As the holiest range of dates in the British horror fanatic’s calendar now consigns itself to history, so too do the memories of this year’s Film4 FrightFest (Thursday 25 August to Monday 29 August). As usual, Dread Central was on the scene to bring you insight into the machinations of the UK’s biggest horror film festival. Read on for the details and a sample of our huge forthcoming image gallery!
Now in its twelfth year of operation, the UK’s premier destination for lovers of all things scary and violent appears to have settled solidly into what will likely be its permanent home for the future – the Empire Cinema in London’s Leicester Square. Did we mention last year that it’s also the largest cinema screen in the UK? We did, you say? Well, it is. And it’s a wonderful thing to behold every single time you enter the auditorium.
Packed, as usual, with a wide range of world and UK premieres, special guests, giveaways and sneak peeks, this year’s festival opened with the Troy Nixey-helmed fantasy-horror remake Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (review here). Lacking any physically attending guests, audience members were instead treated to a specially recorded video intro by FrightFest fan Guillermo Del Toro, who unfortunately was unable to make an appearance due to being busy working on Pacific Rim.
The substitution of a video intro instead of guests continued with Final Destination 5’s (review here) Emma Bell and Tony Todd appearing on-screen inviting us to enjoy the show. And enjoy it we did! Easily among the best of the series, director Steven Quale manages to craft a fast-paced, exciting, surprising, genuinely humorous and sheer fun entry. While the use of 3D makes no effort to avoid the obvious gimmickry that the format enables, Quale embraces it right from the credit sequence in a manner that shits all over The Final Destination’s painfully cynical attitude.
Topping off the first evening of fear flicks saw directors Buddy Giovinazzo, David Gregory, Karim Hussain and composer Simon Boswell introduce the much-anticipated horror anthology The Theatre Bizarre (Fantasia review here), and… well… let’s just say that we’re sure our readers know that the staff here on DC can occasionally disagree in their opinions on certain flicks. I’ll go one step further and say that I have absolutely no idea what Andy was smoking before, during or after the Fantasia screening he attended. How such a group of talented filmmakers can produce a film so uninspiring and insipid is mind-boggling, and my full The Theatre Bizarre counter-review can be found here.
Backwoods horror kicked off Friday morning with a psychotic Bill Moseley in Rogue River (review here) – a theme that would find itself transplanted to the Berlin underground in the viciously brutal and grim Urban Explorer (review here).
While Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (review here) lightened the mood in Empire 1, over on the Discovery Screen director Miguel Ángel Vivas’ savage home invasion shocker Kidnapped (my review coming as it disagrees with DC’s existing Kidnapped review) left us feeling abused, breathless, and hugely impressed.
Cristian Solimeno’s British chiller The Glass Man (review coming) tread familiar narrative ground with its depiction of stress-induced madness elevated by some stunning performances from the principal cast, but less worthwhile was torture porn genre entry Vile (review coming), which sucked up time that would have been much better spent catching up on lost sleep.
Taking centre stage, quite literally, on this day was the second in FrightFest’s new regular interview feature in conjunction with Total Film magazine. This year genre director/producer legend Larry Fessenden was on hand for an extended discussion of his career before being joined by Lucky McKee, Andrew van den Houten, Ti West, Adam Green and Joe Lynch for a roundtable symposium that ultimately metamorphosed into a frustrated attack on the idiotic producers that have plagued their filmmaking efforts over the years.
The Discovery Screen offered up the first of Saturday’s shockers with the upcoming found footage flick Atrocious (review here, which I agree with) before director Robin Hardy and the cast of The Wicker Tree (Fantasia review here) took to the stage to present the film to eager fans.
Chris Crow’s Panic Button (review coming) followed up with an unnerving insight into the pervading presence of online social networking in our daily lives, raising some genuinely concerning questions regarding the sheer amount of personal information we unwittingly share when partaking in such activities. Another high-profile release had everyone donning the crazy specs with the underwhelming and ultimately pointless Fright Night 3D (review here, another I fully agree with) – another title sporting a specially recorded video introduction, this time from stars Anton Yelchin and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Is it a sufficiently entertaining vampire romp? Yes it is. Is it Fright Night? Hell no. We can only hope that popularity will turn its younger generation of viewers on to the superior original.
While director Lucky McKee, producer Andrew van den Houten and actress Pollyanna McIntosh presented The Woman (Sundance review here) in Empire 1, Dread snuck off once more to the Discovery Screen for a glimpse at some up-and-coming British genre talent with Sean Hogan’s intimate and satisfying The Devil’s Business (review coming). The evening came to sticky head with a screening of the final cut of Adam Green, Joe Lynch, Adam Rifkin and Tim Sullivan’s zany anthology Chillerama (my review coming – in the meantime here’s a review of the unfinished film from San Diego Comic-Con).
The Sunday morning slot at FrightFest returned to fulfill its reputation as one of the most sullen of the festival (having in previous years played host to the likes of The Girl Next Door) with Xavier Gens’ unremittingly bleak and affecting end-of-the-world condemnation of humanity, The Divide (Fantasia review here).
Andy Nyman took to the stage to present his wonderful “Quiz From Hell”, heralding the return of the ever-frustrating Motherfucking Soundtracks round and the greatest question we’ve ever come across at a movie quiz:
How many types of pussy are available at the Titty Twister?
Watching the answers unfold on screen later in the day is just as much fun as taking part earlier, making Andy’s “Quiz From Hell” a feature that demands a lasting position on the FrightFest roster for years to come.
Ti West’s The Innkeepers (SXSW review here) dished out a few old-school ghostly chills that paved the way for Dutch director Dick Maas to introduce his latest effort – the rather nonsensical, yet still super-fun, killer Santa flick Sint (review here). I say add half a knife to Foy’s score for that one.
Just ahead of its upcoming UK theatrical release, Ben Wheatley’s hotly anticipated shocker Kill List (review coming) stunned us all into submission with its impeccably crafted, brilliantly acted and toe-curlingly violent descent into madness.
Director Joseph Kahn blew off the MTV Awards ceremony to take to the FrightFest stage and introduce his sophomore feature film, the utterly nutso Detention (another Fantasia review I’m in agreement with). More than making up for the shower of shit that was Torque, Kahn flings his audience through a high velocity mix of comedy, horror, time travel, coming-of-age flicks, teenage romance and a loving mixture of pop and retro culture lampooning and reverence. The ultimate anti-hipster movie, Detention is a wild ride that never fails to entertain, even if it does threaten to come crashing down at any minute under the weight of its own sheer craziness.
A Monday morning lie-in left us suitably refreshed and breakfast-filled for Brett and Drew T. Pierce’s zombie comedy cum buddy/road movie romp Deadheads (review coming) with cast and crew in attendance.
Director of British gorefest Cradle of Fear, Alex Chandon, was also joined on stage by his cast to present his latest effort – the highly comedic, and highly gory, Inbred (review coming).
Finally, the festival came to a close with directory Julian Gilbey and the cast and crew introducing us all to their fantastic Melissa George-starring high octane thriller A Lonely Place to Die (review coming). Perhaps lacking sufficient horror elements for what would generally be expected at FrightFest, it remains a breathtaking thriller full of impactful violence, sympathetic protagonists, despicable villains and some stunning cinematography.
A running theme this year between the main features saw an appreciation for the work of John Carpenter in the form of various short films based on his work by several genre filmmakers. The first of these, Jake West’s “Escape From London” is now available to view on the official FrightFest website with the others geared to follow. Also of note was the fest’s always-impressive short film showcase, which gave us a good glimpse at promising up-and-comers and the most over-the-top, energetic and gory entertainment of the weekend in the form of “Banana Motherfucker”, the latest short from the dudes behind “Papá Wrestling” and “BLARGHAAAAHRGARG”. Another winner from the short film selection, “Brutal Relax”, is available to watch on YouTube right now. Click here to get your ass over there and witness Mr. Olivares’ relaxing holiday!
As we stumbled out into the streets of London’s West End on our way for a post-festival celebratory drink, we couldn’t help but feel that familiar sense of loss that can only come from the closing of a great festival. So, while we begin the grieving process and await next year’s celebration, Dread Central would like to extend our deepest thanks to Ian, Paul, Alan and Greg for continuing to stand as titans in their championing of the horror genre and for treating us to yet another excellent weekend in Leicester Square. Guys, we raise our glasses to you.
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