Frightfest 2017 broke loose like the zombie plague this weekend and after a few years away returned to both The Empire and Prince Charles in Leicester square to take hold of fan boys and girls.
But this year felt different somehow and more about the community of fans coming together than speaking profusely about the film screenings themselves in the communal space of the Empire.
This of course was heightened by the sad news of Tobe Hooper’s passing, and so soon after George A. Romero. It gave fans a platform to host a support network where there was an air of dedication, honouring these forefathers of horror.
Whilst inadvertently sitting in the VIP area for an hour chatting away (I didn’t realise those couches were the VIP area), I managed to speak with Writer/Producer/Director Steve Mitchell just before he introduced his documentary King Cohen. When I spoke about my latest film escapade, he laughed saying that the industry is all about money.
Josh Goldbloom also joined in and said that he believed that film school wasn’t necessary and just to go out and shoot stuff (just as well I never went to film school in this case). He also spoke about how he founded Bruce Campbell’s Horror Film Festival, also known as Cinepocalypse and Music Box. Hopefully, I’ll be able to enter the festival once my film is complete!
The space was then excited by Kate Shenton who shared news on her up and coming feature Bloody Burrito along with dishing out some fantastic tips for my own film project. Kate is as real as they come – Thank you!
Right, now onto some movies!
It felt like there were quite a few psychological thriller-horrors this year and below are the seven that piqued my interest, starting with The Glass Coffin. I’ve already written a review about this film which you can find here. It just goes to show, that with decent dialogue and narrative, you can make a heck of a film in one location. In this case, The Glass Coffin tells the story of an actress at the height of career embroiled in a vengeance attack, confined to a limo where her captor has a taste for some cunning torture.
But the message of the film runs deeper, and although through its Sci-fi aesthetic and neon fantasy limo-world, the film manifests a certain ghostly air which leaves the audience feeling slightly haunted.
Freddy/Eddy is a masterful piece of writing and is engaging from start to finish. When Freddy (Felix Schäfer) is accused of beating up his wife for having an affair, he denies that he did it. He claims that it was someone else named Eddy who at first, we learn is someone who used to appear when he was younger, almost like an imaginary friend.
When Eddy appears, he looks just like Freddy, he is the tougher sexier version of Freddy and supports him through a difficult time. But Eddy is a bad egg and he begins to corrupt the already unstable space which Freddy is in, harming new friends and loved ones, could it be that perhaps Eddy isn’t imaginary after all?
There’s some clever writing in this, fantastic character interaction that there’s never a dull moment. It’s another slant on the evil-twin-brother satire.
Radius is probably a film that is better read than seen if it were a novel because it was a slow burn.
Liam (Diego Klattenhof) awakes from a car crash, he can’t remember what happened and realises that everyone in the town is dead. Along his journey of discovery, he bumps into Jane (Charlotte Sullivan), they were apparently in the same place when the unexplainable happened. When the two are not in close proximity of each other, people die immediately in front of them.
Soon they realise that they are in fact connected and that without each other, Liam is at risk of killing more people. With the help of flashbacks and a husband, who Jane can’t remember, they’re led to a place where Liam hopes to find more answers, even if the truth is grisly.
Radius has a decent twist even if it takes more time than what’s necessary to get there.
MAL NOSSO/OUR EVIL
Mal Nosso (Our Evil in Portuguese) is a simple tale and because of that, it’s difficult to discuss. Every detail is of great import. Directed and written by Samuel Galli, it tells a tale of Arthur (played by Ademir Esteves and Fernando Cardoso), a man of few words and haunted by a dark tragedy as he hires a sadistic killer from the deep web to kill someone on his behalf. Only there is most assuredly more to his actions than we are privy to at the time.
This film is light on the scares but bloody and in some places cruel and gruesome, from Charles’ (Ricardo Casella) introduction by a snuff video on the Deep web as he scalps a still living girl, only to get bored when she almost passes out from the shock and blows her brains out. To the brief encounter with Fernanda Malta (Maria Galves), her face torn and bloody. But what is truly masterful about this film is how little it gives away until the 3rd act. There is no foreshadowing, no playing with the audience whatsoever other than one purely of temporal narrative form. Yet even this is not done extraneously. This is at its core a tale of psychological terror, punishment, and love told through a wonderful grasp of pathos, native themes and limited dialogue.
It is well worth you tracking this rare gem from Brazil and watching it, it’s worth your time and I look forward to seeing what future wonders Samuel Galli can deliver.
A retired psychologist (Arcelia Ramírez) receives a call from a psychiatric hospital concerning a new patient. At first, she’s reluctant to take on the case, but after hearing it’s her former professor’s patient, she makes an exception.
Soon a young woman by the name of Veronica (Olga Segura) arrives and she seems just as reluctant as the psychologist did when she first got the call from the hospital. Veronica seems very knowledgeable about psychoanalysis at first showing resistance to the therapy. But after a hypnotherapy session, the psychologist makes headway, getting closer to the root of Veronica’s problems and childhood traumas. Unsatisfied with the closed and somewhat clinical personality of the psychologist, Veronica plays her own manipulative psychoanalytical game, throwing light on a whole new perspective which questions the psychologist’s own sanity.
I love how thriller noir Veronica feels like a modern-day Hitchcock film, it’s moody and gradual in introducing characters and their motives to the plot. Each action is motivated, the exchanges of dialogue between the characters are coherent and tense.
Although it tried too hard in terms of conveying subtext ranging from the mysteries of Plato to sweet innocent sticky honey bee analogies, creamed with a brief pretentious monologue on the purpose of psychoanalysis, the film still has a way of captivating its audience.
Horror films about fame and beauty will never grow vintage because the subject matter is forever current. Humanity will always strive for the latest technology to stop the ageing process, accompanied by fashion fads and novelties, selfies which serve as visual comfort food for the eyes and filters which change how we look and make us feel like we look better. Maybe in some cases, they do!
In the movies, of course, morals are thrown out of the window, Neon Demon, Starry Eyes, Vanilla Sky, Eyes Without a Face, The Red Shoes, X is for XXL (from the ABC’s of Death anthology) and Human Form are just a few which demonstrate the desperation of human nature and the lengths people will go to keep face. There’s no such thing as ageing gracefully.
This year, films Fashionista and Replace were good examples of how beauty can be a by-product of obsession and murder.
Fashionista is an electrifying psychedelic art-house thriller where yet again director Simon Rumley takes you on a journey of the unexpected. You just never know what is going to happen. In this unsuspecting tease of a film, we follow the story of April (Amanda Fuller) who runs a vintage store with her husband Eric (Ethan Embry). It’s clear from the offset they both have a deep and uncontrollable love for clothing; even their home is a continuation of the store.
April suspects that Eric is having an affair and eventually catches him in the act. Devastated, she begins to rebuild her life, learning what it’s like to live on her own. She decants the flat, changing her space…and meets a mysterious man called Randall (Eric Balfour) who gives her his credit card so that she can update her wardrobe and attend strange sexual liaisons with him. An unhealthy relationship reliant on spending money on clothes and S&M games develops and the truth about her new boyfriend is revealed.
In another Q&A at Frightfest, Rumley shared that he himself is a fashionista (I’m sure those who have seen him in the flesh will agree) and that this film was quite personal. It’s just as much about addiction, hoarding and the loss of identity when we put a high value on image over self, the internal and what happens when it’s all taken away. There’s certainly more to write about this movie as it deserves a standalone review which I’ll be publishing soon.
Frightfest momma of horror Barbara Crampton returns in another film this year called Replace.
Kira’s (Rebecca Forsythe) body begins to age rapidly as her body is ravaged by a crust-like dermis, that even a tongue scraper kitted with a sharp razor wouldn’t succeed at slicing away.
She’s referred to a Dr Crober (Barbara Crampton) who runs numerous tests but keeps her waiting as there’s a possibility of a skin transplant. With the pain becoming unbearable, Kira cannot wait any longer spurring erratic and unpredictable behavioural patterns which endanger both herself and the life of others.
Kira has crossed a line, she’s goes beyond ethical means to heal herself and retain her beauty. She refuses to get old, but Dr Crober has her own plans for Kira and this mysterious deluding condition.
The central theme of movie Replace is the fear of ageing and its effects which is nicely foreshadowed from the offset. Director Norbert Keil has really made a horror movie out of the inevitable which conveys the changing-shape of the mind as we age and the sometimes-morbid shift in physicality and biology as our bodies near the end of the life cycle.
This concept alone is terrifying when you add delirium, loss of memory, identity and murder. A thought provoking watch which outlines the common fears of getting old.
Each year Frightfest provides a different perspective on the independent film scene, the new faces, regulars and the returned. It’s a place where you can learn and be inspired which is why we keep on coming back.