There’s something about seeing a horror movie in the cinema at a time of day when you can still taste toothpaste that I really love. I don’t know why, I just really love it.
A found footage movie with a quartet of campers being menaced by SOMETHING doesn’t sound too promising but Olatunde Osunsanmi’s Evidence (****) is a very pleasant surprise and an exhilaratingly trashy ride. The characters aren’t anything to write home about but they are engaging and the cast do a fine job as our blind guides. It doesn’t take itself seriously but brings the scary with well judged tension, sound effects and confusing clues as to what’s going on scattered about the first hour.
Rather than provide a fully satisfying logical pay off, Osunsanmi hits the crazy switch with a hectic final act that chucks as many lumps of schlock at you as possible. It’s a risky move but proves a thoroughly entertaining 20 minutes of WTF to end a very tense bit of fun.
Sibling duo Adrián and Ramiro García Bogliano’s playful Penumbra (****) views tensions between Spaniards and Argentines through a Polanski inspired looney lens with a bit of Satre thrown in. Instead of the confused disturbed waifs of Rosemary’s Baby or Repulsion we get Cristina Brondo as an unflappable irresistibly bitchy career woman plunged into a surreal nightmare comedy of manners by an ever growing group of estate agents.
Boasting a superbly seductive jazz score, hilarious riddle like dialogue, oodles of style, a cheeky dose of sleaze and a truly amazing lead performance from Brondo, it’s let down by a slightly flat ending but is front runner for dark comedy of the year.
With Rites of Spring (***), writer-director Padraig Reynolds basically takes two unoriginal movies and stitches them together for surprisingly solid nonsense. A kidnapping-gone awry-thriller runs concurrently with a survive-the-monster horror and the two smash into each other in a pleasingly messy manner for a bodycount heavy final act. It’s dumb stuff but superior monster design from the Hills Have Eyes team and an ace cast make up for the lack of depth to the characters and the many loose threads intentionally left hanging. Touted as the first of a trilogy it’ll remain to be seen just how successful Padraig’s slick debut is.
Italian genre filmmaking got a fair shout with a terrific 7 minute preview clip from Federico Zampaglione’s absolutely spot-on looking 70’s giallo homage Tulpa before firing on with the Antonio and Marco Manetti’s L’arrivo di Wang (Wang’s Arrival) (***). The brothers’ intimate interrogation thriller plays very straight until an out there twist at the 30 minute mark that’ll be make or break for most viewers.
Despite one key questionable bit of design, this Play For Today For Genre Fans wears its silliness on its sleeve (maybe a bit too much) and offers plenty of wit and a suitable amount of uncertainty as well as some great digs at Amnesty. And yes they do know they need to change the title.
I must confess that Cassadaga (N/A) was a victim of scheduling on my part as I snuck off to see a trendy lad called Umberto play an electronic score to a screening of Pieces. Which was really quite good thank you very much.
The closing film was by far the most hyped but Welsh writer-director Gareth Evans delivered big-time with his Indonesian feature length money shot The Raid (*****). As pure an action movie as it’s possible to get and quite possibly the closest to perfect a martial arts movie has ever got, the set up of crack SWAT team versus an army of guards in a 30 storey tower block is all there is plot wise so there’s nowt getting in the way of the stunningly choreographed bullet / knife / fist fight sequences. It’s a hyperactive live action Looney Tunes bone apocalypse and if fighting’s your bag then you’ve found a new favourite film.
At the end of this movie geek indulgence, the Frightfest audience had taken in proof of how dreadful/thrilling the found footage can be, an exciting and poignant portrait of a moviemaking legend, a very bad zombie movie, a very good post-apoc movie, two politically driven dark comedies coming from vastly different angles as well as the most important piece of action cinema since The Matrix. Not bad.
Lessons learned from the weekend:
“They’re overexposed but not underdeveloped!” is the greatest tagline ever.
Computer generated monsters that would make Jim Wynorski blush are clearly my most deep routed fear.
No matter how hard you try it is not possible to beat a zombie to death with just your fists.
The director of The Fourth Kind can make a good horror film.
Tulpa looks like it’ll to be a fantastic genital-chopping throwback. And sexy as hell.
Don’t mess with an Argentinean street bum as he is probably a highly respected pillar of the community.
AJ Bowen is officially the most huggable horror actor on earth.
There seems to be a lot of filmmaking brothers out there these days.
Balding Indonesian John Oates look-alikes are not to be trifled with.