Day two and we turned up nice and early to get to the front of the queue. Having claimed a much better spot for the day we settled in and got ready for a movie marathon. The build-up to Hobo With A Shotgun started yesterday and everyone seems hyped.
Events kicked off with Rubber, a film about a rather disgruntled tyre. The opening monologue explains that it is an exploration of no reason film making. We watched the tyre through binoculars as it rampaged around the desert. It blows up rabbits, causes car crashes, takes showers and watches bad TV. This is a unique slice of modern horror but it fails to sustain itself for ninety minutes and would have worked so much better as a short. This means that, sadly, Rubber just doesn’t go the distance [insert groan here].
Next up was Territories, set for release later this year although it may be called Checkpoint by then; which, in my opinion, is a better title. The opening twenty minutes is extraordinarily tense as a car load of people are pulled over at a customs checkpoint as they return to the USA. Quickly it becomes apparent that something is wrong as the officers seem concerned that one of the party is Asian. They get detained but things go from bad to worse and they are taken off into a forest where they are caged prior to being tortured. The horror of Territories is the shocking reality of places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. The torture sequences are horrendous to say the least and they are based on stories told by detainees over the past decade.
The performances are strong across the board and the photography by Karim Hussain is stunning. The film would be a modern classic in the making were it not for the final twenty minutes. The focus shifts to a private investigator with a drug habit that has visions of his small daughter while sleeping under the influence. The relevance of these details in his personal life is never explained and they feel out of place against the hyper-realism that came before. This choice by the writers cripples the film as it takes the attention away from the detained. Emotionally the film is gut wrenching up until this ridiculous inclusion in the narrative. The first hour of Territories is brilliant though and should be seen by every fan of modern horror, shame about the final third.
Third up was an American film set in Europe called The Shrine. Opening with a human sacrifice, the film follows American reporter, Carmen (Cindy Simpson), on the trail of a local backpacker, Eric Taylor, who went missing in Europe. The terrific trio of Carmen, her assistant Sara (Meghan Heffern) and photographer boyfriend Marcus (Aaron Ashmore) head out to Alvania where social progress seems to have halted around World War I, yet haircuts managed to evolve through the mid 80s. Eric mentions a weird mist in his journal and the trio head straight for it although, they should have heeded the warnings of the mulleted Alvanians.
The film itself has a few nice ideas but is hampered by shocking performances. Simpson and Heffern are outstandingly awful, making for much unintentional humour. Thankfully though Ashmore and Trevor Matthews, the local Alvanian hardass Henryk, pick up some of the slack and put in decent turns. The Shrine is an old style, no frills horror sadly derailed by poor casting and cheap sets.
A quick break and we were treated to the remake of 80s horror classic Mother’s Day. Made with a great deal of panache, this remake is a high grade modern horror film that has an enjoyable amount of shocking violence. The sadistic members of a villainous family on the run return to their childhood home to terrorise the new owners and their guests. Now owned by Beth and Daniel Sohapi they are in for the shock of their lives once the Koffin clan come home. The highlight of the film is the moment 80s legend Rebecca DeMorney turns up as the demented mother. Mother’s Day is, basically, a home invasion picture where those captured are slowly disposed of by design or due to escape attempts.
The strength of this project is in the superb casting of the ensemble cast. There isn’t a poor performance on show, allowing the viewer to fully invest in the on-going desperation of the situation. Prior to the screening an email from director, Darren Lynn Bousman, was read to the audience in which he spoke about the project as a labour of love for everyone involved.
The film’s only real failing is its excessive length which, at close to 2 hours, is beyond the pale. The middle third drags as the detained wait for the return of Beth hoping the nightmare will end. Had they trimmed 25 minutes from the running time you would have an excellent modern horror picture but Mother’s Day becomes bogged down as the audience waits for the inevitable showdown.
Finally we reached the European premiere of Jason Eisner’s Hobo With A Shotgun. This was the third screening of this film so far and the anticipation was at fever pitch. Eisner was guest of honour at this year’s bash and his pre-film chat ended with him stripping down to his pants and encouraging others to do likewise, should they wish to! Having had a 36 hour build-up, the film is under great pressure to be good and thankfully, it doesn’t disappoint.
Rutger Hauer’s Hobo arrives in a town where law and order has broken down and a gang, led by local kingpin The Drake, simply do what they want, when they want. The opening few minutes include a man being buried in a manhole and decapitated and it just gets better from there. The violence is more comic book than disturbing and the overall look of the film has a million and one references to 80s cinema. Hobo is a man you simply don’t want to push as he leads a one man assault on crime, cleaning up the town “one shell at a time.”
Given that the genesis of Hobo was a competition to make a fake trailer set up by Robert Rodriguez, the comparisons to Machete are inevitable. Hobo wins out though as it has more heart and is less in love with itself than Rodriguez’s violence fest.
Hauer is naturally immense and obviously having so much fun causing utter mayhem. Eisner talked afterwards about the joy of working with the acting legend and how he would encourage them to be even more extreme. Having waited a day and a half to see this opus I doubt any of the gathered where in anyway disappointed and it’s safe to say that the highlight of the festival delivered in every which way.
Glasgow Frightfest 2011 was a joyous event and given that almost every screening was sold out the assembled devotees seemed more than happy with proceedings over the two days. The hosts did a wonderful job keeping everything rolling without a hitch and never overplaying their role. The venue seemed happy to host the festival and the staff were as courteous and helpful as you could wish for. Roll on August for London Frightfest which is bound to be the biggest and best yet.