ByChristopher Wells, writer at
I am a writer/director and owner of Kaleidoscope Pictures, inc.
Christopher Wells

A crazy thing happened to me one night at around 3:00am. I woke up alone in my bed with an overwhelming thirst. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed but I could feel dehydration setting in. So I kicked the comforter and body pillow off me to the foot of the bed and stumbled towards the kitchen.

After downing about two pints of water I stumbled back to my room. When I got to the door I thought I saw something sitting at the foot of my bed and as I got closer I saw what looked like a person sitting under the covers, waiting for me to return. I was paralyzed with fear. My brain quickly tried to figure out who this was and how they got into my Brooklyn apartment. Maybe I left the door unlocked and some drunk found his way up here? My heart was thumping; I didn’t want to make a sound. I held my breath, frozen in position. If I was sleepwalking I surely was awake now.

Photo from "Cynthia," a short horror film.
Photo from "Cynthia," a short horror film.

As my eyes cleared, a huge wave of relief came over me. I realized it was just the way the covers bunched up on top of my pillows, forming what looked like the devil. Yeah, I’ll go with the devil.

And this guy walking to his bedroom; maybe he’s in Hell or better yet, purgatory! But who’s under the covers? Maybe it’s his dead girlfriend? Maybe this guy isn’t likable and this is about some sort of revenge? These ideas kept me up for the rest of the night as I wrote Cynthia.

Creating A Different Kind Of Psychological Thriller

Most horror films on YouTube are usually a scene with one jump-scare, not much plot or thought-out storyline. I wanted to do something different — something that includes character development, foreshadowing, and a plot that wasn’t predictable.

Cynthia was entirely shot in my apartment, a one day shoot with a budget of about $4,000. The budget was spent on paying the cast and crew what they are worth, purchase of an external hard drive (G-tech 3TB) and Scleral contact lenses. Call time was 8:00am and we didn’t stop until 3:00am. Healthy snacks is the key to keeping everyone powered through a long day.

The final result exceeded my expectations by making it into a few festivals, but more importantly I was gaining views on YouTube. Having a lot of views is important because it can validate a project and that can be intriguing to investors who want to get involved with your next project. YouTube recently opened the door for the filmmakers who produced the feature film Lights Out, which was originally a short film with the same title. Likewise, the success of Cynthia recently gave me the opportunity to raise over $17,000 towards my feature film The Luring, a horror film set in Vermont with a budget of $60,000.

To raise the $17,000 I took a scene from the script The Luring and presented that along with Cynthia’s success and was able to get people who saw potential to invest in my new project. The scene I shot from The Luring was made into a trailer that will be used to raise the rest of the budget. Having both the short film and the trailer allows me to be taken very seriously as an viable investment and hopefully I can inspire other filmmakers to move ahead with their projects.

The Low Budget Horror Film Is Alive And Strong

The horror genre is extremely strong because fear is an emotion a lot of people want to safely experience. Ask most film buffs and they’ll say The Shining is one of their all time favorite movies. Even low budget B-horror movies like Sharknado are also gaining massive popularity within the horror genre, paving the way for other films that get video-on-demand deals. Distributors are actively seeking this genre knowing its growing popularity can bring huge profits. Even super low budget films like The Cabin in the Woods, The Blaire Witch Project, and Paranormal Activity, are fan favorites.

This is good news for filmmakers because this proves there’s a large audience who don't need a huge budget to be entertained. This fact is more true for the horror genre than any other, which means filmmakers don't need to relay on a big budget to obtain a high-profile cast to gain major interest from distributors. This is because audiences are watching low-budget horror films in droves. Netflix, Amazon, and Shudder understand this and are capitalizing by investing millions of dollars in acquiring original content because that’s what keeps their viewers interested. In the past, a filmmaker needed to have a theatrical release to have any type of success, but with the growing popularity of "On Demand" and the internet, a ton of films and their investors are making money without ever having their names on the marquee.

The low budget horror film is alive and strong. Or should I say, undead and lurking around the corner?

Expand your horror-watching library by checking out one of the horror movies from the list below that you might not have seen:

Christopher Wells is the owner of Kaleidoscope Pictures, inc. a Brooklyn based production company that specializes in video and photography.

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