Day two we will review in the order that we saw the films onsite. After an overall not too bad first night where people seemed very game to give it a go and be open to errors happening along the way – Day 2 was met with enthusiasm as people arrived for their opening films as well as the launch of the Discovery screen movies. More on those later.
The Main Screen 5 (AKA The Film4 Screen)
The Green Inferno
Eli Roth’s return behind the camera was initially a pleasing idea to genre fans. It had been something like six years since his last directorial effort – instead focussing on acting, writing and far too many “Eli Roth Presents” ventures. Whilst they have probably been quite good for his pocket, and have helped out other up and coming directors get their movies made – it seemed that he was somewhat running off fumes from three directorial efforts – all of which were debatable in terms of their quality.
The Green Inferno looked like it was going to be a full on unrated horror of that Cannibal Holocaust love letter kind. But then the news struck that the film was not getting distribution and rumours of quality (or lack of) started to float among the crowds.
As the film starts it becomes clear that the fodder will be a rather unsympathetic and thinly drawn group of activists out to save a tribe from deforestation. And whilst their filmed protest (chaining themselves to trees and machinery) seems to work – things don’t go so well once their return flight crashes and they are taken captive by the very tribe they came to save. And right away the gore starts to flow! It seems there is little choice on the menu here and the group start to dwindle quicker than they can come up with a plan to escape.
Roth does litter his script with comedic moments along the way to balance tension – but it take so long to get to the tribe in the first place that your patience is really tested to the max. We wouldn’t mind so much of the group we were following were in some way sympathetic but they are largely made up of accented pretty boys who can’t act for toffee, and wide eyed youths whose motivation for going in the first place is to point their goggles at an object of their affection. So right anyway you don’t care who dies. Then you can’t wait for them all to die, and then you wish they’d hurry up and kill someone already.
When it does come though it is an impressive start (thank you Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger). But then it fails to beat this with the blocked, off screen, threatened or inferred deaths that follow. It just doesn’t make the grade. But at least the film (unlike so many films that will follow this weekend) you can at least describe as a Horror film. But it isn’t one that people will watch time and time again. It’s Roth’s weakest film to date as it’s all homage to Deodato and even himself. Like his previous films it’s a bout of group of pretty youths who go to a foreign country, get caught by the locals who they don’t understand and one by one are torn apart. Just not as shocking and with a bit of a wimp ending.
Shockwave Darkside 3D
Critics have been complaining about the resurgence of 3D as a gimic now for over half a decade. Clash of the Titan’s springs to mind as a particularly filme that used the post-conversion process to poor effect. With that in mind Shockwave Darkside 3D will give critics plenty to complain about. In fact this could well be the worst use of 3D yet!
And we are talking about how painful the film is to watch on the eyes right away. Something has gone horribly wrong here and the effect is watching audience members wipe the glasses off to make sure they are working properly and to give their eyes a little less strain from has just attacked their eyes.
The plot wasn’t coming together at all either with a confusing jumble of characterless actors rammed into action from the get go. The action itself is hard to make anything out thanks to a lack of coverage. The acting is poor – but not helped by the horrid leaps and changes in Audio that don’t let one scene match another.
In fact the film begin in such horrid fashion that it invoked that other great thing about FrightFest which is the cinema walkout! It isn’t professional to review a film you have not seen from start to end – but you do get to an age where you can safely balance your time against the chances of it suddenly becoming the new Citizen Kane in its closing 5 minutes. So we will refrain from giving this a star rating (which is ironic as we’re guessing it deserves exactly that). But we are ranking this (and by the time you get to the end of Day 5’s report it will still be) WORST FILM OF THE FESTIVAL.
The werewolf film takers a visit at a retirement community where new resident, the ex-military and blind Ambrose McKinley has just moved in. And on his first night his neighbour and his own guide dog are brutally murdered before him.
With no-one else really in the community to turn to he decides to take matters into his own hands and starts to prepare himself physically and mentally for the next full moon.
It’s a film that needed much more broad humour in it, but gets by on the performance of the leading actor. A few other faces are offered up for “red Herring” material, but it isn’t really about the guessing game. Tom Noonan pops up good value as does Ethan Embry (Cheap Thrills) in his second FrightFest appearance after The Guest.
The Last Showing
Robert Englund adopts an English accent for this latest film. Stuart Lloyd (Englund) was once a projectionist at a multiplex. But since the installation of the digital projector his role has been reduced to that of over the counter vendor.
Disgruntled with his place in life, but with a hard burned passion for film-making he decides that on one night he’s going to take power back from the people by making his own film onsite with the help of the set up CCTV, along with his new cast (The last two paying customers of the evening who are here to watch an old Wes Craven sequel).
Sadly instead of being any sort of homage to cinema, The Last Showing is one of the poorest examples of it in recent memory. It’s highly contrived, the film-making itself makes very little sense – and the interaction between the few characters onscreen just fails to generate any tension. Poor effort – but one that is not surprisingly headed to disc soon after this screening!
Dead Snow 2
Dead Snow was a good giggle when it came out. Crowd pleaser for sure with its wild mix of inventive deaths, so nice make-up designs and plenty of tension to boot. It made for one of the better selling horror movies on disc. Returning for a second round seemed a bit of a cheap idea. Really? Do we want more of the same? No.
Thank god then that director Tommy Wirkola has built on the first film – literally recapping the end and continuing right from the last frame and then building on the built mythology into this grander, bloodier and funnier sequel.
The deaths and gore letting in this film are great but the key to the film’s success is the unrelenting laughs from start to finish. Right from the extended limb-loosening car-chase to the Total Eclipse of the Heart ending. The audience in screen 5 were howling more often than the cast of Late Phases and Wolfcops put together! This is in the best sense – the definition of a great sequel.
New Zealand has a pop at the horror comedy – and thankfully turn out something quite hilarious in Housebound. It isn’t good form to follow one comedy with another on the same night – but this film came away at the end of the weekend as many people’s picki for the weekend!
Anyone that’s been forced to go back and live at home with their parents (or even parents that have been kind enough to furnish a spoilt adult child with a roof over their head once again) will know the situation all too well. But here Mum and Daughter are forced to band together when they uncover a mystery about their old home.
The characters are well rounded, the tensions is well handled – and all just in time to let it all go out the window in a hilarious climax full of hi-jinks and pratfall humour. Housebound is one for the cult comedy shelf.
The Discover Screens
Covering an event light FrightFest presents one immediate issue if you are the sole reviewer. There are too many films all showing at the same time for one person to see! Thankfully we are given access to the various representatives from each film – often PR contacts, sometimes distributors, and also often the actual Directors and producers. So the majority of the Discovery Screen reviews are based on online screeners watched without the festival crowd.
The upside is being able to recommend to the crowd what hot picks to go for on the Discovery screens. Here are the films we got a chance to see. It’s also becoming a reality on the evidence of previous years that the Discovery Screens are the places to be!
Wolf Creek 2
John Jarrett returns as Mic Taylor once again in this very belated sequel to the Australian chiller. This time round the narrative takes a bigger budget and more action orientated turn which helps keep the narrative fresh.
This is a survival horror film. Three companions take a hike, do a little hunting, pitch a tent and in the morning find themselves stripped of everything but the clothes they slept in and being hunted by masked enemies.
The worst crime the film commits is how inoffensive it is in anything it does. The film has its own set of surprises both dramatic and visual. But nothing that sets it apart from anything else. This is just a good old fashioned simple thriller.
Julia offers a fresh perspective on the traumatised mind that the I Spit On Your Grave meets American Mary variety. It is a sub-genre that modern films have milked dry, but here it is given fresh perspective thanks to a great leading performance and the inclusion of a new cult in the narrative.
This is proper adult material which is lacking from the festival this year – but it did get a great response from those that did go to see it. The film could be accused of being style over substance. But substance itself can be enough at a festival so long as the visceral journey makes its impact as it does with Julia. Easily one of the films of the festival.
It isn’t frightfest unless you have something complete insane from Asia to play. And R100 takes the prize for that with its heavy bondage nutso narrative as the leading character joins a rather selective club for the kinky of mind. To say more might do the film a disservice, but it’s weird. Very Weird.
Rupert Evan’s heads up this psychological thriller as a film archivist who suffers a great loss when his wife goes missing – leaving him as a grieving father with only a nanny and work mate for support. His obsessive work combined with the history of the house he lives in starts to bend his mind as he starts to see projections in and around his house.
Evans gets to deliver a good performance as the tortured soul wrestling with his own sanity. Special mention also goes out to newcomer Kelly Byrne who puts in a strong performance as his nanny forced to deal with his erratic behaviour. Her performance as a bystander stuck in the middle, petrified to the end of her nerves, gives the film the right support it needs to sustain tension on film.
This is not just a strong Discovery film, but all road film for the day. It’s visually interesting, has interesting characters and keeps you tightly focussed on what is going to happen next.
Again, like Julia, this one seemed to get a good response on site with chatter among the fans.
The Forgotten is low budget UK film-making put to good use. Simply they seem to have spent the money on the decent actors on screen.
The film’s premise is strange enough to keep audience’s attention despite there being little to no budget for anything outside of basic camera trickery and make up effects. It then becomes more about the drama than the chills.
The found footage route as seen through the eyes of lap-top and phone cameras. This is an engaging thriller with a relatively universal idea that most audiences of the digital age can appreciate. What starts as rather perverse invasion of privacy takes a turn for the much worse for our leading lady and the slow build of things slowly going from wrong to worse will certainly give horror fans their kicks.
Come on! You Have you not seen the poster alone for this one! This is as cheap and 80s as the horror comedy gets. The story – well it’s obvious: A small town cop gets cursed with, er, the werewolf curse and ends up as, well… WOLFCOP!!!!
With a pimped out ride and a bad attitude towards law breakers. Wolfcop is going to clean up for a while before a daft subplot about a cult kicks in towards the end of the film. Special mention going to some of the transformation effects – one penis shot in particular will have people falling about with laughter. It begs the question – Why did no one think of this before!
All in all Day 2 was pretty strong overall – and would turn out to be the strongest day of the festival – thanks in no small part to what screened on the discovery screens!
MAIN SCREEN FILM OF THE DAY: Housebound
DISCOVERY SCREEN FILM OF THE DAY: The Canal
And now to Day 3!