31st Aug2014

Ten Best: Frightfest 2014 Movies

by Phil Wheat

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Well this years Frightfest is over and I’ve had a week to digest everything – it’s safe to say this year was… interesting. The move from the Empire to VUE West End, whilst not without the odd teething problem, was a success. Yes, the atmosphere had changed a little, at least in terms of experiencing a film with hundreds of people instead of thousands, but the positives of the move truly outweighed any negatives. My personal positive? The wide range of films on show this year and that fact there was NO problems getting into the Discovery Screens this year – which in my own case, was where I saw some of the best films of the festival.

Speaking of films, whilst there was no outstanding, totally blown me away, movie this year, there overall standard was VERY high, with only one real dud of the entire week (and I think we all know which [3D] film that was)… So, on to my picks of the Frighfest 2014 – and whilst there’s been a few move-arounds in the list since I tweeted out my Top 5 earlier this week the same two films have stayed right there in the top spots: I Survived a Zombie Holocaust, a late-night main screen movie; and The Den, a Discovery screen film that did webcam horror better than Open Windows (shown in the main screen). Easily my two favourites of the fest.

The Ten Best of Frightfest 2014:

1) I Survived a Zombie Holocaust

New Zealand has, over the years, become renown for producing some superb horror films. From the early work of Peter Jackson and his films Bad Taste and Braindead; to the more recent Frightfest flicks The Loved Ones and this years Housebound. But, and I don’t say this lightly, all of those pail in comparison to I Survived a Zombie Holocaust – a perfect mix of horror and comedy that resonated with me more than any film at this years Frightfest. Full Review.

2) The Den

The idea of using the internet (and webcams) is nothing new in horror, it’s cropped up in dozens of movies, some good, a lot bad. With the advent of webcams, CCTV and “always-connected” devices, any good horror movie villain would – given that using the net is his or her modus operandi – have almost total control over their victims lives. Imagine someone else controlling what we see online, manipulating our emails, our cyber chats. Everything you do online could be at the mercy of someone else, if they were technically adept enough that is. That’s at the very core of Zachary Donohue’s The Den. Full Review.

3) Life After Beth

Jeff Baena’s Life After Beth follows broken-hearted Zach (Dane DeHaan), distraught after the sudden death of his girlfriend Beth (Audrey Plaza). However, much to the delight of Zach and his former-girlfriend’s parents (John C. Reilly & Molly Shannon), Beth miraculously returns from the dead but gradually becomes more aggressive and er… zombified. Full Review.

4) Home

Each and every year at Frightfest there’s one film that shocks and surprises. This year Home (aka At The Devil’s Door) was it. The concept itself is nothing new, in fact the films story is similar to of a number of different movies – post-screening I tweeted that the film could be described as “It’s a bad Omen that Rosemary, our Amityville estate agent is having a Baby.” But despite the derivative story writer/director Nicolas McCarthy has managed to craft a film that actually does what a lot of other movies at this years festival didn’t. And that’s actually be scary. So scary that in the screening I was in, people actually jumped out of their seats – praise indeed from a audience that one would think are hardened to the foibles of the genre. Full Review.

5) Stage Fright

The latest in a long line of musical cinema Stage Fright, like its genre brethren, is – even if not a blockbusting success – destined to find an appreciative cult audience who will sing-along with the many musical numbers and cheer on the many kills in the grandest of Rocky Horror Picture Show traditions at midnight screening after midnight screening. And I know I’ll be one of them. Full Review.

6) The Forgotten

Shot on a London council estate scheduled for demolition, that was once used for location shoots on UK police drama The Bill, The Forgotten is, like all good horror films, not just about the physical, and in this case, psychological aspects of fear. It’s also a fascinating character study, dealing with the breakdown of the family unit, loss/grief, societies underclass and, of course, how you can never truly escape your past. In a stunning directorial debut, Oliver Frampton crafts a movie that, even with its supernatural element, never truly feels like a contrived “movie”. Full Review.

7) Blood Moon

A horror western would seem like an odd choice for director Jeremy Wooding, who has spent the majority of his career working in comedy, helming the likes of The Magnificent Eleven, Peep Show, and Shelfstackers. Yet judging by Blood Moon, a change of genre was just what Wooding needed! He injects some much-needed fresh blood into the ailing horror western managing to make a film that echoes werewolf movies of old but gives it a new spin (thanks also in part to the setting) by bringing in the skinwalker legend from Native American culture, which grounds the movie in its a sense of “reality”. Full Review.

8) Wrong Turn 6

Who knew that some 11 years after the series started Wrong Turn 6 would come along to cement the franchise as the modern successor to Tobe Hopper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Yes the films started out (and some would say continued) as sub-par rip-offs of all the backwoods slashers that had come before it Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort (to give the film it’s complete title) builds on what has come before, adding much-needed story and mythos to a series that – in its last two entries – were little more than effects show pieces. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the previous two films, which themselves rebooted the franchise in a “different” direction but this sixth film (really, I’m saying this about the SIXTH film?) is a true reboot and one I think that, this time, actually can carry the series forward for even more straight to DVD outings. Full Review.

9) Truth or Dare

Who would have thought that a sweet-talking blonde Canadian girl could make such a nasty, mean-spirited horror film? Not me that’s for sure. It’s surprising to think that, given all the complaints of misogyny and sexism in horror that a female director could create such a misogynistic movie! Yet this isn’t the first time a female director has put her cast through the ringer – the likes of Slumber Party Massacre and Sorority House Massacre both immediately spring to mind – but it seems years spent on B-movie film sets have given Cameron an insight into what makes for a compelling (if twisted) horror film, how to make the most of a low budget, and how to put her cast through the ringer when it comes to torture, mutilation and degradation… Full Review.

10) The Guest

The Guest is sharp, witty and most importantly, fun. It might not reach quite the same heights of deranged glee as You’re Next, but as a slice of American, small-town life gone hideously wrong, it doesn’t make a single misstep. You could argue it takes its time to hit its stride in its early sequences, but I felt the slow-burn approach really paid off later and there are enough thrills and spills in the rest of the film to more than make up for any supposed time-taking. Full Review.

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