Tag Archives: Low Budget

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Although George A. Romero’s influential cult classic must have been terrifying for it’s time, the years have rendered it rather mild and outdated. Still, “Night of the Living Dead,” ¬†which was filmed on a shoestring budget of $114,000, serves as an interesting study of peoples’ reactions to a crises and the necessity of action during a devastating event. Furthermore, it interestingly casts a black man in the leading male role, which was quite daring for it’s time.

Fragile Barbra (Judith Dea) makes a visit to her father’s grave with her perpetually complaining brother Johnny (Russell Streiner) when a strange man attacks them. Managing to escape alive (Johnny was not so lucky,) Barbra becomes holed up in a farmhouse, and soon renders herself obsolete due to suffering a complete mental breakdown.It is there that she meets Ben (Duane Jones,) a fellow survivor of what turns out to be a zombie attack.

The movie works best with just Barbra and Ben, who represent two opposite approaches to a crisis. Ben is a kind person but still a survivalist, and has no time for Barbra’s weakly grieving. Barbra is consumed by guilt for leaving her brother, and turns to Jell-O almost immediately, while Ben thinks on his feet and begins to barricade the windows and doors from the approaching ‘ghouls.’

However, when a group of fellow survivors come, this film becomes a bit boring. The most asinine of the survivors, played by Karl Hardman, overacts almost constantly, and listening to the group argue becomes tiresome. Meanwhile, a lot of the violence seems fake (when one character punches another, it sounds like a balloon popping.) The character dynamics are much more interesting when it’s just the two heroes.

You may find yourself laughing at certain scenes, which lack the intensity of “The Walking Dead” but also the tongue-in-cheek self-awareness of films like “Dead Alive” and “Shaun of the Dead.” Yes, in many ways it’s the film that started it all (though “White Zombie” starring Bela Legosi, unwatched by me, came first,) but it pales in comparison to many modern zombie stories. However, I liked how the zombies were not totally stupid and could use tools.

The acting overall wasn’t great (best from Duane Jones and Judith O’Dea, the leads) and the the special effects are dated (although it’s interesting to see how people improvised using practical effects before the era of CGI.) The movie was fun but not particularly disturbing or scary, except for the scene involcing the mother and her daughter (no spoilers.) I wonder how they got away with that.

I may have been shocked by the death of my favorite character at the end, but my psychiatrist had already spoiled it for me (damn you man!) For those who have not been informed of the ending, it will be unexpected and sad. This is an important film for all horror fans and zombie lovers to see, but it isn’t technically great in comparison to later horror flicks. I didn’t love it, but I’m glad I saw it.

Julien Donkey-Boy (1999)

“Julien Donkey-Boy” is an occasionally emotional, mainly tedious foray into the art of Dogme 95, laden with grainy visuals and non-existent plotting. It recalls the much better film “Buddy Boy,” which came out the same year. “Buddy Boy” director Mark Hanlon knew how to engage your interest and make you care about his main character, despite his shortcomings.

Julien is a 20-something paranoid schizophrenic played by Ewen Bremner, one of the most underutilized character actors of today. Julien lives with his equally disturbed father, younger brother, and sister, who he has impregnated before the film’s beginning.

Uncomfortable yet? The whole movie works to make the viewer feel discomfort while also invoking sadness and emotion. At this it is only moderately successful. The dialogue is often random and directionless. The experience of the film is akin to having hundreds of puzzle pieces of differing shapes and sizes, none of them fitting together in the least.


While watching, you come to a crossroads- should you spend a indefinite amount of time trying to put together the pieces, or should you leave the goddamned thing for somebody else to solve? The visuals of “Julien Donkey-Boy” are willfully awful, presumably shot on a home video camera bought from the bargain bin of Best Buy for a total of five dollars.

Ewen Bremner does an excellent job as Julien, but although Julien isn’t innately evil or unlikable, it’s hard to emotionally invest in his plight. In fact, the movie has its meaningful moments, but most of what is has to say isn’t particularly innovative or profound, and it’s hard to feel many emotions other than bewilderment and disgust.

Meanwhile, “Julien Donkey-Boy” functions more as a curiosity item than a movie, with famous filmmaker Werner Herzog playing Julien’s gas-mask wearing, cough syrup- guzzling father, who offers to pay Julien’s younger brother (Evan Neumann) ten dollars to dance with him in his dead mother’s dress. Meanwhile, Julien’s sister Pearl (Chloe Sevigny) prepares to have her brother’s baby.

The film is dedicated to director Harmony Korine’s schizophrenic Uncle Eddy, and although I hate to criticize a personal film-making project (unlike the soulless Hollywood money grabbers I love to have a go at), I must. “Julien Donkey-Boy” is hard to sit through and willfully incoherent, like a cross between a David Lynch throwaway project and a bad acid trip. It is one of the few movies I can honestly say had very little point, and isn’t that a shame? Not for the majority of sober filmgoers.

Tony (2009)

“Tony” is the rare exception where the term ‘indie horror’ means smarter rather than just cheaper. On one level, it’s a pretty simple premise (man commits crimes, man goes unnoticed until…), but on another, it a phenomenal character study of a man to whom desperation is a constant companion, to whose hobbies others would find sickness and perversion. All that and a highly effective performance by unnoticed actor Peter Ferdinando, as the titular killer.

Tony is a lonely fellow who idles away his days watching low-grade 80’s action films. We see him desperately trying to make a connection with the uncaring world around him, but socialization is hard, especially if your second hobby is, well… killing people.

The murders are sporadic and not overly graphic. Tony just gets fed up with humanity. Don’t we all? Tony is unwashed, dirty, and unemployed. He lives off the U.K. welfare system without having done a real day’s work in his life. He’s haunted by memories of his abusive father. It’s hard not to feel bad for him as he navigates an apathetic London, and hard not to be repulsed as he cohabitants in his filthy apartment with the corpses of his victims.

First you might consider the place of Tony’s action films. Are the driving him to kill? Probably not, the movie suggests. People drive people to kill, the media is scapegoated. I am reminded of an eight-year-old boy who took a break from “Grand Theft Auto” long enough to shoot his elderly caretaker in the head.

All the things you can find obviously wrong with that family (guns unlocked, eight-year-old’s playing restricted games,) and the video game becomes the scapegoat. It’s easy. It’s too easy. Sorry for that tangent. Anyway, “Tony” is grim, and sometimes very gross, but don’t expect a “Human Centipede”-style torturefest.

An interesting fact Tom Six made “The Human Centipede II”‘s lead Laurence R. Harvey watch this movie for inspiration on his character, ‘Martin.’ A great performance inspiring another. “Tony” reminds me of what THC2 could have been if Six had concentrated on character development rather than cutting ligaments and pulling out teeth with pliers.

At the center of “Tony” is Peter Ferdinando’s fearless performance, playing a sick, sick character with a glimmer of empathy. The other actors back him up nicely, although in the end it’s solitary Tony, friendless, unchanging, and scrutinizing a world he can’t quite understand. And indulging in his second favorite hobby, of course.
Rating-
8.5/10