FrightFest – Monday 2009

The final day is upon us, and I am somewhat rested after getting the closest thing to a full nights sleep I’ve seen all weekend. It was a shame to have missed Black, but sod it, sleep wins. By all accounts a bit of a timing snafu caused the people who stuck Black out until the end to not leave the cinema until some time close to 3 am. Thank Lucifer I managed to avoid that, getting the night bus at that time would have meant I would have to just jump right back on it at the other end. Ugh, just the thought of that makes me shudder.

The big Zombie Walk was today, and there were plenty of folks stumbling about in full regalia. Not the numbers I was expecting, but the people who were there had really made the effort. Myleene Klass was covering it for CNN, and she looked rather swish in her leopard print coat, which she was desperately trying to avoid getting stained with fake blood. The shuffling undead outside were soon joined by the partially dressed Zombie Women Of Satan, who were there to promote the first movie of the day.

Zombie Women Of Satan was a no-budget comedy gore effort that misfired on all points. The comedy was pretty low brow, I’m talking stuff that would even put Lloyd Kaufman’s nose out of joint. Midgets doing number twos in the woods isn’t funny, and yet the scene goes on for ages, its just not cricket.
The plot followed a troupe of burlesque performers who get muddled up in a cult for no good reason, while members of said cult are experimented on and eventually turned into zombie types.

With this sort of low brow humour you will always be walking a fine line. The makers of this must have been wearing massive clown shoes because they stomp all over both sides of the line. Some parts got big laughs from me, mainly the interactions between Pervo The Clown and Johnny Dee Hellfire. The dialogue seemed improvised (mostly in a bad way) and the direction was non-existent, although the gore effects were damn impressive for such a miniscule budget.

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During the Q&A that followed, someone involved mentioned that Zombie Women Of Satan was cooked up and shot over a summer. I guess if you rush these things, you will end up with an end product that is pretty half baked. Also, I am a red blooded virile male of just 24 years, and I was totally turned off by the bloodied up tarts parading around. I just wanted them to put on some clothes. Seriously.

I nipped off for a swift coffee in the ten minutes before House Of The Devil, and got back just in time to see Ti West introduce it. I totally dug The Roost, I thought it was nicely shot and brimming with ideas despite not reaching its full potential, so I was keen to see what West had in store for us with this.

From the opening sequence it was clear that this was a lovingly crafted postcard to a different era, everything about it was authentically 80s right down to the yellow titles. It was stunning, I could seriously believe this was some long lost classic horror flick. It blew my mind. The painstaking detail that must have gone into making it was just unfathomable. It really did look, feel and play like a real classic.

Luckily, House Of The Devil didn’t just look awesome. West created a compelling story about suburban Satanism which harks back to the almost long lost babysitter-in-peril flick whilst also tipping it onto its head. Suspense was handed out in abundance, along with gore and excellent performances. The movie builds and builds up to this incredible, relentless climax which satisfied every bit of bloodlust in my body.
When it was over I felt like I had been put through the ringer, the unflinching tension coupled with blood soaked money shots totally took it out of me. This definitely takes the title of ‘Jamie’s Movie Of The Fest‘, I’d go as far as to say that this movie was worth the price of a weekend ticket alone.

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Ti West came back post movie to answer a few questions, as well as give us the skinny on what went down with his sequel to Cabin Fever. The story went like this: West made this gore-heavy screwball comedy which the studio didn’t like, who then re-edited it. Ti took offense to that and went off to make House Of The Devil. While the studio were re-editing the flick, they offered Ti the chance to come back to the project but without any actual input. He politely declined, and even went so far as to try and get his name taken off the movie. It must really suck.
I caught up with him afterwards to ask if there could ever possibly be a Superman II style release of the movie as it should have been, and got a flat out no. Gutted.

I hadn’t seen Tormented, but now I don’t need to (not that I was in any rush). We were shown a sneak peak at one of the extras for the DVD, a short documentary about how they achieved the death scenes. Every death scene. In detail. I’m sure it could have been interesting, had I seen the flick in question. This was followed by a bit of a chat with some of the people involved in Tormented, they talked more about making the effects work and it was all very interesting.

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Dorian Gray is not a story I have ever been that interested in, so seeing the trailer for the new sexy version didn’t even begin to pickle my gherkin.

I am issuing a SWEARING ALERT. I really hated Case 39 and cannot express this without the use of proper expletives, so please bear with me while I spit vitriol about Renee Fucking Zelweger and this entire piece of shit movie.

Killer kids is a pretty nice little sub-genre, you can do a lot with it if you aren’t the dude who wrote the fucking Pulse remake. Take one bubble headed actress and send her umming and ahhing through some trite scenes of mild peril that involve a cherubic little girl with a darkly boring secret. Name the kid Lilith just to hammer it home.

I was psyched about the hornet scene with Bradley Cooper after hearing about it but what a let down that was. There were two good things about this movie, the first was that they had the balls to stick a kid in an oven, the second was Lovejoy. What a magnificent actor Ian McShane is, always a joy to watch, even in derivative shit like this. The whole thing felt like a remake of an Asian horror, probably due to the imported style and lack of any real substance. What an absolute stinking pile of goat shit.

Before Heartless premiered we were treated to Across The Universe star, Jim Sturgess performing a few of the tracks from the soundtrack along with a band of blank-faced automatons. This was nice, he has a good voice and everything. It was all a bit loud though (this coming from the dude who goes to way too many punk shows). The songs gave away poop tonnes about the plot too, which I will address later.

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The movie began, and almost immediately I was engrossed. The direction wasn’t the best we had seen all weekend but the story was totally compelling enough to forgive the issues with the Primeval grade monster effects, a few lacklustre performances from peripheral characters, and the drab lack of cinematic feel. Weaving between Marlowe’s Faust, Mike Leigh and even H.P. Lovecraft, Philip Ridley has crafted a cautionary tale about greed, vanity, inner city life, and death. Heartless poses interesting questions which leave you pondering way after the credits have rolled. Sure, it heads down Contrived Avenue when you hit the ending but if you didn’t see that coming then you deserve a crappy ending. Sturgess is great, he really anchors the movie as Jamie. His broody charm finds a home in this character that makes a deal with a demonic figure to remove the heart shaped birthmark from his face. The price is that of mischief, he must create a certain amount of mayhem in order to redress the balance between good and evil. All the while, a gang of lizard monsters are roaming through London with Molotov cocktails.

The music, which was all written by Ridley, does its best to rip you out of the experience while also giving it a sort of movie musical feel. We don’t need to be told, via lyrics, what is happening in the scene. The audience isn’t stupid, but sometimes it seems as if Ridley believes that we are. Couple the soundtrack with the montage before the conclusion and you are left wondering if he really believes that his film was so complicated that every detail needed spelling out in CAPITAL LETTERS.
Heartless was exciting, littered with good performances and full of interesting points, its downfall is that in the end it tries too hard to wrap things up in a satisfying way that just ends up feeling forced.

In the Q&A, Ridley dropped a proper clanger too. Claiming that Heartless is the beginning of “a new genre of horror” is not going to win you any fans. I don’t care if you made The Reflecting Skin, you don’t make a movie that fuses a bunch of well established genres (albeit, adeptly) and claim it to be a new genre. It is not the done thing.

There was a big gap in between Heartless and the next flick, so I ventured all the way to Burger King and dined on a massive burger meal. I felt so bloated afterwards, it was awesome.

On taking seat B29 for the last time this year, I felt a tinge of sadness. No more would I have to constantly shift around trying to squeeze the one remaining ounce of comfort from that bastard chair. It was very moving.
I wiped a tear as the logo for the Douche Brothers (Adam Green and Joe Lynch) hit the screen. This last short echoed last years last short (try saying that after a few hours in the Phoenix), and was the funniest yet. After it was done, the fellas themselves took to the stage to announce that they have there own TV show coming up soon! This is awesome news. I dug Green’s first feature Coffee And Donuts, which is what I assume it is based around judging by the title: Coffee And Donuts.

Green and Lynch gave it up for (FrightFest organisers) Ian, Alan, Paul and Greg. The audience went wild.

The Descent: Part 2 was introduced by the director, John Harris, and a big chunk of the cast. A heavily pregnant Shauna MacDonald said that we should go easy, that Harris is no Neil Marshall, and that maybe he is even better. We’ll be the judge of that.

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Really, The Descent: Part 2 is standard sequel fodder. Any excuse to retread the first movie’s steps while we up the ante. But it does it with a certain level of style. All the claustrophobic tension that made its predecessor so memorable is gone, but the gore is present and accounted for. The characters are not the most likable of bunches, so I spent most of the movie waiting for them to die in gruesome ways. Of which there were a few real treats.

One thing I do take umbrage with is that, in sequels, if you do not explicitly see a character die in the previous flick then chances are they will make a return. If you have looked at the cast list then you know what I’m talking about.

So the gore was great, and there were some really inventive deaths. And to top it off we finally get to see some Crawlers get what’s coming to them. It is a fun movie, which stands up against the original even though its existence is just a little bit questionable. And that is all I have to say about it. Oh no, there is one more thing. What the fuck was going on with that twist ending? I mean, seriously, come on!

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Cast and director came back to answer a few questions. I enjoyed Gavin O’Herlihy discussing how hard going it was being cramped up for so long and what it was like to have a totally new death scene.

The FrightFest boys appeared to wish us all well and then it was off to the Phoenix. Luckily, they had run out of Jagermeister so I took it easy. My buddy Frank and I pitched our idea to a few directors who looked adequately perturbed, I discussed the merits of Danzig with Joe Bishara, and had a nice chat with a heavily inebriated David Hess.

All good fun.

Sleep now please.

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