You make a movie, and then it gets released for everyone to see. The process sounds so simple! But movie making and distribution are insane progressions of countless harmonic moving parts, and one slight wrinkle can cause the entire machine to fall apart. Below are five films that for various reasons have never been released to the general populace in the states. Each of these look absolutely fascinating (in distinctive ways), so it pains me to think of them hidden from our eager eyes. And tune back next week for five more films stuck in distribution hell.
THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES (Made in 2006)
Made by one of the Dowdle Brothers, this film was created at the height of the torture porn craze and also captures the found footage style which was starting to grow in popularity back in the late 2000s. Police raid the house of a serial killer and find 800 VHS tapes made by the killer as he stalked, captured, tortured, and then murdered his victims, making sure to document all of it. The killer also has a thing for masks and balloons. This one is really heavy on the torture. The film played at several festivals in 2007, including the Tribeca Film Festival where I saw it. Then nothing happened. There was no release. Rumors swirled of distribution drama. Seven years later, the film supposedly released onto some VOD platforms, but was pulled just a few days later.
ALL AMERICAN MASSACRE (Made in 1998)
Back in the late 1990s, Tobe Hoopers’s son set out to make a prequel/sequel to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, and by all accounts he finished shooting the film. The story documents Chop Top and stars Bill Moseley reprising the iconic role. Set in a mental institution, a number of press come in to interview Chop Top about his killing spree. While regaling them with stories of his murderous debaucheries, he massacres them all. After completion in 1998, the film was shelved for years because the director was having prost-production issues. Over a decade later in 2011, the director launched a Kickstarter campaign asking for the funds to finish the movie. He requested $8,000 but raised only just over $1000. A Facebook page and a website were also opened to promote the movie, but neither of those have been updated since 2014. They did cut a trailer which you can check out below.
ATRAPADOS aka TRAPPED (1981)
ATRAPADOS has become the holy grail for many rare horror movie collectors. This American-made Spanish language film received awesome reviews upon its initial screenings on the film fest circuit in 1980. Then…nothing. The movie was never able to lock a distribution deal, and almost 40 years later, it has never been released in the states. Beware- there are several films by this same title lurking online, but it is rather hard to find this actual film. This ATRAPADOS is ERASERHEAD-like and incredibly surreal, focusing on three people who, after some giant disaster above, are forever trapped in a collapsed building and create a whole new world amongst themselves. How hard is it to find? Well, I couldn’t even find a picture.
DARK BLOOD (Made in 1993)
This was the last movie River Phoenix made before his death. They had not yet completed filming when he died on Halloween night 1993 from a drug overdose. The movie follows Phoenix’s character, a young man living in the desert after his wife dies from radiation poisoning resulting from the nuclear tests in the mid-west. He becomes obsessed with the end of the world and occupies himself making wooden dolls to appease his new gods. When a honeymooning couple’s car breaks down, Phoenix takes them captive and tries to make them understand his new found religion and that the end is nigh. In 2012, a rough cut of the film was shown once in the Netherlands with the director narrating the missing scenes. The film still has not screened outside of Europe, but those who saw it gave it positive reviews, even with the missing footage.
EMPIRES OF THE DEEP (Made around 2010)
This massive 3D epic fantasy/horror/adventure/action movie is the most expensive Chinese film to date, costing over $130 million. It is a computer effects laden tale of warring underwater worlds including fish people, giant crab creatures, and dinosaurs. The enormous project seemed troubled from the start, going through 10 different screenwriters and 4 different directors during shooting. The movie has spent the past 5 years in post-production dropping another $10 million in the process. A few years back, they screened a teaser of it at the American Film Market which I was fortunate enough to see. The teaser was met with equal amounts of gasps and giggles. To date there are no set details of a release, but check out the trailer below.