New Mexico plays host to a lot of major Hollywood productions. (Yes, parts of Batman v Superman were shot here.) But there’s also a smaller, more local industry of hardworking independent filmmakers who are writing, directing and shooting their own films within our state’s borders. If you wanna support New Mexico’s still-burgeoning film industry, how about hunting down some of these homegrown slices of cinema and giving them to your film-loving friends as gifts this holiday season?
Albuquerque-based filmmaker, video game vlogger and man-about-town Joel Vallie shot this trippy horror drama in Mexico (which is close enough). It tells the story of a severely disabled young man injured in a violent accident, who wakes up in the hospital with his physical and mental abilities restored—and with a few psychic powers added to boot. But while our suddenly super-powered protagonist explores changing his life for the better, his reality is warping out of control and his friends are turning into vengeful demons. Stylishly shot and freely mixing the psychological with the supernatural, this inventive indie from Midnight Releasing is just the thing for the adventurous horror lover on your list. (Available on DVD and digital download/purchase through Amazon, iTunes, Vudu and Vimeo.)
This Big Chill for millennials stars Kaley Cuoco (“The Big Bang Theory”) and Sasha Pieterse (“Pretty Little Liars”) as part of a group of lifelong friends who stumble back home after high school when word gets out on Facebook that the most popular among them has died unexpectedly. It was written and directed by UNM screenwriting professor Matthew McDuffie(A Cool, Dry Place). (Available on DVD and digital download/purchase from Amazon.)
Longtime local filmmaker Scotty Milder finally made the leap from shorts to features with this grim, psychosexual drama about a grad student who is plagued by fractured memories of a dark and violent past. The film stars the excellent Lauren Myers, who got some great exposure in WGN’s “Manhattan,” and features a host of other local actors such as Amy Baklini, Gordon Clapp and Chad Brummett. The film made a run of film festivals in the last year, and garnered some solid reviews. (Film Fervor called it “a masterfully made film.”) It’s not what you’d call cheerful, holiday entertainment, but it’s just the thing for those who love to plumb the dark depths of the human soul. (Available for digital download/purchase on Amazon.)
In a small New Mexico town, a teenager gets involved in a road accident and runs afoul of an automotive-based serial killer. Mark Pavia (who wrote and directed the 1997 adaptation of Stephen King’s The Night Flyer) is the man behind this low-budget slasher. Most of the cast is out-of-towners, but our good friend Steven Michael Quezada (from “Breaking Bad”) is in it! (Available on DVD/Blu-Ray and for digital download/purchase on Amazon.)
Pie Lady of Pie Town
Shot in 2014, this 30-minute documentary focuses its lens on Kathy Knapp, a comfortable Dallas housewife who gave it all up to make sweet treats at the Pie-O-Neer Pies bakery in tiny Pie Town, N.M. In the last couple of years, this “uplifting story of passion and perseverance” has nabbed Excellence in Documentary Short Filmmaking at the Barcelona International Film Festival and Best Director at the Short Film Awards. It’s now available on DVD with the 45 minutes of exclusive new bonus content, including an interview with director Jane Rosemont and and chat with narrator Wes Studi. (Available on DVD through the website pieladyofpietown.com and through select local retailers such as the museum stores in Santa Fe.)
OK, this one counts as pure, shameless self-promotion. Why? Because I’m the one who wrote this gory horror comedy. Directed by Billy Garberina (Necroville, I Heart U) and featuring a script by Alibi film editor Devin D. O’Leary (that’s me), this ’80s-style throwback was just released to DVD by Camp Motion Pictures. Set in a seedy downtown bar (the infamous El Madrid), the film follows a group of losers and lowlives just trying to get their Sunday morning drunk on. Unfortunately, the party is soon crashed by a batch of very bad booze and some brain-eating maggot monsters. Jeremy Owen, Megan Pribyl and Merritt C. Glover are among the local actors, and they’re joined by cult star Whitney Moore from Birdemic: Shock and Terror. (Available on DVD and for digital download on Amazon.)