Monday, 9 March 2009

A one-day FrightFest

Apart from the annual four- or five-day gross-out every August Bank Holiday, the FrightFest mavens occasionally organise a one-day event (last year it was half a day!). So it was that we returned on Saturday to the Prince Charles Cinema, the festival's spiritual home, for an amusing twelve hours:

First up was "Embodiment of Evil" (2008), the third part of the Coffin Joe trilogy begun over 40 year's ago by the Brazilian eccentric Jose Mojica Marins. If you have never seen any of these black-and-white low budget atheistic atrocities, you haven't really missed much, although they form part of every horror aficionado's knowledge. This one boasted colour and far higher production values than his earliest outings and old footage was craftily included as the back-story of the black-caped sadist on his release from gaol and his need to father a child of his blood, This involved kidnapping and sadistically torturing a procession of nubile females with some of the grossest effects yet put on screen. What does it say about me if I call these "good fun"???

The second film was "Shuttle" (2009) which apparently opened in the States the day before. This low-budget rather cheapjack production told of five passengers kidnapped on an airport shuttle bus on a nightmare ride to somewhere -- the twist of the final destination was really the only mild shock in a badly filmed and barely watchable effort.

Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008): This rock opera developed from a 2006 promo by the director of "Saw" Two through Four and his two writing pals, was a very mixed bag, which while hardly to my taste did feature good production values and inventive staging. The story of spare body-parts mogul Paul Sorvino (who has an amazing singing voice) and his repo-man Anthony Head (who also made a good fist of the vocals) who rips out these parts when payments fall behind was an amusing concept. There was excellent use of graphics to flesh out the background stories of the main characters, but the film was a little let down by the variability of the vocal talent from the very adept Sarah Brightman through the screechy Alexa Vega as Head's daughter. As for Paris Hilton as one of Sorvino's greedy offspring, she has become a tolerable presence, who seems willing to send herself up, and this role certainly did not justify her appearance at the Razzies. Not my cup of tea, but I could see its attracting a cult following.

The "surprise film" was pretty well guessed at by all concerned and turned out to be the world premiere of "Lesbian Vampire Killers". This was not quite the trash that its title would suggest, but a tongue-in-cheek and generally amusing riff on the vampire genre, featuring James Corden and Mathew Horne,two popular TV comics (from series that I have never seen), fighting off the cursed village daughters -- all them become vampires when they turn 18 -- who follow the Vampire Queen Camilla (I shudder to think if this is a reference to Mrs. Charles). There was also a neat comic turn from Withnail favourite Paul McCann as the local vicar trying to save his daughter from the sexy tribe.

This was followed by "Not Quite Hollywood" (2008) a documentary about "Ozploitation". Apparently Australia progressed (if that is the right word) from having one of the most censored film communities to a cheery assortment of "Boobs, Pubes, and Tubes" in the 1970s, followed by a dandy assortment of minor horrors and action films spaced amongst the better-known art house output. Again, this was a humourous retrospective with a number of jokey talking heads -- Australian directors, producers, critics, and actresses who had removed their clothes -- although I personally could have done with rather less Quentin Tarantino, a self-confessed fan of these obscurities. Possibly a little too long with a trough of boredom in the middle, it was still entertaining to see so many of these long-forgotten clips.

Since it was now approaching midnight, we didn't bother to stay for the final film, "Turkey Shoot" from 1982, which I have on DVD anyhow and which couldn't really compete with the appeal of going home to bed after a long but generally entertaining day.
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