Category Archives: FrightFest
Well FrightFest has come and gone for another year… and unfortunately I had to miss it this time round. Shame – as apart from getting to see some brand-spanking new horror, sci-fi and weird shit on the big screen, I really love catching up with my FrightFest mates to discuss, debate and (quite often) tear apart the films selected. Thankfully, Steve Kirkham from Unstoppable Cards and Tree Frog Communication was there and his daily shotgun reviews on Facebook were a welcome treat. Short, sharp and pulling no punches, here they are in full…
Only two movies on the day one of Frightfest…
Whilst technically well produced and nicely shot, the opening film – The Ranger – never really rose above the mundane and cliched in its tale of a park ranger who takes his job and it’s rules way too seriously. The plot and it’s so called twist were blindingly obvious and whilst there was some excessive gore, if you are fan of that kind of thing, about its only saving grace was it was short!
Better was Summer of 84 – a serial killer is on the lose in a small town community and four teens are convinced that their neighbor is the killer. Can they find enough evidence to prove it – only problem being he is a cop. For the most part this is a nicely pitched mystery of the ‘is he, isn’t he’ type even if, with its Carpenteresque score and it’s teen protagonists, it has a sense of familiarity with echoes of stuff like Stand by Me, maybe a touch of Fright Night and inevitably Stranger Things. However late in the film their is an ‘incident’ (which I won’t spoil here) which I felt may skewer audience sympathy and the whole finale kind of fell apart and became very messy and a touch confused.
Day two at Frightfest and it started well with The Cleaning Lady. A beautician who works from home begins an uneasy friendship with the slightly odd girl – a burns victim with a scarred face – who she employs as a cleaner for her flat. This being a horror film you know this camaraderie is going to ‘go West’ rapidly, which of course it does. Crisply shot and well acted this grips from the outset whilst taking its time to reach its striking denouement
Braid opened with some nicely composed, artfully arranged shots and initially looked quite promising as two girls, on the run from the law, return to the mansion of their childhood friend and are drawn into versions of the role playing games they played as children. From this point on, too be honest, I am not entirely sure what the hell was going on as it degenerated into a pretentious, confused and confusing mess despite some eye catching imagery being thrown up along the way.
Far easier to get a handle on was Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich a supposedly new take on the old Charlie Band stalwart of killer puppets – though it’s difficult to say whether it actually brought anything fresh to the table. Any film that has Fangoria as one of its financier you kind of know what to expect and it certainly delivers – if somewhat crudely – on the blood and gore, though the killing spree does start with little or no reasoning behind it and the climax is rushed and fails fully to tie-in the beginning sequence (set in the past) featuring Udo Keir as puppetmaster Toulon or the script never quite explains why the little nasties are Nazi in nature. Much like the originals this entertaining on a basic level but lacks any real wit or creativity.
Best of the day was a movie with a great title – The Most Assassinated Woman in the World which spun a compelling yarn out of the true story of one Paula Maxa, the top actress at the famous Parisian Grand Guignol. I knew a little about this theatre of horror but I had never heard of it’s leading lady who spent her time being killed in various gruesome ways each night on stage. Meanwhile a series of murders are taking place in the city – is there a connection. A stylishly shot gothic mystery drama with inevitable echoes of Hammer horrors and their ilk this wove a fascinating, atmospheric tale within its theatrical milieu.
Final film of the day for us was Incident in a Ghost Land which started well as a mother and her two daughters move to an isolated old house they have inherited which is filled with weird and wonderful objects. It very rapidly degenerates into a loud screamfest as the house is invaded by intruders. The central conceit – which I won’t spoil here – is actually clever it’s just a shame it is within a misogynistic mess of a movie which equates suspense and shock with making loud noises on the soundtrack and replaces a script with a sustained finale made up of screaming. Given the fact that this was made by Pascal Laugier who wrote and directed the film Martyrs – which I hated with a passion – the way this played out should have come as no surprise. I suspect within the Frightfest audience I am in the minority!
Day three at Frightfest – an illicit party in an abandoned energy drinks warehouse turns gory in Ravers when the attendees drink some of the leftover bottles of drink and it makes them monstrous. It didn’t entirely work but was produced with passion, had some great gore fx and ran with its concept though having the central girl as a germophobe and her cousin a chemist was more at the behest of plot needs than anything else. One can only assume it was set in America (though shot in Wales) to make it more saleable?
Heretiks was a case been there, seen that. A mother superior saves a girl accused of being a witch from a burning at the stake and takes her back to the nunnery where plainly things are not quite right. Shot within a cramped location necessitated the use of lots of close ups and the over ripe dialogue made the film drag on to its inevitable conclusion.
Long in gestation and many years in production, labour of love animation Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires finally makes it to the big screen. Much of the adult, profane humour is hilarious and the model animation and settings are incredible but it does, as I feared it would, run out of steam before its finale. It played well with the festival audience – I do wonder whether a wider audience will ‘get it’.
Two great films to end our third day – first up was the awkwardly titled What Keeps You Alive. Jackie and her wife Jules have gone to an isolated house in the woods by a lake to celebrate their one year anniversary. Things take a dark turn … to say any more would spoil this cracking Canadian thriller which ratchets up the tension. Brilliantly shot and directed with two compelling performances from the female leads. Perhaps the only misstep was the slightly tacked on ending.
Leigh Wannell, who is more familiar in horror circles, writes and directs the fun and gripping sf thriller Upgrade, a kind of modern spin on The Six Million Dollar Man as a quadriplegic is given an experimental implant which enables him to move again – and so much more. He uses his new found abilities to go after those who caused his life changing injuries. The film doesn’t shy away from the humorous absurdity of many of the situations he finds himself and it rattles along at breakneck speed as he tracks down those that did him wrong. Echoes of Robocop et al.
A real mix on Day 4 of Frightfest.
Hell is Where the Home Is was slickly directed and is the sort of film that might give you pause the next time you are booking Airbnb as two couples rent out a remote flashy house. That night a lady knocks on the door to use the phone as her car has broken down. All may not be as it seems as things start to go awry. The director plainly has some talent – shame the script just piles incident, upon incident, upon incident and becomes increasingly absurd and implausible.
Despite its title it is actually difficult to understand quite why the sentimental The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot played at Fright. Whilst it does cover the two events described in the title with a duo of intertwining timelines it wasn’t really about that. Aidan Turner and Sam Elliott play the main character in the two stories but this is more a story of love found and lost, memories and regrets. The great music score sweeps things along though your enjoyment will definitely depend on your tolerance for touching tales. I liked it – I could tell from his body language that my FF buddy Martin struggled through it. Oh and the Bigfoot costume was pretty shonky (think a flea bitten version of Rick Baker’s Schlock).
He’s Out There is a fairly standard boogeyman killer movie. A Mum and her two daughters take a trip to their isolated holiday house in the woods for a break with hubby following there later. Will he get there in time as they attacked by a psychopath who has been hiding in wait to terrorise them. Not bringing anything new to this tranche of Horror it was gripping if massively derivative.
Terrified may well have you scared with its whacked out storyline of paranormal happenings within a small Argentinian community. It sets its stall early on with a gobsmacking and gory death in a bathroom and never lets up. I have to admit I did fall asleep a few times during it (surprising as it was loud) and there were good jump scares even if I didn’t fully follow what was going on!
The day ended on a high note (literally) with a film mixing two of my favourite genres with the horror musical Anna and the Apocalypse. Will Anna and her school friends survive when their small Scottish town is hit by a zombie outbreak. The songs were great, with the cast delivering with gusto, excellent staging and direction and a script that was both funny and sad and which never short changed the Horror element. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
All the movies were a bit so so on Day 5 of Frightfest leading up to what proved to be one of most divisive final films ever shown there.
Open 24 Hours had a quite original premise; a young girl is on probation from prison after her sentence for torching her boyfriend … who just happened to be a serial killer. Suffering from paranoid delusions she gets a job on the night shift at a petrol station store. Sure as eggs is eggs she starts to see things that may or may not be real. Unfortunately it was another one of those well made movies that never exploited its premise fully and fell back on clichés.
I know a lot of people walked out of The Field Guide to Evil, an anthology movie with a kind of overriding theme as it showed eight stories by different writers/directors. Unlike the old Amicus films where you usually had one writer and director this one had massive variance in each episode due to the numerous people involved. Most of the bolted together shorts were frankly confusing and made little sense. However some did have striking imagery and the closer by Peter Strickland was amusing. Echoes of childhood viewings of The Singing Ringing Tree – if you are old enough to remember that!
Carrying on the theme of confusion was The Dark which I am not sure I could describe effectively – especially as the script itself seemed determined to not let the viewer know what the hell was going on as an old man arrives at a remote house in the woods (there were a lot of them over this fest) and is quickly dispatched – sorry spoiler – by an odd, facially scarred girl. She then finds a blinded boy in the back of the old man’s car. After that the film dragged on interminably to its unclear ending.
I quite liked The Golem once it deigned to actually get going. Non believers threaten a small Jewish community in 17th Century Lithuania, as they have not been affected by the plague ravaging the outside world. Going against her husband and the village elders Hanna creates the mythical title creature to protect her people. Gorgeously shot with great music this took far too long to get where it was going.
Unlike the closing film Climax which quickly went nowhere. This had been hyped up over the whole festival as the ‘must see’ closer. I suspect because the organisers knew it was going to be very divisive – and judging from the loooooong thread on Facebook straight after it was definitely one you were either rapturous over or somewhat underwhelmed by it. I fell in to the latter camp – partially because I struggled to see how it fit into a horror film genre festival.
I get the need to constantly stretch and push at the boundaries of what constitutes horror but this was supposed to be audacious, provocative and shocking and it wasn’t.
A bunch of admittedly very talented dancers do some impressive choreography to some great disco music, stand around and talk shit about other members of the troupe for far too long – and without the benefit of the director cutting away to who they are talking about so you have no real clue who they are dissing – then they drink drugged up Sangria and things descend from there.
However it’s never as shocking or provocative as it wants to be – unless you count things like having part of the end credits at the beginning, intertitles that are back to front or filming the final part of the movie upside down (a sequence which was even harder to work out due to yet another film being projected too dark – an ongoing problem with many of the films shown). This was pretentious in the extreme and rather than being shocking it became progressively more boring as events unfolded. Shame, as the opening dance was amazing.
So Kristian A Söderström, who are you, where do you come from and what’s your creative arts background? I grew up in Gothenburg Sweden and was a film fanatic from the start. I got me an education in film directing from UCLA in Los Angeles, but I’ve studied film theory and psychology as well. For many years now, I’ve been making short films and commercials while trying to finance feature films. I write and direct.
What’s the Swedish horror movie scene like? Is it a vibrant culture? Or has it been very limiting and hard for you to break through? I would say that the Swedish horror and genre scene is almost non existent. I’ve had a lot of problems financing films. Some years ago I was asked by a commissioner at the Swedish film institute if a script I submitted was supposed to be a horror film or a drama. I answered, ‘It’s supposed to be both.’ That was something they could not tolerate. Anyhow, horror has never been a popular genre with the film financiers in Sweden. Experimental stuff is also tough. At the moment it seems like you either must make a nordic noir, a comedy or an obviously ‘important’ film. There are always exceptions to this off course, but generally speaking, not.
Is the movie autobiographical, are you that central VHS collector, Ennio, and is that your house covered in fabulous Italian posters and wall-to-wall videos? The main character, Ennio, is a combination of three people I know. One of them is me. So there are definitely autobiographical moments in there. It’s not my house depicted in the film, altough I own a lot of Italian movie posters. I collect them, as well as movies.
You are clearly a massive Italian horror/Giallo fan, so in keeping with the playful atmosphere of movie choose: Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci? That is a really tough adoration match…I will go with Argento though. He was the one that got me into Italian genre cinema and his filmmaking inspired my desire to make movies.
The ‘stolen’ video is Zombie, any reason why you picked that title? In Sweden in the early 80s, we had a similar thing to the UK to Video Nasties. A distributor called Video Invest put out 26 horror titles. After a debate on national telly, these films were quickly banned from the video stores. Many years later these titles, from this particular distributor, became a VHS collectors wet dream. Therefore I wanted it to be one of these. Zombie, which for some reason carries the cover of City of the Living Dead, was chosen because of the cover art, which I love. It’s also a Fulci film. The main character has a thing for Fulci, the same goes for me.
Of course Ennio’s VHS obsession is yet another of the many addictions you depict. Is that what Videoman is really all about? On the surface it’s a film about film fanaticism and 1980s nostalgia. Thematically, it’s a movie about loneliness, passion and addiction. The starting point of this film was me meeting a video store owner who had not taken a vacation for 14 years. He seemed to be imprisoned by his passion (films). The thought of how something you love can lead to loneliness and exclusion was something that really appealed to me.
Stefan Sauk from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Lena Nilsson and Martin Wallstrom (Mr. Robot) are your main stars and they are all terrific. How did you go about casting them? When deciding on which script to make as my low budget feature debut, my path crossed with Stefan Sauk, whom I kind of forgot as an actor. I liked him very much many years ago when he was making a very far out thing on television. I realised that he could bring the black humour and desperation that I needed for the main character Ennio. Stefan being long time absent from feature film work also fitted Ennio, who is trying to make a comeback, life-wise. Lena Nilsson was an up-and-coming star in the 1980s. She also had not worked in movies for many years. Stefan told me I should see her as he thought she was great. I did and was blown away by her naturalistic presence. Simone, who Lena is playing, like Ennio, has gotten stuck in the 1980s. Both these characters were successful back then, that’s why they’ve gotten obsessed with trying to evoke these times anew. Life seemed to be imitating art a bit with these two actors. Regarding Martin Wallström, he was so amazing in Mr. Robot and he got so much hype that I thought it impossible to get him in my small movie. He loved the script though and the rest is history.
Your poster tag line is ‘A Movie Can Change Your Life’, do you truly believe that? Well yes, I think that’s possible. In the case of Ennio in Videoman, the Zombie film becomes a financial life saviour, like the bicycle in Bicycle Thieves. In real life I think that a movie can have a very strong impact. It can hit you in many different ways. It can make you question yourself and others, it can make you obsessed and so on. Sometimes you will never be quite the same after watching a particular movie. In a small way, or a big way…
Great score by Waveshaper and Robert Parker, how did that come about? It’s great, isn’t it! John Carpenter is the reason that I wanted to have analogue synths on the soundtrack of my first feature. I loved him and his scores since forever. I’ve been a fan of the neo analogue synth movement ‘Synthwave’ since Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. When I realised that Waveshaper, whom I adored, was actually Swedish, I had my producer track him down. Through Waveshaper I got to Robert Parker. These two side by side felt like a match in heaven, in order to reach the whole pallette of feelings in this genre bender of a movie.
You describe Videoman as ‘Dario Argento meets Mike Leigh’. Can you explain some more? Dario Argento and Mike Leigh are two of my greatest influences. I’d like to combine realistic filmmaking (Leigh) with genre elements (Argento). I love complex characters that feels like real human beings and I also love the mood and storytelling of horror films. I feel like there often exists a segregation between commercial and ‘important’ movies, such that it must be either or. I want to change this. I think people like Ben Wheatly, Alice Lowe and Peter Strickland are breaking down barriers like these. They are very inspiring to me. Kill List, Prevenge and Berberian Sound Studio are masterful and innovative filmmaking.
Videoman plays on Sunday 26 August at Cineworld Leicester Square.
The road to Arrow FrightFest 2018 | Signature Entertainment and FrighFest team up to present some curated horror hits!
Discover suspense, terror and everything in between as Signature Entertainment and FrightFest team up to launch FrightFest Presents, an all-new venture geared to delivering a host of undiscovered genre features to the UK audience and world stage.
Arrow FrightFest 2018 kicks off on Thursday 23 August at Cineworld Leicester Square and the Prince Charles Cinema, unleashing a monster marathon of horror heaven over the Bank Holiday weekend… including these beauties from Signature Entertainment and FrightFest Presents…
Tickets and info available here: http://www.frightfest.co.uk/
Directors: Justin P. Lange and Klemens Hufnagl
Cast: Stars rising star Nadia Alexander (The Sinner, Seven Seconds, Blame)
The film follows Mina (Alexander), a young woman who was murdered and stalks the forest that saw her demise. Anytime some unfortunate soul enters her area, they are quickly dispatched and become her feast. But when she stumbles across a young boy named Alex (Nichols) in the back of a car who shows signs of clear and horrifying abuse, she can’t bring herself to do away with him. Rather, she becomes his protector while trying to protect her own little world. As police and locals search for Alex to help bring him home, their own growing relationship seems to be changing Mina in ways she never thought possible.
Screens 3.30pm & 4pm Monday 27 August at FrightFest
Home Entertainment Release: October 2018
Director: Adam Marcus (Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday & Texas Chainsaw 3D)
Cast: Michael Rady, Drew Lynch, Debra Sullivan, A Leslie Kies
The Pope family’s Christmas Eve dinner goes horribly and hilariously wrong when someone puts something in the party punch causing everyone to tell the unvarnished truth at the already dysfunctional holiday reunion. When the head of the household psychopathically freaks-out, the scene is set for murderous mayhem and splatterific revenge as the deviant relatives reveal their long-buried hatreds and festering loathings.
Screens 11am Monday 27 August at FrightFest
Home Entertainment Release: November 2018
Director: Chris Sun (Director of multi-award winning film Daddy’s Little Girl)
Cast: Stars horror star Bill Moseley (House of 1000 Corpses, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Devil’s Rejects) and John Jarratt (Wolf Creek)
In the harsh, yet beautiful Australian outback lives a beast, an animal of staggering size, with a ruthless, driving need for blood and destruction. It cares for none, defends its territory with brutal force, and kills with a raw, animalistic savagery unlike any have seen before.
Screens 11.15pm & 11.45pm Friday 24 August at FrightFest
Director: David Baker
Cast: Stars Benedict Samuel (Gotham, The Walking Dead, Home and Away)
A psychological horror thriller, Pimped follows Sarah Montrose, a woman who isn’t well-equipped to live within society’s accepted lines of behaviour, struggling with her own identity, desires, and loves. When all this is threatened by two scheming men, Sarah has to fight for herself to take revenge all the while embracing her psychopath alter-ego.
Screens 6.45pm Friday 24 August at FrightFest
Director: Justin McConnell
Cast: Lora Burke, Jack Foley, Elitsa Bako
A murderous shape-shifter sets out on a blood-soaked mission to make things right with the woman he loves but had to leave behind for her own safety’s sake. But zipping between ever-faster body snatches is becoming confusing, mind-bending and more debilitating by the minute. Something has got to give. Like dark romance, feral natural instincts and fractured sanity. Time to take a dive into the deep aliveness that comes from following your broken heart, in acting on what you love despite the monstrous circumstances, alien limitations, hidden emotions or fears of the shocking unknown.
Screens 9pm Friday 24 August at FrightFest
Director: Ante Novakovic
Cast: Dylan Walsh, Madison McKinley, Romeo Miller
Blood runs rampant on Halloween night when the Mayor of Sommerton decides to mount a live Fright Fest event within the
walls of a long abandoned lunatic asylum. Only problem is a van of criminally insane prisoners crashes just outside and the trick or treaters think their murderous acts are part of the performance. Enter if you dare.
Screens 11pm & 11.30pm Saturday 25 August at FrightFest
Phew! Horror Channel FrightFest is over for another year and it was probably one of the best ever that I have attended with some great thrills and surprises amongst the 64 film shown over the Bank Holiday weekend at the Cineworld Leicester Square and The Prince Charles Cinema. Now, while I didn’t get to see all of them, I did rather burn out my retinas catching quite a few. So, for what it’s worth, here’s my Top 10, plus a couple pf runner-up faves.
THE TOP 10
• Tragedy Girls
• Cult of Chucky
• Better Watch Out
• King Cohen
• The Bar
• Victor Crowley
• 68 Kill
• Death Note
• Attack of the Adult Babies
Director: Tyler MacIntyre. US. 2017. 93 mins.
If you are a fan of TV’s Scream Queens, then you will certainly LOVE this gleefully camp Heathers meets Scream slasher in which two vain high school besties (played by Deadpool’s Brianna Hildebrand and X-Men: Apocalypse’s Alexandra Shipp) go on a killing spree just to increase their social media standing. With stylish cinematography, charismatic performances, and a smart script (with lots of 1980s horror movie references), this was a real winner at Frightfest.
CULT OF CHUCKY
Director: Don Mancini. US. 2017. 91 mins.
Following a great Twilight Zone-homage from Hatchet’s Adam Green and Joe Lynch, FrightFesters were treated to the World Premiere of the seventh entry in the 30-year-old Killer Doll franchise – and it did not disappoint. This time round, Chucky continues to terrorise poor Mica (Fiona Dourif), who was found guilty of the murders in 2013’s Curse of Chucky. But is she just imagining things because Chuck’s old nemesis Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) seems to have Chucky’s head locked up in a safe? If you want to read more (CLICK HERE). This one will be getting a Halloween release in the UK.
BETTER WATCH OUT
Director: Chris Peckover. Australia/USA 2016. 88 mins.
It’s Christmas, and parents Patrick Warburton and Virginia Madsen go out for the evening leaving 12-year-old Luke (Pan’s Levi Miller) in the care of his favourite babysitter, 17-year-old Ashley (The Visit’s Olivia DeJonge). But when a brick crashes through the window reading ‘You Leave, You Die’, it sets in motion a series of events that you will not expect. This Yuletide home invasion horror is enormous fun, but also very dark, featuring an intelligent, genre-bending script, and great performances from the young leads – especially Miller. It’s due out in the US on 6 October, and I do hope it gets a UK release soon.
Director: Steve Mitchell. USA 2017. 110 mins
I really enjoyed this fantastic appreciation of maverick US film auteur Larry Cohen, the writer/producer/director behind TV’s The Invaders and genre fare like It’s Alive and The Stuff. Featuring interviews with his former stars like Yaphet (Alien) Kotto and Eric Robert, and admirers like Martin Scorsese, JJ Abrams and John Landis, plus with the legend himself (and boy, can he talk!), this is a real must-see. If you want to know more, check out my full review (CLICK HERE).
Director: Alex de la Iglesia. Spain 2017. 104 mins.
This latest effort from the director of Day of the Beast and Witching and Bitching was one of the festival’s big highlights. It’s life as usual at Amparo’s bar in central Madrid until a group of regular customers – including hipster Nacho (Mario Casas), snooty Elena (Blanca Suárez), businessman Andrés (Joaquín Climent) and homeless beggar Israel (Jaime Ordonez) – witness two men being fatally shot as they try to leave. Who is responsible? Why aren’t the police doing anything? And why are there people wearing Hazmat suits in the square? Alex de la Iglesia’s black comic chiller puts human nature under the microscope, and it’s not a pretty picture. Death, selfishness, survival and hypocrisy are all treated with great wit and dark humour.
Director: Dominic Bridges. UK. 2017. 79 mins.
The feature debut from commercials director Dom Bridges and written by Outpost’s Rae Brunton is a twisted fusion of claustrophobic black comedy and urban morality tale, but with a bizarre spin on the home invasion premise. Contortionist Orlan (Javier Botet) secretly moves into the flat of slimy real estate agent Hussein (Mim Shaikh) by occupying the hidden spaces of his flat (like his cupboards and wardrobe). It’s all part of the master of concealment’s plan to slowly unravel Hussein’s life and drive him insane. But does he succeed? Well, hopefully Bridges’ searing comment on race, the house market (and Brexit) will get a proper UK release soon so you can find that out for yourself. Cleverly scripted and with strong performances (especially the double-jointed Botet – whose face is usually hidden behind loads of make-up in films like the new It, The Mummy and Crimson Peak), this is a cracker of a debut from Bridges.
Director: Adam Green. US. 2017.
The big surprise at FrightFest was Adam Green unveiling the world premiere of his fourth entry in the Hatchet series with the film’s star Kane Hodder in attendance. Hatchet 3 survivor Andrew Long (Parry Shen), is now a minor celebrity who ends up back on Crowley’s swamp turf (which has been turned into a tourist attraction) when he agrees to a $1million fee to participate in a TV documentary. But when the crew’s plane crashes and wannabe filmmaker Chloe (Katie Booth) invokes Crowley’s spirit (via clips on the internet), the slaughter begins all over again. Made in secret over two years, this gory fun ride is packed with inventive, and very bloody, kills and some LOL campy humour. It also earned Green a standing ovation following the screening. Green dedicated the film to two masters of the genre – the late George A Romero and Tobe Hooper, who actually passed away on the same day as the screening (26 August).
Director: Trent Haaga. USA. 2017. 93mins
Chip (Criminal Minds’ Matthew Gray Gubler) is a hapless nice guy who pumps sewage for a living and is completely infatuated with his trailer park ex-stripper girlfriend Liza (AnnaLynne McCord). But she turns out be crazier than he first imagined when her plan to rob her sugar daddy goes horrible wrong. This fast-paced thriller is full of surprises, great fun and boasts some quite extreme violence.
Dir Adam Wingard. US. 2017. 101 mins.
This Netflix-produced take on the Japanese manga comes from director Adam Wingard (You’re Next) and follows high school student Light Turner (Nat Wolff) who turns self-appointed judge, jury and executioner when he comes across a supernatural notebook in which you write the name of someone you wish to die. When he begins to kill all those he deems unworthy of life, a reclusive detective (Lakeith Stanfield) sets out to end his reign of terror. Featuring great Final Destination-style set pieces, excellent performances, superb John Carpenter-inspired synth score from Atticus Ross and Leopold Ross, and Willem Dafoe voicing Ryuk, the death god who becomes Light’s moral compass, this is not to be missed. Catch it on Netflix now.
ATTACK OF THE ADULT BABIES
Director: Dominic Brunt. UK 2017. 80 mins.
Dominic Brunt is best known as bumbling vet Paddy Kirk in Emmerdale, but he’s also a film director who has shared his passion for all things horror with his writer/actress wife Joanne Mitchell in films like Before Dawn, Bait and now this perverted shocker. A home invasion forces a mother (Kate Coogan) and two teenagers (Kurtis Lowe and Mica Proctor) to break into a country manor to steal some secret documents. Little do they know the stately pile – which is presided over by the mysterious Margaret (Sally Dexter) – is also where high-powered middle-aged men take refuge from daily life by dressing in nappies and having young women in nurses uniforms indulge them in their every perverse nursery whim. But these rich bastards also have another very sick agenda and it involves something quite monstrous in the basement. Brunt’s blunt, bloody and bonkers satire is a gleefully grotesque carnival of bad taste, over the top gore and gross-out scatological humour. It’s like Lindsay Anderson re-making Downton Abbey as a Pete Walker horror with added Benny Hill comedy touches. Just throw in some crazy claymation (courtesy of Lee Hardcastle) and some psychedelic chat with the God of Shit (voiced by Brunt) and you’ve got one of the weirdest British comedies ever made.
I ALSO LIKED…
• Freddy/Eddy – Tini Tuellman’s spine-chilling psycho suspense thriller
• Leatherface – Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s stunning prequel to Texas Chain Saw Massacre
• Canaries – Peter Stray’s alien-invading black comedy
• Veronica – Carlos Algara and Alejandro Martinez-Beltran’s gripping psychological twister
• To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story – a moving documentary about everyone’s favourite Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th series (expect my full review soon, but here’s a pic of the legendary stuntman with one of his fans – me!)
Finally, a big thanks to Greg Day (Clout Communications) and the Horror Channel for inviting me back this year.
Cult of Chucky (2017) | The killer doll strikes again – but is it lucky number seven for Don Mancini and co?
Last night, Horror Channel Frightfest opened with the world premiere of Don Mancini and David Kirschner’s seventh instalment in their Chucky franchise, with some of the cast and crew in attendance, including Mancini, puppeteer Tony Gardner, Fiona Dourif, Ada Hurtig and Jennifer Tilly (who could hardly contain her excitement).
First up, however, was The Dollhouse, a 7-minute short made by Tony’s daughter Kyra, in which she revealed how the franchise has become a family business involving Dourifs, the Mancinis and the Kirschners. This was a great introduction, and also showed just how much passion and commitment has gone into making Chucky such a horror icon.
Next up: Cult of Chucky. Picking up four years after the massacre of her family in Curse of Chucky, an incarcerated Nica (Fiona Dourif) believes she is guilty of the crimes and is transferred to a medium security mental institution.
But when the killer doll starts targeting the inmates, Nica quickly comes to her senses. But no one, including her dubious psychiatrist (Michael Therriault), will believe her.
Her only hope is Chucky’s original nemesis Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent), who is now a grown-up survivalist. But Nica had better watch her back as Chucky’s bride, Tiffany (now possessing the body of Jennifer Tilly), has plans of her own…
Over the past three decades and six films, horror fans have watched the tale of the possessed Good Guy doll unfold. The first three were scary were your typical 80s slasher-inspired, the next two took a hit-and-miss comic route, then original creator Don Mancini turned to the dark side with his Hitchcock-inspired Curse of Chucky. Now, he’s ramped up the scare-factor with an insane psychological horror thrill ride for this seventh outing.
Mancini really has fun messing with your head this time round as there are not one but two Good Guy Dolls on the prowl, while the smashed-in head of another is being used as a sadistic plaything by Andy. I, for one, thought Andy and Nica were imagining Chucky was alive until the big reveal halfway through!
Featuring elaborate death scenes and lashings of gore, a great music score and inventive camera-work that makes atmospheric use of the claustrophobic setting – an imposing Brutalist-designed hospital with gleaming white corridors and padded cells, all set in a snowbound prairie land (which gives the whole thing a dreamlike quality); plus some terrific performances from Dorif and co, this is a real treat for Chucky fans. I must say, however, that the film also features one of the most poorly manned mental hospitals in cinema history.
Cult of Chucky is out on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download on 23 October from Universal Pictures UK
Horror Channel FrightFest has unleashed Graham Humphrey’s spooktacular new artwork for this year’s annual Bank Holiday event taking place at Cineworld Leicester Square and The Prince Charles Cinema from 24 to 28 August 2017.
Drawing on the revivals of genre icons Chucky, Victor Crowley and Leatherface and paying homage to the annual event’s return to the Empire (aka Cineworld Leicester Square), Graham has created the FrightFest Phantom…
‘My image is an attempt to amalgamate the Gothic roots of horror with the 70s Monster revival that saturated the US and UK, inspiring generations of filmmakers that created some of the most successful film franchises and oddities of the last 40 years,’ says Humphreys. ‘Universal monsters meets 70s bubble gum pop. I also thought it would be fun to play with the idea of a FrightFest Phantom, the face behind the best in horror and added the scratches and dirt to make it look like old damaged film stock.’
Festival Passes and day tickets for Friday and Monday are still available.
Fantastic news frightfans – CULT OF CHUCKY will get its world premiere and open this year’s Horror Channel Frightfest which is also heading back to London’s West End from 24-28 August. Writer and director Don Mancini and stars Jennifer Tilly and Fiona Dourif will be in attendance, alongside Chucky the deadly doll.
Mancini said today: “It’s a true pleasure to be hosting the world premiere of CULT OF CHUCKY at FrightFest. I have fond memories of unveiling Curse of Chucky there in 2013 so it’s great to be returning to the UK’s acknowledged home of horror – especially as this film picks up from where Curse…left off”.
Two more of the horror genre’s most popular and beloved franchises are given their World Premieres: To celebrate a decade of his cursed Victor Crowley creation, writer/director Adam Green is returning to FrightFest with a version of HATCHET never seen before. Plus, there is a presentation of Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s LEATHERFACE, the stunning prequel to the terror classic THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE.
AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS…
FrightFest unveiled a bright new directorial talent when it screened Tyler McIntyre’s PATCHWORK at the Glasgow Film Festival and the closing night film is the UK Premiere of his amazing TRAGEDY GIRLS, where HEATHERS meets SCREAM in a dream combo. It stars super-powered heroines Alexandra Shipp and Brianna Hildebrand.
FrightFest also welcomes back Adam Wingard with the European Premiere of his supernatural manga DEATH NOTE, Joe Lynch with the European Premiere of his highly infectious action thriller MAYHEM, Mickey Keating with the European Premiere of his eye-shattering PSYCHOPATHS, Graham Skipper with the European Premiere of his surreal sci-fi romance SEQUENCE BREAK and genre favourite Barbara Crampton, who stars in Norbert Kell’s skin-crawler REPLACE, receiving its UK Premiere.
In a programme packed with innovation, uniqueness and individuality, other tips of the ice-pick are Ryan Prows’ powerful cult-in-waiting LOWLIFE, Trent Haaga’s stunning 68 KILL, high voltage THE VILLAINESS hot from Cannes, Alex de la Iglesia’s bleakly comic THE BAR, Miguel Angel Vivas’ remake of the French extreme thriller INSIDE, Daniele Misischia’s undead Romageddon THE END? Todd Tuckers’ affectionately creepy THE TERROR OF HALLOWS EVE, Brandon Christensen’s terrifying STILL/BORN, Sebastien Landry & Laurence Morais-Lagace’s head-exploding GAME OF DEATH, Kurtis David Harder’s provocative sci-fi horror INCONTROL and Royce Gorsuch’s kaleidoscopic mindbender MINDHACK.
Continuing the festival’s important and vital commitment to highlighting the cream of the homegrown crop, our British strand is well-populated with World Premieres for Dominic Brunt’s perverted shocker ATTACK OF THE ADULT BABIES, Christian James’ prison-set vampire comedy FANGED UP and Matthew Heaven’s scorching revenge study ACCOUNTABLE. There are also European Premieres for Dominic Bridge’s debut dark morality tale FREEHOLD, Tom Paton’s nerve-shredding REDWOOD and Benjamin Barfoot’s hilariously blood-soaked DOUBLE DATE. And the ‘First Blood’ strand Is back on the menu with five tasty titles: actor Jason Flemyng’s blood-sucking feature debut EAT LOCALS, Louis Melville’s squaddie shocker BOOTS ON THE GROUND, Hendrik Faller’s ice-cold thriller MOUNTAIN FEVER, Michaël Boucherie’s tattoo-terror WHERE THE SKIN LIES and Peter Stray’s alien-invading black comedy CANARIES.
The festival’s accent on rising talent is further enriched with Preston DeFrancis’ extreme slasher RUIN ME, Natasha Kermani’s sci-fi fantasy IMITATION GIRL, Clay Staub’s supernatural detective thriller DEVIL’S GATE, Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard’s mesmerising RADIUS, Samuel Galli’s devilishly shocking OUR EVIL, Andrés Goteira’s dazzling DHOGS, David Chirchirillo’s Tinder Terror GOOD MATCH, Tini Tuellman’s spine-chilling psycho suspense thriller FREDDY/EDDY, Haritz Zubillaga’s car-killing giallo THE GLASS COFFIN, Scott Poiley’s hard-edged chiller EXHUME, Adam Graveley’s Aussie outback shocker 3RD NIGHT, Michael Mongillo’s audacious and haunting DIANE, Peter Ricq’s stark comedy DEAD SHACK and Carlos Algara and Alejandro Martinez-Beltran’s gripping psychological twister VERONICA.Three documentaries will receive their eagerly awaited premieres at FrightFest this year. KING COHEN: THE WILD WORLD OF FILMMAKER LARRY COHEN is a dazzling career overview of the maverick director behind such classic horrors as IT’S ALIVE, Q THE WINGED SERPENT, fantasy television series like ‘The Invaders’, HELL UP IN HARLEM Blaxploitation, recent releases CELLULAR and soon the MANIAC COP remake. We welcome back on screen Kane Hodder, everyone’s favourite Jason Voorhees in the FRIDAY THE 13th series, with his moving and eye-opening TO HELL AND BACK: THE KANE HODDER STORY. Finally there’s the extraordinary MANSFIELD 66/67, a super Hollywood Babylon-style whisk through the final years of movie goddess Jayne Mansfield’s life and untimely, possibly Satanic, death.
Other attractions include Emilia Clarke in VOICE FROM THE STONE, Robert Englund in NIGHTWORLD, the French graphic novel adaptation ALONE, the outrageous gore-fest MEATBALL MACHINE KODOKU, the Aussie chiller KILLING GROUND, the hilarious TOP KNOT DETECTIVE and Episodes 1 & 2 of the amazing Japanese TV series CROW‘S BLOOD. Plus two FrightFest Glasgow hits are being rescreened: Simon Rumley’s FASHIONISTA and Colin Minihan’s IT STAINS THE SANDS RED.
This year’s retrospective restoration strand highlights the underrated British horror DREAM DEMON, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III, two classic Hammers, BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB and DEMONS OF THE MIND, plus the longest version found of the seminal proto-giallo DEATH LAID AN EGG, lovingly restored by Nucleus Films’ Jake West and Marc Morris.
The Duke Mitchell Film Club is back with a hosted presentation of the UK premiere of Stefan Ruzowsky’s COLD HELL, a gripping serial killer thriller. This is followed by the not-to-be missed DUKE MITCHELL PARTY, where the audience and invited special guests can expect all manner of madness guaranteed to kick off your Saturday late night in style.
Alan Jones, co-director of FrightFest, said today: “The whole cinema landscape is changing and Horror Channel FrightFest is listening. We know the fans want to see the films first, see them fast and see them in an environment that is second to none. That’s why we have what we believe is the finest line-up ever assembled and are showcasing the superlative selection in premium surroundings. So, the West End becomes the Dark Heart of London once again. And we’ve made it to our 18th birthday. It’s going to be quite some party”.
Festival passes will go on sale tomorrow (Saturday 1 July) at noon and will only be available to buy online: http://www.frightfest.co.uk/tickets.html
Single tickets will go on sale on Sat 29 July from 9am.
The Love Witch (2016) | Prepare to be seduced, bewitched and beguiled – just watch out for the jimsonweed!
A deliciously visual confection that pays loving homage to vintage Hollywood glamour, melodrama and Technicolor, Anna Biller’s The Love Witch is a beguiling and bewitching feminist exploration of pathological love, desire and narcissism.
She Loved Men… To Death
Wiccan convert Elaine (Samantha Robinson) is determined to find a man to love her entirely. Fleeing San Francisco after the death of a lover, she takes up residence in a gothic Victorian apartment in a quaint town northern Californian, where she begins her search for the man of her dreams.
But her sex magic – which requires the use of the hallucinogenic jimsonweed – is so powerful it sends her suitors to an early grave, and when she does meet her perfect match in a detective (Gian Keys) who is investigating her, Elaine’s desperation to be loved sends her over the edge…
With its purposefully stylised look, drenched in a ultra vivid colour palette, Anna Biller’s The Love Witch certainly took my breathe away and reminded me of how excited I felt when I first laid eyes on the hyper-real styling’s of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Querelle, James Bidgood’s Pink Narcissus and Todd Haynes’ Poison and Velvet Goldmine.
Praise be Biller for taking over seven years to bring her feminist opus to cinematic life – and doing all the writing, direction and editing herself (as well as the sets, songs and paintings), while also working closely with cinematographer, M David Mullen (Jennifer’s Body and TV’s Extant), to achieve her desire to create a fun movie that uses her own cinema fantasies to ‘penetrate the visual world of an iconic witch’.
It’s certainly exciting for cinephiles like myself to catch all the references that Biller channels into the film: like the opening sequence that’s an intentional nod to Hitchcock’s The Birds – complete with retro rear-screen projection; Douglas Sirk’s soapy 1950s melodramas; and female-driven pictures like Mildred Pierce and Leave Her To Heaven.
And when it comes to the borrowed music, Biller cleverly chooses some evocative 1960s giallo scores by Ennio Morricone. Now I might be mistaken, but I think I also heard a mock-medieval melody from David Lee’s Masque of the Red Death score from Roger Corman’s 1964 Pathecolor horror classic – another film that made masterful use of a primary colour palette courtesy of Nicolas Roeg.
For me, the heavy use of reds, purples and blacks and the witches’ coven sequences reminded me of some other psychedelic American International Pictures-produced horrors like Count Yorga, Vampire and The Dunwich Horror. But Biller has gone on record to say that she was never influenced by what she calls these ‘exploitation movies’ as they were made purely for ‘male pleasure’.
Playing the deluded femme fatale, Samantha Robinson is totally bewitching as Elaine, who is part Stepford wife, part Samantha from Bewitched, but with the darker shades of Sandy Dennis in That Cold Day in the Park and a couple of Hitchcock heroines lurking behind inviting deep hazel eyes that stare directly at the camera in almost every shot. It’s a clever technique that effectively seduces the viewer into being drawn into Elaine’s deluded candy-coloured world.
Here’s how Biller viewed her intentions: ‘I wanted to make a movie about a witch, because I think that every woman is made to feel like a witch by the men who don’t understand her: that is, mysterious, dangerous, different, abnormal. Elaine is monstrous, wreaking havoc wherever she goes, but she is also sympathetic, because she has essentially been driven mad by being a woman, and is struggling to find love and acceptance in a world that has disappointed her at every turn.’
The gender politics of Biller’s The Love Witch is certainly ripe for closer examination and comment, and I look forward to revisiting the film when it gets its UK Blu-ray release on 13 March from ICON Entertainment. In the meantime, do yourself a favour and catch this on the big screen – you NEED to see it in all its 35mm glory.
Oh and for those of you who are film location fanatics (like me), Elaine’s Munsters-like Victorian mansion can be found at 916 13th St, Arcata, CA 95521.
The Love Witch is out in selected UK cinemas now.
Now it its 17th year, FrightFest will see 62 new features screening at its new home at the Vue Cinema at Shepherd’s Bush, West London, next week (25-29 August). I’ll be there throughout the weekend not only to see as much as I can (and get my retinas burned in the attempt), but also to promote the first officially licensed Vincent Price Ale in the UK – Black Cat, which is sponsoring FrightFest’s big director’s lunch, and whose label has been designed by FrightFest’s resident poster artist Graham Humphreys. I’ll also be posting my thoughts of each day’s offerings here each day.
Here’s what’s on offer….
The opening night attraction is the European Premiere of MY FATHER DIE, Sean Brosnan’s brutal and beautiful feature debut – an ultra-stylish, über violent revenge thriller that’s a calling card for Brosnan’s brilliant talents. And our closing night film is another breakneck paced masterpiece – the UK Premiere of TRAIN TO BUSAN, so join ‘The Commuting Dead’ as director Sang-ho Yeon takes you on a first class horror action thrill-ride, mixing slaughter, suspense and splatter with incredible visual élan.
In between these two banner titles are the scream of the crop from all over the globe, strongly represented in our line-up of World Premieres by the incredible Italian supercar tension-ratcheting MONOLITH, the gory Dutch treat THE WINDMILL MASSACRE, the stunning South African nightmare FROM A HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET, Tricia Lee’s creepy Canadian chiller BLOOD HUNTERS and three American shock absorbers KNUCKLEBONES, ENCLOSURE and the Eurotrashy radical BLOOD FEAST remake.
Reflecting a productive year for British horror, there are twelve UK World Premieres, including Shaun Robert Smith’s intensely powerful BROKEN, Jon Ford’s visceral revenge thriller OFFENSIVE, Wyndham Price’s dark fantasy CROW, Kate Shenton’s auto-satire EGOMANIAC, Ben Parker’s claustrophobic THE CHAMBER, Marty Stalker’s shock-doc HOSTAGE TO THE DEVIL and Andy Edward’s sun, sea and sex gore-fest IBIZA UNDEAD.
Five of the UK World Premieres make up the ‘First Blood’ strand, in which home-based directors are given a chance to shine with their debut efforts. These are: Phillip Escott’s harrowing CRUEL SUMMER, Brad Watson’s urban gang shocker HALLOW’S EVE, James Crow’s deadly HOUSE OF SALEM, Stewart Spark’s 666 Short Cuts To Hell entry THE CREATURE BELOW and Lawrie Brewster’s PTSD-inspired THE UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS.
Other festival highlights in the Main Screen strand include the European Premiere of Adam Wingard’s intense chiller of the moment, THE WOODS. destined to be one of the key horrors of 2016. We also have this year’s most ferocious possession movie in Cody Calahan’s LET HER OUT, as well as Todd William’s superb Stephen King adaptation CELL, starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. Then there is the top box office Italian sensation THEY CALL ME JEEG ROBOT, Adam Rifkin’s tour-de-force DIRECTOR’S CUT, starring Penn Jillette, Rob Zombie’s ultra-violent grindhouse slasher 31, ‘Saw’ man Darren Lynn Bousman’s graphic novel inspired ABBATOIR, Simon Rumley’s latest visionary masterpiece JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD, Jackson Stewart’s supernatural switcheroo BEYOND THE GATES, the zombie theme park hell ride THE REZORT, the full-blooded cracker RED CHRISTMAS, the cryogenic chiller REALIVE, the home invasion twister MERCY, the darkly unpredictable PET, starring Dominic Monaghan and the beguilling THE MASTER CLEANSE, with The Big Bang Theory’s Jonny Galecki and Anna Friel.
South America is rapidly becoming a major genre player and FrightFest is proud to be presenting seven specialities from Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Mexico. Daniel de la Vega’s WHITE COFFIN is co-written by FrightFest favourite Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Laura Casbe’s BENAVIDEZ’S CASE stretches surrealist boundaries, Patricio Valladares’ DOWNHILL mines H. P. Lovecraft for inspiration, THROUGH THE SHADOW puts Henry James’ classic tale of terror ‘The Turn of the Screw’ through a south of the border filter, THE SIMILARS is pure ‘Twilight Zone’ inspiration, FRANCESCA a thrilling Buenos Aires take on giallo and WE ARE THE FLESH comes with serious artistic endorsements from fellow Mexican filmmakers Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro G. Iñárritu.
The Discovery Screen strand is as bold as ever and includes a restored version of Shelden Renan’s controversial documentary THE KILLING OF AMERICA, Anna Biller’s gloriously art-directed THE LOVE WITCH, the cursed silent movie FURY OF THE DEMON, the Berlin Film Festival break-out, SHELLEY, the visionary sci-fi fantasy LOST SOLACE and the darkly hilarious ghost-busting ANOTHER EVIL. Then there’s Julian T. Pinder’s chilling murder investigation POPULATION ZERO, Martin Owen’s High-tec underground thriller terror LET’S BE EVIL, Tim Reis’ slimy creature feature BAD BLOOD: THE MOVIE and Michael Boroweic’s acute study of alien paranoia, MAN UNDERGROUND.
Plus, you can witness the stag party from hell in THE UNRAVELLING, the bad taste shenanigans of NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE, , the viral thrills of THE EVIL IN US, the vehicular chills of PARANORMAL DRIVE, the die-hard dystopia of HERE ALONE, the eye-popping shocks of FOUND FOOTAGE 3D, and the ‘goriously’ insane ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES.
Ahead of its FrightFest Presents DVD release, there is an encore airing for ROAD GAMES, this time with a live interactive commentary with director Abner Pastoll and a London premiere for one of the most popular movies shown earlier this year at FrightFest Glasgow, Sean Byrne’s THE DEVIL’S CANDY.
The Duke Mitchell Film Club is also back with the UK premiere of Kim Sang-Chan’s outrageously infectious KARAOKE CRAZIES and a first showing of all three episodes of the mesmerising French TV mini-series BEYOND THE WALLS.
For passes and tickets, check out: http://frightfest.nutickets.com
For the full schedule: http://www.frightfest.co.uk/2016films/schedule.html