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Friday, 2 September 2016

FrightFest 2016

As I wrote last time, we finally decided to give up on the FrightFest marathon after all these years, but did book for a small selection of films -- to show willing. I guess we're not too good at making cold choices, since the three movies we watched last weekend ran the gamut from bloody brilliant to bloody awful. Our choices were based on a combination of the programme blurbs, the actors on offer, and IMDb ratings (where they existed). Being mainly very recent movies, the majority had not yet been rated, while a few seemed to attract ridiculously high scores -- based let it be said on quite low numbers. You can just about guarantee if a recently released film gets 8+ or 9+ rankings these were generated by the director's mother, aunties, and girlfriends.

Anyhow, let's start with the best first: "They Call me Jeeg Robot". This Italian flick from director Gabriele Mainetti is a low-budget labour of love and was a real winner at its native box office -- not really a horror movie at all, but a terrific fantasy piece. Two-bit crook Enzo hiding from his pursuers emerges from the contaminated waters of the Tiber with incredible super-strength -- a spaghetti toxic avenger. When a partner-in-crime is killed during a heist-gone-wrong, while he miraculously survives the fall from the high-rise building, he is so amazed at his escape that he rips a cash machine from its wall. The dead man's daughter Alessia soon latches on to him, convinced that he is the embodiment of her anime hero Jeeg Robot. She urges him to use his new-found powers for the greater good, which seems less attractive to him than petty crime, until local gangster Gypsy -- an egocentric nutter -- also falls into the life-changing river; the stage is set for the battle between potential good and real evil. It's a bittersweet love story, and Enzo reluctantly accepts that he is now a folk legend, destined to be the superhero of the mad, dead Alessia's fancies. It's a real charmer.

I wish I could say as much for "The Master Cleanse". We were attracted by its starry cast of Johnny Galecki (from 'The Big Bang Theory'), Anna Friel, Angelica Houston, and Oliver Platt. Galecki and Friel are among other life-losers who attend a seminar aimed at turning forlorn lives around and are chosen to attend a mountain retreat where their dark problems will be cleansed. By swilling some specially-prescribed vile concoctions, these 'problems' are soon excreted in the form of little hobgoblins, initially cute but potentially growing in size and ferocity, which the participants are then urged to kill (which they can't quite bring themselves to do). It all gets rather confusing and not just a little weird when Galecki and Friel escape with their sweet little goblins wrapped in a sack. And then it just gets stupid! Houston and Platt might as well have phoned in their pathetic performances and there is almost nothing to recommend this one to horror fans or any one else.

Before going to view our final choice "The Director's Cut", we said to ourselves that it couldn't be worse than the film above; boy were we wrong. Hyped in the programme as 'the cleverest, funniest, sharpest' treat for the genre movie buff from director Adam Rifkin, it was none of these. The wheeze is that a high-contributing crowd-funder (and from the never-ending end-credits I gather that the movie itself was so funded) gets his hands on the original movie "Knocked Off" (which we never actually see) and 'improves' it by his own re-editing and voice-over, focussing on its kidnapped star (Missi Pyle) whom he fetishes. Written and produced by Penn Jillette (who also stars), with a brief appearance from the normally silent Teller, this was little more than a complete embarrassment. Penn and Teller are well, well past their sell-by date and I was ashamed for Ms Missi for all the f...ing dialogue she is required to mouth. I promptly rated the movie a "1" on IMDb to counteract the mystifying "10s" and would urge you to do the same without actually having to sit through this shambles.   
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