Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Seven Psychopaths

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS ****

McDonagh and the Seven Psychos

It appears McDonagh has picked up right where he left off with his 2008 cult hit, In Bruge. His second collaboration with Farrell is set much closer to home and journeys a the wacky 'n' wild adventure of three unlikely heroes in an absurd mess.


When writer and alcoholic Marty (Colin Farrell) struggles to come up with the screenplay for his hopeful movie 'Seven Psychopaths', Billy (Sam Rockwell) sets out to help inspire his best friend by embodying a psychopathic serial killer who leaves a Jack of Diamonds playing card with the body of his victims. While Billy continues his daily business as a part-time dog kidnapper to reap the owner's reward money with his partner in crime Hans (Christopher Walken), the three fools become inadvertently entangled in LA's criminal underworld when they steal gangster Charlie's (Woody Harrelson) beloved Shih Tzu. Charlie is not a man to be messed with and when the trio cross paths with him and their loved ones start getting a bullet in the head, the end is nigh. But an incessant Billy will do everything in his power to have it end his way.

Ultimately, what McDonagh delivers is a movie within a movie; though consciously never duping the audience, a fuzzy line is created between fiction and reality. The metafilm is by no means an unfamiliar cinematic concept, having been executed in fellow comedies/spoofs such as Adaptation, Tropic Thunder and the Scream quadrilogy, and sometimes assumes to be more clever than it actually is. Confusing the psychopaths of the film, and those that are in Marty's diagetic film. The screenplay 'Seven Psychopaths' is more of a jumble of serial killer case studies and is never fully realised. But it works successfully to distort the conventional narrative norm, disorientates the audience's attentive flow and well executes an interesting riff for storytelling. Carter Burwell too returns from In Bruge to provide the electic music composition.

Seven Psychopaths excels in its boldly comedic, tastefully parodic nature which is uphold for the most part. It thrives on Tarentino-esque jaunty dialogue and delights in its excessive bloody and broody violence, as well as half-heartedly touching upon spiritual and emotional themes. However, its overt self-awareness simmmers stupidity in it's less entertaining scenes, and- though far and few between- suffers when the concentration momentarily lies solely with the goofy ridiculouness and unoriginality of the dog chase premise. Nevertheless, these are welcomingly saved by a sudden flash of a character's ludicrously bad idea or an insight into his lurid imagination. The scenes of vivid imagery that encapture Billy's fictional dreamlike realm are the more absorbing and amusing as we enter the wishful imaginings of his dream shoot out. Billy is used both as the caricature of the 'psychopath', and unquestioningly as the prominent satirial vehicle that unhinges the generic western/action/crime movie.

McDonagh and his impressive ensemble cast creates a fun, lighthearted disposition of characters whose unliklely situation allows for a playful and humorous observation into several interpersonal conflicts. Farrell is our initial interest- a disheartened drunk whose relationship is in tatters and is struggling to fulfill his aspirations to write a dream script. But it is Billy and Hans who become the more intruguing characters, rolling the dice in a game which Marty idly is forced to play. Rockwell's highly animated, crazy-eyed madman character is most compelling and provides an engaging contrast to Walken's composed character who has religiously reformed to forget a violent history. As usual, time and time again, it is Walken's prescence that steals the screen.

Though Mickey Rourke had originally been set for the role of Charlie, McDonagh has undoubtedly been blessed with a superlative replacement, as Harrelson manifests the hot-headed, but camp, gangster with ease. Having recently played a misogynist, racist veteren cop in crime drama Rampart, and the zombie-killing, twinkie-eating badass in comedy Zombieland- not to mention the infamous serial-killer Mickey Knox in Natural Born Killer's- Harrelson appears to be perfect for the character of hard-nut gangster in a comedy film about psychopathic serial killers. And he is.

VERDICT: Overall, a thoroughly entertaining, erratic self-mockery of the textbook psychopath and the genres associated with them, using the metafilm to play on its stereotypical implications in its finest moments. Even the Irish is an alcoholic.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Hunt (or Jagten)

THE HUNT ****

The hunter becomes the hunted.

Revisiting his successful, acclaimed 1998 film Festen (or Celebration Day) Thomas Vinterburg digs the themes of child abuse in Danish society back up.

The Hunt's Danish Director and co-writer is a household name in the film industry of his native country, being a brother to the founding of the Dogme 95 filmmaking movement which established rules for simplifying film production. Though his more recent features- both Dutch and English-speaking- have flopped, it seems that Vinterburg has finally found his feet.

After a messy divorce, Lucas (Mads Mikkelson) has settled in a small, close-knit Denmark town and is finally getting his life back together when a young girl with a vivid imagination makes an accusation against him that will change his life forever. Lucas loses his job at the town's nursery and is hunted by the angry villagers when his best friend's child Klara (Anikka Wedderkopp) claims to have been subjected to sexual abuse at his hands. Doubted by his friends and alone in his suffering, The Hunt deals with an innocent man's struggle as his whole world falls apart around him.


It is no suprise that Mikkelson picked up the award for Best Actor at Cannes this year. He delivers an astounding and gripping performance as a man who teeters on a fine line between witholding dignity and courage and verging on an emotional breakdown. He charms in his overwhelming ability to hide an incessant, lingering pain and steals the screen with his distressing reactions to the villagers torment. Though probably most recognized as the eye-weeping bond villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale, Mikkelson has become a well-known face in the film industry outside of his birth country. The Danish actor and rising star has occupied smaller roles in box-office hits such as Clash Of The Titans and King Arthur, as well as in smaller titles like Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself.

Accusations of peadophilia, child molestation or other sexual wrongdoings- whether true or false- and its consequences is by no means an original direction within the medium, explored previously in a number of films such as The Woodsman, Mysterious Skin and Evilenko. But what Vinterburg achieves is tastefulness, avoiding the typical graphic displays and focus on the incident in question, and instead focusing on the consequential aftermath and the concerns of those characters effected. As Lucas is always positioned to be wrongly accused, we as an audience never dispute his innocence. Vinderburg even hints his genuine professionality at times, telling Klara off after she kisses him. We are able to pity Lucas and his painfully unfortunate situation as he becomes a target of abuse himself as shops refuse him service, a butcher violently confronts him, a shot is fired through his window, and his dog is killed. What we observe in the following acts is not only how Lucas becomes socially marginilized and withdrawn to the fortress of his home, but the emotional journey and pressure that the characters involved go through- particularly interestingly in Lucas' best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen). What is so absorbing is how we see the primary raw reactions of anger and sadness transform as time progresses, the uncertainty of the claim emanates, and the community is forced to confront themselves.


Although delivered in an extreme and sensitive case, Vinterburg communicates an underlying message of childrens capabilities to lie, and the extent to which one little dangerous lie can cause life-changing havoc. He purposely, and successfully, avoids outright blame and irrationality by creating situations where both the emotions of the supposed victims (the villagers) and the actual victim (Lucas) can be understood. However, at the same time Vinterburg overtly challenges the cemented adult connotations between 'child', 'innocence' and 'truthfulness', and somewhat damns the parents- and authortive figures- who undoubtedly help spiral one childs uncertainties into a fermented truth to cover their backs. Even when Klara admits she said something 'foolish', her statement is disregarded as a lack of memory due to mental scarring. Arguably too, a slight dig at the accessibility of porn to underage children- from which the young female accuser is confused and misled by- is a welcome one.

The 'hunting' metaphor is an obvious one in terms of Lucas as the predator who hunts deers as a traditional village hobby, but then becomes the victim- the hunted, the deer. But more importantly it is used as a vehicle for visualising Lucas' everlasting feelings of worry and uneasiness; an ongoing reminder of becoming once again a form of prey, even after the events have passed.


VERDICT: A compelling, heart-wrenching waiting game that is gripping from multiple characters perception. A realistic, provincial examination into a harsh and dangerous situation which profuses anguish, frustration and utter heartbreak.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Sightseers

SIGHTSEERS
****

Kill List in a Caravan

 
Kill List creator Ben Wheatley returns with this inhumanely immoral, but insanely funny, provincial black comedy in the countryside.


Prepare to join a modern-day Mickey and Mallory Knox in Wheatley’s satirical Natural Born Killers-esque serial killing spree, as Tina (Alice Lowe) and Chris (Steve Oram) embark on a rollickin’ ride through the rolling hills of Redditch, pushing people off cliffs and stealing their dog.

Aspiring writer Chris takes his new girlfriend Tina on their dream caravan holiday to Little England to show her the wonders of his world. But one fatal ‘accident’ at the Crich Tramway Museum changes not just Tina’s holiday itinerary, but her life forever. Having led a sheltered life with her overtly meddling mum Carol (Eileen Davies), a vulnerable Tina is soon vacuumed into the wicked side of Chris’ world- beyond the normal-seeming boyfriend and his touristy trips to Keswick Pencil Museum and Ribblehead Viaduct.

Caravan parks are certainly not a holiday haven where the new couple are pitched, and their daily antics certainly don’t conclude with a family game of Cluedo (not the board version anyway.) Little do fellow holiday-goers and hill hikers know that they’re walking down the valley of the shadow of death with the sinister duo at the hands of their demise. Tina and Chris’ romance abnormally blossoms, deluded about the immorality and depravity of their murderous hobby, and developing it as a mutual common interest to interact and understand one another. “They are not people Tina, they’re Daily Mail readers”, Chris justifies as he repeatedly smashes the face of an interfering walker on the ragged rocks. It sounds funny off the page, and its delivery clinches the deal….over and over again.


After starring in Kill List, Oram and Lowe return this time to lead the cast of Wheatley’s third feature, as well as take on scripting duties. Co-writing the screenplay- with Wheatley’s wife and creative partner Amy Jump as an additional writer- the trio create the perfect balance of disturbing good fun and playful, observational characterisation, which uncompromisingly walks a fine line between horror and ludicrous absurdity. In its very first few minutes we chuckle our way through our first encounter with Eileen Davies as Tina’s mother, as her wilfully dependant demeanour, grumpy stubbornness and tactless conversation with her daughter and new lover sets the sweet and simplistic tone. The mind-baffling marvels of Chris and Tina are no-doubt breakthrough roles for Lowe and Oram, and the consequential creations from the collaboration of their previous comic roles. Though their on-screen chemistry and bold hilarity is both enthralling and engaging, it inevitably enters a period of dying momentum in it’s final stages as the nature of the two protagonists’ nonchalant attitude to their sins runs its course.

Not only do we guiltlessly divulge in the skull cracking and bone crunching, we root for the eventual success of their relationship. Wheatley’s achievement lies not only in his perfect blending of horrifying fun and shocking indifference –tempting us to both laughter and tears-  but also in his refreshing ability to veer a bloody direction for romantic comedies, right where NBK’s Oliver Stone left off eighteen years ago.

 
VERDICT: Delighting in its darkest direction and authentic moments of jet black humour, Wheatley provides a testament to the existing originality of the black comedy and a solid template that raises the bar for the subgenre’s future success. A monument to be preserved by the National Trust.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Citadel


CITADEL
***1/2
 
Fatherhood gets more frightening

 
Citadel draws parallels with UK horror films Eden Lake and Cherry Tree Lane in its depiction of youth’s capabilities to inflict unimaginable horrors.

“I saw the world as a frightened 18-year-old, and married it with my love of genre films.”- Ciaran Foy, Director. Based on his real life experience as a victim of a gang street attack and a consequential agoraphobia condition which he battled with throughout his 20’s, the Irish filmmaker explores the darkest corners of society in his debut feature film, Citadel.
 

Following the murder of his pregnant wife by a brood of twisted feral children, a now agoraphobic, single father must face his fears and overcome those same kids who torment him and his infant daughter.

Tommy (Aneurin Banardo) is forced to reside with his young daughter Elsa in a decrepit council house in a dilapidated suburban area. His paralyzing fears of the outside world border him inside its walls as he scarcely bares enough courage to attend support meetings and hospital appointments. When the hooded figures begin to circle his home, vandalizing and eventually breaking in to steal Elsa, Tommy is forced to break out to see who they are and what they want with his daughter. They strive on the smell of fear; in order to face the demons, Tommy must learn to ‘feel the fear, and let is pass.’ Teaming up with a corrupt Priest (James Cosmo) who wants to burn down the tower block (the ‘citadel’) where the abhorrent creatures hide, he must return to his former residence and the place of his wife’s fatal encounter, and test the lengths a father would go to protect his own.

The eerie suspense lies not only in the hoodlum’s invasive activity in and around the house, but in the mystery of the hooded figures identity. The unknown motivation for their terrorizing can be likened to that in Funny Games and The Strangers, and we feel an overshadowing sense of claustrophobia and panic in the victim’s entrapment. But this chilling uneasiness and anxious tension fails to withhold, soon diminishing when we learn of their appearance, incentives and history as Tommy embarks on his task in the latter half of the film. Subsequently we experience a less captivating and more underwhelming stance in the transition from a tightly confined tangible nightmare to an outward mission for revenge and answers. Nonetheless, Tommy’s venture with the priest and his son (Jake Wilson) is both absorbing and frightening, not letting up in its nail-biting, jumpy demeanour. Some may say this is where the real ‘horror’ begins; though Foy doesn’t indulge so much in the blood and gore aspects, the threat becomes an actuality and the violence kicks in. The bleak, derelict tone and claustrophobia of the abandoned, poverty-stricken neighbourhood remains present in the narrow passageways and dimly lit corridors of the abused citadel, and thrives further in its isolation by excluding law enforcements and any other unnecessary characters to the plot. Even the hospital seems largely deserted!

Banardo leads the front in the most mesmerizing performance in horror this year. Overwhelmed by ongoing grief, frustration, terror and paranoia, Barnardo embodies the emotional wreckage of societal decay’s most vulnerable victim. Though his plight could easily have manufactured a weak and inept father figure, he steals the show in his emotionally charged performance. His agonizing expression signposts his desperation for help and his struggle to engage with his child encapsulates some remarkably powerful, heartbreaking scenes which offer a sympathetic distraction to the story’s figurative horrors. Even his situation with his comatose wife Joanne (Amy Shiels) steals our hearts.

Cosmo amuses in his role as a seemingly insane, blasphemes priest, providing light entertainment in his rude, cursing, and sarcastic manner but marks the turn of the film’s direction and needlessly fills in the explanatory details –his personal motivation for helping Tommy and the historic birthplace for the infected spawn of inbreds.

Local hospital nurse Marie (Wunmi Mosaku) offers Tommy not only a reassuring outlet of nursing and aid, but also friendly and sensitive support. More interesting though, she provides a symbolic representation of the generic attitude of the cities population, being ignorant of the ‘kids’ real condition and passing them off on a daily basis as simply misunderstood and harmless. In this palpable example of society’s immoral depths, Foy raises some interesting, but overtly obvious, questions about the justice and treatment of today’s incessant teenage gang crime.

 

VERDICT: A gritty, suburban nightmare for one man at the hands of an infected youth which glows in its enclosed setting and enigmatic state, but slightly loses its tense trepidation when the conflict is realised and fought outdoors.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

New Horror Entries...

2 stinkers, 2 stonkers.

Having finally recovered from the antics of last Saturday's FrightFest Halloween all-nighter, i've had time to reflect on the bits of the line-up that really were hard to stay awake for (almost ditching my pro-plus efforts and calling for matchsticks), as well as reminding myself of some of the summer programmes gems (which i'd largely, and undeservdly, ignored in my previous post about the festival.)

'Ere goes....


STINKERS


Bait 3D
**
When a freak tsunami hits a coastal city, the surviving shoppers of a supermarket must swim their way out- but first, they must tackle a 12-foot shark that lurks amidst the aisles. It’s ludicrously laugh-out-loud clichés, hammy 3D moments, and handful of witty one-liners make for an entertainingly dumb and frumpy fun character drama. But for a shark movie, its demise lies in the lack of teeth-wrenched guts and bloody endings. Nevertheless, there have been bigger fishy flops, and at least Bait’s shark doesn’t roar like a lion (Jaws 4) or have characters jet ski their way straight into the predators mouth at 40mph (Shark Attack 3). We sit and sigh as we wait for Bait 3DD.

  

The Helpers
**
What happens when you get two freak punctured tyres on your road trip to Vegas? Whatever you do, do not receive a free repair, unlimited free booze, food and accommodation from a bunch of fun-loving teens- self-dubbed ‘The Helpers’- at their motel. Why? Because you could awaken tied up in a death trap faced with your last few minutes to live. Very unhelpful you’d think. Though this No Vacancy/Saw spin-off boasts some non-imaginative-but-pretty-cool deaths, there are few surprises and even fewer (actually, no) characters that we give a crap about. Curiously labelled a “found-footage” horror (the handheld camera technique gives up after the first fifteen minutes), its final revelation plunges the revenge scheme into a confusing contradiction when the helpers torture-terror is hinted to continue after their intended victims are (literally) ripped apart.


 
STONKERS
 
 
Maniac
****
It seems that Elijah Wood’s ‘One Ring’ has had a lasting effect on the LOTR star as he bloodies up to lead in Franck Khalfoun’s remake of 80’s genre classic, Maniac. A psychologically deranged owner of a Mannequin store, who has fetish for scalps, develops a stalkerish obsession with a local female photographer. Though Wood’s typical on-screen appearance has the scare capacity of a custard cream, his deliverance of infamous serial-killer Frank couldn’t have been more convincing. His fluctuating withdrawn-awkwardness-turned-to-brutal-madness offers both a spectacular character study as well as an eye-fixating visceral display of gore and violence. Who knew, a remake worth watching!

 
Chained
***
You’d back the horror debut entry from the daughter of one of Hollywood’s most cherished, multi-award winning surrealist filmmakers to fit right into the more impressive end of the genre’s industry. And it has. Jennifer Chambers Lynch’s psychological horror explores the darkest depths of human monstrosity. Cab-driving serial killer Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio) picks off his prey on the streets, raping and murdering them at his secluded country home, as his young imprisoned slave “Rabbit” (Eamon Farren) helplessly looks on. Preaching the ethical nature of his deranged hobby to his unwilling protégé, the immorality of Bob’s sadistic agenda and its connection to mental devastation as an after effect of childhood abuse is unrelentingly examined in this brutally hard-hitting, emotional tragedy.

 


Monday, 5 November 2012

(My TF Sample Review)

The Tall Man
**

… Falls short.

For those lucky enough to have had the pleasure in experiencing Pascal Laugier’s ferociously violent and brutally brilliant 2008 horror Martyrs, an immediate response to the notion of the French director’s next project might naturally be euphoric excitement (mixed with an anticipatory sense of stomach-churning uneasiness.)

Four years later and that project has finally arrived. The Tall Man is Laugier’s first English-speaking entry, and surprisingly follows a similar Martyr-ian concept: abduction and revenge. Has it taken almost half a decade for the martyr-mastermind to churn out a similar movie? It hasn’t… Unfortunately.


A quiet, decaying mining town is given something to talk about when its children mysteriously start to go missing. With the child-snatcher deemed by local folklore to be an unknown entity- dubbed ‘The Tall Man’- a once-skeptical nurse Julia (Jessica Biel) enters into a desperate attempt to unravel the local legend once he kidnaps her son. But, as we should have known, not all is as it first seems in Pascal’s parent nightmare.

The plot plays with the Pascal-esque potential for twists, turns and mind meddling, and- at one point- our expectations are met. But this satisfaction is sourly short-lived and its tame climax leaves you hopelessly clinging on for a last-minute eye-opening revelation. Though plunging into formidably dark depths and intriguing morally corrupt territory, it is ultimately derailed by an underwhelming lack of terror and a creeping ridiculousness, resulting in a disappointing end to a promising premise.

Sacrificing her salary to ensure the film was released, it seems that Biel has been robbed of both her child and paycheck.

THE VERDICT: Tediousness replaces suspense as the twists turn inwards and the plot suffers an unexpected predictability. Ultimately it fails as a horror, but particularly as a Pascal Laugier horror.

On The Road

ON THE ROAD ***


Jack Kerouac’s cult-classic hits the road with Walter Salles behind the wheel.

It’s been over half a century in the run and now, exactly 55 years after it was first published in the US, Jack Kerouac’s ground-breaking, if not life-changing, novel On The Road has finally been brought to the screen in a feature length film.

It has been a much anticipated spectacle for fans of the American writer’s most illustrious work, and a long-awaited project for whoever dared to transcribe the 300-page ramble and place its mass of seemingly aimless digresses neatly into a piece of conventional narrative film.

Thank you, Walter Salles.

Young and aspiring writer Sal Paradise joins wild ‘n’ wacky Dean Moriarty as they wind up on an exhilarating ride back and forth America. In search of personal freedom and self-exploration, the pair, and their half-hearted entourage who idle in amidst their travels, divulge into a life of sex, drugs, jazz and kicks. Stimulated by their incessant discovery of the unravelling sidewalks of life, and living an existence of, as Kerouac himself describes, “raggedy madness and riot”, Sal and Dean amble east to west and back again to fulfil their yearning desire of new and exciting experiences. While indubitably defining the ‘Beat’ generation, Kerouac’s novel tests the limits of the American Dream whilst celebrating the growing phenomena of the counter culture in the fresh approaching years of the mid-20th century.

With an exuberant Dean at the helm and an infatuated Sal clipping his heals close behind, they race through society drinking whiskey, smoking weed and getting girls. Working by day to fund their life by night. Salles captures the no-worries-be-happy existence of the elated ensemble to a tee and highlights both the charm and energy of the American poor man’s city buzz– what it was like to really feel alive- as well as its tragic consequences of poverty and, as demonstrated in one of Kerouac’s characters, it’s potential to create an ultimate dissatisfaction of life.

Kerouac’s exquisite blend of fictional and autobiographical storytelling is really a visual display of a nostalgic panorama of the open outdoors; a love poem to nature, passion and exuberance. But unfortunately, we spend more time indoors in hotel rooms and shacks in this adaptation. What is tragically suppressed is the true essence of Kerouac’s experiences on the backdrop of post-war America- the gritty nature of a life on the road. The young men’s adolescent affection for the many wonders of the world and their endless cravings to discover and unravel its natural splendour is dampened down. Subsequently, the continuing sense of their long and winding miles that forever exist ahead of them, and how each brief stay in each city or town is only a pitstop on their forever-present journey on the road, is largely lost. This is perhaps surprising considering the director’s prior success in creating just that in his critically-acclaimed The Motorcycle Diaries. Sal and Dean’s brief separation which is so poignant to understanding their relationship is too somewhat neglected.

 
Nonetheless, Salles delivers a well-rounded and intriguing story around the salient events of the characters lives in those noteworthy years, which will no doubt be inflated for those who haven’t read the novel. Despite probably suffering for its lack of insight into Kerouac’s deeper philosophies and character relations, Salles should be credited for how much of the novel he does pack into the 120 minute pic. And, allas, it is fundamentally comprehendible to follow.

Kirsten Stewart falls back into her teenager years and whilst her character of Marylou isn’t entirely accurately sketched, she embraces the balance of the young woman’s maturity- whose outlook is older than her years- with the larger-than-life free spirited girl (not to mention her boob debut!) Garrett Hedlund literally and metaphorically beams as the vivacious, eccentric ‘cowboy’ and Sam Riley equally shines in his performance, as does supporting roles from Viggo Mortenson, Kirsten Dunce, Amy Adams and Tom Sturridge. Though the ensemble is an impressive one, the ephemeral of multiple characters that we encounter doesn’t quite allow for that depth of individual personality and history that we feel each character deserves. The connection to them is subsequently more one of fleeting admiration and, at times, bewilderment rather than sentimental emotion.

Though the movies ending is admirably left in the stories honest, nonchalant conclusion, a feeling that Kerouac’s life on the road remains a story untold onscreen lingers. And perhaps that’s the way it should stay.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Top 10 Creepiest Kids


When you think of children you may typically associate them with toys, play, laughter or at worst, crying and tantrums; as a parent your only fear may be that they could get hurt and your only worry might be that they grow up to somehow disapprove of you. But these associations of innocence and the concerns and panics that naturally follow only come to mind for the lucky parents. For some however, the intense fear of their own kids makes them wish they had never encountered them; makes them wish they had never been born…

As Halloween draws nearer we revisit the creepiest kids in horror film history. From girly ghouls to terrorsome toddlers, we present a countdown of our top ten children that give us the chills.

 
 
10. Eli- Let The Right One In (2006)

 
Girl-next-door Eli may appear to be a blossom of purity and youthful beauty, enchanting bully-victim Oskar as the pair share a unique bond and develop a touching, innocent relationship. But beneath the childlike complexion and curly locks lies a ravenous vampiress who will do anything to satisfy her hunger for blood; whose appetite for survival means lurking in the shadows in tunnels and trees, ready to pounce on her helpless victims. Where Eli is concerned, be sure to befriend or be food!

 
 
9. Tomas– The Orphanage (2007)

It’s bad enough when your son claims to have an imaginary friend; but when that friend comes out of nowhere wearing a potato sack on his head to hide his disfigured face, it doesn’t get much creepier than that. When her son Simon mysteriously goes missing in the orphanage, Laura must seek out his dead friends- the orphan boy ghosts of the past- for answers. But a revengeful Tomas wants to play and Laura must go to extremes to battle the ex-resident of the orphanage and explore the truth about his death. With the potato sack orphan roaming the corridors, Del Toro really tests the lengths a parent would go to find their missing child.

 
8. Nel- The Last Exorcism (2010)

Twisting and cracking into shapes only a stretch armstrong should be capable of, this visually terrifying possession of country girl Nel displays the cringiest deformations and disfigurements of the decade. In Roth’s admirably unique take on an exorcism movie, the question of Nel’s condition wavers; is she experiencing a supernatural possession or in fact suffering from a deep psychological trauma? Either way, scrambling up the walls and lurching inhumane attacks on the camera crew is enough evidence of a devilish transformation nonetheless. It’s hard to decide what’s more troubling- the artificial demonisation of Nel or the fact that actress Ashley Bell can actually manipulate her body to that degree!

 

 

7. Isaac- Children of the Corn (1984)
 
Take your child to church and he’ll be sure to grow up into a fine, young, law-abiding man, right? ...Not necessarily. 12-year-old boy preacher Isaac comes to Gatlin, Nebraska and unleashes his twisted religious fervour, turning the youths of the small town sour. Having been converted to charismatic Isaac’s way of thinking, the children of Gatlin form a cult and wilfully murder their own parents in a malicious countryside calamity. In a now adult-free world, they worship a mysterious, demonic entity - “he who walks behind the rows” – who lurks in the Nebraska cornfields. Any unwanted trespassers are easy bate to Isaac’s peril and the perfect victims for the menacing orphans to sacrifice to the evil godly presence.

 
6. Take your Pick!- The Children (2008)


As if one killer kid isn’t bad enough, try grounding a whole bunch of them. Christmas vacation turns unrelentingly dark for one family when one-by-one the children start to inhabit malicious defects. As they turn on their parents, the child-centric chaos unravels and the cliché kid vs parent battle comes alive in a terrifying fight for survival. And it’s true what they say - strength certainly does come in numbers!

 
 
 
5. Ralphie Glick- Salems Lot (1979)

‘The boy at the window’ still features as one of horror’s most beloved scariest scenes, and one of the most memorable moments from Tobe Hooper’s cinematic catalogue. Appearing through the fog, undead Ralphie hovers at his brother Danny’s bedroom window, luring him into his reach. Wearing a devilish smile and knocking and scratching at the pane, we wish Danny had closed the curtains before bed!

 


4. Gage- Pet Sematary (1989)

When little blonde boy Gage is hit by a truck outside his family home, his desperate and distraught parents bury their beloved son in the menacing Pet Sematary in the hope to return him to life. But the bright-eyed, dungareed boy returns not as a he once had been, but as a scarred and revengeful toddler terror. Evil and hatred replaces innocence and affection as Gage is out to murder anyone he comes across- until he is stopped. “The ground has turned sour…There’s something wrong with Gage.”

 

 
3. Sadako- Ringu (1998)

The nightmare literally comes out of the screen as Sadako detracts from within the footage of the cassette tape and crawls jaggedly out of the TV set into the homes of her cursed victims. Hideo Nakata’s teenage character certainly started a popular boom of the now well-known pale girl figure, as it crossed borders and became transnational in international remakes and later Asian horror films. When we see a figure clothed in white garments with a dishevelled, draping black mass of hair covering its face, we know it can only mean one thing - authentic and truly terrifying J-horror.

 
2. Damien- The Omen (1976)

 
The child of the devil himself, Damien Thorn is the antichrist incarnate. With a ‘666’ birth mark etched onto his head, this wicked child beams frantically as he rides around on his trike, leaving a blood trail behind him wherever he goes and causing death to whomever heavenly soul tries to get in his way. The legacy of the sinful child born on the sixth hour of the sixth day of the sixth month is a lasting one, and still, only the mere uttering of the name ‘Damien’ is enough to send a shudder down any parent’s spine.

 
1. Regan- The Exorcist (1979)

It’s been over 30 years since we first saw head-spinning Regan projectile green vomit as she infamously spider-crawls backwards down the stairs. In what is arguably still the scariest and most shocking exorcism movie of all time, a long and harrowing outburst of cursing, priest killing, and self-stabbing carnage sees Regan as our creepiest kid as she takes the brutally true form of the devil as we’ve never seen before…or since.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Excision


EXCISION ****

 
Once a short film of the same name produced in 2008, Richard Bates Jr finally brings his Excision vision to a feature length film four years later.


 

Pauline is eighteen; a slightly backward loner with no friends, whose sociopathic nature means she delights in being a deliberate nuisance to everyone; and who is a believer of God at her own convenience. Sounds like the symptoms of a typical teenage tragedy, right? But the fact that Pauline has psycho pseudo-sexual fantasies about surgical operations and has a lustrous, sexual stimulation for the feel, smell and taste of blood, immediately sets her miles apart from your generic teen struggling with adolescence. Pauline isn’t just any teenager, and this isn’t just any coming-of-age movie.

Despite failing academically at school, Pauline is desperately delusional about becoming a surgeon, disregarding any learning that isn’t likely to be important to become one later in life. Her diligence at school is elsewhere practiced, doing as much as she can to annoy her enemy classmates and deter wearisome teachers. Being shunned for her careless and sloppy appearance, and being labelled “weird” for her tactless and blunt remarks, Pauline is more than happy to unlike and be unliked, though seems confused at abrupt rejections in some instances where she tries to be kind. She waves at a new girl across the street but has to settle for the finger gesture back. 

These fantasies that Pauline has when she is asleep are shown as visually intense, spectacularly vivid, colourful dreams, tastefully crafted in several short sequences which act to temporarily disrupt the dreary and monotonous existence off Pauline’s real life. These dreams show clean, surgical atmospheres which are passionately tainted with masses of splattered red blood and torn out organs. Although they are more for aesthetic pleasure rather than professional skill, they encourage her aspiration of a medical career, and she smiles as she writhes and reaches her orgasmic climax.  

Pauline’s family may appear to be a perfectly painted picture of the pristine surburban family on the outside, but at the dinner table a control freak mother; a passive, much-of-nothing father; and a younger sister slowly dying with cystic fibrosis is the verified reality. Pauline begrudges her parents for insisting she sees a psychiatric doctor whom she has no disrespect for, questioning his level of profession and making her opinions of his inadequacy to treat her very clear. She makes adamant that she should see a real psychiatrist, though her self awareness of her ‘condition’ goes back and forth throughout the movie; sometimes she begs for professional help and other times defends her sociopathic nature – which she asks, “what teenager doesn’t have?” 

Despite her whimsical angst and carefree intolerance to be polite to anyone, there lies a deep emotional hardship for Pauline, and her family. Though sister and daughter Grace (Ariel Winter) is suffering from a fatal disease, which is perhaps the only thing that keeps the family together, this worry is predominantly subsided to the sideline of the erupting family break down. All mother Phyllis (Traci Lords) wants of her daughter is for her to be an educated and polite lady. But with Pauline sneering at cotillion classes and getting suspended from school, a dead beat mother breaks down in anger and heartbreak as she struggles to find anything to love in eldest daughter. Though she recognises her strict discipline on her daughters and tries to reach out to make amends, she is met by an inattentive Pauline who swiftly disregards her. Likewise, when Pauline openly attempts a heart-to-heart, her mother is far past her efforts to listen. It seems that this tragic relationship between mother and daughter is the underlying backbone for Pauline’s mental problems, though it is never confirmed. Instead, she confides her inappropriate wishes to God and her little sister – or whoever is too afraid to answer back. As for the helpless father and husband Bob (Roger Bart), he is forever stuck in the middle of the house’s female fury, but lacks any real substance as a character and sort of falls by the waist side to his wife and daughter’s snarling accusations. 

With little guidance and no proper psychotic treatment, Pauline decides to take matters into her own hands, believing that she may have the potential to put other people first for once and finally find approval from her mother. But unfortunately for Pauline and her family, the culmination of her dreams isn’t as gratifying when practiced in real life.

It’s almost as if the role of disgruntled and mentally disturbed, psychotic teen was written for AnnaLynne McCord. Largely solely driving the narrative, she plays a truly intriguing individual whom we rightfully struggle to understand as she convincingly bats between victim and perpetrator. We are both disgusted at her character absurdities and sympathetic to her lack of self-constraint. An interesting and perhaps nightmarish cross-between, but think: a miniature Pollyanna McIntosh in The Woman (2011) for her shabby appearance and awkward posture, and Ezra Miller in We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011) for her seeming contentment with sadistic aggression.

While we initially jive and joule at Pauline’s attitude towards her peers and the tricks she plays on her school colleagues, Bates deploys a much more serious and harrowing reality that creeps into the latter stages of the movie. The misfortune of suffering from emotional or mental illness is played out and the disastrous consequence of abundant ignorance is realised only when it’s too late. Though boasting cross-generic elements of comedy and drama, Bates produces an engaging psychological horror which is both entertaining and poignant.

Friday, 28 September 2012

The House At The End OF The Street


THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET **

 
We’ve seen a number of humdrum horror film titles over the years but House at the End of the Street could perhaps be the most generic one yet. And I’m afraid to say that it is a rather suitable heading for the films predominantly dreary, formulaic content.

Newly-divorced Susan (Elisabeth Shue) and daughter Elissa (Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence) move to an upscale, rural town in order to make a fresh start. When they learn that the house opposite was where a young girl murdered her parents, and that the family’s son Ryan (Max Thieriot) still resides in it, the nosy neighbours and jack-ass jerks at school insist to use its devastation to cast a lurking shadow over the town. But as Elissa befriends exiled loner Ryan, she discovers that the house still suppresses a sinister secret.
 

After conquering her challenging, action-packed role in Hunger Games earlier this year, Lawrence’s role as a disgruntled high-school teenager must have been a piece of cake in comparison. The majority of her screen time is spent exercising her angst against her mother or looking momentarily shocked at, say, the sound of a broken twig behind her - one of the many triggers of an semi-conscious roll of the eyes!

As proved countless times before, small budget horror by no means spells disaster. But in this case, little imagination and a lot of cliché clutter makes for a predictable and lagging plot. Suffering significantly from a lack of impacting atmosphere, the teenage romance upstairs with the creepy-girl-hidden-in-the-basement does little more than go through the motions. The character of intriguing loner Ryan is captivating and Elissa’s instinctual pull towards helping the emotionally damaged allows their relationship to grow into an innocent and tender understanding. But we can only sit back and wait for the tragedy to unfold, rightfully suspecting that Ryan’s deep mental scars will be something to do with it. A little frustrating too is the time we spend watching the girl escape from the basement… and then watching Ryan capture her and return the key to its original spot (why wouldn’t he hide the key somewhere else!?) Director… clearly initialises an intriguing story of ones mental delusion and disguise, but its effect is ultimately minimalised by its poor execution, and further suffocated by the rest of the characters pitiful problems.

It’s hard to believe that my concluding reaction would be largely negative when after the first two minutes I genuinely felt reassured that it wasn’t going to go down the tragic Hollywoodesque horror route that the likes of The Wicker Tree (2010), Fright Night (2011) or Playback (2012) did. The opening scene of the family murders is loaded with suspense, plunging into a girl’s vicious attack on her family, with crafty, flashy cinematography to indicate her possessive or disturbed state. While it makes an inviting introductory scene, it is probably its own worst enemy by instantly causing high, but regrettably unmet, expectations for the following 100 minutes, looking out of place in both style and approach as the rest sits back into the comfortable and unimaginative conventional screen shots. Max Thieriot impresses in his first major film role, playing a convincing psychologically damaged adolescent. His adoption of unnervy and qwerky mannerisms works to conceal his true nature, with just enough stamina for the audience to question his intentions until the suspended climax.
 
Writing this I am still uncertain of the relevance to the film’s title considering that the house is not clearly at the end of a street or particularly secluded, as it would suggest. Perhaps there is an element of pickiness in my accusation, but it bothered me nonetheless. NOT to be confused with, but perhaps should have taken tips from, low budget Italian exploitation films, The House on the Edge of the Park or Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left. Now let’s stop with the hullabaloo of houses locale!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Imposter

THE IMPOSTER *****


Infamous serial imposter Frederic Bourdin has stolen the identities of over 500 missing children worldwide. In 1997, the French 23-year old claimed to be missing child Nicholas Barclay from San Antonio, Texas, who had disappeared at the age of 13 three years prior. Despite lacking the physical attributes of their American speaking blonde and blue-eyed Nicholas, he successfully convinced the Barclay family that he was their long lost son, ascribing his changing physicalities to the trauma from the sexual abuse he experienced during his kidnapping. It was only when a TV crew member, who was filming the family at the time, raised suspicion of his doubts that this was Nicholas that further fingerprints and DNA tests were carried out. In March 1998, five months after he had come to live with the Barclay’s in the USA, Bourdin was imprisoned and later sentenced to six years in prison after pleading to passport fraud and perjury. But his impersonations of missing children worldwide continued long within the bars of his cell.

His story has become world renowned with an explosive mass of tabloid press, and his hijacking of Nicholas Barclay’s identity has been more recently depicted in a fictionalised account in French director and screenwriter Jean-Paul Salome’s The Chameleon.

But this year, fact finally and favourably replaces fiction as documentary specialist Bart Layton delivers the definitive biographical documentary of the decade.

Featuring a catalogue of recent interviews accompanied with several reconstructions (Adam O’Brian playing younger Frederic Bourdin), Layton forms a clear and vivid account of the journey of Bourdin’s impersonation of Nicholas Barclay from both his, the Barclay families and authorities perspective over those five months. Though it is the 1997 incident that the documentary is primarily concerned with, Layton is essentially successful in capturing the bigger picture of Frederic Bourdin’s psychological plight by including a brief pre and post-1997 report of his life.

Due to the nature of the topic the lack of emotional response from the participants throughout the feature is surprising. Instead, the detailed descriptions from various Barclay family members and Bourdin himself are effectively bold, candid, direct and largely emotionless.

The bio-doc immaculately unveils the mind and the manipulative mastery of Bourdin. His unnervingly confidence and his self-assuring ability to convince and persuade withdraws the suspicion of the Barclay’s involvement in Nicholas’ disappearance much less than it did in the film adaptation (that concluded with the uncovering of the family secret - that the death of Nicholas was at their hands.) Although unwelcome, it is difficult not to seep sympathy for the now-retired imposter Bourdin as he recalls his absent childhood and his longing plea to find love and affection. But his overriding selfishness and his natural blight, all the more clear in his final words in the documentary, reminds us of his ever-present determination to be accepted and his nonchalant attitude to exercise his cruel obsession at the expense of others misery and heartbreak.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Frightfest the 13th: The Bleedin' Good and the Bloody Awful


 
The good, the bad and the ugly from this year’s Frightfest…

 

5 MUST SEE’S


  • Sleep Tight ****
Ever wondered what is lurking beneath your bed at night? Director of REC Jaume Balaguero delivers this dark and sinister psychological thriller about an apartment janitor Cesar who sneaks into resident Clara’s apartment at night and hides under her bed, waiting until she is asleep to carry out his disturbing fantasies. In addition to constructing a captivating plot about a man’s obsession, Balaguero creates a controlled suspense as well as a lasting intensity that seeps a creepy uneasiness.
 

  • V/H/S ***
Six tapes, six stories, six directors. An anthology of short found footage clips that will make you give late night skyping a second thought. Framed by a story of a group of hoodlums who are paid to break into a house to obtain a certain rare vhs tape, the rest of the stories are the ones that they regretfully come across during their search. Boasting variety in plots, lengths and twists, V/H/S uses several shooting methods, covering every piece of technology that has a record button!

 
  • Sinister ****
Ethan Hawke stars as true-crime writer Elis who is desperate to recoup his former success and make his next book a hit. But when he moves his family to a house that was once a crime scene in a series of family murders spanning five decades in a final hope for inspiration, he finds a box in the attic full of reels that contain footage of these deaths. Convinced that he is seeing mysterious figures lurking around his house that resemble those in the footage, he soon realises that he is way beyond his professional limits and that danger is creeping closer and closer to his family. A nail-biting supernatural thriller by director of THE EXORCIST OF EMILY ROSE Scott Derrickson that holds its restraint and suspense while offering plenty of scares that will keep you jumping out of your seat.

 
  • Chained ***
Jennifer Chambers Lynch directs this dark chiller, delivering what she herself describes as a psychological look into “how monsters are born.” Cab-driver Bob spends his days kidnapping girls off the city streets, taking them to his secluded house in the country and raping and killing them before burying their corpses in his garage. When he carries out this ritual on Tim’s mother, young Tim is left in the hands of the serial killer. Time passes and, after years of being locked up and kept as a slave, Tim must decide whether he is to stay chained up in his captures house forever or choose the life of a killer for his freedom. Whilst CHAINED is both an adequately moving and troubling account of a deranged man teaching a young boy his murdering methods, the plot tries to do too much towards its conclusion and a climatic twist opens doors that are never sufficiently closed.


  • Tulpa ***

SHADOW director Federico Zampaglione attempts to revive the Italian giallo horror genre in this classic whodunit murder mystery. Businesswoman Lisa spends her days at the top of the corporate game, but at night her little dark secret is exercised when she regularly visits an underground Club Tulpa where a Tibetan Buddhist guru teaches that personal freedom can be found through promiscuous free sex. But when her lovers in Tulpa are being murdered one by one, her secret world runs risk of being uncovered and her life is endangered. A colourful masterpiece that closely resembles the classic artwork and imagery of giallo directors Bava, Argento and Fulci but which ultimately suffers in its unnecessary and distracting use of bad dialogue and dubbing.
 


 5 AVOID THESE
 

  • The Thompsons **
Our anguished vampire family return with a new name in this sequel to the 2006 feature THE HAMILTONS. Desperate for some place to go after being forced to leave their home town, the Thompson family are faced with an offer they can’t refuse: ancient vampire clan the Stuart’s offer them shelter, solace and a place to belong their cosy English town. But when they arrive it is clear that their intentions are not so welcoming. The story is comprehendible and the story runs smoothly enough, but the charming elements of its predecessor are absent: the mystery of whether it’s entirely a vampire movie is lost, and the poetic resonance that ‘they have a disease and are not monsters’ is imperceptible. With its content poorly sourcing the first film of the franchise, the quality of the plot stands alone and thus runs the risk of it simply being another teen-vamp movie.


  • Under the Bed *
A child’s worst nightmare is played out onscreen when Jonny and younger brother Gattlin are tormented at night by a terrorizing monster hidden under their bed. With an engaging insight to Jonny’s mental and emotional past instantly raising questions about the truth of his claims -  similar to the opening scenario in supernatural thriller THE HAUNTING IN CONNETICUT - we are offered a promising start. But when the brothers decide to team up in a bizarre battle with the bed monsters with nothing more than a home-made doctor-who-like torch, the haunting horror cripples into nothing more than a kid’s fantasy film accompanied by cheesy acting and pointless random chunks of narrative. As the brother’s night terror unfolds and the monsters enter next-door neighbour’s territory, it appears that the threat is no longer restricted to under the bed - perhaps it should have been.
 

  • After **
Two strangers survive a road accident and wake up to find that they are alone in their small hometown which is now an unfamiliar and unworldly existence. Being slowly engulfed by a foreboding black mist that conceals ravenous creatures, the two form an unlikely alliance to work out the truth about their lonely isolation. The sci-fi thriller goes through the motions of a struggle to understand the strange happenings in a race against time but the outcome is realised by the viewer long before the characters figure it out. AFTER is visually impressive in its bold exploration of dreamlike and imaginative atmospheres and, following a similar pattern than that seen in Gareth Evans’ MONSTERS, the blossoming relationship of the pair is a welcome diversion from the hardships of the situation. But again this falls short to being unconvincing and predictable- a severely dull watch after the visual splendour of the dark fantastical ‘world’ is appreciated.

 
  • Outpost II: The Black Sun **
During the close of WW2, German scientist Klausener worked on a terrifying new technology with the power to create his own immortal Nazi army. Now a NATO force is being deployed to go to Eastern Europe and stop whatever is relentlessly killing everyone in its path. Ruthless war investigator Lena teams up with adventurer Wallace to track down infamous war criminal Klausener. But when the duo are confronted by a swarm of Nazi Storm Troopers, they find themselves in dead mans land and are forced to team up with the Special Unit forces in an attempt to stop the supernatural machinery behind their monstrous regime. While containing some brief references, the sequel lacks considerable relevance to OUTPOST, replacing originality and horror rudiments with 100 minutes of explosively brutal action set pieces. The narrative and script is lifeless but coherently sustained - at least until its conclusion takes several bizarre turns, one of which in the purposeless, cackling wicked-witch type nurse who chases the good guys around the tunnels with a hypodermic needle! The characters are not in the slightest bit interesting (if anything too serious for a zombie flick), nor has anything been noticeably advanced with the race-running, knife-stabbing zombies- they’re still the blood-thirsty, human digesting brutal blighters we saw in the first! After the mediocre success of its predecessor, one wondered where else the franchise could go. But with this sequel set for a straight to DVD release and with a prequel in production, prepare for yet more Nazi Zombie regimes!
 

  • Hidden in the Woods **
Chilean director Patricio Valladares treats us to a large slice of exploitation of the rawest kind! Brought up in forest isolation, tormented sisters Ana and Anny seize the opportunity to escape their sexually abusive father when the social services call. Taking their incest son/brother with them, the trio journey through in the woods to flee their former lives. But big time drug boss Costello and his hot-headed henchmen are determined to stop them in their tracks to find out where their now imprisoned father is storing a multi-million dollar drug stash. Rape, revenge, prostitution and cannibalism drive the shock factor in this Chilean frenzy. But unfortunately this can only make up for the unrealistic and seemingly motiveless madmen mafia pursuit, which too heavily features exaggerated machismo gun shoot-outs that boast plenty of violent carnage, but cop out of showing any respectful special effects.

 

More Gore to look out for:

  • Paura 3D          
  • The Seasoning House
  • [Rec] 3: Genesis 
  • Maniac
  • Tower Block
  • Sawney: Flesh of Man
  • Before Dawn
  • Berberian Sound Studio
  • We are the Night
  •  Inbred
  • The Arrival of Wang
  • Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut
 
To see more about the event, this year’s films and what FRIGHTFEST has in store for future dates and festivals, visit http://www.frightfest.co.uk/
     
 
 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

FRIGHTFEST THE 13TH REVIEW


FILM 4 FRIGHTFEST THE 13TH : THE HOME OF HORROR

Unlucky for some…
 

FRIGHTFEST, sponsored by FILM4, is a 5-day Horror and Fantasy Film Festival based in London that screens a multitude of UK, European and Worldwide premieres of the most highly-anticipated horror films of the year. Holding its first major event in 2000, Frightfest has since developed into a successful, not-to-be-missed annual event for fans of the genre. The festival is increasingly becoming recognised as not only the most highly regarded of its kind in the UK, but also in the world, alongside the likes of America’s largest and longest running horror film festival SCREAMFEST and fan-favourite TORONTO AFTER DARK FILM FESTIVAL.

Labelled by director Guillermo del Toro (PANS LABRYTNH, CRONOS, THE DEVILS BACKBONE) as “The Woodstock of Gore,” this UK horror event attracts the very best directors, producers, casts (and fans!) of the genre from all over the world, unveiling a unique mixture of talent from all enthusiasts across the industry.

In it’s thirteenth consecutive year, FRIGHTFEST THE 13TH did not disappoint. As my third consecutive year at FRIGHTFEST I was pleased to be back amongst the real buffs of the genre and immersed in gore galore! Although FRIGHTFEST now holds three established events (a smaller version of the summer festival with a similar set-up and held in February as part of Glasgow’s International Film Festival, and also an all-nighter held over the Halloween period) it is this occasion that really comes alive with buzz and excitement and the prosperity and diversity that the genre can offer.

When I arrived at Leicester Square’s Empire Cinema early Thursday afternoon, I followed the ritual of picking up my weekend pass and the festival programme and started rooting through line-up’s and the short descriptions of each chosen film. I took out my pen and started to *star* what I thought looked to be the promising films of the five days, whilst too looking decidingly at the DISCOVERY SCREEN line-up. Despite it always containing a few appealing films, every year I can never seem to tear myself away from the MAIN SCREEN for the sake of my ever present “fomo”- fear.of.missing.out! (Though it’s always these films that you pretend are not there and later end up buying on DVD and being pleasantly surprised). With the festival appearing to grow in size each year, another of Empire’s screens (labelled the RE-DISCOVERY SCREEN) was being used to show the highlights of their Glasgow Festival – as well as this stretching the festival to host a grand 50 films, I think it’s a nice touch to give people who perhaps cannot justify the travel for a two-day event or who cannot get away from work twice a year the opportunity to watch the films shown at Glasgow in the months beforehand.

The World Premiere of Paul Hyett’s THE SEASONING HOUSE opened the weekend on Thursday evening. Known in the industry for his work on various British horror movies as a special effects make-up artist (THE DESCENT, EDEN LAKE, THE WOMAN IN BLACK), Hyett’s directorial debut kick-started the festival with a gritty, Eastern European movie about a girl who is kidnapped by the army during the Balkan war in the mid 90’s and used as a slave in a seasoning house. Mirroring the likes of MARTYRS and HOSTEL, Hyett generates a feeling of relentless claustrophobia as malicious physical and sexual torture is tightly bound within the walls of the house.

The festival followed its standard routine of screening five/six premieres per day back-to-back as you reluctantly count down from twenty-four to that final one film – an experience that must closely resemble one’s feelings when they unwrap their last rolo!

The mad Manetti brothers returned this summer with PAURA 3D following the encouraging reception of their first horror/sci-fi film L’ARRIVO DI WANG shown earlier this year at Frightfest Glasgow. A very different film to their first, PAURA- meaning ‘fear’ in Italian- intended to create exactly that, throwing the sci-fi elements aside. With an intriguing situation and a nightmare waiting to happen for three young boys perfectly set-up, the film falls a bit short in its final hour and the impression of a layered plot and a likely enticing twist in the story, gives way to an uninteresting easy way out.

NIGHTBREED: THE CABAL CUT was also a pleasant inclusion in the programme. Following many questions and queries over a substantial amount of lost footage that was shot but not included in its heavily reduced studio release in 1990, Russell Cherrington and Mark Miller have been on a quest to restore the original footage that was shot to follow Clive Barker’s original (3 hour) script. Having not seen the 1990 studio release before I wondered how the film had ever become successful without the additional footage. What appeared to be the most important and somewhat vital explanatory elements within the now 2 hour 37 minute film had only just been found and included (easily identifiable by the differing quality of the three ‘parts’.) Although the determined pair still have a long way to go with the project in terms of digitally remastering the newfound reels and VHS clips, they believe it will eventually reach Blu-ray - A masterful achievement for the pair and a true gift for all original lovers of the Nightbreed.

Back in February we saw a sneaky preview clip of Federico Zampaglione’s attempt at his own Italian giallo horror film, TULPA. With a good audience reaction and an as-ever excited Federico bouncing around the stage, I knew that the premiere of this film was in store for us this weekend. With obvious and self-stated influences from the likes of Bava and Argento, TULPA was a true love letter to 70/80’s giallo style. But perhaps too true – although the film looked cinematically attractive and the music score was spot on (composed by his brother and Andrea Moscianese and not, in Federico’s words, “a typical score you’d expect from a giallo… [but] something modern”), the characters voices were badly dubbed and the script was poor. Whether or not it simply didn’t translate very well to English I guess we will never know (unless they release a purely subtitled version) but it was an unfortunate comedic disturbance on the audience, deviating them away from the dark and ominous themed plot, and drawing attention to what seemed like playful, hammy acting. Federico delighted in key plot elements of the typical giallo with the deviant sexual presence, occult themes and symbols (A “Tulpa” being part of a traditional Tibetan Buddhism) and more crucially the whodunit murder mystery with the hidden killer in black cloak and hat…and not to forget, the black gloves.

Matthias Hoene revelled in this year’s line-up as director of zombie-infested geezer gala COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES and co-producer of council house versus lone sniper TOWER BLOCK (the weekend’s closing film.) Beginning before the film had, with his stand-up-comedy-like-introduction, Hoene didn’t fail to get the audience in high spirits – and at least this time it was intentional!

Spoilt by the number of cast and crew that attend these premieres, Q&A’s that follow- always made interesting by some quirky question from the audience or a bonkers story from the director. I’ll never forget Glasgow Frightfest 2011 when Jason Eisner stripped and did the whole Q&A for HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN just in his underpants!

Also featured as an intricate part of the weekend is the INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM SHOWCASE, ANDY NYMAN’S QUIZ FROM HELL, and some surprise guests and premiere trailers of upcoming releases (one of which was a first look at a new compilation trailer for Season 3 of THE WALKING DEAD due to be aired in the UK in October.) But what trumps these “special events”, especially this time, is TOTAL FILM’S TOTAL ICON INTERVIEW. This year, Italian horror director Dario Argento returned to Frightfest for the first time in four years (since his appearance at 2008 when his MOTHER OF TEARS got its UK premiere in the frightfest programme). While the interview with last year’s candidate actor/director/producer Larry Fessenden had been a highlight of 2011’s Frightfest, I knew that this time I was facing one of the biggest horror icon legend of the last four decades. Interviewed at length by Total Film’s Jamie Graham, Dario spoke about his upcoming Dracula 3D release and what inspired him to rework such a classic novel and, perhaps more interestingly, why he wanted to shoot it in 3D. But what was inevitably even more interesting than that was of course the questions about his previous influences; his mastery of the Italian giallo horror film (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, CAT ‘O NINE TAILS); how he entered filmmaking, and more specifically, the horror genre; and how he “imagined” or “dreamed” the artistically visual and audio elements so apparent in his most successful genre-classics (SUSPIRIA, PHENOMENA, TENEBRAE, INFERNO, DEEP RED.)

 

For a transcribed version of the entire interview, visit http://www.totalfilm.com/features/dario-argento-answers-your-questions/top-5