The main event of the UK’s most prestigious horror film festival, running between the 25th and the 29th of August. Playing 60 plus films over the bank holiday, these are the movies we caught over the festival:
My Father Die: This was okay, a pretty straightforward revenge movie with some nice character moments and occasional bursts of strong violence. ***
Cell: Not a fan of this one. The basic premise of an errant cellular signal turning the world’s population into zombies was a good one but as the film progressed it got sillier without treading any new ground. **
Let Her Out: Let Her Out follows Helen, a woman we discover had absorbed her sister in the womb. A bike accident triggers the resurgence of the sibling who now wants out by taking control of Helen’s body. A sort of Jekyll and Hyde story as the sister takes over for longer periods as the film progresses, naturally doing not very nice things! Found this to be an easy watch. ***
Mercy: A family debate what course of action they should take with a dying relative. This discussion is interrupted when a group of masked people show up at their house trying to force the issue, asking them to show mercy. With a unique structure (the film takes a turn at the midway point) and a few third act twists, this was a good start to Saturday. ****
From A House On Willow Street: This was just a bit too generic for my liking. It was well made but didn’t do anything exciting. **
The Chamber: I thought this turned out to be better than I expected, it didn’t really drag on and managed to keep things engaging but didn’t feel as claustrophobic as I think the filmmakers intended. ***
White Coffin: One of the worst of the festival for me. The characters weren’t engaging and certain elements of the plot didn’t make sense, got the feeling that it was aiming to be shocking above all else but without a solid framework, it came across limp. **
They Call Me Jeeg Robot: When a petty crook accidentally ends up coming into contact with hazardous chemicals, he gains powers and tries to turn things around, using his newfound abilities to fight a crime lord. Touted as ‘Deadpool’ by way of ‘The Toxic Avenger’, the film is more serious than I’d expected but still a fun and entertaining (if slightly overlong) time. ****
The Master Cleanse: Loved this. Selected people go on a self-help retreat where they are attempting to cleanse themselves of all negative feelings. These emotions are physically purged from the characters in the form of cool little monsters. This was a unique, quirky film, way more of a comedy than the title suggests! ****
The Rezort: Billed as Jurassic World with zombies, the basic premise is that there’s an island where people can go and safely hunt the living dead. This film surprised me by refreshing what a zombie film can be after years of identikit knock offs flooding the market. The core idea was great and it threw in some social commentary too as the best zombie films do! ****
Abattoir: I’d read the comic series of this before watching the film so it was quite surprising to discover how different the two stories are considering that the director of the film originated the comic. I loved the core concept (which both stories share), that of a man buying houses where murders occur and then removing the room where the incident took place. He adds the room to a building comprised fully of ‘death rooms’ for a reason I won’t delve into here. It’s really interesting but, unfortunately, the movie’s plodding, only coming to life in the last 20 mins. Not to spoil either version of the story but I think the most disappointing part of the film is the handling of the Crone character who was far more interesting in the comic. **
Blood Feast: Worst of the festival for me. There’s a question mark over whether the film is intentionally bad given that it’s a remake of a H.G. Lewis film but the staging and serious approach to the material belie this train of thought. One of the gorier films and the director seemed quite proud of this as though copious amounts of gore made for a good movie. My favourite moment from the weekend was found here though – pay attention to one of the extras in the restaurant scene towards the end. ** (should be one but an extra star for the pure unintentional comedy of the film)
Sadako vs Kayako: Fun. That’s the best way of describing this one! It’s essentially one third The Ring, one third The Grudge with the final third being both stories colliding for the anticipated showdown. There was a lot of welcome humour here and the final battle was as ludicrous as you’d hope! Great Saturday night film! ****
Beyond the Gates: I was disappointed with this. Two brothers find and play an old VHS board game when they suspect it is tied into their father’s disappearance – things inevitably kick off. My problem with it is that I think retro styled movies are getting a bit tiresome now and not a great deal happened either. That said it was enjoyable and well-made but just didn’t deliver on its promise. ***
Broken: This is a tight two-person drama effectively about a tetraplegic, his carer and the stress he puts on her. It’s probably best left there as far as plot goes as the meat of this film is grounded in the interaction between the two characters. Go in expecting a solid drama more than anything else and you won’t be disappointed. ***
Downhill: Another low point of the festival, this one involving Satanists in the Chilean woods hunting down a couple to make them host to the demons that they worship. There’s not much to recommend on this one, the characters weren’t engaging, it wasn’t scary and just fizzled out at the end in a mess of super quick edits. **
Egomaniac: Egomaniac was a nice treat, a U.K. indie focusing on an indie filmmaker trying to get her feature film off the ground with the pressures involved causing her descent into madness. This was a really energetic piece that clipped along at a great pace, never outstaying it’s welcome although the lead character started to grate towards the end of the second act. ***
Realive: I wasn’t really prepared for this one! A terminally ill man decides to go into cryostasis to later find that he’s the first person to be successfully revived around 100 years later. What follows is a rumination on being alive in a strange world (that we never really see but can infer from his interactions with people) when everyone you love has long gone. A thought piece more than anything, it was a good film but I would’ve preferred watching this earlier in the day. ***
31: Rob Zombie’s ‘The Running Man’ is all I can really say about this. Take the stylings of his first film, ‘House of 1000 Corpses’ and chuck it in with ‘The Running Man’ and you can imagine exactly what kind of film this is. That said, it never lulled and the garishness of it all was a nice change to the bleached, desaturated look you see too often these days. ****
Director’s Cut: A film with a director’s commentary playing over the entire film. Only the ‘director’ is just a fan talking over a movie he later performed a fan edit on – going so far as to shoot additional scenes/footage (on a consumer camcorder no less) to cut the film into a different, ultimately nonsensical one. More of a comedy than horror, even in the final scenes where you would expect it to take a turn but this isn’t to its detriment. ****
The Windmill Massacre: This was a joy, a solid old-school slasher. Dispensing with the humour and going for a variety of cool death scenes (which all have a meaning to them as the film slowly reveals), The Windmill Massacre is a film centered around a group of people stuck at a windmill (funnily enough) when their tour bus is taken out of action. The cast is of varying ages which is refreshing to see in a slasher movie and there was a neat explanation for what was going on. At the same time, don’t expect anything groundbreaking, just a slasher movie done well with a proper attempt at a story rather than an excuse for carnage. ****
Monolith: A high concept movie with a mother locked outside her high security car in the middle of the desert with her small child trapped inside. The titular car, Monolith, is designed to be impenetrable in the event that the people inside the car come under threat in some way. I really enjoyed this with one caveat. Like the recent ‘The Shallows’, it’s a film where the nature of premise sets up a predicament for the writers in attempting to resolve it and, as a result, the ending veers into the ridiculous. ***
Found Footage 3D: A long overdue parody of the found footage film style that also happens to be an effective entry in said genre. A producer decides to break ground by being the first to produce a 3D found footage movie, going so far as to shoot the behind the scenes footage (which is what we are watching in the film) in 3D. Predictably, life imitates art as events that they’re shooting in the film start happening in the ‘real’ world. ****
Train to Busan: Another zombie film but like ‘The Rezort’, this felt completely fresh. It had a simple enough premise (zombies on a train) but the pacing and escalation of events made for an amazing experience. They definitely saved the best ‘til last with this one! *****
The August Frightfest event is incomparable and this year it felt the smoothest that it ever has with every film keeping to schedule which has never happened previously and a lot more attention to detail than any prior event (such as the title cards onscreen before each film).
Nothing! Whilst the quality of the films definitely varied, this is the nature of what’s currently available and it would make for a dull time if the selections were all similar.
If you’re a fan of horror movies, you need to attend this next time. They run three events a year with a weekend in Glasgow in February and a single day event in London at Halloween being the other two. Highly recommended!
Rating: ***** (Out of 5) – Must Go!
Ticket Price: Individual films: £14. Day passes: £30 – £60 depending on day. Full weekend pass: £185
Address: West 12 Shopping Centre, Shepherd’s Bush Green, London, W12 8PP