Five Underground(ish) Movies Streaming On Hulu
Underground movies don’t typically lend themselves to commercial interruption, what with their narrative experimentation and their devotion to artistic sensibilities over more profitable concerns. Plus, home media viewers are becoming more accustomed to streaming business ventures that are based financially solely on subscriber fees and not advertiser dollars, e.g. Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Still, there might be a time when a home viewer will be in the mood for something a little more off the beaten path and not want to pay for an additional subscription over what is most likely an outrageous Internet bill — and want to view that off-beat media legally.
So, in that scenario, sometimes Hulu becomes a good option for viewing an oddball movie that screened at an underground film festival — if one doesn’t mind the intrusive ads. Below are five incredible flicks that deserve to be seen, no matter what the option is.
I Declare War, dir. Jason Lapeyre & Robert Wilson. Lots of young boys spend many a weekend playing “war” with their friends — but not as seriously as the maniacal kids in this gripping drama. Directors Lapeyre and Wilson drop the audience right in the middle of an intense battle between the tactically brilliant P.K. Sullivan (Gage Munroe), who has never lost a war, and Jamie Skinner (Michael Friend), a loose cannon willing to break all the the rules to win. I Declare War is a surreal exercise in kid cruelty. Think Oliver Stone’s Platoon, but starring children and filmed in a suburban wooded area. (I Declare War opened the 2013 Boston Underground Film Festival.) (Watch on Hulu)
The Oregonian, dir. Calvin Lee Reeder. Filmmaker Reeder cut his teeth directing outrageously grotesque short films before making a disgusting splash with his first feature, The Oregonian. This is a real freak show of a road film in which a bloody nameless woman (Lindsay Pulsipher) survives a car accident and runs into one weirdo after the next while searching for help. Some of those weirdos include an omelet obsessed asthmatic fat dude, a fuzzy green monster and gasoline swilling hillbillies. The Oregonian is over-the-top gross and strange, but it’s the ear-piercing sound design that makes watching the film make you feel like you’re suffering from brain damage. In a fun way. (Though not quite a “horror” movie, The Oregonian killed it at the 2011 Spooky Movie International Film Festival.) (Watch on Hulu)
A Band Called Death, dir. Jeff Howlett & Mark Covino. Unless you’re a die-hard music fan, then Death is the world’s greatest band that you’ve never heard of. In 1971, three African-American brothers living in Detroit became obsessed with “white boy” rock music and started playing their own unique brand of proto-punk music. A Band Called Death tracks the Hackney brothers’ story that is equal parts tragedy and inspiration with an emotional sensitivity that will leave you crying tears of sadness and joy. This is such a remarkable documentary that it’s no wonder it won the Re-Writing History Award at the 2013 Chicago Underground Film Festival. (Watch on Hulu)
The Rambler, dir. Calvin Lee Reeder. After killing it with The Oregonian, Reeder kicks things up a notch with another bizarro road movie that stars an honest-to-goodness Hollywood celebrity, Dermot Mulroney. Just getting out of prison, Mulroney is more or less forced to hit the road after his old lady (Natasha Lyonne) reveals that she’s been less than faithful. One of the weirder crazies the eponymous hero is forced to hang out with is a mummy-toting scientist who records people’s dreams onto VHS, but the Rambler might just find love with a nameless girl (Pulsipher again) who is killed and reborn more times than Jesus. (The Rambler terrorized audiences alongside I Declare War at the 2013 Boston Underground Film Festival.) (Watch on Hulu)
The Color Wheel, dir. Alex Ross Perry. Can a film be sedate and excruciatingly abrasive at the same time? That’s the mood Perry seems to be going for in this casual road movie about the world’s worst brother and sister pair, who are played by Perry and Carlen Altman. Both are a couple of ambitious, but clueless and talentless, losers who try to consistently one-up each other in an unending string of putdowns. They don’t like each other, their lovers hate them and they turn off all who meet them. Tolerance for this flick will depend on one’s ability to endure such homespun unpleasantness, but the reward are some exceptionally hilarious bits. (The Color Wheel won Best Narrative (Feature) at the 2011 Chicago Underground Film Festival.) (Watch on Hulu)