Tag Archives: FrightFest 2016

2016: A Year in Review, A Challenge Failed

“These timelines are so confusing.”  

2016 has been a real arse of a year, hasn’t it? With only a few days until this awful, awful year is behind us, I thought I would take a few words – OK, a lot of words – to share with you not only my challenge of the last twelve months, but my 365 day long journey towards failure.

I’ve been writing regularly for Failed Critics for more than a year now; closer to two, in fact. Between forcing Owen to constantly edit my pointless rants into something readable (sometimes two or three times a week) and being lucky enough to be invited to appear on the podcast every few weeks, I’m always watching something. But I got to the end of last year and thought that, considering what was becoming start a large part of my life, I wasn’t watching nearly enough. So I set myself simple enough challenge…

A film a day throughout 2016. That’s at least 365 unique films by the time we hit New Year’s Day 2017. They didn’t need to be brand new films, although of course some would have to be, but the list just needed to have 365 films on it.

Sadly, I failed. Miserably.

I started so well too. All those award season films we didn’t get until the new year and all those blu-rays I got for Christmas padded my numbers out nicely early on. With me making a real effort to watch everything in time for the Oscars podcasts in February, everything was looking peachy. The start of my year was looking great.

An early guest spot on fellow Failed Critic Tony Black’s Pick-a-Flick podcast in time for The Hateful Eight meant I banged through three Quentin Tarantino films in one night as preparation, not only filling in my spreadsheet super quick, but giving me the chance to have a night off. Similar super-fast binges followed for specials on South Korean cinema, Shane Black’s filmography and Batman Vs. Superman. It was all going so well.

Then, Deadpool happened.

Within our little echo chamber of people, there are a couple of things I’ve become a bit notorious for this year. The second of these was my explosion of hate and abuse that was my Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie review. A few hundred words of such utter contempt for a film that saw some of the worst things I’ve ever written put to paper for all to see. Everyone seemed to love it.

But the first was the fact that in its short theatrical run, I managed to see Deadpool ten times in the various cinemas local to me that, even with various Unlimited cards to my name, I still paid to see several times. It became the first movie this year that I pre-ordered on American iTunes to ensure I could watch it again as soon as possible, as well as buying a lovely looking steelbook blu-ray when it came out in the U.K.

As of right now, 2016 has seen me watch The Merc with the Mouth an insane sixteen times. But as great as that is, it had a pretty detrimental effect on my list of watched films. Filling out numbers with multiple viewings is great – more on that in a bit – but I wanted a unique film every day; and it was starting to look like it’d be a tough one to pull off now.

Months pass and, while I’m certain I’m going to fall short, I’m kept pretty busy. Between watching entire series’ within franchises before their latest instalments come out (*cough* The Purge: Election Year *cough*) and enjoying Suicide Squad enough to fit in multiple screenings, my numbers aren’t looking too bad. This might even be doable. Especially by the time August came around.

Baby’s first FrightFest!

I’m a long time horror fan. It’s usually my genre of choice and going to Fright Fest has been a dream of mine for years. This writing nonsense was the perfect (extra) excuse to spend a couple of hundred quid and get my arse to London. Sadly, work commitments (namely: hating my job), meant that my trip was kind of gimped and I could only manage three of the five days. But I saw some amazing stuff, including Rob Zombie’s latest gorefest, 31. It broke into my top ten instantly and is another film that I’ve paid to watch at least three times since I first saw it – including a trip to the hallowed grounds of the Prince Charles Cinema to see it on the big screen again.

Three days of non-stop horror added something like twenty films to my list in a short space of time. A welcome boost to my spreadsheet. The introduction of “Netflix of Horror” service Shudder to the UK certainly didn’t hurt either.

One of the reasons I set myself this challenge was because there was so much stuff taking up film watching time that I wanted to make space for more. But I also wanted to share it with the family. Obviously, my three year old can’t be watching Ringu, Suburra or Pet Sematary – all films that are on the list – but there’s a huge amount of children’s films that we can watch together. I could kill two birds with one stone; I can show Nikita a variety of films, avoiding the dross that is kid’s TV, and pad out my numbers during the day.

This backfired horribly. Instead of getting a ton of extra films on my list, I ended up watching thirteen films 83 times. EIGHTY THREE! This included sixteen views of Big Hero 6. We watched Zootropolis eight times, all of them at the cinema; and one ‘movies for juniors’ trip to see Kubo and the Two Strings, not at all influenced by the bollocking I took from Callum Petch for having not watched it yet. (Excellent little film, by the way). But, you know, she’s also squeezed in multiple watches of Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book and the much hated Ghostbusters reboot, so I’m not going to complain too hard, even if the little git did ruin my numbers!

Of course it’s all well and good me blaming everyone else for me failing this ridiculous challenge. Once October rolled around, I had no one but myself to blame. It turned out that convincing Failed Critics head honcho Owen to give up his feed to me and my mate to chat bollocks about video games once a fortnight was the easy part to starting the Character Unlock podcast. Losing a night to record and a night (sometimes two) to editing eats away at your valuable film watching time. More than that, if you wanna talk about games, it helps if you’ve played them first! There goes more hours that could have been spent with my hands down my pants watching films. Damn, whatever was I thinking?

And that brings us to today. Where I’m sitting in the house on my own watching Scuzz TV and writing this instead of adding more films to my list. It’s no wonder I failed at this challenge this year. Hitting a little over half of the intended 365 unique films, I managed a measly 213. Once I tallied up the films I’d watched multiple times, whether it be with the little one or because I was weirdly obsessed with Ryan Reynolds’ spandex covered arse, my total is a slightly more respectable 344. Still not good enough, but I’m getting there.

So what does 2017 hold? Well, I’m looking to try the same challenge again once January kicks in, but I’ll be happy if I can beat this year’s numbers. I’ll be leaving Letterboxd aside and sticking to my Numbers spreadsheet and hoping for the best. With several long running franchises getting sequels this year, I’ll be binging through collections like Alien, Saw and The Fast and the Furious early on. I have every intention of hitting FrightFest stronger this year and getting to a few shows at the London Film Festival after having to skip it this year.

This time around though, I’m dragging you lot along with me. To try and force me to keep better track of what I’m doing, and hopefully to embarrass me enough to actually work at it, I’ll be putting together a monthly article covering the best and worst of what I’ve seen that month and hopefully start a bit of a running tally. I might not make it to 365, but I’m damn sure going to have fun trying. See you in January.

Advertisements

FrightFest 2016 – Day Four

“In hell, everybody loves popcorn.”

And so begins day four. Sadly, my last day at the festival. I don’t care if it’s the London Film or Download, as is the way with all festivals, the last day means a sea of tired bodies, struggling to get to the first act of the day, let alone make it to the end. And the bogs fucking reek!

That aside, this is an interesting day. Besides the evening’s closer, I don’t know anything about any of these films. I’m going in completely blind and hoping for a surprise or two. So for the last time this year, won’t you come join me?


Downhill

“Come outside. There’s nowhere to hide.”

Hopefully not starting the day as we mean to go on, the UK premiere of Downhill promised us that “Evil Awaits”. Unfortunately, the only thing that awaited the audience in the Horror Channel screen was a mosh-mash of genres that didn’t seem to be able to decide what it wanted to be.

Set up like a scary stuff in the woods flick, we are forced to watch an awful lot of GoPro footage of bikes on dirt tracks before our main characters, a pair of bike racers, stumble across a man in a jeep bleeding. Insanity ensues as we are treated to a dude with a weird infection that seems to be zombifying him, a bizarre cult, completely unexplained bags of meat hanging from trees and a bunch of hunters that, although the film is set in South America, suddenly seem to have menacing south London accents. Oh yeah, and there’s angry people having angry sex around confused and angry looking goats. For fuck’s sake.

A couple of half decent tense scenes can’t rescue this pretty bland mess of a film.


Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word

“Maybe God shouldn’t have played God.”

Upping the quality for the second film of the day. Red, White and Blue director Simon Rumley takes on an eerie true story of a convicted rapist and murderer who to his last breath pronounced his innocence and cursed everyone involved in his death sentence.

This genuinely chilling story of a ghost exacting his revenge from beyond the grave isn’t just a great horror film, but it’s a magnifying glass on some very real issues that affect the United States to this day. As our characters start dropping like flies and begin investigating the situation they find themselves in, it asks a lot of questions about the finality of capital punishment.

A great story, some very scary and chilling scenes that will leave you with goosebumps. An excellent film.


Broken

“Are you sure you’re cut out for this?”

Martyrs‘ Morjana Alaoui stars in the latest world premiere of the day. This psychological horror takes a slightly slower pace for the day and sees two main characters fighting disabilities in their own way.

One man, a tetraplegic former rock star, bound to a wheel chair for life is fighting with the day-to-day horrors of not being able to live his life. Having all of his freedom taken away has become his own personal hell. Fighting his present and future, he needs help 24/7. That help comes from an agency carer who is fighting the demons of her past that just won’t let her be. Together the pair struggle with each others differences as the film culminates in a bloody mess of inevitability.

A great film that’s going to be playing on my mind for some time.


Realive

“I was able to live, because I chose to die.”

Ok, so the guys really pulled one out of left field for this. Being a horror film festival, I expected even films labelled as sci-fi to have a scary element to them. After all, Alien and Event Horizon sit firmly in both genres. But nothing like that here.

A conventional sci-fi flick, Realive is a futuristic Frankenstein story with healthy doses of films like Moon added in for good effect. A decent outing, it’s the story of a man brought back to life in the 22nd century after freezing himself Walt Disney-style in the early 21st. An interesting premise for a film as we watch the newly resurrected Marc Jarvis essentially go from being a newborn to a fully fledged adult in a matter of months. Quickly learning to ask questions about where he’s from and why he’s here, the answers he find really aren’t the ones he wanted to hear.

Probably the biggest budget film of the day, but not really the right setting for its European Premiere.


31

“Murder school. Is now in session.”

Rob Zombies latest exploitation, grindhouse, hillbilly horror has finally hit these shores. The film that I came to FrightFest for has finally come around.

It’s just another Zombie film. He doesn’t do anything new or original, but those that came to this party know the dance – and that dance is exactly why I’m here. The seventies-set film about a family of carnies grabbed on the roadside and thrown into a deadly maze where nasty people with nasty names like Sexhead and Deathhead are coming at you with some really fucking dodgy weapons. I mean, there’s a Nazi clown midget who speaks Spanish. Need I say more?

Crazy deaths, a mental soundtrack – whether album or scoring, I love listening to Rob Zombie and John 5 working together – and an hour and forty minutes of carnage. I loved every blood soaked second of it.


And so ends FrightFest 2016

That’s it for my first FrightFest. And that’s it for your first FrightFest with me. Tomorrow actually sees the festival end and the booze addled shut in begin. With films like Found Footage 3D and Train to Bursan headlining the screens, it’s sure to be a good one.

Sadly though, this is my last day here. But it’s been a blast. Great films, shit films and a ton of cool people. I genuinely can’t and won’t ask for more than that. I’ll definitely be back next year. I will probably put together a bit of a round up in the next few days after I’ve scoured VOD for a few films I missed; but until then, it’s another day where I’m getting home at stupid o’clock in the morning. I need my bed guys.

Later.

FrightFest 2016 – Day Three

“You came here.  Of your own free will and volition.”

Here I am, sat in a dimly lit red corridor surrounded by strange models of bleeding hearts and instruments of torture, along with more than a handful of likeminded horror fans preparing our arses for a marathon horror session.

In a way, I’m glad that I couldn’t take the day off to hit day two yesterday. As much as I love the idea of a weekend of non-stop horror, the idea of sitting in a cinema for more than 12 hours a day for four days is scarier than anything they could put on screen. Strangely, I’m kind of grateful.

Luckily today sees a couple of films I really want to watch hitting that screen; some stuff I’ve been waiting to see for a while and some stuff from a director I really love to watch work. So now the doors are open and I’m going in to see what kind of tat has been left on my seat today. I’ll catch you on the other side.


The Rezort

“Seriously. Fuck this island!”

Kicking off this morning’s festivities is this little zombie number. Introduced by the film’s director Steve Barker – of Outpost fame.

This fun little thriller centres on a group of tourists who visit “The Rezort”: a place filled with zombie leftovers of a years ago outbreak that people now pay to visit and quench their bloodlust. These tourists are left for dead when the multi-billion dollar fortress on the centre of the island is hacked and its security compromised. With the horde now loose and no way to stop them, the survivors only have a few hours to escape the island before it is levelled in an attempt to quarantine the virus.

Superb world building, and a cast that includes Dougray Scott seemingly having a ton of fun with this not-wholly-original but slightly-different take on zombie films. It’s refreshing to have a film where everyone already knows what a zombie is and the whole Jurassic Park meets Dead Island thing it has going is awesome.

Basically, The Rezort is what happens when you take video games movies away from Uwe Boll.


Abattoir

“You’re the last piece of this house’s puzzle.”

Darren Lynn Bousman, director of several Saw sequels and bizarre musical Repo: The Genetic Opera has returned to the horror genre with some interesting new ideas.

A throwback to noir mystery thrillers, Abattoir follows Julia (Jessica Lownders), a journalist trying to solve the mystery behind a series of bizarre acts centred around houses where a crime has been committed. Stumbling upon it after the room her sister and nephew are murdered in is stripped from he house, she drags her cop boyfriend Grady (Joe Anderson, who we saw at the start of the festival in My Father, Die) along to investigate the stranger that’s seemingly responsible for these weird goings on.

What starts like a violent mystery thriller quickly becomes a fun ghost story. The old collector, played with a brilliantly creepy tone by Deadwood‘s Dayton Callie, is one of my favourite bad guys/story tellers in quite a while. Bousman has put a creepy little film together that culminates in a brilliantly bat-shit haunted house segment that doesn’t scare you as much as show just how many different ways the man can think of killing people. Loved it. Well worth the wait.


The Master Cleanse

“I just wasn’t strong enough to finish.”

TheMasterCleanse_FilmStill_Final_FeaturingJohnnyGalecki_PhotoByMichaelFimognari

Crap knows what this was. A strange creature-feature drama type thing that invoked memories of Gremlins, except not as scary. A strange choice for a horror festival, The Master Cleanse sees Johnny Galecki and Anna Friel as a pair of lost souls looking to improve their lives with the ultimate cleansing retreat. Shipping themselves off to the country resort run by Oliver Platt and Angelica Houston, the pair are put through a cleanse that (quite literally) puts their negative energy in front of them to confront.

I went in to this one pretty blind, not having a clue what I was letting myself in for. This weird little tale that starts with people throwing up little monsters that represent all the bad stuff in your life, just keeps going down the rabbit hole after that. The stars are decent in roles that, for the most part, I think are pretty alien to them. Strange little flick, I might need to watch it again to decide whether or not I like it.


Sadako Vs. Kayako

“One of you has to be sacrificed.”

So I went into is one a full blown skeptic. A fan of both Ringu and Ju-On, I wasn’t entirely convinced that a grudge match film was the way to go. I didn’t think it was the kind of film that really lent itself to the tonal shift you needed for something like this. There’s no two ways about it: you’ve got to bring the laughs Freddy Vs. Jason style or things could go awfully wrong.

I’m happy to report that I was wrong to be too worried. Sadako Vs. Kayako is a ton of fun on the big screen. It makes the smart decision early on to not take itself too seriously, substituting real creepy scares for (perhaps unintentional) laughs. It proves that Japanese cinema still has what it takes to be creepy and jumpy – even if we see very little of either here – but that it’s also willing to evolve a little to make itself relevant. While this is certainly Sadako’s film in so many ways; Kayako and Toshio are still the creepiest fucking things I’ve ever seen in my life!


Beyond The Gates

“Maybe don’t touch that again.”

tumblr_ocbtlmNMsg1ta2fv3o1_1280

Now, who’d have thought that a day that involved a Ringu film would actually have not only another film with a cursed video tape, but a better one? Certainly not this festival goer.

But here we are, not only a film with a haunted tape, but one that goes full on retro with its look. Remember those board games that had video tapes? I think Atmosfear was probably the biggest one in the UK. Well, here’s a horror flick, filmed to look like it was plucked from a 90’s Blockbuster video, that is based completely on a family playing this insane board game – Beyond The Gates – trying to beat the maniacal woman on the tape running the game and save their dad’s soul.

A couple of decent scares, but so, so many ludicrously funny bits. A cracking little movie that sits up there with Deathgasm for me. Just without the heavy metal and insane language!


Blood Feast

“Soon, my queen will be reborn.”

So we round off the day with a remake of the 1963 splatter flick Blood Feast. Now, I’ve never seen the original, but in his chat before the film director Marcel Walz assured us that original director H G Lewis was pleased with the film. If that’s true, I’ll never be watching the original. Because man oh man was this a terrible film.

We’re talking: the entire auditorium was howling with laughter at every uttered line; the painfully terrible script; and the even worse acting. This film, about a restaurant owner who starts slaughtering people to appease an ancient Egyptian God, starts with a warning about how nasty it is, how those with anxiety or heart conditions should not watch and how the filmmakers are not responsible for your well-being. That should have been the first warning. The second should have told us that if you wanted to watch a decent, well made film, you’d come to the wrong place. So bad was this film, that the close up of this guy sawing another guys dick off not only didn’t shock us, but with the level of torture this mans screenwriting had been putting us through, it was a welcome break from the rest of this accidently horrific film.


T-t-t-t-that’s all, folks.

A cinema fill of people shuffle out like old zombies at nearly 1am, thoroughly disappointed at the downward spiral the day took at the end. A couple of excellent and a couple of very good films today, but all we’ll remember is the confused mumblings of a repressed director who clearly wasn’t hugged enough as a child.

Hopefully, tomorrow doesn’t go the same way. Tomorrow closes out with my most anticipated of the weekend and I’d hate to feel this disappointed after 31.

Anyways. Home. I’ve got to get to my bed. Because I’m back in the road in 8 hours for day four.

FrightFest 2016 – Day One

“The World is not round. Not from where I stand. It’s warped. Contorted.”

I’ve always wanted to come to one of these festivals. A few days surrounded by like-minded horror fans watching new and interesting stuff made to make your skin crawl, your heart race and stain your pants.

As tickets for this year’s festival went on sale, I wondered and waited and couldn’t decide whether or not this was something I should actually do. “Fuck it” I thought. I’m jumping in.

Ok, so real life is getting in the way (as it does) and as such my FrightFest experience this year is three days out of five. I struggled through a long shit week at work, loaded up on Red Bull and Lucozade and hit the motorway for opening night. And there I was. Tired, grubby, and only just making it in time for the opening film of the festival. But I made it. Won’t you join me for a couple of days of horror?


My Father, Die
“Come on. Make me proud.”

Starting the show off with one hell of a bang, Sean Brosnan’s feature debut film blew the roof off the Horror Channel Screen. With a little chat from star and super bad guy Gary Stretch afterwards.

After watching his father beat his older brother to death, leaving him deaf from the same attack, Asher has waited years to avenge his brother’s murder. He gets his chance when his father, Ivan, is released early for good behaviour and he rolls himself back into town. Asher tracks his old man down and lays a vicious beat down to the murderous bastard, leaving him for dead.

But this monster of a man isn’t even close to being done. A brutal and bloody cat and mouse game ensues as Ivan tears the little town apart looking for his son.

My Father, Die set the tone for the rest of the weekend with its visceral violence wrapped up in an excellently made story. With no flab to the film anywhere, it’s as near perfect a film as you’re likely to see.

Gary Stretch’s Ivan is a terrifying monster of a man. Walking a fine line between scary and cheesy-funny, he walks the darker side of that divide brilliantly. I certainly don’t remember him being that big in Dead Man’s Shoes, but the man definitely bulked up for his role as the biker turned killer.

Joe Anderson’s turn as the deaf and voluntarily mute Asher was great. He was convincing as the scared boy in a man’s body, stepping up to protect his family; with a fun and surprisingly effective added touch of the film being narrated by young, pre-mute Asher.

The FrightFest listing for this film describes it as “The Southern Gothic progeny of CAPE FEAR, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER and OLDBOY” and I can’t agree more. If you let Rob Zombie remake any of those films, you are going to get this nasty little flick. One of the best films I’ve seen in a while. The rest of the weekend has some work to do to keep up!


Cell
“Stay off your phone. They didn’t.”

Sadly, there was never going to be a good way to follow up Hillbilly Cape Fear back there, so the festival threw out the “Also Ran” of the night. The film that had to be shown on Thursday so it could be called the UK premiere before the cinema and VOD release the next day.

Cell is the latest adaptation from a Stephen King book. Starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson (henceforth know as “The 1408 Team”) it sees graphic novel writer and estranged husband/father Clay Riddell (Cusack) teaming up with grizzly Tom McCourt (Jackson) when the world is mysteriously zombified through untimely use of their phones. Instantly turned into violent psychopaths via their attachment to the iDevices, the monsters created by the strange signal are ever-evolving and ever-more dangerous as the pair struggle to survive on their way to Clay’s wife and son.

Aside from a couple of relatively interesting ideas, Cell doesn’t really offer anything worth watching. Team 1408 seem to enjoy their time together and it’s nice not to have a shiny happy ending, but besides that, you’ll probably do better with 28 Days Later. There’s a lot that could have been great here – but in fairness, the book isn’t one of King’s best – and there’s plenty of potential that’s been squandered. But this is nothing new, especially when it comes to King adaptations.

Just watch Team 1408 in their previous roles together.

Like I said, there was never any chance of a film keeping up with what My Father, Die this evening. Hopefully this is the night they just needed to flash a few mainstream stars around and we can get back to the goodness of great horror afterwards.


And that’s a wrap for the day.

Sadly, my time with opening night ended here. Struggling to stay awake during Cell and the prospect of a two-hour drive home meant I had to call it a night. It meant I missed the world premiere of one of my more anticipated films, Let Her Out, but that’s life. From all accounts, it went down an absolute storm and blew everyone away.

There’ll be no Friday wrap up for this year’s festival. I have to work to pay for the tickets after all. But I will be rooted to my chair all day Saturday and Sunday where I get to see really anticipated films like Darren Lynn Bousman’s Abattoir and Rob Zombie’s 31.

Stay tuned…