Day 3 – Saturday 28th August
Third day already, where is the time going! It’s not a cheery start to Saturday, though, with the stark and tense Cherry Tree Lane. Centering around a married couple whose evening is rather abruptly interrupted by teenage house invaders looking for their son, early impressions are of Daily Mail middle class paranoia come to life, with the attackers initially portrayed as the expected stereotypes. It even skirts uncomfortably close to racial typing, with the white teenager as a bit dim but motivated by money, and a black teen as the violent instigator. But as the film goes on, the characters are subtly developed and all involved are extremely well-written and three-dimensional; they feel real and it helps keep the tension high. Natural acting from all involved brings out the drama, and the impact of the film’s climax is heightened by its believability. Not one that is likely to prompt rewatching, but a gutpunch of a film nonetheless.
Next up was the latest from Twisted Pictures, The Tortured, which seemed like it would be another uninspired “torture porn” type entry. But it’s not quite as it seems, and some neat twists alongside decent pacing raise it above average for a genre I admit I’m not keen on. Erika Christensen and Jesse Metcalfe star as an annoyingly attractive couple whose young son is kidnapped (for a change, before the movie starts!), and the police don’t get there in time to save his life. When the perpetrator is only sentenced to a “25 to life” sentence – meaning possible parole in 10 years – they decide that this isn’t punishment enough so plan their own brand of justice… there’s a few decent twists in store and it’s slickly presented, but like some of the Saw franchise there’s a slight over-reliance on flashbacks and it occasionally feels like motivation is spread between the characters so you don’t dislike one with the other as a sole moral compass. And don’t do something silly like look at any notes you may be taking, or even blink, in the last 10 minutes or you might completely miss a rather important visual twist! Flawed, but a decent enough watch.
Then we got to watch a Halloween feature-length crossover between Hollyoaks and My Family… no, wait, it was 13Hrs. A low-budget British horror, there’s fun to be had here but the slightly soapy opening doesn’t really do the rest of the film justice with an overlong party and conversations about sex. Sarah Tyler (Isabella Calthorpe, Trinity) returns to the family home from several months abroad building an independent life to find things have changed since she left – her best friend (Gemma Atkinson, Hollyoaks) is going out with her half-brother, and suspicions are rife that her mother is cheating on her stepfather. And on this particular night, they’re not alone either… Good set design, some clever foreshadowing and good deaths help smooth over dialogue that at times feels rather scripted and a couple of silly mistakes (visible baldcap and tit tape!), to make a brisk flick that while an entertaining enough watch is still likely to disappear on DVD.
A nice surprise followed with Tom Six taking to the stage to introduce some photos from Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence and answer some questions. He jokes about being proud as a filmmaker of the death threats received in response to the first film (probably by those who hadn’t seen it!) and how “Part 1 is My Little Pony next to Part 2!” And to answer the inevitable question, this time round it is 100% medically inaccurate! The photos look much madder than the first, with huge amounts of nudity looking pretty likely this time round too – I hope that the strengths of the first will be built on with character keeping strong as well as the expected shocking imagery!
A touch of controversy next, as thanks to insistence by Westminster Council the Horror Channel-sponsored presentation of I Spit on Your Grave is the BBFC-passed version with 43 seconds of cuts (though the running time difference is only 22-seconds due to shot substitution). A remake of the unpleasant and amateurish 1978 rape-and-revenge film that gained cult status mainly thanks to its title and placement on the Video Nasty list in the 80s, the cuts are all to the gang rape rather than the revenge element, so I can’t honestly say I was disappointed. As you may have guessed from the preceding sentences, I never liked the first, and although the remake is better I still have a problem with films that involve sexual violence included just so revenge can follow. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the genuinely good The Horseman which showed at Frightfest in 2009, but the flaws stood out here – the biggest of which is tone. The rape is brutal and unforgiving, but when it comes to payback the tone switches to one of a wisecracking and cartoony horror with elaborate setup for grossout impact that completely forgets the psychology of the main character (played otherwise excellently by Sarah Butler) and in so doing, makes the whole brutal setup unnecessary – half an hour could be saved and a better film made with no reason behind the female’s psychosis. Alternatively, have the guts (pun not intended) to keep the tone consistent and with repercussions – it would be a harder watch but a much better one. Still, it’s slickly done so those who liked the original or the rape/revenge genre will probably appreciate it more than I did.
There couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the next film – the 12A-rated (what?!) road trip (eh?!) Monsters. In a near future where a capsule carrying samples from Jupiter’s moon Europa crashed in Central America, leading to the quarantine of a large portion of Mexico as an “infected zone”, a cynical journalist (Scoot McNairy) looking to make a living from pictures of the huge aliens and their impact when they clash with humans is employed to escort his magazine owner’s daughter (Whitney Able) back to the safety of the United States. Unfortunately much of the advertising draws comparisons to District 9, which is very wrong – the aliens are a backdrop to the journey of two very well drawn characters on what ultimately is much more of a love story than it is a traditional sci-fi or horror film. It’s also a film about unexpected beauty – it’s fantastically shot, and the aliens when seen in detail are more than just brilliant special effects (which will really make your jaw drop when you hear the budget…) but highlight the wonder of new life forms that the Doctor always delights in. Eagle-eyed viewing is also rewarded in the tapestry of the film, especially early on 😉 A brilliant surprise, and a wonderful, gorgeous piece of work that highlights a true talent in British writer, director and VFX artist Gareth Edwards. Will definitely be buying the Blu-Ray when it comes out!
Saturday’s final film was Hong Kong slasher Dream Home, described intriguingly as “Friday the 13th meets Location, Location, Location“! The story centres around Cheng Lai-sheung (Josie Ho), who after being forced to move due to rising costs and closure of tower blocks as a child dreams of moving back to an apartment with a sea view. Many years later, and with her father in ill health, she finds the perfect apartment – however prices are rocketing and the cost will stretch her funds to the limit even working two jobs. But there’s no way she will give up her dream home… There’s a really rich and detailed backstory to the characters which can be both a blessing and a curse at times, as while the story is interesting the movie’s tendency to jump back and forth in time could get confusing at gone midnight after five other films! As well as good writing for the character beats – there are some really sweet moments between the children in the 1990s sections – there’s a good balance of humour throughout. There’s also an interesting reversal of the usual portrayal of gender bias, which makes a refreshing change! Ultimately though, this kind of film will be judged on it’s kills and in this case they’re brilliant and messily inventive, putting Dream Home in a strong market position for quick sale!
Film of the day – Monsters