This year’s Frightfest segment of the Glasgow Film Festival was as enjoyable as ever, now expanded to 11 films over 2 days (there was even talk of making next year’s event a 3 day event!), and a huge success as ever. While I was less than wowed by the year’s lineup beforehand – only The Raid has much hype from my POV, and that wasn’t even a horror film! – it turned out to be very solid with only 2 films I thought were bad, and even then they were more entertaining than much of the dross we could have seen. The formerly scheduled The Devil Inside was advertised on GFF literature, but thankfully that movie (which has terrible reviews) found a replacement beforehand.
So, without further ado, let’s get to the films!
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Not Quite Hollywood and last year’s Machete Maidens Unleashed comes this similar documentary focussing on the work of legendary producer/director Roger Corman. Using the set of the recent Corman production Dinoshark as a launchpad, the film goes back and tracks Corman’s career through his early work with AIP, through his productions with New World and New Horizons. Inevitably, the film is more focussed on his genre material and early successes, littered with interviews with stars, fans and footage of more obscure work such as The Intruder.
Overall, it’s a pretty decent look at the career of a man who has produced an insane number of movies. It contains enough interesting information to keep existing fans of Corman happy, while providing a reasonable primer for those new to his career. A decent little documentary, not groundbreaking but a good start to the festival.
TAPE 407: THE MESA RESERVE INCIDENT
The first of two found footage movies at this year’s event, and sadly not a particularly good. We start with some pretty tiresome footage of people boarding a plane, being filmed by a precocious young girl who loves playing with her older sister’s camera. She films our main cast as they prepare for their flight from New York to L.A., ranging from an annoying fat man who tries demanding alcohol before the plane even takes off, to a ex-war photojournalist who is only too happy to help the girls use their camera properly.
For some unknown reason, the plane experiences problems during the flight, and crashes in an apparently isolated desert location. Struggling to work out what happened, the survivors in the tail section of the plane regroup and try to organise a way of contacting help. However, there’s something in the desert stalking them…
The idea for this movie is pretty solid – imagine an 80 minute version of Lost filmed in a found footage format, stripped down to bare bones. However, the film soon suffers from a number of problems, some inherent in the genre, some just poor execution in this instance. the characters are fairly annoying, and we spend far too long with the characters before anything interesting happens. People make large numbers of highly questionable decisions, there’s really no reason for the filming to continue for the most part, and the best moments actually come right at the end where the nature of the attacker is revealed. Sadly, that’s not enough to save the film, which was in turn tiresome, annoying and laughable. In fact, some sequences are downright annoying, where the person behind the camera has a habit of filming people looking out into the desert at things, rather than trying to focus on what they’re looking at.
Certainly not the worst film I’ve seen in the genre, and a number of the film’s sequences are rather effective (such as the plane crash). However, it’s a rather mediocre effort overall, with little to really recommend.
A Croatian hitman is hired by a bar owner in a small Australian town to take out an old friend who has become a liability. One of the waitresses at the bar returns home from work to await her boyfriend, who she expects to propose to her following a trip to his parents’ house where she thinks he went to collect an heirloom wedding ring. The two threads collide violently, and the girl has to fight to survive.
This is more like it! Heavily inspired by the Coen brothers (especially Blood Simple), this is an assured piece of direction from the China brothers, a pair of British directors working out of Australia. There’s very little you can really discuss about the plot without major spoilers, but like the Coen’s work it’s as much about character and atmosphere as it is about the events of the story. The story truly takes its time, taking long pauses and moments to breath in between some often quirky moments of character interaction. The film is alternately funny, tense and intriguing with some moments of violence.
Very much worth seeking out, this is a very good film from a team that should be one to watch closely in the future.
Ah, Frightfest, what would you be without the traditional technical problems? The Day suffered a problem with the soundtrack similar to last August’s Urban Explorer, where the soundtrack was audible but the dialogue from the characters couldn’t be heard for the first 5-10 minutes of the film. There’s a not a huge amount of dialogue in the film, so this problem wasn’t noticable until a few minutes in. I’m not sure if we missed anything important or I was just tired at this poijnt, but I found it difficult to follow some motivation, or the exact nature of the world they live in.
From what I can gather, what we have here is a small group of survivors of some unspecified infection that’s taken out most of humanity. As well as the survivors, there exists similar groups of cannibalistic killer who appear to have found some form of immortality. The two groups fight each other to the death, but there may be at least one of these enemies who has infiltrated the group of survivors as well.
Despite this problem, the film was quite enjoyable and well made, with some strong performances ranging from Dominic Monaghan and Shawn Ashmore to lesser known actors like The Last Exorcism‘s Ashley Bell, putting in a strong performance as a newcomer to the group.
Well worth a watch, though I may have to check it out again to see if the technical problems really affected my enjoyment that much.
WAR OF THE DEAD
The final film of the day, and to be honest I was starting to drop off to sleep at this point due to my travel schedule. The plot is relatively simple – secret WWII experiments have backfired, leading to Nazi soldiers becoming infected zombies and Allied soldiers have to fight against the odds to stop them. It’s pretty much as you’d expect, lots of cheesy moments, lots of guns and explosions, but nothing you haven’t seen before.
Again, I may have to check this out as my tired nature made me miss some things, but it seemed to be a solidly entertaining movie.