This week on the podcast we talked with Sara Cartwright and Rob Bruns, judges for the Omaha Film Festival, and I’m so inspired by people who just go out and make their “thing,” whatever it is. We’ve seen some pretty impressive films made on shoestring budgets, shot on weekends, cast with friends and family, and using whatever equipment the filmmakers could get their hands on. Lloyd Kaufman and Roger Corman were (and are) notorious for giving first-time filmmakers a chance at doing something really special… within certain, infamous parameters: low low budgets, and short shoot schedules.
With the advent of new technology and the ability to essentially shoot a movie on your phone, I thought it would be fun to examine 10 horror films that were made for less than $1 million. Keep in mind, these are not the best horror movies made for less than $1 million, and this is not an exhaustive list. I could only speak to movies that I’ve actually seen. And studios are reluctant to release budget information, so if I couldn’t find that information on a particular movie, I didn’t include it. The other caveat is that these budgets are all inflated to level the playing field (and for shits and giggles). For instance:
Halloween: $300,000 in 1978 = $1,166,338 in 2017
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: $300,000 in 1974 = $1,567,740 in 2017
So unfortunately, Carpenter’s and Hooper’s classics could not be included on this list.
The Battery: $6,000 (2012) = $6,419 (2017)
This film starring, written, directed, and produced by Jeremy Gardner would not be the great film that it is if they had even $20,000 to work with. It is by far the most realistic zombie movie I’ve ever seen, and it has one of the greatest continuous shots in film history. If you haven’t seen this, I suggest you stop what you’re doing (even reading this), and watch it immediately.
Absentia: $70,000 (2011) = $77,107 (2017)
If you know me at all, you know I will love anything Mike Flanagan puts his hand to. A great story with two strong female leads (and a surprise, albeit brief, appearance by Doug Jones), this deserves to be watched at night with the lights off.
The Blair Witch Project: $60,000 (1999) = $88,382 (2017)
Are you just the right age to remember when you bought into the hype of this? I was a senior high school and fell for the whole damn thing. BWP essentially pioneered the way for a style of filmmaking that is now tired and overdone. With that in mind, this still holds up to this day.
Night of the Living Dead: $14,000 (1968) = $99,706 (2017)
George A. Romero is the godfather of indie filmmaking in my opinion. NotLD is the impetus for not only the modern zombie sub-genre, but independent films as we know them today.
Open Water: $120,000 (2003) = $160,153 (2017)
Honestly, I’m shocked this movie cost as much as it did. I assume the bulk of the budget went to travel expenses because it’s literally two people floating in the ocean for most of the movie. I still recommend this, though, if you have a paralyzing fear of the ocean such as I do.
Cannibal! The Musical: $125,000 (1993) = $212,677 (2017)
You knew a Troma film had to end up on this list. I hate almost everything Troma… except for this. That’s all I have to say.
The Den: $500,000 (2013) = $525,764 (2017)
I can’t call you crazy for not liking this movie, but I fucking loved it. The Den makes use of modern technology, and we get to see found footage in a way we hadn’t yet in 2013. Again, though, I can’t believe it cost half-a-million dollars to make this.
Sleepaway Camp: $350,000 (1983) = $865,790 (2017)
That ending, right? There’s nothing like a summer camp slasher, and this will go (has gone) down as a classic. Let’s face it, it’s not great, but like I said in a previous “What Anthony Watched,” this was a 5/10 that got bumped up to a 7/10 because of the final shot.
The Hills Have Eyes: $230,000 (1977) = $954,112 (2017)
This is Craven’s second film (minus the Swedish porno he directed), and between this and The Last House On the Left, the world was introduced to THE game-changer of the horror genre. No one could disturb like Wes could. Not all of his films still hold up (in my opinion), but Hills is one that will still rattle you.
The Evil Dead: $350,000 (1981) = $979,156 (2017)
Even with all the great practical FX today, this film still comes in just under a cool million. Fede Alvarez’s 2013 remake was made for $17 million which astounds me. Granted, I haven’t seen it yet (I know, I know. The blu-ray is sitting on my shelf. Calm down.), but that just blows my mind that the original cost 17 times less than the remake. Anyways, this classic spawned two sequels – one of which many say is their favorite horror film ever – a remake with a rumored sequel in the works, and a TV series. Good job, Sam Raimi.
So if this doesn’t inspire you to get out there and make your “thing,” I don’t know what will. Creating something doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. All it takes is some motivation, blood, sweat, and tears, and a little ingenuity to make something that will entertain people. I’ll leave you with a list of four names of people who just went out and made their “thing:” George A. Romero, Trey Parker, Wes Craven, and Sam Raimi.