A few days ago, iHorror Editor-In-Chief Timothy Rawles published an article about killer kid movies that featured 2008’s The Children. The film was part of the After Dark Horrorfest/8 Films to Die For collection, and it got me feeling reminiscent and just a little nostalgic.
The After Dark Horrorfest began back in 2006 presenting films that were deemed “too scary” or “too extreme” for theater goers. It quickly became a highly anticipated event, and for those of us who couldn’t travel to the festival, the subsequent release of the films on DVD was just as exciting.
Now, to be honest, some of the films in the festival were not very good and it led to a bumpy, often unbalanced programming slate.
Some were so focused on being “extreme” that they forgot to do things like write a good script and funnel some money into the production design budget. Thankfully, there were hidden gems in the line-up each year that would ultimately redeem the collection as a whole and keep us looking forward to the next year’s offerings.
By 2011, After Dark Horrorfest became After Dark Originals and they began to focus more on creating their own content rather than acquiring and curating previously completed projects from outside sources.
With that in mind, I thought I’d go back through the offerings and pick my own personal 8 Films to Die For from those first few years. Take a look at the list below and let us know which films you would have added to the list!
#1 The Hamiltons
Written and directed by the Butcher Brothers, The Hamiltons was one of the films that caught viewers completely off guard.
After the tragic death of their parents, David Hamilton (Samuel Child) moves with his brothers and sister to a quiet suburb to start fresh and keep the family together. Younger brother Francis (Cory Knauf) seems to be having issues adjusting to the transition, but he soon begins a video project for school about his family.
That’s when things get weird. Something isn’t right in the Hamilton household. The more their private lives are revealed, the more you realize that they are not in anyway your typical family.
I don’t want to give away anymore in case some of you readers haven’t seen it, but let me assure you, it breaks a lot of “genre rules” and its final moments will have you hitting the replay button repeatedly. As a side note, the Butcher Brothers reunited the principle cast for a sequel titled The Thompsons in 2012, but it just didn’t have the magic of the first.
The film is currently available to rent on Sling, Amazon, Vudu, and Google Play.
#2 From Within
Written by Brad Keene and directed by Phedon Papamichael, From Within takes place in an isolated community tied together in their devout Christian religious beliefs.
Among the population Aidan and his family stick out like a sore thumb. Their faith is very different and their religious practices are their own, but because they aren’t like everyone else, the are the subject of constant scorn and bullying by the rest of the town.
Driven to the brink by this treatment, Aidan’s brother Sean enacts a deadly curse that spirals out of control. As the town’s members slowly begin to die one by one, Aidan finds himself torn between his family allegiance and trying to save the one girl who has always been nice to him.
From Within boasted an impressive cast of up and coming talent including Thomas Dekker, Rumer Willis, and Shiloh Fernandez as well as the talented Jared Harris.
You can watch the film for free on Vudu and Tubi or you can rent it on Google Play, Amazon, AppleTV, and Fandango Now.
Loosely based on the short story by Clive Barker, Dread was written and directed by Anthony DiBlasi (The Last Shift) and stars Jackson Rathbone and Shaun Evans as Stephen and Quaid, two college students who set to do a study in fear and dread. The problem is Quaid is a bit of a psychopath, and the study soon takes a dark turn.
As adaptations of Barker’s work goes, Dread was an interesting attempt to expand upon the story while still staying true to the essence of the source material, and its bone-chilling ending is worthy of the master storyteller himself.
You can stream Dread for free on Tubi. It also available to rent on Fandango Now, Amazon, FlixFling, Google Play, Vudu, and AppleTV.
#4 ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction
Written by Ramon Isao and Kevin Hamedani–Hamedani also directed the film–ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction focuses on a small, conservative island community who finds themselves in the center of a zombie outbreak after an infected body washes up on its shores.
Among those on the island this fateful weekend, is Tom (Doug Fahl) and his boyfriend Lance (Cooper Hopkins). Tom has finally decided to come out to his mom, and Lance has come along for moral support.
As events spiral out of control, the small town’s prejudices surface and they must come together and put aside their differences to survive. This is all done with a biting wit and a wink to the audience especially when Tom and Lance become trapped in a church with a group of believers who quickly blame their presence for the zombie outbreak.
By the end of the night, the entire community will be changed.
ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction is currently available to stream for free on Plex, Tubi, and Vudu, and can be rented on Google Play, Amazon, and AppleTV.
#5 Lake Mungo
Billed as a mockumentary, Lake Mungo was written and directed by Joel Anderson.
The film tells the story of a teenage girl named Alice who mysteriously drowns while swimming in a local lake. After her death is ruled accidental, her family begins to experience strange phenomena leading them to hire a psychic and parapsychologist to help them determine just what happened to their daughter.
They soon discover that Alice was leading a double life, and her secrets won’t be buried with her.
Lake Mungo was surprisingly well-made and garnered mostly positive critical response. I personally enjoyed the film a great deal, but there were issues on the technical side with lighting and scripting that ultimately kept the film from reaching its full potential.
Still, it’s spooky good fun and one I highly recommend.
#6 The Final
Jason Kabolati wrote the script and Joey Stewart directed The Final, a film that finds a group of teenagers taking revenge on their fellow students who abused and bullied them.
It all starts when a young woman with a disfigured face walks into a diner. As people stare in shock and whisper behind her back, she becomes visibly upset and the film moves into a flashback.
When the students at her school all gathered for a party in a house in the woods, they had no idea that they’d been invited by the very people they’d tormented. After their captors render them unconscious, they wake up to find themselves bound and at the mercy of the teens whose lives they’d turned into a walking hell.
The gore is remarkably well-handled in The Final, showing just enough to keep you on the edge of your seat and many of the “punishments” are surprisingly well thought out. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s a pretty great popcorn movie.
The Final is streaming for free on Plex, Vudu, and PlutoTV, and can be rented on Amazon and Google Play.
#7 The Broken
Long before Lena Headey became a household name her for roles in films like The Purge followed by her turn as the sinister Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones, she appeared in The Broken written and directed by Sean Ellis.
Unlike many of the entries in the After Dark Horrorfest, The Broken took a more cerebral route, leaving behind much of the fest’s usual gore for something that is driven more by eerie and unsettling storytelling.
Headey plays a radiologist who is shocked to see a woman who looks just like her drive by her on the road. Intrigue turns to alarm as others begin telling her that they’ve seen her in places she’s never been and soon she finds herself embroiled in a terrifying mystery of doppelgangers and stolen identities.
You can watch The Broken for free on Plex, Tubi, and Vudu. The film is also available to rent on AppleTV, Amazon, and Google Play.
Autopsy is a film that takes a little while to find its legs, but once it does, it really takes off.
Five friends accidentally run over a pedestrian on the highway in Louisiana. Before they even have time to call the police, an ambulance arrives to take the man away. Soon the friends find themselves in Mercy Hospital where they begin to disappear one at a time.
It seems there’s something not quite right about the doctors at this hospital, and they may not make it out alive.
While the premise isn’t the most original, the film manages to do some interesting things with it.
You can watch Autopsy on the Vidmark app on Roku as well as the Roku Channel or rent it on Sling, Google Play, Fandango Now, Vudu, Amazon, and AppleTV.