I have to say, no streaming service introduces me to more indie directors whose work I end up following than Amazon Prime…which makes it kind of frustrating when Prime only has some of that director’s films! As is the case with Jason Mills. And he has the kind of filmography I love – every time he makes a new film, he taps into a different horror subgenre. So I simply had to blind buy his first movie on DVD after seeing a few of his titles on Prime.
ABOVE US LIVES EVIL (aka: They Came From the Attic) (2009)
Mills sticks to the most basic premise of 1970s and 1980s horror for his first film – a family moves into a house and one of the kids becomes convinced there’s something living in the attic. One of my favorite plots, which is another reason I didn’t hesitate in buying this one.
The family – mother, (cute) father, teen daughter, and young son – is still coming to terms with the loss of the son’s twin brother, so emotions are already high. The son, who is mute, soon becomes terrified of the house, convinced something is living in the attic.
While the film only runs 73 minutes long, there are so many thrills crammed into the very end that the “slow burn” leading up to it doesn’t quite prepare you for how explosive things are going to get all of a sudden. There aren’t enough early signs of just how dangerous the threat is, and most of what does happen adds little to develop a story behind what exactly is living in the attic.
It’s when the sister stays home one night to babysit the brother that all hell breaks loose. The guy she likes drops by, the lights go out in the house, the mist rolls in, and from the darkness crawl the awesomely freaky creatures.
The focus staying on the sister, her visitor, and the little brother would have been more than enough to deliver on the horror and scares, but instead, a bunch of random people suddenly come on the scene to be slaughtered in a matter of minutes.
Not exactly the strongest script, but the horror action in this low budget indie is so cool I would have sought out more of Mills’s films even if this had been the first I’d seen.
THE CHANGING OF BEN MOORE (2015)
With The Changing of Ben Moore, Mills uses the basic found footage formula to take on the possession resurgence. All the found footage clichés are in place and some of the minor performances aren’t even vaguely convincing, but this one really managed to keep my attention because it focuses on just a few people in one house in Paranormal Activity style.
When a guy begins having blackouts at night, he decides to have his buddy keep a video journal of what exactly he’s doing during that time.
He’s sleepwalking…and standing in corners with his back to the camera. You know the drill. That seems to be the extent, until the buddy, who is following him around at night with a camera, witnesses him kill a neighbor’s cat. Not to mention, his eyes start doing that black demon thing.
In between consulting an exorcist (a really gay exorcist) and partying with friends, who get in on making the video, the nightly filming gets even creepier.
The guy gets more and more demonic, and there are some cool visual effects when his face morphs. But naturally, you have to wonder why his friends continue to have sleepovers and follow him around with a camera in the dark when he is so clearly not of this earth anymore.
Just like Paranormal Activity, the film is really all about that final money shot. There are some surprise twists before we get to it, and when we finally do, the horror of it all is much more my speed than anything the Paranormal Activity franchise ever delivered.
3 HOURS TILL DEAD (2016)
There are plenty of zombie fans out there always looking for another zombie flick to watch, no matter how redundant the plot. What matters is the zombie action! Well, there’s one such fan, at least. And Mills shows here that if you’re going to do a subgenre as oversaturated as zombies, you need to deliver the chills and thrills.
3 Hours Till Dead is gritty and intense with a strong cast and excellent effects. A group of friends is hiding out in a rural area with one of their friends, who has skipped out on the military. But when they witness something gruesome on the road, they are compelled to stop and get help.
They end up at a farmhouse that appears to be abandoned.
As they explore the property the atmosphere is perfectly unsettling…right up to the point when they find a woman trapped inside a car. Oh fuck…
Once that car door is open, shit gets crazy immediately. They are dealing with an almost instantaneous infection and the zombies are fast and acrobatic, but there’s a catch…the infections only lasts for 3 hours and then the zombie dies.
It would be enough for them to have to contend with time-limit zombies, but of course other humans come on the scene to complicate matters.
The film doesn’t let up, and it’s quite claustrophobic at times, especially thanks to the old school dark lighting and choppy editing.
Those techniques might make it hard to see what’s going on during an attack scene in a small room, but the heinous sounds tell you more than you want to know. 3 Hours Till Dead is my kind of indie zombie flick.