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Frightfest 13th Poster



The biggest event in any UK horror fan's diary is upon us yet again. That's not to say the other fine horror film festivals up and down the land are inferior, but there's something inherently special about this gathering of like-minded fans of a particular genre in the nation's capital.


After getting to London and heading over to the Empire at Leicester Square, I was greeted with the familiar sight of a heaving throng of assorted horror fans, bedecked in t-shirts bearing their favourite films or, as is becoming more common for opening night, formal evening wear. The temperature in the lobby was becoming unbearable from all the bodies milling around at the media wall for opener The Seasoning House, so I ducked out and headed for the relative coolness of the Empire screen.


Comedian Ross Noble (star of Friday night's Stitches) opened the show with a five minute stand up routine which had pretty much everyone in tears of laughter. Basing it around how far he could go with his material for the Frightfest crowd, you can only imagine the dark recesses of his mind that were plucked. Following on from his hilarious opener the director and stars of The Seasoning House took to the stage to introduce their film and get the festival underway.


Frightfest 2012 Day 01


Day One

Seasoning House Small

Like last year's opener Rogue River, Paul Hyett's The Seasoning House set a very bleak tone for what was to come. It tells the harrowing story of a group of young girls trafficked for sex slavery during the 1996 Balkan conflict. Deaf mute Angel (Rosie Day) takes the central role as the young girl spared a, sometimes short, life of slavery to tend to the other girls. This consists of her preparing the other seasoning house residents by doping them with drugs and making sure they are ready for paying clients. When she discovers that one of the girls can use sign language they form an immediate close bond until one client takes it too far and kills Angel's new friend.


The film has an interesting shift in tone and pace at this point, and director Hyett takes the film in a less than conventional direction for this type of heavy-going story. The film is brutal and visceral, and at the same time utterly compelling as the viewer roots for Angel's safety. This is Hyett's first feature after working in the field of special effects for many years. It's just one part of a planned trilogy based around the theme of war, so one can only wonder which direction he will take next.




Cockneys Vs Zombies Small

Cockneys Vs Zombies provided some light relief after the bleakness of The Seasoning House. It's as silly as the title would suggest and uproariously entertaining. A film that knows exactly what it is and plays to every aspect of that. No real need to delve into the synopsis too deeply; a zombie outbreak hits the east end of London and two groups of survivors – a bunch of inept bank robbers and the residents of an old folks home – are fighting their own battles to survive in different parts of the city. They're linked by Alan (Brick Top from Guy Ritchie's Snatch) who is both the leader of the OAPs and the grandfather to the hapless criminals.


Brilliant sight gags and buckets of gore make it far more entertaining than it has any right to be with a title like Cockneys Vs. Zombies. The script is tight and deftly written providing some genuine moments of comedy brilliance. Make sure you see this one, you soppy tarts.




Grabbers Small

The final film of the evening was the Irish monster movie, Grabbers, pitching the residents of Erin Island against an invasion of see-dwelling multi-tentacled aliens. If you enjoy the classic fun monster movies like Tremors then this will fit perfectly with your mindset.


Lisa Nolan is a young, keen police officer from the mainland who comes to cover some holiday and has to work opposite hard drinking Ciarán O’Shea, who escapes the relative boredom of the island in the bottom of a bottle. "Nothing ever happens here" is what he tells Lisa, quite possibly the worst line you could utter in a horror movie, and that statement does indeed come back to haunt him.


The aliens attack, but the locals find out that they won't suck their blood if they're drunk so the local pub provides both the base to make a stand, and an almost limitless supply of alcohol to keep them safe. There are plenty of laughs, the creature design is superb and the growing relationship between the two central characters is really rather sweet.




So that was it for Day One. A serious and grim opener, followed by some nicely light-hearted fare to send me home with a skip in my step and a smile on my face.


Frightfest 2012 Day 02


Day Two


Cabal Frightfest Small Friday kicked off with far too early a start featuring Nightbreed: The Cabal cut. Thursday's late finish put paid to any chance of me being up and out in time for this, but my colleagues Ilan Sheady and Sharon Davies are seeing this at Grimm Up North and talking to some of the stars for Horror DNA TV, so we'll bring you coverage on that shortly.




Dario Argento Small

Next up was the Total Film Icon, this year being none other than Italian maestro Dario Argento. Ilan Sheady gives his thoughts on the Q&A:


One of the highlights of the festival was having the opportunity to see legendary Italian director Dario Argento talking about his colorful and inspiring film career with a Q&A session. Though there is an obvious language barrier his words and experiences still left his fans in awe and built a lot of interest in his upcoming Dracula 3D project.

A cute montage video of some of Darioʼs iconic moments opened the interview though I felt that a more delicately choreographed showcase would have been a better way to chronicle his lifeʼs work.

There was nothing that I hadnʼt seen or heard in a previous documentary but more than anything it was an opportunity to bask in his greatness that I for one will never forget.




Hidden In The Woods Poster

A decent break to get refueled and hydrated was before Hidden in the Woods, an almost unheard of 90 minutes to go out and seek sustenance on the streets of London. Maybe not a good thing to see Hidden in the Woods on a full stomach, as Ilan Sheady [IS] and Sharon Davies [SD] found out...


[IS] This chilling Chilean chick-rape fest left more than a bad feeling in my chakra.

[SD] The only thing that should have been buried deep in these words are the men folk in this town.

[IS] Hidden in the woods, Directed by Patricio Valladares, is the tale of two sisters who are in more than the unfortunate position of being brought up by their alcoholic, paedophile, mother-murdering, drug hoarding, unkempt father.

[SD] After years of abuse that includes the spawning of a mutated, inbred child (called Manuel) that from birth has a taste for raw meat, the trio find themselves on the run from their past after their father ends up imprisoned after a grizzly bloodbath.

[IS] With the fate of his stash of drugs becoming increasingly unclear local crime-lord uncle Costello and his mafa-esque family hunt down any leads including the two girls who are hiding in the titles woods.

[SD] OK, so as a woman I personally find any film including scenes of rape very, VERY uncomfortable and this film really takes the biscuit (and probably rams it right up the girl's VJ), the poor sisters are constantly abused, not only by their lecherous father, but by seemingly every man in the whole damn town. Before they can say the word “inappropriate “ every single walking boner seems to point in, (and up) their direction, whether they want it to or not.

[IS]An advert for the Chilean tourism board this is not, as every single person that walks in front of the camera is deficient of any moral fibre. The only problem with such a highly disturbing film is that it is a victim of its own excess, as I’m horrified to admit, it actually became tiresome to see the scenes that are supposed to be shocking.

When what I thought was two poor innocent backpackers getting caught up in the middle of a family feud ended up becoming ANOTHER two rapist, pervert, drug-taking, monkey-chasing sadists there was more a sense of disappointment than concern.

[SD] I guess the thing about this film is as much as I appreciate that it more than likely was “based on a true story” and with that this film-maker is perhaps trying to send a message - it feels less like a film experience and more like a Clockwork Orange brain melt exercise that I just really wanted to end. I have talked before about this sort of film and how I feel it's more “horrible” than “horror” and I cant imagine many females disagreeing. At one stage I actually halted a piece of my pick and mix in the air, waiting for the rape / torture to end... which resulted in the damn thing melting. (Oh yes it took THAT long). Oh and we haven’t even TOUCHED on the hunched, deformed, monkey brother / son of the eldest girl but frankly in Hidden in the Woods - the endless forced sex sessions made him pale into the background.

[IS] That said the acting and casting was excellently done. The concept of cannibalism was a nice twist though was diluted amongst every other assault on the senses. I feel that this takes torture porn to a new level. There’s a specific kind of person that likes this kind of film and 1 in 10 end up having a secret family chained up in their basement.





Vhs Small Prior to its screening we had a great video interview with V/H/S director Glenn McQuaid which you'll see in the next episode of Horror DNA TV. This was probably one of the most highly anticipated films of the festival and had completely sold out its 6.15pm showing. As a compromise for those that didn't get tickets, the Frightfest boys pulled out all the stops and have organised another screening for Sunday. You can't say they don't respond to the need of the fans.

V/H/S follows a group of hideously unlikable douchebags who film themselves performing all manner of douchery activities. They're tasked with breaking into a house and retrieving a particular VHS tape at the behest of some unknown character. While in the house they find far too many tapes to identify the correct one, plus a dead man sitting in front of a bank of TV screens. As some of the gang explore the rest of the house, one guy starts to watch the tapes that are scattered round the room. So begins a found footage anthology movie.

I'm of the opinion that found footage is a concept that's done now. Far too many low budget films have employed the concept to cover up gaping flaws in the production values, budgets and, most commonly, scripts (although the flaws are all to evident in the scripts). By pushing into an anthology piece, V/H/S has injected some life into found footage for just a little longer. On display are segments from Glenn McQuaid, David Bruckner, Joe Swanberg, Ti West and Radion Silence, with Adam Wingard providing the wraparound segment.

It does suffer from some of the usual found footage annoyances, mainly thoroughly detestable characters for the most part and the inability of anyone to hold a camera steady. I don't use a steadicam for my home movies, but damn, they won't give you motion sickness like the majority of this film.

There are some interesting concepts on display, a few moments that will send real chills down your spine, and some quite savage gore scenes. My favourite segment turned out to be Glenn McQuaid's (nothing to do with him being a real nice guy earlier, I'm sure). Closely followed by the creepy atmosphere and stunning visuals of Radio Silence's oddly placed final story (they put it after the wraparound).




Rec 3 Dvd 120

I'd already seen [Rec]3: Genesis via a screener, so I took the option to get out for some fresh air while Ilan and Sharon (both massive [Rec] fans) took in this third episode of the popular series. Personally, I wasn't blown away by it, three stars at best, but my esteemed colleagues were bouncing with excitement after the screening so I'll let them enthuse about it in their report below:


[IS]As a devoted fan to the original two [Rec] movies I have no qualms about admitting that [Rec] 3 was my must-see film of Frightfest 13. If I had the opportunity to see only one film, this was going to be it.

[SD]From the moment we were first teased with the image of a bloodied, chainsaw-wielding bride this rocketed to the forefront of sequels that needed to deliver.

[IS]The conclusion of the second though left many questions as to how they could possibly continue the franchise which put a lot of pressure onto returning director Paco Plaza. Could we have more of the the same nail-bitingly intense infection fuelled terror or was there a new twist up the creator’s sleeve?

[SD] Oh yes indeed! The thing about a series of such loved films is they could, if done badly, quickly become farcical. But I think in this case the team have looked at it from a fresh perspective, and with the decision to link the stories together but to discard the POV filming and also add some laugh out loud, money shot moments this left a fan like me welcoming the third to the [Rec] family. The kills are great, the laughs are huge and despite some teeny tiny inconsistencies (which could easily be remedied with the fourth) this was absolutely KICK ASS!

[IS] [Rec] 3 actively mocks the cliché elements of a ʻfound footageʼ movie (I find playing this film directly after V/H/S more than a little humorous). Finally somebody reacts appropriately to an irritating guy who wonʼt stop filming, shouting ʻPEOPLE MUST KNOW WHAT HAPPENED HEREʼ. Also the addition of a cameraman that works for Filmax and a music royalties guy is pure genius.

[SD] The whole piece is just non-stop action and providing you don't take films too seriously and can laugh along with the intentional gags, plus loving the retention of gore and originality of the victims demise then you really cant go far wrong. I’m sure many will utter “it isn’t as good as the first two” and I understand that perspective but genuinely this is a new and improved path that steers us more into a third dimension of [Rec]ʼs horror lens.

[IS] [Rec] 3 is the Evil Dead 2 of the franchise and I welcome this. I was hoping for something memorable, exciting and, at times, jumpy but I was afraid that the story had run its course. I am pleased to say that I was in no way disappointed as it has easily become the highlight of Frightfest 2012



Stitches Poster 120

The final film of the night was the world premiere of Stitches, starring Geordie comedian Ross Noble. As with the opening of the festival, Noble took to the stage to introduce the film with organiser Paul McEvoy and director Kevin McMahon. Neither of the latter got barely a word in edgeways as Noble's stream of consciousness kept the crowd in fits of laughter for a good 20 minutes. It was almost inevitable that Stitches could never be as funny as Noble's random acts of stand-up

Noble plays Stitches the clown, a kids entertainer who dies is a freak accident during a kids birthday party. According to clown legend (!) if the clown doesn't finish the party, he'll bever rest and so stitches returns six years later to punish the kids who caused his demise. It's a limited role for Noble in that it doesn't require much in the way of acting talent, which is fortunate because there's not a great deal on display. I'm pretty sure this will be a one-off for the comedian, and we won't see him diversify.

The film itself is a great, fun comedy horror with lashings of gore in the tradition of early Peter Jackson movies. Each kid at the party meets their demise in a way befitting to how they made Stitches' performance a misery before his death. So queue up for gory sight gags such as an ice-cream scoop to the brain, a clown umbrella through the eye and a baloon dog made from one poor soul's lower intestine.





Frightfest 2012 Day 03




Day three, Saturday, was a bit of an odd day for Horror DNA and Frightfest. The opener for the day was the seemingly ill-fitting Eurocrime!, a documentary on Italian crime cinema. It was something I had zero interest in seeing, although general Twitter rumblings afterwards suggested that it was a bit of a gem.

We headed over to meet the beautiful actress Claudia Gerini (Tulpa) during Outpost II, so that was another one crossedd off the list for the day. Fortunately an advance screener and a boring train ride down to London meant that I'd already seen it.





Outpost Ii Black Sun Dvd Cover


I've never seen the first Outpost movie, and I wasn't really expecting much from the second. I had in my head an idea of a fairly bog-standard Nazi zombie affair, but the film is much more than that. A Nazi scientist has created a machine that throws out a magnetic field that keeps WWII Nazis alive within it, and makes them invincible. So there's a bit of zombie in there, but these buggers don't eat people they just generally bludgeon their enemies to death. Forget the headshot too, they won't go down if they're within the magnetic field unless it gets disrupted somehow. Perhaps seeing the first film might have filled in the blanks on the lore of these creatures, but really all you need to know is they're tough bastards.

The story follows an investigator, Lena, who is hunting the Nazi leader to bring him to justice for his war, and post-war, crimes. Throw in some spy espionage that makes the plot play out like one of the Bourne movies and you have a pretty interesting mix. The zombie make up is top notch and the locations used really make the film look authentic. Outpost movies were vaguely on my radar before seeing this, but now I'm going to make a point of seeing the first one and the forthcoming Outpost III.






Inbred Small

Next up we met the gregarious Alex Chandon for an interview and chatted to him about his screening of Inbred with his own live commentary that he'd just finished in the discovery screen. Inbred premiered on the main screen last year and since has gone on to be invited to film festivals worldwide. Anchor Bay will release to UK cinemas on the 21st September and follow up with a DVD and Blu-ray release on 8th October.


Food, rather than Paura 3D was on the cards next, so we skipped this Italian movie to get refueled. Another good dodge as opinion seemed to be on the negative side concerning this one.






Under The Bed The onset of early evening began with Steven C. Miller's Under the Bed. Miller is previously responsible for Automaton Transfusion (Zombie Transfusion in the UK) and The Aggression Scale, so it was interesting to see what he has in store for audiences next. Under the Bed is a story about two brothers who are persecuted by a creature that lives, you guessed it, under the bed. It plays slightly with the haunted house/monster format in that the brothers are fully aware of the monster's existence from the start of the film. There's no build-up to the discovery of it, although the first hour is dreadfully slow and uneventful despite this. It tries to be a movie like Joe Dante's The Hole, but fails miserably on almost every level. By the time the (pretty decent, to be fair) monster is revealed, the audience has lost interest.






Tulpa Poster Some communication problems (iPhone battery, I'm looking at you here) meant that none of us ended up seeing Frederico Zampaglione's 'neo-giallo' Tulpa with its beautifully turned-out cast in attendance. I've never been a fan of gialli so it wasn't something I was eager to check out, although Il;an and Sharon were keen. Overall opinion seems to be that it was a turkey of the festival. Stories of the audience in fits of laughter due to some terribly badly written and dubbed dialogue abounded on the Twitter timeline. Such a shame for the filmmakers to witness such a reception, but if you make a work and put it in front of a critical audience, prepare for it to be criticised.






Maniac Elijah Wood The hugely anticipated remake of William Lustig's notorious 1980 slasher Maniac was the film that would lead Frightfesters by the bloody hand into the early hours of Sunday morning. Elijah Wood puts in a stunning performance as a reclusive sociopath Frank who desires companionship and affection yet can't keep his savagely sharp blade in its sheath long enough to foster a reasonable relationship.  If you're familiar with the original, this faithful remake breaks little new ground except for the entire film being shot from Frank's point of view except for one short scene. It's a great technique, making the viewer almost complicit in Frank's actions and making sure of a front row seat for the many bloody kills. Allegations of misogyny are too easy to level, yet it is much more than a film about women being murdered, it's a fascinating character study of a man living in his own world of insanity.





Frightfest 2012 Day 04


Another late night catching Maniac and the first film of Sunday, The Thompsons, was probably screening while my fluffy little head was still encased in a pillow. I did absolutely appallingly at last year's Quiz from Hell (for shame), so decided that the always entertaining Short Film Showcase should open my day.


The Halloween Kid Poster

Axelle Carolyn's The Halloween Kid is a charming fairytale about a young boy who sees ghosts and monsters wherever he goes. Cute and harmless, with narration by Derek Jacobi, it would make a nice children's book to bring out each Halloween.


Spanish shocker Alexis tells the story of a young boy who is a the result of a genetic experiment. High production values and a gripping story line make this nine minutes of intense horror.


Gargols! (Snails!) is a gung-ho action piece from spain that sees giant CGI snails attack a rock concert. Loads of fun in the best tradition of giant monster movies, and much better than Mega-thing Vs Giant Whatsit type affairs.




My Brother's Keeper (Or how not to survive the apocalypse), is little more than a well-made sketch based on a brother and sister who have survived a (zombie?) apocalypse. The focus is on the pair, rather than the cause or threat of the end of the world.


Lot 254 weighed in as the shortest film of the showcase, about a collector who buys an ancient cine camera at auction. Low on runtime, but high on the creep factor. A minimalist slice of spooky horror.


Un Jour Sang is a French horror that mixes up everything you've seen in torture films. Audio from a woman's kidnap and torture plays out over footage of her and her captor preparing for their days. The sound of the awful over the view of the normal makes for incredibly powerful viewing. Quite possibly the best short of the selection.


From the same team that brought us last year's Brutal Relax, comes Metal Creepers about a rock band that records a song that will open the gates to another dimension. Lots of CHUD/Critters style creatures, but brings nowhere like the entertainment of last year's bloody beach battler.


Tokophobia explores one woman's fear of childbirth and takes place in her bathroom while she tries anything and everything to prevent herself from being pregnant. Completely pointless and utterly horrible.


The Captured Bird finished off the showcase with its dark fairy tale imagery telling the story of a young girl who wanders into a mysterious house. Fabulous creature design and some stunning visuals.





With fatigue really taking hold and a whole day (Monday) yet to come where I needed to see pretty much everything, I handed over to Ilan and Sharon to ride out the rest of Sunday's films. Their reports follow.


Sleep Tight Poster

Sleep Tight is a wickedly sadistic treat from Spain. Protagonist César was born unable to feel happiness and his only way to cope with a life of joylessness is to seek out the misery in others. Hiding behind his false smile, César greets and services the tenants in his apartment block politely and professionally but always weaving a sinister thread of deceit.  In particular he has attention firmly locked on the beautiful Clara who every morning rises like a ray of sunshine, which evidently MUST BE STOPPED. Sleep Tight exposes the lengths that César will go to wipe the smile from Clara’s face. Extremely creepy but constantly enthralling, watching it is like watching an extended, feature length episode of House. Watching the miserable guy trying to get his own way through any means necessary and the means definitely escalate as the film continues.

César is a sick and twisted man but when push comes to shove you find yourself holding your breath that he doesn’t get caught which is a testament to Director Jaume Balagueró in how well the movie is made. Had it not been handled as well as it was you could have despised the film from start to finish but instead you guiltily enjoy it from its witty beginning to its conclusion. Watch out for Carlos Lasarte from [REC] as well.


Ilan Sheady






Berberian Sound Studio Poster

Berberian Sound Studio is the beautifully filmed arthouse inclusion to the Frightfest showcase. A love letter to the 1970s audio magicians the film follows Gilderoy, a master of his craft employed to provide the sounds for a graphically violent Italian horror. As the constant pressure, torturously visceral scenes and cruel treatment build up around him Gilderoy finds himself unable to keep track of his sanity and reality.

Berberian Sound Studio
is beautifully made and incredibly well acted but as you may have expected the sound plays the biggest role in the film. You never see any of the horrible scenes that the studio is recording but the sound effects made through tearing at radishes and hacking at watermelons make it just as tangible.

This film is certainly not for everyone. There were as many people crying 'WTF?' as there were clapping 'Bravo' at its enigmatic finale but without a doubt Director Peter Strickland achieved in the creation of his homage to the sound studio. Anybody who, like me, owned the BBC Sound Effects of Death and Horror LP when they were younger will find it amusing to see the innocent techniques behind the grizzly sounds and seeing the layers of audio building up in front of your eyes is a pleasure to see, but may be better off played in the media department of a university or an arthouse cinema than at a horror festival. Especially just before watching films like Sinister and Dead Sushi.


Ilan Sheady









Sinister Poster

There is one rule that most horror watchers, writers and creators would abide by: If people have been slayed in a ritual type murder in their own home which is unexplained, slightly supernatural looking and overall insane looking – DON’T MOVE IN THERE! Not unless you want your arse chewed up and handed to you in a carrier bag.

This is a rule that true crime writer Ellison scoffs in the face of as he moves his whole family into said hell house. His new home holds secrets of the past and offers him a box that has the actual footage of the murders plus extra slaughters, which leads him in an attempt to join the dots and write a new novel, putting him back onto the revered writers pedestal. As his hapless wife and children unwittingly move into the fray the penny drops far too late for comfort and with every too-late decision his fate hangs in the balance.

This house welcomes you into its door with a daunting, inescapable atmosphere and slowly pads the tension into frenzy with every moment. It's no massive step away from other “haunted house” movies but some of the scares are cleverly rocketed into although I would strongly advise you to not watch any trailers on this, as some of the main money shots are delivered in its short summary.

Sinister also has some great comedy moments which is a fresh perspective. Many of these moments come from the hapless police officer who offers to help Hawke, but also doesn’t hesitate to give his opinion on what a bloody daft decision moving into this house was. Overall this is often the audience's perspective on these sorts of situations.

Ethan Hawke is spectacular as the anxious, cardigan-attached lead and his character in the main makes decisions that we ourselves would probably make in this setting (well, apart from moving in the first damn place). Overall 70% of the movie pushed my stress levels up to a point where the film could exceed its reputation. It didn’t quite make the grade of flawless in its final crescendo and perhaps if the director had been a little braver I may have shouted its good name from the rafters. However as its stands a beautifully unsettling piece, wonderfully shot and cleverly edited together but after watching back to back horror films all weekend I was expected a tad more lunacy.


Sharon Davies








Dead Sushi Poster

As we look at the circle of monsters and antagonists in film today sometimes I feel writers lack imagination. Zombies – done. Vampire – REALLY done, what next will the bloodied wheel of murders bring to us?

Bet you sushi never came shooting to mind? Well they did in Director Noburu Iguchi’s case, and as the rice / fish combo comes shooting out to take our lives it delivers some hilariously surreal moments scarcely seen on the big screen.

When Keiko runs away from home, as her strict father continues to chastise her non-perfect sushi creating ways, she finds her own employment in a local inn. Would you believe her luck that a revenge driven ex-scientist will be unleashing a horde of mutated dead sushi, which will come and mutate the group before they can say “is that sushi in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

Only Keiko’s sushi skills and her assistant, a singing mutant egg sushi (which spits acid) can try and battle the fishy mass.

The gore is low budget but plentiful and the laughs are immense (if you can open your mind to this sort of thing), but the film also cleverly mocks its own excesses by adding utterances such as in the sushi love scene one bystander exhales “this is really starting to not make sense now”, which made the audience whoop gratefully at the writing. This film is tailored to a certain audience and my Frightfest companions all eagerly consumed every moment.

It's over the top, absolute madness but if like me you are a little twisted and wouldn’t mind a groan and laugh-a-minute bonkers-fest (and you’re not planning on eating sushi any time soon) then whack it in, get a little drunk with your friends and you’ll be quoting Dead Sushi for years to come.


Sharon Davies





Frightfest 2012 Day 05


Day five and I'm all alone. Work commitments took Ilan and Sharon back up north early on Monday, so the final day of this festival was all my responsibility. No-one to take up the slack when I'm tired, no interviews to do, no-one to walk with for my train home. A full day of glorious horror all to myself. Bring it on.


American Mary Poster Small

Opening the day was a film that should have had better billing, the Soska twins' American Mary. When many fans burn the midnight oil, both at the final film of the evening and at the Phoenix Bar afterwards, the morning film is one that is often missed in favour of a lie-in. Still, its reputation preceeding it, American Mary's screening was close to capacity. For a crowd that was pretty groggy from the excesses of the previous four days there was no better antidote than the Soskas bouncing on stage with infectious energy to introduce the film. There's nothing like a kinky rubber nurse's outfit to wake you up on a Monday morning.


Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) takes the lead in this wonderfully dark exploration of the world of body modification. As a penniless medical student, she applies for a job at a sleazy pole-dancing club to pay her way through college. During her interview the club's boss has an 'incident' to deal with (one of his guys has been sliced up pretty badly) and he offers Mary a fat wad of cash to patch the guy up. Mary's skills attract the attention of Beatress, one of the dancers at the club who is deeply involved in the body modification community. Initially unsure of taking on the work, Mary is convinced by the vast sums of money on offer and slowly becomes the go to surgeon for anyone requiring extreme alterations to their looks.


Given the subject matter it would have been easy to aim for a gross-out approach to the many scenes of surgery, yet the Soskas have chosen wisely and leave much to the imagination, letting the story tell itself and the characters develop. Katharine Isabelle is wonderful, growing from a timid medical student into the ice-cold and often razor-witted queen of illegal surgery. The ending felt slightly rushed, with a plot point being revealed then pushed quickly to an unsatisfactory conclusion, but overall this is a new and exciting direction for horror that doesn't rely on cheap gore and shocks (although gore and shocks aren't in short supply here).







After Poster

With such a strong introduction to the day it was going to be a tough slot for anything following, so no real surprise that After was a disappointment. Ryan Smith's supernatural 'adventures in the weird zone' movie tells the story of two people that meet as the sole passengers on a night bus. The bus crashes and when the pair wake up they find themselves the only inhabitants of their small town. Has there been an apocalyptic event that has wiped out all life? Or is something more sinister going on? One thing you'll be glad to hear: It's not zombies.


There's not really a lot that can be said about After without spoiling it. It feels over long because it's fairly uneventful and the reveal comes about halfway into the film, by which point I'd completely lost interest. It picks up towards the end, and much like Under the Bed has a decent creature that you don't really get to see until the last 10 minutes or so. In the US the film has been given a PG-13 rating, so it's pretty tame stuff for the Frightfest crowd.


One to avoid unless you like emotional slow-burners.








Chained Poster

As Jennifer Lynch's Chained eased us into late afternoon, I began to shift uncomfortably in my seat and get ready for an early exit, expecting a fairly run of the mill, misogynistic rapist story. And while Bob, the central character of this film, is certainly a woman-hating rapist, Lynch takes the film in a wholly different direction.


Bob (Vincent D'Onofrio) is a taxi-driving serial killer who abducts women and brings them back to his remote house where he rapes and murders them. When he abducts a mother and son he decides to keep the boy as a house slave and names him Rabbit. Rabbit spends almost a decade as Bob's captive, cleaning the house, making food and disposing of the results of the killer's exploits. The years of playing captor soften Bob's feelings toward Rabbit, and as he approaches his late teens, Bob tries to mould the boy in his own twisted ways.


Like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Chained has been slapped with an NC-17 certificate in the US. Also like Henry it would be difficult, if not impossible, to cut it for a lower rating because the tone is so overwhelmingly horrific rather than the, mostly implied, violence being so.


D'Onofrio is a revelation as the embittered Bob, a completely loathsome character who still manages to show some humanity and a strange sense of his own care towards his young protegé. There's a twist ending to the film that seemed unnecessary; the rest of the film bucks genre conventions for the most part so to fall in line with the popular practice of making a surprise in the final reel was an odd choice. Still, it's not a film that can be taken lightly, it's so ferociously powerful that it will turn off many audiences, but for this particular crowd it hit the right note. Frightfest organiser Alan Jones said it was his favourite film of the festival, and while it was just a little too black to get that accolade from me, I can see why he chose it as such.






The Possession Poster

And so it came to pass that The Possession would be the final film of both Monday and the Frightfest Festival for me. Train time unfortunately wouldn't allow me to stay late enough for the closing film, Tower Block, which was a shame because it was written by James Moran who also penned the opening night entertainment riot, Cockneys Vs. Zombies.


Unfortunately, The Possession wasn't to be a high note to go out on. It's a typical by-the-numbers possession-themed potboiler that brings little new to this kind of film except the central religion being Jewish.


A young girl buys a curious wooden box at a yard sale and upon opening it starts to behave differently. As her estranged parents grate on each other with their failed relationship, her father begins to notice things aren't as they should be with his daughter.


There has been much talk about the film because of the involvement of Sam Raimi as producer, but take away his prominent name and there's nothing to separate this from any big-budget, riding the possession bandwagon horror of recent years. A disappointing end to a fantastic festival.






So that was it for another year. Five days of varied horror across many sub-genres. There seems to have been a bit of an opinion formed on social media channels that there were too many films focusing on rape, but I really didn't find this to be the case. Except for The Seasoning House (which handled it well) and Hidden in the Woods (not so well, I hear), there weren't any other films where the central theme was the sexual violation of women. I can safely say I rated more films highly this year than last, so for me it was a resounding success. So, without further ado, here are my top five films of the weekend:


5. Cockneys Vs. Zombies - Smart and funny, far better than most 'Vs' movies.

4. The Seasoning House - Grim and bleak, with a wonderful debut from Rosie Day.

3. V/H/S - Showing there's life in found footage yet.

2. Chained - Dark and brooding with a compelling story.

1. American Mary - All the elements of a good horror movie.






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About The Author
Daniel Benson
UK Editor / Webmaster
Fuelled mostly by coffee and a pathological desire to rid the world of bad grammar, Daniel has found his calling by picking holes in other people's work. In the rare instances he's not editing, he's usually breaking things in the site's back end.
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