FrightFest 2011 – Day 3 Review

So, after getting home on the last tube and having a reasonable amount of sleep I was up early ready for probably my most full on day at the festival.

Troll Hunter is another found footage horror. This is the better of the bunch, cleverly edited together and with some pretty decent effects of giant lumbering trolls. The film has a great sense of humour about it and a decent build up to the troll action. Thankfully, I had already seen this flick on a big screen as I attended The Dead with live commentary from the Ford Brothers instead.  Whilst there were no more than 15 people at this session, the brothers did a wonderful job talking literally from start to finish recalling their gruelling shoot (persistent illness affecting the cast and crew, muggings, continual sabotage and their lead actor almost knocking at death’s door) and with their backs to the wall next to the screen they must have had sore necks by the end of it. If the commentary goes on disc and you liked the film from last year, it’s a worthwhile extra. I may have been kicking myself when I found that Troll Hunter went down so well as it would have been great to see it with  this audience, but how often do you get to sit in and listen to a feature length commentary be recorded.

Atrocious followed on the Discovery Screen (more lost footage horror) and it simply was the low point of the festival for me. It had its moments towards the end, but otherwise it’s just a cheap way of making a horror film on a low budget. At least Troll Hunter made an effort with the effects used. Atrocious relies on folklore and the leading actors. It is a minimal experience that delivers very little.

The Wicker Tree followed and got a real mixed response but it was one step away from being a parody of the original Wicker Man film. There was far more comedy than horror and despite some lush visuals, it didn’t distract enough from some pretty awful acting, especially in the lead actress whose character you sit in anticipation of something bad happening to.

Sadly, despite what bad things do happen, there is very little blood to speak of. It is often so bizarre in its tone that it could one day have some sort of cult appeal about it. But, I’d say if you trimmed off the minor swearing and the sex this could easily be a 12 cert movie. At least it was a better experience than that Nic Cage remake.

My Sucky Teen Romance is perhaps another film that just clashed with other films I was watching, but considering the good word of mouth that came from it, it’s one I may want to check out at some point. Having run into the 18 year old director Emily Hagins on the final day of the festival, it’s impressive that someone so young has managed to have a few flicks under her belt already. She is certainly bright enough to have made friends in the right places to help boost the promotion of her work, so this could well be a director to watch their career grow.

Panic Button I did get to see and it was probably a little more far-fetched than most films showing and yet still worked reasonably well as a bit of a pot boiler. 4 people have won a social networking competition and are sent on a jet to New York to claim their prize. Only they have one more game to play with the man in charge. They find themselves drawn into a deadly game on board that threatens their very lives (I could probably write press releases for films with blurbs like that). It was a finely made diversion, and only really suffers from a rather scary and unbelievable end scene.

Before I forget, I must mention that today we get to see another John Carpenter segment (I missed yesterday’s The Thing), and this time it was Halloween. It was probably the weakest of the lot for me but it was quite funny.  We were also treated to some upcoming footage and trailers for some Brit horror related films. First, we got a look at Elfie Hopkins, which if I’m honest looks like it could have strong cult appeal. It’s wonderfully designed and is shot well. I just wish I knew what it was about. We also got to see some footage from Martin Kemp’s (also in attendance) Stalker which stars Jane March. We get to see a pretty impressive scene where she garrottes Billy Murray. Finally we were treated to some very rough footage for Strippers Vs Werewolves. Now the guy representing this did apologise for last years god awful Dead Cert that they produced. But to be honest if he thinks this film looks any better then he really needs to stop conning people. What we saw may have been rough footage spliced into a trailer, but it still just looked cheap, nasty and as far from entertaining as anything you’ve ever seen. So, far from convinced, I headed out to do a bit more media wall work.

Fright Night 3D also surprised audiences being as fun as it turned out to be. It was one of the few “Hollywood” titles on the programme and it delivered what was really expected of it. I don’t know if anyone preferred it to the original, but then the original was merely entertaining for its day anyway.

The Caller I skipped in favour of The Woman which was up on Screen 1. This is Lucky McKee’s latest offering and probably one of the films that got the best recognition this year and deservedly so. Without spoiling too much – The Woman is basically about a family that finds a feral woman in the woods and chain her up in their cellar all with the intention of helping her out and making her a bit more civilised, without truly knowing just how screwed up they all are. It’s dark, witty, moving and maturely paced; clearly it is the winner of the day.

I also held out for the late, late screening of Chillerama (preceded by short werewolf flick Bad Moon Rising). I was debating about whether to do it or not and the film even started very late as a result of the day having a few delays. But, having said that, I was glad I did as Chillerama is easily a festival highlight for me. It may have split a few people’s opinions, but I was sold and enjoyed it from the first to the last second. So I owe a huge thanks to Joe Lynch for talking me into it. Yeah OK, one of the segments was his. Each of the directors Adam Rifkin, Tim Sullivan, Adam Green and Joe Lynch pretty much riff on a different decade (40s, 50s, 60s and 70s cinema) and run with an idea that is close in tone to the horror films of those decades. I personally think they hit the nail on the head. From Wadzilla’s giant sperm attacking New York City; to the wonderfully tone perfect musical teens from the I Was a Teenage Werebear; to Adam Green’s wickedly funny The Diary of Anne Frankenstein. Joe Lynch gets to pull double duty as he gets a segment which revolves around shit, but also he filmed the wraparound segments at a drive-in theatre which sees a zombie outbreak happen. It’s also literally a spot the film reference type of film as well. I was just happy to see a poster of Orson Welles hanging on the wall which one of the characters talks to. It may all be a bit childish in its humour, but it’s still funny and consistently inventive. What shocked me was when I admitted to Joe Lynch that my favourite section was the Werebear one, as apparently it was getting the weakest response. So happy he was to hear this, he instructed me to march over to Adam Green and tell him the same thing, which I happily did.

After that it would have been off to the Pheonix Arts Club for more drinks, but by the time Chillerama finished it was past 2am. So off home to zone five!

Steven Hurst

Share this!