This is a tricky supernatural chiller. It’s not really a spoiler (hell, the trailer reveals more) to say that the initial set-up shows us a “Groundhog Day” situation for Lisa Johnson (Abigail Breslin) and her family. Seemingly marooned in a fog-bound house with her family, a repeating cycle of daily events is driving her slowly crazy. Worse still, she is the only one who knows this is happening and can break out of the events. However, she suddenly starts to hear music and voices who call her name. This prompts the appearance of “The Pale Man” (Stephen McHattie), who is determined to maintain the status quo in the house. Breslin and McHattie are predictably brilliant in their opposing roles. But, given the rather grim subject matter, it does seem a bit twee and “Disney”, particularly come the climatic moments and the family scenes, which is a bit surprising given that this is from the “Cube” director Vincenzo Natali. The pace of the plot and the twists which are agonisingly teased out over many scenes, also work against it. Not a complete failure, but still something of a disappointment…
Although viewed as maybe not wholly successful, “V/H/S” was still seen as one of the best examples of horror anthology and “found footage” movies in existence. Any major issues with the original have been totally eradicated with this superior sequel! Yes, the wrap-around story is still fairly pointless (although it does provide a link to the previous one. Look at the mantelpiece…), and there is at least one weak story, but the quality of most of the stories is superb. As Private Investigators check a house for a missing student, they find stacks of VHS tapes, yadda, yadda, etc., you get the idea… We have 4 found footage stories here, the best of which involve a biker with a helmet cam getting mixed up with a zombie infection, and a taped investigation into a doomsday cult that just might know what they’re talking about! These stories are so strong, that they got rousing applause from the Frightfest audience mid-movie, which doesn’t always happen in anthology films. Highly recommended, and another good showcase for directors such as Gareth Evans (who took the opportunity to show amazing footage from “The Raid 2”!), and Adam Wingard.
100 Bloody Acres
Marvellously funny Australian film, that feels like a good-natured cross between “Motel Hell” and “Wolf Creek”. The Morgan brothers (Reg & Lindsay) run a fertiliser business in the outback, but have found that fresh human bodies provide the best product. Mostly using dead bodies from car-crashes, Reg acts on misguided initiative and kidnaps two guys and a girl on the way to a music festival. A myriad of ridiculous incidents later, Reg realises that he must stand up to his bullying brother and save the day. This is laugh-out loud stuff, with some nice splashes of gore and some fantastic one-liners. It also includes the most unexpected (and unwanted) sex-scene in the festival, which had the late-night crowd rolling in the aisles! Endearing performances especially from Damon Herriman and Anna McGahan make this a comedy-horror that’s definitely worth checking out.
The first and probably biggest “sleeper” hit of the Festival. This is the best comedy-horror since “Shaun of the Dead” and the fact that it’s British is just the icing on the cake. The janitor (“W.C” played brilliantly by Dan Palmer, who also wrote the screenplay) is in an office block, and doing some maintenance in the ladies toilet, whilst the annual Christmas party is going on across the corridor. Finding himself stuck in a cubicle, whilst a couple of female employees are chatting and then getting friendly, he witnesses the first moments of the zombie apocalypse. As the toilet gradually fills with Zombie Santa’s, Messiahs, and Xmas Puds (It’s a fancy dress party of course!), he has to use his limited resources to get out of the lavvy bite-free. Of course there’s the obvious low-brow humour (Used tampons as “bait”, phone down the bowl, etc.); but the script is remarkably witty and erudite as well. The imaginative use of the limited set, the way that Christian James (Director) manages to explore the character’s back-stories, and how he connects with and visualises a kindred spirit, is superb. There’s also some innovative ways, in which the zombies are utilised. The use of a reflection to distract a horde of them is something that I hadn’t seen before and the finger-loaded-catapult-bra (look for ‘em in stores soon) is a stroke of genius. Hilarious, touching and accomplished, it’s an absolute crime that this hasn’t got a British distribution company showing an interest yet!
Out of everybody I spoke to during the festival, everyone who saw it, placed it somewhere in their top 5. See it when you get the opportunity, if only to find out why Garfield is better than Jesus Christ!
A World War II found-footage film, which is one area I don’t think, has been covered by this sub-genre before. The movie follows a small platoon of Russian soldiers as they mop up German stragglers in enemy territory, during the last days of the war. As it’s mostly a propaganda exercise, they are being filmed by a reporter. However, as they infiltrate further into the German occupied areas, they find bizarre corpses and buildings containing fantastical machinery. Who’s responsible for creating human-machine soldiers, like “propeller-head” and his mad companions? The clue’s in the title… This is an utterly bonkers horror, with plenty of blood, where the main draw is the superbly designed creatures. With scythes for hands, drills for faces, lances for limbs … the creatures are varied and impressive. The best being a small generator/storage pot that runs around on human legs, which got a huge laugh from the audience. Like the cenobites from “Hellraiser”, these are tailor-made for genre action figure stardom. To be honest, there’s not a lot more to the movie, than the Russians encountering these monsters, losing someone, rinse and repeat. There are some nice touches when the survivors meet “Frankenstein” himself, but the plot is fairly slight, to say the least. Be that as it may, it’s still an entertaining romp.
Slashing its way onto the Frightfest screen was this Saxon/Viking potboiler.
In 871AD Britain, the Vikings and the Saxons are going at it like Football supporters on Absinthe! The Viking King Bacsecg is dying, but doesn’t think his two errant sons are up to the task of decimating the Saxons. So he sends one (Steinar) on a quest to find his first-born bastard son (Hakan). The journey will have unforeseen consequences and lead to a surprising conclusion (or not…). A few eyebrows were raised when this was included as part of the schedule. However, there’s nothing wrong with including a rip-roaring full-blooded adventure yarn … it’s just that this ain’t that! Coming across as desperately trying to emulate HBO and US swash-buckling epics like “Spartacus” and “Game of Thrones”, this just feels like a warmed-over BBC mini-series. It never has the conviction to include the blood, guts, sex, and violence of those productions, or the bravery to try anything remotely different. The sword battles feel clumsy and never convince, and the needless swearing just seems to be another attempt to compare itself to “GOT” again. And the questing … My God, there is a lot of questing! The film drags on with endless montages of the characters walking across the (admittedly beautiful) scenery, which makes it feel like a “Lord of the Rings” rip-off more than anything else. And to cap it all, the film freeze-frames right before a climatic event, which is one thing totally guaranteed to really piss me off, low budget or not! Not good.