Day 1 – Thursday 26th August
Ah, it’s good to be back! The festival kicks off with an informal get-together of Frightfesters in the Captain’s Cabin, a pub round the corner from Leicester Square where we all catch up and coo over how posh everyone looks as we’re dolled up for the “first night red carpet”. For me, it’s a cream linen suit where the jacket is kinda too small and also rather crumpled, with a cream shirt and wine coloured tie and braces (braces are cool!). Imagine an obese beardy Sylvester McCoy going to a wedding 😉
After a few drinks everyone heads to the Empire Leicester Square, our new home for the next five days. I’ve got an aisle seat this year for quick exits if need be and easy “spreadability” without annoying those next to me, though Screen 1 is pretty good for space anyway and I’ve always found the seats to be nice and comfy. Quite handy considering the amount of time parked there!
The Frightfest Boys (the event is organised by Alan Jones, Ian Rattray, Paul McEvoy and Greg Day) are greeted with a wall of cheers, and soon the lights are down and it’s time to start. Unfortunately, after a touching introductory shot of a well-known Frightfester who tragically died earlier this year, the technical gremlins are afoot, and what started as a promising compilation of old cheesy trailers – known as Trailer Trash – has to be cut short in the middle of a cracking ad for The Chocolate Killer! This also means that the first of this year’s Road to Frightfest shorts by Adam Green and Joe Lynch has to be put back till tomorrow.
So it’s straight onto the first feature – Adam Green’s Hatchet II. For those that haven’t seen the first, it’s a homage to the great (and sometimes not so great) slashers of the 80s in particular, featuring the disfigured swamp undead protagonist Victor Crowley.
Danielle Harris (Halloween 4/5 and the Rob Zombie Halloween II) steps into Tamara Feldman’s shoes as Marybeth, survivor of events of the first film. Keen to go back to the swamp to recover her relative’s body, she approaches Reverend Zombie (the legend that is Tony Todd) to arrange an expedition – that is also a hunt to take out Crowley once and for all… also featuring Kane Hodder (Jason in Friday the 13th VII-X) who as well as portraying Victor Crowley gets to show his face too for a change as his father in flashbacks, there are smaller roles for Tom Holland, Parry Shen (again!) and look out for Lloyd Kaufman of Troma fame! Slicker than the preceding film, it’s well shot and the laughs are nearly as plentiful as the blood, with kills that are funny as well as gorily inventive. Tony Todd stands out in what is one of his most extensive roles – it’s nice to see him get decent screen time – and is brilliantly watchable. Whilst doing nothing especially new, it’s a brash and fun film that makes for a great audience-pleasing opener.
Special note for this particular Q&A session was the awesome moment where Tony Todd turned to Kane Hodder and said “did you just interrupt me?” (cue Danielle Harris sneaking away from between them)!
Second film of the night was Australian monster(ish) flick Primal. A group of stereotyped characters head for the location of a caveman art that hasn’t been seen in over a hundred years, but with their presence something else is awakening…
It’s obvious early on this isn’t going to be a particularly original film, and first impressions aren’t good with most of the early dialogue making the central characters fairly unlikeable. There’s a blonde slut-stereotype, her bookish boyfriend stereotype, a follower-stereotype, a phobia-that-is-bound-to-come-into-play-later stereotype, an alpha male stereotype and of course the gratuitous joker stereotype – so the initial thought is to wonder who will die first! Things don’t take long to get going, and as the film progresses it becomes increasingly entertaining both in terms of dialogue and events with vaginal pulsing tunnels, super-jumping primal creatures, plenty of gore and a fantastic last line. The only problem is, I still can’t tell if it was intentional fun or was taken seriously and is so bad it’s fun! Definitely one to have the beers ready for when watching!
The day closed with British gangsters vs vampires flick Dead Cert. With a strong cast including Craig Fairbrass, Dexter Fletcher, Perry Benson, Steven Berkoff and Billy Murray, early impressions were good with a strong opening establishing a world of bare-knuckle fighting and betting that have helped Freddy “Dead Cert” Frankham (Fairbrass) finally afford to buy and open a nightclub called Paradise. Unfortunately, some visiting Romanian gangsters led by the ominously named Dante Livenko (Murray) take a shine to the club and would like a base of operations for their running of mysterious new drug Bliss. And of course, they don’t like to take no for an answer… you’ll notice there is no mention of vampires there, as the balance in this film is heavily on the gangster side – think the opposite of From Dusk Till Dawn in terms of focus. When it comes to the horror side, the filmmakers seem less confident too, as although there are occasional good ideas they are slightly overrun by dialogue becoming weaker and the climax is a letdown. Budget clearly comes into play at times, with a very empty nightclub apparently getting a full refit which amounts to changing some lightbulbs, adding a small fire and having the dancers wear black! It’s all quite serious too, and I can’t help but feel adding some more comedy would have been very well received. All in all I wouldn’t say I really disliked it, but it didn’t quite live up to its potential and has to go down as just OK. And in case you wondered how it was possible to make a Cockney gangster film without Danny Dyer, keep your eyes peeled at the end 😉
Film of the day – Hatchet II