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The Best Independent Movies on Netflix (Spring 2017)

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The Best Independent Movies on Netflix (Spring 2017)

There isn’t much in the way of rhyme, reason or rigor when it comes to independent movies on Netflix. What does that even mean anymore—the “indie” film? Long gone is the distinction once awarded to something like The Blair Witch Project, declaring that low-budget movies made by unknown filmmakers were (gasp!) financially viable, like an independent movie has something to prove.

Today seemingly every film has something to prove, and seemingly every film is independent, unless that film isn’t part of Disney and a cinematic franchise universe. No shade here; that’s just how it is. So embarking upon listing the best independent movies on Netflix can be both an ambitious and futile task.

Still, Netflix has a category, “Independent,” that covers a lot of ground, so that’s how we’ve decided what goes on this list: We pulled up the “Independent” list on Netflix and whatever was in there was fair game. Many, of course, are already on our monthly best movies on Netflix super-list. Dig in, and try to remember that there actually was a time, not too long ago, when some movies could have a $60,000 budget and be box office hits.

Here are the best independent movies streaming on Netflix:

24-best-so-far-2015-Manglehorn.jpg 50. Manglehorn
Year: 2015
Director: David Gordon Green 
David Gordon Green’s film stars Al Pacino as the titular locksmith with nothing but time on his hands. Manglehorn lives a solitary life—his ailing kitty his only friend—but Green and first-time screenwriter Paul Logan hint at the world he once occupied. Periodically, the film will downshift so that a side character can tell a story about the Manglehorn they used to know: the father, the baseball coach, the loving grandfather. That we see little of the warmth or humanity these characters describe is Manglehorn’s great mystery: Where did that man go, the man Pacino plays in an agreeably modest, empathetic performance? Too many years of hoo-ah overkill have stifled his light touch and effortless charm, replaced with hammy intensity and Scarface parody. But the Pacino on display here mostly puts aside those actor-ly embellishments for something warmer. —Tim Grierson


john dies at the end poster (Custom).jpeg 49. John Dies at the End
Year: 2012
Director: Don Coscarelli
Your ability to withstand the absurdity of John Dies at the End will depend almost entirely on if you’re able to tolerate nonlinear storylines and characters who, woven together, tax the lengths of the imagination. An oftimes crude and farcical combination of horror, drug culture, and philosophical sci-fi, it’s a film you won’t entirely grasp until you’ve seen it for yourself. Central is a drug known as “soy sauce,” which causes the user to see outside the concept of linear time, existing at all times at once, similar to the alien beings from Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Also appearing: phantom limbs, an alien consciousness known as “Shitload,” a heroic dog, Paul Giamatti and an evil, interdimensional supercomputer. No drugs necessary—John Dies at the End will make you feel like you’ve already ransacked your medicine cabinet. —Jim Vorel


i-dont-feel.jpg 48. I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.
Year: 2017
Director: Macon Blair
Winner of the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance, writer-director Macon Blair’s debut feature is a tonally audacious genre outing unafraid to slip for a moment or two into the sweet relief of magical realism. Blair’s premise is simple—Ruth (Melanie Lynskey, cast to perfection), a quiet loner, comes home to find her house robbed, and when the police won’t help, she seeks vigilante justice with equally socially inept neighbor, Tony (Elijah Wood)—but his ever-increasingly sprawling plot is fueled by a myopic moral perspective rendered in black and white. Ruth wonders aloud why everyone is an asshole (moreso, why assholes so easily get away with being assholes), and Blair seemingly wonders the same thing, punctuating his mundane neo-noir with gruesome violence and unexpected physical comedy (a projectile vomit scene, in particular, rivals the classic back-alley puke-fest from Team America). Blair’s worked extensively with his friend Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room), so the two share a startling sense of pace and a knack for making even the most sloppy action sequences feel precise, but Saulnier is so much bleaker, whereas Blair allows each of his film’s supposed assholes a chance to redeem, or at least explain, themselves. A crappy cop is going through a messy divorce; a delinquent son acts out against the specter of an absentee father; a guy whose dog craps on your lawn just wasn’t really paying attention—as Ruth struggles to confront the callousness of her cold world, she realizes that we’re all pretty much doing the same thing too: We’re struggling. —Dom Sinacola


results.jpg 47. Results
Year: 2015
Director: Andrew Bujalski
Results is a significant departure for Andrew Bujalski. While relatively low-budget, this is the director’s biggest film to date—there’s no shaky camerawork or poor sound quality here, and working, notable actors are seemingly getting working day rates. Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha, in 2002, was one of the first to be coined “mumblecore,” and the awkward but natural performances from its nonprofessional actors became a defining characteristic of the movement. There’s certainly more polish from Cobie Smulders, Guy Pearce and Kevin Corrigan, but their performances—refined and, admittedly, “professional”—only enhance the lived-in nature of the characters Bujalski’s created—who all happen to be rather pathetic, emotionally stunted and odd human beings. Still, you can’t help but become invested in their lives, each with their own endearing quirks, each amusing in their own way, to discover and observe. Results is a series of wondefully tiny, revealing moments. —Regan Reid


clown-movie-poster.jpg 46. Clown
Year: 2014
Director: Jon Watts
An icky creature feature that never once blinks as it pushes its conceit as far as an especially game child actor’s parents will allow, Clown is director Jon Watts’ debut, a horror movie in which a lot of cute, innocent children are eaten—on screen—by a man in a clown suit. Kent (Andy Powers) is a real estate agent who finds a strangely scaly clown costume in a dusty trunk stored in one of the houses he’s renovating for sale. After donning it for his son’s birthday party, he struggles to get the thing off, ripping a huge chunk of skin from his nose when forcing the red rubber clown bulb from his face, and breaking a hand-saw while attempting to cut the fabric of his get-up enough to pry the suit away (which leads to the film’s most self-aware horror line ever, as Kent sticks the saw blade right next to his jugular: “This is a bad idea”). After he’s informed by the grody Karlsson (Peter Stormare, existentially grody) that the clown suit is actually an Icelandic demon which needs to eat five children before it returns to hibernation, Kent fails to overcome his new horrifying hunger, eating his way through the juvenile population of his small town. While Watts’s follow-up, the excellent Cop Car, seems like a better primer when it comes to figuring out how the relatively inexperienced director was able to score the Spider-Man: Homecoming gig, Clown mines much of the same anxieties as Cop Car does, about the sheer horror of growing up—about how simply being a child cannot shield a child from the reality of our fucked-up world. The Peter Parker of Spider-Man is the youngest-seeming cinematic take on the hero yet, so it makes sense a director like Watts could be brought on board to navigate that weird and scary hormonal terrain. —Dom Sinacola


valhalla-rising-poster.jpg 45. Valhalla Rising
Year: 2010
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Here’s the film in which Nicolas Winding Refn—who somehow brutalized his way into cinephiles’ hearts with the crazy Bronson, later going on to solidify that love with Drive—demonstrated he is both capable of anything, and will fight you if you think otherwise. Ostensibly an alterna-history Viking flick about the colonization of the New World, most obviously in the vein and feel of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre: the Wrath of God, Valhalla Rising is an absolutely insane, egregiously dirty film about…a lot of weird, violent shit. Wading through the scum-stench’d mud of mythology—most saliently the encroachment of Christianity on every older world religion—and practically ineffable ideas about masculinity or building civilization over the detritus of human corruption, whatever it’s about in the end, Refn’s lyrical oddity is an endlessly fascinating, completely visceral experience. Plus, Mads Mikkelson has never been so frightening—and that’s counting his take on Hannibal Lecter. —Dom Sinacola


deidra-laney-rob-train-poster.jpg 44. Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
Year: 2017
Director: Sydney Freeland
Deidra & Laney Rob a Train is a heart-melter. The film, like its two title characters, like its handful of supporting characters and like its director, has spunk, personality, a spark of vitality keeping its narrative humming from start to finish, but it takes its material as seriously as it needs to at the precise times when it needs to, as well. There’s a certain level of amorality here, as you might expect from a film about locomotive larceny, but submerged beneath the murky ethics of theft are currents of empathy: Freeland has constructed a judgment-free zone for telling the tale of sisters Deidra (Ashley Murray) and Laney Tanner (Rachel Crow), inspired toward criminal enterprise all in the name of family. It’s a caper, alright, but a caper that refuses to make light of the premise-shaping predicaments that shape its premise, a feat Freeland pulls off with casual brio. You get the feeling that there are lots of Deidras and Laneys out there who are constantly denied the chance to escape their circumstances, whether in backwater America or elsewhere, by the very institutions that are supposed to help them achieve. Deidra & Laney Rob a Train manages to address these ideas, without focusing on them. They remain in the background for the whole of the film, self-reinforced by the flow of Freeland’s plotting. This is appropriate for the sort of picture that Deidra & Laney Rob a Train wants to be: a romp, but a romp of substance and heart. —Andy Crump


15. tucker and dale (Custom).jpg 43. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Year: 2010
Director: Eli Craig
Let’s face it, hillbillies and their ilk have been getting the short end of the pitchfork in movies since the strains of banjo music faded in 1972’s Deliverance. And whether due to radiation (The Hills Have Eyes) or just good old determined inbreeding (Wrong Turn and so, so many films you’re better off not knowing about), the yokel-prone in film have really enjoyed slaughtering innocent families on vacation, travelers deficient in basic map usage skills and, best of all, sexually active college students just looking for a good time. But fear not, members of Hillbillies for Inclusion, Consideration & Kindness in Screenplays (HICKS)—writer/director Eli Craig has your hairy, unloofahed back. His film, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, answers the simple question: What if those hillbillies are just socially awkward fellows sprucing up a vacation home and the young college kids in question are just prone to repeatedly jumping to incorrect, often fatal, conclusions? Think Final Destination meets the Darwin Awards in a film that is extremely funny and big-hearted but also doesn’t skimp on the violence. —Michael Burgin


the-mend-poster.jpg 42. The Mend
Year: 2015
Director: John Magary
The Mend’s loosely strung plot dips into familiar narrative wells: Two white guys with a prickly personal relationship, historical daddy issues, tenuous love lives and general existential angst wind up on a collision course with Catharsis™. If you scour the annals of modern indie cinema and you don’t stumble upon that exact same blueprint a dozen times over, you’re not looking hard enough. But director John Magary does more with The Mend’s common elements by doing less. Remarkably, he’s able to distill originality from tropes. He doesn’t explain, he insinuates, implies, suggests. The film is as interesting for the things it leaves unsaid as for the things it does say, though the script contains so much sharp dialogue, we may be apt to forget about the tensions bubbling beneath the surface. Magary has his acrimony and eats it, too, but as much as he entertains us through comic hostility, his movie’s prevailing tone suggests deep and abiding fondness for his leads. The Mend draws so much from real, raw life, we don’t need specifics—Magary knows we can sniff them out ourselves through personal experience. —Andy Crump


bella.jpg 41. Bella
Year: 2007
Director: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde
Bella is a delicate but powerful story of grace. When restauranteur Manny (Manny Perez) fires waitress Nina (Tammy Blanchard), Manny’s brother José (Eduardo Verástegui), a cook, quits in protest, right before the lunch rush. José and Nina end up spending the day together, lining Nina up with a new job and taking the train to José’s tightly knit family’s house. The immediate question raised—one that confuses the newly pregnant Nina, and José’s own family—is why he made the impetuous decision to walk out on his brother and take up the role of Nina’s protector, especially as it becomes clear that he has something of a glamorous history. But as their quiet conversations slowly open up throughout the day, we learn that it’s his past mistakes that motivate his unexpected actions. The film steadily strums at your heartstrings, but it plays a gentle Nick Drake-like melody, always sweet but rarely melodramatic. Considering the stellar, understated performances from Verastegui and Blanchard, it’s easy to see why Bella won the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival.—Josh Jackson


beginners.jpg 40. Beginners
Year: 2011
Director: Mike Mills
Christopher Plummer is absolutely smashing as Hal, a man coming out late in life after the death of his wife Georgia (Mary Page Keller). With intentions of being not a “theoretical” gay but a “practical” one, he dives headfirst into the queer world available to him by immersing himself in both gay politics and in the affections of a much younger lover. In a later timeline, his son Oliver (Ewan McGregor) grieves his mother’s death while also conducting a playful love affair with a complicated young French actress, Anna (Melanie Laurent). Told in flashbacks from the 1930s up to 2003, Beginners demands total concentration from the viewer. Director Mike Mills’ smart, stylized take on Los Angeles’ modern style is a treat to behold, and each frame is visually captivating. The film is particularly strong as a narrative of coming to grips with one’s true identity. For Hal, this means coming out as both a gay man and as a bit of a partier; for Oliver, this means finally growing out of an extended adolescence and understanding how to love someone else even when loving is painful. For queer people, many of whom end up experiencing both of these realities, the film will particularly hit home. Beginners deserves to be recognized as a classic of queer cinema. —Nick Mattos


invitation-movie-poster.jpg 39. The Invitation
Year: 2016
Director: Karyn Kusama
The less you know about Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation, the better. This is true of slow-burn cinema of any stripe, but Kusama slow-burns to perfection. The key, it seems, to successful slow-burning in narrative fiction is the narrative rather than the actual slow-burn. In the case of The Invitation, that involves a tale of deep and intimate heartache, the kind that none of us hopes to ever have to endure in our own lives. The film taps into a nightmare vein of real-life dread, of loss so profound and pervasive that it fundamentally changes who you are as a human being. That’s where we begin: with an examination of grief. Where we end is obviously best left unsaid, but The Invitation is remarkable neither for its ending nor for the direction we take to arrive at its ending. Instead, it is remarkable for its foundation, for all of the substantive storytelling infrastructure that Kusama builds the film upon in the first place. —Andy Crump


adventureland.jpg 38. Adventureland
Year: 2009
Director: Greg Mottola
As far as films set in Pennsylvania are concerned, they can’t all be steel mill layoffs and dark political plots: Adventureland is a pitch-perfect coming-of-age story. In the summer of 1987, twenty-somethings James (Jesse Eisenberg), Em (Kristen Stewart) and Joel (Martin Starr, who steals the movie) find each other in the purgatory of the Adventureland Amusement Park (actually Pittsburgh’s historic Kennywood), passing their days operating rides and un-winnable games when they’d rather be anywhere else. Writer-director Mottola’s success lies in his resistance to romanticizing his characters—Eisenberg’s James, in particular, is just as annoying and self-absorbed as a real 22-year-old Oberlin grad, and gets called on it. Likewise, the Pittsburgh of Adventureland is real, an insider’s city, not a city of landmarks. The film explores the day-to-day Pittsburgh of neighborhoods, of patchy, unruly yards, of dive bars, of wood-paneled basements in old brick houses teetering on strenuous hills. To these characters, it’s also a dead-end town from which escape is the best option, lest they wind up like Ryan Reynolds’ maintenance man Connell, committing adultery in his mother’s basement and bragging endlessly about meeting Lou Reed. “Your life must be utter shit, or you wouldn’t be here,” Joel observes to James at the beginning of the film. But Adventureland’s fondness for its city and its flawed characters shines through such self-deprecation. —Maura McAndrew


pariah-movie-poster.jpg 37. Pariah
Year: 2011
Director: Dee Rees
The first feature by Spike Lee protégé Dee Rees tells the story of teenager Alike (Adepero Oduye), a dutiful and accomplished daughter from a religious household in Brooklyn. As Alike struggles to find a proper expression of her sexuality, she follows her out friend Laura (Pernell Walker) into a scene of African-American lesbians whose brash liveliness proves a bit unsettling. When Alike’s mother introduces her to Bina (Aasha Davis), Alike contends with both her own sexuality and the ways that her identity ties her to a community she doesn’t quite fit in with. Shot in Brooklyn in a vivid palette of deep primary colors, Pariah is evocative of Spike Lee at his best. However, in content, the film is distinctive in its engagement with characters who seek to belong. Eschewing both hipster navel-gazing and pat clichés, Pariah instead lets its characters exist in a beautiful human ambiguity, on the edge of society but also finding their own place at that edge. The result is a thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining addition to the canon of modern queer film. —Nick Mattos


aint-them-bodies-saints-poster.jpg 36. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Year: 2013
Director: David Lowery 
At the risk of sounding a bit melodramatic, it must be said that Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is not a movie; it’s a feeling. Director David Lowery took the rugged, Americana of a great western, the overwhelming sentimentality of a tragic romance, the thrill of a crime drama, and the sound and tempo of some kind of epic Southern odyssey, and he created a new feeling. Perhaps it is not such a dramatic thing to say after all—that Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is not a movie. Here we have a work that highlights the difference between a movie and a film. These two entities are, obviously, not binary opposites, but one could argue that the feeling of a film—brought about with careful attention to cinematography, score and character development (all handled here with unique style and aplomb)—sits with the viewer long after the credits roll. Even with omissions in the narrative that inspire in the viewer a longing for more, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a true film. And that longing may in fact be the very foundation of Lowery’s work—the reason it is more feeling than movie, more cinematic emotion unfolding on screen than anything else. —Shannon M. Houston


the commitments poster.png 35. The Commitments
Year: 1991
Director: Alan Parker
The Commitments might’ve single-handedly created the working classic Irish musician genre. It’s hard to watch Sing Street or Once (whose star, Glen Hansard, also appears in The Commitments) without thinking back to this movie about a blue-eyed soul band in Dublin and their struggles to stay together despite community indifference and regular in-fighting. It’s a drama no doubt, but there’s also tremendous humor here, and an uncommon degree of warmth and humanity. —Garrett Martin


sing-street.jpg 34. Sing Street
Year: 2016
Director: John Carney
Sing Street spins art out of history, but you might mistake it for pop sensationalism at first glance. If so, you’re forgiven. In sharp contrast to John Carney’s breakout movie, 2007’s sterling adult musical Once, or even his most recent effort, 2013’s Begin Again, Sing Street aims to please crowds and overburden tear ducts. There’s a sugary surface buoyancy to the film that helps the darkness clouding beneath its exterior go down more easily. Here, look at the plot synopsis: A teenage boy living in Dublin’s inner city in 1985 moves to a new school, falls in love with a girl, and forms a band for the sole purpose of winning her over. If the period Carney uses as his storytelling backdrop doesn’t make Sing Street an ’80s movie, then the mechanics of its story certainly do. You may walk into the film expecting to be delighted and amused. The film won’t let you down in either regard, but it’ll rob you of your breath, too. —Andy Crump


WhiteGirl232x345.jpg 33. White Girl
Year: 2016
Director: Elizabeth Wood
The title of Elizabeth Wood’s lean, vicious, black comic act of autobiography is a loaded phrase: It references the powdery stimulant that greases the film’s dramatic wheels, it’s a nod to Wood’s subject-cum-protagonist-cum-screen avatar and it’s a two-word curse, the film’s “Khan!”, an abject expression of repulsion. White Girl holds nothing back, frontloading its narrative with graphic sex sequences and even more graphic white privilege sequences, where young Leah (Morgan Saylor), recently relocated from her Midwestern home to attend college in NYC, recklessly indulges her every whim without a thought to the cost her abandon incurs for both her and the people around her. That’s the point, of course: She doesn’t have to think about consequences. She’s White Girl™, a super-powered force of entitlement. Wood’s film might make you laugh, or it might make you tear out your hair. No matter where your reaction to White Girl on the spectrum falls, though, you won’t soon forget it. —Andy Crump


Honeytrap-netflix.jpg 32. Honeytrap
Year: 2014
Director: Rebecca Johnson
Based on a true and tragic story, Honeytrap tells of a young and naive teen from Trinidad who moves to London to live with her mother for the first time since her childhood. We know Layla’s desire—desperation, really—to fit in with the Brixton crowd is going to end badly, but Jessica Sula’s portrayal makes the character’s seemingly simple-minded moves feel completely relatable. Not unlike the beautiful French film, Goodbye First Love, Honeytrap takes young love and its oft accompanying obliviousness very seriously. When Layla chooses the (ahem, wildly attractive) bad guy over the good guy, and finds herself unable to walk away from an abusive relationship, we can’t help but identify with her because writer-director Rebecca Johnson has taken care to show how Layla’s decision-making is informed by both familial strains and a culture that celebrate hyper-masculinity. But it’s the end of the film that delivers a powerfully shocking blow—one that will make you wholly relieved that your days of teenage love are (hopefully) far behind. —Shannon M. Houston


blair-witch.jpg 31. The Blair Witch Project
Year: 1999
Directors: Eduardo Sánchez, Daniel Myrick
Where Scream reinvented a genre by pulling the shades back to reveal the inner workings of horror, The Blair Witch Project went the opposite route: crafting both a new style of presentation and especially of promotion. Sure, people had already been doing found footage—just look at The Last Broadcast a year earlier. But this was the first to get a wide, theatrical release, and distributor Artisan Entertainment masterfully capitalized on the lack of information available on the film to execute a mysterious online advertising campaign in the blossoming days of the Internet age. Otherwise reasonable human beings seriously went into The Blair Witch Project believing that what they were seeing might be real, and the grainy, home movie aesthetic captured an innate terror of reality and “real people” that had not been seen in the horror genre before. It was also proof positive that a well-executed micro-budget indie film could become a massive box office success. —Jim Vorel


6. the babadook (Custom).jpg 30. The Babadook
Year: 2014
Director: Jennifer Kent
Classifying Jennifer Kent’s feature debut, The Babadook, is tricky. Ostensibly this is a horror film—freaky stuff happens on an escalating scale, so qualifying Kent’s tale of a single mother’s fractious relationship with her young son with genre tags seems like a perfectly logical move. But The Babadook is so layered, so complex and just so goddamned dramatic that categorizing it outright feels reductive to the point of insult. There’s a grand divide between what Kent has done here and what most of us consider horror. You’ll spend your first week after the experience sleeping with the lights on. You will also come away enriched and provoked. Australian actress-turned-filmmaker Kent has made a movie about childhood, about adulthood and about the nagging fears that hound us from one period to the next. There’s a monster in the closet—and under the bed, and in the armoire, and in the basement—but the film’s human concerns are emotional in nature. They’re not aided by the ephemeral evil lurking in the dark places of its characters’ hearts, of course; going through personal trauma is enough of a chore when you’re not being stalked by the bogeyman. —Andy Crump


following.jpg 29. Following
Year: 1998
Director: Christopher Nolan 
Before Memento, before Inception, Christopher Nolan made his feature-length debut with this tight little mindscrew. An aspiring young novelist shadows and studies strangers, rather innocently, for inspiration until he gets sucked in by a charismatic man in a suit who turns out to be a petty thief. Wise to his being followed, the burglar takes his would-be stalker along his crime route, until bad things—and a hot blonde—happen. Nolan, who also penned the screenplay, shows his knack for non-linear narratives early on; he establishes the key players before doubling back through the story. The constraints of a no-budget production—the film was made for just 6 thousand bucks and shot in black and white on 16mm—work in its favor. Nolan’s first neo-noir is voyeuristic, suspenseful and, at a shade over an hour long, efficient as hell. Like its subjects, Following gets in and out before anyone knows quite what hit them. —Amanda Schurr


nightcrawler.jpg 28. Nightcrawler
Year: 2014
Director: Dan Gilroy
“A screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.” That’s the image Nina (Rene Russo) evokes when describing her news program in director Dan Gilroy’s tremendous thriller Nightcrawler. It’s tempting to adopt that as a metaphor for the entire film—Gilroy’s first, by the way, which makes his achievement doubly impressive—but while that is definitely part of the equation, what drives this movie forward is the menace that lurks just below the surface, beneath a calm exterior personified by Jake Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom. A nocturnal rambler who scrounges for anything he can steal and sell, Lou is a motivated self-starter. Full of meaningful acronyms, manufactured self-confidence, and drive powered by self-improvement seminars, catchphrase wisdom and insight, he’s looking for a career to break into on the ground floor. When he comes across the lucrative world of nightcrawlers, freelance stringers who race after breaking news stories—the bloodier, the better is the prevailing wisdom—he has the ambition, opportunity and, most importantly, the moral flexibility to excel. Gyllenhaal, who shed in excess of 30 pounds for the role, has rarely—if ever—been better. Lou is calm, frank, goal-oriented and even borders on charming at times, but this measured exterior belies the inherent violence you spend the entire movie waiting to see erupt. Nightcrawler is tense and intense, ferocious and obsessed, and crackles with energy and a dark sense of humor. —Brent McKnight


summer-of-blood-poster.jpg 27. Summer of Blood
Year: 2014
Director: Onur Tukel
Summer of Blood is the best—and most likely only—Brooklyn vampire movie since Wes Craven’s 1995 Eddie Murphy vehicle Vampire in Brooklyn. Director-writer-star-Turkish Zach Galifianakis, Onur Tukel, pays tribute to the horror movie mainstay while completely upending all associated tropes with the hipster sensibility so commonly associated with the borough, and infused with a Woody Allen wit that’s at times hilarious. Tukel plays a neurotic schlub named Erik who lives somewhere in either Greenpoint or Williamsburg, eats at cool outdoor restaurants and dates impossibly attractive women who seem a bit out of reach for his short, chubby, hairy, dickish persona (the movie’s title has been abbreviated as “S.O.B.” on posters for good reason). There’s some appropriately meta dialogue sprinkled in about being a filmmaker and starring in your own movie full of white people, but nothing that reeks too much of self-referential indie clichés. If you’re in the mood for a horror movie in which vampires complain about the humidity and blame rampant back acne for the blood all over their clothes, this one’s a winner. —Jonah Flicker


overnight.jpg 26. The Overnight
Year: 2015
Director: Patrick Brice
Making new friends isn’t easy when you’re grown-up and married. It’s that kind of anxiety first felt by the leads in Patrick Brice’s sophomore feature, The Overnight, a dizzying, debauched, excruciatingly funny film about knitting new connections through discomfort. Brice has made the trend-forward sprawl of suburban Los Angeles his backdrop, and his story begins as one of displacement: Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling), freshly uprooted from Seattle, are strangers in a strange, meticulously chichi world, and they’re in desperate need of guiding companionship. After presenting its preamble, The Overnight introduces our yuppie heroes to Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), a man so painfully hip that he might as well be the mayor of the entire damn burg. Like Brice’s debut film, the two-man found-footage horror show Creep, The Overnight is a cautionary tale of stranger danger. The film offers tonal breeziness and terrific performances, especially from Schilling and Schwartzman, who vibe well together and stand out on their own. She’s our audience surrogate, surveying the narrative’s kink with her typical wild-eyed disbelief; he’s a larger than life bohemian stereotype whose charm lets Schwartzman wear his crown as the king of amicable jerks more snugly than he has in his last half dozen roles. They make up part of the picture’s backbone, with explorations of masculine insecurity, the crumbling infrastructure of a marriage and the truth of what really goes on behind the closed doors of the wealthy comprising the rest of the film’s whole. —Andy Crump

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