After a night’s sleep, I was rested enough to stay awake properly during this day’s films! This was probably helped by a more solidly entertaining line-up of films and a general high quality overall. There was a varied and interesting line-up of movies today, ranging from sci-fi themes through a brief slasher and torture phase, right down to straight-up action movie for the finale. We also had a sneak preview of Federico (Shadow) Zampaglione’s upcoming giallo tribute Tulpa, which is still in the process of shooting. The 7 minutes we saw were excellent, very much capturing the spirit of the genre it’s referencing, with enough sleaze and mystery to make the full film appealing. It should hopefully be screened at the main event in August, assumning Zampaglione can get the film finished in time.
As ever, I left myself with little time for anything other than movies, with no sleep before the early morning flight back after the festival and just enough time for a couple of drinks, food or shopping in between the films. It was all worth it though, roll on August for the big 5 day event in London!
The second and last found footage movie this year, and oh my what a great film during the last half hour! The first half of the movie pans out pretty much as you’d expect. A guy has convinced his friend to camp in the woods for a weekend and be the subject of a documentary he wants to film. Along with his sister and girlfriend, he takes them out into the woods in an R.V., then camping out in a remote location a little way into the woods. Initially, they just get drunk and stoned, but are increasingly unnerved by strange sounds and other events in the woods. There seems to be something out there, and it’s not friendly…
To start with, this seems to be just another attempt (albeit above average) to be a late cash-in on The Blair Witch Project. Like last year’s pointless A Night In The Woods, it starts by following the same beats – people in the woods, no communication, strange noises, internal fighting between the campers, and so on. There’s a couple of unique moments involving what appears to be a strange animal, but otherwise so far so standard.
Where the film really takes off is once one of the group is found dead, but which point things keep going and going into a crescendo that lasts right until the end of the closing credits. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but there’s a number of unique directions taken by the script, some excellent and innovative uses of the format and some truly tense sequences. These continue right to the end of the credit, the credit sequence itself being an impressive short film in its own right.
If you can see this film, do it, but stick with it through the first half. It will be worth it!
A young Spanish woman on assignment in Buenos Aires is taking time from her busy schedule to take care of an apartment inherited by herself and her sister. She hates both the apartment and Argentina itself, but agrees to hang around for the estate agent after he implies an offer too good to be true. She becomes increasingly suspicious, especially after more people turn up, and she makes some unfortunate misunderstandings that don’t ingratiate her with her neighbours. But, what is really going on?
This was a real surprise, both funny and tense, ratcheting up both the tension and uncomfortable humour until we finally work out what’s going on. While it’s obvious very early that the “estate agent” the woman lets into the house is anything but, she remains oblivious until well into the proceedings, by which time she’s managed to alienate enough of those around her to find little help in her ultimate predicament. The cast is largely very good, and the script plays off not only on the comedy-of-errors inherent in the setup, but the conflict between local Argentineans and the Spaniard who never tries to hide her contempt for the nation she’s staying in.
RITES OF SPRING
Every Spring, young women have been disappearing in the area surrounding a small town. This year is no different, with two young women being abducted and hung by their arms in a barn awaiting their fate from their mysterious captor. Meanwhile, a deparate couple have teamed up with a man they don’t necessarily trust to take part in a kidnapping that doesn’t go as planned…
Rites Of Spring is an uneven, but very well made, melding of thriller and slasher genres with a number of other elements thrown in. Originally conceived as part of a trilogy (the second would have been produced back-to-back with this had funding not disappeared), there are some plot holes in the middle act that don’t get resolved. However, this doesn’t really spoilt enjoyment of the film as a whole. When he appears, the killer is a very good addition to the genre, with some intriguing questions left open for the sequel as to his origin and motives. I, for one, will be looking forward to that film.
L’ARRIVO DI WANG (WANG’S ARRIVAL)
A translator is summoned for a special job. Someone, apparently being held by the Italian government, needs to be urgently questioned but despite being in Rome he only speaks Cantonese. The job is highly mysterious, with the translator being first blindfolded and then forced to work with her subject in pitch darkness. She eventually demands to know the full situation, but is shocked by the truth of what she is witnessing, and faced with some difficult choices.
One accusation levelled against this film was that it felt like an over-long episode of The Outer Limits, and indeed its structure is very much like that. Much of the film takes place in a single location during the interview, and with its sci-fi trapping and paranoia, the comparison is very apt. Having said that, the film works very well as a feature, with some nice twists and likeable characters, although the main protagonist does seem hopelessly naive at times.
Apparently, the version we saw has since been worked on with some special effects having been cleared up considerably. When released outside of Italy, the title may well be changed to avoid the obvious jokes, although I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate while watching the film.
The film opens with a young boy castrating himself with scissors after being caught cross-dressing by his mother. Following that, we follow a young teacher who gets a residence position is a university in Cassadaga in Florida. She’s taken in largely due to her conquering of adversity – not only has she lost her hearing to meningitis, but her young sister she was responsible for was killed in an accident she blames herself for. One night, she agrees to go to a local psychic to try to communicate with her dead sister. But, the seance invite a more vengeful spirit into their lives, which seems to be associated with a local disappearance and a strange man who likes to build dolls from real flesh…
If the above seems a little disjointed, that’s really one of the biggest problems with this film. Coming from the director of Dread, this movie suffers greatly from many of the same problems. We have far too many subplots and distractions, the film never seems quite sure what it wants to be – one moment a supernatural thriller, the next a serial killer movie, the next a drama about a romantic relationship.
As with its predecessor, there’s some interesting ideas to be explored here, from the relationship between a deaf woman and a man going through a divorce, to the story of the killer who mutilates women to become life-sized dolls. However, the script is so muddy, messy and unfocussed that it’s hard to keep interested in anything other when the end credits are coming. the direction is pretty good, as are the performances, maybe this team just needs a decent script editor to come in and keep them focussed on telling a tighter story.
Jakarta is a city of crime, with gangs having completely taken over a large apartment building. A group of cops launch a raid to take back the building, but are soon betrayed, outnumbered and fighting for survival.
Frightfest is an interesting festival at times, as despite being billed as a horror festival, they’re not shy about sneaking in good films with only a tangential relationship to the genre. Here, we have an Indonesian action/martial arts movie directed by a Welshman with no business being in the festival apart from the high level of gory violence. But, dear me, is it a good one!
The film gets going rather quickly, with a basic background given while the cops prepare for the the raid. From there, the film is essentially one long siege thriller with the initially confident cops being split up and massacred. When they realise that not only have they failed, but there’s no backup and they will die if they remain, all hell breaks loose when they try desperately to escape. Directed by Welshman Gareth Evans, this is an honestly astounding piece of work, with a high level of brutal violence. Gunplay and martial arts are in evidence, but turned up to 11 with all the gore and savagery you’d expect from a film that not only has people wielding machetes as easily as fists, but never shies away from the results of the carnage. Having said that, the film never dwells on the gore, the camera always moves on to the next shot very quickly, often giving you only enough time to recover before the next astonishing shot.
While it almost pains me to agree with this, the best and most impressive film at this horror festival was not even a horror movie! Watch it when it comes out.