Thursday, 2 September 2010

FrightFest Part Two

Now that I've lumbered myself with completing my FrightFest overview, I'd better get cracking:

Monsters (2010): The preview of this British movie was being hyped by Alan Jones as the best of the fest, as it were. Sorry, Alan, I don't agree. The scenario involves alien organisms evolving over a large area of Central America and Mexico after the crash of a NASA probe, resulting in huge quarantined tracts. In what is largely a two-hander, an ambitious journalist finds himself blackmailed into escorting his boss's spoiled and engaged daughter back to the U.S. Naturally nearly everything goes wrong for them on their journey and naturally they fall in love. The film was mainly a largely engaging love story with beautiful scenic tableaux and interesting special effects when the mutant aliens were seen. However, it was slow, slow, slow and I had trouble staying awake for the 97 minutes that felt so much longer.

The Pack (2010): I must confess I was quite taken with this French film, but that was more because of its casting than its OTT premise. It seems that the Belgian-born actress Yolande Moreau has become a fixture in so many films that I've seen recently -- most notably the delightful "Micmacs" -- that I find myself saying 'Oh, it's her again' whenever she appears. In this movie she is the tough and coarse proprietress of a run-down truckstop in rural France where our heroine has been lured by the handsome hitchhiker she picked up. Little does she realise that his Mummy Moreau requires a continuous supply of fresh blood to nourish her older dead zombie sons and their fellow miners who sleep under the black soil. Leads Emilie Dequenne and the dishy Benjamin Biolay are joined by French horror favourite Philippe Nahon to create an interesting flick.

Outcast (2010): This Anglo-Irish effort was meant to delve into Celtic legend, but was too firmly rooted in the seedy realities of dingy government housing, as warring brothers seek to find the magical secrets of their tribe. Or something like that... I lost the plot early on and never managed to get back into the swing.

We Are What We Are (2010): This Mexican film was undoubtedly the worst of the main screen's offerings (and there were some pretty feeble inclusions this year). A family of modern-day cannibals find themselves adrift when the father dies and the mother and three grown children are left to fend for themselves. The eldest is technically in charge of finding food, but when he brings back someone he has picked up in a gay club, his brother says that he is not going to eat a faggot! Meanwhile a not very hot-shot cop is on their trail after a nail-polished and beringed whole finger is found during their dead dad's autopsy. Absolutely nothing happens and by the end only the teenaged sister is left to carry on the family's traditions.

Amer (2009): Like "Monsters" above, this Belgian film came with a lot of baggage with claims of its brilliance and throwback style to the classic Italian giallos. All I can tell you is that it was all style, absolutely no substance, and altogether about an hour too long -- which is saying something for a 90 minute film. It followed the same character as a girl, a teenager, and a grown woman, but only the first section had any sense of foreboding and intrigue. Just when it started to be interesting, it cut to our heroine's teenaged years and went straight to nowhere. Even the black-gloved hand and slashing knives of the last section were cruelly empty.

Buried (2010): This slot was intended for "A Serbian Film" which is apparently a stomach-churner in spades. At the last moment the local powers-that-be refused to certificate its showing without massive cuts, and this Hollywood flick starring Ryan Reynolds was the 'surprise film' alternative. Now if you think that any movie, even one starring the likeable Reynolds, can get away with having only a single character buried alive under the Iraqi desert for ninety-odd minutes, think again. I suppose it was meant to be an acting tour-de-force, but I can't think of any modern actor who can hold the screen alone for this length of time. Yet had the movie 'opened-out' it probably would have been no more suspenseful. The whole issue was does he or doesn't he escape. Maybe he should have taken his cue from Uma Thurman's "Kill Bill". Incidentally another film pulled from the original programme, Gregg Araki's "Kaboom", was another one that I would have liked to have seen. He apparently shuddered at the thought of his movie premiering to a 'bunch of geeks'. That's us apparently!

Video Nasties - Moral Panic, Censorship, and Video Tape: This new documentary on Britain's shameful history of film censorship did not really cover much ground not documented previously, with many of the usual talking heads, but it was still interesting to view the history of those films which sparked that early 1980s outrage. I doubt that there were many people in the audience who had not actually seen most of the culprits in their uncut glory; of course a number of the titles only deserved to be banned because they were in fact very bad movies. If the truth be told, much more controversial films are readily available today with our many media sources. We didn't stay for the following Q and A since little remains to be said on this subject.

After Life (2009): This American flick was probably the most mainstream movie of the festival, so it was something of a surprise to find it wedged into the small 'Discovery' cinema. With the main cast consisting of Liam Neeson, Christina Ricci, and Justin Long, a main cinema showing would have been suitable, but far be it from me to understand the politics of film distribution. Neeson is an undertaker who can converse with the newly departed until they are buried and Ricci is the fresh corpse in his mortuary, fighting against the truth of her demise. Long is her would-be fiancee (he doesn't seem to have much luck in this area after "Drag Me to Hell"). Neeson seemed to be trying just a wee bit too hard to be creepy and Long was just a little frenetic, but Ricci, who spent most of the film semi-clothed or less, was the main attraction.

Bedevilled (2010): South Korean film-makers have been responsible for some of the most stunning genre movies of recent years and this is another worthy effort. A slow-burner, we find our worldly heroine leaving Seoul for a visit to the backward island where her grandfather had a home and where she deserted her best friend from childhood. The latter is in an abusive marriage and hard-done-by by all of her husbabd's family where she is treated as a workhorse and sexual object, After the death of her child something snaps and this is where this film becomes interesting as she seeks her bloody revenge. Perhaps there were one too many false endings where the film could have safely finished, but it was still nearly worth its full 115 minutes.

Red White & Blue (2010): This American movie wasn't of tremendous interest nor particularly well-made and was very reminiscent of the small town Texas milieu of Hooper's parochial "Eggshells". We're introduced to a lot of characters, most of them pretty unsavoury, and are meant to care about the fate of the local good-girl-gone-wrong town bicycle. A nearly unrecognizable Noah Taylor befriends her and takes it upon himself to dispatch all those who treated her badly. I for one just didn't care.

The Last Exorcism (2010): This brings us to FrightFest's closing film produced by the big-headed Eli Roth and again a movie that we were told upfront was something spectacular. Sorry again, folks. The evening was over half an hour late starting and was then prefaced by the usual self-promotion from Roth and the film's director. Shot in documentary style, it was meant to be the story of an evangelical minister who has now lost his faith and who wants to expose the fakery of most exorcisms. He visits a family besieged by the evil supposedly being unleashed by the 'possessed' daughter, but finds himself actually having to confront real demons. To be honest, after the first half of this farrago, we were so bored that we walked out, missing what may or may not have been the (I gather) rather unenlightening denouement.

So that's that for another year. Every year I think that this might be my last go at surviving the full programme and that I should just get individual tickets for the more promising films, but who can guess how I'll feel about this horror marathon in a year's time.
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