FrightFest 2010 Wrap Up

FrightFest 2010 Wrap Up

Five days of watching horror films goes quickly, but it is enough time to sample what’s out there and upcoming and where horror films are heading in the next six months.

Full marks go the movie F, which was a successful horror and suspense film, made in the style of John Carpenter.

Loads of past British films screened at the FrgihtFest have attempted to copy Carpenter’s minimalist style, but have failed to provide any story. Kudos goes to writer-director Johannes Roberts for fulfilling both his duties.

The performances by the actors were top notch. Lead actor David Schofield moves between being depressed, angry and genuinely scared and remains convincing throughout.

Rodrigo Cortés’ Buried was proof positive that all you need is a good idea, a good script and a good actor to make an amazing picture.

The claustrophobic tale of one man trapped in a coffin the entire film may sound boring after the first 20 minutes, but rest assured you will remain gripped. Buried turned the tables on many of the independent films here at the FrightFest 2010.

Many independent films on show here had clearly spent money on special effects and posh locations but failed miserably to deliver anything compelling.

A special mention has to go to Primal. If you can get through the first standard 20 minutes, it actually becomes this wry Australian comedy with some really good scares.

Also, the short film Rise of the Appliances was one of the best things of the FrightFest 2010 – the trailer is at the end of this post.

Sadly, there was nothing that really blew me away. In previous years, films like The Orphanage delivered something genuinely new, delivered a good scare and made you think.

Although the jewel at FrightFest 2010, A Serbian Film, was pulled at the last minute, I was surprised that no other film really attempted to do something different.

Films like F and Buried were excellent, but F is ultimately Assault on Precinct 13 and Buried is the ending of the Vanishing played out over 90 minutes.

There was a higher than average ratio of bad-to-good films, too. In previous years it’s been 50-50, this year I felt it was more 75-25.

Given that it takes a year or two to produce a feature, it’s certainly possible that the credit crunch has hit film production and that maybe more ambitious films have taken a back seat to cash cow franchisees such as Saw and US homogenised horror crap.

This would normally not be a bad thing if funding was then pumped back in to searching and supporting new horror development, but I suspect it isn’t.

Overall, there was a feeling of having seen it all before with the films on show. This is a shame because I think when approached properly, the horror genre is the most fertile ground for seeing new ideas placed on screen.

Anyway, the sun is shining in London and I’m freed from the responsibility of sitting in a darkened cinema for 12 plus hours. Time for some much needed feet stretching. Below are the reviews for the FrightFest 2010.

FrightFest 2010 Horror Movie Reviews

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posted by JP at 2:00 pm  

The Last Exorcism Review FrightFest 2010 – UK Premiere

The Last Exorcism Review FrightFest 2010 – UK Premiere

The Last Exorcism is pitched as a Blair Witch style documentary meets The Exorcist. The reality is that The Last Exorcism is more the US version of The Office meets The Exorcist, in a movie that never takes itself seriously enough to be scary.

The plot revolves around a preacher who fakes exorcisms and who is called to help a girl claiming to be possessed. A documentary film crew follows the preacher as he performs the exorcism on the girl and the aftermath that follows when the preacher realises he is out of his depth.

The cast of unknowns hold the film up well with solid performances. In particular, Patrick Fabian plays the preacher with a fake confidence that charms you for the first part of the film – filmed in a documentary style – very well.

The trouble is that half way through, the realism of the documentary style switches on occasion into a standard Hollywood movie, as does the plot. Again, what begins as a free-flowing and unpredictable documentary about the preacher suddenly morphs visually and story-wise into a bog standard Hollywood movie about a possessed girl.

Because you’re used to characters winking at you, the audience, and making self-referential comments as voiceovers as events unfold during the first half of the film, you cannot then shift into a third person perspective of the film to allow it to scare you sufficiently.

Add to that a contrite and hurried ending and you get the feeling that the film makers plain chickened out of maintaining the documentary style only because they thought people wouldn’t get.

A damn squib all in all.

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posted by JP at 11:42 pm  

FrightFest 2010 The Dead Movie Review

FrightFest 2010 The Dead Movie Review

Twenty minutes into The Dead’s opening zombie shootout sequence and you begin to wonder how this UK made zombie flick set in Africa is any different to other zombie flicks that have come before it.

Forty minutes into The Dead and you begin to wonder if there’s a compelling story lurking around the corner rather than another zombie.

Unlike George Romero’s flicks, there is no social commentary here, no subtext and certainly no original zombie effects.

The plot is quite literally a guy running across Africa shooting zombies. He walks a bit, shoots some zombies, then lathers, rinses and repeats the motions. When the action lags the directors resort to a POV shot of the character looking up and seeing slow moving zombies ambling towards him.  The actors have clearly been given little direction to help with their performances and the dialogue consists of characters narrating what’s going on in front of your eyes.

Take this scene:

A moving car begins to choke and spit until finally grunting and coming to a stop. The lead character turns to the guy in the passenger seat, who also has a full view of the dashboard, and says:

“We’ve run out of gas.”

Later on, when one of the characters approaches a refuge centre he says to the guy in charge as part of introducing himself:

“I’m trying to find my son.”

Less than 10 minutes later, the same characters are sat around a fire when the guy in charge asks the newcomer:

“Do you have a family?”

These are just a few of the many inconsistencies in a film with no story or sense of direction.

The directors made a big thing about the film being shot in a part of Africa that had never been shot in a feature film before. But as the excellent Buried movie showed, you can make an excellent film about a guy trapped in a box as long as you have the wits to do it right.

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posted by JP at 3:59 pm  

FrightFest 2010 Day 5 Blog

FrightFest 2010 Day 5 Blog

After four days of back-to-back horror movies, late nights and Pret sandwiches, I’ve final made it to Day 5 – the final day of FrightFest 2010.

The line up today is an international mix of horror, which is more in keeping with previous FrightFests I’ve attended. Here’s a breakdown:

VIDEO NASTIES: MORAL PANIC, CENSORSHIP AND VIDEOTAPE, UK – Really looking forward to this one.  What was meant to be a nostalgic look at the moral panic caused by horror films in the 80s takes on a new meaning in the light of A Serbian Film being pulled from the festival.

THE DEAD, UK – Pitched by the programme guide as Saving Private Ryan and with a poster that implies zombies in the mix too, I’m keen to see if this film takes the zombie genre to anywhere new.

BEDEVILLED, SOUTH KOREA – Reading between the lines of the programme guide, Bedevilled does sound like a cross between I Spit on Your Grave and Bewitched as a downtrodden women takes revenge against a community that treats her like a witch – (okay, so the Bewitched part is a little bit contentious, but work with me here, it’s 9am and I haven’t slept in days)

RED, WHITE AND BLUE – USA – This looks like a Leaving Las Vegas style film, though where the horror comes in I don’t know.

THE LAST EXORCISIM – USA – The Exorcist meets Blair Witch. One that I dare say the whole festival is looking forward to.

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posted by JP at 9:51 am  

FrightFest 2010 Buried Movie Review

FrightFest 2010 Buried Movie Review

The ending of the 1988 film “The Vanishing” ends with arguably the scariest ending in cinema ever: a man is buried alive in a coffin and slowly proceeds to weep as he realises his inescapable predicament and as the camera dissolves to black.

As endings go, it’s a shocker. As a beginning to a film however, it’s positively gripping and is just what Ryan Reynolds awakes to at the start of Buried.

The plot is straightforward: Reynolds awakes in a pine coffin buried under several feet of earth and has to find a way out.

Watching Buried in the cinema, you can slowly feel the collar on your shirt getting tighter as you root for Ryan to find a way out of his trap. It’s claustrophobic, it’s sweaty, it’s set in real time and it’s gripping.

Director Rodrigo Cortés does an amazing job of maintaining a closed space while always varying how Reynolds is presented inside the coffin. Despite being set in a coffin, there is never a dull moment, and the plot unfolds while keeping you guessing all the time.

Buried is a superb film and one that proves you don’t need special effects or a large ensemble cast to engage the audience.  A great idea and a talented actor and BANG you’re ahead of the pack.

You will have a great time with Buried. Go seek it out.

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posted by JP at 3:59 am  

FrightFest 2010 A Serbian Film Controversy UPDATE

FrightFest 2010 A Serbian Film Controversy UPDATE

Rodrigo Cortés Buried did in fact replace Srdjan Spasojevic’s A Serbian Film here at the FrightFest 2010.

Before I launch into the review of Buried, it’s necessary to clear up much of the misconception about why A Serbian Film was pulled. FrightFest organiser Alan Jones said that Westminster Council queried the film’s screening with the FrightFest and that the council went on to say that it would need a BBFC certificate if it was to be shown.

After much to and fro, the film would have to be re-submitted for classification with 3 minutes and 48 seconds of cut footage, totalling over 49 cuts, with no guarantee that more cuts would be needed, said Jones.

All this behind the scenes malarkey would have to occur over the FrightFest 2010 festival dates, meaning there was no guarantee the film would be ready – even in a redacted form.

Jones said that Revolver, the film’s distributor, remains committed to releasing the film in the UK as near to the director’s original intention as possible. He went on to say the film was challenging and that talented film makers needed to bring to light difficult issues even though the end product could be controversial.

I was truly interested in seeing A Serbian Film. I have never been to Serbia. I know very little of the issues the people living in the country face or how any of its recent history impacts on the population.

At the same time, I know very little about A Serbian Film – it could be complete rubbish with graphic violence masquerading as social commentary, or it could be something which peels back my eyelids and exposes me to a real world horror I never knew existed.

The point is, is that as a consenting adult who’s paid the price of admission to view a piece of work, I have the right to make up my own mind. As a director, Srdjan Spasojevic has the right to put his arguments across with the requisite anger he feels is necessary to shock people out of their complacency. Somewhere in the middle of that arrangement between director and audience member, we reach an understanding about what the film is and whether or not it has achieved its aims.

For Westminster Council to make that judgement on my behalf is very nice of them, but I’d prefer to think for myself all the same. The film has already been shown around the world without interference and will continue to be rolled out to other countries without incident.

Just why should London be the exception?

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posted by JP at 3:40 am  

FrightFest 2010 Short Film Showcase Review

FrightFest 2010 Short Film Showcase Review

One of the things I look forward to the most at the FrightFest is the short film showcase.

It’s the one place you’re guaranteed to find filmmakers of nerve, creativity and resourcefulness despite the merits of the end film they produce.

Short films are produced because people have an idea and the will to see it on screen. It is the essence of cinema and gusto is what we need more of in the UK film industry. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to be a filmmaker; be a filmmaker.

Anyway, in the spirit of short films, I’ve decided to keep my reviews equally curt. Here’s the rundown:

RISE OF THE APPLICANCES, UK – Household electrical goods go on the rampage in a suburban house. Easily the best short of the showcase. I WANT to see this film as a feature. Delivered with wit, pitch perfect performances and special effects that make you believe what’s happening.

LA MADRE, Spain – A farcical five minutes of a mother’s worst nightmare coming true at once for all her three kids. Played seriously, but should have been played for laughs.

NELLY AND LO (aka Thelma and Louise), Canada – Thelma and Louise meets Cheech and Chong. Also, a moose battles a serial killer. Weird with a few goofball laughs.

HOW I SURVIVED A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, USA – Sarah and John Conner style daughter and son take on zombies. Unremarkable.

BON APETIT, UK – The bizarre consumption of dubious culinary delights. Nonsense.

SWITCH, UK – Female Rocky vs Serial Killer Yuppie in Snow. Nonsense.

PAPA WRESTLING, PORTUGAL – Dad is called in to deliver justice for his son after the infant’s lunchbox is stolen by bullies. A gem of a short delivered with laugh out loud gore.

TO MY MOTHER AND FATHER UK/TURKEY – Psycho-sexual tentacle horror as mother and father engage in a bit of baby making, unaware they are being watched. Disturbing and truly weird.

THROUGH THE NIGHT, UK – A couple have trouble sleeping, but what’s keeping them awake? Beautifully shot with eerie tension that builds to a John Landis Twilight Zone conclusion.

RED BALOON, UK – An old urban legend given an airing. Production values match the remake of When a Stranger Calls.

CHOREOMANIA, UK – Thriller meets Train Spotting via Night of the Living Dead. Made me chuckle.

2.22, USA – Unremarkable.

THE END, UK – One cool dream sequence that raised laughs. Unremarkable, otherwise.

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posted by JP at 2:36 am  

FrightFest 2010 We Are What We Are (aka Somos lo que hay) Movie Review

FrightFest 2010 We Are What We Are (aka Somos lo que hay) Movie Review

The FrightFest 2010 programme guide pitched We Are What We Are from director Jorge Michel Grau as a Mexican ‘Let the Right One In.’

Now that’s high praise indeed. Let the Right One In was a rare film which pulled together the horror and friendship between two children in a truly compelling and emotional way.

For FrightFest to remark that We Are What We Are was similar was setting the bar high. The film was highly anticipated by most people I spoke to.

The opening scene is gripping and beautifully underplayed: a weathered old man has a heart attack in a shopping mall. His death is noticed by the cleaning staff who drag his body away and who then proceed to clean the spot where he has coughed up a lungful of spit. Less than 20 seconds later, the spot in the mall is clean, and shoppers are walking by unaware of what has just happened.

This seems to set up a conflict between the haves and the have-nots in Mexico. We then cut to the dead man’s family. It’s revealed that they are cannibals and depended on the father to secure victims for their rituals. The task now falls to the eldest son and the film sets itself up to explore the struggles experienced by the family as they try and fill the gap left by their father.

We are given a glimpse into the world the family are forced to live in: cops and morticians who care about fame and money more than addressing the wrongs they come into daily contact with, children living under bridges for shelter and prostitutes who risk their lives for a few dollars.

Sadly, although the film is set-up as a complex family drama, it ends as a bog standard cop chase film. Tantalising conflicts within the family are set up at the beginning, but never paid off or resolved dramatically.

The first half of the film shows the family trying to come to terms with their loss, the middle shows their horrific attempts to snare new victims and the last section of the film is all about the cops chasing them.

As with The Pack (aka La Meute), the film attempts to appeal to those looking for a story and those looking for horror and never really satisfies either.

This would not stop me from liking the film entirely; however, the final scene features one family member surviving the shootout with cops and escaping the hospital only to smile at the camera as we see them choosing their next victim.

This cheapened all the good work done at the beginning of the film and was a disservice to the fine performances by an amazing cast of actors.

What started out as a hugely promising story descended into a cliché. A pity the director didn’t hold his nerve to stay true to what would have undoubtedly made an excellent story.

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posted by JP at 2:06 am  

FrightFest 2010 Chillerama presents The Diary of Anne Frankenstein and Wadzilla SPOILER ALERT

FrightFest 2010 Chillerama presents The Diary of Anne Frankenstein SPOILER ALERT

Director Adam Green showcased his segment of the horror anthology Chillerama today at FrightFest 2010.

Green’s piece is titled “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein” and, as its name suggests, is a mash-up of the most bizarre kind.

The plot revolves around Anne’s family being discovered by German soldiers as she leafs through the journal of her Grandfather – revealed to be none other than Dr Frankenstein (the family shortened their name to “Frank” after the first unfortunate incident involving his creation).

Anyway, German intelligence takes hold of the journal to create a Super-Robot to win World War 2, but their plans run into difficulty when the robot (played by Kane Hodder of Friday 13th fame) is activated only to realise where his loyalties lie.

Lots of sight gags and South Park style humour ensured The Diary of Anne Frankenstein met with rapturous applause by the audience here on Day 4 of the FrighFest 2010 film festival.

Chillerama  will be headed up by Joe Lynch, Adam Rifkin and Tim Sullivan though Green joked that he was chosen to direct his piece because he was Jewish and so no one could possibly take offence. These Hollywood directors, eh? What cards they are!

Further spoilers were realsed about one of the other shorts in the anthology.

One of the pieces, titled “Wadzilla”, is about a man who heads to a clinic to have his sperm count raised, when complications arise that eventually see a giant sperm try and attack the Statue of Liberty.

Mental.

Can’t wait.

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posted by JP at 12:05 am  

FrightFest 2010 Buried to replace A Serbian Film

FrightFest 2010 Buried to replace A Serbian Film

A Serbian Film is reportedly being replaced with the film Buried.

Confirmation on this later today.

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posted by JP at 8:37 pm  
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