FrightFest – Saturday 2009

If yesterday was Landis Day, and what a day it was, then today was David Hess Day, which was just as exciting. David Hess is an absolute legend, and he didn’t disappoint at all. I arrived a bit earlier than I was hoping to, so I managed to squeeze in two coffees before the first movie of the day.

Introduced by Lee Demarbre and Hess himself, Smash Cut was the first movie of the day and it was a pretty enjoyable way to kick it off. It wasn’t a great movie by any stretch but it was a hell of a lot of fun. David Hess really shone in the movie, clearly he was having a whale of a time donning cowboy outfits and hacking up everybody in the vicinity. Sasha Grey kept her clothes on throughout, making this the only flick of hers that I have made it all the way through. There were loads of nice references to Herschell Gordon Lewis’ body of work and various other gore classics and the addition of Michael Berryman to the cast really made me grin. The sight of Berryman with a curly wig and eyebrows was massively chuckle-worthy. The direction was pretty standard but it suited the production, although I did find the music quite obtrusive. It didn’t take itself too seriously and set me up for the day nicely.

David Hess

After the movie, there was a Q&A in which Hess and Demarbre really bounced off each other, constantly trying to make the other look foolish. After a couple of questions, none too taxing, Demarbre left the stage while David Hess played us some pretty blues songs. His songs were great and had a really authentic feel.

David Hess

Non-horror flicks at FrightFest are always a risky game. Last year’s The Chaser hit all the right points with none of the horror but I can’t say the same about Hierro. This was a beautifully shot but mostly boring movie about the loss of a child and the repercussions it can have. Set in lush locations on the Canary Islands, it really did look special. The car crash in the opening was probably the best I have ever seen in film (or in real life for that matter). The acting was heartfelt and real, but there was just something seriously lacking. Not enough happened, and then it ended in the only possible way it could so there were no surprises. Students of film should be made to watch the opening scene, and maybe a few more further into the movie, but if you are looking for something truly engaging which also offers realism then this is not the movie for you.

As a bit of a treat, George Romero’s face popped up on the big screen apologising for not showing us Survival Of The Dead this year, and attempting to compensate us with a short clip from the flick. And he really did mean short. I think we saw about 30 seconds of footage, and sure it looked good (it is Romero after all) but it didn’t leave me anymore excited about the flick than I had been before seeing the footage.

I was considering skipping a movie today, as all the breaks were super short. One of the contenders for potential skipping was Millennium: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which, with its running time of 152 minutes, seemed like the most efficient flick to skip. All that bonus time and only having to miss one movie?… I was almost sold, but got cold feet at the last minute. Last year, I only missed one movie. It only went on to be the break out independent film of the year, you may have heard of it. It was called Let The Right One In. Lets just say I kicked myself.

I hadn’t read the book that this was based on like a lot of the crowd had, apparently it has been doing the rounds and has garnered quite the following, but I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway. It was shot efficiently and professionally, really working to keep me glued for the full running time. There were a few moments where I thought it was a touch saggy, and the barrage of false endings left me wishing it would just pick one so I could nip out to the loo. It was well written, well acted and taut throughout, I had no idea what was coming next and the anticipation shook my entire body. So, besides a few minor issues, I have to recommend it. It might not be what I consider to be a FrightFest movie but it is stunning, affecting and exhilarating for 99% of the running time. I don’t recall seeing an awful lot of Swedish language thrillers before, but if there are anymore as well realised as this one then I would love to seek them out.

Following Millennium was some of Ian’s (Rattray, organiser) personal stash of old coming attractions, which have come to be known as Trailer Trash. This edition included Brides Of Blood, Blood And Lace, The Arousers and The Student Nurses. They were all terrible and really made me laugh, particularly The Arousers.
Then there was the trailer for Simon Rumley’s upcoming release, Red, White and Blue which for some reason I remember almost nothing about.

After that was the best yet of Adam Green and Joe Lynch’s Road To FrightFest shorts. Still riffing on the American Werewolf theme, Green seems to come to terms with the fact that Lynch’s Wrong Turn 2 was better than Hatchet.

The other contender for a potentially long meal time was Giallo, I am as big a Dario Argento fan as the next guy (unless the next guy is my mate John, in which case I am about three times as big) but I had read enough bad reviews to put me off this movie. I am so glad that I wussed out of eating again because I had an absolute laugh-out-loud-fest. Giallo stars Adrian Brody, as a no-nonsense, at-all-costs type New York cop in Italy who investigates a series of slayings of beautiful girls, aided by the sister of his next intended victim. On paper it sounds very good, but it ultimately failed on almost all counts. The bulk of the dialogue was laughable, really dire, and even some of the directorial flourishes were so far from hitting the mark that you might believe this was all directed by a first timer. The sad thing is that we all know that Argento can do better; he has made some of my all time favourite movies but seems to be continuing down the slippery slope of ever decreasing quality in recent times.

Brody is a joke; throughout the movie he utters line after line almost directly into the camera with the personality of a wet fart. Also, Byron Deidra looks suspiciously like Brody trussed up like Tony Clifton. Hey! Wait a minute, Byron Deidra? Could that be an anagram for something?

Giallo raised shit tonnes of mirth from the audience, and I am pretty sure that it shouldn’t have done. It ended up looking like some sort of half arsed spoof.

Michael Dougherty hopped onstage with an ailing Brian Cox to introduce Trick ‘r Treat. Because Cox wasn’t really feeling up to it, we had a super brief Q&A before he was whisked off to somewhere a little bit more comfortable.

Brian Cox

I was pretty worried about Trick ‘r Treat as I’ve been waiting for it for a long time while Warners decided what they wanted to do with it. Generally, movies that have troubled histories involving postponed releases and theatrical run cancellations tend to be a bit crappy. I stayed resolute, I’ve wanted a new and exciting horror portmanteau movie ever since the in-name-only Creepshow 3 sucked so hard. Luckily this did not disappoint. Some of the stories were stronger than others but unlike other anthology movies, this didn’t matter so much as they were interweaved and interlinked like a gory version of Magnolia. In only a few scenes, Dylan Baker stole the show as a vice principal that gets into the Halloween spirit just that little bit too much. Obviously, Cox is great too. If you have waited for as long as I have to see the original Hannibal Lector being terrorised by a cute little creep with a sack on his head, you will definitely appreciate this flick. It is by no means perfect, but it is effective and joyous in equal measure. A real celebration of Halloween and Halloween movies.

In the preceding Q&A, Dougherty was asked about whether he would be making a tie-in graphic novel around three separate times. He was warm, amusing and incredibly vitriolic about the current state of genre cinema. In particular he singled out remakes, telling us that if we don’t stop going to remakes on opening weekend, they won’t stop churning them out. The dude has a point.

Todays short was The Sad Case, which I have to be honest I didn’t quite understand. Some of the ideas were really clever and some of them seemed a bit like the makers were reaching for something that was just out of their collective reach. The story was essentially that of the troubled life of an old suitcase through the generations. It was nice looking in most places but ultimately didn’t grab me by the sweet spot.

I’m sorry folks but this is getting to be a pattern now, I was really enjoying Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl before I fell asleep. It was ridiculous, violent and offensive: everything a good Asian import should be! Unfortunately, I missed too much of it to write about it confidently. I saw enough to recommend that you buy and watch it yourself though.

We have now passed hump day, and I am already starting to get a bit sad about it being over. It isn’t over just yet though; tomorrow is Night Of The Demons Day. I saw Adam Gierasch arrive today and it made me remember how excited I am for that movie. Human Centipede is tomorrow too, so it is shaping up to be a pretty special day. I will be back with news from tomorrow’s jollies at some point soon.

Hwyl fawr!

2 Comments on “FrightFest – Saturday 2009”

  1. stonecypher says:

    Look you talking Welsh there! Definitely see the end of Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein girl one day, it’s worth it :D

  2. Sarah Law says:

    You’ve got the reportage down but your photography sucks, dude. Just another excuse for me to join you next year! :)

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.