FrightFest – Friday 2009

Today was LANDIS DAY and you’d better believe that it was awesome, as expected. I got about four hours sleep and felt rougher than a rabid dog all day, but it wasn’t enough to dampen my excitement.

My day kicked off with two massive coffees and a showing of Australian revenge flick, The Horseman. I have to admit I don’t understand the relevance of the title; I didn’t get the connection between a man of horses and a man out for revenge on the people who caused another man to lose his daughter. The film was gritty as heck; chock full of wince-inducing moments and graphic violence. It was also bloody brilliant, easily the best film of the weekend thus far. Even though it was a little bit drawn out, the solid performance from star; Peter Marshall, held the whole thing together and really sold me on some of the sloppier and more out-there scenes.

John Landis

After another coffee and a flurry of excitement as JOHN FUCKING LANDIS entered the building, feature length American Werewolf documentary; Beware The Moon was introduced by its director, Paul Davis. The documentary itself was interesting enough, revisiting locations and speaking to various cast and crew members such as Landis, Rick Baker, David Naughton et al. It felt very much like a special feature on a well put together DVD. It was great to hear some new anecdotes from those involved. Part of me wishes it had been shown after the movie, as I know a few people in the audience hadn’t seen that particular slice of genre wizardry (audible gasp!). When the documentary was over, the director was joined on stage by producer, Romy Alford-Sancto, to answer a few questions. Not very much was asked of them as I think people were more eager to get to The Main Event.

When ‘The Man’ took to the stage, he was instantly captivating, telling the story of how the movie came about and making jokes in his own unique yet crass style. When An American Werewolf In London started, there were a few moments of tentative silence; could this look as good as we all hoped? Yes. It really could. The re-mastered print was bright and lucid, completely eclipsing the pan and scan release currently available. Every frame was as sharp as Landis himself. The audio track kept sneaking out of sync which caused me to expel lots of frustrated air but on the whole the experience was magical. American Werewolf is one of my all time favourite movies, and seeing it like that on the Empire’s gigantic screen was a real privilege.

John Landis

The fact that John gave a Q&A afterwards, joined by the bulk of the British crew, was the icing on a calorie loaded, gore soaked cake. Linzi Drew in particular looked amazing, a real handsome woman! Landis’ expertise at rattling off expletive riddled stories (all told with a wistful, almost faraway look on his face) just showed what a consummate entertainer he is. He is also a fierce champion of the Blu Ray but I remain unconvinced.

Landis announced, possibly before he was supposed to, that he had managed to get Joe Lynch a directing job on a movie that starts shooting very soon. Although this may have been privileged information, it was one of the best announcements of the fest so far! In the end, Alan Jones had to virtually force him off of the stage due to time restrictions. John then took a seat at a booth outside the screen where he was signing and chatting with fans and worshippers alike for, what I can only assume judging from the queue; hours.

We then saw the latest trailer for Benicio Del Toro mainstream horror vehicle, The Wolfman. I have to say, I am finding it difficult to get excited about this flick, the constant postponing coupled with a lacklustre trailer are definitely not stoking my fire.

The third movie of the day was Shadow, a genre debut for Italian rock musician Federico Zampaglione. He was clearly super excited to be premiering his movie for a room full of like minded horror fans, spurred on by Alan’s unabashed adoration for the movie. I thought it was a half baked and scattershot attempt at a serious horror movie, with some really exciting scenes but not an awful lot to say. There was a particular strand of the story involving Nazi experimentation which seemed to reveal that its whole purpose was a joke at the expense of George W. Bush, which I found to be rather childish (after I stopped laughing, obviously). It was shot in a shaky way, which made it look urgent and gritty, but once you peeled away the style you were left with a distinct lack of substance. It also contained what I believe is destined to be one of the worst final reveals of the festival.

Federico Zampaglione

After the screening, Alan and Zampaglione were joined by a seemingly endless number of his family members for a brief conversation about the movie. One person in the audience called it “a return to form for Italian horror”; I feel inclined to disagree.

After my last coffee of the day (thus far), I took my seat and was greeted by another of Adam Green and Joe Lynch’s Road To Frightfest shorts. Still just as in-jokey and still just as hilarious, I could watch these guys spoof movies all day long.

A nice surprise was a scene from Vincenzo Natali’s new flick Splice, which stars Giallo’s Orlando-Bloom-with-a-bigger-nose, Adrien Brody, and Sarah Polley from Go and Dawn Of The Dead ’04. I really dug Cube and Cypher was pretty great too, so this should have really excited me more. The clip, which was prefaced by a personal message from Natali and featured talking head style interviews with the two main cast members, concerned a seemingly anime and kaiju obsessed couple who exist in a future where genetic mutation is fairly common practice. Clive and Elsa (Brody and Polley, respectively) create this bizarre rabbit type thing and then kill it. The CGI looked pretty good for the most part, although a bit ropey in a few place. I’m not excited yet, but I may well change my mind after seeing it.

There is a review embargo on La Horde, so I am not allowed to talk about it lest I should lose my reviewer cred. I could be swayed by beers and/or coffees though, so if you really want to know then hunt me down.

Today’s short was Paris By Night Of The Living Dead, a fun romp centred around two lovers fighting off hordes of French zombies while generally fucking up the architecture of Paris. It was nicely shot but ultimately devoid of anything really exciting.

Last up was Indonesian flick Macabre. I need to warn you that this section will be rubbish; I was totally knackered from a heavy day of sitting on my arse and watching movies, so I may have napped a little bit during this one. The beginning section was rather dull, to put it politely. The sections of the middle that I did see were gory but a bit hollow. The ending seemed to follow the same pattern. Don’t take my word for it though, as I did kip through the bulk of it.

FrightFest

In-between all of this, I managed to have a nice chat about porn with Turkish short film director Can Evrenol, argue with people that Red Mist wasn’t all that bad and eat my body weight in noodles (that is a LOT!).

Come back soon, dear reader. Tomorrow is Smash Cut and Trick R Treat day! Be as excited as I am, please.

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