Last month, I mentioned that I'd ordered an indie horror film called The Commune, and I got a chance to watch it this week. First, I'm not even sure if I should call it a "horror" movie. Yes, it involves a few horrible acts, but when I think of a "horror" movie -- especially by today's standards -- I picture some PG-13 crap with a bunch of teenagers running away from an unstoppable killer for 90 minutes.
This isn't that kind of movie, not by a long shot.
And when I say it's an indie film, I don't mean it's indie compared to Transformers 2. I mean it's indie in the truest sense of the word. It appears to have been created by a bunch of like-minded people motivated by their love of movies and devotion to the story they wanted to tell, not by profit.
This is a mindset I can relate to, of course, having created comics for so long at Image. In fact, I was going to compare what I imagine this filmmaking experience was like to creator-owned comics, but then I realized it's not a true parallel. With Image, we're creating the comic in a grassroots kind of way, but we have the benefit of Image's production and distribution deals. So we're able to compete on the same comic book shelves as Marvel and DC. This type of indie film is really more akin to self-publishing comics, where you're doing everything on your own.
I have no idea what the budget was for this movie, but I'm guessing it was pretty small. And yet that doesn't come across on film. It's a "small" movie, in that there aren't a lot of locations and the cast is small and there aren't any special effects. But it never feels like a "cheap" movie. It's well-shot, the sound is good, and the music was particularly strong.
The story involves Jenny (don't call her Jen!), a 16-year old girl forced to spend time with her estranged father as part of a custody agreement. Her father's some kind of hippy guru and lives in a weird commune. Jenny arrives at the commune and we initially get a lot of fish-out-of-water / culture clash humor. But the humor's offset nicely by an undercurrent of creepiness to everything.
Jenny soon meets Puck, a kid who lives in the nearby town. They strike up a friendship, and spend more and more time with each other as Jenny is continually creeped out at the commune.
I won't spoil the rest of the film. As I said before, it's not what I'd call a "horror" film, per se. Maybe more of a psychological thriller. But it's also got strong elements of black comedy. It's my kind of movie, in that it slides quite comfortably back and forth between genres.
I found the high point of the film to be at the beginning of the third act, in a prolonged scene between Jenny and Puck. Elisabeth Fies, the writer / director / co-star, establishes a really intimate, genuine, raw moment between her two characters.
If you're in the mood for something different, and want to support truly independent filmmakers, check out The Commune. You can buy the DVD directly from their website.