FrightFest 2011 Wrap Up

FrightFest 2011 Wrap Up

Five days of back-to-back horror films does indeed go quickly; far too quickly—FrightFest is now in its 12th year and I’ve been coming for a little over eight years.

It’s an experience I’m grateful for, though. I get a chance to see films I would have never seen or heard of, while discovering hidden gems which remind you just how good horror can be. Yeah, there are some bloody awful films too, but when you see that one brilliant one that blows your socks off, it more than makes up for it.

A prominent theme among the horror films this year was the return to the slow-burn formula. Films took more time setting-up their characters, building dread and menace rather than delivering quickfire blood and guts. This went hand in hand with there being more suspense-based horror—plotlines setting up when something will happen rather than why.

That said, a lot of films—not just the bad ones—did feel overly long. From talking to my Frightfest neighbours throughout the festival, all of us felt that a lot of the stories had been hindered by trying to reach a 90-95 minute run time and would have worked better at the 60 minute mark.

The standout film had to be The Woman, which proved just how effective horror can be at getting to the truth of something. Final Destination 5 3D and Tucker and Dale vs Evil deserved kudos for injecting a healthy dose of fun and excitement into the programme, which was a much needed counterpoint to some of the grim fare on offer. The Glass Man was also a well-observed and timely piece of social horror while Kill List reminded you that British horror films can chill your nerves.

Genre pieces like Saint, Sennentuntschi and Don’t be Afraid of the Dark looked tired and old, while some of the horror-comedies could have used a bit more restraint.

My overall feeling was that the films which did the best had a point, while the ones that didn’t do so well simply fell back on lazy horror conventions.

Anyway, it’s late in the day and I’m off for coffee. Below are the reviews for the FrightFest 2011.

FrightFest 2011 Horror Movie Reviews

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posted by JP at 3:05 am  

A Lonely Place to Die Movie Review- FrightFest 2011 Day 5

A Lonely Place to Die Movie Review- FrightFest 2011 Day 5

Twenty minutes into A Lonely Place to Die and I’m already asking the question: how’s this going to be different to Sylvester Stallone’s Cliffhanger or Meryl Streep’s The River Wild?

A Lonely Place is your standard outdoor-sport-meets-villains-on-a-trail-of-money flick. There have probably been more of these types of films than the ones I mentioned above, but the two mentioned are probably the most well-known as well as being pretty damn good movies themselves.

A Lonely Place does a good job of grabbing your attention for the first 30 minutes while adding in some intriguing plot developments that hold your attention even further.

The trouble is though that all the good work that is done setting up the film and developing the plot is then thrown away in the last 30 minutes where a series of shoot outs and punch-ups resolve all aspects of the story with a bow tie.

A Lonely Place held my attention for the most part, but an overly speedy and neat conclusion to everything just makes you feel that the producers couldn’t be arsed to think of a better way to resolve the film.

In answer to the opening question, A Lonely Place isn’t as good as Cliffhanger or the River Wild and those films were made over 17 years ago, so you can probably have a better time for the price of a £3 DVD.

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posted by JP at 2:26 am  

Inbred – FrightFest 2011 Day 5

Inbred – FrightFest 2011 Day 5

Inbred is going to be a guilty pleasure for me.

As the title suggests, it’s a city-folk versus country-folk tale and best thought of as a gory League of Gentlemen, although without the same calibre of humour.

The film is pitched as gory fun—this is not a picture that builds up dread or menace through the tensions between urbanites and the country folk, but one which exaggerates and stereotypes many of the perceived differences.

There are some innovative death scenes here involving a particular gruesome one involving an exposed trouser leg, a whippet ferret and a landmine.

Inbred is fun for while it runs but no more that.

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posted by JP at 2:04 am  

Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps – FrightFest 2011 Day 5

Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps – FrightFest 2011 Day 5

I’ll keep this short (unlike the film): Sennentuntschi is a Swiss film with no story or plot and consists entirely of a succession of scenes that move in no direction or towards any conclusion.

To top it off, the end of the film provides a Sixth Sense ending where you’re forced to re-evaluate the scenes you have seen in the film up to that point.

The trouble is, because the scenes are so badly edited and explained going forwards in the film, the additional information you get at the end only serves to confuse you even further.

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posted by JP at 1:53 am  

Deadheads Movie Review – FrightFest 2011 Day 5

Deadheads Movie Review – FrightFest 2011 Day 5

Deadheads is a buddy road movie where two guys set out on a journey across America so that one of them can win back the girl he loves.

Trouble is that both of the buds are recently turned zombies. What a bummer, eh?

The concept is interesting. A zombie film told from the point of view of the two zombies is an attention grabber. When it takes the turn into a road movie its cumbersome and forced but you stick with it.

But as the film progresses, the comedic novelty of two zombies on the road quickly wears off. What I found with a lot of indie horror comedies is that, more often than not, they fail to show restraint when it comes to delivering comedy.

It’s usually one joke laboured over and over again, without ever really furthering the story. In the case of Deadheads, the script flows something like this:

Character A: We’re zombies and we’re on a road trip!
Character B: What?!
(repeat in every scene)

The lead character just goes around expressing his incredulity at every situation, which sets up artificial conflict between him and his fellow zombie.

This isn’t helped by stoner conversations around how man discovered werewolves were vulnerable to silver bullets or how Dracula discovered he was vulnerable to garlic, as well as referencing pop-culture– a note to writers: the first couple of times Tarantino and Kevin Smith did it, it was funny. Now, more than 10 years after the fact and after 100 movies have done the same, it’s no longer quirky, just annoying as piss.

The make-up in the film is also pretty inconsistent: at times one zombie looks vaguely human while at other times it looks as if he’s as blue as a character from Avatar.

I found myself getting quickly annoyed with Deadheads. It’s a visually dynamic and punchy film that sadly doesn’t have the maturity of some of the road movies it hopes to pay homage to.

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posted by JP at 1:45 am  

Top four films from FrightFest 2011—FrightFest 2011 Day 5

Top four films from FrightFest 2011—FrightFest 2011 Day 5

It’s the final day of the FrightFest 2011 film festival and here are my top four films so far:

1. The Woman
2. The Glass Man
3. Kill List
4. Tucker and Dale Vs Evil

The festival closes with a Lonely Place of Dying this evening at 9pm, so there’s a good chance that it could make it into the top five.
I’ll be doing a post-festival wrap too, but for now it’s back to spending the Bank Holiday in a darkened room.

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posted by JP at 11:39 am  

Kill List Movie Review UK Premiere with Video—FrightFest 2011 Day 4

Kill List Movie Review UK Premiere with Video—FrightFest 2011 Day 4

Kill List Cast FrightFest 2011

UK horror films at FrightFest have traditionally had a bad reputation.

They either fall into the camp of “no story, lots of gore” or “boring to the core, plus the odd nosebleed.”

Kill List, written and directed by Ben Wheatley, is neither of these things and falls into the camp of bloody terrifying and superbly acted.

The film is best enjoyed knowing as little as possible which makes giving it a review a little difficult, but I’ll try to keep it spoiler-free.

The film centres around two ex-army snipers tuned hit-man. Lead character Jay is facing financial difficulties when his pal Gal offers him a job on behalf of a mysterious client. As they carry out the job they are lead down a staircase of mystery and ultimately have to face a horrific terror.

The film takes its time setting-up the relationship of the two main characters and their situations, so that once the main plot kicks in you really feel for the pair. Part of this is down to some deftly written scenes as well as superb performances from Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley, which was in part improvised.

So much of this film is carried on the strength of performances and naturalness of acting, that when the scares happen they stay with you long after you leave the cinema.

Kill List is released on September 2 and is one of the best genre films to come out of the UK in a long time.

Check out some of the videos from the QA session below:







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posted by JP at 1:49 am  

Saint Movie Review —FrightFest 2011 Day 4

Saint Movie Review —FrightFest 2011 Day 4

Saint mixes a bizarre cocktail: it takes the college teen and holiday setting from Halloween and mixes in ghost pirate menaces a la The Fog, but with one crucial twist; the chief executioner is Father Christmas and his army of pirates are represented in the form of little helpers with knives.

The film does heavily reference Halloween and The Fog, both in style and in certain plot points. There is also a great action sequence involving a police car chasing and shooting at a killer Father Christmas riding horseback over city’s rooftops.

Saint should have been a hugely enjoyable movie, with lots of laughs as well as scares. The problem with Saint is that it plays everything quite straight rather than balls-out mad.

You do genuinely feel like you’re watching a Carpenter movie, and then you see a killer Father Christmas and reminded that you’re not, but the film continues in a serious tone as if you were.

The effects and action scenes are all top notch, but by not mixing in more black humour you’re better off watching your copy of Silent Night Deadly Night.

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posted by JP at 1:20 am  

The Innkeepers Movie Review —FrightFest 2011 Day 4

The Innkeepers Movie Review —FrightFest 2011 Day 4

Two employees at a haunted hotel that’s on the path for closure start noticing eerie goings on and decide to investigate.

As a pair of mysterious guests arrive to spend the night, we’re forced to consider just what lies at the heart of the employees’ growing paranoia.

The slow burn formula is one I enjoy in horror films, but forty minutes into Ti West’s Innkeepers and I find it hard to maintain interest.

The performances of the two lead cast members manage to carry the film past its navel-gazing script, but recurring scenes where characters walk down basements in the dark had me mentally swearing at the screen.

Like many films I’ve seen at the FrighFest, The Innkeepers would have worked better had it been shorter at around the 60 minute mark, or even as a 30 minute short.

Ti West does a good job of building up dread and tension, but this is lessened by long periods of your attention not being rewarded.

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posted by JP at 1:08 am  

Chillerama Movie Review —FrightFest 2011 Day 3

Chillerama Movie Review —FrightFest 2011 Day 3

Footage from Chillerama premiered last year at FrightFest 2010 with The Diary of Anne Frankenstein by Adam Green. This year we got the full complete movie which is framed in an anthology format.

Chillerama is a cheap series of gory laughs with a good deal of tits and bums thrown in for good measure.

Directors Adam Green and Joe Lynch bring a schoolboy enthusiasm and madness to their films, which is apparent both from their introductions as well as the content of their films.

The film’s opening story, Wadzilla, is a story about an accident which causes a man’s single sperm to grow to Godzilla size and which then proceeds to go on a rampage of New York culminating in it trying to inseminate the Statue of Liberty.

I gut laughed a couple of times through this story, but as the film progressed the gags began to deliver diminishing returns. It’s a bit like hearing a kid swear for the first time—the first time it’s irreverent, cute and kind of funny, but if the kid keeps using curse words to only provoke a reaction, it quickly becomes tiresome.

Gross-out humour generally works when it serves to back-up a point. South-Park does this successfully and it’s clearly an influence here. The trouble with Chillerama is that none of the stories have a solid story to back up the humour. The anxiety of going on a date could have been played up more in Wadzilla, but the trade-off seems to have been made for more gags.

I also had problems with the second segment: “I Was a Teenage Werebear.” The story is about gay werewolves in high-school. The trouble with this is that all the jokes are superficial. Leather outfits, wrestling, musicals and dildos form part of some recurring sight gag—it’s a child’s book of gay jokes.

More obvious by its omission is the fact that there’s no gay kissing in this segment, despite the plot. It’s as if the filmmakers are poking fun at gay culture with a stick—getting close enough to make fun, but apprehensive and immature to handle any aspect of the real thing.

The Diary of Anne Frankenstein suffers from the same issue as Wadzilla. So much time has been focused on delivering gag after gag that you get diminishing returns as the film grows annoying.

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posted by JP at 12:49 am  
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