5 Obscure Low-Budget Sci-Fi Movies

(That are AWESOME!)

Mr A.P. Anderson and Agent Godwynn

Hollywood is great and all, but sometimes it’s just nice to see a film that isn’t trying to ram identity politics down your throat, has a tiny bit of creativity about it, and isn’t made by people with a complete disconnect from reality who are constantly accused of sexual misconduct so horrific that the devil himself is impressed by it. There are times when all you want is to see a movie that has a good story, that doesn’t rely on special-effects, and hadn’t been formed in front of focus groups made of liberal arts majors on their days off from working at Starbucks.

So we did the hard work for you, hacked into someone’s Netflix account, stole some beers from the local supermarket, and went looking for some obscure science-fiction films from the last few years that are better than anything Hollywood put out in the last few decades.

This is what we found!

Upgrade

Upgrade is a partly Australian movie written by Leigh Whannell, who probably ended up spelling his name that way after losing a bet. He’s best known for writing Saw, and being the guy who lost the key while screaming about it the whole time. You know, that character you hate!

The movie stars Logan Mashall-Green as a man in the near future with a general, and perfectly justified, distrust of technology. After an unfortunate event, he’s forced to have a chip implanted in him that changes his life forever.

While it is a low-budget independent movie, it looks just as good as any big budget film (and we’re not saying that most of the budget of Hollywood films goes on drugs, union-fees and tax-dodges—oh no!) It manages to be an action film with a very strong plot and satisfies both a casual and intelligent audience at the same time. The final scenes give it the feel of a cult 80s movie, back when stories actually were allowed to make a point that made sense.

The acting is top-notch, the cinematography is great, and the direction is excellent. There will never be a director’s cut because the director was actually allowed to make a good film from the outset.

Ah, the good old days!

This movie shouldn't be obscure! If you don't watch it, I will judge you for iyour horrible choices

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‘The Invitation,’ also starring Logan Mashall-Green makes a great point about the vapid, shallow and disconnected reality of Hollywood while also being a great film.

‘The Invisible man’ also by the same writer and director. It’s a weaker movie, but was hobbled by studio interference so we can give some of the problems a pass. One of the things that’s always jarring to me is stunningly beautiful actresses playing ordinary people. This film casts a very normal looking woman, in a role where a stunningly beautiful one would have made far more sense. But, at least an effort was made!

‘The Lie,’ ‘Blumhouse’ studio also created a made-for-TV film that’s essentially a family drama on a tiny budget, but it has a twist that makes the whole thing worth watching, if you can give it a chance.

Why it’s great…

It combines modern effects with fresh ideas and a dark tone that sets this film apart. The action scene are like nothing else and the villains are brilliant.

Boss Level

Boss level stars that guy that got beaten up by Captain America in a lift. He looks like a condom filled with ball-bearings and steroids and exudes so much ‘toxic masculinity’ that you can smell him through the screen of the computer you most certainly didn’t illegally download this movie on.

He’s stuck in a loop where the same things happen over and over, resetting every time he dies, like the rules of an action video-game.

The movie isn’t the first to base a plot around this idea, but has enough originality to set it apart. The writing is sharp, taking its low budget and stretching it a long way with clever use of repeated scenes that change just subtly enough to keep you invested in watching the same thing multiple times.

The lead is very likeable, and you root for him as you’re drawn into his world while he struggles to overcome the insanity of what’s going on around him.

The tone is very much like a video game and a comic-book had a baby together. It’s a fun movie with slapstick violence that is pitched for comedy value, rather than a shock.

It’s a fun movie, even though it was made in America.

Like a video game, written by drunks. Awesome!

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Mel Gibson isn’t welcome in Hollywood anymore, what with being a loud and often drunk Australian. In this film, he plays a bearded nasty and delivers a pretty robust performance. He also features in ‘Dragged Across Concrete,’ which isn’t a science-fiction but is a fantastic film. The same team also made ‘Brawl in Cell Block 99’ which was tipped for an Oscar, but then mysteriously vanished from view. Can’t have films promoting the idea of strong men these days, I guess.

Check them out, they both have really excellent villains that dial the odds up to 11.

Why it’s great…

This film is like watching a video game, but it knows it. It’s nothing more than a fun ride; it doesn’t pretend to be art, it just solidly delivers a satisfying cinematic experience on a budget.

Archive

Archive is a very small and tense film that tells an intimate story in a way that makes a very simple concept utterly engaging. The film was written and directed by Gavin Rothery, and was made in Hungary on a budget of $17 and a bag of peanuts. This ends up looking like a spectacular big-budget film with just a few corners trimmed back, mostly due to the amazing set design.

It stars Theo James—shocking everyone as we find out he’s actually a good actor. It’s a story of a man coping with loss against a backdrop of the technology he has at his disposal that might be able to help turn things around.

Gavin Rothary has a background in art and design, and you can tell straight away that he was the same man who designed the set of the movie, ‘Moon.’

The film has an engaging and worthwhile storyline and draws you into it. Not much happens and action-film fans will be left vibrating with frustration, but if you’re willing to plod through a slow, engaging journey, then this will leave you with a smile on your face.

Look at this! This was made on a budget that wouldn't cover a luxury car.

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The writer and director did the set design for Moon, another really excellent, claustrophobic sci-fi that explores the human condition. It touches on themes covered in ‘Ex Machina’ and ‘Blade Runner’ but is actually more entertaining than either.

Why it’s great…

It’s like watching a higher budget and better written episode of ‘Black Mirror.’ It’s best seen as a TV movie rather than a cinematic presentation but it works fantastically well to a thinking audience.

I am Mother

A partly Australian movie made with a tiny cast and a minimal budget, this movie is more than the sum of its parts.

It’s a simple tale of a girl and her robot, and the discovery that there’s more to the world than she imagined. There’s no huge reveals and very little action, but there’s a constant sense of intrigue and tension that will reward anyone interested in science-fiction who still uses more than 50% of their brains.

Special shout-out to the effects team. Mother—the robot—was a fully practical costume effect and never looked anything less than amazing.

Not a film about a young lady falling in love with an appliance

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Nothing really. This movie was written by a nobody and directed by a slightly different nobody. This just begs the question of why people capable of this aren’t making movies while people like J.J. Abrams aren’t cleaning their toilets.

Why it’s great…

It has a pretty impressive, though very small cast, and seamless special-effects. It’s not perfect, but it’s an enjoyable movie that delivers on its premise.

Split

On reflection – this was crap.

Crap

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Anything else. Try to find a movie where the entire run-time doesn’t establish an all out super-powered showdown happening in a tower and then cheap-out by giving you a short fight in a car-park, before drowning the immortal main character in a puddle.

Why it’s not great…

After 6th sense, the success of it seemed to go to M Night Shalalalaman’s head.

What Lies Below

Scoring below 5 on IMDB is never a good sign, but when you remember who’s voting—and the damage they do by voting—it all makes a kind of sense. This film is another production with a limited cast that plays out an interesting concept. It’s like a colourised episode of the Twilight Zone and doesn’t end with a finale that answers all of the questions posed in the story. While that’s frustrating, it’s all a part of growing up and modern audiences aren’t huge fans of doing so.

The film follows a teenage girl visiting her mother, and finding her mum is engaged to a much younger, hotter new boyfriend. But, as the film moves on, something is very much not as it seems.

The acting performances from the female leads are excellent, but the slightly lesser experience of the male lead does show at times.

It’s a solid family drama with an interesting science-fiction twist.

Most people hate this - but I hate most people...

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See everything above!

Why it’s great…

The acting elevates this from the average B-movie and let’s you get more involved in what’s going on. Ema Hovarth is a relative newcomer, but her weirdly understated performance makes her almost as suspicious as the scary male. The film doesn’t close with your typical Hollywood happy ending, making it feel almost unfinished but I like different.

But mostly, I just added this to annoy people.

Radius

This 2017 film opens with an excellent concept, a man discovers that anyone coming within a certain distance of him simply drops dead. He can’t remember anything from before the beginning of the film, and has no idea what’s going on. It’s an excellent idea to base a story on, and the performances are equal to the admittedly low-budget film—albeit with high ambitions.

It stars Diego Klatten-something who spent most of his life getting typecast as the character in Blacklist voted by the audience as ‘most likely not to be noticed if replaced with a donkey.’ In this movie, he is definitely better than a donkey.

The story could very easily run out of steam, but the plot develops nicely, keeping things fresh and keeping the audience interested in what’s happening.

The ending isn’t everything you might hope for, feeling a bit like a cop-out. It doesn’t just crap all over itself like ‘Lost’ but it feels like it didn’t do everything it could have done either.

The end isn't great so start drinking when the film begins and you should be fine...

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Watch Blacklist and try to imagine Diego Klatten-something as a four-legged mammal. The writing is so bad that it makes no difference—in some scenes you could replace him with a broken fridge and it wouldn’t matter.

Why it’s not quite great…

It has a dark tone, good performances, and is a solid, well-made movie. It’s just that ending it by having logic just get up, wave goodbye and go off for a beer, that stops this movie from being so much more than it could have been.

Bonus: Travelers

Really this shouldn’t even be on this list, as it’s a TV series, not a movie, but why should that be the only accurate part of the title?

This Canadian show aired for three seasons between 2016 and 2018, and was generally well received. It took an interesting sci-fi premise—operatives from the future taking over the bodies of people in the present that are seconds from dying to perform missions— fleshed it out from the outset, and for the most part, didn’t bother even trying to explain it to us. A bunch of relatively unknown actors proceed to act as if they knew perfectly well what was going on, and we had to figure it out in bits and pieces based on their mysterious code language as the show went on. Surprisingly, this formula worked quite well. And because it was Canadian, it was free to leave the ranch and tell the story it wanted to tell, free of interference by committees of busibodies who think TV and movies should all fit a single one-size-fits-all slot.

The acting was solid enough for the type of show it is. They’re supposed to be a bit out of place, and that comes across. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be set in the US, but they all seem to be doing their best to put on American accents.

Thanks, Seth, for dumping the rules. We don't even have any rules!!!

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Creator Brad Wright was also responsible for the ‘Stargate’ series which I haven’t seen, and was a frequent writer for The Outer Limits, so take that for what it’s worth.

Why it’s great…

A big problem with time travel stories is they often go off half-cocked, and it’s only a matter of time before the central premise crumbles. ‘Travelers’ doesn’t suffer this problem because the creators actually thought it all out first. The timeline is relatively protected because the operatives are trained, relatively disciplined, and at times, fairly immoral. The lead, Traveler 3468, has taken over the body of an FBI agent who was about to fall down an elevator shaft or something, and he’s a married man. In accordance with Protocol 5 he maintains his host’s life, and he has to use a memory wipe drug on his wife every time she gets suspicious, which is like, all the time. These are not nice people. At the same time though, they made them likeable, and balanced humour and darkness well enough to keep it compelling. When young children are certainly turned temporarily into animatronic messengers from a future AI, it’s as hilarious as it is horrifying.

So, this is a tiny taste of what can be done, and is being done if you steer clear of the Hollywood propaganda factory and see what brilliant, young creative minds are capable of doing. If you need further convincing, check out Omeleto and Dust channels on Youtube, which are collections of small, self-funded films. The sheer creativity and scope will blow you away and make you realise just what a bloated corpse Hollywood really is. Support your indie creators today.

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