Here are my choices for the 40 best small releases of the 2012, which either showed in a limited number of theaters this year or went straight to home video. (For the purposes of this list, I'm defining "limited" as less than 500 screens.)
Honorable Mentions: Chained, The Day, Scary or Die, Death and Cremation, Caught Inside, Truth or Die, Devil Seed, Enter Nowhere, The Road, Baby Shower, The Fields, The Frozen.
© Anchor Bay
A shallow but fun, gory and well-shot sharks-in-a-store flick that SyFy movies of the week should view as inspiration.
It's a real testament to Victor Salva's dazzlingly cinematic directorial prowess that he can make such a flawed movie -- ridiculous concept (psycho paperboy terrorizes neighborhood), gaping plot holes, nonsensical character actions, a "boy" who's clearly pushing 30 years old -- so fascinating to watch. (Granted, part of the fascination is due to the awe of watching such a silly film.) Salva (Jeepers Creepers
) shows he still has the chops and delivers perhaps his best effort in taking his own whacked-out script and making it appreciably creepy.
38. Solomon Kane
© The Weinstein Co.
Nothing groundbreaking or earth-shattering, but this supernatural medieval tale is dark, violent and visually striking with a flair for drama.
A fun and breezy zombie comedy
that's well written with wacky characters and a likable cast.
© Tribeca Film
A clever and captivating utilization of the "found footage"
format that presents all of its action through the lens of the stalker's cameras, resulting in some suprisingly seamless storytelling that balances the unpolished style of found footage with refined cinematic thrills.
This surprisingly effective low-budget backwoods survival thriller stands out from most of its ilk with strong performances, a dramatic sense of realism (read: no inbred mutant cannibals) and rounded villains who aren't universally merciless and evil. A lot more horror fans would've liked Kevin Smith's Red State
if it had channeled Resurrection County
© IFC Midnight
A well-made, involving little thriller from Argentina whose appeal lies in its upredictability and an impending sense of doom that builds as the audience perceives that something sinister is afoot.
© Fever Productions
A surprisingly and refreshingly introspective take on the slasher
sub-genre that explores the nihilism of humanity as expressed through juvenile Internet hijinks.
© Anchor Bay
I don't know if I even like this movie all that much, but I admire its ballsiness, visual style and morbid humor. It's perhaps the darkest, most disturbing film of the year, like a coming-of-age comedy mixed with a necrophiliac serial killer's wet dream, mixing graphic violence and sexuality in an icky, can't-turn-away spectacle.
© Millennium Entertainment
An ambitious and smartly conceived X-Files
-ian look at the nature of belief with a dynamite cast and a nice twist ending.