Possibly the most aptly titled iteration of the UK’s greatest horror film festival returned with Ross Noble kicking proceedings off. The Geordie comedian was keen to see just how controversial he could be in front of the gore loving crowd, the answer is VERY! He added the killer quip (following an orphan mutilation joke) ‘so this is what it feels like to be Frankie Boyle!’
Over the next few days myself and my posse of horror soldiers from Close-Up will try and bring you as much coverage as we can from the event. What? You really thought I could do all four days on my own? Good grief, even I’m not that hardcore
!! WARNING ALL REVIEWS CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS !!
1) The Seasoning House
This very sombre piece from Brit make-up effects supremo Paul Hyett, now in the director’s seat, opens with a laconic, tense and atmospheric war drama for much of the first half. A group of soldiers led by the sublimely twisted Goran (Sean Pertwee) round up and kidnap all the girls within a community that they have systematically murdered and bludgeoned there way through. The girls are sold into a life of sex slavery within a hideous brothel in the middle of nowhere. A deaf mute girl, Angel (Rosie Day) is spared rape and torture because the tyrant who runs the brothel, Viktor (Kevin Howarth), quickly develops an unhealthy fascination with her. She is instead forced to prepare the girls, which means doping them with heroin, adding make up and then cleaning up after the often sadistic ‘customers’ have had their sick fun with them. Things unravel fast when Goran returns to settle some kind of score with his old pal Viktor whom he suspects of selling him out regarding his war crimes. Meanwhile his pack of savage militia ‘indulge’ themselves with the girls of the house. Leading to the death of one of them at the hands of one of Goran’s brutes. The death of the girl Angel had befriended, triggers her into a cat and mouse game of bloody revenge, as she kills and then evades the other soldiers, climbing through the gaps and grates in the walls.
I’ll leave the plot there without further spoilers.
At times I really enjoyed this film. The concept felt fresh and original, the technical presentation, cinematography and scripting were all to the high standard you’d expect from Hyett. The sexual violence is understated and there is no hint of torture porn here, although plenty of slasher style moments to keep gore lovers happy.
The film loses momentum when it leaves the house itself and moves to the outer community (which wasn’t as remote as it first seemed). The more the chase dragged on the less and less believable it became and one section involving the wife/girlfriend of one of Goran’s soldiers was utterly baffling.
I chatted to a Croatian writer at the screening who seemed unhappy at how the backdrop to the Balkan’s conflict in which the film is set was presented. He pointed out many visual and factual inaccuracies although conceded that the tales of torture and rape within houses like that depicted in the film were likely to have happened.
My main criticism is that the film sacrifices much of the tension and atmosphere built in the first half by being at least 30 mins too long. No doubting that the end itself was quite satisfying, it just took too long to get there. Despite this, Rosie Day’s silent performance alone makes up for any lapses in logic and pacing issues.
2) Cockneys vs Zombies
Now I need to state first off that I love the zombie horror genre, but never has a zombie movie made me feel so confused and conflicted. As a concept, combining some of the elements of a Guy Ritchie cockney gangster film with that of a zombie apocalypse breaking out in East London, is utter gold plated genius! Respect must go to director Matthias Horne and writers James Moran and Lucas Roche for the idea and for helping assemble a cast of British TV greats such as Richard Briars, Honor Blackman, Tony Gardener, Dudley Sutton to name but a few. All of whom are found residing in a retirement home when the undead attack and force their leader Ray Maguire (Brit gangster staple Alan Ford) to take desperate measures to keep them alive. Meanwhile unbeknownst to him, his idiot grandsons are robbing a local bank in order to get the money to stop the retirement home from being turned into flats by an evil construction company. A ‘blag’ which they and their even dumber friends (including cousin Katy played by Michelle Ryan) bungle spectacularly.
Luckily the world goes to shambling corpse sh*te mid-robbery. So instead of the police they have to deal with the zombie hordes, their two unintended hostages and stashing the two million they unexpectedly managed to half inch’ (that just happens to belong to the aforementioned evil construction company). The same evil construction company that have unwittingly unleashed the zombies in question by creating a construction site illegally on an old plague burial site. So between staying alive, subdueing their psychotic crime partner Metal Mickey (Ashley Bashy Thomas – having a lot of fun), dealing with their unintended hostages and rescuing their grandad. Young leads Ray (Andy Treadyway) and Terry (Rasmus Hardiker) have to work pretty hard just to stay alive!
I love Alan Ford, his performance as Bricktop in Snatch is one of my favourite film villains of all time, but turning him into a parody of himself just isn’t that cool. The script never misses an opportunity for him to quote lines from every gangster film he’s ever been in, I was actually waiting for him to turn around at any moment to a pack of zombies and say ‘Do you know what nemesis means?’. All the cockney one liners and endless East End references were just too frequent and over the top, a little more humanity and emotion was needed to create some breathing space and reality between the ham fisted attempts at humour and in jokes that bludgeon you throughout every scene. I loved the fact this film had Richard Briars in it, but the acting of his fellow TV greats was at times a little off beat. Michelle Ryan was also wasted in this film and unfortunately given the lion’s share of some of the worst dialogue.
I don’t want to be too harsh on the film though, as poorly delivered evil construction company subplot aside, the story, set pieces and overall set up are brilliant fun. The zombie hooligans scene is possibly one of the best things ever committed to zombie horror celluloid in years. Everything is played on the nose for laughs and what Cockneys vs Zombies does well it really nails, but it often feels too much like a parody of a parody and the dodgy acting and perfunctory dialogue lets the film down. I only say this because with a few tweaks here and there this film could have been an absolute classic!
This has to be one of my favourite films of the year so far. I knew absolutely nothing about this movie, all I had to go on was director Jon Wright (Tormented) when introducing the screening describing it as a cross between ‘Father Ted and a monster movie’. That isn’t a bad way of looking at it. In truth Grabbers follows gamely on from Gareth Edwards ‘Monsters’ in terms of low fi brit films that are both stylish and technically well produced with incredible special effects delivered on a shoe string. Where Grabbers differs to Monsters is that it definitely has more heart and humour and a little more threat, although less in terms of weight and scale.
Local policeman/Garda, Ciarán O’Shea (Richard Coyle) is a dour downbeat alcoholic on a island with little crime of note to distract him from his broken past on the mainland. His bitter world is turned upside down when a new Garda joins him in the form of the lively, work focused Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley). Her arrival on the island follows a meteorite crashing in the sea off the island’s coast. Dead sharks start to mysteriously wash up on the shore and strange eggs appear in the sand. Soon blood sucking squid like alien beings begin to infiltrate and pick off members of the local community whilst a bitter sweet romance begins to slowly unfold between Lisa and Ciarán.
After a squid loses a run in with hard drinking local Paddy (Lalor Roddy) local marine expert Dr. Adam (Russell Tovey) discovers that the aliens don’t like sucking blood containing high alcohol levels. At which point events take a gloriously silly turn. Ciarán with help from Lisa and Paddy, persuades the local landlord to hold a lock in. Only by keeping the locals indoors and drunk enough so that the alien squids will be put off feeding on them, can they buy enough time for Ciarán to come good and for he and Lisa to heroically save the town!
The monsters themselves are drip fed screen time as the plot at first concentrates on the larger than life characters that inhabit the island. Russell Tovey provides a slightly camp turn as local marine expert Dr. Adam. Smith, but the whole ensemble class add a great sense of Irish warmth and humour to this fun creature romp. Some horror film fans might find the lack of gore, scares and the highly derivative nature of the film leaves a rather bland taste in their mouths. So for those hi octane scares and black humour akin to Critters, should probably avoid this film.
Grabbers has a great deal of charm and bucket fulls of humour, the monster effects and the way they are employed throughout the film are superb and the character relationships and quality of the acting on show really make this film. I can’t wait for Jon Wright’s next picture, lycan horror ‘Howl’.
Ok so it’s day two and I’m starting to flag a little after a late night and early start, but the prospect of another day of awesomeness keeps me going, tomorrow it will be Martin and Delme’s turn to bring you some coverage, but I’ve a few to go so stick with me.
The anticipation and enthusiasm for this film was evident by the fact it sold out so quickly they decided to arrange another screening. However I had mixed feelings about this found footage horror anthology.
The film’s premise involves a group of happy slapping, thrill seeking thieves being given the task of stealing a VHS tape from an old man’s house. They arrive and start searching the place only to find the man dead in his chair and a whole plethora of tapes and editing equipment strewn around. One of their number starts watching some of the tapes whilst the others search for the main ‘tape’ in question. As the man views each tape we see what he sees.
Each tape/story is written and directed by some the most exciting up and coming talent on the horror film circuit today. Including Ti West (Innkeepers), David Bruckner (The Signal) and Glen McQuaid (I Sell the Dead) to name but a few. The result is a very mixed bag, ranging from some stories that are either really good throughout to some that have a few good ideas but don’t quite hit the mark, to others that are just a bit odd, uninteresting or muddled.
My favourite was about a group of guys who turn up to what they believe to be a halloween party in a big house, only to find it deserted and loads of weird stuff going down. At first they think that they are being set up and the aparitions and sounds they encounter are just people pranking them, then they stumble upon some form of ritual being held in the attic and all hell literally breaks loose. I also loved the story that involved another group of sleazy guys taking some women back following a night of drinking and partying, and getting more than they bargained for when one girl turns out to not be quite what she seems! Other stories involve a girlfriend experiencing and showing her boyfriend paranormal events whilst they are skyping each other, a deranged take on the cabin in the woods style affair, and a female hitchhiker who stalks a couple and films them while they sleep. Gizmo’s such as video glasses and video calling on laptops give the film a modern feel although it is baffling why a such seemingly modern footage would be committed to such a defunct format as VHS?
At just under two hours there is quite a lot to get through. On the plus side there is probably something for every horror fan here and their are some sublime, ideas, twists and turns plus some brilliant performances showcased. On the minus side the quality of the scripts and acting varies greatly. I also don’t actually recall being that disturbed or scared by any of the stories on show, which is not what the trailer promised!
Despite the negatives I will definitely be seeking this one out for a second viewing as there was plenty to like about V/H/S and I am confident it will do well. (See Colin’s review further down this page also as he caught another screening)
5) Rec 3 Genesis
I had mixed expectations of this zombie vampire outbreak meets ‘a bit of a do’ style wedding scenario, but I was happy that it in many ways surprised me. The first person footage this time takes the form of the wedding video captured by the groom’s cousin as a gift for the happy couple Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martín).
But once the footage reaches the point were the champagne is in full flow, the characters are firmly established and most importantly the uncle infected by a dog bite has finally gone shit nuts! Director Paco Plaza ditches the first person camera/found footage formula to give the whole film series a completely different aesthetic. The newly wed couple are separated when things first go to hell and the whole wedding site is over run. The film then switches between Koldo and Clara’s attempts to reunite and save their respective families from becoming a chewy meal. Needless to say each run in with a new family member rarely bodes well, whether it be ones that have been turned or ones that are trying to flee the satanic zombies.
The wedding survival scenario has plenty of mileage for scares, ingenius decapitations and pitch black humour as every facet of the traditional overblown, yet joyously indulgent wedding is mercilessly deconstructed and toyed with for our gory viewing pleasure (anyone who has seen Melancholia will wish that the zombies had done the same damage to the wedding in that film). The children’s entertainer dressed as a giant sponge, who everyone wants to call Sponge Bob but can’t because of copyright infringements, is just one of a many really nice touches throughout.
Problem is the lack of a first person camera and claustrophobia inducing setting means that Rec 3 loses much of the nail biting intensity and adrenalin rush that the previous two films had. Even so, it successfully develops the ideas and story arc of what went before, although much of the intrigue previously built up is lost in favour of a more traditional run and hide format. I actually preferred this third instalment to the second one which I felt was too much of a retread of the first and I really appreciated the love story angle (especially the ending).
Rec 3 is a competent and entertaining zombie flick which may disappoint some fans of the franchise but still delight others (I loved it for both).
I also caught Errors of the Human Body, which is an intense and beautifully dark deconstruction of the dangers of genetic research, humanity and loss. I really loved this film and its star Michael Eklund but to do this justice I will do a full review later on with quotes from the director Eron Sheean. (A rather pungent female tramp sat in the back for this one, random!) See Colin’s review of Errors below then check back on Close Up soon for a full feature on this utterly captivating feature.
Sunday 26 August – Day Three of Film4 Frightfest The 13th (by Colin Dibben)
We Are the Night
Day three of Film4 Frightfest The 13th kicked off nicely with We Are the Night, Dennis Gansel’s Berlin-based female vampire tale. Gritty rather than gory, it managed to fit in highlife and nightlife, fast cars, drugs, clubbing and cops – as well as glamorous lesbian vampires and some digitally enhanced locations in the city that really does never sleep. Actors include rising star Karoline Herfurth, also in Errors of the Human Body, who looks like a young Juliette Binoche. You could sum it up by saying ‘a lesbian Near Dark in Berlin’ and that sounds perfect to me.
I almost threw up during Eoin Macken’s The Inside – a disorienting, incoherent and very, very shouty found footage movie, set in Dublin. A group of girls heads out on a 21st birthday with a camera (from the way the camera wobbles continuously, I reckon none of them bothered to read the instructions). For some reason they pop in to see a mate who lived in an abandoned warehouse (we all have one, don’t we?) … I left after the home invasion rapes but before the supernatural storyline kicked in. Thankfully, the Jaegerbombs stayed down.
Next up I ventured into the short film section and witnessed Tokophobia, a minimalist home abortion movie. Some poor guy was taken ill in the cinema during this one – and frankly I’m not surprised. There was also an interesting high concept French movie, Un Jour Sang, which juxtaposed a soundtrack from a nasty torture porn film with prosaic visuals of a man and a woman getting up and getting dressed. I can’t imagine a Hollywood remake.
Rasputin, the Mad Monk
I sampled some of the Retro Screen shows too, mostly Hammer films from the early 60s that have been restored. I’m almost ashamed to say that I find most Hammer films set-bound, claustrophobic and disappointing. Rasputin, the Mad Monk did nothing to dispel my ideas and also made me realize what a bad actor Christopher Lee can be.
One of the best films was [REC] director Jaume Balaguero’s Sleep Tight, a disturbing psychological thriller with touches of Hitchcock, Polanski and Bunuel. There’s something very perverse about the film and the main character, Cesar, a concierge in a Barcelona apartment block. He can only feel happiness when he makes other people’s lives hell and the feisty, attractive tenant Clara is his new fixation. What’s great about Sleep Tight is that it manages to pull off high concept, psychological depth and some great thrilling sequences. It’s also very creepy and packed with weaponised self-loathing – and there’s no let up on these two elements at the end, which makes for a refreshingly misanthropic film experience.
Berberian Sound Studio
I loved Berberian Sound Studio, Peter Strickland’s homage to Italian horror cinema of the 70s, with definite geek focus on soundtracks. You must see this – it’s the best UK film of the year, I think, and inhabits that quirky, intelligent territory just as Kill List did last year. Gilderoy is a mild-mannered, natural history sound recordist from the home counties. He’s landed a job mixing the sound for an Italian horror film by the famous director Santini. But when he gets to Rome, despite the fact that he’s spending all his time in the studio, he’s soon way out of his comfort zone. In fact, his comfort zone is dissolving into a very dark place. Engaging, arch and disturbing, this mess-with-your-head thriller will, um, mess with your head.
Scott Derrickson’s Sinister, on the other hand, murders a good idea with a pretty bland Hollywood treatment. Ethan Hawke plays a true-crime writer with writer’s block (surprise!) who has the bright idea of moving his family into the very house he’s making the subject of his next book. Without telling them that a family has been murdered there. Oh well, behavior like this keeps family counsellors in work. Hawke, looking gaunt and sounding like cigs and whiskey have been keeping him going, channels Jack Nicholson in The Shining – and he’s pretty good. I just didn’t think the plotting stayed interesting – and some of the suspense sequences are pretty average, relying on loud soundtrack noises to cover their generic nature. The loud noises made me jump every time, though.
Errors of the Human Body
I felt like I could watch films forever, so next up was Eron Sheean’s Errors of the Human Body – a very smart, almost arthouse, character-driven bio-engineering drama that features two great performances (Michael Eklund and Karoline Herfurth) and fantastic locations in and around a snow-bound Max Planck Institute in Dresden, Germany, Europe. It’s great to see that a movie of this quality can be made (I assume) relatively cheaply. Errors of the Human Body looks great, stays intriguing every step of the way and focuses on a very human drama. It’s every bit as good as both Sleep Tight and Berberian Sound Studio and deserves to be picked up by a distributor, if it hasn’t already.
Still viewing like a mofo, I saw Michael Biehn’s The Victim. As the great character actor turned writer-director says in his video intro ‘if you like fu*king and fighting you’ll like this film’. Think late 60s Russ Meyer, this grindhouse exploitationer is very bad and very good fun: strippers, bent cops, a tough loner living in the woods, dimestore philosophy. I’m a big fan of the latter, and as people filed out of the small screen, I got more and more into the essentials truths being hammered home by the bad cop and our taciturn, wiry hero.
It was still only 23.00 hrs and I’d only been watching films for 12 hours, so I tucked into VHS, which Dan reviewed on day one. I usually have issues with highly mobile or embedded cameras but I thought the anthology format worked really well, keeping things fresh and different. The stories were nice and gory too. Unlike the annoying shouty Irish in The Inside, the happy slappers in the framing narrative reminded me of Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers, which I take to be the last word in ‘idiot chic’. And the actress in the Skype story was insanely attractive. And the tiger woman was hot too.
So, day three, 14 hours, nine films and some shorts! Anything less and you’re the proverbial big girl’s blouse.
Frightfest: A Fright Odyssey (by Delme Stephenson)
I entered the Rediscovery Screen where director and writer Alex Chandon was to be found talking about his 2011 film Inbred.
Inbred, for the uninitiated is a dementedly hilarious feature about a bunch of country bumpkins who decide to make life a living hell for a gang of young offenders and their custodians who happen to get on their wrong side.
As experiences go at Frightfest – this was right up there. Why? Alex stood in front of the screen and talked to the audience, which included the cast and crew members, through the entire film. It was a live director’s commentary that also doubled as a screening.
Alex explained everything; an absolute dynamo with the wit to match. Crew members were game and pulled crackers as heads exploded like melons.
At the end of the film the composer got up and began to play us out as the credits rolled. The audience all had a good sing-a-long and then marched out to cinema foyer chanting “Eee by, eee by gum!”
You had to be there I guess. Catch me on DVD extras!
I bumped into Alex on Monday as I was about to enter into screening and he into another. We had a quick word about Inbreds before he disappeared into the night, coffee in one hand and a mischievous look on the other. An interesting, humble, well versed director – I wish the very best for Mr. Chandon.
If there was anything at Frightfest that was a must-see over the bank holiday weekend then for me then it was Paura 3D. Director’s Antonio and Marco Manetti had impressed with their previous effort The Arrival of Wang which was screened straight after in the ‘Rediscovery Screen’ with the director’s probably going into full energetic fist pumping mode whilst it was being shown.
The Manetti brothers excitedly took to the stage to introduce their film in the biggest screen. One of the two explained to the audience that he had come to London on a school trip (many years ago) and as part of their activities they had attended the Empire Leicester Square to watch a movie (I forgot what film he had watched). He told a friend that one day one of his films would be screened at the Empire…He stood there before us, his brother by his side beaming with pride. Now that’s what I call fulfilling a dream. The audience obviously went wild after that hearing that one.
3D has its detractors and to be honest I’m not entirely sold. There have been very few films that have impressed me with the concept; however Paura is a well directed 3D experience. The brother’s make it work by shooting with 3D cameras and not converting them from one format to another. Some of the film’s sequences create an impressive depth of field where the background is pushed away into the distance. It especially works in the basement scenes where the audience is blinded by what lies ahead creating a sense of apprehension.
Whatever your opinion on 3D; the film also works fine without it.
It has an intriguing build-up, I wasn’t sure where the story was taking us or even how the characters would even interact but eventually it comes together in quite an intriguing way. It fumbles somewhat in its last act, but it’s overall an entertaining piece of cinema.
The audience were pleased and gave the brothers a respectable round of applause before they answered some questions and then rushed off to another screening…
I have to admit they were running out.
Everybody else had decided to rush off to watch the Possession or a second screening of The Inside. If I had learnt one thing whilst deciding what to watch at Frighfest it was about taking chances.
Roll the dice…
I guess I fell for the poster with a bloodied arm reaching out of an elevator and its tongue in-check tagline, “Some buttons should never be pushed”.
While Elevator does get a tad grizzly near the end it’s a thriller more than anything else.
Plotwise – nine people, from all different walks of life enter a lift heading to a corporate party. A practical joke goes wrong and they end up stuck near the 50th floor. It’s slowly revealed that one of them has a bomb that will go off if it’s not disarmed which leads to tension and the odd twist.
Elevator isn’t a bad film, yet it isn’t really a good film either. It hovers somewhere in-between (the 47th floor?). It’s ultimately an entertaining, low-budget thriller that diverts your attention for 84 minutes. As an audience we laughed yet it didn’t take its material into uncharted territory. It had felt like we’d seen it all done before with more panache.
Oh well, that’s what happens when you take a chance I suppose…
Chained and Possession (by Dan Collacott)
Ok so it’s back to me for some final films before Martin can finish off this event blog. I’ve had a fair few late nights and early mornings trying to organise things, but on the whole Frighfest has been pretty damn special.
Jennifer Lynch (Boxing Helena, Surveillance) mixes themes of long term incarceration, serial killing, sexual abuse and the long term affects of Stockholm Syndrome, in this stylish horror thriller. The story follows a young boy who along with his mother is kidnapped by brutish woman hating serial killer Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio). His mother is killed in the opening scenes and he is forced to grow up incarcerated within Bob’s remote house. Seven years on the boy Bob dubbed Rabbit, is 16 and under the skewed education and guidance of Bob’s distorted but sometimes well meaning parenting techniques. Lynch plays cat and mouse with her audience, as we never know if Rabbit will keep his innocence and sense of right and wrong, or follow in the sexually warped and murderous footsteps of his captor.
There is also a slightlly odd and unnecessary twist at the end, it’s by no means a bad thing. In the Q&A after Jennifer commented that she wanted to put more back story in - to give more weight and meaning to the twist. She stated that she hoped there would be a director’s cut of the film in order to allow her to achieve this.
Most men would have left the screening wishing they didn’t have a willy or the will to ever use it again, whilst most women would have left the cinema having lost the inclination to ever take a ride in a cab, at least not one driven by a man! I am not suggesting this is a strongly feminist film after all Jennifer herself pointed out to the audience that ‘girls can go dark’ and ‘she doesn’t consider the fact she has a uterus’ when she makes films. Whatever the case Chained is a slightly flawed yet brilliant film, that keeps you on the edge of the seat and plays havoc with your moral radar throughout.
With Sam Raimi as producer you’d expect something half decent from this paranormal exorcism styled thriller. Plus the trailer heralded much promise. The reality is a plodding and formulaic horror film, with very few interesting ideas to present as it’s own. Not even the overbearing sound track can distract you long enough from the tedious scripting and the fact that the bits that raise the most questions…. aren’t actually supposed to!
I doubt director Ole Bornedal could have done much more with the turgid and unoriginal script in question. The story follows a cursed Jewish box with a whispering demon in it that ends up in the hands of a young girl (via a yard sale which is were most people buy their demonic ob je dar). The moth loving demon escapes, possesses girl, girl starts to act a bit odd and then progressively more and more evil. Her behaviour is initially blamed on a recent parental divorce, then on the dad, then the dad finds a Rabbi to help cast out the demon and so and so on. All of course based on real events! In fact you can buy such boxes on ebay.
The acting isn’t necessarily bad, although seeing a cute girl turn evil via a bit of dark grey eye liner and a unblinking stare does get a bit old. Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the dad, does the best with the material at hand, but even Hollywood production values can’t stop this film from being a major disappointment. If you want a decent possession movie then Eli Roth’s The Last Exorcism does the job much better.
As promised our man Martin will finish things off, from the perspective of a virgin Frighfest goer!
My first time at the Frightfest
by Martin Goolsarran
My old flatmate is a regular at Frightfest, attending the whole event without fail, then subsequently banging on for days about the how much of the horror fans’ wet dream it was to have 5 days of endless horror movies to revel in! Well this year he didn’t make it, so in his absence I thought I’d come and see what all the fuss has been about over the years.
Before you even begin to enter the venue you can see the hordes gathered outside, you can’t miss them, these are the die-hard contingent that wear their colours (usually black clothing and for some, fake red blood) loud and proud! As you enter you immediately feel drawn into the atmosphere, the packed hall holds clusters of tightly knit groups raucously, talking shop, chatting away about the all-encompassing horror film event of the year. Quick to get down to business, I head for the main screen for a 1.30 showing of ‘UNDER THE BED’.
Unawares, I walk straight into the main screen, plonk myself down into a middle aisle with seat a cracking view of the main screen and stage. Ten minutes have passed and the film hasn’t started yet! I thought I’d walked into until the wrong screen until…. Hang-on, what’s this? Somebody famous is being talked up and invited up on stage –it’s none other than Grieg Nicotero! The legendary special effects artist, and protégé of Tom Savini, both famed for their work with George A.Romero.
This is a bit of a treat to listen to such and influential figure in the world of horror films as he talked candidly about his life’s work and what it means to have worked on no less than 800 movies in 23 years! Speaking with total reverence towards the genre and his peers, whilst adding great wit to his tales, GN gave a splendid insight into the film industry by offering the doting crowd tips on how to mix-up fake blood, and musing over the career high points of working with the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriquez and Steven Spielberg. Great stuff, but it didn’t end there…….none other than self confessed (now celebrity) horror geek Simon Pegg steps on stage to hand Mr Nicotero a lifetime award for major contributions to the horror film industry. What a touch. Greig Nicotero, we salute you!
UNDER THE BED
17 year old Neal Hausman (Jonny Weston) has always believed that there’s a monster living under his bed that’s out to get him. Nobody seems to believe him, in fact Neal’s parents decide it is a good idea that he have a little break from things in the form of a 2 year stay at the local mental institution! Now back at home, he’s adopted the tag of being the neighbourhood psycho; though not too fussed about what the neighbours think Neal and his brother Paulie are still convinced that they are at threat from the phantom creature and set to work on rooting out the monster from its lair and destroying it once and for all.
Even though this has been all done before on a bigger and better scale in terms of the Sam Rami produced ‘Boogeyman’ and ‘Darkness Falls,’ for what it’s worth I don’t have too much to say that’s too much in the negative here. With no stars and a clearly limited budget ‘Under the Bed’ does deliver on a level that shows competent filmmaking and a stable formula for an average horror flick. The performances are sound on most counts, especially from the young leads of Jonny Weston and Gattlin Griffin. The breakdown of the frantic parents in crisis is well executed, just as the somewhat sparsely plotted scares are well timed and positioned in all the right places; even if the monster is mock-up of a stuffed bin bag with holes for eyes.
‘Under the Bed’ is bog standard fare for the crowd to feed off until the main features kick in later on in the day, average-ish, but entertaining none the less.
Director: Federico Zampaglione
After the rave reviews of his 2009 renaissance piece ‘Shadow’ Federico Zampaglione latest offering, the ambiguously titled ‘Tulpa’ bares similarities to Dario Argento’s ‘The bird with crystal plumage’, which suggests a possible homage to the master of the Italian horror genre.
The story is set on the backdrop of corporate Rome with Lisa (Nuot Arquint) as high-flying corporate executive, who spends her evenings at a secret fetish club, Tulpa, (for overworked yuppies) having sex with complete strangers. The sexual exploits run smoothly until her partners start to be unceremoniously killed off. Life on the line, fearing that she’s next up for the chop, she must work fast to uncover the meaning behind the tantric nature of Tulpa and prevent any further slayings.
This is a (sort of) stylised piece that owes much to the likes of Driller Killer and Dressed to Kill. However, the tidy streets of Rome being blood splattered are only part farce for really showcasing lots of Jess Franco styled soft porn. You certainly get an eyeful with Zampaglione’s missus’ (Arquint) debauched on screen antics with the endless amount of romping going on. The blood and guts are reasonably inventive with the masked killer taking his time with various torture devices and methods to HAMMER the point home., though the Murder, Death; Kills do seem a little OTT at times (but hey, that’s what some folks are rightly here for).
The fact that the dialogue keeps drifting from phonetic English to Italian, and then back to dubbed English again does detract from the film being taken to seriously. Though unintentionally, this is where most of the laughs seem to come from; Michela Cescon and Nuot Arquint’s badly mistimed dialogue puts the crowd into side-splitting mode whenever the pair begin to speak. The continuity is badly linked, with the narrative thread being worn pretty thin, ultimately leaving some rather shoddy loose ends. This is art-house horror that attempts to show touch of class, as well as showing a touch of silliness.
Director: Frank Khalfoun
Maniac is the remake of seminal slasher-meister William Lustig’s 1980 cult classic. This is the story of Frank, a homicidal maniac whose deep seeded emotional/mental issues drive him to hack his way around Los Angeles by torturing and scalping innocent female victims.
Post LOTR, Elijah Wood has been taking all and sundry in parts to break the shackles of the shire and establish himself as a ‘proper actor’(remember his creepy role in Sin City!). Nothing wrong with his ability, there never has been, but if this be the motive for taking on a part like this then he is surely going the wrong way about it.
The original film has great cult-like status with the fans, so by being badly miscast little Frodo is clearly doing himself no favours here. By the part being so macabrely gruesome, especially in the nature of how the killer, ‘Frank’ pursues and mutilates his victims it is hard to watch EW in this type of role and not think that the actor as well as the character has clearly lost the plot. For the most part this is a misogynistic sortie that’s played out to some shocking and trite murderous extremes. There are some likable moments like when the soundtrack tips its hat to ‘silence of the lambs’ by one of Frank’s victims dancing topless to Q-Lazarus’s ‘Goodbye Horses’. Told from the point of view of the killer, Frank is only seen by reflections or photo images of himself, which adds a clever and inventive take on the killer’s own neurosis. This is the story of a decidedly disturbed man spiralling deeper into madness, as his killings become more prolific and bizarre as the film goes on. This might be a stroll through the woods for any horror connoisseur to lap up the blood spills and violent body counts, but not one for the faint hearted. A bit on the heavy side for my tastes, but I’d imagine this has probably been the highlight of the day for most of the DIE-HARDS (not that there were too many of them in the film).
Ok back to me again just to say, it’s been emotional! Thanks to Greg Day for giving us the chance to cover this my favourite festival of the year, and thanks to Colin, Delme and Martin for their endurance and enthusiasm. Until next year – stay safe, and stay alive horror fans!