8 Low Budget Science Fiction Films More People Should See

While I’m an unapologetic fan of the big multiplex explodey sci-fi blockbuster, I think the really good stuff exists at the other end of the budget spectrum.

When you don’t have the money to melt the audience’s faces with intergalactic civil war, the excitement has to come from ideas. That’s when the genre moves into more interesting territory. Using the extraordinary to say something about the ordinary.

This list is, in no way, definitive. The rules I applied were A) They were cheap. B) Made within roughly the last decade.

It’s just a bunch of movies that I enjoyed and, if you haven’t seen them, I’d recommend you check out.

MV5BMTgwNjY5MDkzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTAxMTcyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_AL_Primer (2004)

The Daddy of low budget science fiction. Four engineers experimenting in their garage accidentally invent time travel. Which Alan Sugar also did when his R&D team were working on the Amstrad Emailer, apparently.

Made for about a fiver, horrendously complicated and full of jargon, it refuses to make it easy for the viewer. I have to watch it with a handy diagram I found on the internet that explains all the timelines.

Gripping and rewards repeated viewings. Just typing a few words about it has got me wanting to watch it again.

monsters

Monsters (2010)

What do you do if you want to make an alien invasion movie, but don’t have the money to film an alien invasion?

Simple. You set it afterwards when the world has dealt with it and got on with things.

Made for about $500,000 with a tiny crew and off-the-shelf SFX software, the director Gareth Edwards went on to make Godzilla. (Which I enjoyed, but found rather humourless. Which is a bit odd when you’re dealing with something so gloriously insane as Godzilla).

There’s a real chemistry between the two leads (unsurprisingly, as they’re played by real-life couple Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able) and the gas station scene is so gloriously beautiful, poetic and moving it left me shaking.

safetySafety Not Guaranteed (2012)

Three journalists try to interview a man who placed a classified ad looking for a companion to go time travelling with him.

Less a science-fiction and more an utterly charming comedy/drama about lost and lonely people. The writer/director team are now making Jurassic World, and if that contains half the charm and wit this film does, I’ll be at the front of the queue when it’s released.

timecrimesTimecrimes (2007)

Time travel is popular with low budget movies. I assume it’s because you don’t need monsters, aliens, explosions or another world. Hell, if it’s a time loop film like Timecrimes, you can just use the same sets over and over again.

This one’s a Spanish movie about a man accidentally getting into a time machine and travelling back half an hour. I think of it as the Anti-Primer as the plot delicately unfolds like a beautiful flower and answers all the questions you have at various points in the running time.

Tom Cruise bought the rights for an American re-make, so watch this one now before he ruins it.

moon

Moon (2009)

Five years later, I’m still annoyed that Sam Rockwell didn’t get an Oscar nomination for his performance as the only inhabitant of a moonbase. Coming to the end of his three year stint, things go – well – slightly odd. And that’s pretty much all I can say without revealing too much.

It reminded me of those great ‘cerebral’ science fiction films of the 60s/70s like 2001 and ‘Silent Running’. Director Duncan Jones went onto make the bigger budget ‘Source Code’ with Jake Gyllenhaal (who I’m a big fan of even if he caused my beloved Taylor Swift to write a break up song about him)

coherence

Coherence (2013)

One of the few films that I immediately re-watched when it had finished. Things go batshit mental at a dinner party when a comet passes close to the Earth.

Awkward, claustrophobic and smart. Essentially a relationship drama told through the prism of quantum physics, it asks how much do you really know your lovers, friends and – in the end – yourself? And it’s got Xander from Buffy. Sign of quality right there.

attack

Attack the Block (2011)

Joe Cornish’s movie is simply the most fun you can have through the medium of film. Aliens crash into into a South London estate and everyone, both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial, begins to fuck shit up.

But it’s more than that. As we get to see the boys beneath the hoodies, Cornish handles the social commentary with a light touch and great big bloody fanged wolf-aliens. And when did Ken Loach or Mike Leigh have great big bloody fanged wolf-aliens in their films? Amateurs.

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Europa Report (2013)

Another found footage film.

No! Wait! Come back! This is proper Hard Science-Fiction! Actual boffins with letters after their names have praised the film for its accuracy and depiction of space travel.

A team of astronauts go to Jupiter’s fourth largest moon in search of life. Things, of course, don’t go completely as planned. Told in a non-linear style using the spacecraft’s onboard cameras, it uses the claustrophobic location to its advantage and squeezes an impressive amount of tension into its efficient 90 minutes running time.

There. A proper blog post. That went alright, didn’t it? Anything else you’d recommend film-wise? What did I miss off?

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2015 And No Mr Fusion Home Nuclear Reactors…

Hello. Happy New Year. I hope you had a lovely festive period.

It’s 2015. The mythical year in the distant future in Back To The Future 2. (When I explained the plot to BTTF to my 10 year old, he voiced the very correct opinion ‘That’s a stupid name for a film. It should be called “Accidentally Went To The Past”.’)

Anyway, the internet is full of bad Back To The Future jokes at the moment. I should know. I did a lot of them. So I’ll stop that now.

I just want to write a quick update for those who have asked before I go back to eating the huge amount of cheese I bought really cheaply this morning. I can’t see anything going wrong with that.

So, At the end of 2013 I completed the novella How To Be Dead. It’s been downloaded several thousand times, which I’m very happy with seeing that I’ve done no promotion for it. The plan was to write two more novellas continuing the story.

So where are they?

At the start of 2014, a literary agent got in touch with me asking if I’d consider signing with him and turning the story into a full length novel. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 11 or so months. It expands and continues the story in the novella and has many, many more poor quality gags. And the latest draft is now finished.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen next, but it’s all very exciting and the story of Death, Anne and Dave will be finished. I assure you.

In the meantime, I’m working on a little something that I’ll share with you when it’s a bit further down the line. And I’m going to try and start blogging more this year. Though I say that every January 1st.

Thanks for all your help, advice, support and nice words over the last 12 months.

Be lucky

Dave x

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Death. Come Get Some.

Hello. How are you? Yes, I know. I’m sorry. I never write. I never call.

There have been some changes at Aim For The Head Towers over the past few weeks. I’ve signed with a new literary agent, which is lovely, and I’m now actually working on a full length version of ‘How To Be Dead’. This’ll be followed by novel length versions of the two sequels.

I’ve now written a quarter of the new version (More Death! More Back Story! More Poor Quality Jokes About Childrens’ TV!) and to celebrate this, I’ve made the novella version free to download from Amazon on 13th and 14th March.

Also, my dad gave me a really nice bottle of wine at Christmas and I promised myself I wouldn’t drink it until I’d shifted a certain number of copies.

I really want to drink that wine.

If you’re in UK, you can download it here.

If you’re in the US, you can download it here.

Not sure if you want some free jokes? Check out the reviews over here.

Any questions? Feel free to ask!

Love Ya

Dave

x

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Would You Like To Read a Poorly Written Version of ‘Paper Cuts’?

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams, genius though he was, was notoriously bad with deadlines. I thrive on them. Hell, I need them otherwise I flounder around in a cloud of work displacement activity. My office window isn’t going to stare out of itself, y’know.

You know how bad I am without deadlines? I meant to write this blog post last week, but… well… shiny objects got in the way… Ooh.. Squirrel!

Anyway. The serialising of ‘How To Be Dead’ was great for me as a writer. It focused my attention away from looking up 80′s sitcoms on Wikipedia (Today was ‘Three Up, Two Down’ starring the lovely Lysette Anthony *Sigh*) and onto getting the work finished for publication each Friday. I also enjoyed the interaction with the readers. The work wasn’t being produced in a vacuum with me wondering whether what I was scribbling down was good, bad or indifferent.

So, here’s my idea. Would you like to be a Beta Reader for ‘Paper Cuts’? I’m thinking of a small group of about 10. I’ll provide you with a chapter a week via email for you to read and feed back on? Nothing too intense, just your comments and feelings on how it’s all going and what does/doesn’t work?

We probably need a few guidelines.

1. You’ll need to be 18 or over.

2. You’ll need to have read ‘How To Be Dead’.

3. You’ll be OK to read 1,500-2,000 words a week of my ramblings for about 20 weeks starting 28th February.

4. If you’re in the London area, I’ll organise drinks when it’s done and I’ll buy you a pint.

Interested? Well, why not click on the contact page and drop me a line?

Thanks very much!

Love

Dave

x

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‘How To Be Dead’ Free For 48 Hours

eBook CoverSo. ‘How To Be Dead’ is now available from Amazon.

It’s free to download for 48 hours, so why not grab yourself a copy? It’s a short read that’s perfect for commutes, a relaxing bath or standing on busy street corners and shouting out the good bits.

If you’ve already got it, why not download it from Amazon so that you have a back up? Even though that’s not how computers work?

Or, if not, you could simply tell every single person that you’ve ever met that they can get something a bit funny and a bit smart that’ll make them giggle for a couple of hours absolutely free.

People are already leaving amazing reviews that make me feel incredibly warm and fuzzy. It’s been compared favourably to the works of Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams and Monty Python. Which is pretty much the perfect way to make me want to give you a massive hug. If you have read it and can take five of your Earth minutes to add a review of your own, I would be eternally grateful.

Over the weekend, my seven-year-old daughter asked “Are you an author now, daddy?”. I laughed and said “I suppose I am.”

Thank you to everybody who has made that conversation possible. It has been 37 years in the making. I’m a guy who has spent his whole life writing funny and weird stuff. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Now, thanks to your generosity and support, I can share the weirdness with a wider audience.

Sorry about that.

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Nelson Mandela

I have only one Nelson Mandela story.

It is not a good story.

But it is a nice story.

When my eldest child was attending infant school, his class had a stuffed toy called Freddie Frog. Freddie and his diary would go home with each child for a few days and they would write of his adventures.

It was our turn to entertain Freddie and I was flicking through the pages of the diary, wondering what we could do in our fleeting time together. I looked at pictures of Freddie holidaying at Centerparcs, visiting Whipsnade Zoo and with waxwork statues of the Queen and Barack Obama at Madame Tussauds.

I then turned the page and realised that anything I came up with would be utterly pointless.

There was Freddie Frog sat on the knee of Nelson Mandela.

Not a waxwork Nelson Mandela.

The actual Nelson Mandela.

I discovered that the kid’s grandfather had been at university with him and was part of the defence team at his trial.

Of course, now, I think “How lovely that such a great man could take the time to humour the grandchild of an old friend.”

At the time I thought “Nelson Mandela?! Nelson Bloody Mandela?! The only way I’m going to top that is by breaking into the Vatican. And I’m not doing that again.”

Anyway. Nelson Mandela. Dude.

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Nemesis Required.

I realised that something was missing in my life. So I put an advert on Craigslist here. I’ll let you know how it goes.

nemesis

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