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FrightFest 2014 Day 3


Day three started and we are now in full swing. Friday’s movies were a mix bag on the main screen of very good and very terrible movies and a good word of mouth on the Discover screens.

Also by this point there was a lot of groaning (Guilty!) about the advertising that screened before the films.  Worth noting at this point that along with Film 4, there are various other sponsors for th festival including our favourite Arrow Video, as well the likes of Vue Cinemas, The Horror Chanel and so on. The problem is that for every other film you saw the same pre-movie adverts.

The bone of particular contention was an advert for upcoming show The Strain. The other issue is that some of the adverts were mind-numbingly long. Arrows advert lasted 2 full minutes, another for the release of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari was longer than it needed to be. Film 4’s Rules of horror films lasted a long time. Of course we now that these sponsors are paying for the screen time – so this isn’t a criticism of the festival programmers – but the sponsors themselves may have wanted to bear that in mind and delivered either a variety of adverts or just shorter ads.

There was then an absence of shorts or easter egg material for the festival goers to enjoy. There was the odd thing for sure – and every film had a TURN YOUR BLOODY PHONE OFF advert (some great – others shite).

So here is the look at the Day 3 movies!


The Main Screen


Starry Eyes

How far would, should and could someone go to obtain the fame they seek. This is the question pushed to the very extreme in Starry Eyes.

Your sympathy levels are right there with the main character when she is forced to listen to the off-putting remarks from her fellow wannabes that she lives with; But your patience is perhaps stretched a bit thin when you see the level of dangerous desperation she is willing to sink to. But then this is the point. You wouldn’t – but she would.

It’s all a psychological blur at times in a film about transformation, empowerment – all wrapped up in a Abel Ferara-esque bubble.

Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills) makes for a welcome comedic break as fast food establishment manager – but the leading performance from Alex Essoe and her portrayal of a young actress slowly descending into madness and self-mutilation is fascinating and disturbing

3 Stars




All Cheerleaders Die

The most shocking thing is that one of the directors (Lucky McKee) really won audiences with his dark film The Woman a couple of years back at the festival. Seems with this he is intent on alienating them again in a film that wants to be for The Craft/Heathers crowd but just tosses it’s idea down the cheap schlock drain.

A weak film that fails to be truly funny, shocking or even faintly interested in acting professionally. Audiences know better.

1 Star




The Harvest

John McNaughton returns behind the camera for this psychological thriller about a mysterious family whose privacy is imposed on by a lonely new neighbouring teenage girl. Maryann is looking for friends and she starts to get to know the bed-bound son of a pair of medical professionals. All is not as it seems however in the house as the parents start sending Maryann away in an attempt to keep their lives secret.

Samantha Morton gets to do an Annie Wilkes whilst as her husband, Michael Shannon gets to deliver another one of his sublime off-kilter roles to date.

The film keeps itself so well behaved that this could perhaps even get considered for a 12 rating in the UK. Almost like Disney decided to do a thriller for kids. And it is well performed by all.

3 Stars




The Babadook

The most overhyped film of the festival – literally the sponsor for the film, UK magazine Total Film literally would not shut up about the film. The trailer for it was even played on day one before the opening movie and completely misrepresented the content of the movie.

Two types of people saw this film. One expected a monster movie: They left really disgruntled and disappointed. The other expecting a psychological thriller: Some of them left happy, others left very disappointed.

So the film is basically about the mental decline of a single mother coping with her loud and annoying kid who claims to be haunted by the titular character. Is the kid making it up? Is the mother being pushed to her wits end? Is the Audience being pushed to theirs? Are the characters becoming all the more slapable? Is that dog wearing a collar that says Dead Meat?.

The film’s critical error is that it selfishly wants the best of both worlds. It wants to give you the monster (Which even in the shadows looks like CGI crap) but also wants everything to be in the mother’s head.

Now if it had picked one or the other without any cheating then this would have made for either A: A great monster in the closet movie. Or B: A great psychological thriller about mental disassociation. But both parts together negate each other and you end up with some annoying performances with a rather flimsy ending.

The film was poorly introduced by Total Film’s Rosie Fletcher who fumbled her introduction. But worse than that was the blatant misrepresentation of the crowd response. It was clear in the aftermath of the screenings it was  NOT the festival favourite. It may have been some people’s favourite, but it was clear that a larger portion of attendees were giving it a low rating and that many others were just disappointed with what it ended up being.

But lovers of the film can head over to Total Film for their FRIGHTFEST AWARDS and see just how much they are over hyping the film they are sponsoring with the sheer amount of awards they are giving it.  We on the other hand are giving at a solid 2 for being such a disappointment as both a horror thriller and psychological thriller.

2 Stars





Life After Beth

Beth has died and her family and boyfriend (Dane Dehaan) mourn her passing. But then suddenly one day she returns. While she is appearing to be alive and well, not is all quite right with her in the head. Her over-protective family are fearful of losing her again so subject her to a routine of housebound activities to keep her safe from the outside world. But then her boyfriend has other ideas.

Life After Beth like many modern horror comedies is trying too hard instead to be a dramedy. Which is fine for the performances and plot mechanics – but it could have been so much funnier (as clearly evidenced here by the last act as well as John C Reilly’s performance as Beth’s neurotic father). But it is still worthy of a watch and has one of cinema’s most hilarious uses of an over to date.

3 Stars




The Discovery Screen 

Dead Within

So the apocalypse has happened and couple Kim and Mike find themselves trapped in their cabin. And with that it is only a matter of time before Cabin Fever sets in!

A similar premise to a previous year film Remnants – this is on a much smaller scale as we watch the couple drift apart from each other despite their attempts to stay close. Mike goes out on a regular basis to scavenge for food whilst Kim is locked up with herself for long periods.

This isn’t a bad film – but the premise has been done before and to more gory effect in the past for a FrightFest crowd. This one remains largely psychological but with little tension to sustain it.

2 Stars




Bad Milo

Just the idea of talking about a film that features a leading character who has a revenge seeking “Butt Tumour” boggles the mind.

It’s safe to say that yes this is a comedy choice for the festival – but it’s also one of the most bizarre movies this year. They don’t get any more weird than this! Anyone who remembers Chillerama and the rampaging giant Sperm from one of those segments (and liked it) is the ideal audience choice for this one. Milo might hurt people – but the film wont.

3 Stars




White Settlers

The Home Invasion, couple in a strange land being stalked movie gets a retread here. And like many, it spends half of the running time setting character and then the second half running around in the woods, heavy breathing and getting tortured. The chemistry is never quite there for the leads Pollyanna Mcintosh (The Woman) and Lee Williams, and it’s a worn premise that doesn’t bring enough new to the table to warrant it a stand out in any way.

2 Stars





Show Pieces

Alan Moore writes his first screen play! – and it is most definitely wonderful and weird (featuring a cameo form the man himself). This one will strike a chord with the fetish crowd, but it will also strike a chord with those for an ear for really dark and delicious dialogue.

It largely deals with a created vision of hell – or a place you go to be put on trial for your misdeeds. There is an extended prologue with a woman who has a mishap at home. But then the film particularly deals with a gentleman at a bizarre cabaret club, some strippers and an imposing clown.

It’s a weird watch – but the colourful cast, rooms and (as pre-mentioned) dialogue is often to die for.

4 Stars




The Mirror

The don’t get much lower budget than this found footage thriller. Three young brit friends decide to enter a paranormal competition, hang up the world’s most unspooky mirror and then film with a select few cameras everything that happens in the world’s most unhaunted looking flat. Of course – one of them takes to sleep-waking, peeing themself and generally more and more disturbing behaviour. And this might be a good time for the filmmakers to start making the film tense. Instead they resort to daytime arguments between a right bunch of twats that you just want to slap.

It’s cheap, uses cheap tactics (the old holding a knife over a sleeping friend routine never seems to get boring for some filmmakers).

To be fair the tension does start to mount somewhat more in the last act, but by that time you are all but disengaged and it seems like antics for the sake of antics. The film by this time is so excruciating thanks to the general behaviour between the characters. This would have been WORST FILM OF THE FESTIVALl if it were not for Friday’s Shockwave Darkside 3D.

1 Star





Digging Up The Marrow

A welcome return from Adam green with his latest film – this time round a pseudo-documentary starring Green himself along with various personnel from his work life (Inc cinematographer Will Barrett) and their decision to make a documentary about a man who claims to have found monsters!

Ray Wise steals the screen all too often as the neurotic ex-policeman who claims to have found a doorway to another world.

Adam Green has kept the public coverage on this one to a minimum – No trailer, little to no stills from the movie have been put out there. It’s a wise decision as going into this one blind does increase the impact the film has on you. It – like any decent horror film (is it a horror film? Is it a documentary? How close does the lines of reality and fiction blur?) it has some truly worthy jumps and scares. And the film does build and build before you get to them. In this time you get to know the story, see a few familiar faces, get some great comedic timing from Green (he even gets away with a commonly used trope in 80’s Landis-esque comedy by breaking the fourth wall and staring at the camera at a well-timed moment). The film is often hilarious with the banter between the film-makers and is often an insightful look behind the scenes of film-making. You can just as easily compare Digging Up The Marrow to Nightbreed just as easily as you might Robert Altmen’s The Player. With a documentary approach you get to see locations and people that are very relevant to the film world – so this film should expand beyond the horror crowd to those interested in low budget film-making.

Digging Up The Marrow also had the joy of being the best film showing on Day 3 of the festival.

4 Stars




Despite a couple of decent late showing films – Day 3 started to really show the cracks in the system of choices with even the Discovery Screen showcasing a couple of right duds.



The look at Day 4 starts here.

Steven Hurst

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