Friday, 12 September 2014

The Rest of the Fest

As promised, the remaining six movies we saw at FrightFest last month: However, as time passes, my powers of recollection fatally diminish. Maybe that really is the best way to review movies -- if a film doesn't stick in ones memory, perhaps it was little more than a time-filler (it would have to have been pretty bad to qualify as a time-waster). Here's the verdict:

Open Windows: I was keen to see the latest from Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo, whose intriguing "Timecrimes" (2007) was one of the more challenging flicks at FrightFest a few years back. This time he was directing in English with a nearly A-list lead in the shape of Elijah Wood; however the tale of enticing Wood's fan-site webmaster to act as a pawn in the proposed kidnap of 'movie star' (erstwhile porn actress) Sasha Grey left me completely cold. I've never been much of a fan of split screens, and the combination of computer images, tablets, and smartphones fighting to open windows on the screen became a new form of 'found footage' torture to me. As Wood becomes unwillingly more and more involved in the plot, the whole sorry business began to make less and less sense. Sorry, folks.

Faults: This was the European premiere for what was described as a disturbing black comedy, starring genre fave Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Well it was hardly comic, but yes, it was quite disturbing in its way. Leland Orser, a familiar-looking actor better known for his TV appearances,  very effectively plays a slightly slimy cult de-programmer who is in serious financial shtuck; he convinces Winstead's parents that he is the very man to return their daughter from the tentacles of the mysterious cult called Faults which appears to have brainwashed her. However, once she is kidnapped and taken to a remote motel, with her parents in the adjoining room, things do not quite go to plan. In the game of cat and mouse that follows, one begins to question who is winning the battle of wills. Hardly a horror film, but still a tense and intriguing movie.

The Samurai: This German concoction did not make a great deal of  sense and I would be hard-pressed to tell you what it was actually about, but it was good gory fun and more typically the type of fare I would expect FrightFest to showcase. Set in a provincial town beset by a wolf's rampages, young cop Jakob (who has been leaving food in the woods for the predator) receives in the post a strange-shaped parcel addressed to 'Lone Wolf'. After a mysterious phone call asking if 'his' package has been received, Jakob goes to a cottage in the forest; here an ancient samurai sword is unwrapped and its possession taken by to a peculiar and fierce man dressed as an extremely unfeminine woman. This almost-human embodiment of the wolf goes on a bloody rampage in the village, decimating all who have made fun of Jakob and a bunch of innocents as well. The question is can Jakob stop the massacre and more importantly does he want to.

Alleluia: Again, I was eager to get tickets for this Belgian movie, since its director Fabrice du Welz helmed the very memorable "Calvaire" (2004). Here he retells the true story of serial killers Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez which first hit the screen in the cult flick "The Honeymoon Killers"(1969). The story is relocated to the Belgian countryside as gigolo Michel becomes enticed by overweight, needy, and drab single mother Gloria (a smashing turn from Spanish actress Lola Duenas). They pose as brother and sister to entice rich widows into his dubious arms before killing them for profit. However as Gloria becomes more and more jealous and demanding, especially as his latest conquest is a wealthy stunner, their fragile deceptions are threatened by her sexual insatiability. A pretty fair 're-imagining' as they say nowadays.

Nymph: This Serbian movie (not "A Serbian Movie") was probably the worst of the eleven films we chose, and unfortunately it wasn't even a 'foreign' film since it was made in English -- probably to increase its commercial prospects which are frankly pretty slim. Two American gals visit Montenegro to see an old college chum; together with his fiancée and one of his pals, they take an ill-advised excursion to an abandoned island fortress. That will teach them to avoid the warning words of the local nutter fisherman, played (one wonders why) by Franco Nero. Once ashore they encounter the bloodthirsty resident siren/mermaid who has been lovingly cared for by one of Nero's old crew these many years, and they seem to be trapped when they find that their boat has been destroyed. It was all a bit of a yawn, although the scenery was nice and there were lots of glamour shots of gals in skimpy bathing costumes to keep some people happy.

Extraterrestrial: This is actually a three-year old movie from the above-mentioned Spanish director Vigalondo, but at least it was in Spanish. With a very small cast (since most of the local humanity have been abducted by aliens in the spaceship hovering above the city), a couple wake after a one-night stand, much to the gal's embarrassment since her live-in lover is about to return. They must also deal with her creepy next-door neighbour who is determined to expose sexual shenanigans in which he is offered no part. This was a low-budget yet mildly entertaining mash-up of sci-fi and rom-com, a harmless but not overly memorable movie.

And there you have it. Will we return for more FrightFest next August? Like Sean Connery I have now learned never to say 'never' again. The move to a new cinema and having to split the audience into three parts with a rotating rota of movies seems to have worked quite well, and if anything the time-keeping was better (thank you gods) than it has been previously. Time will tell...
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