Climax (2018) – Gaspar Noé & Alan Jones introduction at FrightFest 2018

“Birth and death are extraordinary experiences. Life is a fleeting pleasure.”

Writer-Director Gaspar Noé introduces his film Climax at FrightFest 2018. Produced by Arte France Cinéma, Rectangle Productions, Vice Films & Wild Bunch

My review: “Climax is the disco documentary that’s a metaphor for zombies we’ve all been waiting for.”

posted by admin at 11:44 pm  

Arrow FrightFest 2018 – Short Film Showcase 3 Reviews

The third and final set of FrightFest’s Short Film Showcase played fantastically to audiences delivering more laughs, jumps and scares than any main screen film I’ve sat in.

Being concise is a must for short films and I think a lot of the main screen films ran on a bit too long without because no such pressure was operating on them – either in the form of production notes or a second pair of (critical) eyes.

No such problem with these short films which all had something to offer for the time they were on screen.

The mini reviews:

Envy: A play within a play exploring envy within a drama school. The end scene monologue was delivered superbly however the central theme of envy was diluted by a slightly disjointed plot.

Special Day: If you think of the opening scene of The Graduate mixed with the conspiracy vibes of Rosemary’s Baby you get a flavour of this highly effective short. Performances, effects and pacing really helped create the authentic oppressive atmosphere of a family with high expectations. The change in tone from a family celebrating to explaining their daughter’s rites of passage could have been starker though, as in the first few moments you get that the family isn’t quite all what they seem, which puts you on guard.

The Lady From 406: I’ll be honest: I didn’t understand this one at all. There were overtones of a ghost story or a character trapped in repeating actions. That said, the direction and production design of this story set in an apartment block kept you looking at the screen.

Payment: The high cost of living and renting is explored in this funny allegory. The bite comes at the end and the pay off got a few chuckles from the crowd.

Baghead: This was the strongest of the lot and it succeeded marvellously in subverting expectations to great effect. Its pacing, dialogue and direction hooked you from scene to scene and just when you think you’ve got this short’s number, it does a complete 180 on you. It drew scares and laughs from around the floor. Stick around to the end credits though, it’s well worth it.

Puppet Master: Nothing to do with little dolls; this piece was a mixture of puppeteering and theatre performance, which explored the roles partners play out in relationships. Some lovely production design and music and great direction. My only problem was trying to understand whether we were supposed to see the puppeteer manipulating the puppet or not. Since the theme was about exploring a couple, seeing a third person manipulate the puppet brought me out of the piece.

Right Place Wrong Tim: A superb commentary on escaping the confines of overwhelming nostalgia. The set of an 80s UK sitcom where puns rule becomes the backdrop of time travel murder massacre which works to great effect. The switch between shooting styles/formats also helps create the required disorientation in the viewer so we know the threat is real.

Corvidae: A wonderful fairy tale / animal folklore short done with convincing production design and a strong lead performance. A girl nurses an injured crow she saves from a group of savage boys. When the boys target her at the film’s finale, she finds she’s made more than a few friends.

Neckface: Think Basket Case but with a Bride to be! A crowd favourite which raised more than its fair share of laughs. A bride to be wakes up on the day of her wedding with an unsightly problem. This short worked well in using the plot’s central device as a vehicle for exploring genuine anxieties while not sacrificing any of the laughs. This definitely has legs to be a longer film.

posted by admin at 5:41 pm  

Ghost Stories Live Commentary With Andy Nyman & Jeremy Dyson – FrightFest 2018

One of the perks of attending FrightFest is hearing film makers talk about their creative process.

Whether you’re an aspiring director, or just a fan who wants to delve deeper into the details, the festival gives horror aficionados a chance to gleam inspiration from those that have finished a film.

That said, film commentaries are an art. Speakers must balance detail with an infectious enthusiasm.

The audience was in good company then with Andy Nyman & Jeremy Dyson’s Live Commentary of Ghost Stories. A wet Sunday afternoon and the intimate setting of The Prince Charles’ upstairs screen was the perfect setting.

Most people in the audience had seen Ghost Stories and many more than once.

I hadn’t seen the play but my take on the film was that it served as a great reminder of what makes British filmmaking and production great.

An engaging talk, here were some of the highlights from the commentary:

Using a Colour Map: The progression of the film runs alongside a colour wheel. Scenes were thumbnailed with colour progression beforehand so the viewer would have a visual journey beginning with warming life-affirming reds to colder clinical colours for the finale.

Contemporary Gothic: The work of artist George Shaw was an inspiration for the look of the film. Presenting an out of season seaside and maintaining a quintessential Britishness about things was something that made the film look unique.

Know What’s In Your Head: Underpinning all creative decisions was a knowing sense of what the filmmakers knew they wanted to communicate beforehand. Trust your gut rather than your nut.

Taking notes: Keeping true to a vision while remaining open-minded when it came to receiving notes on the film helped unlock problems. A key lesson here was balancing pride with what would actually service the story.

Staying True:  The most insightful part talked about how they had to turn down offers of working with big US studios and even a big indie one to ensure they maintained their vision. Making choices because they are right creatively, even at the expense of short term rewards, is easier said then done and the guys deserve kudos for sticking to their guns.

Sooty & Sweep: Fun fact: the insert shot of Sooty and Sweep in the second segment got laughs the world over and not just in the UK.

posted by admin at 12:27 am  

Arrow FrightFest 2018 – Short Film Showcase 2 Reviews

The second day of FrightFest’s Short Film Showcase curated by Dr Shelagh Rowan-Legg was just as strong as the first set (link to Showcase 1 reviews here).

Ideas and execution once again worked in tandem for all the shorts.

Visually, they all looked better than some of the films I’ve seen on the main screen, which is testimony to just what you can to with very little.

Given that over 500 entries were submitted, there’s definitely a case for these shorts having a festival of their own, with maybe the winners short-listed for showing at FrightFest. It’s something I’d pay money for at least.

Anyway, onwards with my mini-reviews in the spirit of the shorts:

Catcalls: A modern take on Cat People played out against the backdrop of catcalling. The mise en scene at the start has shades of Taxi Driver and gently lulls the viewer in to what you might think is a straightforward slasher. Things take a surprising turn when the driver returns home and the pacing, editing and effects deliver the thrills.

Madder Isle: A stop motion animation was our next port of a call. Right from the start the director sets the tone of this world through some beautiful choices of colour, texture and score. As an aside, I find if an animated work is too polished, it actually prevents me from investing myself in it. One of the themes of this work was the relationship between people and the earth and I felt the production design supported this theme well, so much so that I found that my eyes feasted on the detail while my brain tried to keep up with the plot. It would be a pleasure to re-watch this a couple of times to take in all the information.

Wrong Number: The pacing that introduced Wrong Number was strong and the performance of the lead actress pulled you through. I think though that most people could see the ending coming and so that lessened the tension somewhat.

There Are No Dividends:  This one delivered its fair share of laughs to the crowd. A combination of Dragon’s Den, David Brent and the perils of trying to emulate a discount Lawnmower Man scenario. It was great to see a piece leading on the performance and chemistry of the actors. The central concept behind the story frayed in the middle, and this pulled me out of it slightly, but overall you were left with a positive balance of laughs, which is no mean feat.

Be Uncertain:  A time-loop cause-effect themed thriller in the style of John Carpenter was next up. Films which progress along one narrative and then re-reference earlier points later in the film through a different point of view have to be built on some fairly strong logic. The notion being that seeing things happen from a different point of view provides you with overall more information about the story. While this short was well shot, I didn’t completely get what fate the central character had brought about, why or how.

The Blue Door:  This was fucking brilliant and my favourite of all the shorts. A care worker attends to an elderly lady in care when strange things begin happening around the house. This was such a well-crafted piece: well-shot, well-paced, a story told in pictures and not words, genuine tension and a terrifying finale I genuinely didn’t see coming but which made sense. Kudos also has to go to the film makers of making the most of a simple single idea and sticking to it.

Marta: Proof that a love of genre films and geek talk translates into any language, Marta sets up a comedic ping-pong between a killer and her victim as they both negotiate the fine line between fantasy and reality. Laughs a plenty in this dark little comedy.

Reprisal: A film from Lebanon explores the terrors of living in hope as a woman waits for news of her partner who has disappeared. The actress had a lot to carry through her physical performance throughout the piece as there was very little dialogue. A film with a strong message.

Salt:  The shortest of the shorts starring Alice Lowe looked like the best scene from a million-dollar monster movie I’d go see. Incredible physical performance and kinetic filmmaking along with some great creature effects would make this something I’d like to see in a longer form. A great proof of concept.

Fire in Cardboard City: The title is literally the plot in this short punchy animated adventure which oddly resonated with me giving the world and current events. Superbly executed with some great in-world gags.

posted by admin at 11:03 pm  

Hammer Horror: The Warner Bros. Years – Marcus Hearn & Kim Newman Intro at FrightFest 2018

Kim Newman & Marcus Hearn introduce Hammer Horror: The Warner Bros. Years

A live intro to Hammer Horror: The Warner Bros. Years, written and directed by Marcus Hearn, Hammer Films’ official historian for Diabolique Films.

This is the short live intro given at the Arrow FrightFest Film Festival 2018 by Kim Newman and Marcus Hearn.

More info on the documentary can be found here:

Hammer Horror: The Warner Bros. Years available on Blu-ray for the last time! (Diabolique Films)
posted by admin at 10:44 pm  

Arrow FrightFest 2018 – Short Film Showcase 1 Reviews

After a hiatus from FrightFest for a few years I returned for the 2018 Festival at Leicester Square.

I’ve been out of the horror film scene for a while and came prepared to just see what’s new. No expectations for the main screen films. But the one thing I’ve always enjoyed at the festival is the short film showcase and I made a point to miss main screen films for these showcases.

Shorts are quickfire: each film lasts for as long as the idea holds and they’re executed with invention, zeal and most importantly a point of view. Not every short is great, but weaknesses can be forgiven and their nuances appreciated as the next film is just around the corner.

Anyway, in the interest of brevity here’s a rundown on what was shown at the Short Film Showcase 1. A small caveat: after drinking my fair share of water I did have to nip to the gents and so missed a few, so here are the ones I saw in full.

We Summoned a Demon: A pair of friends summon a demon with a view of one of them being gifted with the power of cool but when the demon doesn’t immediately oblige, drama ensues. The comedy around the foibles of summoning the demon, the performances, coupled with the effects and lighting, really kicked off the showcase with some much-needed fun. Fans of early Red Dwarf would like this.

Secretion: This was a very claustrophobic film and actually quite unnerving. The short was about the tension that builds between a married couple over dinner. The tension, something unspeakable and left to our imagination, is represented by a damp patch in the ceiling which grows larger and larger as time passes until the film’s conclusion. Done in black and white, with little dialogue, this short really made you work for every moment and succeeded in making you feel as boxed in as the couple.

Pie: A social coffee morning accompanied by a very special homemade pie lays the subtext for a conversation between two women who have something in common. The bright and happy production design and props plays against the eventual dark conversation and the performances deliver an emotional truth which keeps you hooked as the short takes its twists and turns.

The Front Door:  This one was my personal favourite. The smallest bit of forgetfulness on the part of a husband unwittingly invites an evil presence into his house. Cue hilarity and extended negotiations as the husband tries to get the invasion to leave his house without his wife finding out. The performance of the cult leader really made this piece shine.

Who’s That At The Back of the Bus?: A taut little piece about riding on the upper deck of a night bus alone. It’s odd choice of monster made me actually uneasy as it got nearer. Great pacing and editing.

Milk: A spooky supernatural family drama which centres around late night ventures into the kitchen. The slow reveal of the monster and the gradual build up to the abrupt climax really makes you lean in and then jump.

BFF Girls: A weird combination of Power Rangers with one of those sexual education films works to great comic effect with some genuine gross out moments. Best seen rather than explained but drew more than its fair share of laughs and ewwws from the crowd.

posted by admin at 9:45 pm