Maniac (2012) by Brenn Richard

Elijah Wood is no Frodo Baggins in this 2012 slasher flick, and his apartment is a far cry from the Shire. Wood stars as a mentally deranged serial killer who works in a mannequin shop. Creepy, right? Franck Khalfoun, who did a small cameo in a Netflix for DVD horror flick, High Tension, directs this film. Call me close-minded, but I always picture Wood in LOTR. It’s interesting to see him in other roles. But if you’ve seen Sin City, you know that Wood can play a good psychopath. Maniac is filmed from the killer’s point of view. This makes Wood’s character more human – yes, he is a monster, but he is also a victim of past childhood trauma. From a psychological and technical standpoint, this film is quite intriguing. Add it to your queue!

Neurons to Nirvana: Understanding Psychedelic Medicines (2013) by Jamie Perez

This documentary presents the unseen and unspoken side of psychedelic medicines. This film explores the socially taboo substances of LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA and Ayahuasca by focusing on the science and medicinal properties of these drugs and how they have been neglected as remedies over the past few decades.

The people interviewed in this documentary are researchers with MDs and PhDs who are presenting the results of their experiments as they examine why our society has created a social and political bias towards these substances.

This documentary is very informative and captivating to the average person. You do not need to be interested in medicine or science to take an interest in this film. Exploring the taboo is something that appeals to virtually all humans. The fact that psychedelics are often seen as negative stimulants is a very one-way-street approach. More people should be informed about the potential benefits of psychedelics before configuring a final opinion on them.

By viewing both sides of the controversy, one can see the pros and cons of each substance in how it can have negative effects as well as treat some of today's most gruesome afflictions.

Contracted (2013) by Alle Lopez

If anyone is looking for a horror film that is different from all the rest, this movie just might be it. The film was directed by Eric England and one can only wonder what was going through his mind at the time this movie came out.  

I can definitely say this film grabbed my attention from start to finish. After a young woman has a one night stand she contracts an illness that most might assume is a sexually transmitted disease. Only it isn’t. Instead of showing the symptoms of such a disease, this woman contracted another virus: the zombie kind.

When it comes to zombie like movies, I stay far away.  Anything with zombies just seems like a waste of time. However, what most films fail to show is the downward spiral of becoming a zombie. The body decomposes and it’s not pretty. Viewers would have to see it to believe it. Sure, we have mainstream shows like The Walking Dead where zombies are the norm. This movie takes it to another level. For zombie lovers and movie fanatics, Contracted won’t disappoint.

Compliance (2012) by Alle Lopez

While on the job, you don’t really know who could be watching. A customer may come up and ask a few questions but you don’t think much of it because it is simply “your job”. As the day goes on, the place where you work receives a phone call from a police officer saying that one of the employees committed a crime.

In Compliance an employee is accused of stealing money from a customers purse and an investigation is done over the phone by a police officer. Only the other person on the receiving end isn’t an officer. He is a prank caller. This prank caller on the other end had people commit sexual assault on a young employee by simply stating that they would go to jail if they didn’t comply.

This movie kept me on the edge of my seat, but I wouldn’t say it was for good reason. I was amazed at how ignorant people can be and how people are so quick to abide by officers. Now, I know we have to follow the law, but the minute an officer, fake or not,  tells you to do hurtful things to another person, shouldn’t we be questioning their motives?

This is a good movie that teaches people what they shouldn’t do when placed in a similar situation. Trust your instincts. They are there for a reason.

I Saw The Devil (2011) by Branden Navarro

I Saw the Devil is a Korean film about a secret agent whose wife falls victim to a serial killer. The agent pushes the boundaries of good and evil the entire film seeking vengeance for his wife’s murder.

The serial killer, Jang Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi), is a psychotic cannibal that kills for human meat. His taste range from children to adults and all of his victims are female. He kills his victims in the most brutal and grotesque ways imaginable and packages their bodies as if he were slaughtering cows. He picks up women (and children) in the most unsuspecting ways and has no remorse.

Like his other victims, the agent’s daughter was just a little too trusting of a stranger and it led to her death. Her father, a retired police chief, finds her body in a more than frightening manner. Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun), her husband, tells the police chief, his father-in-law, that he will do anything in his power to seek vengeance even if it meant he would need to become as evil as the devil himself.

This movie is not for everyone. If you do not like harsh horror movies, then stay away. Also find something else if you don’t like reading subtitles. However, if you can appreciate that the brutality can add to the story then I highly recommend it.

Adore (2013) by Alex Vejar

Adore sounds like a typical romantic drama, where boy meets girl, they fall in love, couple has problems, and they end up together against all odds. But as you watch the movie, it’s easy to see that it’s anything but the status quo of romantic cinema.

The movie stars Naomi Watts (Birdman) and Robin Wright (House of Cards) — who play Lil and Roz, respectively — as childhood best friends living in Australia. They both have sons, and the two families are very close, with the sons also being best friends themselves. One night, when all four are having drinks together, Lil’s son makes a move on Roz, and they end up in bed together. When Roz’s son finds out, he makes an advance on Lil out of revenge, and both couples end up carrying on sexual relationships throughout the movie, despite Roz having been married for 20 years.

The movie is taboo to say the least. It’s definitely uncomfortable to watch, and Watts and Wright have awful fake-Australian accents. So why am I recommending this movie? Because of the aforementioned reasons.

It’s refreshing for a film to take chances like this. No American filmmaker or movie studio would even touch a script like this because of the subject matter. And the fact that Watts and Wright — two established, talented actresses — agreed to take on the controversial roles is downright bold. This movie is worth watching solely based on the idea that there aren’t many movies like it available.

Let the Right One In (2008) by Shirley Jean Jalmaani

Don’t be confused with the 2010 American adaptation titled, Let Me In. Let the Right One In is a Swedish romantic horror film based off the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

The film centers around Oskar, a young boy who is lonely, bullied and only dreams of revenge. His life is relatively normal until Eli moves into the vacant apartment next to his. Right away it is made clear that one of Oskar’s new neighbors feeds off of blood to survive.

In short, this is a vampire movie, but not the typical Hollywood vampire film. In fact, besides a few scenes that show supernatural tendencies (defying gravity by scaling buildings and trees, someone bursting into flames and the small handful of times Eli is seen drinking blood) you’d think this wasn’t even a horror film.

While the film does not necessarily focus on a great deal of horror and is light to watch, it does focus strongly on the strange relationship that these two 12-year-olds have. Oskar finds a friend and lover in Eli, a vampire, who in turn finds not just companionship and friendship, but also love in Oskar. The two compliment each other in a way.

Although this film is a light vampire horror film, it has some pretty cringe-worthy scenes that make up for the lack in horror, such as the iconic scene of Eli suddenly bleeding because she enters Oskar’s home without being verbally invited in.

This film definitely plays on the mythology of vampires without having to forcefully shove it down your throat over and over that Eli is a vampire. The film only ever says the word once, but it is more the actions displayed from the mythology that puts the horror in this film compared to the American adaptation, in which at one point, they have to use a CGI giant bat-like creature to make it known.

Antiviral (2012) by Ezra Shapiro

Imagine the not-too-distant future, when the cult of celebrity has taken another small step closer to madness. Antiviral focuses on an upscale laboratory that caters to the desires of affluent fans to be infected with the same germs that afflict their favorite celebrities. Syd March (portrayed by the marvelously gravel-voiced Caleb Landry Jones), an employee of the laboratory, decides to make a little money on the side by secretly injecting himself with clients’ diseases, letting the germs incubate, then reselling the toxins to black-market customers. This is also a world in which cells from celebrities can be cultured and sold to fans as gourmet meat. I was not expecting to find this story as compelling as it was, but it plays as a logical extension of the star-obsessed culture we see all around us, from the stars on Hollywood Boulevard to the screaming fans at the Superbowl halftime show.

Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy (2011) by Trine Bay Larsen

This intense movie depicts the real-life story of a 21-year-old American student studying abroad in Italy in 2009. She finds herself tangled up in a murder trial accused of having murdered her British roommate alongside her then Italian boyfriend. Amanda Knox was immediately found guilty of the murder, then released, then found guilty again. She spent a total of four years in an Italian prison and was finally acquitted this March 2015. Although the case has finally ended, the movie is still an amazing, intense story that will keep you awake during the entire movie. Prepare to be psyched. Who do you believe?

Magic Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story (2011) by Natanya Toomes

For all of you Harry Potter fans out there this is a film you are going to want to see, giving you a glimpse of the life of the author we all praise: J.K. Rowling.

You get to see the work and dedication that it took before the world of Harry Potter even began.

This is a great take on Rowling’s published biography showing where she got her inspiration for some of her characters down to minuscule scenes that can only be recognized by true Potter enthusiasts.

She took us through her childhood, heartbreak, the abuse and the financial crises that she endured. Growing up she was constantly told to find a profession that was practical and being a writer in her father’s eyes wasn’t such. Looks like her dad is eating his own words now.

Mary and Max (2009) by Stephanie Meade

I have always been drawn to animated films, so when I scrolled past a thumbnail on Netflix which depicted a goofy claymation figure hunched over a typewriter, I was compelled to click and read the synopsis. This Australian film seemed innocent enough, and since it is a short film, just over 90 minutes, I decided to give it a try. I had no idea I was about to embark on a seriously heart-wrenching emotional ride.

The film tells the story of an unlikely, long-distance best-friendship between a young Australian girl and a middle-aged New York man with Aspergers. The story begins in the mid-late 1970s, at the turn of modern understanding of Aspergers Syndrome (Max bares his new diagnosis on a t-shirt with pride), and spans about a 20 year period. The relatively simple story and wide timeline allows for a deep exploration of the ups and downs of the intimate, platonic friendship shared between Mary and Max.

The art style is wonderfully drab and grubby, primarily featuring shades of grey and brown, with lumpy, unattractive character designs. The overall ugliness of the animation makes the friendship appear even more bright and colorful; especially showcased at the point when Mary gifts Max with a bright red pompom which he wears on his hat for most of the film. In addition, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman voices Max, and his exceptional talent adds a striking emotional depth to the character, and makes the whole movie shine. Be warned: The last third of the film takes a brutal turn, so keep tissues at hand. I was balling like a baby by the end - and I rarely cry during movies. This is a perfect film for anyone that has struggled with depression, anxiety, or fitting in with family and peers.

Broadway Idiot (2013) by Nancy Oy

Punk Rock meets Broadway in this documentary following the making of Green Day’s American Idiot album into a musical. The film follows the making of the theatre production from its earliest stages to its Broadway debut. Interviews with Green Day's frontman, Billie Joe Armstrong, and the musical’s playwright, Michael Mayer, cast and crew, are interwoven into this 81-min-long documentary between the behind-the-scenes look at the cast’s rehearsals and performances. This documentary is great for fans of musicals, fans of the band, and everyone inbetween. Included in the film is the debut of Armstrong on Broadway, and a look at the history of Green Day plus the cast's performance of 21 Guns along with Green Day at the Grammy Awards.

Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (2012) by Candice Criss

For all you Adult Swim fans, Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show has expanded into one of the most ridiculous and disgustingly funny films on Netflix. Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim star in a 94-minute extravaganza of glorious foolishness in which they go on a journey to convert an abandoned mall into a fully-functioning establishment. Their desire to take over this mall was the promise of $1 billion by an aggressive business man played by Will Ferrell.

This movie, like their Adult Swim television series, is purposely meant to look as low-budget and absurd as humanly possible. The supporting cast includes Jeff Goldblum, Zach Galifianakis, Will Forte and John C. Reilly playing a deathly ill man named Taquito. Over the course of the film Heidecker and Wareheim find love, family friendship, experience death (a lot of death) and a random wolf. Tim and Eric have a very specific type of humor that you will appreciate or absolutely loathe. If you enjoy a movie with senseless humor on occasion then this one will do the trick

The Foxy Merkins (2013) by Alex Vejar

This movie is a low-budget cross between a Woody Allen flick and lesbian hookers. Margaret (Lisa Haas), a homeless newbie to the street walker world, meets Jo (Jackie Monahan), a veteran in the game, who takes Margaret under her wing and shows her the secrets to tricking on the streets of Manhattan, NY. The two form a close friendship and become a hooker team of sorts.

The film is definitely different, but in a good way. It’s shot guerilla style, much like a documentary would. The dialogue is funny and genuine, and for a movie that is about prostitution, there is no nudity or graphic sexual content. It’s a great choice for those who want to watch unconventional, independent film.

The Remembrance (2013) by Macie Bennett

The Remembrance is a German short-film/drama telling the story of two lovers living in a concentration camp in Germany during the Holocaust. The film follows their suffering and struggles while imprisoned until their escape, which ultimately separates them.  Years pass as they both wait, hoping the other survived, but not really knowing until 50 years later.

This film is great for anyone interested in historical and dramatic movies. A significant portion of the film is in German, but there is English as well. It’s definitely a tear jerker in some parts, but the depiction of life in Nazi Germany is rather unique.