Friday, 24 January 2014

2014 Glasgow Frightfest - Day One Preview

Horror film festivals are increasingly becoming the sole big screen outlet for the best horror movies, some of which struggle to achieve a DVD/Blu-ray release in a lot of territories.  It’s a phenomena that becomes doubly frustrating when the quality of many of these movies is measured against the utter codswallop that Hollywood shovels like so many piles of excrement into the cinema with a cry of "WILL THIS DO???" (I’m looking at you Devil’s Due).

Pre-2013 I was a Frightfest virgin.  This thankfully changed when, more through luck than design, I found myself in possession of a pass to last year’s event, which took place in the hallowed confines of the Glasgow Film Theatre over the course of two days in late FebruaryThere, alongside a crowd of rabid, mostly Glaswegian horror fans, I saw a handful of good to great movies, one awesome documentary, a brilliantly quirky Norwegian TV show called Hellfjord and Rob Zombie’s infuriating Lords of Salem.

Having had such a fun (and exhausting) time at the 2013 festival and again later in the year at the one-day Halloween event I found myself becoming increasingly antsy as dreary January day followedd dreary January day bringing us closer to Tuesday the 21st, the date when the Frightfest organisers were due to announce the 2014 line-up.  

Over the course of the weeks between now and the the festival (28th February & 1st March in case you don’t know) I will be publishing a series of articles which will focus on the movies that have been selected and the film-makers responsible.  This post is the start of this and provides some information on each of the movies being screened on day one of the festival and some words on why festival attendees should be exited.  Within the next week I'll be publishing the second part of this article which will focus on day two.

FEB 28 - 1.30PM - SAVAGED

Director: Michael S. Ojeda, Screenwriter: Michael S. Ojeda, Cast: Amanda Adrienne, Tom Ardavany, Ronnie Gene Blevins. US 2013, 95 mins.

UK PREMIERE - THE CROW meets I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE in a viciously gory supernatural shocker. Travelling across country to be with her fiancé, deaf mute Zoe (the entrancing Amanda Adrienne) stumbles on a horrific crime. Zoe’s brave attempt to intervene seals her fate; she's brutalized and left for dead. When an Indian shaman finds her clinging to life in a shallow grave he attempts to save her – but in the mystical process the spirit of an ancient Apache warrior enters her corpse hell-bent on revenge. But can she slaughter the men who attacked her in time before her body decomposes completely?

While I’m not especially keen on the rape/revenge sub-genre of horror this sounds like it puts a potentially interesting spin on the theme.  The central concept of an apache warrior’s spirit taking up residence in the body of a dying rape victim and going on a (hopefully) blood-soaked, vengeance-fueled rampage is replete with potential.  The race against time aspect brought on by the rapid decay of the host body should also provide the movie with a sense of real urgency as well as providing plenty of scope for icky effects.  It sounds like it could be an action packed, visceral festival opener and I for one am prepared to be impressed by this debut feature.

FEB 28 - 3.40PM - PROXY

Director: Zack Parker. Screenwriters: Zack Parker, Kevin Donner. Cast: Alexia Rasmussen, Alexa Havins, Kristina Klebe. US 2013, 120 mins.

UK PREMIERE - Attacked and beaten by a hooded assailant after seeing her gynaecologist, pregnant Esther seeks consolation in a support group where she meets Melanie, a mother who lost a child. But nothing is as it appears in this intensely gripping chiller because one of these damaged women is a psychodrama queen, the other seriously deranged. However, which one is which and where to draw the line? Friendship and empathy between the two turns dangerous for both in an astonishing delve into perverse psychosis that’s part Brian de Palma, part Lars Von Trier, part MARTYRS yet all astonishing and disturbing original.

The synopsis for Proxy reads less like Martyrs and more like another French euro-nasty; Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s ultra-visceral, psycho-thriller À l'intérieur.  However, if, as suggested, it has elements of De Palma and Von Trier coursing through its bloodstream I can’t deny that my interest is more than a little piqued.  I love horror movies that put female characters to the fore and give them more to do than simply look good whilst screaming, running or getting mutilated.  Hopefully Proxy will join recent fare such as The Woman, Jug Face and the aforementioned Gallic violence-fests in the short but thankfully growing list of horror movies that redress the balance somewhat.

FEB 28 - 6.45PM - WOLF CREEK 2

Director: Greg McLean. Screenwriters: Greg McLean, Aaron Sterns. Cast: John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Shannon Ashlyn. Aus, 2013, 107 mins.

UK PREMIERE - Mick Taylor is back with a few days to kill! Bolder, gorier and placed on a far bigger canvas than the original, John Jarratt and director Greg McLean return with an even more twisted sequel that maintains the savagery and nerve-jangling tension, while dazzling further with a spectacular and surprising use of out back landscapes and fauna. Two arrogant cops, two unwitting German backpackers and a Good Samaritan British tourist become the prey for the crazed pig-shooting psycho as the outback becomes drenched in rivers of blood and his underground lair reveals even sicker secrets.

I consider Greg McLean to be amongst the very finest modern horror directors and his 2005 debut Wolf Creek was at once a brutal tale of outback terror and a masterful exercise in mounting dread and skin-crawling suspense.  He followed this with the wildly underrated Rogue; a tale of a group of tourists who find themselves marooned on a tidal island in the middle of a remote river and at the mercy of a mean and hungry crocodile of prehistoric dimensions.  Now he returns to the world of Mick Taylor, the outback psychopath to beat ‘em all.  I’ve seen the trailer for Wolf Creek 2 and immediately crossed all my fingers and toes in the hope that it would be making its UK debut at Glasgow Frightfest 2014.  Reports from the 2013 Venice Film Festival where it had its world premiere were  largely positive and I think this is going to be a real crowd pleaser.

28th FEB - 9.15 - THE SACRAMENT

Director: Ti West. Cast: Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz. US 2013, 92 mins.

SCOTTISH PREMIERE - From the darkest imagination of indie poster boy Ti West, and produced by genre guru Eli Roth, comes THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL director’s freakiest chiller so far. Two reporters with a TV exposé show travel to a secret para-religious group to meet up with their fashion photographer friend’s sister, a reformed junkie, who credits turning her life around at the jungle-set Eden Parish commune run by the charismatic Father. Is the place a paradise on Earth free of cares, racism and stress? Or is it a sinister cult the news duo suspect? Hold on tight for suspenseful, jolting surprise.

On purpose I’ve avoided reading much about The Sacrament and as a result my knowledge doesn’t extend far beyond the above synopsis.  I loved The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers (yet to see The Roost) and while I can understand people having issues with the pacing of Ti West’s movies, for me, they flow almost perfectly.  Having enjoyed Kevin Smith’s slightly underrated Red State and loved the Safe Haven segment of V/H/S/2 I’m looking forward to another slice of cultish mayhem.  The cast is top heavy with some of indie horror’s finest including Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz and AJ Bowen each of whom were in Adam Wingard's brilliant You’re Next (probably not a coincidence that Ti West had a role in it too).  It’s also nice to see Gene Jones who has been popping up in small roles for a number of years getting the chance to sink his teeth into something with more substance as Father, the leader of Eden Parish commune.

FEB 28 - 11.30PM - AFFLICTED

Directors: Cliff Prowse, Derek Lee. Cast: Cliff Prowse, Derek Lee, Edo Van Breeman. Canada/US 2013, 86 mins. Cert 18.

UK PREMIERE - Just when you’d thought the ‘found footage’ trend had snatched its final breath...up pops another stellar example to expose there still is untapped craftsmanship and creativity to be found in this fear-inducing format. The winner of the Best Special Effects Award at the Sitges Fantasy Festival for its jaw-dropping visuals, two best friends see their world trip of a lifetime take a dark turn when one is struck by a mysterious illness that changes his metabolism making him superhuman. A clever spin on a classic scary story, dual-threat Cliff Prowse and Derek Lee make an impressive horror feature debut.

The opening night of last year’s Frightfest Glasgow concluded with the wet fart that was Detention of the Dead; a movie that took the basic plot of The Breakfast Club and threw zombies at it to stupefying effect.  The resultant “comedy” caused many a member of the audience to consider beating a hasty retreat lest they found themselves suffering irreversible brain damage from trying to beat themselves unconscious on the back of the seat in front of them.  Hopefully the festival organisers will have learned a valuable lesson and Afflicted will prove to be a diamond in the ever growing mountain of shit that is the found footage sub-genre.   I’m hoping to be surprised.  Certainly word of mouth has been positive suggesting that this might prove that there's life in the old dog yet.

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