Let’s face it… if a film is produced on a budget south of a few million dollars, we have a natural tendency to label those films B-movies. That’s never been a title I care for, and I’m not keen on the idea of labeling any low-budget picture a B-movie.
Halloween was shot on a budget that hovered around $300,000; Black Christmas was shot on a budget of $620,000; The Blair Witch Project was assembled on a paltry $60,000 budget; Paranormal Activity was shot for less than $12,000; the awesome zombie flick The Battery cost $6,000 to film; and speaking of low budget zombie fare, Night of the Living Dead, arguably the most important horror film to be released in the last five decades, cost just $114,000.
Every single film listed above went on to become a commercial success, with the exception of The Battery, which gains more followers with open wallets every day.
These films are proof that sometimes a B-movie is destined for greatness, and as that greatness begins to swallow the perception of the productions, we tend to forget that they were cheap films to begin with.
The following films haven’t had a chance to blossom into fan favorites just yet, but they’re all excellent pictures that were shot on shoestring budgets, and it won’t be a surprise to learn that some of these movies go on to develop an unwavering fan base.
Zombeavers (Budget unknown)
Loaded with insane animatronics and puppet work, along with some amazing frat-comedy and memorable characters, Zombeavers is one of the more entertaining zom-coms to come our way in ages. Really, how do you botch a lighthearted flick about zombie beavers? We get all the things we want from cheap horror: strong comedy, a few very gruesome death scenes, practical effects piled on practical effects and even a little nudity. If you haven’t seen this treasure, do so ASAP!
The Cabining (rumored $3 million budget)
The Cabining arrived on the market and then fizzled out immediately. The problem is that it’s an awesome movie that blends slasher elements with satirical elements, and it comes together beautifully. There are a number of amazing characters (Bo Keister steals the show) in the lineup, and the script is far wittier than some may anticipate. It’s a flick with great twists, so we won’t speak on them here, but we will give you a heartfelt recommendation: Watch this movie!
Piranha ($660,000 budget)
I’m not talking about Alexandre Aja’s remake or even Piranha 3DD; I’m talking about Joe Dante’s overachiever of a Jaws ripoff. The picture may now be nearly 40 years old, but it’s still an amazing little picture that produces some amazing onscreen chemistry (that feels like constant and believable sibling rivalry) between the film’s two leads, Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman) and Heather Menzies-Urich (Maggie). For a flick looking to ride the wave of Jaws, the movie is stellar, moving at a speedy pace and even giving viewers some solid practical special effects. This is – no doubt – the greatest aquatic horror to arrive on the heels of Spielberg’s famed film… and it emerged a winner with a very, very modest production budget.
Wolfcop ($740,000 budget)
Wolfcop is one of the best werewolf films to hit the market in years. It’s got everything you could want from a lycanthropic tale. It’s gory, it’s well-shot, the script is top-notch and the characters, good and bad, are all extremely memorable. Writer/director Lowell Dean stretched a thin budget to maximum effectiveness, and that demands applause. The fact that this is a legitimately original story only helps to endear the flick to fans. And to think it all happened on a budget south of $1 million. Impressive, Lowell, very impressive!
Son of Ghostman (Budget unknown)
Son of Ghostman is less a horror film and more a picture about coming to grips with the disappearance of horror hosts while juggling a blossoming love. But there are plenty of horror aspects alive in the production, and seeing an awesome new horror host just hits a special place in the heart. Don’t look for big bombastic sequences; rather, keep an eye out for amazing characters and an obvious love for vintage genre fare.
Editor’s Note: Since the writing of this article, D.C. contributor Matt Molgaard has passed on. It’s an honor for us to share his final insights with you all. He will be sorely missed.