Frightfest Glasgow has grown over the years not only in size to two full days but also in scope. The best thing about the line-ups that organisers Jones, McEvoy, Rattray and co offer is they recognise a lot of horror fans donít have an exclusive interest in pure horror and the audience donít feel like theyíre being talked down to by an endless barrage of slashers (though obviously slasher marathons are an exquisite treat).
Of the eleven films showing I had only passing knowledge of the opening and closing features of the weekend. The first was a Hollywood history documentary, the last an Indonesian fightathon in a tower block and the nine films in between ended up fitting this eclecticism to a tee.
What better way to start a marathon cinema session than a doc about the man modern cinema owes a packet? Cormanís World (****) tells the story of Roger Cormanís long, influential career on the fringes as he discovered and broke some of the biggest names in Hollywood history via a galaxyís worth of beautiful B trash. Jack Nicholson, Pam Grier, Robert De Niro, Joe Dante, Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese and more pitch up to sing the utterly charming old schlockmeisterís praises.
Alex Stapletonís style is pacy with big laughs strewn throughout and while itís not quite as thrilling a roller coaster as Machete Maidens Unleashed which covered some of the same ground last year this is far more probing and heartfelt without being too sentimental. Stapleton does catch that truly startling moment however that all documentarians hope to capture in interviews from one of the starrier contributors and itís a sobering, distressing and touching sight.
Tape 407 (*1/2) has an impressive shot at being the worst found footage movie ever filmed let alone released. If you list off the most tiresome and irritating habits the controversial sub genre has to offer youíd basically write this filmís treatment. A potentially fun idea with the survivors of a plane crash being hunted down by a mostly unseen superstrong predator and thereís a few giggles to be had from the wildly bad dialogue and acting which hits the scriptís level, but 95% of the time itís a turgid repetitive mess with constant running and screaming from a cast with the most annoying collective voice since Grease 2.
It gets a dirtily won cheeky wee half star for an insultingly cheap scare late on with a laughably rendered sub video game CGI beasty charging at the camera which annoyingly actually made me jump. Itís humiliating but Iíve got to play fair.
The China brothersí Aussie set Crawl (***) mixes the climax of Blood Simple with the really tense hotel door scene from No Country For Old Men and stretches them to feature length, so the British duo arenít shying from comparisons to other moviemaking siblings.
Super stripped back and played solely for suspense, the almost-story of a waitress getting the stalk and chase treatment from a demented Croatian hitman proves efficiently entertaining enough, but nowhere near as gripping as it thinks it is and a little character of its own wouldnít have gone amiss.
The Day (****) seems on the surface to be a drab depressing post-apoc navel gazer but is secretly a razor sharp fun post-apoc ass-kicker with an attractive, talented gen-x cast (welcome back Shannyn Sossamon! and hello again Shawn Ashmore for the third Frightfest in a row! we simply MUST keep meeting like this) battling cannibalistic tribes and their killing-machine offspring. Previously assistant director on many a fight heavy genre flick, Douglas Aarniokoski paints a handsomely colourless rainy wasteland and fills it with action as exciting as it is vicious and a story as engrossing as it is merciless.
Only occasionally feeling as silly as it is, itís a strong ensemble show on all sides of production but The Last Exorcismís Ashley Bell steals it in a physically tough and psychologically complex turn solidifying her as one the finest young actresses out there.
Nearing the midnight hour with horror-fried eyes is surely the ideal condition to take in something titled War of the Dead (*), but Finnish director Marko Makilaaksoís WW2 soldiers versus zombies misfire is an uninspired no fun zone that tests the patience when it should be eliciting foolish cheers. The kind of film that banks on the viewer being bastarding drunk but forgets that even the hopelessly smashed need to be engaged, the performances and camera work are watchable enough but they canít cover how achingly cheap and unthrilling this ďactionĒ ďhorrorĒ hybrid is. If you ever wondered what DS Carver from The Billís American accent sounds like then itís advisable to wait Ďtil the dvd turns up in Poundland. It shouldnít take long.