“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.
“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.
“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.”
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.”
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!
“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.