Everybody knows the big Hollywood movies scheduled to release this year. We all know what blockbusters will be lighting up the box office and hitting our theaters. However, all too often, some of the best movies of the years are the ones we never hear about. The ones that aren’t big Hollywood releases and don’t receive 123 free movies the publicity that your ‘Transformers’ or ‘X-Men’ receive. Thus, today I’d like to turn the attention to indie movies. Here is a list of 11 independent films that should be good and are worth watching out for in 2011.
1. The Silent House
Director: Chris Kentis
Writer: Laura Lau
Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese and Haley Murphy
Premiere: Sundance Film Festival 2011
What is it: Trapped in a nightmare, a young woman descends into madness.
Analysis: Kentis and Lau were the duo responsible for the 2004 sensation Open Water. In their follow-up film, Kentis and his wife Lau return to remake Gustavo Hernandez’s Uruguayan film by the same name. What’s impressive about this movie is that it is done in one long continuous shot. Now, a few movies have tried this before, but none really succeeded so well in presenting a good movie with it. For that reason, with the addition of tight spaces to film in, the original was quite the achievement in cinematography. The film itself was well-received by critics and said to be a fine addition to the horror genre.
So, that being said, we know the source material is good. We know the concept can be a good movie. Now let’s see what American filmmakers can do with it. I’m left somewhat skeptical due to the boring venture that was Open Water from Kentis and Lau. Not to mention, most of the time it turns to crap when foreign films get an American remake. However, that’s usually in reference to Hollywood remakes of foreign films, so it could be better with indies doing the remake. The material is there though and we could potentially have another Paranormal Activity on our hands, which I believe is a good thing. So I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out on this one.
2. I Saw the Devil
Director: Kim Ji-woon
Writer: Hoon-jung Park
Stars: Lee Byung-hun and Choi Min-sik
Premiere: The movie has had a theatrical release in South Korea. It has also appeared at a few international film festivals late last year. However, it will be making it’s US Premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2011.
Genre: Crime Thriller
What is it: Kyung-chul is a dangerous psychopath who kills for pleasure. He has committed infernal serial murders in diabolic ways that one cannot even imagine and his victims range from young women to even children. The police have chased him for a long time, but were unable to catch him. One day, Joo-yeon, daughter of a retired police chief becomes his prey and is found dead in a horrific state. Her fiance Dae-hoon, a top secret agent, decides to track down the murderer himself. He promises himself that he will do everything in his power to take bloody vengeance against the killer, even if it means that he must become a monster himself to get this monstrous and inhumane killer.
Analysis: Kim Ji-woon was responsible for Tale of Two Sisters and The Good, The Bad and The Weird, both of which were good movies. The South Korean film I Saw the Devil has been met with good reviews. Ji-woon really is an entertaining filmmaker. And I Saw the Devil is said to bring that mastery of style that Ji-woon is known for. It’s also a highly violent, cold and disturbed film. While many say there’s not much depth to the story, it still provides for an entertaining film for those that can stomach it. Being as his two previously mentioned films have been a fun ride, I’m looking forward to seeing what Kim Ji-woon delivers here.
3. 13 Assassins
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Daisuke Tengan, based on a screenplay by Kaneo Ikegami
Stars: Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada and Yûsuke Iseya
Premiere: Theatrical Release on April 29, 2011
What is it: A group of assassins come together for a suicide mission to kill an evil lord.
Analysis: If you’ve never heard of Takashi Miike, then chances are you’re not exactly one to branch out into foreign film, especially Japanese. Miike is something of a legendary Japanese filmmaker (and highly controversial). Not only that, but he’s one of the most dedicated and busiest filmmakers in the industry today. He averages like 4 films per year. In his busiest years, from 2001-2002, Miike was credited with making 15 films. Yea, that’s a lot. In fact, that’s an insane amount. With such movies as Audition, Sukiyaki Western Django, Ichi the Killer, Visitor Qand the Dead or Alive series, Miike has become quite the prolific filmmaker.
While I felt Ichi was a bit overindulgent and shocking just for the sake of being shocking (which isn’t uncommon for Miike), thus I didn’t exactly care for it, Audition still stands as one of the scariest movies ever in my opinion. And Sukiyaki Western Django is one of the best westerns in recent years; don’t let the samurai style fool you, it’s definitely a western. In fact, I don’t think most people appreciate just how similar the kung-fu/samurai and western genres are, nor how influential they have been on one another.
13 Assassins is said to be one of Miike’s more tame films (at least by his standards) and his most polished and mature work to date. Being an excellent addition to the samurai subgenre, 13 Assassins has received rave reviews. Anyone interested in the stylish work of Miike or in martial arts/samurai movies in general should find this to be one that is not to be missed.
4. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Director: Troy Nixey
Writer: Guillermo Del Toro and Matthew Robbins, based on a teleplay by Nigel McKeand
Stars: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce and Bailee Madison
Premiere: With the whole Miramax deal, this movie actually got delayed. As far as I know, there has been no new date set for release. However, I’d imagine we’ll get to see it sometime in 2011 as things get squared away at Miramax (who is distributing the movie).
Genre: Horror Thriller
What is it: A young girl sent to live with her father and his new girlfriend discovers creatures in her new home who want to claim her as one of their own.
Analysis: Guillermo del Toro wrote and produced this movie. Last year, he sent it in to be rated by the MPAA hoping to get a PG-13 rating without sacrificing the scares. Unfortunately for him, the MPAA returned giving the film an R rating on the grounds of “pervasive scariness”. When Guillermo contacted them and asked if there was anything he could do, their simple response was: “Why ruin a perfectly scary movie?” If I knew nothing else, I have to admit, that would seriously intrigue me. Couple that with the teaser trailer that was released (which I have to admit was a bit eerie and scared me just a tad), and I’m definitely interested in this movie and could absolutely understand this turning into a real good scary movie. Especially with Guillermo del Toro behind it.
5. Vanishing on 7th Street
Director: Brad Anderson
Writer: Anthony Jaswinski
Stars: Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo
Premiere: Theatrical Release on February 18, 2011
Genre: Horror Mystery Thriller
What is it: When a massive power outage plunges the city of Detroit into total darkness, a disparate group of individuals find themselves alone. The entire city’s population has vanished into thin air, leaving behind heaps of empty clothing, abandoned cars and lengthening shadows. Soon the daylight begins to disappear completely, and as the survivors gather in an abandoned tavern, they realize the darkness is out to get them, and only their rapidly diminishing light sources can keep them safe.
Analysis: I’m actually a fan of Brad Anderson a bit. His past works The Machinist, Session 9 andTranssiberian have all been fairly decent thrillers. It seems he has a solid grasp on the genre, despite having yet to make that masterpiece of his own. And while Vanishing is receiving mixed reviews out of last years film festivals, thus isn’t going to be that masterpiece, it should still be a solid effort from Anderson. His low-key style is somewhat refreshing in this overindulgent industry. And he’s becoming a fairly solid creator of genre films. While I’m doubting this to be even remotely close to being the greatest film of the year, I think it should provide for an entertaining and interesting watch.