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Written by Simret Cheema-Innis

This year’s Frightfest horror marathon offered a chance to see a sundry of up and coming horror movies, some of which have been released already or are currently making their presence felt on the festival circuit. Most of the movies were presented by cast/crew or followed by engaging Q&A sessions. So delay I will not because in reality, not too much of that was done on the day due to the tight schedule, enjoy the horror-delicacies I offer up for your delectation.

horror movie low budget nightmare

Horror Movie: A Low Budget Nightmare

Craig Anderson’s Red Christmas premiered at many festivals last year. The film itself was a new voice in the horror world and also felt like it tackled the subject of abortion quite brutally, yet it was justified by incredible performances by Dee Wallace along with the rest of the talented cast. In this documentary, director Gary Doust captures Anderson's plight in getting the film made throughout the stages of production. A Low Budget Nightmare is captivating and telling of the work, strife and the loneliness involved when a director’s dream is trying to be realised.

The struggle to keep the momentum once the production is over and yet having to pay people, survive yourself and ensure that after all of the hard work, you have something to show for it. It’s clear by the end, that Anderson has realised that his own goals changed along the way in that making a film for love is one thing, but knowing how to monetise and make it a success is all down to marketing and the business rather than the creation. This is what makes this documentary so fundamental to watch for any aspiring filmmaker. Here is a director with a retinue of top class actors, but yet cannot sell his film, works all hours of the day to complete it but learns a crucial and painful lesson along the way. All is not lost though, as you will see, but there are some heart wrenching moments where you feel for him and now having seen the documentary, it somehow makes the film all the more worth it to watch again. I’m so glad that I gave Red Christmas four stars last year as watching Anderson’s note-taking during focus groups he organised whilst editing on a cruise ship was worth it. This documentary is a must for anyone who wants to understand what is involved in independent horror movie-making and what it takes mentally and professionally speaking.

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The Black Gloves

Inspired by haunted-house/gothic films like Rebecca and The Innocents, The Black Gloves is a delightfully elegant film with a firm rooting in the conventions of Noir, with its use of light and shadow, character archetypes, the haunted and scarred protagonist and his relationship to a femme fatale who will inevitably lead to his downfall.

When psychologist Dr Galloway’s patient suffers from the same delusion as a former patient which ended in a fatality, he becomes obsessed with solving the case. Dr. Galloway tries to help a young woman named Elisa Grey, who claims to see a mysterious demonic figure called The Owlman. So, he ventures out to an Old Manor where she's pressured to practice ballet by her battle axe of a carer Ms Velasco. Throughout his stay, Ms Velasco is presented as the antagonist, constantly ridiculing the efforts to solve Elisa's hysteria.

Soon the Doctor begins to feel unease in the house, suffering from his own visions and hauntings, but refuses to believe it’s down to supernatural phenomena.  He grows restless, determined to take Elisa away from the house and the overbearing Ms Velasco.

Unfortunately, Ms Velasco has other plans as she too believes in The Owlman and has promised him a sacrifice.

Although the movie feels a touch over-long, this is a brilliant piece of narrative writing by Sarah Daly. You can just see how well it translates from a story to a full-bodied film, preserving the literary elements in the prose. In fact, looking at Hex Media’s works, it appears that they really do take pride in ensuring that their stories work on the page first before translating them onto film. Director Lawrie Brewster and writer Sarah Daly produce works of integrity and that can certainly be appreciated by those who are avid prose readers. I haven’t seen an independent film which reimages noir from the 40s as well as here with provoking compositions, shifting shadows and a decent emulation of the familiar acting style from this period. Brewster and Daly successfully mirror a gothic horror tale-throwback with devout charm.

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It Came from the Desert

It Came from the Desert is based on the classic 80s game of the same name by Cinemaware, those who had an Atari ST or Commodore Amiga are probably familiar with the game. Nonetheless, War of the Dead director Marko Mäkilaakso whips up a monster killer ant movie which parodies creature features from the 50's.

When two brothers Brian and Lukas take part in a trail bike race and win, they decide to celebrate and throw a party out in the middle of the desert, even inviting their rivals. Brian, the more reserved and socially insecure of the two, wanders off during the celebrations, with Lukas going after him. While in the throes of bonding, they come across an abandoned military base and mistakenly stumble across and disturb a colony of genetically modified mutant ants.

It Came from the Desert is what you’d expect from a horror-comedy homage with comical banter which isn’t too trying in attaining nostalgic elements.

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Baskin Director Can Evrenol returns with an equally disturbed tale of a young woman called Holly, haunted by traumatic experiences from her childhood where she witnessed the strange and shocking murder of her younger sister and father by her neurotic or perhaps insane mother. Now years later and married to an established occult writer, her life appears settled as she seems to act like a muse for her husband’s research and works.

Yet Holly ambles around just trying to survive day to day while clearly unable to process the full extent of what happened 20 years previously. She’s constantly plagued by visions, and a toilet phobia that shows her using the bathtub to fulfil her toiletry needs. Actually, that is a good question for Evrenol, he missed a crucial detail and potentially distasteful scene, does Holly do all her toileting in the bathtub?

When the couple learn that a famous psychic-guru named Bruce O’Hara is running a conference in town associated with an estranged friend who ran off with the movement, they’re unsure whether to attend. However, she shows up at their doorstep, explains in mysterious fashion why she disappeared, but is eager to have Holly attend the conference.

Now, this has got to be my favourite part of the movie; Evrenol has taken self-help summits/seminar-going to its truthful disposition, recreating a scene very similar to say a Tony Robbins life-coaching conference (I’m actually a silent fan of Robbins). Guru Bruce O’Hara is a strange and manipulative character although through his guru-work is treated like God, wooing the audiences as they clap, smile, laugh, hug and cry; behaviour that is quite common within these arenas (just look on youtube at self-help figures and seminars). Bruce becomes slightly obsessed with Holly, convinced that she’s the chosen one for some initiation or second coming and that her roots are linked in with a hellish destiny. This is what is unclear and although it may have been Evrenol’s intention to confuse and leave it to the audience to make their own decision on what the film is about, there are too many ambiguities in the narrative to justify it.

Housewife has some beautiful seeds to the story with a promising first and partially second act. There’s occult-dark family heritage themes and a secret linked with puberty, feminism, coming of age and the nightmare of expected motherhood elements which are all touched upon. Another scene reveals Holly’s terror as she realises that her husband wants to have a child, yet she’s still trying to resolve her own inner child issues and fear of children.

Foreshadowing earlier on in the film doesn’t quite marry or make sense to the grand finale, yet you can keep second guessing through the gory and hugely uncomfortable viewing, clearly Evrenol’s specialism. If this movie could be rewritten to create a more coherent narrative-structure it would be a better film. Perhaps it could be reedited with some extra scenes because, with all its promise, we’re left with something that is mysterious, dark, enchanting but a bit unsatisfactory in its conclusion.

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In this post-apocalyptic survival action-horror movie, Hostile tells the tale of heroine Juliette (Brittany Ashworth), who appears to work for a military base, by day scouting for food and materials to bring back to an unknown facility. Civilisation is dying while cannibalistic creatures hunt the humans. On her way back to the base and having just had a pretty terrifying encounter in the desert with a creature in an camper van while coming across a victim (and some supplies), she crashes her truck and injures herself badly. While audiences might be led to think ‘oh not another film in a confined space,’ Turi does surprisingly well not to fall into this trap, developing the story with almost invisible flashbacks which really add another dimension to the film.

And so Juilette’s story begins, a former heroin addict who was saved by a man who genuinely loved her, and showed her how to love. As her relationship and personal development flourish, back in the present, she battles fears and seeks the anecdotes learned from the past which in turn help her fight for her life. The conflicts intensify and parallel greatly from both past and present story threads binding well at the end, revealing an uncomfortable twist.

There are some problems I have with the relationship between Juliette and her older, sexy boyfriend Jack (Grégory Fitoussi), as although his intentions are genuine to help a drug addict, I wonder whether there are some deeper more exploitative issues at play. He seems obsessive, it’s almost as if Juliette is a fetish to him. They both appear to be needy characters, so it feels like their relationship is based on insecurities and baggage resulting in a tumultuous partnership where proclamations of love are questionable. Second to this, they also go through tragedy while together, on top of an already challenging relationship. I wondered whether their closeness and bonding was wholly based on suffering.

Hostile is the directorial debut from French director Mathieu Turi and during a Q&A he was able to share the origin and mechanics of the creatures he devised. The main creature featured is actually played by Javier Botet (IT, Mama, Rec), he’s known for playing strange monsters. Turi had seen Botet and was immediately set on using the actor

“There’s an incredible video of Javier on youtube where you can see the tests from Mama. He has a papermask, just walking and I thought my god, this is incredible! I found his e-mail and said ‘I don’t know you but I love your work,’ and I sent the script and he read it and said ‘I love the script, even if it’s in five years’ time, call me and I will do it.’

“I had the hope from the beginning that it was going to be Javier and it was risky because if he said no, I didn’t have the money to do visual effects and it would’ve looked cheap and I thought, it’s not going to be terrific.”

Turi also explained how Bodet would go through the dailies because he wanted to ensure Turi had variation. It just goes to show that creating different creatures, from movement, to behaviour isn’t just down to practical SFX and VFX.

Performances by Brittany Ashworth are convincing and difficult to watch. She also does an impressive American accent, considering she originates from the UK.

Hostile is one to give a chance and I’m interested to see what Turi comes out with next.


Cerulia (short)

Cerulia comes from Mexican stop-motion director Sofia Carrillo who is known for surreal and spooky works.

In this stunning, macabre tale a woman is playfully haunted by delusions of her other-self which lead her back to a family home with a secret. As character Cerulia unravels memories following her instincts and other-self, she comes face to face with perceived mental delusions which have festered in her for years. It's through this revelation that she unlocks a secret deep in her mind and begins to remember the reasons why she left.

Cerulia takes you on a journey where you have time to appreciate awe-striking detail of the animation which is teamed with a thought-provoking narrative.

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This 80's style slasher horror about a serial killing psychopathic clown is quite simply disquieting. I shiver every time I remember scenes from the film because it's not even the act of killing along with the gory overture that shocks, but rather the character of Art the Clown himself, who is the most menacing clown I've seen in a long time. Art is downright nasty and unnerving, he's the clear embodiment of a psychopath/sociopath who terrorises his victims so nastily, that by the time the killing arrives, you just hope that his victims died inside before actually feeling the pain of his vulgar executions.

En route home from a Halloween party, two friends Tara and Dawn stop off at a pizza parlour for a late-night snack to sober up so that they can drive home. A strange looking clown enters the parlour immediately spooking Tara, but the owner soon throws the clown out for leaving something distasteful in the bathroom. The girls make their way back to the car only to find that their tyre is flat. Tara makes a call to her sister and asks her to pick them up, which she reluctantly agrees to. She tells Dawn to wait in the car as she desperately needs the toilet and eventually discovers a block of disused apartments. But exiting the building proves difficult and as Tara tries to find a way out, she soon crosses paths with evil Art.

The story itself is pretty predictable, but it's the character of Art and his terrorising ways that build and create biting suspense right up until his kills. To hate the clown is not enough as there's a real sense of injustice. Director Damien Leone has created a solid unforgivable character that leaves you feeling troubled inside and sick to the stomach throughout.

There's also some pretty interesting threads in the movie which touch upon transgender themes and the fact that Art has a liking for stalking women. The way in which he kills females does question who Art is, and how his gender affects his actions, aside from being one messed up individual.

There's certainly mileage for Art the Clown to continue in films to come because like characters Jason, Leatherface, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger, these are villains strong they keep coming back throughout the passages of time and we never really stop being scared of them. Art has similar contorted origins.  Apparently, director Leone's idea was for Art to appear in other people’s movies too. I'd like to see this as, I believe Art will work in other worlds in addition to his appearences in Terrifier and previously All Hallow's Eve

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Simret Cheema-Innis
Staff Reviewer
Simret, also known as Wickergirl, is a blogger/film maker from London. Her salubrious taste for horror started at the tender age of 8 years old, dressing her siblings up as goblins and vampires and devising dream worlds during playtime.
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