

The Lost
Dir. Chris Sivertson, 2005
Before he worked with Lindsay Lohan (on this year’s
I Know Who Killed Me), Chris Sivertson made this ballsy adaptation of a Jack Ketchum novel. There’s a strange feeling of tension from the first scene, which gets heavier and heavier until the final explosion. Always fascinating, though not straightforward horror. Marc Senter is incredible in the lead.

Ginger Snaps
Dir. John Fawcett, 2000

One of my favorites. About two morbid teenage sisters discovering similar bodily changes brought on by womanhood and lycanthropy (the ability to turn into a wolf). A great, character-driven werewolf movie from  

Dir. Andrzej Zulawski, 1981
Whoa. Incredibly surreal movie starring Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani as a married couple going through a bizarre separation. Somehow mixes top-notch creature effects with a family breakup scenario. Crazy blend of over-the-top extremes and gut-wrenching emotional melodrama. Some unforgettable scenes and performances.

Murderparty Murder Party
Dir. Jeremy Saulnier, 2007
Also played SXSW and Fantasia 2007. Another fun, low-budget NYC film about a lonely guy who gets invited to a hipster art-school party in Brooklyn, where the partygoers are intent on making the ultimate piece of art. Described by the filmmakers as
The Breakfast Club with chainsaws and drugs. Different, witty, and very fun.

Poughkeepsietapes The Poughkeepsie Tapes
Dir. John Erick Dowdle, 2007
Like my film, played at Tribeca 2007. Extremely well-done A&E-style faux-documentary about the fictitious “Water Street Butcher” who shot thousands of hours of video footage while terrorizing upstate
—one unfortunate girl in particular. Perfectly executed, with some very inventive and subtle choices.

End of the Line
Dir. Maurice Devereaux, 2006
This film has been wowing festival crowds for over a year now, and it deserves the praise it has received. A refreshing combo of jump-out-of-your-seat scares and wildly twisted (but not that implausible) antagonists—a group of religiously obsessed cult followers seeking
“salvation.” Takes place mostly in subway tunnels. Hopefully getting a proper release soon.


Dir. Billy O’Brien, 2007
Beautifully dark cinematography and a super eerie Irish farm setting make this lo-fi “monster” movie incredibly unsettling. Any plot synopsis will just sound hokey. Imagine
Alien, if it took place on a remote cattle farm. The special effects are some of the most delightfully cringe-inducing in years and the overall sense of dread is very well-handled.

Dir. Nacho Cerdà, 1994
One of the more disturbing pieces of narrative filmmaking for those with a high tolerance for intensity. This infamous short film chronicles an autopsy which ends badly for the cadaver, but it’s captured with an astonishing eye for detail and anatomical accuracy. Great instance of beautiful technical filmmaking applied to gruesome subject matter. Available on Netflix.

The Nameless (Los sin nombre)
Dir. Jaume Balagueró, 1999
Balagueró’s first feature, adapted from the pitch-black Ramsey Campbell novel. Brutal mystery about a woman who receives a panicked phone call from her daughter, seven years after the girl was murdered. More intense plot twists to come. Grimy locations and story with cinematography that makes you feel like you’re watching
Se7en with sunglasses.



A Tale of Two Sisters
Dir. Ji-woon Kim, 2003
One of the most gorgeous films out there. A Korean horror movie that has great crossover appeal for those who want a beautifully realized art film. Haunting, scary, and hypnotizing to watch and listen to. Direction, production design, and cinematography are all perfect—with a brilliant use of wallpaper, of all things.

Soft for Digging
Dir. J.T. Petty, 2000
Unique and effective do-it-yourself filmmaking, made as a thesis project and finished as a haunting, almost-silent film about an old man in the woods who may or may not have witnessed a young girl’s murder. Back-to-basics visual filmmaking, with amazing simplicity, patience, and ability to use what’s already there to tell a story.

Bubba Ho-Tep
Dir. Don Coscarelli, 2002
A cult classic in every way. Based on the Joe Lansdale novella about an aging Elvis impersonator who believes he actually is Elvis (played to perfection by Bruce Campbell). He teams up with Ossie Davis (who believes he is JFK) to stop a mummy who’s been knocking off old ladies at theirTexas

retirement home. Ossie Davis is BRILLIANT!






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, which spawned two interesting sequels. Great mash-up of two very different genres, and some great werewolf FX.


After Dark, and other festivals around the world. For more on Mulberry Street, visit the official site.

Given the spooky date, we figured he was just the man to give us a tour of the world of independent horror. Here’s what he told us: