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LOW BUDGET FILMS THAT TURNED OUT BETTER THAN EXPECTED

In a day and age where it seems like every major studio film that comes out costs $150 million minimum, it’s important to remember that money isn’t everything, and you can make a pretty good movie on a low budget. A couple films in here are classics, but these aren’t necessarily great movies. They’re all at least “damn good,” you know?

(Also, I’m purposely leaving out The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, not out of spite, but that found footage as a genre is really easy to make low budget.)

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Primer (2004)

The last genre you should ever attempt on a low budget is a time travel movie. Normally, that would hold true, but Primer is the brilliant exception. Instead of making a history spanning epic, Primer takes place in variations of the present, which is a brilliant way of making a time travel movie cheap.

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But Primer was written, directed, and starred Shane Carruth, a man with a degree in mathematics, and he brought his engineering brain into writing the WILDLY complicated script of Primer. It is one of the most confusing time travel movies ever made, simply because of its amazing attention to detail, and it cost $7,000 to make. This is the lowest budget in this entire gallery, and it took hard work from Carruth to make that happen. Whether you like the movie or not, that’s damn impressive.

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Halloween (1978)

There’s a pretty funny story about the making of the original Halloween. The producer of Halloween was Moustapha Akkad, who was very familiar with making large budget films, and he was listening to John Carpenter’s pitch for Halloween. At some point, Carpenter revealed he wanted to make the entire movie on $300,000.

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Moustapha Akkad was spending $300,000 a day on a movie he was producing starring Laurence Olivier, so he figured, why not fund an entire movie for $300,000? And good thing he thought that, because Halloween made $47 million. That’s a hell of a return on investment, plus completely changing the horror genre forever.

What else can you say about Halloween though? It’s a low budget masterpiece, one of the best (and most influential) of its kind.

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Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

This movie comes with a HUGE warning up front. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a deeply fucked up movie, so fucked up its producers didn’t want to release it for years. But bootlegs of the movie circulated so widely that it actually got Michael Rooker (Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy, Merle in The Walking Dead, and the titular Henry of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) several roles in the late 80s and early 90s.

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It was also shot on the cheap in Chicago when Michael Rooker was literally working as a janitor. And that budget came out to about $110,000, impressive for a movie with such a fucked up reputation. I’ll be honest with y’all, if you have a strong stomach, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is essential viewing, a loose re-telling of the life of the infamous Henry Lee Lucas and Otis Toole.

But if you’re not into that, do not watch this movie. Seriously, don’t do that to yourself.

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The Evil Dead (1981)

This might be the single most famous low budget horror movie out there that has a golden reputation besides HalloweenThe Evil Dead is a low budget film school of sorts, figuring out the cheapest ways to make elaborate camera moves happen. Seriously, if you want to learn about how to make a low budget movie, look up exactly how they made The Evil Dead, they straight up put a camera on a bucket and slid it across a wooden beam to get smooth moving shots.

You know, like you do.

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Now, due to the fact that Sam Raimi took out loans during the production of The Evil Dead, it’s hard to nail down how much it cost, but the estimate comes out to $350,000. Considering what they pulled off, that’s damn impressive, and I forgot to mention that Raimi made this while he was TWENTY YEARS OLD.

Just… Damn man.

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The Blob (1958)

I love the story of how The Blob got made. To modern audiences, it looks and feels like most 1950s monster movies, but The Blob is a wildly unique film in the monster movie landscape. It was made completely outside of the Hollywood studio system, and when I say completely outside of that, I mean it.

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The Blob was made entirely in Pennsylvania across various little cities, but why that happened is honestly fascinating. The film’s producer, Jack H. Harris, was a man in Pennsylvania who wanted to make movies, but didn’t have access to equipment. Or, that’s what he thought.

It turned out there was a local community of religious short film creators in the area, and Harris basically convinced one of these creators to help him make a horror movie so they could both jumpstart their careers.

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Well, the gambit worked, and The Blob is one of the most famous films of the entire 1950s B-movie horror craze. The official budget is listed at $240,000, but some say it actually cost $120,000, or even $110,000. It stands as one of the shining examples of how a crew of people can come together to make something special in the most unusual of places.

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