There’s a general misconception among casual horror fans that any flick produced by a fellow fan, or amateur, isn’t worth the time it takes to type in w-w-w-.-y-o-u-t-u-b-e-.-c-o-m.
Bona fide horror hounds have been tuned in to these inspired projects for years, understanding and respecting the effort devoted to a genuine passion piece. The detractors tend (this isn’t a rule carved in stone, mind you) to be the guys and gals who catch a macabre flick once every week or so, wiling to confess their affinity for the genre, but perhaps not devoted enough to qualify as a certified freak for terror, who haven’t taken the time to study these ambitious pictures.
The truth is, anyone who can openly acknowledge their love for horror can potentially find some brilliant fan productions, regardless of how dedicated one may or may not be. Sometimes fans just need a nudge in the right direction, and that’s what we’ve set out to make happen on this fine Friday the 13th. We’re giving you the proverbial nudge.
It’s time to proceed in a bit of excavating. We’re unearthing some of the finest flicks created by Average Joes, who – based on their technical abilities alone – really don’t seem to be all too average at all. There are some legitimately engrossing fan films to be discovered, and this list should serve as an adequate “beginner’s guide” to must-see pictures you never knew existed.
10 – Halloween: Resurgence – This is a strong offshoot of the Halloween franchise that plays out as though it’s just another sequel, featuring zero characters directly related to the long-running series. You won’t spot Tommy Doyle, or Laurie Strode, or Sam Loomis in this pic. You won’t watch as the terror unravels in the serene suburbs of Haddonfield, Illinois, either. You will however take a trip to Smith’s Grove Santarium, where Michael goes buck-wild on a group of 30-somethings sniffing around where they don’t belong. Director Darren Jones siphons some spirited performances from this group of amateurs, and he’s got a sound understanding of basic film mechanics. The picture isn’t all too stylized, but it is quite clean. Michael’s mask looks awesome, and Jones himself does a great job of physical acting, as he dons the famed Myers getup. Throw in a few well-timed jump scares, an eerie shot or two, and some fun tributes to the series (I got a major kick out of the Akkad Gas station) and you’ve got one of the finest Halloween fan films ever shot.
9 – Evil Dead in 60 Seconds – The truth is, Evil Dead in 60 Seconds is more trailer than short film. However, the guidelines for Vancouver’s Virgin Radio Film competition specified that the full picture be recreated in 60 seconds, thus the fan “film” classification. Directors Gigi Saul Guerrero and Luke Bramley not only capture the essence and storyline of the cult classic pic, they also make it look awfully damn good! This is a highly refined little project with genius cuts, solid special effects and a mighty fine stand-in for Bruce Campbell. You’ll spot a number of these Evil Dead in 60 Seconds entries online, but this one tickles the fancy in a special way.
8 – Marble Hornets – Marble Hornets isn’t technically a film, it’s a series of shorts that form an often disjointed, but nonetheless interwoven examination of the mythical Slender Man. With 80 shorts already released, Alex Kralie’s ongoing tale works wonders in casting a shroud of darkness over the human psyche. The jarring sequences in this series are near countless and while it has a few things working against it, the stars have come quite close to completely aligning for the crew behind this gem. If you can watch these shorts in succession, and walk away feeling as though you were deprived — in any way — of legitimate chills, you may not have been paying attention. Marble Hornets is what quality fanfare and found footage is really all about.
7 – Legends: A Friday the 13th Tale – Gerald J. Godbout III’s homage to Jason Voorhees is riddled with minor flaws (some, I believe, are a direct result of editing), but it’s ballsy, and I quite enjoyed it. In an ironic twist, we get a predominately ethnic group of protagonists, and a handful of them kick ass, not to mention survive. For decades the black man has surfaced in little more than minor bit parts when it comes to the Friday the 13th (an obvious tip of the cap goes out to Shavar Ross who portrayed Reggie “The Reckless” in the fifth Friday feature) series. But here, the white man takes to the backseat, and it is damn refreshing. When it comes to finance to payoff ratio, Legends is the star of this lineup. It looks as though very little monetary risk was taken while piecing the picture together, but there’re 40 fine minutes to enjoy here.
6 – Batman: City of Scars – Why is a Batman flick making a horror-themed list? Because this specific Batman fan film totally and completely plays out like a very inspired indie genre piece, that’s why. City of Scars is insanely dark, pulls virtually zero punches and pits Batman against one of his greatest rivals: The Joker, who’s back to his mutilating ways for this slice of celluloid. Aaron Shoenke does a stellar job of keeping the Batman submerged in the same grisly world created by Christopher Nolan, and while this pic obviously lacks the budget of a Nolan flick, it delivers in a big, big way. Even if “superhero” flicks aren’t your thing, Batman: City of Scars just might be.
5 – 28 Days Later: The Rage – There’s no need to deceive anyone; The Rage doesn’t boast a profoundly moving storyline. In fact, it’s pretty much the same stuff we’ve seen from Danny Boyle (28 Days Later) and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later). Having said that, there’re only so many directions to take when it comes to post-apocalyptic madness and zombie chaos. What director Carter Ferguson does perfectly is reconstruct the overall vibe of the franchise. The zombies are fast; the tone is bleak; the fight to survive is always frantic; the protagonists are constantly on edge, fully aware of their inevitable fate. This looks and feels as though it could easily be the launch of the next official 28 picture. As a fan of both films, I’d be more than game to tune in to a feature length picture helmed by Ferguson. This man gets it.
4 – Friday the 13th: Extraction – A relatively unique concept, respectable production values, sound onscreen performances and some nifty special effects work make this one of the finest Friday the 13th fan films in existence. That says a lot, given the fact that there must be 100 shorts of this ilk floating about the interweb. Most however, just don’t capture the essence of Jason Voorhees and the now firmly established mythos of the machete wielding maniac like Samuel Farmer and Corina Seaburn’s Friday the 13th: Extraction. This flick does virtually everything right. We’ve got a genuinely menacing Jason on hand, a new spin on the story with a new location and a new design to the core conflict, and – again – the effects are quite impressive (keep an eye out for the eye-socket pop gun scene… just plain awesome). When it comes to Friday the 13th fan films, you’d be hard pressed to find a superior effort.
3 – Hellraiser: No More Souls – No More Souls starts on an awkward note. The camera slowly moves in on a dismal Pinhead, who laments about some wretchedness or another. He’s obviously a bit down and out… What better way to lift the spirits than summoning a few Cenobites to tear his body to shreds? That’s Pinhead’s offbeat, masochistic way of thinking, and holy crap is effective. This production looks stunning. Gary J. Tunnicliffe manufactures a very loyal Hellraiser aesthetic (even Pinhead looks convincing, despite the absence of Doug Bradley), and that’s no surprise. Gary isn’t exactly a stranger to Clive Barker’s genius invention; He’s handled makeup effects for about a half dozen Hellraiser films. He’s well versed in all things Cenobite related, and that connection with the story enables him to assemble a jarring short that must be seen.
2 – Krueger: Another Tale from Elm Street – If you want to talk about disconcerting productions, you want to talk about Krueger: Another Tale from Elm Street. Director Chris R. Notarile has become something of a fan film aficionado, having tackled (in impressive fashion) such icons as Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Pinhead and Leatherface – to name but a few – but it’s his work with the nefarious Freddy Krueger that stands as his greatest achievement. And there’s a reason for that: Chris has uprooted the tale and taken fans back in time, opening up a whole new realm of fear on Elm Street. Fred’s still alive, having yet to enter the intersection that leads to a lynching at the hands of enraged parents. And we get a nasty examination of his behavior and habits, which as you might expect, are every bit as loathe worthy as his tendencies as a supernatural dream killer. But there’s something marginally more frightening about watching the man lure children into his lair where he reaches for the dreaded glove and… You see where we’re going. Amazing film that looks beautiful and chills right down to the bone marrow, Krueger: Another Tale from Elm Street borders on masterful.
1 – Welcome to Hoxford – An amalgamation of animation, wildly inventive visual effects and sleek live action, Julien Mokrani’s 20-minute Welcome to Hoxford is an engrossing piece of work. It’s a condensed reimagining, to say the least, but Mokrani remains as faithful as possible to Ben Templesmith’s riveting source material. The special effects, both visual and practical are top notch and the editing is spot on. To top it all off the flick features appearances by Jason Flemyng (Clash of the Titans, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Dexter Fletcher (Kick-Ass, Doom) and Arben Bajraktaraj (Taken, Harry Potter franchise), and they’re about as dedicated to their work as one could hope for. If you’re on the prowl for an extremely high quality lycanthropic tale, you absolutely must seek this beauty out. Hands down the greatest fan film I’ve ever seen!
A note to the loyal DC readers: If you feel I’ve omitted something special, or you’ve got some strong recommendations, don’t be bashful. After watching somewhere between 300-400 fan films in preparation for this article, I’m confident with my list, but I’m more than prepared to recognize the fact that something special may have slipped through the cracks, and I’m eager to devour more fan-fueled genius. There are a lot of stellar fan films out there. If it’s worth watching, and it’s not on this list, drop a line. I’d love the chance to unearth another beauty.
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