Give me 500cc of independent movies, stat!

Ah. Okay, I feel a little better now.

I know in the last edition of this column back in, um… April, I said I was going to be a little more regular with the Underground, but best intentions and all that. I do still have a few movies that the fine readers of the site have recommended or sent (and a few older ones I’ve rediscovered in the stacks) and I’m slowly, oh so slowly working my way through them, so patience! 

If you’ve got an independent film that you feel is reasonably professional and you want to submit for review or just hope I’ll give some free publicity, drop me a line at Suggestions and recommendations always welcome. Pants are still optional!


 Anyone who’s been on a road trip can probably tell you that they can be a real nightmare. Perfect material for a tale of psychological terror, eh?

J.M. Logan thought so too for his directing debut Family, in which escaped convict Jean (Renee Humphrey) hitches a ride with Eldon (Boyd Kestner), an average single dad who’s taking his son Cole on a cross-country trip to see small-town America. But as they travel through the stark desert landscape, Jean realizes this is more than just a leisurely vacation for all involved, as dark secrets boil to the surface.

For his first feature, Logan (whose IMDB page lists various credits on everything from Wishmaster 2 to The Passion of the Christ) has crafted an accomplished and unique-looking little road movie with some very effective moments (particularly a campfire sequence culminating in a pitch-black pursuit). The performances are all quite strong, with Kestner as the definite standout in what reveals itself as a difficult role — the guy has worked with Ridley Scott several times, and obviously brought everything he learned.

The film does have a few overly stylized moments of editing artifice, and there’s a hostile gay duo that feel a bit too post-Tarantino, but overall Family is solid work, well-paced with some nice swerves. At the very least it serves as a harrowing reminder of just how terrifying family road trips can be.

You can find out more about the flick, including the trailer, at the official site.


 When aspiring filmmaker Dennis (Erik McDowell) is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he decides to leave his legacy in filmed format. Along with girlfriend Lily (Johanna Watts), he rents a small house and wires it with microphones and motion-activated cameras to keep a grim record of his final weeks as he withers away. But the footage isn’t exactly what he’d hoped for as an unwanted tenant from the afterlife has decided to make a guest appearance in his documentary, causing Dennis’ illness to accelerate and making his remaining days a literal nightmare.

The faux documentary approach has become a customary method of circumventing budgetary issues for low-budget, low-tech filmmakers, but it’s not often nearly as effective as writer-director Amanda Gusack’s morbid and unforgivingly creepy horror film. Gusack’s actors do a convincing job of being utterly terrified by the proceedings, and more importantly feel like an organic couple who’d subject themselves to such a morose notion as filming one’s eventual demise (Watts’ rockin’ bod and fondness for baby-Ts certainly don’t hinder the film’s watchability).

There’s no musical score, only the ambient sounds of creaks and chilling groans, while the unwelcome spirit is only glimpsed through shadows and freaky static-filled video, all with rather unnerving success – I started watching the movie at one night and truly regretted it after the lights were turned off. For most true horror fans, that’s as sincere an endorsement as you’ll find.

You can find out more about the flick, including the trailer, at the official site.


 I had put Double Dare into my Netflix queue so long ago that by the time it floated to the top, I’d all but forgotten why I’d put it in there. I quickly remembered the reason: Zoë Bell.

Director Amanda Micheli’s Double Dare is a girl-powered documentary profiling two professional stuntwomen, veteran Jeannie Epper (Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman double) and relative newcomer Bell, a Kiwi hottie who did the rough stuff for Lucy Lawless on Xena before handling Uma Thurman’s lethal chopsockey in Kill Bill.

The movie itself is intriguing, especially in the way it intertwines the more recent trials and tribulations of the two women, chronicling how they meet and assist one another — rather than give a protracted history of stuntwomen in film, Double Dare touches on the underappreciated occupation and current difficulties through the experiences of the subjects. But it’s mostly notable for the peek behind the curtain on Kill Bill, since we’ve still yet to receive a DVD edition with any worthwhile supplemental footage — we learn from Tarantino himself that before they found Zoë to stand in for Uma, they were basically fucked. And after watching Double Dare, you’ll probably say “Uma who?”

And there’s Bell herself, a being of such boundless spirit, natural grace and striking beauty that it’s almost impossible not to fall completely in love with her. Tarantino knows what he’s doing – he apparently gave her the female lead in his next flick Death Proof, his contribution to the Grind House double feature. Expect a nation of newly infatuated males (and lesbians).

  What the hell is Cyxork 7? It looks like a total blast is what, and I’m not just saying that as a fan of Ray Wise.

The official synopsis: Three days until California gets its double-digit "Big One." The cultish Generic News Network feeds like a tick on the public panic. But even they can’t believe that some Angelinos are making another sequel of the flamed-out Cyxork sci-fi franchise right at the epicenter. Free special effects! They risk their lives to resurrect their careers!

But first-time director Angela LaSalle turns the schlock into an art film, quashing all hopes of washed-up action star Rex Anderson to resuscitate his franchise, his career, his life. To move his pregnant wife Jacey out of the beat-up public appearance bus they call home. His fans want to see him kill or maim someone every four minutes and they are running way behind.

Rex takes it up the power ladder. He wants Angela out, but his move misfires. They both get fired and the movie is shut down.

At the end of their rope, Rex and Angela have only one chance: stick together and survive. Their plan: Pretend they are still in production and then go all out. Take the risk nobody else would dare. Shoot the climax when the "Big One" hits. When the rocks are flying. It could be their ticket to fame. That is: if they survive…

Find out more, including the trailer, at the official site!


 Anybody remember the Green Hornet TV series, about a mask-wearing vigilante who had a young Bruce Lee as sidekick/chauffeur/bodyguard Kato? Well, the French (of all people) obviously have fond memories of the show, particularly filmmaker Aurelien Poitrimoult. He gathered some martial artists and stuntmen, and really captured the serial tone (and some shockingly competent combat) with a very professional short film.

You can check out the entire 10-minute flick (complete with groovy credit sequence) at the official site!