Blood on a Budget
Dustin Mills and James Bressack are two of the most prolific filmmakers in the indie horror scene today. In 2013 alone they’ve each written, directed and released four films, lent a hand in making several others, and are already working on a couple upcoming projects.
Over the past year these two have quickly become Blood on a Budget favourites. The films featured in this entry are the most recent releases by Mills and Bressack, each hinting at a hopeful future for these ambitious DIY horror hounds.
Unlike the baby boomer monster kids who grew up watching classic Universal Monster movies, my generation, the slasher spawn, grew up watching, well, slashers. Instead of having nightmares of Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula or the Wolfman, it was Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees who haunted my subconscious. I remember the night I first saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I wasn’t able to sleep, because every time I closed my eyes I would imagine Leatherface’s ugly mug staring at me.
It’s maybe a form of Stockholm syndrome, but despite these movies scaring the hell out of me as a kid, I can’t help but get a warm, fuzzy feeling – or a cold, sharp feeling – when I watch a slasher movie. It’s because of this mental deficiency that the slasher film is my favourite kind of horror movie.
With Hallowe’en approaching faster than a running zombie, and the beauty of the summer dying off into winter, I thought it appropriate to dedicate this BoaB to the undying homicidal villains and the fiendish films they inhabit.
Unlike heavy-hitting omnibuses such as Creepshow and V/H/S, there often aren’t any cohesive themes or strong through-lines that unite the tales in no-budget anthologies. Often they feel like a handful of unrelated shorts slapped together – and admittedly, they usually are. But unlike the high-profile concept pieces, the more frugal films exude a certain camaraderie.
The D.I.Y. horror community are a highly supportive lot. You often see the names of directors popping up in each other’s films, filling random roles, lending a hand, or just being thanked. The no-budget anthology is always a great thing to watch, as directors, writers and actors all work together to get their work seen and noticed. They may not have the polish of the big boys, but they have far more heart than any mainstream terror treasury.
When used in horror as either victims or killers, children – second only to puppies and kitties in innocence – are a great way to evoke some very uncomfortable fear. Countless films, such as Village of the Damned and Who Can Kill a Child, have done a fantastic job of freaking us all out by turning wide-eyed babes into dangerous little devils.
While horror’s killer kiddies are a pretty even gender mix, females of the species tend to make up the majority of pint-sized victims: Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, The Last Exorcism, Silent Hill, Dark Water, and the list goes on. It seems likely that this is based on an ingrained sentiment in western society that a daughter is the purest of the pure and in the most need of protection, therefore putting them in constant danger is a surefire way to elicit a response from the viewer.
The two films in this entry are twists on the daughter-victim trope that both play into it, and subvert it as well. The first casts its kid as both victim and antagonist simultaneously, and the second has its daughter be the impetus of the action but keeps her mostly absent from the film. Although their budgets are a little higher than regular BoaB fare, these titles are still fiercely independent productions that deserve a watch.
It has come to my attention recently that Blood on a Budget has been enjoying its new home online for over a year. It’s been roughly fourteen months since BoaB began infecting the internet with the best, the worst and the mediocre of low budget, no budget and D.I.Y. independent horror, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
What better way to celebrate this milestone than with a duo of disturbing and frugal fright flicks that will satisfy any sicko’s thirst for blood. Movies so bloody, they even have “blood” in the title.
I watched them, and now you get to read about them.
Home is normally the safest place on earth. No matter what ordeal you have to endure, you always have the solace of your home to bask in when it’s over. This is why home horror is so effective: it takes the safest place in the world and makes it scary. Your security is crushed and the evil forces out there are suddenly in here. Especially when the horror faced is not supernatural but normal people, it’s not only frightening, it’s possible.
There’s a heavy bleed-over between sci-fi and horror fandom, and this makes perfect sense – the two genres have a lot in common. As theorist Vivian Sobchack points out in her book Screening the Space, the sci-fi film can, at least superficially, be seen as a “technologized” version of the horror film. For example, mummies and zombies can be replaced by robots, Dracula’s mind control can be replaced by that of an alien’s, and Frankenstein’s Monster could be easily replaced by a machine. Of course, there are more nuances that play into each genre that further differentiate them, which Sobchack also explains in her book, but it does illustrate how much they have in common.
The people behind the two films in this entry embrace the creepy cross-over between science fiction and horror and, as always, they don’t need an astronomical budget.
Even besides their penchant for dying or malfunctioning when you need them most, mobile phones have played a big role in recent horror films. Whether it be an evil wireless signal (Pulse), a harbinger of doom (One Missed Call), or even a method of harassment (the Scream series), cellphones have had a frightening presence in front of the camera. What we haven’t seen much of yet, are mobile devices being used as creative tools behind the scenes.
As mobile technology improves, we can expect that to change. Shot on an iPhone 5 and iPad 2 respectively, the two films featured in this entry could be an indication of what’s to come.
As the current zombie invasion of pop culture rages on, it seems as though every independent filmmaker and their mother is cashing in on this horror subgenre. Because of this, every few flicks I watch for this column feature a frightening flock of undead fiends, and frankly, it’s getting me down. These braindead bores should be used as little more than a gory metaphor, and only when there is something original to say with them or when they’re accompanied by a clever twist (see Mimesis for a great example). Sadly, this is rarely the case. I, like many others, was a big fan of these re-animated rascals, but after an undying onslaught of these creatures in popular and not-so popular media for so long, I’ve become sick and tired.
But before Blood on a Budget puts this subject in the grave, at least for a little while, I present you with a pair of undead endeavors that take a unique approach to these stale reanimated stiffs, with differing results.
For a lot of horror fiends, VHS is what first brought those mind-warping fright films into their homes, and into their black hearts. Thanks to the video boom of the late 1970s and 1980s, all manner of horror invaded the homes of the masses. I first saw Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre – and of course a slew of lesser horrors – on this clunky plastic format. For those experiences, I’m forever indebted to the Victor HR-3300 (the first VHS VCR on the consumer market).
Of course, the video boom was not without its downside. As a result of the new market, countless shot-on-video crapfests crept onto video store shelves, nudging up to classics like Phantasm or Basket Case and tricking us into watching them, hoping for a similar scare. What we experienced instead was a new sensation, an enjoyment of inadequacy and a realization that really bad can also be really good.
The films in this entry were made by fellow analog appreciators who have each cranked out an apt tribute to these substandard scare films.