FrightFest 2008 took place between the 21st and 25th August 2008 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.
Zomblee: Can I really feel this knackered already? So soon? It would certainly appear so. Having missed Fear(s) in the Dark, just like i knew i would, i made it to Leicester Square about ten minutes into Dance of the Dead. It's a wonderful thing, Frightfest - wake up, jump on a bus, then next thing you know you're confronted by hoards of the undead in a kick-ass little flick you knew absolutely nothing about. Ladies and gentlemen, see you at the other side. Let's rock.
Fear(s) of the Dark (2007)
Soulmining Billed as one of Guillermo del Toro's favourite movies of the moment, Fear(s) Of The Dark is a portmanteau film with a difference. Like Persepolis and the forthcoming Waltz With Bashir, this is a comic styled animation presented in stark black and white tones that capture a series of short vignettes focusing on different primal fears. It begins strongly with Charles Burns' eerie tale of a nerdy insect-loving kid who is seduced by a strange girl, then followed by a less engaging short about a boy who's attacked by a pack of hounds.
After that tiredness kicked in and I'm afraid to admit that I dozed off and then gave up altogether on the film. Whilst the animation is bold and strong, Fear(s) Of The Dark just couldn't hold my attention in its early morning slot. Still, kudos to the FrightFest team for giving some much needed diversity to the programming and I'm sure that in different circumstances I would re-evaluate this film and appreciate its efforts better.
Directors Blutch & Marie Caillou
Dance of the Dead (2008)
Soulmining A late addition to the programme, Gregg Bishop's innovative zombie pic provided some welcome relief to our diet of torture-porn flicks. The best comedy-horror since Severance, Dance Of The Dead offers a contemporary mix of splatter and laughter that echoes some of the best examples from the 80s, movies like Return Of The Living Dead and Night Of The Creeps. Here we have a bunch of misfits ("We're the sci-fi club") saving Prom Night from a bunch of bloodthirsty ghouls aided by the power of rock 'n' roll.
It's a winning formula that works on all levels and a large part of its success is by presenting us with a likeable cast of characters that you actually feel something for - the infected couple in the restroom will have you reaching for the hankies. With its fresh take on zombies after the recent spate video diaries, Dance Of The Dead marks Bishop as a name to watch - in particular look out for the spectacular grave-bursting sequence which is something you've never seen before!
Director Gregg Bishop
Cast Jared Kusnitz
Michael V. Mammoliti
Zomblee Sometimes keeping things simple is the key to success. It worked for so many classic 70s movies, and debutant director Patrik Syversen today demonstrated that it is still possible. Setting his movie firmly in that glorious decade, he places a group of four youngsters deep within a menacing Swedish landscape, where they proceed to argue a lot, and more importantly, piss off the local hicks, thus ensuring a some major league brutality in this modern-day take on movies like Deliverance and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Manhunt does tend to tackle relatively familiar genre territory, but don't let that put you off. It is, as the title suggests, a hunt movie, but an extremely well made one, with an excellent young cast and rock-solid direction. It's genuinely shit-your-pants scary and with a lean, mean running time of 78 minutes, the tension refuses to let up. The cinematography is a masterstroke, defying Syversen's extremely low budget, and you really have to respect a director who, when asked why it is set in the 70's, replies, "So that we didn't have to include the routine mobile phone signal scene". Pretty cool huh?
Steven West In this fatally overlong but well crafted South Korean thriller, former cop Joong-ho Eom finds his new life-role heading a prostitution racket taking a turn for the seriously dark when his girls are abducted and brutalised by a meek-looking hammer-wielding psychopath (a movie-stealing Young-min Jee). Shares many of the qualities of other recent standout South Korean genre films (fine acting, music and cinematography) in addition to harsh moments of brutality and an impressively seedy anti-hero. What it lacks is narrative momentum and freshness : 13 years on from the success of the peerless Se7en, it continues to be relentlessly pilfered by lesser filmmakers.
Here, director Hong-jin Na steals David Fincher’s rainy visual palette, reworks that film’s anguished climactic confrontation between protagonist and killer and even blatantly thieves Fincher’s memorable, manipulative flash-cut image of Gwyneth Paltrow’s face for the moment when the grim truth about the fate of the female lead becomes apparent.
Director Hong-jin Na
Cast Yun-seok Kim
Bubba's Chili Parlour (2006)
Zomblee Every now and again we're treated to a really shit zombie movie at Frightfest. A few years back, as I recall, we got the undead mess of Day of the Dead 2: Contagium. This year, the low grade shuffling comes in the shape of Bubba's Chili Parlour, where toxic meat is served as the prime ingredient in a chili, in a parlour, which belongs to...Bubba.
Why this was screened at 7.20pm on a Saturday evening was beyond our collective comprehension. More appropriate to be screened as the first movie of the day, or, preferably, not at all, Bubba is a supremely idiotic affair which did, nevertheless, manage to raise a few reactions from the punters. Most of the said reactions did involve people getting off their seats and walking toward the exit though, which is what i eventually did, as it kept on promising to finish but endlessly refused to. But what i did see was a movie which was amatuerish in the extreme, shot on mostly overexposed low-grade video, and the only passable acting performance was from an 8 year-old girl, presumably director Joey Evan's daughter. While there is little doubt that this was made with genuine love for the genre, it's a real shame that the result wasn't better. Sure, it has gore, and plenty of it, but it's not original or outrageous enough to gain any attention.
Director Joey Evans
Cast S. Mike Davis
Audrey Elizabeth Evans
The Midnight Meat Train (2008)
Zomblee Ryuhei Kitamura's first US film follows struggling photographer Leon Kauffman who is given the chance to show his studies of subway passengers in a prestigious gallery. Striving to create hard-hitting images depicting subway crime, he gets sidetracked by investigating the disappearance of a model who disappears after boarding a train one night. This is turn leads him to a hulking figure in the shape of Vinnie Jones, a local meatpacking factory worker who has a weakness for boarding late night trains and bashing living hell out of unsuspecting passengers. Soon this character becomes an obsession for Leon, and he starts losing grip on reality, letting himself get too close to the hammer-wielding giant.
This is a pretty stylish affair from Versus man Kitamura, but the story feels underdeveloped - perhaps there wasn't enough source material from Barker's short story to flesh this out into a feature length movie. It also has the tendency to alienate people who haven't read the source material, with too many unanswered questions and a bizarre last act. None of this is helped by the uninspiring supporting cast whose characters bring very little to the story. Bradley Cooper isn't particularly memorable in the central role, although no-one can really deny the power of Vinnie Jones' presence here - his hulking physique, dressed in a plain grey suit and armed with a briefcase full of butcher's tools, takes on an almost iconic status, which would come in handy if this were to become a franchise (which it won't). Despite all this, Midnight Meat Train does have it's moments, from blood-freezing scares in the meatpacking factory to face-pumelling gore in the subway carriages; a passable effort for the less discerning horror fan.
Director Ryuhei Kitamura
Cast Bradley Cooper
Tokyo Gore Police (2008)
Steven West The police force has been privatised, TV commercials routinely promote cutely coloured “wrist cutters” for kids and fetishised, self-mutilating sexpot Eiihi Shiina smokes out “engineers”, virus victims capable of crafting heavy-duty weapons from their own flesh wounds in this insane directorial debut for Machine Girl FX genius Yoshihiro Nishimura.
Briskly drawing on influences as diverse as Cronenberg, Verhoeven and Tex Avery cartoons, this guaranteed future-cult movie seldom lets its energy drop. Full of wild splatter and engagingly nutty ideas, its whacked tone is set by the moment in which a woman with a machete for a hand showers people with acid squirted from her tits. And if that doesn’t do it for you, stay tuned for fist-shaped bullets, a cock cannon and a literally snappin’ pussy.
Zomblee summary:Another day, another seven movies to go and tell all your friends about. Go on, then, tell them about how much fun Dance of the Dead was, and how it featured zombies who spring out of their very graves and hit the ground running. You can also tell them how pleased we all were when Vinnie Jones wisely kept his mouth closed in Midnight Meat Train, and how you wasted 90 minutes of your life with Bubba's Chili Parlor. Christ, even Zombie Nosh was more impressive. Or is that just pushing it?