Monday, 7 September 2009

FrightFest Part Three

A further thought on the Argento fiasco: I have seen the suggestion that the director intended "Giallo" as a comedy, a parody of his own movies, and certainly the sprinkling of laughter in the audience might bear this out. However, while Argento may possess a black sense of humour, there have never been any comic sensibilities in any of his films, and if this latest one was deliberately meant to be amusing, it is an experiment that failed.

The only way now that I will have the stamina to cover the last two FrightFest days is to minimise the amount that I write about the remaining films -- not quite by a limited number of characters per Twitter (which is not my bag), but just a few tasters rather than any full-blown exposition and evaluation:

Dead Snow (2009): Norway is not exactly known for its zombie heritage, so this is a welcome addition to the dead Nazi genre from earlier European flicks like "Shock Waves" and "Zombie Lake". Like last year's "Cold Prey" we have a group of students on their spring break at a snowbound cabin in the beautiful Norwegian mountains. Their holiday is ruined by never-ending troops of rotting Nazis rising from the snow to exact some very gruesome deaths. Quite good fun actually.

The Human Centipede (first sequence) (2009): I only saw the first half of this Dutch peculiarity as we wanted to see the overlapping Discovery Screen movie (below). Inspired by a trio of dogs nose-to-bum, our mad scientist wants to recreate this with the human grafting of two female American tourists and a Japanese businessman. I didn't see the results, but since this was intended as the first of two movies, no doubt I can view the gruesome end-product in due course. I just hope that it is an improvement on the rather pixillated images on display here.

Pontypool (2008): This Canadian entry definitely proved the better film, although a very low budget one with a limited cast and setting (a local radio studio in small-town Ontario), but a fascinating premise. A rather terrific Stephen McHattie plays a down-at-the-heels shock jock who has to cover some weird happenings making news outside the studio. Only gradually do he and his station manager realise that the virus is spreading through the spoken word and he must evaluate whether he can continue to present the story without further threatening civilization. Intriguing.

Night of the Demons (2009): This was a totally unnecessary remake of the 1988 classic by Fest fave Adam Gierasch. It brought absolutely nothing new to the table and was a complete waste of the acting talents, such as they may be, of Monica Keena, Shannon Elizabeth, and the hasn't-he-fallen Edward Furlong. The only bit of interest was a brief cameo from the now nearly unrecognizable star of the original movie, Linnea Quigley.

Dread (2009): This British effort is based on a Clive Barker short story, but was actually pretty dreary. A college student wishes to research fear for his thesis and is assisted by an ever-so-willing "friend". Too late he discovers that the friend has his own agenda and he and a few of his colleagues become part of some infernal experiments. It all became rather nasty, without being particularly good. Interesting to note here that one of the characters is heavily disfigured by a strawberry birthmark, which is also a theme of the final movie below.

Colin (2008): It was no contest to decide to skip the main auditorium's World Premiere of something called "Zombie Women of Satan" to take in this British Discovery flick purportedly made for £45.00! We're in zombie-virus-spreading territory again, but the peg here (and I'm surprised that this has not been done before) is that the story is told from one of the walking dead's own point of view. We follow our friendly zombie hero Colin as he succumbs to the virus, fights its worst ravages, wards off the zombie hunters, and introduces us to other personal dramas as they occur. The lack of funding just about shows, but this could easily be developed into an even better release.

House of the Devil (2009): We're back to devil-worshipping in the suburbs and babysitter-in-peril movies with this American entry from director Ti West, but a pretty well-done one. Jocelin Donahue does a good job as the college student fated to become the host of the devil's spawn, but it is the other casting that makes this film of interest. The couple that employ her for the evening out in the sticks admit that they do not actually have any kids, but need her to "sit" their Alzheimer-stricken mother. He is Tom Noonan, the original Red Dragon from "Manhunter" and she is genre favourite Mary Woronov, who has actually retired from films but who was lured back to do this one. There is also a very small and totally unnecessary part for another horror icon, Dee Wallace.

Case 39 (2009): This is the first U.S. outing for German director Christian Alvart, who gave us the rather masterly "Antibodies" and he has been given an A-list lead with Renee Zellweger. Despite her Oscar, I normally find her a little difficult to take with her squeaky voice and chirpy chipmunk expression, but the cleverness of the script mitigated these drawbacks. She is a social worker given the case of an "abused" child whose parents have bolts on their bedroom door and who try to cook the kid alive in their kitchen oven. Until a suitable foster home can be found, Zellweger is cajoled into accepting temporary custody and only then does it become apparent that we are in fiendish-kid-from-Hell territory. Far better than expected with some grisly psychic-induced deaths, but without the ending that I would have foreseen.

Heartless (2009): The World premiere of this British film was the most hyped of the Fest, with good reason since it was the first feature outing since 1995 for Philip Ridley who gave us both "The Reflecting Skin" and "The Passion of Darkly Noon". This was apparently intended as a somewhat more mainstream offering with supernatural sensibilities, but was I thought a little muddled in the making. Perhaps a second viewing in due course will sort that out. The film is set in the urban wastelands of East London where fierce creatures roam at night and where violence is king. Jim Sturgess does a fine job as the photographer with the offputting strawberry birthmark (again), who makes a pact with a devil figure to become unblemished and to find love, but who finds that he must lose control of his soul in the bargain.

By this stage we were pretty much fested-out and decided to skip the final film, the premiere of "The Descent: Part 2" on the grounds that as a relatively mainstream movie, it would come our way soonish. Who knows, perhaps it will form my final entry before next year's llth frightful weekend.
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