Low budget horror is having a moment, as proven by the success of The Outwaters and Skinamarink. Both films have enjoyed brief theatrical runs, and both are now available to stream on horror platforms.
Each film was made on a budget of around $15,000, though they are very different from one another visually and in content. The two directors chose different ways to cost-cut during the filming process as well.
While I haven’t had the opportunity to watch The Outwaters yet, I fully intend to now that it is streaming. Writer-director Robbie Banfitch chose to film The Outwaters in found footage-style, and it visually changes as it goes on.
It begins in the brightly sunlit desert, but eventually ends up in true found-footage fashion, at night and lit mostly by a flashlight. Banfitch is a huge fan of The Blair Witch Project, so that film probably inspired those later shots.
Banfitch cast himself, some of his actor friends and his own mother in The Outwaters, which no doubt helped him keep costs down, and he laughingly says that he chose found footage because it was a less expensive way to film his story.
The Outwaters is already an award-winning film
The Outwaters had a successful film festival run before hitting theaters this month. It won the Jury Prize for Best Feature at the Unnamed Footage Festival, Best Feature at the Dead of Night Film Festival, and has received a mostly positive critical reaction as well.
As for the audience reaction, it’s said that watching The Outwaters has caused viewer’s Apple Watch heart monitors to go off and resulted in nausea and anxiety. Want to see if it causes the same reaction for you? Check it out now on ScreamBox.
Skinamarink is set at night and entirely inside a house, in which two small children have found themselves basically trapped, with no doors or windows. With extremely low light levels, and what appears to be a home video camera sitting on the floor (or at other weird angles), the picture is grainy and sometimes hard to even decipher. There are times we see nothing more than a swirling darkness, which is very unsettling. The dialogue is extremely spare, while much of the 100 minute run time includes nothing more than the sound of cartoons or rattling lego blocks.
Here and there, we hear the voices of the children talking to one another, or chillingly, to the deep-voiced unseen entity inside their house. Having watched Skinamarink myself, I recommend watching it in a dark room while wearing headphones, with closed captions/subtitles turned on. I found it to be very effectively creepy that way, and I don’t know if I would have understood what was going on without the closed captions.
Obviously, the small number of cast members saved writer/director Kyle Edward Ball a lot of money. He also shot the film in his parents’ house, and I would imagine they didn’t charge him for that privilege.
An experimental film like Skinamarink is not going to be something every horror fan will love. It’s an extremely slow burn, but for viewers like myself, there is big payoff in the way that slow pace inches its way under my skin. I absolutely love it when horror creeps up on me little by little, that’s how a film actually scares me.
If you want to give Skinamarink a shot, you can check it out on Shudder. But don’t come at me if you don’t like it, I warned you it wasn’t an action-horror film!
Are you a fan of low-budget horror? What did you think of The Outwaters and Skinamarink? Give us your mini reviews in the comments section.