Sunday, March 6, 2016

post mortem.

Another year and another Frightfest over so before I forget everything that occurred (tho' days after everyone else obviously) and by popular demand (OK one person asked my opinion), here's the mini round-up reviews type thing of the whole gory story.

The whole shebang was previewed back here so forgive any repetition and I'll try to keep things brief and to the point. 


Going back to gory holes (sort of) the whole kit and kaboodle kicked of with a special Thursday night preview showing (for those of us not in the pub) of Jason (I wrote The Houses That October Built but don't hold that against me) Zada’s tree-based tummy troubler The Forest which headlines smirking sultress Natalie Dormer as twins (one has a comedy wig as to not confuse the audience) one of whom has gone allegedly missing in the spooky Aokigahara Forest.

I say allegedly as the nearest the production got to Japanese culture in any way appears to be playing Super Mario Bros. on the NES whilst masturbating to Harumi Asano videos.

Which there's no shame in but does mean that you wont be concentrating on putting together little things like a coherent plot or making sure there aren't any wee bits of clichéd racism in your script (Japanese food is gross! Look! as the camera lovingly focuses on a plate of sushi).

Luckily tho' they did have enough time to buy some Just For Men for hunky lead Taylor Kinney's frankly magnificent locks, just a pity that his T-Shirt was too small for him.

Seriously his nipples poked me in the eyes so much I had to wear a bandage across them for the rest of the weekend.

Which made viewing the other movies a tad challenging.

Hampered with dodgy dialogue, massively signposted scares and a script that requires the Dormer to have undergone a common sense removal operation before shooting, The Forest can only be recommended for those of you who enjoy camping equipment on the big screen or with a man-tit fetish.

Which means your dad would love it.

Natalie Dormer searches vainly for an original idea in The Forest. Well technically it's a hotel lobby but the film is entitled The Forest, no idea what the hotel's called.

The first film up on Friday was soon upon us in the form of The Hexecutioners, the latest tale of oddness from writer Tony Burgess, he who gave us the sublime Pontypool but not A Clockwork Orange as that one is dead.

Saying that tho' at the time of writing who's to say that this Burgess isn't fighting for his life somewhere? I mean we all face our own terrifying demons and battle against personal pain - both real and imagined - everyday.

A bit like the lovely, librarian-like and ravishingly redheaded - a theme that we will be returning to throughout the weekend - Malison McCourt (Liv Collins, daughter of Irish revolutionary leader Michael and actress Joan) in this movie.


I'm not just rambling.

In a world where euthanasia is not only legal but a growing business, the mousy Malison, after suffering the indignity of having a dying woman vomit on her is teamed up with seasoned pro Olivia (all your school teacher fantasies made flesh Sarah Power) and sent to the remote estate of the high Scrabble scoring Milos Somborac, whose deathbed wish is to die via the Tibetan death ritual known as the Yotar Sky Burial.

Nicely written, played to perfection and with a fantastic central premise, the film is unfortunately let down somewhat by some unsure direction, a nervousness regarding its mix of scares and (very black) humour and more importantly by signposting its twists in neon ages before they happen.

Which is a shame as there are the seeds of a real gem here and the central performances from Collins and Power are fantastic.

As are Collins clothes.

Still worth a look - and miles more inventive than most mainstream horror around - The Hexecutioners has much to be recommended for.

Liv Collins, that is all.

From luscious librarians to loopy (young) lassies now with writer/director Sonny Mallhi's Anguish, the slow-burning, soulful story of troubled teen Tess d'Urbervilles (Ryan Simpkins, sister of the wee boy with the pudding bowl haircut and Autistic traits in Jurassic World) who suffers from a form of mentalism that causes her to struggle distinguishing between what’s real and what's imaginary.

I can relate to that.

Moving to a new town our batty-brained heroine is soon seeing spooky visions all around her that seem to be centred on a young girl whose life was tragically cut short in a car accident.

I say cut short but it's more like squashed flat.

Any concerns regarding another American movie about possession that alleges to be based on a true story are quickly laid to rest by Mallhi non-flashy direction which keeps the film moving at a slow and steady pace towards a genuinely surprising third act that totally fools your expectations.

Nicely underplayed and with a warm homely feel (thanks in part to a fantastically folky soundtrack and lush cinematography courtesy of Laid To Rest 2's Amanda Treyz) Anguish is one for anyone looking for a more sensitive and - gulp - mature approach to the paranormal.

Definitely a surprise and a director (and star) to watch.

On screen that is, I'm not suggesting you stalk them or anything.

Simpkins in a hat.

Next up - and giving the audience a well deserved break from full length fear-mongering were a trio of terrific shorts beginning with Jon Mikel Caballero's Cenizo, a brilliantly bonkers tale of eviction (yup, really) told from the viewpoint of a comic-reading young girl trying desperately to help her dad fend off an army of space nasties, which was frankly fantastic and thoroughly heart-warming (tho' the lead characters name may have help sell me on it).

Search it out now.

Adam Quintero: Specs appeal (sorry).

This was followed (as opposed to It Follows which as we all know is utter shite) by director/writer Katie Bonham’s menacingly mournful Mindless, a short yet shocking story of Peter (Nicholas Vince), a middle aged man on the edge of senility and his health visitor that packs more of a punch in it's scant eight minute running time than most features do in ninety and goes well to cementing Bonham as a Pete Walker for the new millennium.

Albeit less grumpy and with better taste in shoes.

Finally Burlesque bombshell and comedy writer Cat Davies’ cautionary tale of the dietary details of undead dating KEEN-wah hit the screen to much laughter and applause tho' to my mind it suffered from being a great idea let down somewhat by technical/make-up issues when compared to the previous two efforts and didn't reach its full potential.

Still, worth a giggle I guess.

What's new (pussy) Cat Davies?

And now to the dark horse of the festival, bravely replacing the Stephen King, John Cusak starrer Cell was Pandemic - a shoot em, loot em first person plague people vs Rachel (Continuum) Nichols actioner from director John Suits, he of the stylish 2014 thriller The Scribbler.

When a nasty virus (is there any other kind?) decimates humanity, former green-skinned Star Trek babe Nichols (as a CDC doctor not as herself obviously) is sent into an infected LA to retrieve a previous group with whom contact was lost shortly after reporting finding uninfected survivors.

But personal agendas and well kept secrets may jeopardise not only the mission but the very lives of those involved.

Incredibly intense in parts with a rough and ready guerilla edge missing from many movies of its ilk, it's eclectic cast and instantly recognisable - and relatable - characters means the movie grabs your attention from the start and never lets up.

Imagine The Crazies hotwired thru a PS3 and you're halfway there.

And to be honest that's no bad thing.

Welcome to Dudley.

From crazies to Cthulhu now as the fantastically funny Portal To Hell!!! burst onto our screens (well the GFT screens obviously).

A beautifully played homage to all things Lovecraft and featuring the final performance from the legendary 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper (plus sterling support from Laura Robinson who is, bizarrely enough the co-inventor of the best-selling game Balderdash - strange but true), Portal is just perfect.

Nuff said.

Rowdy Roddy reacts to the original They Live! reviews.

Wiping a tear from our collective eye (son) we sat in anticipation (which is the bar opposite the cinema) in readiness for Joe (Almost Human) Begos' brain-popping, bass pounding tribute to Scanners, the sublime The Mind’s Eye.

This 90's set telekinetic terror centres upon the misadventures of ESP-powered Everyman Zack Connors (Almost Human‘s Graham Skipper) who after being tricked to join a programme designed to help those with these 'special' gifts by the dodgy Doctor Michael Slovak (a scenery devouring performance from John Speredakos) discovers that not only does the doctor wish to steal these powers for himself but that he also has our heroes true love, the hotly mumsy Rachel (pear eyed poppet and star of Jug Face Lauren Ashley Carter) held captive.

Lauren Ashley Carter: Yummy quite frankly.

Proudly wearing it's influences on it's bloodied and torn sleeve and filled to the brim with gravity defying performances, exploding heads and a (not so) sly reference to everyones favourite CIA crazy John Rainbird, how much you love this will depend totally on how much you love the films it's celebrating.

And in this case it's a hell of a lot.

Oh and the score from Steve Moore of Zombi is pretty fucking special too.

And how do you follow that?

Well with Tyler MacIntyre’s heartfelt love letter to botched body swaps, social acceptance and true love, the brilliantly barmy Patchwork.

Mixing Mary Shelley with a dash of early Peter Jackson to wonderful comic (horror) effect, Patchwork is the story of three young women - work obsessed Jennifer (Tory Stolper), glitter loving airhead Ellie (Tracey Fairaway - so close) and the frankly perfect Madeleine (be still my beating heart, Maria Blasucci) who wake up after a night out to find themselves not only in a strange laboratory (which would be bad enough) but also hastily stitched together in one (fairly hot it must be said) body.

Charlie's Angels: The Pikey Years.

Discovering that they share thoughts as well as arms and legs (but not alas three arses) the trio must learn to work together if they have any chance of extracting shevenge on the person who did it.

Playing out at points like a Frank Henenlotter version of Inside Out (no, really) the films central concept of having three distinct and decidedly different personalities inhabiting one body gives Stolper, Fairaway and Blasucci the chance to really shine, giving a real heart and soul to a film that in less capable hands could become a trashy, offensive and unwatchable mess.

Great fun and genuinely touching Patchwork was, for me the surprise hi-light of the festival.

Maria Blasucci: Twice.

And with that Fridays turn ended with a bang leaving just enough time for a tearful wank, a Pot Noodle and forty winks (see? It does affect your eyesight) before rising early the next day (tho' not early enough to catch the first five minutes....damn you alarm clock) for the frankly fantastically monikered Roar (Cold Prey) Uthaug’s The Wave.

"Are you looking at my bra?"

Norway's biggest hit of last year, The Wave finds pube-chinned geologist Kristian (The Revenant's Kristoffer Joner) in a race against time to save his family whilst attempting to convince the authorities that the country’s most unstable mountain is about to collapse causing a massive tsunami.

Which is nice.

An unashamedly old school disaster flick featuring great performances and top-drawer special effects (the wave itself is terrifyingly real), it may not add anything new to that well worn genre but when you're on the edge of your seat and willing our hero to pull thru' none of that seems to matter.

Well it does if you're an arsey film bore with no joy in your life obviously.

"Somebody help me! I can't seem to find a coherent plot!"

 And talking of joyless thinks brings us neatly to Southbound, the much hyped (by 14 year old boys) anthology horror from the folk who graciously gave us V/H/S.


Tying together five stories (well I say stories but five hastily scribbled, half-baked ideas would be a more apt description) of guilt, horror and shoddily CG-ed ball-headed monsters via a stretch of desert highway, Southbound is the perfect example of (makeshift) style over (very little) substance, the cinematic equivalent of a drunken jam session between four fairly competent pub bands best known for covering Oasis as it's the only band they've ever heard.

True there are some great ideas on show but none are followed thru', everything just seems to stop with an uninterested  'meh' rather than a shocked gasp, saying that tho' maybe I'm being too harsh as I'm not the intended audiences seeing as I'm not 12 and I've actually seen a film before.

More like a synopsis on the back of a box than an actual movie, Southbound is the cinematic equivalent of your mum drunk trying to dance provocatively to Beyonce, interesting to look at for a while but ultimately forgettable.

Harumi Asano, just in case you were wondering what she looks like.

Which is the total opposite of the arse-kicking martial arts action hit SPL2: A Time For Consequences, director Soi Cheang's tale of 'orrible organ-leggers, crack-head cops, family ties and tiny children in hospital is an unashamedly old-school HK thriller that plays out as if there has been no other films made since John Woo's The Killer and is all the better for it.

The basic premise sees undercover Hong Kong cop and part-time junkie Kit (Wu Jing) sent to a terrifying Thai prison after his cover is blown during a botched operation  where he discovers that the jail is really a cover for an organ trafficking ring run by a Chinese David Bowie impersonator ably aided and abetted by a gravity defying, slick-quiffed prison warden and an eyebrow-shorn hitman with a line in deadly letter openers.

Luckily there's one honest guard in the prison (and he's played by Tony Jaa - how lucky is that?) named Chatchai how is painfully aware of all the badness and corruption going on around him.

Unfortunately his daughter has leukaemia and is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant so our good guy guard is forced to remain silent, until that is he realizes that Kit is not only a cop but the perfect match for his daughters blood type setting the scene for an top-tier, turbo-charged excuse to watch grown men kicking seven shades of shite out of each other in a variety of ever more amazing ways whilst trying to get a signal on a mobile phone.

No really.

Played to straight-faced perfection and a with a deadly serious tone usually reserved for stuff like Schindler's List, SPL2 is a text-book example of why we fell in love with the likes of Chow Yun Fat and Sammo Hung in the first place.

Ball-breaking cinematic gold.

And yes there's an inappropriate pop song over the end credits.

"Does my skin look buttery?"

From chop-sockey trumpings to Indian summers now with The Other Side Of The Door, Johannes Roberts’ tale of totems, terror and antique tables where the Mumbai-based tat peddler Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies from The Walking Dead), distraught after losing (as in he died, not in a McCann way) her son discovers a dark rite (there's always one isn't there?) that will let her to say goodbye to her dead child and hopefully find closure.

Unbeknownst to her husband Michael (Jeremy Sisto) she travels to a remote temple where it is said that the barriers ’twixt the world of the living and the dead is at it's thinnest.

A wee bit like Dudley town centre then.

The land of the dead yesterday.

Being a girl tho' Maria messes up the ritual allowing the spirit of the evil goddess Myrtu to enter our realm and roam the earth once more leaving her no choice but to try and protect her daughter and husband from this netherworld nasty whilst trying to act like she's done nowt wrong.

Yup, typical bloody woman.

Although not the most original plot in the world, Roberts raises the movie above the norm with a great cast, a uniquely exotic setting and some genuine scares in a film that is as unashamedly British in feel as it is exotic.

Reminiscent (in tone at least) at times of the 1975 Tyburn Film The Ghoul, The Other Side Of The Door does exactly what it sets out to do and is an unapologetically old school chiller.

All the perils of double dating in one pic.

From subtle chiller to blood soaked thriller next with the première of Can Evrenol’s terrifyingly trippy Turkish delight, Baskin.

When a bus load of foul mouthed Turkish police officers answer a call for help from one of their colleagues they get more than they bargained for, stumbling headlong into a Black Mass being performed by a nightmarish cabal of subhuman cannibalistic freaks with a thing for gory blood ceremonies and bare arses led by a ball-headed boffin called simple 'Father'.

Almost impossible to describe but totally impossible to ignore, Baskin comes across like a primary coloured, living breathing arthouse vision of Hell as curated by Clive Barker, Lucio Fulci and David Lynch with tickets designed by Nicholas Winding Refn in a lock-up in Silent Hill.

Bloody good stuff.

"Boiled onions!"

The penultimate movie of the weekend was by far the most contentious, Kevin and Michael Goetz’s remake of Pascal Laugier’s comedy classic Martyrs.

'Serious' (I.E. those with poles up their arses) horror fans were enraged at the thought of an American remake of this 'classic' and weren't backwards in coming forwards (or over the seats in front) with opinions about it.

I, myself tho' felt rather different.

It's confession time.

You see, I don't actually rate the original.

True it has a brilliant premise, a fantastic beginning, beautifully twisted middle and a massive punch to the bollocks of an ending but then, unfortunately it has an extra 40 minutes of meandering and boring torture added to it for no reason other than shock value before dropping the ball completely by leaving the whole "Does God exist?" question totally unanswered.

Not even Star Trek V fell into this trap.

And as for the remake?

Well it's totally what you expect, a flashy yet vacuous retelling that replaces the originals religious overtones with a so-so strong woman revenge trope that is neither fleshed out enough to be engaging or different enough to warrant the film being remade in the first place.

The kinda film that your boringly haircutted workmate would find 'shocking' but in reality the cinematic equivalent of watching grey gloss paint dry.

Saying that tho' it does feature some of the most unintentionally hilarious CGI I’ve seen in a mainstream movie for some time alongside a blink and you'll miss it homage to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.

Tho' that was probably an accident.

I'd say it's worth a look but as a horror fan you really have to see it to make up your own mind.

Not as shite as you feared but not as funny as it could have been.

But it is nice to see Big Trouble In Little China's Kate Burton back on the big screen.

The Ronko Wankaway proved a great success with young and old alike.

And now for a feast of sugary sweet fun from writer/director Sean Byrne, he who gave us the sublime The Loved Ones and introduced us to the ultimate maid of mentalism in the button-cute form of Robin McLeavy.

No pressure then.

Ladies and gentlemen I give you The Devil’s Candy.

Lank haired heavy metal loving art type guy Jesse Hellman (Ethan Embry), his wife Astrid (Ex-All Saint Shiri Appleby) and fellow metal-head daughter Zooey (Kiara - I belong to - Glasco) moves to a house in Texas, unfortunately (for them that is) the house has a violent past.

By that I mean that bad things happened in it and not that the actual house itself got up off its foundations and ran amok, tho' that would've be worth seeing and probably a lot more realistic than Martyrs.

But I digress.

It's not long tho' before his paintings start to take a darkly disturbing turn and when a drifter called Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince from almost everything) turns up on their doorstep begging to move back into where his parents tragically died things start to get really strange.

Literally THE only still available from The Devil's Candy.

What could be seen as yer average 'family under siege' movie is immediately elevated to greatness by Byrne's almost uncanny ability to make even the most mundane and comical situations turn terrifying and it's this, couple with his skill at creating instantly likeable 'everyman/woman' characters, the relationship between Jesse and Zooey is absolutely beautifully played and it's this bond 'tween father and daughter that drives and informs the films darker elements.

Kudos too to Appleby and the always watchable Vince.

I for one can't wait to see it again.

And this time I promise to keep my trousers on.

So that's it for another year, strong, steady and infinitely enjoyable Frightfest Glasgow continues to go from strength to strength - roll on next year and hopefully a belated big screen showing of this classic.....

You have been warned.

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