Frightfest2012

The Skaro Halloween Awards – Frightfest special

To commemorate the spooky time of year, here’s the first Skaro Awards ceremony for Frightfest. The main focus is on summer, but there is reference to Glasgow and all-nighter films seen too.

A summary of the summer Frightfest reviews can be found here – more detailed reviews of each film are in the reviews section!

Top 5 films – Sleep Tight, Sinister, American Mary, Maniac, Cockneys vs Zombies/Tower Block (tie)

Best actress – Katherine Isabelle (American Mary). Runner up – Rosie Day (The Seasoning House)

Best actor – Luis Tosar (Sleep Tight). Runner up – Ethan Hawke (Sinister)

Best newcomer – Ross Noble (Stitches). Runner up – Rosie Day (The Seasoning House)

Best writer/s – The Soska twins (American Mary). Runners up – Scott Derricksen & C Robert Cargill (Sinister)

Best director/s – The Soska Twins (American Mary). Runner up – Scott Derricksen (Sinister)

Best short – The Halloween Kid. Runner up – The Captured Bird

Best Turn Off Your Bloody Phone short – Mr Ian Rattray. Runners up – Mr James Moran, Daddy Cross

Best acting by someone only seen indirectly for 95% of the film – Elijah Wood (Maniac)

Best kill – Stitches (umbrella). Runner up – Cockneys vs Zombies (Richard Briers lets rip)

Best action sequences – The Raid. Runner up – Cockneys vs Zombies

Scariest film – Sinister. Runner up – V/H/S

Funniest film – Dead Sushi. Runners up – Stitches, Cockneys vs Zombies

Best twist/s – The Tall Man. Runners up – Chained, Sinister

Best event – Seeing Nightbreed as Clive Barker originally wanted it. Runner up – Dario Argento’s eloquent interview

Best monster/s – Nightbreed. Runner up – After

Grossest monster when you think about it – Under the Bed (really, ew)

Best world design – Nightbreed. Runner up – Under the Bed

Most unfortunate line (English) – “Sorry I blew you off on the bus”, After. Runner up – “I don’t want you touching [my box]”, The Possession (said to her father!)

Most unfortunate line (dubbed/subtitled) – “Noone really knows anything about him, except they say he’s a hermaphrodite”, Tulpa. Runner up – most of Hidden in the Woods

Worst subtitles – Hidden in the Woods

Most unnecessary nudity – Paura 3D

Best interview moment – Dario Argento’s anecdote about Rutger Hauer not showing up on set (it involved a bush and a Russian…)

Biggest facepalm of the festival – ungrateful SOB decides to spoil the Q&A for The Seasoning House. Runner up – the kiss, After

The Dick van Dyke Award for worst accent – Richard Coyle (Outpost II especially)

Special award for making less sense than the Swedish Chef on LSD – Berberian Sound Studio. Runner up – Under the Bed

Special award for usage of common mythology in an interesting/new way – The Thompsons (vampires). Runner up – The Possession (Jewish exorcism)

The Regeneration award for varied yet consistent excellence across different films by the same person – James Moran (Cockneys vs Zombies, Tower Block and Turn Off Your Bloody Phone shorts). Runner up – Vincent D’Onofrio (Chained and Sinister)

Frightfest 2012 – Roundup

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!

Frightfest 2012 - aka Frightfest the 13th

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!

 

Tower Block

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Frightfest 2012 - aka Frightfest the 13th

Tower Block

Reviewed by Andy

 

Every so often, a film comes along where there is huge value to going in knowing as little as possible; not so much because of increasingly spoilerific trailers but where not knowing even an outline allows the first watch to have better impact in either twists, laughs or changing tone.
Tower Block is one of those films, and has a very spoilery trailer, so for you to be able to go in as best as possible I’ll just give this information – it’s a thriller set in a tower block scheduled for demolition where only the top floor is still occupied, and stars Sheridan Smith (Lucie Miller, companion of the 8th Doctor in Big Finish), Russell Tovey and Jack O’Connell. And if you keep an eye out there’s a poster for Cockneys vs Zombies briefly visible!

So, is it any good? The answer is a resounding yes – James Moran’s script is taut, tense and witty and the pacing is excellent. The cast shine too, Sheridan Smith showing she can easily handle a movie lead role and Jack O’Connell taking a potentially completely unpleasant character and running a fine line that doesn’t undermine any cruel acts but also shows an underlying code and reasoning for his behaviour with a wicked sense of humour. It’s the first feature for directors James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson, but you wouldn’t know it from watching; the environment is used effectively to give a sense of isolation and even claustrophobia at times, and there is a good attention to detail.

Another test for Tower Block will be if it stands up to rewatching; I believe it will as the sense of logic is pretty good, and while there are twists that may be best the first time round, the film’s focus isn’t solely on them so there is still much to appreciate second time round or beyond.
There are some minor niggles – the ending doesn’t quite live up to the impact of earlier events – but this is a British thriller of real note. Try to keep away from trailers and other details of the film, and there’s extra reward to be had for seeing with a completely blank slate. ****

The Possession

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Frightfest 2012 - aka Frightfest the 13th

The Possession

Reviewed by Andy

 

Films involving demonic possession occupy a crowded subgenre in horror, and one that is unsurprisingly still heavily influenced by The Exorcist. The Possession aims to stand out by eschewing the usual Christian-centric themes in favour of Jewish mythology; does it forge its own identity or is it destined to cook pork in Hull?

Winchester senior Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays recent divorcee Clyde, moving house and trying to maintain a relationship with daughters Em and Hannah (Natasha Calis and Madison Davenport). So when Em starts behaving weirdly shortly after buying an elaborately carved large box at a yard sale, the emotional pressures of the divorce seem a natural cause. But really, 9 Hellraisers on, when has there been a film where a wooden object with strange markings hasn’t had something untoward going on?

The Possession is inspired by the story of the Dybbuk box that notoriously appeared on eBay in 2003 and brought illness and strange phenomena to each subsequent owner, and handles the elements of Judaism even-handedly. It doesn’t look down on either the viewer or the religion with over-stereotyping, and the result is refreshing and maintains interest. A solid picture of a strained family engages, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is as watchable as ever, though Grant Show as “new man on the scene” Brett has something of a tendency towards cliché.

Coming from Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures, who also produced Drag Me To Hell in 2009, there is an obvious visual influence as well as the unfortunate tendency to put all the best visual moments in the trailer but director Ole Bornedal (Nightwatch – the one in the morgue not the Russian fantasy) adds his stamp too with some lovely overhead shots.
Unfortunately, the film at time falls foul of some of the tropes of the genre – it takes a long time for the characters to accept anything is really wrong and unless I was a Winchester I would have been long gone from Clyde’s new house before anyone else seemingly considers it!

It’s not quite up to the quality of Sinister – and suffered a little by being shown a day later – but it’s well worth checking out for a new angle and well told, interesting story. Now, where’s Sam and Dean when you need them – they’ll have this sorted out quicker than you can belt out some classic rock… ***1/2

Chained

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Frightfest 2012 - aka Frightfest the 13th

Chained

Reviewed by Andy

 

Vincent D’Onofrio as a serial killer. That sentence by itself can make a film worth checking out (though you have to worry a second where the method acting may lead!) but by the same token can be used as an excuse to have little substance beyond the hook. Fortunately that isn’t the case here, and the story is a hook in itself – taken with his mother by Bob (D’Onofrio) on a fateful cab trip, 9 year old Tim isn’t killed but kept to assist with preparation and cleanup. Renamed Rabbit and on a long chain that keeps him inside, as he ages Bob starts to educate him. But will the education Rabbit into a killer too?

Chained is a brutal yet compelling film that is anchored by a disturbingly real feeling performance from Vincent D’Onofrio. You never really find out why he kills but get a sense of slightly tired compulsion. There’s also a sense of growing attachment from treating Rabbit like his name to almost like a son, which plays into the tension around whether Rabbit will follow in Bob’s footsteps.

Unfortunately though, there are some flaws. Bob only seems to be making token attempts to avoid capture at times and seems to rely on coincidence that his abductees will only notice something is up once out of signal range, for example! It’s also a shame that to match time requirements some elements leading to a huge twist are slightly lacking – and it doesn’t look like they’re being restored for at least the US home release with the only additional footage in extras being the unrated version of a scene that originally earned the film an NC-17 rating due to the accuracy and realism in one of the murders. (The R-rated version is the one coming to the UK too)

It was interesting hearing director Jennifer Chambers Lynch talk about the film and its commentary on the argument of whether killers are born or made – personally I think Chained ultimately goes almost opposite to her indication in the Q&A. Watch the film and let us know your take in the forum! ***1/2

After

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Frightfest 2012 - aka Frightfest the 13th

After

Reviewed by Andy

 

According to IMDB, there are 20 films called After, all of which have been made since 1994. So with 19 other identical titles to compete against, how can After(2012/I) stand out from the crowd?

The story follows comic artist Freddy (Steven Strait) and Ana (Karolina Wydra), and when the coach they meet on crashes nearly as horrifically as his attempt to chat her up they find themselves the only people in their now deserted town. With a dark fog gradually encroaching and a creature tracking them, can they work out how to escape, why everything seems to relate to childhood memories, and how you can hire an armpit toupee?

After is one of those rare films that you can tear to pieces without actually disliking; while watching it hangs together well enough to keep you watching and invested but when looking in hindsight the cracks begin to appear, much like I have been feeling with some of Steven Moffat’s stories! Also in common there, you have an optimistic aspect to the fantasy elements, with a focus on romance over cynicism, and it all looks fantastic and big-budget (which it doubtless isn’t). The creature design too is excellent, and there are some moments that are visually iconic. But the central twist is one that has been done often, some of the dialogue is clunky and the love story aspects are cliched. The inevitable kiss elicited its own cliche for me – a full-on facepalm

With all that said, for some reason I still don’t dislike the film. Especially if you’re less familiar with the kind of twists involved – chances are that if you are familiar you’ll have guessed it already – there’s a good heart underneath, and it may not even be bad as a date movie. And see if you can make sense of the brief scene after the credits! ** 1/2

American Mary

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Frightfest 2012 - aka Frightfest the 13th

American Mary

Reviewed by Andy

 

There’s something of a dearth of body modification and particularly its associated culture in movies, aside from occasional usage for individual characters (like in The Cell) the last non-documentary that springs to mind was Dee Snider’s Strangeland back in 1998! It gets a much more even-handed view in American Mary, the latest feature from the Twisted Twins – also known as Jen and Sylvia Soska – whose debut feature Dead Hooker in a Trunk belied its micro-budget in entertainment value. American Mary has a higher budget behind it (though I suspect still low by Hollywood standards, not that you can tell by looking at it), but can the fun that was present in the sisters’ first film return?

Mary Mason (Katherine Isabelle) is a medical student in training to be a surgeon, struggling to meet her bills and with a tutor who seems to be particularly harsh on her. Not in a Perry Cox way either, though his Scrubs compatriot Todd may thrive in the very male-centred environment. In order to try and get some extra cash, she decides to audition as an exotic dancer, but circumstances mean the interview goes a very different way than intended and soon she is using her talent on more than stitching up turkeys and in a far more lucrative way!

Katherine Isabelle, who lit up the very first Frightfest in Ginger Snaps, is utterly brilliant here, making Mary believable and relatable through her physical, emotional and ethical challenges. I’ve always wondered why she hasn’t had more leading roles in bigger films, and with her owning the screen here she shows how she really deserves the big time.

This is a starmaking film for the Soska twins too, who wrote and co-produced as well as directed – and even have a fitting cameo! The heart put into the film is evident and it’s impressively accessible considering its darkness, and the ear for soundtrack from Dead Hooker in a Trunk is still present. It looks awesome too, with everything from the lighting to the sets/locations and the costume design being neatly thought. Seeing Jen and Sylvia Soska on stage their cheerful enthusiasm and humour makes them genuinely adorable, and they have fed that into the film expertly. Watch it, love it, and love the Soskas too! *****

Dead Sushi

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Frightfest 2012 - aka Frightfest the 13th

Dead Sushi

Reviewed by Andy

 

Over the years, there have relatively few culinary-related horror movies – aside from sentient Killer Tomatoes, The Stuff involved an alien substance that was kind of like ice cream, and Gary Busey became a vicious biscuit in the first of the Gingerdead Man trilogy. And who better to helm a new killer-food movie than Noboru Iguchi, director of Machine Girl, RoboGeisha and, er, Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead?

The story follows Keiko (Rina Takeda), who after leaving her sushi-making father and home for having the double flaw of not being great at being sushi and being a girl, goes to work at a guest house and spa. While there a group from a pharmaceutical company arrives, but they are targeted by an angered ex-employee with an unusual method of revenge…

And that’s about as sensible as it ever gets, for this is one crazy film. The focus is slightly more on the comedy than the horrific elements, and laughs come thick and fast throughout from martial arts faceoffs, reject Power Ranger baddie costumes and sushi behaviour like you could never even contemplate. At times you really have to wonder if you’re awake or dreaming – but in honesty its unlikely even the most cheese-fevered of dreams could be quite as utterly bonkers as Dead Sushi manages! So grab a drink and some friends and get ready for some insanity – and the cutest singing and flying egg sushi you’ll see this year, guaranteed! ****

Sinister

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Frightfest 2012 - aka Frightfest the 13th

Sinister

Reviewed by Andy

 

With the recent trend for negativity in reviewing, especially on the internet, it must be tempting for those being slated to use the defence that those criticising haven’t done any better themselves. So Sinister, from the keyboard of C Robert Cargill (known as Massawyrm on Ain’t It Cool News) is immediately up against a higher benchmark than most.
True crime writer Ellison Oswald (an interesting combination of names, though I suppose no more unusual than, say, Harlan Oswin ) is hoping to recapture the popularity of his breakthrough book, Kentucky Blood. He takes his family to a new house in order to research what could be a breakthrough for him – a case where as well as the murder of the family, a child was taken, and could potentially still be alive…

Ethan Hawke has always done well in making flawed characters watchable and plausible, and puts in a brilliant performance here – Ellison puts his chance of fame ahead of his family whilst believing he is doing it for them is believeable and the way he convinces himself of rational explanations when things start to go pear shaped is completely consistent. Even when arguing with his wife (Juliet Rylance) they both have logical points which follow from their characters – it feels more natural than in most films and with the child actors holding up the quality too brings to mind the kind of sense of real family that helped make Poltergeist such a classic. Add to this some clever (and again character-based) chuckles that don’t take away from the building tension, impressive directing by Scott Derricksen (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and currently lined up for the remake of Poltergeist itself) and a brilliant soundtrack by Christopher Young (Hellraiser) that plays with ambience and sounds to add to the atmosphere and dread.

Managing to make a screen full of 1500 Frighfesters jump is no mean feat, but Sinister does it with apparent ease – the components come together brilliantly to create one of the most genuinely scary films in recent years. This is what Hollywood horror should, and can be – more like this please! *****

Sinister is released across the UK on October 5.

Seen it? Tell us what you thought in the forum!

Berberian Sound Studio

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Frightfest 2012 - aka Frightfest the 13th

Berberian Sound Studio

Reviewed by Andy

 

Sometimes it’s possible to have an experience so surreal and lacking in sense that you have to be awake, as even the most fervid of dreams couldn’t quite match up. Berberian Sound Studio is one of those experiences, and after mulling on it considerably I still don’t have the faintest of clues what was really actually going on!

It is somehow fitting, then, that the cast is led by Dream Lord himself Toby Jones as sound engineer Gilderoy, who heads to Italy to work on movie The Equestrian Vortex for auteur director Santini (Antonio Mancini). Initially, the film seems like a fairly traditional “Englishman abroad” tale, with Gilderoy challenged by language, new colleages, getting back flight expenses and the gradual realisation that The Equestrian Vortex is even further from the nature documentaries he is used to working on…

It’s part of the film’s setup to focus on sound – from the direct effects work that Gilderoy does like “stabbing” watermelons, to the way that other than a funky credits sequence we only hear any elements of The Equestrian Vortex – and the audio is fantastically layered and immersive. It looks stunning too, from the use of colour to the focus on Toby Jones whose always-interesting and expressive features draw the eye even when the shot is just of him sitting still.

As the movie continues, so the surrealism starts to set in – subtly as first, but increasingly so as it reflects the deterioration of Gilderoy’s state of mind. There are times when it feels like minor changes could help greatly though; for example, in the really useful Q&A that followed, director Peter Strickland described some inspiration as the way films in the 70s could get reels from different sources spliced together so everything from quality to even language of soundtrack and presence/language of subtitles could change from reel to reel. So including a “cigarette burn” to indicate that there would be a reel change as you would have had in those films would give a handy visual note to the viewer on rewatching.

While I can’t honestly say I completely understand the entire of Berberian Sound Studio, it’s definitely a unique audio-visual experience that while suffering from overhype is still worth watching for Toby Jones and the view into how many sound effects are made. Hopefully there will be a Grindhouse/Machete effect following as from the snippets involved, The Equestrian Vortex could be an excellent retro horror! ***

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