The Week In Screenings Part LCII

Friday, August 31 2012
The Week In Screenings Part LCII

The last week has all been a bit of a blur, there’s been so much happening that it’s odd to stop and actually be back at work. Along with the launch of the Scala Beyond season, which I took part in as part of The Duke Mitchell Film Club, the fifth birthday night for The Duke as well, which saw us playing to our biggest audience yet, I also enjoyed the highlight of the film year: FrightFest. Though sadly I think I slightly overdid it as I had to miss the last few days of the weekend simply due to exhaustion, I think the last few months had finally caught up with me. So what follows is a look back at the films I did manage to catch over the weekend.

Thursday was opening night and there was a fantastic trio of terror lined up for the evening, starting with the world premiere of The Seasoning House, the debut feature film from Paul Hyett, who’s previously worked on many UK horror films. Here he takes a horrific situation and manages to make it even more disturbing and bleak. Set in the Balkan war, the seasoning house of the title is a brothel that’s filled with young girls, all held against their will and all forced to have sex with anyone with enough money to pay. Angel is a young deaf mute girl who is unlucky enough to have to assist the boss with keeping the house running, but as things start to spiral out of control she finds herself as a reluctant heroine facing the latest batch of visiting customers. It was a great opening film and packs a powerful punch centred around a remarkable performance form lead actress Rosie Day in the role of Angel. There’s no release date set yet for The Seasoning House but do give it a watch once it’s released.

Next up was the brilliant Cockneys Vs Zombies, which I was watching for the second time, this is pure fun and is in another league to the other Vs films we’ve seen over the last year. Dropping a zombie outbreak into the East End of London and seeing what would happen pits a band of misfit Cockneys against the undead in a comic romp that never takes itself too seriously but lays on the character and fun with spades. It’s a great watch and the OAPs steal the show, with great turns from Richard Briers and the unstoppable swearing machine that is Alan Ford.

The first night rounded off with the Irish monster move Grabbers, a loving tribute to the 80s monster movies that we all love. Set in a remote Irish island the locals are besieged by a strange alien entity who’s all tentacles and keeps growing and growing. The local police find themselves cut off for support and have to find a way to survive the night as the Grabbers get more and more dangerous, luckily booze manages to play a big part in helping them out. A huge amount of fun Grabbers is also helped out by having a trio of strong leads including Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley and Russell Tovey.

Late night and early starts at FrightFest can be tough, but I was back in the cinema the next day by 10am for the long awaited first UK screening of Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut, the long awaited extended version of Clive Barker’s mangled horror tale. Only previously available in a shortened and re-edited version there have long been rumours of the true version languishing somewhere in a vault and now thanks to a lucky chance discovery it’s been freed and we’re finally able to see Nightbreed in all its two and a half hour glory. Mastered from two long-forgotten VHS tapes the quality was rough in places, but the footage is priceless and helps to transform this misunderstood feature into something far more epic. The current plan is to try and get a fully restored version released on DVD/Blu-ray within a year using higher quality footage, let’s all keep our fingers crossed that this comes together.

After that is was time for guest of honour Dario Argento to take the stage for an in-depth interview. Now I was really looking forward to this due to the fact that I’d been asked to put together the tribute film reel that would play before Dario took to the stage. I’d spent the last week cutting together a fun and loving tribute selection for the event and even went to the trouble of getting some Italian footage translated into English for the first time. The footage played really well and it was amazing to see it on such a huge screen, it even got laughs in all the right places, Dario himself seemed surprised with some of my selections, but I do always try and dig deep and show you something unique.

The interview was followed by the Chilean horror film Hidden In The Woods, which was an interesting idea but didn’t really work and I struggled to get through.

Next up though was the main course for me, the film I’d been waiting to see since it surfaced at Sundance back in January: V/H/S. This anthology film is made up of separate found footage shorts and follows the misadventures of a group of friends who break into a collector’s house to steal a rare VHS tape, once there they watch a selection of his tapes trying to find the right one and find that each tape features a strange and scary tale. Great fun from start to finish and it really does a good job of recreating the vintage video feel, with lots of video fuzz and glitches popping up all the way through. The tales themselves are mixed with some being stronger than others but the overall quality is good and a few are particular highlights. V/H/S should hit our screens later this year.

This was followed up by the long awaited [REC]3, which makes a brave move by ditching the found footage format after the first 20-minutes and making the jump to regular filmmaking. Taking place at the same time as the previous 2 entries we now follow the terrible events that befall a wedding when the zombie plague arrives in their midst. We follow the paths of the happy couple as their forced apart after their big day and have to struggle against all the odds to be reunited, fighting blood crazed zombies at every turn it’s a great fun entry in the series, and while it doesn’t hit the chaotic heights of the original it’s still a great watch and manages to pull off the jump into conventional filmmaking with great style.

The final film of the night was an interesting one: Stitches, which featured the feature film debut of comedian Ross Noble. Here he plays an evil clown, who accidently dies while doing his tired old routine for a group of ungrateful kids. Skip forward a few years and the kids are now teenagers planning on holding a big party one night, everything looks good apart from the fact that they’ve also managed to accidently resurrect Stitches, who now wants payback from his untimely death and he’s heading along to crash their party. What’s interesting here is that Ross Noble has chosen a quite different character to make his debut with, instead of just sticking to type he’s opted to play quite a nasty and evil person, which makes his performance even more intriguing, he does a great job as Stitches, all odd mannerisms and strange ticks, it’s a great performance which adds a lot to what could have been just a straight forward kids in peril party film.

So that was my FrightFest 2012, sadly cut short but I still had a great time and managed to watch a great selection of films. FrightFest is back with its annual Halloween All-Nighter on Saturday 27th October at Vue, Leicester Square, London.

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