As it was my first time attending Frightfest I thought it was best to only attend for two days rather than go the full hog and do the whole four day festival. I chose not to bring my laptop simply because I knew that by 1.30am (the time I got home both nights) the last thing I would want to do is type out half a dozen reviews so this is all done by memory.
Anyway, here are brief reviews of the films I saw (in the order I saw them).
Landmine Goes Click
The first film I saw was Landmine Goes Click, set in the Georgian mountains the film follows a trio of backpackers, however things go terribly wrong when one of the trio steps on a landmine. Landmine Goes Click did get my Frightfest off a good and quite frankly intense start. It's a unrelenting film that makes for deeply uncomfortable viewing with the rape scene in particular making for disturbing viewing. Arguably the rape sequence was too long, but it was never gratuitous. Some choppy editing aside, Landmine Goes Click is a thrilling film as the film wastes no time getting stuck into the action.
The Diabolical also gets stuck in pretty damn quickly as the film wastes no time building a set up that would lead to a confrontational finale. The Diabolical is about a single mother and her two children who are being tormented by a spirit that is so evil even the ghost hunters and paranormal experts are too scared to fight it. Director Alistair Legrand was inspired by the foreign horror films of France, Korea and Japan, and how beautifully they were made. It's quite clear that this is the case as The Diabolical is a brilliantly made film, the cinematography and visuals are excellent and the production design is also superb. However, what is lacking is genuine scares and spine tingling tension and whilst the overall genre blending story is very interesting there are plenty of narrative holes in the story that do require some explanation. However, the terrific performances and film's stunning aesthetics elevate proceedings considerably.
Director Bruce McDonald put himself on the horror genre map with Pontypool, his latest effort, Hellions, has been touted a film destined to become a future Halloween classic. It's about a young, pregnant seventeen year old who falls under attack from some menacing looking children. The most interesting thing about Hellions is the visuals, the use of greyish, black tinge to the background very much induces a hypnotic, dream like feeling. The soundtrack is very creepy and whilst the film is a complete mess it's a highly entertaining one but it's never going to become a Halloween classic.
We Are Still Here
The best film of the day, and of my festival, was Ted Geoghegan's We Are Still Here. Very much a passion project and love letter to the Italian horror films of Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento and Mario Bava. It's about a couple, played by Barbara Crampton (the guest of honour) and Andrew Sensenig, who relocate to an isolated New England town following the death of their son only to find out that their house is home to several vengeful spirits. We Are Still Here is a wonderful homage to the golden era of Italian cinema with The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery and even The Changeling being a major referencing points. The film is deliberately slow paced before the explosion of gore in the film's violent and exciting conclusion. Brilliantly balancing horror and comedy, the film is a times generally nerve racking and perfect for anyone in love with the genre.
Out of all the films screened at Frightfest James Wan's Demonic is perhaps the film that will best serve a mainstream audience (not that that's a negative). It's about a group of 30 year olds acting as teenagers who enter a house to try to summon the ghosts of the house's grisly past. Unsurprisingly, history repeats itself and the young teens are brutally slaughtered. Don't be fooled by the film's title, James Wan has had no directorial influence over the film and as I said it's very much a film that will be best suited to a mainstream audience. Whilst the film doesn't do anything greatly new, notable or interesting (the heartbeat scene was pretty cool) it's fun enough for the 85 minutes or so it's on.
The final film of Friday was Jerluzalem, a found footage film (privacy invading glasses act as the camera) that combines modern day terrorism with ancient biblical plagues and stories. Perhaps, it was because it was the last film of night or simply because it just wasn't quite up to par with the previous five films but I was looking forward to a nice comfy bed throughout the majority of film. The film isn't terrible by any stretch of the imagination but if you've seen more than two found footage films you probably have a good idea what to expect i.e. shaky, incomprehensible camera work and lots and lots of shouting which got greatly annoying in the film's second act.
Saturday saw Bait open up proceedings, directed by former Emmerdale actor Dominic Brunt (directing his second feature film) Bait sees two women, trying to set up a bakery, fall to the mercy of a vicious yet charming debt collector. It's a film where the horror comes from man, rather than the supernatural, and the depiction of male violence in a misogynistic society in a brutally unflinching one. The performances from the leading ladies (Joanne Mitchell and Victoria Smurfit) are terrific but Jonathan Slinger gives a performance of such vileness you can't wait until his character gets exactly what he deserves.
The next film was a modernised version of the film Frankenstein from Candyman director Bernard Rose (his Candyman star Tony Todd joined him). Instead of stitching the Monster together with various limbs, the Monster is created in a revolutionary 3D printer by two doctors (played by Danny Huston and Carrie-Anne Moss). Anchoring the film is a superb performance from Xavier Samuel who terrific physical performance elicits a strong level of sympathy for the Creature despite the crimes he commits. Plenty of homages are made to the James Whale's version 1931 of Mary Shelley's novel, but the fact the story is so well known the film's modernised setting is the most notable thing about it.
Shut In is a film that slightly reminded me of the Audrey Hepburn horror-thriller Wait Until Dark where a blind Audrey Hepburn is terrorised by a trio of thugs looking for a doll full of heroin. In Shut In, agoraphobic Anna (Beth Riesgraf) is terrorised by a trio of thugs looking for a large fistful of money. The agoraphobia is a clever way to keep Anna in the house and unable to escape, but the best thing about the film is clever and inventive twist where the victims switch position. Beth Riesgraf's performance is also worthy of praise.
If you love the early films of Peter Jackson (such as Braindead) and the recent film Housebound then Deathgasm is the perfect film for you. Deathgasm is about a band who turn the residents of a small town in the arse end of nowhere into demons. Deathgasm is a hilarious, exciting and hugely enjoyable comedy-horror (it does forget about the horror a little) that pelts along at breakneck speed. Highly witty and delightfully gory and featuring a pulsating heavy metal soundtrack (seriously doesn't matter whether you like heavy metal or not) Deathgasm is probably the only film where you see a demon gets its jaw torn off by dildo. That's worth the price of admission alone.
Some Kind of Hate
The director's facetiousness in the brief introduction of the film concerning the film's themes was pretty cringey, he said that it's a film about bullying and the pain this causes when the victim commits suicide when they're called a fag (his words). A pretty cringey and awkward start to what was quite an interesting film that's greatly similar to the likes of Carrie and Evilspeak. Some Kind of Hate is a thrilling, yet quite touching film that analyses self harm, bullying and suicide among teenagers.
There was also a World Premiere of Rapid Dogs, a remake of a film that was never completed. It's a sleek, efficient, slow moving but exciting kidnap/bank robbery thriller with a devilishly delightful payoff.