Mumblecore started around 2002 with films like Funny HA HA by Andrew Bujalski and 2005 with the Puffy Chair by Mark and Jay Duplass. More recent films like 2013 Drinking Buddies by Joe Swanberg has gone mainstream.
One of the few elements that described this genre are low budget and naturalism which can be in the script and the actors’ performance. Most of these films are acted by non-professional actors and many lines of dialogue are improvised.
Some of these trademarks transferred into mumblegore which is a combination of mumblecore and horror. Mumblegore films can be described as indie horror films with a smart twist and stories that will not follow the horror Hollywood trend of the moment whether it is zombies or torture porn.
Most of these films doesn’t have a monster or a supernatural force as the villain, instead they portray humans as the real monster and how they are driven by greed, revenge or lust.
10. Baghead (2008) by Jay and Mark Duplass
This is the film that started the combination of horror and mumblecore elements into one film. It was written and directed by the Duplass Brothers who also wrote and direct the 2005 Puffy Chair.
The script was written in four days and they wanted to make it fast and cheap. So they hired some of their friends to star in the film. It had a low budget around $60,000.
The film starts like many other horror movies. A group of friends who go to an isolated cabin in the woods. They are four struggling actors who go there to write a script that will make them famous. Their idea is for a horror movie about a group of friends in a cabin who are being chased and killed by a guy with a bag over his head as mask. The thing is that the script is turning real with some psycho with a baghead starts to torment them.
Although this feels more like a mumblecore film, it still has the horror element in the likes of a slasher film. The acting is merely ok for a script that was written in four days. The ending is very predictable so there is no surprise there.
Even though the film is not perfect, it will leave you with the feeling that you can make such a film. It is one of those movies with the DIY approach that can inspire other filmmakers and convince them that you do not need millions to make a decent movie, all you need is passion and good simple ideas.
9. Proxy (2013) by Zach Parker
This 2013 film, written and directed by Zach Parker and premiered at Toronto International Film Festival, is the fourth film of the director and it begins with a punch.
Many people have said that they stopped watching the film after the first five minutes which you can actually see online right now. Those who dare to keep watching were rewarded with an interesting and intriguing film. Right off the bat you want to know what the characters’ intentions are. It builds up in an amazing way with a really good script and the lead actresses do a great job specially Alexa Havins who plays Melanie. It also includes Joe Swanberg playing a small but significant role in the film.
It’s the longest film on the list stretching at the two hour mark but it doesn’t feel like it. It’s a fast film in particular the first part of it. The second part goes a bit slower but by now you are already hooked on the film and its characters.
By the end the film unfolds like Gone Girl which came out a year later than Proxy. Revealing more about the film would be to spoil one of the indie gems that came out in 2013.
8. V/H/S (2012) by Six Directors
The only anthology presented on this list is composed of six short films all with one thing in common: found footage. One of these short films serves as the narrative in which a group of criminals is hired to break into a house and steal a VHS tape. When they enter the house they find that the house has hundreds of VHS tapes. Each tape they set to watch contains one of the short films presented in this anthology.
Some of the most famous directors of the genre contributed to this anthology like Ti West with Second Honeymoon, Joe Swanberg with The Sick Thing that Happened to Emily When She Was Younger and Adam Wingard and Simon Barret with Tape 56 that serves as the narrative.
There are three of these short films that stand out. Amateur Night by David Bruckner is the first one. It’s about a group of friends who try to film an amateur porn video. They hook up with two women. One of them is Lily, a strange woman who says nothing more than “I like you”. It´s unpredictable in a good way. Hannah Fierman as Lily gives the best performance of all six short films.
The second film that stands out is “Second Honeymoon” by Ti West. It might be the scariest one of the bunch because it may be the only one that feels real and that could happen to anyone. It almost feels like you are right there in the room with the killer and the victims.
The last one is “The Sick Thing that Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” by Joe Swanberg. It plays with the webcam found footage like paranormal activity 4 and The Den. This one has the most bizarre and unpredictable ending. Nobody would have guessed what this one was really about and that is a compliment.
7. Red White and Blue (2010) by Simon Rumley
The film is centered on three stories that connect with each other. A formula often used by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu. Every main character of these stories is driven by revenge. The first character we meet is Erica who is having one-night stand with every guy she meets. Then there´s Franki who spends his time in a rock band with his best friends and taking care of her dying mother. Finally we meet Nate who is an ex-soldier who has been honorably discharged from service in Iraq.
You get the time to meet each character and sympathize with them. You want everyone to get their revenge because they are entitled to it. The film succeeds in leaving you at the edge of your seat from start to finish.
The script is top notch along with the direction. The actors give a great performance, but Noah Taylor stand above the rest, giving a mysterious and chilling interpretation as Nate.
By the end of the film you will have a sense of fulfillment by one of the best thriller films in the past few years which triumphs in every aspect from writing to acting to cinematography and direction.
6. Blue Ruin (2013) by Jeremy Saulnier
A revenge film like Red white and Blue. Although this one is a slow burn, it doesn’t shy out on action and clever ways to stick you to your seat. The film was funded by a Kickstarter campaign.
We first meet Dwight Evans (played by Macon Blair), living in his car and going out to the beach to search for food and water. It´s clear that he has been living there for a while and has the beard to prove it. He is then picked up by a policewoman who already knows him. She went to him to tell him that the person who killed his parents will be released from prison. This event triggers the whole movie as Dwight is set on carrying out revenge for the murder of his parents.
Everything Dwight does feels natural. He is not an expert, but he is trying the best he can to bring justice to his loved ones. We find the revelations in this film alongside Dwight so we sympathize with his pain.
This is one of the smartest revenge flicks in a long time. Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier went all-in with his vision and it worked great for him.
This is a film that stands as a lesson for any aspiring filmmaker who complains about the difficulty to get funding and like the Duplass Brothers have said many times “Worry about your craft and forget the business part”.