FrightFest 2007 took place between the 23rd and 27th August 2007 at the Odeon West End cinema in Leicester Square. Read the review of Day Three below or click on the other links to see reviews for the other days.
David Hall: Day three and amazingly I’m feeling refreshed and ready for another fright-filled onslaught. Arriving early gave us a proper chance to have a chat with some of the regulars and gauge the vibe so far. No clear favourites as yet, but everyone we spoke to seemed oddly psyched for Wrong Turn 2. Could it be the Rollins factor? Read on and find out.
Cold Prey (2006)
David Hall I know what you did last Winter. Well not quite, though Roar Uthaug's chilly Norwegian slasher sticks fairly rigidly to the standard template. It helps that the cast are a likeable and believable bunch of friends rather than the usual obnoxious mix of jocks and hos you can’t wait to see offed. A killer in ski goggles might not sound like the most terrifying prospect but the damage he does with a massive axe certainly put the chills up the sleepy morning crowd.
Characters still make stupid decisions (exploring the creepy pitch black interiors of deserted lodge rather than waiting till daylight) but the way in which the various protagonists are dispatched is often surprising and cruel.
Soulmining Following the acclaim of icy Scandinavian screamfest Frostbite at last year's event, here's another one in the shape of Roar Uthaug's Cold Prey.
The plot concerns a group of five kids on a snowboarding holiday who are forced to take shelter in a deserted mountain lodge after one of their group breaks a leg. Therein waits a brutal killer with vengeance on his mind. The result is pacy thriller with solid characters and some nicely staged murders, plus its chilly grey vistas look stunning up on the big screen.
Director Roar Uthaug
Cast Ingrid Bolso Berdal
Rolf Kristian Larsen
Endre Martin Midtstigen
Tomas Alf Larsen
David Hall Lensed with cool precision by Benoit (Irreversible) Debie and with commanding performances from Sam Rockwell and child actor Jacob Kogan, Joshua is an unsettling, sometimes darkly comic drama marred only by a frankly nonsensical final act. Until things start to unravel this tale of a brilliantly advanced, isolated child with morbid (and fatal) tendencies gripped me from the start.
Eschewing Omen-style shock tactics for a slow, almost Kubrickian build up, Joshua is at its strongest in portraying a family disintegrating under the possibility that their son might actually despise them and be prepared to ruin their lives. Equally, because of its clever ambiguities you’re never really sure whether Joshua is at fault or his parents are to blame - and there are some shocking scenes as despairing mom and dad struggle to cope with a child who seems to have only malevolence on his mind.
Slightly tainted by some laughably poor expositional moments (Joshua discovers a family tape full of arguments and fighting - would you really keep that around the house?) this is still a bracing psychological drama with some effective shock moments that ponders the idea that a child might be intrinsically evil for no other reason than because he just is.
Soulmining Joshua is a nine year old rich kid happily living with his parents in Manhattan when his idyllic lifestyle is threatened by the arrival of new baby girl into the family. He's an odd kid, removing the stuffing from his cuddly toys and selling the ones that he no longer wants, but is he really plotting something more sinister or is he just an innocent young boy?
Joshua promises much but in the end delivers very little, tiptoeing around the horror elements of the story and instead opting for black comedy. Sam Rockwell is as watchable as ever and Jacob Kogan is unsettling as the titular kid, but ultimately the ending is laughable rather than chilling. Remember folks - never hit your kids in public on a holiday weekend.
Director George Ratliff
Cast Sam Rockwell
Storm Warning (2007)
David Hall Quite possibly the most ridiculous film of the weekend so far, Storm Water starts out treading (Black) water, with middle aged yuppie Aussie lawyer Rob and his Asia Argento look-alike girlfriend (Nadia Fares) heading out for a Champaigne-fuelled boating trip. A vicious storm curtails the plans and wrecks the boat, leaving the couple swamp bound. When they stumble on a backwoods house full of dope that happens to belong to some viscous Aussie hicks, the film moves into Last House territory, with an unsettling tone as their captors first taunt them, then tie them up in the outside barn.
The final third switches gear again, when Fares emerges as something of an old-school survivalist - astonishingly adept at setting hideous booby traps and making up for the fact that her partner is an all too believable coward hopelessly ill-suited to saving them. A splatter fuelled finale brought the house down but Storm Warning is hopelessly confused, and for that veteran screenwriter Everett De Roche (Long Weekend) must take the blame.
Soulmining Storm Warning is a film of two halves. The first part is the plodding tale of a couple whose boat gets caught up in a storm and they end up seeking shelter in a seemingly uninhabited house out in the backwoods. Naturally the place doesn't stay deserted for long and three Aussie hillbillies are none too pleased to discover their new guests, especially with a crop of marijuana in the barn.
The film spends too long on the class war which does no-one any favours as all the characters are one-dimensional and largely unlikeable. Thankfully it redeems itself in the second half when the couple fight back in the manner of The A-Team, creating some fiendish ways to dispatch their attackers. Dodgy plotting aside, these OTT deaths are real crowd pleasers and generated some of the biggest cheers of the weekend.
Director Jamie Blanks
Cast Nadia Fares
Wrong Turn 2 (2007)
David Hall Law of diminishing returns part one. Maybe I was tiring but I wasn’t as sold on this as everyone else seemed to be. Director Joe Lynch seems like an affable chap but the way he practically begged for this film to be liked (while shamelessly plugging Fox at every turn) wound me up the wrong way. And if Wrong Turn 2 really is a tribute to video nasties of the 80s it was lost on me - despite some very inventive gore and a few titty shots this doesn’t really feel a whole lot different in tone to the first flick.
There’s some fun to be had with the survivor reality show spoof but it ran out of steam very quickly and the mighty Rollins is actually underused in an obvious role. A bad turn for me I’m afraid.
Soulmining Is there really any need for a Wrong Turn sequel in this world? No, of course not, but Fox thinks there is and so here it is. Thankfully director Joe Lynch pulls out all the stops to ensure this DTV effort is as gory and extreme as it can be.
This time the inbred cannibals (who look like they've just walked off The Hills Have Eyes remake) are targeting a group of reality television survivalists. With Henry Rollins cast as the host - who totally owns this movie - the mutants have a battle on their deformed hands. Influenced by Lynch's love of video nasties the result is a fun, bloody tour de force which easily surpasses the original in every way - plus it gave me my first 'jump' of the festival.
Director Joe Lynch
Cast Henry Rollins
David Hall I enjoyed this slice of sub-Hitchcockian PG13 nonsense, terrible title aside. Benefiting hugely from the super charismatic presence of junior Cusack LaBeouf, this teen take on Rear Window actually had some unsettling moments, all of them involving the very sinister David Morse as the creepy neighbour. The conceit of having LaBeouf's loner confined to house arrest is niftily set up and the films voyeurism angle seems even more pertinent in the era of Myspace and face book.
Disturbia isn’t particularly ground breaking – it’s basically the kind of Hollywood teens in peril suspense flick where the kids are all computer geniuses who can access the blueprint of a neighbour house at the click of a mouse, but it kept me entertained throughout a pacy 100 minutes.
Soulmining D.J. Caruso's glossy Hollywood riff on Hitchcock's Rear Window is a roaring success. Shia LaBeouf cements his status as the next big thing as he plays tagged teen Kale under house arrest, spying on his neighbours for kicks.
Disturbia is light and sassy to begin with as Kale gets caught ogling the new girl next door, the sizzling Sarah Roemer, but takes a sinister turn later on when he suspects his fellow neighbour (David Morse giving a Lecter-like turn) of abducting and killing a string of young ladies. It's a slick thriller that mixes action with fresh doses of humour, as well as throwing up a number of tense moments. Alongside Death Proof it also delivers one of the most sickening car crashes on film this year.
Director D. J. Caruso
Cast Shia LaBeouf
The Devil Dared Me To (2006)
David Hall N/A
Soulmining A curious selection for FrightFest - although it does feature multiple severed limbs - this NZ cult comedy is nevertheless a worthy choice and proved itself to be the perfect midnight movie. Aping Hollywood's best rags-to-riches tales, The Devil Dared Me To tells the ‘true’ life story of daredevil Randy Campbell and his quest to jump across the Cook Strait.
The Back Of The Y team headed by Chris Stapp (think of Jackass by Kiwis) effortlessly fashion a side-splitting comedy full of vulgar dialogue - there's just not enough use of the word "jizz lobber" in films these days - and outrageous stunts. All the more impressive when you realise the actors are actually performing them for real – and make sure you stay for the end credits for a jaw-dropping montage of their earlier work.
Director Chris Stapp
Cast Chris Stapp
Tom Kane – T Bone
David Hall summary: A mixed day, with Soulmining and I having our first (mild) disagreements. I bailed after Disturbia due to other commitments, missing out on one of the cult hits so far. Still no major standouts but the gore was beginning to flow and crowd responses to Storm Warning and Wrong Turn 2 indicated that the festival spirit was as high as ever.
Zone Horror's presence and the proliferation of famous faces at the bar were keeping everyone hyped and happy, which was just as well, for Grim Sunday (part two) lay in waiting, not to mention the double-Boll of Postal and Seed….
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