The Week In Screenings Part XXIII – Film4 FrightFest Special
Film 4 FrightFest really is one of the highlights of my year; the chance to spend five days watching world class back to back films is just too good to miss. Now in its 12th year FrightFest continues to grow and grow, attracting filmmakers and film fans from all over the world. One of the key points about the festival is its sense of community – everyone watches the same films in the same screen over the weekend, so you get to know people really well, its a shared experience by everyone.
Having moved to the Empire Leicester Square three years ago, FrightFest now takes place in the main 1,500 seater theatre meaning you’re watching the films on one of the largest and best sounding screens in the world making for an incredible experience. So with 25 films playing in the main screen and 13 playing in the Discovery Screen, how did I get on?
Things kicked off on Thursday evening with the opening film Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark, producer Guillermo del Toro provided an exclusive video introduction to this well done remake of the classic 70s TV movie; this was how all remakes should be done, with care an attention, it was great, creepy way to start the weekend off. Up next was the fifth entry in the Final Destination franchise and surprisingly this was the best of the series so far. Stripping things back to basics we had a series of increasingly tense and well executed bizarre deaths to enjoy, it’s well worth a watch and uses its 3D in a fun, gimmicky way. The first midnight movie of the weekend was The Theatre Bizarre, an anthology film featuring short segments from several different directors, this was a great way to end the first day.
Friday was the first full day and its here that you really start to realise how many films you’ll be watching each day, there were six lined-up as well as an on-stage interview and a panel discussion. Rogue River got things moving in style and featured a unnerving performance from Bill Mosley as a deranged killer who likes to bring unwitting strangers back to his house. UK thriller The Holding followed and continued the weekend trend of advising you not to mess with people in the countryside, a strong thriller with fantastic photography, it arrives on UK DVD very soon. Next up was the Total Film interview with horror director/producer Larry Fessenden who proved to be a true original with his honest and outspoken views, it’s so refreshing to hear someone actually speak out and have such strong opinions with what’s wrong with the film business. This was followed straight away by a fascinating discussion on the current state of horror cinema featuring directors Adam Green, Joe Lynch, Lucky McKee, Ti West and more.
Urban Explorers looked at the world of people who explore abandoned buildings and of course this being a horror film our explorers stumble across a crazed killer in a tense and exciting horror thriller. The Glass Man was a fascinating recession horror, with an amazing performance from Andy Nyman as a London businessman whose life is spiralling out of control. The big film for Friday evening was the long awaited horror comedy Tucker & Dale Vs Evil, which destroyed the cinema with its perfect mixture of inventive humour, note perfect performances and lots of blood and gore; it’s a riot of a film. Finishing out the day was Vile, which followed the same route as Saw only this time the unlucky participants have to torture each other. So that was just the first day, can you see how packed FrightFest is? That’s also not even mentioning the little extras you get in-between films and the intros and Q&A session from the filmmakers.
Saturday and The Troll Hunter nearly blew out of eardrums with its incredible sound work, the Empire sound system is so loud that the troll sounds really were making the seats shake. The Wicker Tree followed that and found original Wicker Man director Robin Hardy returning to cover similar thematic ground to his earlier film. Panic Button looked at the dark side of social media as four competition winners find themselves trapped on a flight that is starting to turn deadly, it’s a tense and intriguing thriller that’ll give you second thoughts about what you put online. The Fright Night remake was up next and proved itself to be one of the better remakes of recent years, with great performances all round, though the 3D really didn’t add very much. After that though was one of the highlights of the festival, Lucky Mckee’s The Woman, a tough and brutal film that brings writer Jack Ketchum’s book to life on the big screen, it’s in cinemas soon so do catch it. Saturday was rounded out by the midnight screening of schlock tribute Chillerama, featuring four different tales of horror and madness, all in tribute to the films of the 50s, 60s and 70s, a perfect midnight outing.
Sunday though proved to be my favourite day of the weekend with my top two films playing back to back. The Divide set the tone for the day, this tense and dark tale of a group of survivors holed up in an underground bunker after New York gets nuked found director Xavier Gans exploring some very dark territory once again. A fascinating film and one that once again pushed the sound system in the cinema to the limits. That was followed by Andy Nyman’s Quiz From Hell, which was just as much fun as it sounds, Andy is such a great host. Then the Short Film Showcase gave us a look at an amazing selection of shorts from all round the world. Ti West’s The Innkeepers was also a highlight of the festival, this unique and intriguing tale of a haunted hotel sneaks up on you and proves it’s possible to do horror in even the most mundane, everyday locations. Saint took us to Amsterdam for their December St Nick day, only this time round St Nick was a blood thirsty killer who only wants to kill people, a fantastic fun entry in the horror Christmas genre. Then it was on to the one-two punch of my two favourite films of the weekend: Kill List and Detention. Kill List is the new film from director Ben Wheatley, his previous Down Terrace was a masterpiece of understated tension and he’s upped his game massively here with a stunning hit man film that slowly morphs into a chilling and unsettling horror tale. With Kill List it’s best to go in to the film as cold as possible, the less you know the more you’ll enjoy it. It’s a film that really sets Ben up as one of the most intriguing and original directors working today. Then the final midnight screening of the weekend turned out to be my film of the festival: Detention. Imaging if you watched Heathers, Donnie Darko and Scott Pilgrim all at once on the same screen, that’s what Detention is like. Every scene is bursting with ideas and you have no idea where the film is going next or how on earth it’s going to end. Along the way there’s comedy, characters breaking the fourth wall, masked killers, body swapping, enough 80s and 90s tributes to keep anyone happy and to top it all off there’s a time-travelling bear involved as well. Currently without UK distribution, Detention is the best film you’ve not seen yet, when you do get the chance grab it, it’ll be your new favourite.
And so we come to the final day, it always comes round so quickly, but as always we went out on a high. UK found footage horror A Night In The Woods started the day and proved to be an inventive horror that took the time to establish its characters before unleashing an unseen horror onto them. American zombie comedy horror Deadheads followed and told the tale of two intelligent zombies who set off on a road trip to track down an ex-girlfriend. Sennentuntschi: Curse Of the Alps was the first horror film ever produced in Switzeland and proved to be in interesting and very well-made tale of madness in the remote mountains. Then the penultimate film Inbred found director Alex Chandon returning to FrightFest for the first time since 2001. This horrific and surreal tale finds a group of teenagers and their two teachers getting into trouble when they run foul of the deranged locals after they set off into the countryside, it’s a unique spin on a well known genre. After this it was onto the final film of the weekend, the mountaineering thriller A Lonely Place To Die, which finds a group of climbers running into trouble when they find the young girl alive and buried in a remote part of the mountains. From there it’s a tense game of cat and mouse as their pursued by mysterious killers through the highland mountains.
So you can see how packed the weekend is, that was just the films and only the films on the main screen come to that. I didn’t even venture into the Discovery Screen, which was packed with fascinating-looking films. Along the way we had lots of extra surprises, lots of laughs, plenty of great freebies, including the fantastic Kill List-branded goodie bags. If you’ve never been to FrightFest do give it a try one time, it’s always the highlight of my film year, I’m sure you’d enjoy it as well.Tags: Film4, frightfest, screenings
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