And so it was that Love Horror’s second favourite time of the year (after Halloween obviously!) was with us once again, the August Bank Holiday of horror that is FrightFest 2015.
Although it had been with great sadness for all involved that the fest had left the Empire Cinema, with their recent move to the Vue Leicester Square the festival had grown bigger and bigger expanding into screens throughout the multiplex like an amorphous monster consuming the conventional cinema and turning it into a wicked and wonderful horror convention full of like minded fans and fanatics
Now in its 16th year FrightFest may be all about horror but that doesn’t mean your not going to see every element of the genre from monsters to myths, documentaries to drams, ghost and maniacs and all the rest. With everything from cheesy gore to sci-horror, chilling thrillers to frightful fantasy the festival proves that there is so much more to horror than a psycho in a mask chasing nubile teens through a forest – although they have that as well of course!
Packed with special gusts, director into’s, cast Q&A’s, surprises and stunts its still really all about the films and with tons of terrifying features on offer across the three main screen’s and three discovery screens including 19 World, 16 European and 24 UK premieres its hard to choose from the buffet of brutality.
Luckily for us at Love Horror we have a great starting point with our press pass privileging us to a saved seat in the Arrow Screen for all of the films there and it was here all the way at the very back of the cinema in seat N9 on Thursday 27th August at 6.30 sharp that I started FrightFest 2015 with the opening film David Keating’s Cherry Tree.
The director of the excellent pagan chiller Wake Wood Cherry Tree sees him return to the territory of witches and rituals in a rural nightmare carrying on the neo-hammer horror style he already established.
Next up was something completely different Turbo Kid set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland world where a young boy obsessed by comics must ride out on his BMX and save his new friend from the evil despot who controls the water supply. Heavily influenced by Mad Max this ode to the 80’s is a mix of violence, carnage and touching romance with a genuinely sweet centre.
The last film of the first day had the crowd buzzing as German insect horror Stung closed Thursday’s proceedings with a swarm of killer wasps attacking a country villa where only the caterers can save the over privileged guests and organisers. A fun creature feature to close a eclectic opening days proceedings it most certainly gave me and the crowds amassed at FrightFest a devilishly delicious taste of what was to come over the wonderful long weekender.
The first full day of films and as I journeyed up to town on the tube I was filled full of excitement not just because the strikes had been cancelled but at what was to come. Already outside the cinema the pass holders and day ticketers had gathered eager to get in to their seats and start the day and what a great start it was.
Most definitely a film that its best to know as little about as possible first time director Alistair Legrand does an amazing job helming The Diabolical a haunted house horror where things are most definitely not what they seem.
Ali Larter plays a single mum whose home and kids are terrorised by disfigured monsters whose nightly visitations are making their lives a living hell. Having seen every paranormal investigator, ghost buster and priest she can call she seems to be out of options but with money problems and her sons violent outbursts she has no choice but to stay and face the terrifying problem her family is suffering with head on.
A great movie well worth checking out that requires repeat viewings to get the most out of Legrand is most definitely one to watch for the future. Another equally great film was Russell Friedenberg’s Wind Walkers that I managed to catch in the Splice Media Screen.
A brilliant blend of ideas this subversive slasher about a group of men hunting in the Everglade swamplands who become the prey of something malevolently supernatural manages to deal with issues of colonisation, modern male masculinity, soldiers post traumatic stress disorder and much much more while still staying entertaining and delivering some great shocks and scares.
Taking a Native American curse via the blood soaked deserts of the Middle East conflicts and bringing it all back to a group of troubled American friends with their own inner demons Russell Friedenberg’s highly intelligent and deeply effecting film jumps genres while keeping the jumps coming thick and fast till the final act.
Back in the Arrow Screen the next movie was Hellions by Pontypool director Bruce McDonald. Set at Halloween the tale revolves around a teenager who on discovering she is pregnant takes a surreal trip into a nightmarish world where a group of masked malformed kids terrorise her house in an attempt to take her baby for their own evil ends.
Although containing some of the spookiest kids I have ever seen on film the psychedelic stylisation is a little too art house and left me cold and unengaged rather than filled with fear. When a director decides to take a walk on the weird side with his film its important not to alienate the audience and Hellions overstepped the mark meandering into pretension rather than panic which was a pity considering it contained some deeply disturbing imagery.
Another disappointment was Landmine Goes Click which although bore one of the best titles of the festivals films and opened extremely strongly deteriorated into torture porn territory way too quickly wasting away what little promise it had.
Starting out with a great set up the film revolves around three friends taking a trip to Georgia to celebrate the impending nuptials of two of the trio. When the best man accidentally steps on a live landmine things take a turn for the terrifying as he is now unable to move. But all is not what it seems and as dark secrets are uncovered and revenge revealed the characters and audience find out there is much more going on than first they thought.
Luckily back in the Splice Screen Worry Dolls lifted my spirits with a blend of fun slasher movie cliches and some interesting ideas. After a brutal serial killer is gunned down the cop in charge of the investigation believes the reign of terror has ended but when normal innocent people start committing heinous killings it seems the spirit of the psycho has somehow lived on.Sadly all this opening potential is woefully wasted and the movie deteriorates into a misogynistic mess abandoning its own inventive ideas in exchange for grotesque shocks and unnecessarily extreme sexual violence. I think somewhere in there was supposed to be a message about the pointlessness of revenge but I was too busy being bored and disgusted to hear it.
Part possession horror and part maniac murder movie although packed with cheesy dialogue Padraig Reynolds Worry Dolls proved to be an entertaining ride contain real glimpses of originality and potential for a whole new horror series based around the evil and potent power of the Worry Dolls.
The evenings entertainment began with III a crazy Russian tale about a killer disease and one sisters attempts to save her sibling from certain death. Channelling The Cell director Pavel Khaleev pays respect to Russian fairy tales in a surreal nightmare featuring mysticism and more.
James Wan’s Demonic played next and if you want the full rundown head over to Zombie1’s review right HERE to see if this slick pice of Hollywood horror is really the next Insidious or just a pile of supernatural shit.
Although wary at first of JeruZalem due to its found footage format I was more than surprised by the Paz Brothers fantastic feature which merges old testament terror on the streets of the holly city with an extremely modern and innovative way of filming using wearable technology being as the whole thing is viewed by the main characters point of view through her internet enabled glasses.
As two American tourists travel to Tel Aviv they are sidetracked to Jerusalem for fun and frolics
only to discover an ancient curse has come to pass opening the very gates of hell onto the streets of the city. A first person roller coaster ride JeruZalem is far better than any found footage for a long time making sure to pack in as much plot and character development as chaos and carnage. Make sure you see this movie and look out for what these brilliant brothers come up with next.
The Shelter was sadly not as good a calibre as the other films of the day with the tale of a homeless man who finds a bed for the night at the cost of his life. This psychological horror from Arrow in The Head blogger, writer and director John Fallon, somewhat missed the mark and the entire audience seemed to agree.
A tense ghost story We Are Still Here sees a vengeful spirit haunting a grieving couple that resides in their converted funeral parlour home and if you ask me living there they are just looking for trouble from the spirit world. Bumps and jumps a plenty this is a fear filled ride and a great late night movie.
The final film of the very long day was the insanely titled Zombie Fight Club a Hong Kong horror sequel to the splatter fest that was Zombie 108. Pitched as The Raid meets Dawn of the dead it was a fun way to end what had been a brilliant day at FrightFest 2015.
The morning started early as I headed up to town to do three interviews back to back. First fittingly was coffee at The Cafe in the Crypt with Wind Walkers director Russell Friedenberg’s and his producer wife Heather Rae where we talked Native American mythology, apocalyptic scenarios and Stanley Kubrick.
Then it was a fast walk to Soho House to meet The Diabolical helmer Alistair Legrand for a great chat about making his movie, music videos, evil corporations and nature verses nurture. Then it was back across town to the extremely swanky St. Martins Hotel to meet JeruZalem’s directing duo Doron and Yoav Paz and a hilarious discussion on guerrilla film making on the streets of Jerusalem, inventing found footage and much, much more.
By the end of all that I was knackered and thankfully Zombie1 had watched the first film of the day Bernard Rose’s brilliant Frankenstein. You can read his full review HERE but safe to say he thought it was one of the best adaptations of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece ever made, high praise indeed.
Another amazing movie was my first film of Day 3 The Nightmare a documentary of sleep paralysis made by the hugely talented Rodney Ascher. who made the weird and wonderful analysis of the The Shinning Room 237. It was one of my favourite films of the festival and one of the most frightening movies I had seen in a long while and you can read my full review HERE.
With two such amazing films its a great way to end Part 1 of our FrightFest 2015 write up. Look out for full reviews of all the movies mentioned plus our interviews with Russell Friedenberg, Alistair Legrand and the Paz Brothers and our write up of the rest of the fest coming to Love Horror very soon.