Wednesday, 2 September 2009

FrightFest - Part One

This year is FrightFest's 10th anniversary and it is the 5th year that I have written about this premiere "horror" festival. For my previous entries see my August archives at The fest has grown beyond the organizers' wildest dreams and at its new home at the Empire, Leicester Square some 1300 friendly fans were expected on weekend passes, day passes, and individual tickets. Despite our good intentions as mentioned below, we decided upfront to skip the late night films for a combination of reasons (largely travel logistics and creaky bones). However we have always managed to catch up with the missing gems (sometimes) in due course and I'm sure this will continue to be the case.

Triangle (2009): The World Premiere of this UK/Australian flick from Christopher Smith, the director of "Creep" and "Severance", was a model of creepiness and featured a fine performance from Melissa George as the mother of an autistic child on a yachting outing with a group of friends. When their vessel overturns during a freaky storm, they are stranded until a deserted liner hoves into view. Once aboard she experiences a strange sense of deja vu and the friends find themselves in an alternate reality where events occur and recur; George even at one stage ends up killing another version of herself. While not a little unconfused in its exposition, the film is certainly imaginative and I particularly liked a scrap heap of dozens of dead bodies -- all versions of one of her friends who has 'just' been killed.

The Hills Run Red (2009): The second movie Thursday evening was the UK Premiere of this American slasher, yet another tale of a horror buff in pursuit of a copy of a cult movie known only by its internet trailer where no print is thought to exist. He traces the daughter of the fabled director, played in flashback by William Sandler (the only 'name' in the cast), a lap dancer whom he weans off drugs and whom he convinces to lead him and his two friends to her father's old home through the woods where Babyface -- the film's monster -- preyed on his victims. His intention is to shoot a documentary and to even possibly unearth a copy; however, too late he and his companions discover that the movie is still shooting and that they are a part of the continuing horror.

The Horseman (2008): Back bright and early Friday morning for another Australian entry, which was more in the nature of a straightforward revenge tale rather than a horror flick as such, unless of course extreme violence and a hefty dose of torture porn qualifies it as such. A father who discovers that his teenaged daughter has died of a drug overdose shortly after taking part in a seedy porn video sets out to discover the circumstances of her death and to punish all and sundry involved in the enterprise -- the director, the distributors, the other actors, the drug dealers -- you name it. Along the way he teams up with a heavily pregnant young gal and he finds himself having to protect her while still dispensing his own version of grisly justice. I assume the movie's title derives from the Four of the Apocalypse since he was also a fearsome avenger.

The next scheduled showing was for a documentary intended as a DVD extra for the new digital restoration of "An American Werewolf in London" (1981) -- see below. However since we didn't fancy sitting through 98 minutes of this we decided to sample the new sidebar, the Discovery Screen, showing in one of the cinema's smaller theatres. Our choice was a cheeky little 2008 flick from the States called "I Sell the Dead" in which that well-known Hobbit and "Lost" actor, Dominic Monaghan, is half of a 18th Century bodysnatching team. After his partner is sent to the guillotine and while he is awaiting his own fate, Monaghan spills his history to a supposed priest played by Ron Perlman. He recounts how they moved from providing bodies for medical research for a fiendish doctor, played by "Phantasm's" Angus Scrimm, through dealing in other oddities including vampires, zombies, and even an extraterrestrial, in competition with another ruthless band of graverobbers. All of this takes place in a never-never world with cod Irish accents (I doubt the guillotine ever reached those shores) and the movie is an affectionate throwback to minor Hammer films of old -- done with a healthy dose of humour.

We followed this with the showing of the restored "American Werewolf" introduced by an ebullient John Landis. The film holds up well and is still vastly entertaining and influential, However I must confess that I don't possess a fine enough eye to enthuse over the enhanced picture quality.

The Shadow (2009): Next up was the World Premiere of an Italian movie shot in English by first-time director Federico Zampaglione, who is apparently some sort of local pop idol. The movie had the flashy look of music videos and purportedly told the story of a soldier returning from Iraq who is seeking some therapeutic R & R by mountain-biking through European forests. He is little prepared for running into some nasty hunters nor a Nazi-obsessed local psychopath who enjoys a little torture activity of his own. It may be something of a spoiler to reveal that this is all part of a fever dream as the said soldier lies on a field operating table, but I will not make this worse by telling you about the final "kicker" to the tale.

The Horde (2009): This was a special sneak preview of a French film which has not yet been released and we were asked not to review it at this time. That's fine with me since the story of a group of cops who go to a deserted block to seek revenge on some mobsters that killed one of their own and then find that they must band together to face the Walking Dead who have gathered outside the building did not exactly grab me. This is not a review!

So that takes us through Friday. Saturday was a day of great expectations, not all of which materialized into something worthwhile, but that will be discussed in the next entry. Stay with me.. .
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