1. Thale (2012, Aleksander Nordaas (Norway)).
(Budget – £1,200,000) Industrial cleaners Leo and Elvis are called out to a remote house in the woods to clean up the remains of an elderly man. The police have half of the body and it is up to Leo and Elvis to find the rest. Discovering a secret cellar under the house, they fail to find the other half of the body, but what they do find is much more astonishing: locked inside the basement, Leo and Elvis have discovered a Huldra. This stylish horror re-imagines the folklore of the Huldra in a gritty and modern manner. Silje Reinåmo steals the show, giving a fantastic performance as Thale the Huldra; she has no lines but brilliantly expresses her feelings and emotions through facial expressions and body language. The film converges Horror, Drama and Fantasy beautifully to create this fully enjoyable film.
Spoiler – The climactic action scene in which Thale takes out a squad of armed soldiers is majestically artistic. She moves gracefully, and the cinematography is beautiful; this elegant ‘dance’ works incredibly well, juxtaposing the gritty and bloody violence that ultimately makes up the scene.
If you choose to watch any of these films on this list, it must be this one — and make sure to stick around to see the final shot. There are three camera shots that I will always remember: one is of the smashed snow globe from Citizen Kane, the other is the final shot from the first Doctor Who adventure with the Daleks, and the last one is the final shot from Thale.
2. A Field in England (2013, Ben Wheatley (UK)).
(Budget – £300,000) Set during the English Civil War, this stylish film depicts a small group of deserters. Ambushed and quickly captured by two treacherous men, the deserters are made to search a field, but madness soon hits the group as they desperately seek the treasure that may lie within a field in England. The film is very much a piece of art and a display of what filmmakers can do on such a low budget. The film throws you right into the action and doesn’t explain anything to you; you either need to have an understanding of the period or to simply accept the world for what it is, which of course allows for a diverse array of what to read into the text. Wheatley experiments with how audiences react to unconventional film techniques, creating perhaps the most intelligent horror film I have ever come across.
3. Skeletons (2010, Nick Whitfield (UK)).
(Budget – ?) This dark comedy follows two exorcists (Simon and Bennett) who remove ‘Truth’ or Skeletons from people’s wardrobes. When their employer ‘The Colonel’ loses his A-Team, Simon and Bennett look as if they may get the promotion they have been waiting for. It is on the job that they must prove their worth to ‘The Colonel’; they begin to ask themselves what they do really want. Will Adamsdale (Simon) and Andrew Buckley (Bennett) make a brilliant double act and are well suited to the characters and the genre. This dark comedy is very well written, exploring the themes of nostalgia, families and friendship.
4. Timecrimes (2007, Nacho Vigalondo (Spain)).
(Budget – £1,700,000) Hector, an ordinary man, and his ordinary wife move into their new ordinary home. Relaxing in his new ordinary garden and admiring the beautiful but still-ordinary surroundings, Hector suddenly spots a nude girl in the woods. Shocked by this discovery, he goes to investigate. He makes his way through the woods to find her lying against a rock. It is here he is attacked by an enigmatic man wrapped in pink bandages. Little does Hector know, but his ordinary life is now over. The narrative is very well planned out by Vigalondo, and the fact it is a first-person narrative allows us to make discoveries alongside Hector. It is through the consequences of time travel we are taught that our actions have an effect on us and those we love. A fantastic film, particularly of its genre, there are even talks of an American remake; you’ll have Blondie’s “Picture this” in your head for weeks.
5. Berberian Sound Studio (2012, Peter Strickland (UK)).
(Budget – ?) When a timid folly artist from Britain is sent to Italy to work on a horror film, he is placed completely out of his comfort zone. This new experience takes its toll on him both physically and mentally. I won’t give too much away about this film as there are so many ways of reading into it. Toby Jones plays Gilderoy the folly artist brilliantly, which is ultimately what makes the film great. Strickland is a talented writer and director; his cinematography is stylishly strange (almost Hitchcockian), and the film leaves you wanting to know more — if you are a film fanatic, this film is a must-see.
6. Moon (2009, Duncan Jones (UK)).
(Budget – £3,200,000) Sam Bell is coming towards the end of his three-year contract with Lunar Industries. Confined on this lunar base to harvest Helium-3 with no one but GERTY his computer, Bell can’t wait to get home to his wife and daughter. However, it is during the last two weeks of his contract that he is involved in an ‘industrial accident’ which results in him uncovering a dark secret held by his employers. I am undecided as to whether I enjoyed this film or not. It is undoubtedly a good film; the script is well written and the CGI is very well done considering the budget was so low. The film acts very much as a homage to some of the big-budget science-fiction films. Although I liked it, I felt it was a shame as it would have been nice to have something original/experimental from this new director.
7. Bowling for Columbine (2002, Michael Moore (US)).
(Budget – £2,600,000) Michael Moore explores America’s relationship with guns and gun crime in this magnificent documentary, centring around the massacre at Columbine high school on 20th April 1999. Depending on your own personal view on gun culture, this film could certainly be considered controversial. However, Moore brilliantly crafts this documentary to present the events at Columbine and his own opinion on American politics and their attitude to gun laws. Moore uses a strange mix of humour and gritty facts, making audiences laugh at one moment, only to make them cry a second later. His somewhat unconventional techniques work brilliantly, ensuring audiences are both entertained and informed. The film isn’t without its flaws but certainly worth a watch.
8. A Town Called Panic (2009, Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar (France)).
(Budget – ?) This low-budget French film certainly isn’t the next ‘The 400 Blows’ (1959, François Truffaut); in fact, it’s far from it. So how has this film made my top 10 list? Well here goes…
After a barbecue goes terribly wrong, Cowboy, Indian and Horse must re-build their house. But during the night, someone is stealing their walls! Follow this unlikely trio as they travel to the centre of the earth in their search for the culprits. But the question is will they be able to find them before Horse’s music lesson with Madame Longrée? This is undoubtedly a brilliant film for kids, with its colourful and entertaining characters and narrative; yet, it still successfully entertains a more adult audience through its surreal style of humour and inventive animation style.
9. Honeymooner (2010, Col Spector (UK)).
(Budget – £48,000) 29-year-old Fran (Gerard Kearns) should be on his Honeymoon and happily married to the love of his life, but instead he is at home in London waiting for his ex-fiancée to come back for him… needless to say she doesn’t. Fran meets her in the street with her new boyfriend and it is Fran’s task to accept what has happened and to move on… the fundamental question is, can he?
I am not normally a big fan of the romantic-drama genre(s); however, I did enjoy watching this film. The script is very well written by Spector, and his characters are well developed and superbly played by the actors. This film is worth the watch, particularly if you are a fan of the genre.
10. Dog Soldiers (2002, Neil Marshall (UK)).
(Budget – ?) When a British Squad is sent on a training mission in Scotland, they soon come across the remains of a Special Ops. Squad; but who or what could have caused such a massacre? The training mission is quickly abandoned, turning into an all-out battle for survival against the creature that is… the werewolf!
This horror/dark comedy is both a pastiche and homage to some classic films such as Predator and Night of the Living Dead. Although typical of its genre, it stands out as one of the better horror comedies.
What about “Shaun of the Dead”, “28 Days Later”, “Let The Right One In”, “The American” or “The Orphanage”?
Many of you I am sure will be screaming at your screens wondering where these five films are; well stop… people are looking at you funny. And yes they are undoubtedly great low-budget films. However, I want to try to introduce you to some lesser-known films, some great films you may be missing out on. It is due to the simple fact that these films don’t have the money to compete with the higher-budget films, which makes them virtually unheard of. In fact, there are probably some films out there that are even better than those in this list, which simply don’t get the attention they deserve; so if you can think of any you reckon I wouldn’t have considered, please send me a tweet at @xy46who and I will try to check them out.
Written by Daniel Skentelbery
Courtesy of Greatest Films.