For the most part, science fiction is usually associated with big budgets and a high production value, especially amongst the general public. However, through the years many directors have made a lot of interesting, thought-provoking films with a small budget.
Some of them become popular for this reason or another; it’s hard to find a movie fan who hasn’t heard of Duncan Jones’ “Moon,” but then there are others that were overlooked, forgotten, or remain underrated. Here are the 10 low-budget science fiction films that you may not heard of or you don’t get to hear of often, but they are worth your time.
10. Plus One (2013)
Greek-born director Dennis Iliadis couldn’t make his breakthrough with critics when he made the remake of “The Last House on the Left,” which they felt lacked the intellectual punch of the original and instead added unnecessary gore. However, his next feature film “Plus One” (“+1”) did much better in comparison. It premiered at the South by Southwest Festival, but Iliadis later worked on the material again as he felt the premiered version was “too rushed.”
Friends David (Rice Wakefield) and Teddy (Logan Miller) are going to the party of the year with different goals. Everything starts out like a typical teen drama, but when the lights go out and come back again, things start to get strange.
“Plus One” may not be as strong as some other films with similar plots, but it’s a highly entertaining feature film. The story here doesn’t need much of an explanation. The reactions of characters to the events surrounding them are even more interesting than the mystery itself.
This event reveals the nature of the central characters separately and the entire crowd in general, demonstrating the true struggle for the right to exist and not just with someone, but with themselves, with their own alternative “I”s. You may want more from such a premise, but it’s worth checking out.
9. Cruel and Unusual (2014)
The surrealistic Canadian sci-fi thriller, “Cruel and Unusual” would benefit if it had more humour and a better execution, but it’s a very fine film for what it is. The plot deals with a man named Edgar who finds himself in a strange facility where he is told he’s dead and has been condemned for murdering his wife, which he must come to terms with by reliving it before moving on. It starts intriguing from the start and keeps on doing so. Our main character keeps finding himself in strange situations, and throughout the film, we keep seeing a few nice little clever twists and turns.
Surely, not everything about it is believable; maybe the movie would benefit from the longer run time where the subplots can be explored in a deeper and more complex way, and probably a better supporting cast would also help, but then again, “Cruel and Unusual” is a notable success of low-budget sci-fi filmmaking. For such a low budget they really did a great job with this, and it’ll hold your attention right from the start, especially if you love your movies bleak and dark.
8. The Infinite Man (2014)
The Australian rom-com “The Infinite Man” is writer-director Hugh Sullivan’s first feature and it’s an impressively minimalist storytelling achievement. Young scientist Dean attempts to rejuvenate his relationship with Lana, but he’s foiled by the arrival of Lana’s ex-boyfriend Terry, with whom she flees the scene. Ever since then, he’s spent his years creating a time machine that he uses to return to the past and attempt to perfect their weekend together.
The film can be a cute rom-com at times, but it also deals with the theme of obsession really well. It has a cast of only three actors, playing multiple versions of themselves, and the action takes place in a single location. Despite such small scale and budget, Sullivan manages to come up with a fresh storyline, and since his characters are also interesting and the actors are right up for the task, the film becomes really amusing and entertaining.
For a rom-com, it’s certainly a little dark. At least, darker than “About Time,” but it’s also a kind of light-hearted film that will make you smile. Containing a clever use of time travel, “The Infinite Man” is a romantic comedy that deserves to be seen by more people.
7. God Told Me To (1976)
Larry Cohen passed away just recently, and “God Told Me To,” while not famous as his film “It’s Alive,” should be seen by everyone who wants to know his cinema. One of Cohen’s unique traits is his ability as a writer to cross genres and here he does it again.
Featuring elements from the horror, crime drama, and science fiction genres, as well as a New York setting (using it fully in some scenes), all of the elements for a Cohen film are on display as it leads up to a very unsettling final act.
Cohen was inspired by the Bible to make this film. He thought God in the Bible was one of the most violent characters in literature. As it usually happens with Catholic-themed films, the movie deals with the ideas of guilt and hypocrisy. Roger Ebert may have almost hated the film, but he was way too harsh on it. It’s such an unusual and odd film where Cohen opens up questions about religion, sexuality, origins, and duty, and lets viewers find their own answers.
As befits a low-budget film, some of the scenes are shaky as hell, and some of the camerawork and editing is appalling. And as usual with Cohen’s films, it’s not for everyone, but if you want a truly unusual and almost thought-provoking indie from the ‘70s, then “God Told Me To” should be your pick.
6. The Door (2009)
This German film (original title: “Die Tür”) directed by Anno Saul, who’s probably best known for directing the Fatih Akin-penned “Kebab Connection,” gives us an involving sci-fi drama about grief and guilt.
The film is almost like a dream. A dream of the protagonist, who is named David (played by Mads Mikkelsen). David feels guilty about his daughter’s tragic death. A few years later, he decides to end his life in the same place where his daughter’s life ended. And this is where the story gets interesting, as he finds a door to a parallel world.
One of the main themes of the film is dealing with your past. Despite whatever has happened in the past, it is useless to punish oneself for it; this will not change anything. This film cannot be perceived as just a linear story about the events of life. The whole thing works as a metaphor about forgiving yourself and dealing with your own guilt.
With great twists and turns, “The Door,” which is based on the novel by Turkish-born writer Akif Pirinçci, is something that manages to hold your attention. Even though Mikkelsen enjoys popularity as one of the best-known and beloved European actors of our time, some of his great films still remain unknown by the general audiences. “The Door” is one of them, and it deserves to be known outside of his fans.