One of the primary discussions that should be occurring in the independent horror scene is the definition of what exactly is independent horror. Throughout the evolution of the genre in the past hundred years, “independent” usually refers to films produced outside of the major studio system, distinguishable by their content and style. However, this isn’t what currently defines independent films since the majority of the films produced today are professional films made primarily by subsidiaries of major film studios. In other words, quoting alternative Cuban filmmaker Miguel Coyula (MEMORIES OF OVERDEVELOPMENT), “These are in many cases films independent from a economic perspective, but not always in terms of form and content. For many filmmakers independent cinema is merely a vehicle to spark interest from an industry…”
In addition to this alteration in definition, the independent market has opened the floodgates to the digital revolution. Because the playing field of filmmaking has democratized to a degree that the very definition of filmmaker has been blurred creating a fantastical and exciting time in film history, this does leave the possibility of recognition and success to be far more difficult to achieve. So when true gems of the independent market do emerge, it truly must be films that not only alter the definition of modern film language, but also changes the way audiences approach similar topics. The film world lives in a time of extremely limited original ideas. Though many would say there are no more, especially in a played out genre like horror, however, it isn’t the occasional rare original gem that we always live to see.
Though original ideas may be in short supply, original adaptations of those ideas are what keep the genre alive and vibrant. So what should be in the discussion of independent horror if so much has changed in the way that we view and approach movies currently? Everything. There cannot be any aspect overlooked or ignored because the indie horror genre, more than many other sub-genres, is the complete sum of its parts. Where mainstream horror can boast titles such as the upcoming THE EVIL DEAD remake as well as the sequel to THE LAST EXORCISM (which both came from indie backgrounds), the independent market is birthing a new generation of horror onto its audiences, whether it continues to play out found footage films (like the relentlessly boring PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise or Barry Levinson’s THE BAY), or continues to pump the market full of torture porn installments (such as the upcoming conclusion to THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE Trilogy or the highly anticipated anthology THE ABCs OF DEATH).
It’s difficult to say exactly what state independent horror currently exists, but as with any topic in debate, it requires extensive research and subjective critique. Film is a subjective art form, so the critical interpretations must be so as well. As new audiences for old films are instructed to consider the film in the era in which they were released to understand their impact culturally and socially, so must new films be treated in the same aspect. However it doesn’t stop a famous film, such as FRIDAY THE 13TH and WOLF CREEK, from being absolutely trite and considered works of pure horror while films such as Toby Wilkins’ SPLINTER and Eduardo Sanchez’s LOVELY MOLLY go by generally (and criminally) unnoticed. However, this begins the discussion on how the indie horror film industry was, is and what it may, or has the potential to become.