Editor’s Note: Friend, colleague and MFJ contributor Richard Propes is credited as a co-producer on Craving.

Filmmaker J. Horton has made a name for himself in the independent space, directing films from a variety of genres and even founding a YouTube channel dedicated to helping aspiring low-budget filmmakers make money off their productions. Craving is his first narrative feature in almost a half-decade. It’s a horror-thriller about a group of innocent bar patrons trapped in their watering hole by a group of gun-toting addicts who are themselves pursued by a terrifying group of rednecks. As the night drags on, it becomes clear that the addicts live with darker secrets than anyone could’ve imagined.

It’s the sort of micro-budget flick that seems a dime a dozen at horror conventions or on Amazon Prime Video (and the reason for the latter is explained in a really interesting video Horton published on his page a few years back). The difference? Horton knows what he’s doing with the tools at his disposal. He has a cast of veteran B-actors in fun roles, a mystery that unfolds with foreboding intensity and an unforgettably unhinged climax you must see to believe.

Frankly, it’s a credit to the filmmaking on display that I feel so overwhelmingly blown away by Craving despite not really remembering any details about most of the characters who populate this Americana grand-guignol gorefest. Not that they’re bad, of course. It’s just that most of them are dispatched in much more memorable fashion than their stories are told. Two standouts, though, are horror icon Felissa Rose (of Sleepaway Camp fame) as Les and veteran B-movie performer Al Gomez as Hunter, the man whose gang has besieged the bar with no interest in taking prisoners. The plot is told largely via flashback, as both groups’ motivations are revealed and the audience’s allegiances shift.

Again, the sheer absurdity of the climax wipes away much of the actual story. Without spoiling details: Dear god, it’s a gorefest. Remember those meat shortages from a few years ago? This is probably why. The sheer amount of splatter is just awe-inspiring. Bravo FX, who handled the special effects, really makes the most of their expertise. Everett Young’s pulsing electronic score, coupled with the neon-lit interior of the bar as things go to shit, creates an audio-visual experience to die for. “Neon-lit interior with electronic score,” you might ask, having seen such an aesthetic calibration in many films before. Yes. But it’s done better, here, than say, Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, which never went truly bug-fuck insane. Craving features a level of playful depravity that I had to recommend it to my fellow gore-hounds immediately. Just stunning.

The big climax is followed by an even sillier, but no less bloody, closing-credits sequence that continues the party despite the story coming to a close.

Look: Craving is an 80-minute feature with over a dozen speaking characters (11 of which are trapped in a single room together), all with overlapping agendas. To be clear, it’s somewhat hard to follow and feel invested. But on the horror front, it delivers so thoroughly (and not just at the ending) that it’s a must-see for anyone interested in passion-driven, low-budget splatter fare. Although this is my first of Horton’s films, this feels like a hell of a return for him to the horror genre. Perhaps most important of all, it’s made me curious about what other terrifying insanity he’s dreamt up elsewhere.