Originally published on The National Student on 09/01/17.
As usual there are plenty of big-budget delights to fight over in 2017, but just as many equally impressive indies to keep an eye out for too.
In a year that promises new offerings from (deep breath) Star Wars, Transformers, Spider-Man, Wolverine,King Kong, Guardians of the Galaxy, Despicable Me and hell, even the very first Justice League bow, it’s pretty easy to get bogged down in all that blockbuster franchise fighting.
But bubbling away somewhat quietly in the background, is a whole bunch of cheaper, weirder and often much bolder little indies just begging to be seen. So we’ve scoured the release schedules and attempted to compile the best and brightest of what’s to come from 2017’s smaller releases.
We’ve talked quite a bit about Alice Lowe’s ultra-dark pregnant slasher comedy in the past, but just in case you somehow missed all that, here’s the lowdown. One of Britain’s most talented new filmmakers has made a weird-as-hell revenge thriller about a bloodthirsty mother-to-be, which swept every festival from Toronto to Venice picking up some pretty major acclaim at the back end of last year.
We’ve seen it and it’s totally ace – what more do you need to know?
Release: 10th February
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore
One of the year’s longest titles also promises one of its most exciting new directorial voices, coming straight from the mind of Macon Blair, star of Blue Ruin and dearest friend of exciting new indie thriller-king Jeremy Saulnier (who dished out Green Room last year, also co-starring Blair).
The story of a depressed woman who devotes her life to hunting down the thieves who burgled her, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore takes its first bow at Sundance in a few weeks, before popping straight up on Netflix so there’s no excuse not to give Blair’s debut a shot. It even stars the hugely underrated Melanie Lynskey alongside indie chameleon Elijah Wood, so there’s plenty to love.
Release: 24th February (straight to Netflix)
An unsuspecting treat at last year’s FrightFest, Ben Parker’s claustrophobic debut pits a squad of American black ops soldiers against a mild-mannered submarine pilot when the team end up stuck at the bottom of the ocean.
It’s super small in both ambition and scale, but promises one of the tightest scripts and ensembles of the year, hands down, as well as a standout role for everyone’s ultimate new man crush Johannes Kuhnke. Don’t let the minimalist story keep you away, this is a must-see.
Release: 10th March
The Belko Experiment
Before James Gunn rocketed to worldwide fame with his 2014 Marvel space opera/superhero family fave Guardians of the Galaxy he was a bit of a wildcard in the horror scene, having risen through the ranks of Troma under the watchful eye of ‘King of Trash’ Lloyd Kaufman. And whilst The Belko Experiment sees him return to the bloodier side of cinema in a strictly Writer/Producer capacity, it still looks set to have his darkly funny stamp all over it.
Directed instead by Wolf Creek’s Greg McLean and starring 10 Cloverfield Lane’s John Gallagher Jr., this one is pretty much pitched as “The Office meets Battle Royale”, finding a corporate office overtaken by an orgy of violence, as average American employees are forced to off each other one by one in increasingly bloodier fashion. If that doesn’t sell it to you I don’t know what will.
Release: 17th March
If you’re yet to ever sit through Tommy Wiseau’s cinematic train-wreck The Room, boy are you missing out. The self-described ’masterpiece of awful’ has become such a cult hit that it’s spawned everything from midnight screenings, to a book and now even a dramatised behind-the-scenes movie, directed by none other than James Franco, and written oddly enough, by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the standout scribes behind (500) Days of Summer and The Fault In Our Stars.
Franco stars as Wiseau, alongside regular buddies Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and his own brother Dave Franco, as well as Sharon Stone, Josh Hutcherson, Alison Brie and Bryan Cranston. Franco’s not the most reliable director, but considering the glitzy cast and the A+ subject matter, count us firmly in.
Release: TBC 2017
One of the latest Netflix Originals, we just simply couldn’t leave Duncan Jones’s big return to small-scale filmmaking off our list. The Source Code mastermind took some time out last year to give the tentpole market a go with the luke-warm Warcraft, but now he’s firmly back in the saddle with a long gestating semi-follow-up to his debut Moon.
Set in the same universe, but 17 years later, Mute follows a very un-talkative bartender (the painfully dashing Alexander Skarsgard) who finds himself facing off with some ‘rogue villains’ (Justin Theroux and a heavily-moustached Paul Rudd) whilst hunting for his missing girlfriend. With Jones naming Blade Runner as a major influence, and the supposed reappearance of Sam Rockwell’s much-loved moon-base engineer Sam Bell very much on the cards, we physically can’t wait for this one.
Release: TBC 2017 (straight to Netflix)
A revenge movie starring Benicio Del Toro, Al Pacino and Robert Pattinson doesn’t sound too obscure on paper, but when you then throw Harmony Korine’s name into the mix everything gets a whole lot wilder. The mad-eyed director behind the likes of Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy and yes, Trash Humpers has been promising this one for a few years now, but it seems that the stars may finally be aligning for Korine and his crew, marking the second in an expected ‘Florida Trilogy’ behind 2012’s feverishly dark Spring Breakers.
Just imagine what Korine could do with Pacino and Del Toro; especially considering Korine himself has promised that The Trap, set deep within the Miami music scene, will be both “highly violent” and a total “sensory bombardment”. Another cult favourite in the making, perhaps?
Release: We have absolutely no idea since it’s still in pre-production, but hopefully the backend of this year.
The Bad Batch
Ana Lily Amirpour’s feisty follow-up to 2015-fave A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night about a community of cannibals has already taken several festival bows to great acclaim, so we’re a little more certain that this one’s gonna be ace.
Alongside Amirpour’s stylish touch is a ridiculous cast too, including (but not limited to): Keanu Reeves, Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Rogue One’s Diego Luna and Jim friggin’ Carrey. Sold yet?
Release: TBC 2017
Somewhere in between winning a whole bunch of BAFTAs and just generally being one of Britain’s greatest living actors, Paddy Considine got bored of standing in front of a camera and decided to start standing behind one too. His directorial debut, the hauntingly brilliant Tyrannosaur, already proved his exceptional talents back in 2011, but now he’s looking to star too.
A moving drama disguised in part as a boxing movie, Journeyman sees Considine writing and directing himself as Matty Burton, a boxer who suffers severe head trauma and watches his family life take a hit as a result. If it’s anything like Tyrannosaur it’ll be a tough but ultimately insanely rewarding watch, so keep your eyes peeled.
Release: TBC 2017
Having written and starred in two of the finest indie dramedies in the past five years, Frances Ha and Mistress America, Greta Gerwig finally takes the big leap to the director’s chair in 2017 with a semi-autobiographical comedy about a young woman (Saoirse Ronan) making her way living in Northern California over the course of a year. Co-starring Manchester By the Sea’s awards-favourite Lucas Hedges, this is a big ‘un for Gerwig fans everywhere.
Perhaps this’ll finally be the year that one of the brightest female performers around finally reaches mainstream success? Only time will tell.
Release: TBC 2017
Under the Silver Lake
And finally, the sophomore offering from It Follows’ hotly-tipped director David Robert Mitchell: a contemporary-set noir thriller set in LA, featuring some of the finest new actors on the Hollywood circuit: Girls’ Zosia Mamet, Westworld’s Jimmi Simpson, American Honey’s Riley Keough, and former Spider-Man-turned-Scorsese-fave Andrew Garfield.
If that doesn’t quite wet your appetite enough, it’s also being backed by American indie experts A24, who in the last few years have distributed everything from Moonlight to Swiss Army Man to Ex Machina and Room (the list is nearly endless) so expect awards bells with this one too.
Release: TBC 2017