The blockbuster dominates the multiplex, yet these smaller, arguably better films often get overlooked – here’s 5 you can overcome blockbuster fatigue with.
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Don’t let the low production value fool you, Krisha is an absolute heart-stopper. On paper, it’s a small family drama, but on screen it is a game-changing exercise in tension and suspense. Director Trey Edward Shults appears in the film himself, alongside many of his family members. The homemade feel is initially obvious, and the low budget of less than $100,000 shows through in the beginning. But, as the film continues, and you have a chance to adjust to the unconventional audio and visuals, the captivation begins. Take a family and twist it tighter, and tighter, and tighter. Twist it until it snaps, and then twist what’s left. That is Krisha, and it is remarkable.
Upstream Color (2013)
Director: Shane Carruth
Much like director Shane Carruth’s first film, Primer (2004), Upstream Color is, on its face, undecipherable. Carruth’s sophomore outing came about nine years after his low-budget, high concept time travel film tore it up at Sundance and the delay was well worth it. There isn’t a way Upstream Color can be described that can do it justice. It’s frenetic, emotional, non-linear, and unconventional in every way. Not only did Carruth write and direct the film, he also stars alongside Amy Seimetz, produces, scores, and edits alongside David Lowery (a successful indie director in his own right). While it is certainly the least accessible and most divisive film on this list, it is far more palatable than Primer, which is often regarded as the most accurate but least straightforward time travel movie ever made. Love it or hate it, Upstream Color is like nothing else.
Yakuza Apocalypse (2015)
Director: Takashi Miike
Yakuza Apocalypse is such a magical piece of filmmaking. Directed by the prolific and legendary Takashi Miike, this film has everything; elements of high-fantasy and comedy, vampires, Yakuza vampires, grand fight scenes, and a warrior in a full-body frog costume. The boldness and insanity has to be seen to be believed. The best advice one could get before watching Yakuza Apocalypse is to let go of the notion that a film needs to tell a coherent and logical story. Instead, let the absurdity and originality wash over you.
Grand Piano (2013)
Director: Eugenio Mira
I imagine the pitch for Grand Piano went something like this; “It’s Speed, but with a piano”. And that’s basically it. Written by Damien Chazelle, the Oscar winning director of Whiplash and La La Land, and starring Elijah Wood and John Cusack, Grand Piano answers two very important questions. Firstly, what would happen if a bomb were placed inside a piano during a concert, and the pianist had to keep playing to stop the bomb from detonating? And secondly, what is John Cusack up to these days? Grand Piano answers both of these questions while remaining fun, and tongue in cheek.
Director: James Ward Byrkit
Coherence is the perfect example of low budget, high concept film, and the less you know about it the better. In essence, a group of friends begin to experience strange goings-on after a comet passes over them. Despite being a small film, set in one location with only a handful of people, Coherence has one of the most engaging and innovative sci-fi/mystery premises I’ve seen in years. Unlike the previously mentioned Upstream Color, Coherence is palatable and comprehensible. The beauty of the film is how effectively the complex premise unfolds with very little confusion for the audience. This is clearly due to the competent hands of director James Ward Byrkit, who succeeds in making complication enthralling, despite having very few directing credits to his name.
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