This years FrightFest seems a more somber affair than last year, possibly due to the A Serbian Film and I Spit On Your Grave controversies, or possibly due to a rather lacklustre start to the proceedings – on my travels around the festival I’ve spoken to many that have said there’s just something missing so far… Yet no-one can put their finger on what exactly.
It’s not like FrightFest didn’t get off to a fantastic start – Adam Green’s Hatchet II opened the festival on Thursday night to whoops of applause, laughter and plenty of “ewwww”. Green took to the stage before the screening, giving a hearfelt speech as to why he does what he does, then he returned to the stage post-screening with Kane Hodder, Tony Todd and Danielle Harris – who, next to the huge behemoths that are Hodder and Todd, looked positively tiny.
The first special preview of the day came from the crew behund new British horror anthology Habeas Corpus – a crew which includes Paul Davis, director of last years American Werewolf in London documentary Beware the Moon. We saw a specially shot teaser trailer starring Davis, alongside fellow FrightFest vetetran, and UK horror icon Emily Booth, which felt heavily influenced by both Twilight Zone: The Movie and Creepshow – and you had to love the practical make-up effects worn by Davis, a real throwback to the 80’s in my opinion.
Next up was Aussie horror Primal which, whilst I enjoyed it, seemed to divide the FrightFest audience. I don’t think having a killer mutant rabbit helped the films cause any! Day one ended with a screening of Dead Cert, and taking advise from those who’d already seen the film, I skipped the screening – whilst I know there are many that love a good British gangster movie, and would love a gangsters vs. vampire movie even more, I am not one of them…
Having already seen the mornings best film, Burning Bright, day two for me didn’t start until 3.00pm with my first visit to the Discovery Screen to watch Finale, a film which I am still mulling over – right now I’m not sure whether the film is an incomprehensible mess, or it wasn’t suited to such close quarter viewing as the small discovery screen afforded. I’m leaning more towards the latter. It’s hard to describe just what Finale is about without going into detail, but think a Candyman-esque, goth-influenced, soul-collecting demon and you’ll be (part-way) there.
Sticking with the Discovery Screen, Wound saw the return of David Blyth – the director behind the 80’s horror flick Death Warmed Up – and it’s good to know he’s still mixing socio-political commentary with a healthy dose of horror. Featuring some of the most surreal imagery I’ve seen in quite a while, Wound blurs the line between reality and fantasy to the point where you don’t know where one begins and the other ends. Sadly for me, the film is spoilt by a cop-out ending which lessens the impact of everything we’ve seen before it.
The film of the night (yes, I skipped Red Hill and Alien vs. Ninja – for shame) was F – which was a total surprise to me. I wasn’t expecting a British horror to be, frankly, so damn good! A reactionary hoodie-horror tale heavily influenced by Assault on Precinct 13 and the ouvre of John Carpenter, F was a solid and enjoyable horror tale that deserves to do very well.
Another day at FrightFest and another day of highs and lows… The day started off on a low, with me skipping out on the screening of Christopher Roth to catch up on work – which is a shame as I really wanted to see Giannetto De Rossi’s SFX work in the film. So the first film of the day was The Tortured. Not the greatest of starts, but at least I enjoyed what I saw – the film lived up to its name anyways.
A quick break and it was back into the main screen for 13Hrs, a British werewolf movie that I didn’t hold out much hope for, and like F yesterday I found myself surprised at how much I really rather enjoyed the film – even if it was derivative, featured a story that had been done to death before and a convoluted twist that has been done on US television numerous times – most famously in Buffy The Vampire Slayer…
The evening screenings were to be the real highlight of the day, and they were – well at least one of them! Kicking of the evenings proceedings was the remake of I Spit On Your Grave, which updates the classic rape/revenge tale for modern audiences and in the process becomes one of the best modern horror remakes, on a par with the Last House on the Left remake of 2009. And whilst the film itself is brutal and disturbing, I couldn’t help be feel that little bit more disturbed by all the whooping and cheering during some of the films more grislier moments – for the first time ever I found myself questioning the reasoning behind some horror fans devotion to the genre…
So to the main attraction of the day and the days biggest disappointment, Monsters. The less said here the better. Again I missed the final film of the day, Dream Home, but by all reports is a great entry into the slasher oeuvre.
Seemingly all blurred into one, days four and five of FrightFest saw me come down with the dreaded lurgy and miss numerous movies because of it. But I didn’t let illness dampen my spirits – or stop me from conducting Sunday afternoon’s interview.
Sunday didn’t start so well, a dodgy stomach and general malaise meant I missed The Pack, but I didn’t waste my time in the hotel – instead I watched a DVD screener of the superb, John Hughes meets Misery by way of Saw, The Loved Ones in preparation for the interview later that day. Recovering enough to make it to the Empire in time for the quiz I soon realised I shouldn’t have bothered as my so-called horror knowledge dwindled under the pressure of a soundtracks round! Quiz over, I hung around the lobby waiting to interview Robin McLeary about her role in The Loved Ones. Robin was charming, sweet and the polar opposite of her on-screen counterpart.
Sunday afternoon was spent hanging out with the Blogomatic3000 gang at the London Film Museum, who kindly gave us the opportunity to wander around the illustrious halls as part of the first ever B3K (yes, that’s what we’ve shortened the name to) meet-up. Museum trip over we spent the rest of the evening at the pub round the corner from the Empire! Which gave me ample opportunity to pop into the cinema at 6.30 to hear Adam Green and Joe Lynch announce Chillerama.
The main film of the day, A Serbian Film, had been pulled from the schedule earlier in the week and it’s replacement was kept hush-hush right until time for the screening. And what a replacement! Icon treated FrightFest attendees with an incredibly early screening of the eagerly anticipated Ryan Reynolds flick Buried. A superb replacement and a superb end to my fourth day at FrightFest.
As illness crept further upon me, my time at the Empire, and FrightFest, dwindled. Missing my most anticipated film of the day – Jake West’s Video Nasties doc – I finally made my way to the Empire in time for the special The Walking Dead presentation from the folks at FX. Essentially the same footage as seen in the four minute US trailer mixed with some talking heads, and preceeded by an introduction by actor Andrew Lincoln (pictured below), the FrightFester’s in attendance were mesmerised from start to finish – I predict good things for FX when the series airs proper in November.
My one and only film of FrightFest day five was Bedevilled – a slow burning Korean revenge movie ala I Spit On Your Grave, and one that I wasn’t really excited for. And wouldn’t you know it? Like F and 13Hrs I was pleasantly surprised by this kitchen sink drama turned slasher… Definitely one to check out when it’s finally released (sadly there’s ZERO details on when/if that will occur). I took my almost throwing up in the Empire as a sign that it was time for me to leave… So no Red White & Blue or The Last Exorcism for me – but you can guarantee I’ll track them down on release day!