In its 12th year, the Nevermore Film Festival—which starts today and runs through Sunday—shows that the line between low-budget horror and “mainstream” cinema has all but vanished. There’s a number of recognizable actors in the lead of the newer films, and many of the international efforts included have already earned considerable cult buzz.

There’s plenty of fun to be had with the older films—those who enjoyed Liam Neeson’s psycho ass-kicking in Taken or plan to see him in Unknown can enjoy him at his most over-the-top Neeson-est in 1990’s Darkman. Before he helmed the Spider-Man films, Sam Raimi directed this nutzo variation on Tim Burton’s Batman with Neeson as a scientist who gets brutally disfigured and uses his special mask-generator (and adrenaline-induced superhuman strength) to fight crime.

Or you could enjoy the film that launched an empire with the original 1980 Friday the 13th (warning: Jason isn’t the bad guy in this one!), or to go from lowbrow to highbrow, 1991’s Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs, with Anthony Hopkins’ celebrated performance as Hannibal Lecter (and let’s not forget Ted Levine as the lotion-loving Buffalo Bill).

Rubber is perhaps the most high-profile film of the festival; to my immense consternation, my DVD player wouldn’t play the review screener copy that was made available to me. The film, which somehow played at Cannes last year, involves a sentient psychokinetic tire named “Robert,” who can explode human heads. Admit it, you already want to see this. As a bonus, cult B-movie actor Wings Hauser is in this. But come on, evil tires! Who can resist that?

Rubber falls into the same horror-comedy vein as Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, a Finnish film from last year that theorizes Santa Claus is someone you never, ever want to meet. “You’d better watch out” indeed.

Black Death, from Severance director Christopher Smith, will be a treat for anyone who enjoys medieval dismemberment imagery, with a cast of actors familiar to fans of British cinema (including The Lord of the Rings’ Sean Bean, who’ll do yet another sword-and-sorcery role with HBO’s Game of Thrones in April) battling diseases and (supposed) witches. Some might find it a mite unpleasant, but others will enjoy its B-movie take on the sort of events parodied in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (“I’m getting better!”).

The Norwegian number Black Souls offers similarly unpleasant imagery, ranging from a drill to the head to a lot of black bile. It’s a number that’s not for the faint of heart, or stomach.

Vanishing on 7th St. is the latest offering from low-budget thriller filmmaker Brad Anderson, whose directorial TV’s Fringe has often outshined such theatrical efforts as Session 9 and The Machinist. That trend continues here; after an effective opening where most of Detroit’s population vanishes into darkness, the few survivors (including Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo) are left to fend against the unknown force.

There’s hints of a connection to North Carolina history with an evocation of the “Croatoan” sign that was left by the lost colonists of Roanoke, but it’s never fleshed out, and the effective use of shadows and artificial lighting can’t compensate for an undercooked script.

There’s plenty of other films at Nevermore—from a number of features including the Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! homage El Monstro Del Mar to one-time indie favorite in the satirical slasher All About Evil to two collections of shorts that range from the comic to the chilling—with many of their filmmakers in attendance. Overall, it’s a strong program for the festival’s 12th year. Next year is lucky 13—and there should be plenty of darkness to look forward to in 2012.

The Nevermore Film Festival starts at the Carolina Theatre today with The Silence of the Lambs. Tickets for individual shows are $8, $70 for a 10-pass. Click here for more information.