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.
7 foot, 375lbs of Pure Aussie Killing Machine
In the 1980s, the Australian country town of Mitchell got a bad rep when an angry mob hunted down and violently killed suspected cannibal and backpacker killer John Wilson (Bill Moseley) and his psycho wife Merideth (Trudi Ross) in front of their retarded son Charlie, who vanished into the bush never to be seen again. Today, Charlie’s Farm is ‘a dark and evil place’ that the locals avoid at all cost.
Despite the concerns of her boxer pal Tony (Kane Hodder), Natasha (Tara Reid) joins her two Aussie mates, horror film buff Jason (Dean Kirkright) and ladies man Donkey (Sam Coward), and girl pal Melanie (Allira Jaques), in the 8-hour drive to camp at the notorious site, where they encounter two backpackers who are also interested in the urban legend. But ‘Holy snapping duck shit!’, it’s not long before the deformed hulk that is Charlie Wilson (Nathan Jones) comes a calling and a killing…
Bush-bound blood and gore
This Aussie survival horror is basically Hatchet Down Under with professional wrestler Nathan Jones (Mad Max: Fury Road) playing a Victor Crowley-esque killing machine – think Hugh Armstrong’s The Man from 1972’s Death Line on steroids. Of course, this being a slasher, it’s the kills that count not the subtleties of character. So, except for one ludicrous, pointless kill involving a tractor, they don’t disappoint – with the highlight being Donkey getting his ‘massive’ manhood shoved down his throat followed by a gruesome jaw ripping.
There are a few in-jokes to savour, but mostly around the presence of Kane Hodder, who not only played the original Victor Crowley, but also that most iconic of slasher monsters, Jason Voorhees (four times by my count). While Hodder stays out of the picture for most of the film, he does get to go mano a mano with Jones’ Charlie in the bloody climax. But, surprisingly, he’s not the hero of the piece. That’s left to Tara Reid’s final girl, who finds herself in The Hills Have Eyes territory when she seeks refuge in an underground tunnel filled with the decaying corpses of Charlie’s victims. Yew!
Hoping Charlie Wilson will be welcomed into that hallowed pantheon of movie monsters alongside Crowley, Voorhees, and their ilk, the filmmakers have even brought out a range of merchandise. Will you be getting your ‘I Survived Charlie’s Farm’ Tee, bobble head and condoms? Mind you, they’ve got some competition with another Charlie currently frightening cinemagoers in The Gallows.
I SHOULD HAVE GONE ON THE SWAMP TOUR
After dispatching serial killer Victor Crowley with a shotgun and a chainsaw, Marybeth (Danielle Harris), the sole survivor of his murderous rampage of Honey Island swamp, takes his scalp to the authorities to prove he’s not just an urban legend.
Suspecting her of the mass killings, Sheriff Fowler (Zach Galligan from Gremlins fame) locks Marybeth up and sends out a group of officers and medics to recover the bodies. But when they too go missing, Lewis heads into the Louisiana swamp with some reinforcements, where a SWAT team is also looking for answers. And it’s not long before they do… for Crowley (Kane Hodder) has indeed regained his form and is ready to rumble.
Meanwhile, Fowler’s Crowley-obsessed journalist ex-wife Amanda (Caroline Williams) breaks Marybeth out of jail in a bid to find the one thing that will end Crowley’s curse – the ashes of his dead father. It’s then a race against time to get back to the swamp where Marybeth must personally hand over the remains before the SWAT and police teams are completely wiped out by the unstoppable killing machine.
EVIL NEVER DIES
You needn’t have seen the first two films to enjoy this latest Victor Crowley gore-fest, as the dungaree-wearing bayou bad boy’s bloody back story is revisited and expanded on here, and there’s a whole bunch of new victims for him to rip, shred and tear apart.
Creator/director Adam Green hands his monstrous creation over to BJ Connell, who takes great pleasure in poking fun at the contrived events of the previous film, while serving up a bloody brilliant new brew of thrills, spills and irreverent giggles.
The gloriously grisly highlights include a medic having his brains blown out of his skull with some cardio pads, the horrid SWAT leader getting his heart and spine ripped out, and a weedy officer having his arms torn off in revenge for bazookering Crowley’s cabin. The blood gushing is prolific and blackly comic: one poor medic has to choose which death would be worse: Crowley or a crocodile, while another utters the film’s best line: ‘I hid. And that’s the only reason why those are not my balls hanging from that tree’.
Look out for Adam Green playing a drunken Mardi Gras party reveller and the legendary Sid Haig, who has a hilarious cameo playing a racist war veteran who thinks its still 1953.
Hatchet II (2010) | Swamp monster serial killer Victor Crowley delivers another bloody blow to your funnybone
When it comes to tongue-in-cheek horror comedy few films can surpass 1985’s Return of the Living Dead whose comic script, great special effects, neat soundtrack and solid acting really sets the benchmark for these kind of films (as far as I’m concerned, that is).
Adam Green, Horror-dom’s favourite poster boy, made his name back in 2006 with his old-school serial killer horror Hatchet. Since then, he’s stretched his directorial wings with the classy thriller Spiral and the taunt survival chiller Frozen [reviewed here]. But he’s always promised his fans more Hatchet sequels, beginning with this one from 2010.
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen the original, but it does help to know a little about Friday the 13th, as this film is a pure homage to the horror franchise and its leading man, Jason Voorhees. Here, Green has fashioned his own horror icon-in-the-making in the form of Victor Crowley: a deformed, indestructible, serial killer who haunts a cursed Louisiana bayou and looks like a cross between Troma’s Toxic Avenger, The Elephant Man, and Robert De Niro’s Frankenstein monster.
The sequel follows directly from the first with heroine Marybeth (Danielle Harris) escaping Crowley’s clutches then returning to the dreaded swamp with a pack of hunters in tow, headed by Tony Todd’s flamboyant Reverend Zombie, to avenge the deaths of her father and brother. Only problem is, Crowley (again played by Kane Hodder, aka Jason Voorhees VII-X) also has a score to settle: the deaths of the three boys responsible for his fiery death.
You have to wait 53-minutes of back-story and highlights from the original before you get to your first fresh kill, but once Crowley starts butchering, you’ll find yourself whooping in delight as the body count rises. The death scenes are gory; inventive and well executed with all manner of tools including shovels, boat motor blades, giant double chainsaw and a sander – in addition to Crowley’s trusty hatchet – being used to decimate the cast.
Forget the cardboard story and mostly lame acting (Harris shouts through her role, while Todd seems to be invoking True Blood’s Lafayette with his performance); it’s the jokey violence and bloody pulp of an ending that makes Hatchet II a winner for me. Does it reach the lofty heights of my favourite horror comedy? ‘Fraid not, but it’s still one to enjoy with your fellow horror fiends over a few beers.
Just one question, does anyone know what a ‘Voodoo Fluffer’ is?
Hatchet II screens on The Horror Channel (Sky 319, Virgin 149, Freesat 138), with the next showing on Friday 28 March at 10.50pm.
Hatchet III is released on DVD in the UK on Monday 31 March from Metrodome Distribution[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qmgd6_KzV_8%5D