Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Frightfest 2016 - Day One

This year I decided to attend the annual Frightfest for the whole five days (instead of the two days I did last last year). This meant I saw 25 films (out of 70 odd) over the course of five days. It's not easy reviewing 25 films in the space of five days, and it's even more difficult trying to remember them. Anyway, here are the reviews for the film shown on the first day of the festival.

My Father Die

Directed by first time director Sean Brosman My Father Die is a powerful and brutal revenge thriller in the mould of Cape Fear and Night of the Hunter. When Asher (Joe Anderson and Gabe White as the younger Asher) hears his father (ex boxer Gary Stretch) has been released from prison, Asher swears to get revenge, why? Two decades ago, a drunken assault by his father left Asher deaf and unable to speak and his brother dead.

My Father Die is a stunningly beautiful looking film, particularly the crisp black and white cinematography in the film's open act where Ivan brutally assaults his two sons. From there the film never really lets up with its merciless depiction of violence and revenge, which is seen as a very human sentiment. There's some well drawn relationships, the relationship between Asher and his brother, Chester, in generally quite moving as well is Asher's engaging relationships with Candace Smith's Cam girl, Nana and her son.

Where the film fails somewhat is the fact it can't fully decide whether it wants to be an ultra realistic revenge thriller of some sort of David Lynch surrealist trip into the unknown. This jarring tonal shifts don't fully work either as it distracts from violence and brutality of the central story. Also jarring is the film's final act where both father and son seem withstand a lot of punishment, it's a different direction to more realistic violence before it.



Cell is one of the very few films that arrived at Frightfest with a pretty negative reception, that coupled with the fact that the film is being released on demand the following day the film got its UK première at Frightfest means hopes were not high.

Anyway, Cell, influenced highly by the 70s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, is based on the Stephen King novel written a decade ago and tells the story of a zombie apocalypse caused by mobiles phones, Clay (John Cusack) and a group of survivors must navigate the dangerous world, avoiding the ever evolving zombies, in a bid to find Clay's son.

To be honest, I can fully see why the film was panned by critics, narratively the film is a totally mess with gaping plot holes and unexplained questions (why did everyone dream about the guy in the red hoody, in fact, who is the guy in the red hoody? Is he the main signal? Why is he the main signal?). Messy narrative aside there are other issues the compound the film to be a failure, the GCI is unacceptably bad for a mainstream feature and the shoddy camerawork during the film's more intense sequences makes these sequences utterly incomprehensible.

The performances are generally ok (Samuel L Jackson plays another caricature of himself) and there's some decent ideas but the film fails to build upon these ideas making it a film full of ideas that all seems to trail off into nothingness. It's a confusing film that feels like there might be another cut somewhere that explains more of what actually going on. Whilst it's often a badly made film, there parts of it that are enjoyable but as a Stephen King adaptation this will quickly be forgotten and if it is ever remembered it'll probably remembered as one of the worst.

Let Her Out

Twenty years ago, Helen's hooker mother is raped and resulting this attack she becomes pregnant. She tries to get rid of the baby, but dies in the process whilst the baby survived. Fast-forward 23 years bike courier Helen (Alanna LeVierge) is involved in a nasty accident. This seems to awaken something inside her that desperately wants to get out.

The best film of the night, Let Her Out, was saved for last. This Canadian psychological, supernatural, body horror film takes inspiration from one Canada's greatest horror cinema icons David Cronenberg, especially in the scenes where Helen cuts or chokes out all sorts of strange foreign objects. Director Cody Calahan does an excellent job at heightening the tension surrounding Helen's deteriorating mental state, he does such a good job of it that sometimes even the audience can be left disorientated almost as much as they were in films like Starry Eyes, another film highly influenced by Cronenberg

The film's opening two acts makes a good attempt to stray away from the mainstream (there's a crappy horror film called The Unborn that has some similarities to Let Her Out) but there there are moments where the film does fall more in the mainstream category, especially in the film's final act. Alanna LeVierge's performance in the lead role is superb as she captures Helen's two different personalties brilliantly. 


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