It’s day two and while Friday was a bit hit and miss film-wise, the day itself was massively enjoyable as always. The second day though was when things really got going, more movies, more directors and more premiers. So without further ado, here’s a run through of what was on offer.
Yep, another found footage film and after Tape 407 yesterday, everyone looks a little apprehensive. This time we follow wannabe filmmaker Ryan (Ryan McCoy, also the writer and producer) who decides to film a documentary about his best friend Brett (Brett Rosenberg).
To mix things up, Ryan sends Brett camping against his will with Abi (Abigail Ritchie) Ryan’s girlfriend and her friend Ashley (Ashley Bracken). It takes a while to get going but thankfully the cast are a likeable bunch so it’s not much of a problem. Brett Rosenberg in particular helps keep the film going as the unwilling muse of Ryan, I also empathize with his hatred of camping.
The reason for filming is also not as annoying as usual in that it’s mainly Ryan’s sheer stubbornness to complete his project against the protests of the rest of the group that keeps it going. From start to finish they’d rather have him turn off the camera and leave them in peace but of course, none of them have the stomach to tell their friend it’s a stupid idea.
Once things do start going awry for the group though its smartly done, your lulled into thinking this is going to be your typical run of the mill first person effort when suddenly the film kicks into overdrive and becomes a fast paced delight.
Everything isn’t fully explained, which annoyed some people in the audience. Personally though, I’m ok with that in my horror films, I think especially here that it would’ve served only to disrupt the frantic pace and would have ruined what made the film such a surprise hit. All in all, it’s a good found footage movie with a nice twist on the overly used genre, well worth a watch.
Bottom Line: 3 /5
Another short film and it is a case of style over anything else here. We follow an angsty schoolboy Simon as he narrates his way from school to murder. Easily forgettable but the cinematography and presentation was well executed.
Bottom Line: 1.5/5
We’re warned that despite being an Argentinean film, the lead Spanish actress is a tad racist to the Argentineans’ she meets in the movie. With none in the audience to be offended, the lights go down. Said Spanish actress Cristina Brondo, who plays Marga, travels to Argentina each year to look after family interests. One of the interests is an apartment which she is in town to rent out.
Heading to the flat she meets an uncomfortable fellow named Jorge (Berta Muñiz), who she believes is the estate agent she is looking for. Now inside they begin to discuss a potential deal with Jorge’s client Salva (Arnaldo André) who is so desperate to rent the apartment out straight away he is willing to pay way over the asking price or even a logical price to do so. Smelling money Marga agrees to put off her commitments to seal the deal. With an impending solar eclipse, cue a series of events that lead Marga to question her own sanity, including a run in with a hobo.
I’m trying my best here not to give too much away as the intrigue is what keeps the movie interesting, although the pay off at the end doesn’t quite live up to the build up. The film manages to keep you guessing where it’s headed and Cristina Brondo puts on a great performance, especially considering she is in almost every scene of the film. Overall it’s a solid and enjoyable movie that’s something a bit different. Although, it could have used a better ending
Bottom Line: 3/5
Rites of Spring
There was a bit of a buzz in the cinema about this one by the time the writer and director Padraig Reynolds finished introducing the film. Rites Of Spring is set in a small town where each Spring, young women have inexplicably gone missing.
The film that Padraig Reynolds tries to bring together features two movies coming into one ala From Dusk Till Dawn (which he himself mentioned as an influence during the Q&A later). One film features two young girls out in a bar, it’s not long though before a shady old man snatches them both away from the car park. A bit of ritual bloodening later and the horror half of the film is on its way. Running parallel to this is the second film which follows two men and a lady who are on their way to kidnap a rich man’s young daughter for a ransom of $2 million, but things don’t go quite to plan.
The mixing of the two stories is ok…ish but the film as a whole felt more like a homage to classic horrors in that it falls (intentional or not we’ll cover later) into a lot of the typical horror slasher clichés. I wasn’t surprised to hear Jeepers’ Creepers has been floating around this as a comparison but I also wasn’t surprised that during the Q&A when Padraig also mentioned Halloween and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre as influences.
The latter I felt was quite predominant throughout, especially towards the end. There was some humor to be found in the film, this for the most part was unintentional though, especially one kill towards the end of the film that had me literally laughing out loud. As for the acting, Anessa Ramsey as Rachel gives an alright performance but the rest are unconvincing, AJ Bowen in particular as Ben was rather poor, especially in one scene where rather than displaying any fear what so ever his delivery is ridiculously wooden considering what’s going on.
By the time the Q&A was coming around it was still weighing on me whether this was an intentional homage to the slasher horror genre or not, had the clichés been intentionally jumped into or did they just fall into them neatly? That question was answered quickly as Padraig Reynolds began talking about plans for the story and how it came about as well as a planned trilogy.
Whether there is enough to offer story-wise to merit a trilogy is debatable, especially when he explains he wants to basically cover everything that was left ambiguous, which was also a little disappointing. Clichéd, mediocre and uninspired I wouldn’t recommend it. The credits at the beginning also gave away where the movie was headed before we even got going which was also a bit of a letdown.
Bottom Line: 1.5/5
On my way back into the theatre and Federico Zampaglione is sitting at the cinema’s piano giving a slow rendition of Rocket Man by Elton John. Lovely stuff that was a stark contrast to the raw 7 minute preview he was about to give us. Federico is a charming and instantly likeable guy, his passion for horror movies and the giallo genre in particular is plain to see as begins to let us know why he wanted to be here.
Coming up is a sneak world premiere of Tulpa, his latest film which is due to start filming shortly; he wanted to bring the film to FrightFest after receiving support from the London based events for his previous films. Ideally, he was looking to see whether he was going down the right path and if we would be interested in seeing something like it, 7 minutes later and it’s a resounding yes!
Tulpa follows a business woman who at night indulges in her kinky side through a specialist club, however her new found lovers begin to die horrifically at the hands of a mysterious cloaked fellow (played in the 7 minutes by Federico himself.) Everything about it was enjoyable, the camera work, the suspense and some of the best bits of gore of the event so far. This looks great and I can’t wait to see the full thing when it’s completed. He did say they hope to have the film possibly ready for London’s FrightFest in August, which was great to hear!
The Manetti Brothers, Marco and Antonio, were up next as the Italian themed fun continued. In their introduction they explain that while L’arrivo di Wang (Wang’s Arrival) has taken up most of their time over the last few years, they have also been working on a new film, one that’s a bit more up FrightFest’s alley. The film in question being La Stanza Dell’orco, we are treated to short exclusive trailer that again is spectacular. Although short, we see a man and a woman who are naked and chained to the ceiling of a small dark grey room. The trailer then kicks into overdrive as we get quick flashes of parts of the film before ending on the title. It looks great and the brothers themselves are wonderful
L’arrivo di Wang (Wang’s Arrival)
Before Wang’s Arrival begins, the brothers are asked to speak about it a little and yes, they are aware of how it translates and what that means in the English speaking world. They also did ask for the crowd to come up with suggestions for an English title as they were struggling and seemed genuine in their offer.
To the film itself they mention that it is a film that’s better to watch rather than explain but that it is a very dark story. I would go along with those vague words as well having now seen the film and so I won’t delve into many details at all about this one.
It’s not your traditional FrightFest film as I said but it is a dark, uncomfortable at times, sci-fi story with pitch perfect performances and superb work by the Manetti brothers. Ennio Fantastichini is the standout performance and this would’ve been my favorite film of the weekend if it hadn’t been for The Raid.
Bottom Line 4.5/5
On a side note, the Manetti brothers did mention this is already on its way to being made into an American remake, they couldn’t say too much on it or on how much input they would have but that a member of The Wire cast would be their preferred actor for Ennio’s role.
Originally The Devil Inside was due to be shown but was withdrawn by the film company (with its success in the U.S. being the rumored reason it was pulled) and Cassadaga was its replacement.
Cassadaga follows a deaf woman Lily (Kelen Coleman) who moves to the town the film is named after, which happens to be the psychic centre of America. Lily is moving out here on a scholarship after the loss of a family member. After teaching art classes to children she builds a relationship with Mike, a father of one of the children. This relationship later leads her to visiting a psychic in an effort to contact her lost family member, things predictably aren’t that simple with the afterlife and she becomes linked to a vengeful ghost. The ghost, through attacks and hauntings, begins to direct her towards mysterious disappearances of women in the area and to find out what gruesome end became of them.
I was quite intrigued as to how a deaf protagonist would affect the film being that it’s a horror and that it effectively eliminates the typical investigating a strange noise that happens in most films. As a story mechanic it is used well but as a scare mechanic it sadly doesn’t really inspire much in the way of invention to compensate on what they couln’t do.
Kelen Coleman as Lily is decent but Kevin Alejandro as Mike left a bit to be desired, his delivery of some lines in particular unintentionally drew out almost unanimous laughter from the crowd. It’s your typical haunting horror for the most part with only the villain behind the missing girls bringing something a little different to the proceedings, even then though he taints the film as a whole because it is obvious who he is as soon as it becomes clear there is someone behind the kidnappings.
In full disclosure, some of the film was met with laughter from the audience, the ending in particular was never meant to be as funny as it ends up being but again, this has more to do with the villain character than anything else. By the time the lights go up there is a consensus that this was a pretty poor effort.
Bottom Line 1/5
This the part when I should move on to a quick review of the full uncut version of The Raid, however, despite being a very un-FrightFest film this ended up being – in my opinion – the best film that has been shown. As such, I feel it deserves its own full review, which will be here shortly.
Lastly, I’d like to add a quick word on the event itself. The magic of FrightFest is that you don’t really know what you’re going to see when you go in. Moments of genius or innovative violence are applauded while the bad is ridiculed with laughter and sighs. By the time the lights go down though it becomes a communal event for each film.
A particular FrightFest highlight in my first year was the slow decapitation of an extremely irritating Scouse character played by Jennifer Ellison in The Cottage, which was met with cheers and laughter from the crowd.
Down at the front of the cinema for the showing was the cast of the film (minus the actress who was just beheaded) which consisted of Andy Serkis, Reese Shearsmith and the director Paul Andrew Williams, who were now killing themselves at reaction.
There is nothing like seeing a film at FrightFest so I want to give a big a thank you to the people who throw this wonderful shindig each year!