FrightFest 2006. The 6th Anniversary of the UK’s best annual horror festival took place between 25th and 28th August 2006 at the Odeon West End cinema. Read the review of Day Two below or click on the other links to see reviews for the other days.
Featuring Billy O’Brien’s Irish mad cow horror, Isolation the real-life Klingon documentary Earthlings, US ghost story The Marsh, WWF horror in a hotel See No Evil, yuppies-in-peril-at-sea flick Adrift and a late-night helping of Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror.
Soulmining: I’d forgotten to set my alarm, so was late getting up on Saturday, and late getting into central London to meet some of the others for breakfast. This was then compounded by sluggish service at the pub, which meant I completely missed the introduction to Isolation from director Billy O’Brien.
Soulmining Billed as a ‘barnyard Alien’ you just know that things are going to get ugly the moment the vet turns up to shove her lubricated arm up a sick cow’s backside. This tale of genetic experiments gone awry on an Irish farm was a pleasant surprise boasting high production values and a small but talented cast featuring the likes of John Lynch (Hardware) and Sean Harris (Creep). Bloody and visceral throughout, we’re only given brief glimpses of the deadly spawn which cleverly serves to enhance the terror. What impresses most though is the slow, unsettling build up and sustained tension that pervades the air as the infection spreads, making Isolation a homegrown treat and introduces Billy O’Brien as a director to watch.
Zomblee A real treat from Ireland here. Leaving last year’s Irish FrightFest entry Dead Meat at the starting line, it races ahead with a real sense of style, making the most of a singular, claustrophobic location - an isolated farm. Billy O’Brien has constructed a truly chilling film that never once lets you get bored, because when you get a chance to breathe, you’ll notice a stench in your nostrils. Yes, this film really stinks. It stinks of silage and filth of the farm location, and I certainly wasn’t the only one who admitted the need for a shower afterwards. John Lynch gives a superb performance, as do the rest of the cast, and the messy f/x are superb.
Rawshark I wasn’t expecting too much from this Irish ‘mad cow’ horror, but happily I was proved wrong as Isolation turned out to be one of the best films of the festival. Oozing with style, the film takes huge advantage of its one location (a farm) and literally plonks you knee-deep in amongst the shit and celluloid silage. The script is extremely tight, focusing on only five characters (the farmer, a vet, a scientist and two travellers) as they are forced to deal with mutated cows (a lot scarier than it sounds), with great performances and an amazing look that belies its small budget. A stunning debut film. Will do for cows what Alien did for aliens and The Thing did for er.. things.
Director Billy O’Brien
Cast Essie Davis
Paul McEvoy on stage with Isolation director Billy O’Brien
Soulmining: Billy O’Brien returned after the screening for a short Q&A with Paul McEvoy and then we were free to collect our FrightFest goodie bags which this year included a couple of DVDs, a Lady Vengeance t-shirt, a Them stress ball, the featured short Deadly Tantrum on DVD, The Wicker Man matchbook, The Jacket dog-tags and a few other assorted bits and pieces. As always there were a number of other giveaways during the weekend of various overstocked promotional items including t-shirts, caps and posters from some of last year’s cinematic releases.
Earthling: Ugly Bags of Mostly Water (2005)
Soulmining I’d already taken the decision to skip this Klingon documentary long before the weekend started, so instead had arrangements to go for a meal with about a dozen other FrightFesters in order to celebrate Trixybella’s birthday.
Zomblee Show me a movie and I'll write you a review. This is just weirdos sitting around beside big lamps.
Rawshark Oh how I wish, like Soulmining, I’d skipped this one. Ok, so the idea of a full-length documentary about people who dress and talk like Klingons actually isn’t that bad, but unfortunately Earthlings is a literal pain to watch. Not because of the subject matter you understand, but the way it is filmed is simply awful. Close-framed talking heads, often in black-and-white and seemingly constantly surrounded by IKEA lamps is NOT an interesting style choice for a documentary. And neither are meaningless transition shots of blurred blotches of light that go on for minutes. In fact, this film was so painful to watch, I chose to shut my eyes for most of the film and listen to it as if it was a radio show. It’s a shame really, as some of the ‘Klingons’ interviewed for the film are (sadly) fascinating, especially the guy who is convinced he is the world’s greatest paintballer (currently serving in Iraq we are told in the end credits), the sad dad who would only ever speak to his son in Klingon, and the man obsessed with passing the Klingon exam after 12 or so failed attempts. Unfortunately, during the film, he fails again. It’s almost enough to make you cry.
Director Alexandre O. Phillippe
Cast Michael Dorn
Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen
Ricj ‘Captain Krankor’ Yampell
FrightFesters outside Odeon West End
Soulmining: Preceding The Marsh was the Cut! Competition Showcase, the ten best short films submitted for this two minute horror film competition – with Robert Tapert, Lloyd Kaufman and FrightFest’s own Alan Jones making up the panel of judges.
The standard of entries was pretty high but the deserved winner was Aloysha Saari’s Kasting, a dark satire on the audition process, and a special mention should also go to Jahari’s A Very Grimm Fairytale for its jet-black humour which was another popular finalist with the audience.
The Marsh (2006)
Soulmining Spooky goings on in small town America starring Forest Whitaker as a ghost-detective and Gabrielle Anwar as a writer haunted by events from her childhood. Unashamedly made for a PG-13 audience The Marsh is a more than competent piece of filmmaking let down by an over-familiar plot and unengaging characters. It’s a sad reflection that the biggest talking point of the whole film came as Gabrielle crept around an obviously chilly room in an exceedingly tight white top! Despite the drama’s shortcomings you certainly won’t fall asleep in this one as the sound design is immense, battering your eardrums at every opportunity. If nothing else Baker’s movie deserves an award for being the festival’s loudest film!
Zomblee The Frightfest programme described this as a ‘paranormal suspense thriller’, so, let’s face it, I doubt if anyone got over-excited about it. One thing that did get me a little excited however was the presence of the gorgeous Gabrielle Anwar, who unfortunately was too busy to grace us with her presence. Shame. Anwar turns in a strong enough performance as the inquisitive children’s author, and the ever-reliable Forest Whittaker is, err, ever-reliable as the friendly psychic. But the story feels like just another slice of average small-town paranormal hokum where you might just end up spending more time being sidetracked by Gabrielle’s protruding nipples than you do thinking about what’s going on.
Rawshark When I was Art College, we were once given the task of designing a double-page spread of a book about the orchestra. I spent a lot of time on the project, making sure it looked perfect and was really disappointed to be given a low mark for what I thought was a reasonably good-looking double page spread. When I asked my tutor about this, he told me my design looked too much like an orchestra book. There wasn’t anything fresh about it, there was nothing new, nothing original. It did its job perfectly well, but it wasn’t very exciting. And this is how I feel about The Marsh, a well made, but ultimately boring old ghost story. With Gabrielle Anwar’s nipples protruding through her white top in one of the scenes.
Director Jordan Baker
Cast Gabrielle Anwar
Soulmining: Director Jordan Barker appeared afterwards for a short Q&A with Alan Jones although sadly Gabrielle Anwar was unable to attend as she was reportedly suffering from laryngitis.
After discussing the merits of The Wicker Man remake in the bar with Christopher Fowler and Graham Humphreys it was back into the auditorium for this year’s devilish FrightFest quiz and a chorus of Happy Birthday for Trixybella who’d been dragged on stage by Ian.
Trixybella on stage with (L-R) Alan Jones, Paul McEvoy and Ian Rattray
Finally, before See No Evil began we were treated to an 18 certificate trailer for Tenacious D in The Pick Of Destiny which garnered a rapturous reception from the crowd.
See No Evil (2006)
Soulmining See No Evil is the first feature from WWE Films, the movie division of the American wrestling behemoth, and is helmed by Gregory Dark, the veteran director of countless erotic movies. Don't expect any cerebral entertainment then, this is pure beers-and-pizza Saturday night DVD fodder. The rather implausible set up involves a group of mixed-sex prisoners who are taken to renovate a rundown hotel where one by one they fall foul of the resident lunatic, played by wrestler Kane. It's formulaic stuff with plot twists so obvious you'd see them a mile off even if Kane had gouged your eyes out first. That said, there's nothing wrong with a simple idea that adheres to the shocker template, and it's a fun watch with at least two inventive death scenes which had the whole audience applauding.
Zomblee Gregory Dark’s rather traditional new slasher thinks it’s a lot funnier than it is. The young cast do what they can with the lacklustre script but the humour never reaches the levels of yesterday’s Hatchet, which also happens to feature a hulking killer called Kane. He’s a scary-looking beast of a man to be sure, and it’s hard not to be glued to the screen every time he makes an appearance - you just know it’s going to get messy. The deserted hotel setting works a treat, our young characters picked off one by one until the not-so-shocking revelation at the end which, admittedly, features a death scene so ridiculous and formidable that it demanded ecstatic applause from our shock hungry punters. Ouch.
Rawshark Opening with some style, and nice freeze-frame introductions to our ‘rebellious’ heroes / victims, I was almost beginning to think See No Evil was going to be an enjoyable roller coaster ride. Well roller coaster rides go up and down, and this film soon goes down faster than an Italian football player in the penalty box. It’s just a shame it rarely pops up again. Formulaic to a fault, the plot twists are easy to spot, and the characters are largely unlikeable idiots (even the one you dislike the most survives!), meaning there’s very little to keep you engaged. However, Kane does make an imposing screen presence and there are two, maybe three, gore moments worth a cheer, but as a slasher, it’s not a patch on the previous day’s Hatchet.
Director Gregory Dark
Cast Glen Jacobs
Michael J. Paga
Soulmining: After a few year’s sabbatical Ian Rattray’s Trailer Trash made a welcome return to this year’s FrightFest programme, with his first selection of trailers including such gems as Bronx Warrior 1990, Karate vs. Tiger and Island Of The Fishmen – which ironically the other Eat My Brains guys had just watched recently as part of their latest Zombie Club double feature!
Soulmining A real audience splitter this one, Adrift left many FrightFesters underwhelmed and disappointed. The story of six friends who find themselves stranded in the ocean, having forgotten to deploy their yacht's ladder, this is a battle of survival against the elements - and, as tempers flare, each other. With a crying baby left aboard and storm clouds approaching the six face an increasingly desperate situation. Whilst director Hans Horn cranks up the tension, his good work is in danger of being undermined by the film's characters who repeatedly make the wrong decisions and really test your patience. However if you can excuse their stupidity then Adrift really delivers the thrills and for my money is a much better picture than the similarly themed Open Water.
Zomblee It was interesting to hear the audience reactions following Adrift, because although I thoroughly enjoyed it, I got the impression that the Frightfesters didn’t feel the same way. Sure, it has its faults, like terminally stupid characters who its impossible sorry for, as well as an implausible scenario whereupon the yacht isn’t missed by the harbour staff. But if you let yourself be swept along by its bobbing, swaying sense of threat and suspend your cynicism for 90 minutes, you will find this to be a pretty unnerving experience. It’s all relative though; you know what you’re getting into with a film of this ilk, especially if you’ve seen Open Water.
Rawshark I had seen this film in the weeks before at a press screening, so I stayed for Trailer Trash (a big cheer from the EMB crew for Island of the Fishmen and Bronx Warriors) and then skipped off for the evening. For the record, I enjoyed this upgraded Open Water clone. You can read my full review here.
Director Hans Horn
Cast Susan May Pratt
Richard Speight Jr
Soulmining: With director Hans Horn going AWOL (possibly for the best judging by the muted reaction from the FrightFest audience) it was straight into a short break before the final film of the evening. Short film The Toll hadn’t turned up either, so instead we were treated to a bonus selection of Trailer Trash, this time featuring the enticing Gwendoline (resulting in the Cinema Store stall selling out of all of its DVD copies), a trippy teaser for The Exorcist, plus C.H.U.D. and Alien amongst others.
Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror (2006)
Soulmining On paper this blaxploitation horror anthology sounded like the perfect mix of gore and giggles for the festival's night owls. Sadly it fails to deliver on every level. The first story about a graffiti artist with supernatural powers is bearable thanks to the alluring presence of Daniella Alonso, but the second story set in a war vets' retirement home is simply wretched, and by the time the third story about a rap star killer unfolds you'll have lost the will to live. Sitting through twenty minutes of badly acted, badly scripted, woefully unfunny gags to be rewarded by a gory payoff is not my idea of a quality film, and even cameos from the likes of Danny Trejo and Dallas Page (last seen together in The Devil's Rejects) can't lift this above the mire. Throw in some pointless anime links and a Snoop Dogg music video finale which replays all the 'best bits' and this truly is a dog of a movie.
Zomblee Tired. Sleepy. Time for bed.
Rawshark I was still AWOL at Artesian Wells in Clapham as this was another film I had seen previously. Whilst not great, I did quite enjoy the film when I saw it, especially the opening animation, the death by beer bottle scene in the first story, and most of the middle story. Admittedly, the third story is pants, and the idea of replaying highlights of the film over the last five minutes to a Snoop Dogg music track stank, so maybe it lost a few points for it’s last half an hour when it screened to a tired midnight Frightfest audience.
Director Stacy Title
Cast Snoop Dogg
Soulmining summary: After a very promising start with Isolation, the afternoon sank into mediocrity with The Marsh and then divided audiences with the Saturday night double bill of See No Evil and Adrift.
Despite many laughs from the Trailer Trash selection, the hilarity unfortunately didn’t extend to Snoop Dogg’s Hood Of Horror which was the major disappointment of the day, particularly coming in the coveted midnight slot which Monster Man and 2001 Maniacs had filled so triumphantly in previous years. And so to our beds to prepare ourselves mentally for tomorrow’s ordeal of challenging movies which Paul had dubbed ‘Grim Sunday’.
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