Thursday, 31 August 2017

Frightfest: Day Two

Day 2 of Frightfest featured a creepy film about a unknown lodger, an evil video game, and two dysfunctional but highly loving families. Reviews of Frightfest's films of day 2 are here:

The housing crisis is one of the biggest problems facing Londoners today. Property prices are so high only 20% of 20-25 year-olds own a property and the price of the rent is a massive chunk of the person’s salary, and generally the property isn’t worth the extortionate prices you are forced to pay. All this makes a film like Freehold a very timely picture for such times. Mim Shaikh stars as Hussein who lives in this perfectly nice London flat, however unbeknownst to him he has a secret lodger who likes to speak to pigeons and do a manner of other disturbing stuff.

Think the Spanish Horror film Sleep Tight and you’ll get a good idea about Freehold and what type of the film it is even though they're not entirely the same. There’s very little more creepy and disturbing that in all your most interment and private moments than the feeling you are never, ever alone. This is one of the levels in which the film works wonders, the chilling sight of the secret lodger moving about the house using Hussein’s mouthwash, toothbrush and cutlery is enough to make one shudder. Mim Shaikh is also charismatic enough to carry the film by himself as he often has to act alone on screen. A tremendous first feature from director Dominic Bridges.


Sequence Break
Graham Skipper played the main role in Beyond the Gates, one of my favourite films from last year’s Frightfest, and this year he plays a major role behind the camera. His directional debut, about an evil, demonic arcade game, is inspired by the likes of Beyond the Gates as well as the works of Stuart Gordon and David Cronenberg

However, Sequence Break doesn’t have any of the fun or gore of Beyond the Gates and when the film slides into Cronenberg territory (particularly Videodrome) it’s easy to sit there and think that this has already been done by Cronenberg and better. Another problem is the female character, Tess, whose main purpose is to be the writer’s ideal women and serve as inspiration to the main male character. She is given no agency of her own and her flawless personality doesn’t make her feel like a real character at all. It’s interesting in places and there is some decent directional flair on show, but narratively the film is lacking.


This Memento inspired slice of Canadian Sc-fi sees Brett Donahue star as a Liam who wakes up from an accident with a mysterious infection that kills anyone who comes within a certain radius of him. On his travels, he meets Jane (Charlotte Sullivan) who appears to be immune to his infection. Together they must find out what links them to his bizarre infection. 

There are moments in this Canadian science-fiction thriller that are hard to take seriously (take for example the chase the elevator sequences) and the film is also let down by its screenplay which is hindered by silly plot points that feel like a clumsy and clunky way to get the action moving. However, the film is an interesting piece of work, tension surrounds the mystery of peculiar aliment and Brett Donahue and Charlotte Sullivan make for likeable leads. You are left wanting to know more, which can only mean the story was interesting enough for the audience to be thirsty to find out why, what and who is responsible for the mysterious disease.


68 Kill
Chip (Matthew Gray Gubler) is a bit of wimp, often pushed around by his dominating girlfriend, Liza (AnnaLynne McCord) who wants to escape the lows of living in a trailer by stealing $68,000 from her sugar daddy. 

This gleefully excessively violent and sexual thriller is an ideal grindhouse genre picture for those braying for extreme gore and a lot of blood and guts. In the center is an effectively wimpy performance from Matthew Gray Gubler but the real star of the show is AnnaLynne McCord who shows terrific comic timing as the totally insane, nail your balls to the wall type, Liza. The film perhaps doesn’t give the world the strong female characters that the directors and producers seemed to think they did but at least it gives the female characters the most to do, in a genre typically dominated by men, and made the man the weakest of them all.


I don’t know if anyone actually asked for a Letherface origins story, but whether they did or not that’s exactly what we got. Directed by French directors Julien Maury and Alexadre Bustillo, Letherface is about how the titular classic horror villain came to be.

Directors Julien Maury and Alexadre Bustillo use their experience with graphic gore from directing extreme French horror fans to be well placed to satisfy the fans of the Texas Chainsaw franchise with their contribution to the series of films. With the conclusion set in stone the writers and directors had their hands tied behind their back to what they can do, but surprisingly they manage to do enough to make the film not seem pointless and perfunctory. It delivers exactly what you want from a Texas Chainsaw flick and is superior effort over the rather poor Texas Chainsaw 3D.


Dead Shack
This 1980s inspired comedy-horror from first time director Peter Ricq is a final film treat. Three teens and their parents (and guardian) take a small trip to the woods only to find out that their closest neighbor has a deadly secret that once out in the open puts all life in jeopardy. 

What makes Dead Shack so much fun is the naturalistic dialogue and performances of the leading stars. This is so much the case that it feels as though director Peter Ricq allowed the actors to improvise many of their lines to allow for this believable and engaging relationship to grow between the characters. This is so effective because we end up caring about the loving yet dysfunctional characters and this helps to perfectly balance out the horror and the comedy. The film is tense when it needs to be as it spends time building a spooky atmosphere, funny when it needs to be (every cast member has their moments) and it is a fantastically fun and exciting ride from start to finish.


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