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Wednesday, 1 September 2010

FrightFest 2010 - Part One

It must be an indication of the years taking their toll, but not that long ago I had the mad desire to discuss in greater or lesser detail the many wonders of the FrightFest programme. This year after a marathon of viewing, I find the films forming an amorphous mass in my memory with none of them really vying for pride of place. I therefore think it best to make only the briefest comments on most of them, if only to get some sort of closure on the weekend. As usual, transport considerations stopped our seeing any of the late-night offerings (most of which we shall catch up on through their DVD releases -- the only one I really regret missing was "Dream Home", a Hong Kong gorer in the tradition of "Rikki O"), but we still managed to take in over twenty flicks, which frankly is exhausting. This year we chose a much higher proportion of films from the small 'Discovery' strand, an excellent innovation from last year's Fest, since these on average seemed rather more potentially interesting than yet another low-budget British effort. Yes, I know that the festival organisers believe it is their duty to support the local scene, but one can get rather sated by Danny Dyer gangster flicks or zombie movies made for twenty-nine cents (or the sterling equivalent). Anyhow, here's the summary of your favourite film fanatic:

Hatchet II (2010): As a supposed 'fest-fave', director Adam Green blessed us with the world premiere of his follow-up to his 2006 slasher. Definitely a bright red gorefest with horror icons Tony Todd and Kane Hodder amongst the leads, but not sufficiently different from so many other slasher movies. My feeling: please axe any further sequels.

Primal (2010): Another world premiere for this Australian film which at least had an unusual slant as some of six friends on a field trip find themselves infected by the site's waterhole and undergo some savage Neanderthal regression. The first to mutate was the best-looker of the gals with a horribly strident Aussie voice, so it was actually something of an auditory relief for her to morph into an grunting feral. Like many of these films, we were left with only one survivor, who capped the brutal proceedings with a memorable final one-word ending. See it yourself to find out.

Eggshells (1969): As a tribute to the festival's special guest Tobe Hooper (whose showing of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and Q and A we skipped), the organisers unearthed his little-seen feature debut. Although I was fascinated by this rare opportunity, I'm sorry to report that it was a pretentious and precious student folly, very typical of its era, with little indication of the auteur's potential horror leanings to come.

The Clinic (2009): More Australian visceral horror with pregnant ladies being abducted and having their unborns cut out as part of a profitable babies-for-sale racket, apparently of long standing, since each victim's uniform bore a roman numeral and we were now apparently at over 600 mutilated females. Yeah, yeah!

Finale (2009): This is an overly convoluted American shocker tracing a family at the receiving end of a dark cult's secrecy -- stylish and creepy without being particularly involving.

Wound (2010): A return to genre film-making for New Zealand director David Blyth, whose horror credentials go back to 1984's "Death Warmed Up", not that he has done much of note in the meantime. This one is about a woman abused as a child by her father and the more-than-willing submissive partner of a dominant male, taking the ultimate physical revenge on Daddy and finding herself being haunted by the now grown-up supposedly stillborn daughter that he fathered. None of it made much sense -- so what else is new?

F (2010): F for 'failure' on a school paper evolves into an F for 'F-ing awesome' Brit thriller, finding the staff and pupils of a high-tech school at the after-hours mercy of a group of invading faceless hoodies. The hoodies from hell you may conclude as they reap mindless gory mutilation on those they confront. It just goes to prove that horror can be alive and well, even in the British low-budget sector.

Christopher Roth (2010): Set in Italy but mainly English-speaking, this debut film from cinematographer Maxime Alexandre (here billed as Max Sender) has a world-famous crime writer and his wife having their Umbrian holiday ruined by the local serial killer who mutilates his victims with wild boar horns. Roth wants to broaden his literary output but finds himself immersed once more in the reality of horror amongst the supposedly friendly natives. Interestingly done as his new friends deal with the 'beast in the basement' as it were.

Fanboys (2008): I have absolutely no idea what this jolly confection was doing masquerading itself at FrightFest; still it was something of a welcome break from blood and guts. Four "Star Wars" fanatics, one of whom is terminally ill, can't wait for the new movie to open back in 1998 and decide to travel from Iowa, or wherever, to the Skywalker Ranch to steal a preview copy. Of course they cross a tasty selection of weirdos and trekkies en route in pursuit of their dream.

13 Hours (2010): Yet another UK world premiere, as our heroine returns to the run-down family estate from her high-powered life in L.A. to find her friends and family under attack from a bloodthirsty creature. As most fall prey to this unseen nightmare, dark family secrets are finally revealed to bring the action to its foregone conclusion. This was a reasonably well-done effort with a more than capable cast, but I suspect it will end up like so many films in a horror limbo of limited distribution.

I Spit on Your Grave (2010): It is fashionable nowadays to remake all of the old horror classics, but as one of the original video nasties, the 1979 exploitation shocker on which this film is based is probably amongst the least well-known, even if its title has become engraved in horror history. The hard-to-find uncut original is indeed a shocker, but frankly its retributive violence is not as strong overall as this remake's. If anything the start of this remake is a little too leisurely as our feisty heroine finds herself at the mercy of a bunch of local redneck rapists. She eventually re-emerges from the forest where she was left for dead to take her revenge on the frankly despicable group of chauvinist pigs. The whoops from the audience (most of whom let it be said were male) as she dispatches each of her assailants were encouraging for any potentially militant feminists in the crowd. For once perhaps a remake actually worked, although I still wonder whether it was really necessary.

Good gracious, I'm just over half way through my supposedly brief reactions. So it's time for a break back into the real world with the promise to continue tomorrow, all things being equal.
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