- Category: Features
- Written by Daniel Benson
- Published on Saturday, 23 August 2014 16:32
FRIGHTFEST 2014 - DAY TWO
Friday, and while my day job colleagues are sat at their desks, I'm off in the morning to interview Matthew A. Brown and Ashley C. Davis (The Human Centipede: First Sequence) about Julia, their film that would premiere on the Friday afternoon. I'd anticipated missing the opening film, Late Phases, but I'd caught the beginning of it on a screener while on the journey to London and by blind luck it was pretty much up to that point when I went into the auditorium. Nick Damici (Mulberry Street, Stakeland) is the blind military veteran Ambrose, whose move to a retirement community brings him much more than tending the roses and having tea with the neighbours. This particular community is terrorised by mysterious attacks each full moon, something that the local PD doesn't seem overly concerned about. It's an elderly cast, which is a refreshing change from a roster of bright young things. Ethan Embry, playing Ambrose's middle-aged son Will, is the youngest cast member. Ambrose's quick and acerbic wit brings plenty of laughs and the bravery of the filmmakers to go down the werewolf route with practical effects (and a low budget) is to be applauded. It has a fantastic transformation sequence that Rick Baker would be proud of. Curiously it's not a million miles away from the lycanthropic transformation found in another Frightfest title, Wolfcop. No wolf penis in this one though.
Eli Roth's The Green Inferno is a title that's currently in a state of flux with distribution issues in the USA, meaning it may be some time before it sees the light of day over there. While Entertainment One have bagged the distribution rights for the UK, it remains to be seen whether this throwback to the cannibal movies of the late '70s and early '80s will struggle over here too. The film follows the misfortunes of a group of repellent social justice warriors on their way to protest natural gas mining in Peru. What they don't bank on is being taken captive by a tribe of angry, sadistic and cannibalistic natives and being subjected to hideous torture and painful death. Taken purely on its face value, it's an affectionate tribute to the works of Deodato and Lenzi, but its message is muddled. There's not nearly as much gore as you'd expect from a film of this ilk although what is on display is handled capably by Greg Nicotero and cohorts. Other than one particular dismemberment scene and the threat of female genital mutilation, there's really not much to write home about. Given that the sole purpose of Italian cannibal exploitation was to shock, it's surprising the boundaries weren't pushed further. You're left with a group of mostly unlikeable characters that you can't wait to see their demise, and even then the final payoff isn't nearly as much as is deserved.
What came next is a film that has set many tongues wagging around social media and Frighfest's own forum. Shockwave Darkside 3D is a sci-fi action movie from the producers of last year's winner of the Scariest Film Award, Banshee Chapter. Some peculiar problem with my watch meant that I arrived after the film had started, so I quietly snuck in and tried to catch up with what was happening. No chance. I was greeted by the most confusing mish-mash of bad CGI, terrible acting and Blake's 7 style costume design. In the 25 minutes I spent trying to access the film's plot I was completely shut out and ended up walking out, much like the dozen or so people who did the same in that short time. There have been many comments and questions on how a film of this (sub)standard made it to the Frightfest selection, let alone how it ended up on the main screen bill. It wouldn't be fair to rate this based on not seeing the whole thing, but the fact it left me confused and needing to leave the cinema means it's one I definitely won't check out a second time.
There was much positive buzz around the New Zealand comedy horror Housebound and as this particular genre is right up my street (when done right), my hopes were high. High hopes, however, are rarely met and Housebound left me slightly underwhelmed. Its central character is Kylie Bucknall, an errant waster with a history of criminal activity and rehabilitation, who is put under house arrest and electronically tagged. The film begins as a haunted house movie, with typical creepy set pieces leading up to some decent jump scares. Around the midpoint it changes tack and becomes something different (not stated here so as not to spoil it) before trying to round itself out as a wacky splatstick. Frequent verbal and physical gags are the only constant and work well, but the odd pacing and evolving sub-genre hold it back from being a true success.
With Robert Englund being the headline guest at the festival, and introducing his new Brit thriller The Last Showing, there was much anticipation from the crowd. However much love there is for the man that will always be Freddy in everyone's horror-heart, his output over the last few years hasn't been much to write home about. And while this premiere is a capable enough effort, it's not going to propel Englund into mainstream stardom. You can read my full review HERE.
If ever there was a film that was 100% perfectly suited to being a Frightfest midnight movie, it's Dead Snow 2: Red Vs Dead. While the other screens had seen it as early as 6pm, I was happy that I could go home on the euphoric high of watching the film with a hardened horror crowd. And I say this only having an average opinion of the first film. Red Vs Dead kicks off at the exact same point that Dead Snow finishes as a one-armed Martin escapes from Herzog and his band of Nazi undead. By a twist of fate, Herzog loses his arm into the car that Martin subsequently crashes and the hapless hero ends up having it stitched onto his own body by well-meaning doctors ("We found your arm, it was unusually pale, but we managed to reattach it."). At the same time, a bunch of American pop-culture nerds calling themselves The Zombie Squad are alerted to Martin's plight and fly to Norway to help. The laughs and the gore come thick and fast and the pace is fantastic from start to finish. Genuinely my highlight of the day and perfectly placed as the last film of the night.
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