Over 26-27th February the UK’s biggest horror film festival Film4 Frightfest celebrated its tenth year as part of the Glasgow Film Festival. Featuring three world, two European and six UK premieres, this year saw an influx of films that have never been shown in the UK before and we are proud to say we were there to enjoy every blood-soaked moment.
The festival began with the UK Premiere of the Hammer-style thriller ELIZA GRAVES from director Brad Anderson. Based on an Edgar Allan Poe story, the film has an impressive cast including Kate Beckinsale, Ben Kingsley, Jim Sturgess and Michael Caine. Rounding up the festival was the World Premiere of Jay Dahl’s nightmare apocalyptic road-movie THERE ARE MONSTERS.
During the course of the weekend festival goers were treated to a whole range from the vast spectrum of horror. There were possessions in Chris Sparling’s THE ATTICUS INSTITUTE, they watched a loving father turn into a demonic creature in CLOWN, a savage virus takes over an oil tanker in [REC]: APOCALYPSE and the audience was shaken to its core by the Nordic Noir THE TREATMENT. In addition, this year’s Retrospective Premiere was none other than Mario Bava’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE.
Shown alongside this year’s line up were two fantastic shorts. THE PAPER ROUND is a fantastic short from newcomer Katie Bonham who directs her short with poise and precision, telling the story of a man haunted by a paperboy that delivers the same newspaper every day. Meanwhile, Ben Steiner’s absolutely bizarre short THE STOMACH certainly captivated the audience.
Werewolf fans or those who love a good monster movie should get excited as Paul Hyett was in attendance on the Friday to give us all an exclusive look at his upcoming feature HOWL which stars Ed Speleers, Holly Weston and Shauna Macdonald. The two clips shown gave us a tease of what’s to come and we can tell you that this film will take an almighty bite out of the recent competition so be sure to keep an eye out for further coverage of this later down the line.
Also attending the festival alongside Paul Hyett and Shauna Macdonald were the director of The Hoarder, Matt Winn, the star and screenwriter of 88, Tim Doiron, the director of the short film, The Paper Round Katie Bonham and Dan Dixon, the producer of the second short film, The Stomach. Rounding off the guest list was Russ Gomm, the director of The Woods Movie and Hans Herbots, the director of The Treatment. Each guest introduced each of their films and took part in Q&A’s after the films had been shown.
Out of the eleven films shown there were seven countries represented. Some films were fantastic and others were not as impressive, to say the least. There’s no denying that the crowd favourite of the entire weekend was the quirky road movie WYRMWOOD. Once the film had ended the entire auditorium of screen one at the GFT applauded which was fantastic to see.
This year might not have been the strongest line-up for the Northern string of the festival but this doesn’t mean that it didn’t have a few gems to offer. So if you want my thoughts about the films I caught over the weekend then please keep reading.
THE ATTICUS INSTITUTE
Synopsis: Dr. Henry West is the founder of The Atticus Institute, a government testing facility investigating supernatural abilities. After his latest subject Judith Winstead begins to outperform everyone else, his research gains the attention of the U.S. Department of Defense who quickly take control of the facility with the intention of weaponising the force possessing her body.
Now the combination of using confessional interviews with filmed observations in order to fake a sense of realism is not by any means a new form of storytelling for the horror genre. This said, director Chris Sparling does an impressive job here to draw in his audience by building an ever increasing sense of tension that rarely gives up. As a low-budget horror film it came as no surprise that it would come complete with dated effects and questionable acting from the supporting cast. Thankfully the film is redeemed by the performances from William Mapother and Rya Kihlstedt who, as Founder and Patient of the Institute, do a superb job of carrying the film.
Overall, The Atticus Institute is predictable but it still remains an entertaining watch and worth your time.
Synopsis: After finding that her Wall Street banker boyfriend has been renting a secret storage unit, Ella enlists her best friend to break into the facility. On their arrival they uncover a secret that holds them trapped inside. Teaming up with the remaining strangers who find themselves in a similar predicament, the night turns into a battle for survival when the group begin to disappear one by one.
Director Matt Winn takes his audience from the clean and bright lights of the New York city skyline to the dimly lit and endless corridors of a storage facility on the bad side of town in order to throw every horror trope at his audience. As a film, The Hoarder tries its best to create a sense of dread by keeping the audience in a constant state of panic and unease after the secret of the storage facility is unveiled but it never quite manages to fully develop a sense of danger. This said, the film is shot well by Eben Bolter (The Borderlands) whose cinematography is solid and looks great on the screen. Sadly, the standard for the rest of the film does not stand up. The script is very basic and packed with stupid characters making stupid decisions. As a result the performances from the cast, including Mischa Barton and Robert Knepper, at times are unintentionally laughable. As a whole, the film is neither scary nor is it original. Ultimately it serves as evidence that this is a film that should have stayed locked up.
Synopsis: After a zombie apocalypse has begun, Barry goes in search of his sister Brooke unaware that she has been kidnapped by a sinister team of gas-mask wearing soldiers and experimented on by a psychotic doctor. Whilst she plans her escape Barry teams up with a fellow survivor to arm themselves and battle their way through hordes of flesh-eating zombies in the harsh Australian bushland.
Described as Mad Max meets The Walking Dead with a healthy injection of humour, Wyrmwood feels incredibly fresh for a zombie film. In the director’s seat Kiah Roache-Turner has crafted a film which remains entertaining and outrageously hilarious from the first scene until the end credits begin to roll. The cast are as equally sound. Jay Gallagher is brilliant as Barry, the unsung hero of the film. He has a great screen presence and plays the part very well and his character is starkly different to the performance of Leon Burchill who, as Benny, provides plenty of comedic moments that will keep the audience in fits of laughter. Throw into the mix yet another terrific supporting performance from Bianca Bradey as Brooke, whose character is independent, strong-willed and just as kick-ass as her brother. Without doubt Wyrmwood is a fun film and the only criticism I have of it is that it develops a small lull in the middle when the film uses comedy to further the story but thankfully things pick up in time for its finale.
Synopsis: Split between two timelines, a young woman wakes up from a fugue state with no idea of where she is or how she got there. As she figures out what has happened from the clues in her backpack she learns of her lover’s death and goes on a violent journey to seek her vengeance.
Based around the subject of fugue states, a rare short-lived psychiatric disorder where the afflicted experiences amnesia and often develops a new identity, American Mary’s Katherine Isabelle stars in this energetic and mind-bending thriller from April Mullen. The plot may sound very generic but the film is anything but that as the way in which the film is presented to the audience is certainly different. Teaming up with Tim Doiron to pen the script, Mullen’s visual thriller shares similarities with Kill Bill whilst mixing them with the visual style of Doug Liman’s 1999 thriller, Go. Isabelle shines brightly in the lead role effectively playing two separate characters in one film. Her acting range is incredible and this is a film that displays her capability as an actress. In addition, it is a pleasure to watch Christopher Lloyd who plays the role of a menacing strip club owner and the film’s obvious bad guy. Overall, the film does demand quite a bit from its audience but those wanting to experience something different should seek this one out.
Synopsis: Patrick, a young volunteer for his local church assists Father Conway on cleaning out a long abandoned psychiatric hospital. Trusted with the keys for the establishment, Patrick is encouraged to throw a party by his friends. As the party dies down there are only handful of people left but unfortunately for them the teenagers release an evil spirit that wont let them leave.
Known in the US as Exeter, The Asylum is the latest film from Marcus Nispel, the director of the Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes. It’s not all dusty corridors and moody cinematography and from the get go it is clear that this film is aiming to be more than a standard haunted slasher film. Taking cues from such meta films as Scream, The Asylum is packed with witty one-liners and self-aware characters who know the rules but still end up on the wrong side of something sharp. As for the cast, there is not one person who shines as each performance feels phoned-in and only serve as cannon fodder. However, Nispel, like most modern horror directors, is far too reliant on jump scares to stun his audience. This is the one thing I hated about this film. The jump scares litter the film and every single one of them was incredibly predictable. There is nothing fresh about this one but if you’re looking for a no-brain horror film that’s marginally better than last year’s Ouija then you may want to check this one out.
Saturday 28th February, 2015
Synopsis: After finding out the clown that he booked for his son’s birthday party has been double-booked, Kent finds a vintage clown suit and decides to put on the curly wig, oversized shoes, and red nose in order to please his son. After the party, Kent soon discovers something is wrong about the costume he’s wearing which is slowly turning him into a demonic killer.
Surprisingly, Clown is a well put together horror movie. Director Jon Watts takes time to change a devoted father into a murderous killer injecting a very dark level of humour along the way without making the film feel camp or too far fetched. The cast are great. Andy Powers delivers a great performance in the lead and is given terrific support by Laura Allen who plays the role of his devoted wife. Together the pair show great chemistry between them but it is Allen who takes the spotlight after the second act when her character is desperately trying to save her husband and her family from destruction. Interestingly, Clown doesn’t throw every clown cliché into the mix and misses many opportunities to crack a joke. Instead it is a straight-up horror movie packed with many moments that will give those with Coulrophobia a reason to have nightmares. Overall, the film may appear simple but it is executed well and treats patient viewers with a blood-soaked finale that will either make you laugh out loud or leave you shivering in your seat.
THE WOODS MOVIE
Synopsis: In October 1997, a group of filmmakers entered the Maryland woods to make a low budget horror movie. Their movie, The Blair Witch Project would go on to become a global phenomenon and kick-started the found footage horror genre. Director Russ Gomm presents a documentary about how the record-breaking groundbreaker came to being featuring never-before-seen recordings and interviews with those involved.
A long-time fan of The Blair Witch Project, Director Russ Gomm was fascinated by the marketing frenzy behind the film and took to MySpace to reach out to Eduardo Sanchez to discuss his feelings about the film. Through various exchanges of messages they formed a friendship which would lead Gomm to be presented with over 20 hours of unused footage from the film along with behind the scenes clips and interviews. So, with permission from Sanchez, Gomm used the footage to put together a documentary that provides a keen insight into the making of one of the most discussed horror films in recent years and so The Woods Movie was born. I thoroughly enjoyed this one; it was interesting, intriguing and a must-see for Blair Witch fans.
Synopsis: Based on the novel by British author Mo Hayder, Inspector Nick Cafmeyer is haunted by the disappearance of his younger brother. A known sex offender was questioned but later released. Now years after the tragedy a case with shocking similarities to that of his brothers disappearance comes to light Nick’s real nightmare is just about to begin.
I thought Big Bad Wolves was dark but nothing prepared me for Hans Herbots’ deeply disturbing thriller, The Treatment. Dealing with similar themes including child abduction, molestation etc. De Behandeling is a long and gripping thriller. The script is complex and takes time to develop the story and slowly unfold its mystery. The Treatment is by no means an easy watch and is both brutal and shocking from start to finish. Actor Geert Van Kampelberg is fantastic in the lead role of Inspector Cafmeyer. His performance is notable and handles the emotional scenes incredibly well which comes as no surprise as Carl Joos’ script does a fine job of turning Mo Hayder’s novel into a film that audiences will not be forgetting any time soon.
Synopsis: Picking off right where [Rec] 2 ended, Apocalypse is the final chapter in the popular Spanish franchise. TV reporter Ángela Vidal, the only survivor of the apartment complex incident, is sent to a high-security quarantine facility unaware that Dr. Ricarte has been experimenting with the infectious virus. After yet another outbreak Ángela is forced once more into fight for her own survival and to stop the virus from taking over the world.
As an alleged final installment to an entertaining franchise, [REC]: Apocalypse should end the series with a bang. Directed by Jaume Balagueró, Apocalypse restricts the action to an oil tanker forcing its characters to fight or die in what may be mankind’s last chance to stop the spread of the vicious demonic virus. Interestingly, Balagueró takes a step away from the horror elements which made the [REC] franchise so popular and focuses on its many action sequences. The film steers away from the found footage style of the first two installments but this film has an incredible amount of shaky cam which does nothing but obscure the action, which at times was incredibly annoying. This said, the infected in Apocalypse are even more savage and the effects were incredible with the only exception being the CGI infected monkeys (yeah, you read that right). I would be lying if I said that this film was the best in the series. It’s by no means the worst but as a finale I was left disappointed which is never good.
THERE ARE MONSTERS
Synopsis: Four film students embark on a road trip to obtain promotional interviews for their college. En route they begin to witness a series of odd events and strange behaviours. As they delve deeper into the mystery the strange occurrences begin to increase in frequency and it’s not long before they uncover a terrifying secret lurking under their very noses but it may be too late for them to do anything about it.
Developed from a ten-minute short film that was released online, Jay Dahl’s There Are Monsters is a somewhat realistic found-footage film which borrows heavily from The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In a story where creatures are taking over the world by replicating their host, There are Monsters features some incredibly low budget special effects but the jump scares employed here are very effective and provided one of the biggest jumps of the entire FrightFest weekend. Speaking of which, there are some great scenes rich of tension which are nicely directed by Dahl. The cast are unknown but they do a great job to sell the credibility of the film even if the script is clumsy and cringeworthy in places. As a whole, Dahl and his team have crafted a horror film that is well aware of its limitations but still manages to retain a charm about it and it is for this reason that I recommend this film as there are worse ways to spend a Friday night.
Based on the reviews above it is clear that our stand-out films of the weekend were Kiah Roache-Turner’s WYRMWOOD, Russ Gomm’s THE WOODS MOVIE and Hans Herbots’ THE TREATMENT so be sure to keep an eye out for their releases. In the meantime, if you were unable to attend the weekend you can catch up by picking up a copy of [REC]: APOCALYPSE and CLOWN which are both available to buy and rent on DVD and Blu-Ray now.
Overall I had a blast and with over eleven premieres taking place, not forgetting to mention the additional surprises over the course of the weekend, the festival was certainly worth the ticket price of £70.00. So it is with this in mind that I would like to thank Paul McEvoy, Ian Rattray, Alan Jones and Greg Day, otherwise favourably known as the four horsemen of Frightfest, for putting on a truly cracking weekend. SCREAM looks forward to seeing you all in August for the London string of the Festival.
Words: Jon Dickinson (@marvelguy)