Frightfest is back… not quite where you were looking! This year with new headline sponsor The Horror Channel, Frightfest took over the entire of the West 12 Vue in Shepherds Bush, and offered a 67-film lineup over main and discovery screens.
Comic Con is always a highlight. If you’re like me, then the dealer’s hall is great fun, wandering around spotting fun t-shirts and retro toys from your childhood (oh how that G1 Metroplex was tempting), alongside spotting glimpses of famous faces from the various shows I’ve enjoyed over the years.
This year, I attended on the Sunday, so it was a bit quieter than the busy Saturday. The signings had been moved up to a new area upstairs, overlooking the river, which made for a much nicer, bright, open area. Various cult figures were present, including Jimmy Vee, Ray Park, Margot Kidder and Sean Astin.
However for me, there was one guest I had to see. The Sixth Doctor himself, Colin Baker. (more…)
August Bank Holiday weekend, and putting excitement for Series 9 on the back burner for a few days, it was time for the annual visit to the Dark Heart of Cinema that is Film4 Frightfest 2015.
London, August 2014 (what, again?)
Yep, it’s that time of year, and ready to go Into Darkness – also known as cinema screens for 26 times in 5 days! This is the 15th year of the festival that is the Dark Heart of Sinema, and my 14th time after missing 2006 (the year of Pan’s Labyrinth, argh!). Reviews of some of the previous years can be found on this very site – 2013, 2012 and 2010!
“I don’t know… feels different this time”
The big news this time round was the move to the Vue West End from the last few years in the Empire and the separation of the “main screen” into three with offset starts of the primary programme. The three were separated by name; Screen 7 became The Arrow Video Screen, Screen 6 The Horror Channel Screen, and Screen 5 which was to be my home for the weekend The Film4 Screen. So there was a little trepidation at settling into the seat that would be home for the weekend – would the move work, and would the social atmosphere that has always made Frightfest stand out remain?
London, 7th August 2014. It was a gloriously sunny early evening as I approached along the riverside, with a twinge of nostalgia seeing the long tables selling books outside instantly taking me back the best part of a couple of decades. Had there been something called My Wibbly Wobbly Booky Wooky it may have been especially appropriate, but they seemed to have the wrong franchise there instead…
Everybody knows that Doctor Who is the peoples show. It’s the programme that only, exclusively and completely belongs to me, and you, and him over there. It’s made only, exclusively and completely for me, and you, and, well, ok, him as well and, without a doubt, no one else on a Saturday night either watches it or, indeed, gets anything at all out of it. It’s mine. And your’s. And him other there’s.
So it was incredibly nice of the people at BBC Worldwide to create an interactive exhibition for me at their sunny (the sun was put on especially for me) and gorgeous Roath Lock facility.
As a grown up (sort of) who remembers the foreboding and wonderful TARDIS entrance to the Doctor Who Exhibition in Blackpool, this huge, glittery, shiny and very posh custom made place on the water is a spellbinding and tear jerkingly thrilling place. Off to the side, randomly, is an abandoned police box, signs perhaps that the King is in Residence, and the foyer is resplendent with Bessie, a lego Dalek and a very friendly triceratops as well as a few other little nuggets dotted around. Spend some time there, have a coffee, and look around.
The tour itself starts with a cut and pasted message from Matt, a force of nature as always, as he describes the Doctor to us, as if we need to know, and we enter, through the crack in reality, to the tour proper. A thrilling special effect causes the TARDIS to materialise right in front of us and, after a bumpy trip in the console room, a scary encounter with the Daleks and, creepily, a forest of Weeping Angels, takes us to the Pandorica Room where, apparently by shuffling along, we help to rescue the Doctor!
The interactive part of the Experience is great fun, and more than a little emotional for this long term fan as he joined punters dressed in fezzes and bowties (some of the NOT children!) who were thrilled at Matt’s on screen comic timing and energy. After seeing him do the same thing at Doctor Who Live, he really is a master at this. He pulls us along, makes us laugh, and even a little afraid (“Whatever you do. Do. Not. Blink!”) and punch the air at the very impressive 3D Pandorica Room as monsters reach other the screen to grab at us.
After saving the Doctor (as you do), we get a two floored, up close and personal, exhibition of the series props and costumes, and whilst we’re asked not to touch, there’s no glass to stop us having a very good look. The treat for me was the reproduced console rooms, and TARDIS props, including the War Doctor’s/Eighth Doctor’s war battered box, and the Daleks. They are HUGE. It has to be said that the “cybus” Cybermen are much more impressive in real life too. There’s a nice little workshop on how to walk like scarecrow which is great fun to join in and also one on the music and sound effects. The miniatures too are worth spending some time studying, as is the Black Archive’s UNIT notice board.
As a fan of the show on a whole I could bemoan the lack of classic series props and monsters, but there IS a K1, an old school Sontaran (nice to see how radically difference Strax and co actually are) and an Ice Warrior (again, with the Cold War prop available for a contract and compare), so I would really be a bit churlish to moan about it. My advice to you is to look up occasionally too. You may forget you’ve seen something.
For its money, the Doctor Who Experience is very, very good value. It’s jam packed with detail, worth studying, and a complete geek fest. There’s even a little shop. Who doesn’t love a little shop? Take your time to go round, study the exhibits though, because you may miss stuff. And take pictures. Lots of pictures.
Matt is the driving force behind the Experience for now, but it’s due a regeneration soon, so if you’re a fan of the Eleventh Doctor, I’d urge you to get to Cardiff now before he’s gone, but then, I’m absolutely definitely going back to see how Peter Capaldi’s Doctor changes the exhibit.
This is a 9/10 holiday excursion, and thrilled both me as an uber fan, and my group, who included someone who doesn’t watch the programme and a ten year old. We all came out of the Experience happy and excited.
That really doesn’t matter of course, because, as everyone knows, the Doctor Who Experience was made specifically for me. And you. And him over there.
Book up for your own personal Experience HERE
Thursday August 22, and London saw a muggy Thursday morning cool into an overcast afternoon.
Glamming up as has become a tradition, the meeting point for many was nearby pub the Captain’s Cabin for a couple of drinks before migrating to the Empire. There was a slight sense of poignancy after hearing the Cabin was going to be closed and turned into flats, but the overriding feel was one of excitement and anticipation.
Soon enough it was time to head into the Empire itself, and to squeeze into the seat that would be a second home for the next few days…
Film4 Frightfest is a movie festival that’s a bit different from many others – inspired by the likes of Shock Around The Clock at the Scala and sharing a common organiser in critic Alan Jones, it centres around horror but frequently shows films that push genre boundaries. One of the unique aspects is its family feel with a strong sense of community – many guests stay for the whole weekend and come back in subsequent years for the atmosphere, and there have been Frightfest couples, marriages and even babies (one case even involving having to leave mid-film to go give birth!).
The festival started with 17 films in 2000, and in the years since has added in a Halloween All-Nighter and a March Weekender in Glasgow plus several one-off events. From the start in the Prince Charles Cinema the increasing demand led to relocation to the Odeon West End, and then to its current home at the Empire Leicester Square. Personally, I have managed to attend all bar 2006 of the London August Bank Holiday festivals, and love it – it’s like meeting your mates for a cinema-based holiday!
2013’s fest was introduced by director of Willow Creek, actor and stand-up comic Bobcat Goldthwait – if he doesn’t look so familiar, then as he said “you looked different in the 80s too” 😉 Highlights included him laying into “real horror” film Grown Ups 2 (“a film so bad I’m surprised I wasn’t asked to be in it”), the bible as the first zombie story yet rarely showing any violence when put onscreen (barring Mel Gibson working through his feelings) and the revelation of an upcoming remake of Police Academy being a comedy this time, and his energy was a great set up for the features to come.
Huge thanks must go to organisers Paul McEvoy, Ian Rattray, Alan Jones and Greg James, the staff of the Empire and the Phoenix, the patience and friendliness of seat neighbours Steve, Martin and David and all the Frightfesters who make the event such a great one.
The Movies (all scores are out of 5 stars):
Curse of Chucky ****
You’re Next ****
The Dyatlov Pass Incident ***1/2
Short: Crazy for You ****
Hatchet III ****
V/H/S 2 ***1/2
100 Bloody Acres ***
Frankenstein’s Army ***1/2
Hammer of the Gods **1/2
No One Lives ****1/2
R.I.P.D. 3D ***1/2
Cheap Thrills ***1/2
In Fear ***
Dark Tourist ***1/2
The Conspiracy ***1/2
The Last Days ****
Dark Touch **1/2
Banshee Chapter 3D ****
Short: The Body ****
Odd Thomas ****
We Are What We Are ***1/2
Big Bad Wolves *****
Here’s a quick reference guide for all the main screen films that showed at Frightfest 2012 – with the sole exception of Eurocrime (sorry, I had a lie in!)
More detailed reviews for all the below are in our movie reviews section or just by clicking on each of the titles below!
All scores are out of 5 stars
- The Seasoning House – disturbing and brutal. Sean Pertwee and the lead actress both awesome. ***1/2
- Cockneys vs Zombies – fantastic fun, bloody, funny, un-PC ****
- Grabbers – good fun too, if Richard Coyle had played it as Jeff from Coupling (which could still have made sense) it would have been the perfect film ;-)***1/2
- Nightbreed: the Cabal Cut – awesome. The story hangs together really well in this version, and the design hasnt really dated. Some of the footage was ropey but will be improved come the Blu-Ray ****
- Hidden in the Woods – too rapey for me, though the grindhouse audience will probably appreciate it more. Hilariously inconsistent spelling in subtitles, even in character names! **
- V/H/S – starts a bit weak and if you dont like shakycam you’ll be a bit annoyed as its a found footage anthology but some of the segments are really good ***
- [.REC]3 – tone and camera style shift (much more comedy and most is shot “normally”) don’t really gel with the other films in the franchise but other than that is excellent and funny too ***1/2
- Stitches – great fun, Ross Noble and Tommy Knight (Luke from The Sarah Jane Adventures) are both good and its very very funny, some superb deaths too! ****
- Outpost II – decent with intriguing ideas behind it (like the first), some silly bits and Richard Coyle’s american accent is duff though ***
- Paura 3D – solid but unspectacular, 3D occasionally nice but repetitive (lots of use of branches or leaves in foreground) and could have been used better IMHO. Overly unnecessary nudity which was way overexplicit in one scene for me **
- Under the Bed – two completely different but both decent films were apparently made by this team, unfortunately they then smushed them together and said it was one! A bit like Mirrors in that sense… both “halves” have good aspects but as a whole it means it doesn’t make sense. The ending is especially ridiculous, but I can’t hate it somehow! **1/2
- Tulpa – love letter to giallo genre in all senses – beautiful and sounds great, but dialogue can be horrifically bad and I couldn’t tell if the laughs were intentional or not… ***
- Maniac – stunning, impressive how Elijah Wood can put in such a good performance when the entire film is first person (you only see him in reflections/photos/occasional hallucinations). The style makes it more disturbing too… and yes, I’ll say it – better than the original *****
- The Thompsons – flawed but nice originality, helps if you’ve seen The Hamiltons! Some interesting twists on an oft-used mythology involved… ***
- The Frightfest International Short Film Showcase – ranged from the unnecessarily nasty (Tokophobia) through the fairytale (The Halloween Kid, The Captured Bird) to the silly fun (Snails!, Metal Creepers). Good overall but can’t really give a single score!
- Sleep Tight – fantastic, tense, really shocking twists, and can be summed up in three words – “What a b*stard!” *****
- Berberian Sound Studio – looked and sounded stunning, but I still don’t have the foggiest what happened! Toby Jones is really good though ***
- Sinister – best mainstream American horror in years. Yes, it’s that good, genuinely creepy and several moments that even made a screen of 1500 Frightfesters jump! *****
- Dead Sushi – contains the cutest singing egg sushi you’ll see in any film this year. Utterly hilarious! ****
- American Mary – superb, with starmaking role for Katherine Isabelle. The only film of the weekend containing nudity that was necessary. The directors are adorable too! *****
- After – decent but not great (predictable to me but may not be to others). Kind of sweetly romantic, which elicited first facepalm of the weekend as a result 😉 **1/2
- Chained – another brutal one this, Vincent D’Onofrio is really good. Unfortunately ending was trimmed for time (the whole film had a running time requirement) which diminishes a big twist slightly ***1/2
- The Possession – good and slick, but suffered slightly from coming a day after Sinister (if it had been shown before and with a bigger gap it may have been appreciated more as it falls into some tropes that while not bad per se became obvious by their avoidance in Sinister) ***1/2
- Tower Block – brilliantly tense, nicely witty and really well acted. Cracking thriller but very important to go in cold – don’t even look at the trailer! ****
Seen any of these films? Let us know what you thought in our forum!
Day 5 – Monday 30th August
Time really does fly when you’re having fun, and it was sad to realise that it was already the last day. How did that happen – it felt like 4 hours not 4 days!
The final day of this year’s fest kicked off with documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape. Directed by Jake West and produced by Marc Morris, it’s an excellent and even-handed account of how the term began, how the panic and vilification of horror progressed with the Video Recordings Act and how it still has repercussions for the future. With a plethora of interviews including MP Graham Bright, Martin Barker and those who grew up during the Nasties era like Neil Marshall (The Descent) and Christopher Smith (Triangle), as well as archive footage featuring infamous BBFC director James Ferman and Who-archenemy Mary Whitehouse, it’s a gripping and fascinating piece of work. The archive footage is probably scarier than many of the films discussed, with the pro-censorship brigade intent to shout down anyone pointing out contrary facts to their assumptions and using much of the same kinds of inciteful language as religious fundamentalists. And wait till you hear a claim about the impact of the films not being limited to children… 😉 A great strength of the documentary is that it easily prompts further discussion on multiple aspects – one covered outside afterwards was the Nasties panic as the start of the handing off of parental responsibility. A must for anyone who is interested in film or British cultural history, an extended version will be released in October as part of Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide.
A panel discussion followed, featuring Jake West, Marc Morris, Martin Barker, Allan Bryce (known for Dark Side magazine) a slightly bemused Tobe Hooper, and Dave Hyman of the BBFC. Martin Barker came out best, with an impressive sense of passion yet still always calm and sensible, though credit to Dave for facing some hard questions and describing how classification works now – and how to help get involved. The secret is to stay aware, and stay reasonable – the internet is an extremely powerful tool, but just ranting won’t put across a positive argument!
Next up was zombie film The Dead, directed by Brit brothers Jon and Howard J Ford. Rob Freeman stars as Lt Brian Murphy, stranded after a plane crash and fighting to get back to the apparent safety of America and his family. But there’s alot of Africa to cross, and even more zombies in the way… Set and shot in Burkino Faso, there’s something of a Resident Evil 5 look about the style and editing, but with proper slow zombies 😉 The pacing is something more like a road movie than the traditional zombie movie, being set in the wilds, and the environment is more than a pretty background in that its effects are evident and important. Burkino Faso is a pretty country and while there are some nice shots in there, with a fair amount set in close scale the opportunity is missed for more panoramic beauty. That’s a reasonable payoff though, as the focus is intentionally on Murphy and his journey, and despite the odd misstep (a technical scene seemed to be waiting for accompanying A-Team music) it’s an impressive film, above the zombie norm and a good calling card for the Ford Brothers.
Continuing the zombie theme, Andrew Lincoln (who I remember from Teachers) took to the stage to introduce a roughly 10 minute preview of upcoming TV series The Walking Dead. Based on a graphic novel, it looks like few punches have been pulled in bringing the story to the small screen – it will be showing on FX in the US, not sure if there is a UK deal as yet.
The scene included in the preview had a slightly 28 Days Later feel insofar as it centred around Lincoln’s character waking up in a deserted hospital, and was an excellent teaser for what looks like it’ll be a lot of fun. If not on TV, may be one for a DVD/Blu-Ray buy!
A complete change of pace came with Bedevilled, a Korean film that opens with Seoul banker Hae-won (Ji Sung-won) being annoyingly passive to the detriment of others. Being forced onto vacation, she decides to go back to the island of Moodo for the first time in many years, although her friend Bok-Nam (Seo Young-hee) has been begging for her to go and rescue her across many letters without response. Arriving at the island she sees the unpleasant treatment of Bok-Nam by her husband, his brothers and even aunts, but her indifferent attitude lets things continue, and following a tragic turn of events things escalate to a terrifying head…
It’s a testament to the filmmakers that a film that for the majority of its running time is ponderously paced and with almost exclusively unlikeable characters (even Bok-Nam isn’t perfect, taking out her frustration on her daughter) still holds the attention, and when the story takes its inevitable turn into violence there is a sense of just desserts about proceedings. Knowing this, the thread of black comedy that has been running through turns into a broad streak at this point and although it ends up as a sad film, it’s one with some surprisingly entertaining parts along the way. Well-made and decent overall, but would have preferred Hae-won to be a bit more likeable!
Before the next film was the final installment of this year’s Road to Frightfest shorts by Adam Green and Joe Lynch. The pair have become a brilliant double act since meeting at Frightfest and for the past 3 festivals have made a collection of shorts – one per day – from their own pockets and completely by themselves as “The Douche Brothers”. They’re hugely appreciated and selfishly it’s a bit sad that as they become busier with bigger film projects the scheduling is probably going to make them impossible – but we all hugely appreciate those that they’ve made and the huge amount of time effort (and a fair amount of money!) that the pair spend making them – thank you guys! This year’s theme was The Blair Witch Project and was as funny and gross as ever, whilst chock full of nods to events, films and people from Frightfests past and present. Ending on a touching tribute to Kevin (the Frightfester who passed earlier this year) they’re also a testament to the filmmaking of Green and Lynch that they can carry emotion through the laughter. All of the episodes from the three years of The Road to Frightfest can be seen over at the Ariescope website – just click on Shorts then Television and More. Though there are many Frightfest in-jokes they’re still pretty accessible – and while there also check out Adam Green’s other shorts!
The penultimate film (awww!) was Red, White & Blue. Coming from writer/director Simon Rumley (The Living and the Dead) and set in Texas, it initially centres around apathetic Erica (Amanda Fuller), who spends her evenings in bars and clubs around Austin and nights with whoever she picks up. Her first line is her mantra – “Look, I don’t stay the night, I don’t fall in love, and I don’t fuck the same guy twice”. It seems to serve her well, till she meets in Nate (Noah Taylor) someone who isn’t interested in her just to get her into bed, but is hardly normal – he describes how he used to torture animals out of interest! As the two gradually build a friendship though, her past is catching up with her, and this isn’t heading for a fairytale ending… Simon Rumley’s greatest talent is in his creation of character, and the primary players are all three-dimensional flawed people. No-one is truly evil, but evil things get done from circumstance and a loss of control; the film is all the more affecting as everything that unfolds is entirely character-consistent. Brutal and upsetting yet also gripping, it’s a journey through an emotional wringer that leaves the viewer feeling exhausted and dirtied. An example of just how powerful cinema can be.
So, 24 films, 14 shorts, 5 Roads to Frightfest and a whole lot more had been and gone, and Frightfest was almost done for another year. Just one film remained – The Last Exorcism. Patrick Fabian stars as Cotton Marcus, a preacher and exorcist preparing to hang up his Bible after realising his faith isn’t what it was. Disturbed by a tale in which an autistic child accidentally died during an exorcism, he decides to expose the fakery and showmanship he used by filming one last performance. Except as always happens in this kind of situation, this time round the possession might actually be real… You’ll notice I said “might”, and that leads into the most important thing to take into this film – forget the trailers! Or avoid them if you can – this is a case where knowing little going in is a distinct advantage. It’s also one of those rare movies where you can take very different impressions away on different watchings, something aided by superb performances by Patrick Fabian and especially Ashley Bell who is outstanding as Nell. The semi-documentary style coupled with Cotton’s intentions give a feel of honesty, so when the creepiness kicks in it works very well. Ultimately, it will be a divisive film – the marketing may leave some feeling cheated that the film even questions the possibility of possession (as well as featuring things that were never shot so not in the movie) and the ending is likely to be controversial too. But I loved it, and will be definitely revisiting on Blu-Ray when it gets released!
After a last Q&A including Eli Roth, Daniel Stamm, Ashley Bell and Patrick Fabian which ended in one of the best last questions ever (I’ll just say that there’s something wonderfully surreal about several hundred horror fans properly getting into a “HALLELUJAH!” 😉 ) It was time to head to the Phoenix for the customary festival-finishing drinks. Huge thanks to Ian, Paul, Alan and Greg for organising another fantastic festival, the friendly Frightfest crew, Adam, Joe and all the guests who came along, the brilliant Empire staff (not least those who came down from Glasgow to work the fest!), Maurice and the Phoenix staff, and most importantly all the other Frightfesters who again made this festival such a brilliant place to be for five days!
Bring on 2011!
Film of the day – The Last Exorcism
Day 4 – Sunday 29th August
In the past few years, there’s been a pattern of “Grim Sunday” at Frightfest, with films of disturbing and brutal intent. With controversy already rife around A Serbian Film, would this year be grim for good or bad reasons?
It was off to a muddy start with this year’s sole French feature, The Pack. Goth-a-like Charlotte (Émilie Dequenne with tattooed knuckles) picks up hitch-hiker Max (Benjamin Biolay) in the middle of nowhere, and shortly afterwards they have a run-in with a bunch of OTT bikers. Max excuses himself to the toilet and promptly disappears, and after leaving her details with an ageing policeman type who seems more interested in her (the brilliant Philippe Nahon, wearing a superb t-shirt) things unravel in rather a different way than expected… There’s quite a lot to like about the film, which is nicely shot and has a wonderfully sly sense of humour bubbling under the surface at times, and some good gore and makeup effects. The creatures involved are well-designed too, albeit in need of an orthodontist 😉 On the not so good side, Charlotte’s character doesn’t seem quite in line with her look – what’s her story? – and without spoiling anything the ending is disappointing as it feels like two endings were shot but a decision couldn’t be made which to follow, so both were included. Unfortunately as they’re different in tone, feel and context a decision really should have been made, as it doesn’t work the way it’s been left. Mind you, it’s still only 80mins long, so maybe there was time to make up!
Andy Nyman took to the stage next to host the Quiz From Hell, made by Simon Williams and Lee-Jay Bannister who are behind genius pub film quiz You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat. This was well made and presented, with a good balance both for the casual viewer as well as the horror addict, and rounds like “What Happened Next?” incorporating clips added to the variety. My personal favourite section was the Soundtracks segment – 20 clips from 20 films, the first playing for 20 seconds, the next for 19, then 18… all the way down to the last for a single second! I wasn’t close to winning myself, but it was good fun and my backup film title of Shirley Bassey’s Guatemalan Adventure (what do you mean, not a real movie?!) even got an outing!
The quiz was followed by the Film4 Frightfest International Short Film Showcase – there were quite a lot of these, so time for one-line reviews!
La Madre – every parent’s nightmare, made worse by the way it looks to others. Excellently told – apparently a true story?
Nelly et Lio – you can’t go wrong when you include a gnu! Inspired slice of madness, and cute leads too 😉
How I Survived the Zombie Apocalypse – excellently shot, and with an appropriate Sarah/John Connor feel to the mother/son relationship.
Bon Appetit – three single-joke shorts about food. Unfortunately only one is funny.
Switch – A killer in the snow, with an obvious twist.
Papa Wrestling – OTT genius, watch it here:
To My Mother and Father – so intent on trying to shock and offend it forgets to be any good. Sole redeeming feature is a nice “mindscape” vision.
Rise of the Appliances – Absolutely fantastic attack-by-electricals set just outside Pontypridd, and wouldn’t be nearly as funny with any other accent!
Through the Night – effective if not especially original on partner having nightmares (or more?), slickly made.
The Red Balloon – possibly the best straight-horror short of babysitting a child who seems scared of “nothing” except we know where that’s going to go! Nice twists and good atmosphere.
Dead Hungry – it’s not easy being a zombie! Original, funny and surprisingly sweet.
Choreomania – neat concept of infectious dance not used to its full potential. Neat ending though.
2:22 – well-made short continuing one of the weekend’s themes that doggystyle is dangerous 😉 Be careful who you chat to in nightclubs, they may not be what you expect…
The End – apparently made to look like a snippet of the climax of an action film, doesn’t really excuse the lack of proper context. Some nicely done moments, but appears it would be a very cheap looking and not very good action film!
So far, not too grim then! And the next film up, We Are What We Are, was described in publicity as “the Mexican Let The Right One In“! Unfortunately, what results is neither as beautiful nor as enthralling, as its tale of the struggle of a cannibal family after the loss of its patriarch is much more a slice of pondering drama that seems almost ashamed of the nature of its characters. While I would applaud the evenness of tone for both the scenes of day-to-day life and those involving planning of victims and talk of the “ritual”, and the evocatively grimy photography (thought night scenes could be a little murky), I just wasn’t gripped; in quiet scenes there was a fair amount of light snoring from around the auditorium and more than once I wondered if I would appreciate a quick kip more than the rest of the film! Pretty sure the group of prostitutes weren’t supposed to come across in the comedy sense they did too! Disappointing.
Frightfest favourites Adam Green and Joe Lynch took to the stage next, to announce their hitherto secret project, upcoming anthology film Chillerama. An homage to the days of drive-in cinema, it will centre around 4 drive-in tales representing different eras: Wadzilla, directed by Adam Rifkin (Detroit Rock City); Curse of the Were Bears by Tim Sullivan (2001 Maniacs and its sequel); Zombie Movie helmed by Joe Lynch and Adam Green’s The Diary of Anne Frankenstein. Definitely going to be a must watch, and hopefully will be at Frightfest 2011!
Another comparison was in store with the next film too, with Damned By Dawn mooted as like Evil Dead 4. In this case there is an early resemblance; both are set in misty forests and involve the repercussions of reckless interfering beyond the understanding of the leads. However, it’s also unfair as the Australian Banshee flick isn’t up to the stellar expectations of a new Evil Dead; it doesn’t try to be as funny and the story centering around a banshee who wails (or more accurately screeches deafeningly) for the souls of the dying yet is totally corporeal – she even needs to use door handles! It’s entertaining enough if not standout stuff, and the biggest downside is an over-reliance on CGI – aside from some creature effects (personally I preferred the makeup effects used) there’s layers of mist and more subtle effects for most of the film. The “by dawn” element feels a little unnecessary too, with it seeming light for most of the film after the curse is stated. There’s potential visible though, and directors The Amazing Krypto Brothers are worth keeping an eye on. Still worth a watch, just manage your expectations first!
Originally, A Serbian Film was going to show next, but its controversial reputation preceded it a little too much. Alan Jones explained how Westminster Council decided to make an example (like with I Spit On Your Grave on Saturday) and decided on the week of the festival that it would have to be a BBFC-approved print to be screened. To be fair on the BBFC, they turned round extremely quickly (it usually takes 2 weeks for classification, they did it in a day) and on Wednesday 25th August reported that they required 49 cuts totalling 3 minutes and 48 seconds in order to grant an 18. They did offer to do another super-speedy check if a new submission could be made though cuts could still be necessary, but between the festival organisers, filmmakers and distributor Revolver Entertainment it was decided that as well as the timing being so tight to recut a new version it wouldn’t be the directors vision, so the decision was made to pull the film. It’s not just Frightfest that has suffered in this regard – since this it has turned out that even a private screening at Raindance is yet to be confirmed!
So, how to replace a brutal political allegory already infamous for its disturbing sexual violence? Why, with a mainstream Hollywood film of course! Oh, of course… hang on, what? 95 minutes of Ryan Reynolds in a box? Yep, it was Buried. And boy, did it defy expectations! Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, a truck driver for a US contractor in Iraq who wakes up in a wooden coffin after his convoy is attacked. There’s a lighter and a phone in there too, but it’s best to go in knowing little more than this to get full enjoyment from this brilliantly tense film. Obviously if you hate Ryan Reynolds then it’s not for you, but if you don’t he puts in an excellent performance in a unique and challenging role. Director Rodrigo Cortés, in his first english-language feature, adds an impressive style to proceedings and the limiting setting is kept visually interesting throughout. The pacing is excellent too, and I found myself on the edge of my seat from the Hitchcockian opening titles right until the credits rolled on the superbly ballsy ending. Highly recommended – a real pulse-pounder!
Following Buried came another nice surprise – the complete except for score (the temp score featuring excerpts from The Magnificent Seven, as it happens) Adam Green segment of Chillerama, The Diary of Anne Frankenstein. Styled like it was made in the 1940s, it centres around Hitler (played by Joel David Moore) finding the book of Frankenstein’s research from before the family shortened their name… cue a monster called Meshuggenah (Yiddish for madman) replete with yarmulke! Extremely funny whilst remaining a cute homage to the post-war films that inspired it, a particularly great touch is that all the cast speak German throughout – with the exception of Joel David Moore who (as well as being Jewish!) doesn’t speak a word, so gets given some fantastic alternatives instead! Keep an ear out though, as there is one line of perfect German in there – I won’t spoil how it actually translates!
Sunday’s final film was another Australian offering, The Loved Ones. Xavier Samuel, soon to be the object of millions of tweens’ affection when he stars in Twilight: Eclipse next year, stars as Brent, a teen who can’t move on from the repercussions of a tragic car accident months earlier. His only releases are smoking pot and his girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine); so when shy outsider Lola (Robin McReady) asks him to go with her to the school prom he refuses as he is already going with Holly. Unfortunately Lola is determined to be a prom princess, and refusal doesn’t factor in to her plans with Brent… Sort of like a demented mix of Heathers and Misery, the focus is quite obviously on horror but there’s a broad streak of black comedy that runs throughout and works very well. Much of the weight of the film falls on Robin McReady, and she plays Lola fantastically between the need for self-validation and cruel anger. The rest of the cast are also impressive, especially Xavier Samuel in long periods where he has no dialogue but expresses no less, and Sean Byrne handles the events well in his feature debut. There’s also an inspired choice of song that returns throughout the film that adds an element of poignancy too and will be sending many people to itunes or spotify once the film finishes. On the downside at times the cutting between the main characters and the prom itself doesn’t always flow and the ending is a little overlong, but the way that plot threads and characters are tied up is nicely done. Definitely worth a watch!
Best short – Rise of the Appliances
Film of the day – Buried