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Film4 FrightFest 2015 Preview

It’s that time again where give the batteries in our torches a quick shake to get them working, brush the cobwebs out of the cellar doorway and gingerly tip-toe through the darkness and tap-tap-tap on the lid to the coffin where we keep Mike Shawcross. Come on, Mike. Time to wake up, drink the blood of a few buxom-virgins and tell us what you’ll personally be seeing at this year’s FrightFest, following yesterday’s announcement from Film4.

by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)

Another year, another FrightFest and the UK’s première genre festival continues to grow and grow. In its 16th year it continues to impress with what looks to be an incredible line up, another screen and more parties. There does seem an aspect to bring the FrightFest community together with a few more social events. The Duke Mitchell Club was fantastic fun last year and one event I will be visiting this year. We have a Karaoke party as well (not for me!)

As for the films, so many I want to see, so many I’m going to have to miss out on… bigger festival more choice, bigger headache. Over the last few years the Discovery screens have shown the breakout films, the gems people talk about for weeks to come. The Borderlands was last year’s big discovery film; I wonder what will it be this year?

turbo kidOpening night brings monster wasps with Stung, post-apocalyptic sci-fi Turbo Kid and Irish witch-horror Cherry Tree; although personally I think Turbo Kid stands out here. Friday on the main screen and highlights look like We Are Still Here, a ghost story with vengeful spirits [which Paul Field recently raved about on the Failed Critics Podcast]. James Wan delivers more horror as producer on Demonic. I do like his work so will be staying in my seat for this one. Hellions looks interesting, starring Chloe Rose as she attempts to survive from trick-or-treaters from Hell on Halloween night. In the discovery screen 1 – Aaaaaaaah! from Steve Oram looks worth a watch, starring Toyah Willcox. Horror-comedy Bloodsucking Bastards is another one I’ll be checking out. DS 2 (Discovery Screen 2) we have III, a Russian film blending religious iconography with a violent disease, which I’ve been interested in for a while, and Final Girl, which sounds fun with Abigail Breslin as a lethal assassin hunting down a gang of murderers preying on young females! Creature-feature The Sand I may be staying off the beach for…

I’ve told you there is far too much choice! In DS 3 on Friday Zombie Fright Club could be great fun! Martial arts and zombies? Of course I’m IN! Body looks a possible selection as well as three girls break into the wrong mansion. As for the Eugene McGing’s haunted house mystery thriller The Unfolding…? I’ll wait to see what people think of that one first!

Into Saturday then and Shut In might be worth the early morning watch, starring Macaulay’s brother Rory Culkin. Bait is Dominc Brunt’s (you know Paddy from Emmerdale) second feature as a director; a true-life crime thriller starring Victoria Smurfit. Frankenstein has a strong cast with Carrie-Ann Moss, Danny Huston, Tony Todd and Xavier Samuel, directed by Bernard Rose (Candyman) and I fancy this one. Black magic goes awry in Deathgasm which sounds fun and, depending on if I get in, the Film4 screen is perfect for late night horror. If you like documentaries then there is Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD in DS1. I tend to miss them as I prefer feature films, but I’ve heard extremely good things about this documentary. The Hallow sounds like a must see film; a success at Sundance and directed by Corin Hardy (who will direct The Crow reboot), set in Ireland this horror film is full of demonic monsters in the woods. I’d love to see the zom-rom-com Night of the Living Deb, featuring Ray Wise, but it will clash with Deathgasm… choices, choices, choices! DS2 shows Another Me, starring Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones) stalked by a doppelgänger, which looks good. DS 3 screens a few retro showings and the Duke Mitchell events!

Sunday and, after the success of The Babadook, Inner Demons must be worth a visit. I’ve seen these kinds of films before at FrightFest, but a Christmas horror story surprisingly doesn’t really seem out of place in August and is another to consider.over your dead body

I can’t resist a Takashi Miike film, so looks like I’ll be in the DS 1 first thing for Over Your Dead Body. More end of the world drama in These Final Hours and Summer Camp (from the team behind [REC]) may be worth viewing. Think I’ll miss high-school reunion slasher Most Likely to Die. Over in DS 2 more retro screenings with Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, cult fantasy film Hawk The Slayer and 80’s classic Hellraiser…. All of which I’ll miss! April Mullen has a second film at FrightFest after showing 88 in Glasgow earlier this year. I liked action-thriller 88, so on that basis alone I may look at Farhope Tower, even though not much more information has been released about this yet.

Monday is the toughest day of the festival! The twisted comedy about a sarcastic ex-girlfriend coming back from the dead, Nina Forever, looks interesting – as does the UK première of Emelie. And then we have one of my highlights – Tales of Halloween, the closing film and an anthology film, with directors Adam Gierasch, Axelle Carolyn, Neil Marshall and Lucky McKee joining in the fun. Big film to end on.

DS1 presents Paul Hyett’s Howl (which I saw a trailer for in Glasgow) and sees a group trapped on a train overnight with an unknown create – and I think I’m going to give it a go. The Lazarus Effect in DS 2 has a decent cast with Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplas and Sarah Bolger (who is also in Emelie) and sounds like a modern day Flatliners. In DS 3, Banjo (from FrightFest regular Liam Regan) is showing, starring Laurence R. Harvey and Dan Palmer – this will be on my list!

This year there will be 3 short showcases. I have to mention these as (and unashamedly plugged) I have worked on three films which have been sent for selection, so I may be in a couple of these showcases!!!!

Overall a hugely impressive line-up. You can listen to me and the rest of the Failed Critics on the podcast [to be released on 3rd September] as I uncover the best and worst of the festival for 2015!

Film4 FrightFest will be held in London on 27th – 31st August 2015 and you can find more details on their website. Tickets go on sale at noon tomorrow.

All Cheerleaders Die

All Cheerleaders Die is 90 minutes of cheerleaders, football players, pool parties, peer pressure, popularity contests, long blond curly hair, short skirts and low tops, muscular teenage pectorals, goofy jokes, shining white teeth and… neck-breaking, blood sucking, zombie witches..? And it’s actually rather subversive of the genre too? Count me in!

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

all cheeleaders dieShowing this week at Film4’s FrightFest 2014 (as previewed here and here by Mike Shawcross), All Cheerleaders Die could quite easily be misinterpreted as a typical supernatural teen slasher film. It has hot cheerleaders, cool football players and a strong revenge theme driving the characters to murder and cause general mayhem. A bit of blood splatter here, some lesbian kissing there, add a smidgen of social anxiety from the lonely goth-girl and you’ve basically dreamt up the premise for the majority of the supernatural slasher genre since Carrie first crawled out of the broom closet nearly 40 years ago. It would be understandable for someone to brush off All Cheerleaders Die without seeing it, assuming that it’s just another typical teen movie in a long line of generic girls-gone-wild horrors.

The thing is, it isn’t a typical teen horror. In fact, what joint writer and director combo Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson are actually doing with this remake of their first ever collaboration, straight out of college back in 2001, is purposely taking these well worn tropes (the fit young football captain, the popular head cheerleader, the girl trying to fit in to enact a secret revenge plan etc) and bursting them open, exposing a pliable core.

It would be wrong of me to accuse McKee and Sivertson of resorting to mocking or parodying genre films such as Urban Legend, Sorority Row or any of their ilk. The impression given is that these movies can actually be enjoyable as what they are, but their plan is to strip back all of the layers of garbage piled on the genre through the years piece by piece and build up something new in its place. There’s a well maintained level of respect for the genre carried through its run time. Of course, it’s a genre not without its flaws. Flaws such as rampant sexism and chauvinism, unattainably high statuses within peer groups encouraging bullying, that sort of thing. The subversion of these clichés is what appears to be the target of this film whilst keeping some familiar order; something it both achieves and very occasionally reluctantly falls back to.

But that’s what the film is trying to do, not what it’s actually about, so let’s take a look at what is going on with the story. The plot revolves around Maddy (played by Australian actress Caitlin Stasey), a slightly cantankerous high-schooler, as she infiltrates a group of highly strung, snooty, stuck-up cheerleaders. In her mind, she perceives them as lacking any responsibility over the death of her friend during a freak cheerleading accident. She becomes especially irate when discovering a few of the group have started sleeping with Terry (Tom Williamson), the school football team captain and ex-boyfriend of her recently deceased chum. Gradually Maddy begins to form real friendships with these girls, observing them as people rather than just the stereotypical airheads she assumed they’d be. It’s almost like it’s subverting your expectations of what the film would be like, huh?

During a party, things get saucy just before they get out of hand and a dark side to Terry is revealed. Things go from bad to worse when the cheerleaders are killed in a car crash brought on by the fight, before Maddy’s ex-girlfriend-come-stalker Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) in her grief decides to resurrect the team using her witch powers. Not quite the same as they were before, the once-dead cheerleaders require blood to keep them alive and begin exacting revenge on the men responsible for their demise.

You can see what I mean. Immediate impressions are not particularly positive. However, there’s humour in abundance amongst some rather dark subcontext that floated throughout the film. Ideas of gender conformities are flirted with and boundaries are broken, but in its rush to address all manner of issues, it does leave itself drifting in the shallow end of the pool on more than one occasion. A sexual awakening for Tracey (Brooke Butler) initially serves as little more than titillation, but serves a broader purpose of emasculating the male characters. The unwritten rule of most cheap and lazy horror films, that men hold power over women, and the objectification of them is handled with all the grace of a Paul Scholes slide-tackle, but there’s something to be respected in its approach.

Essentially though, the biggest audience it will attract are of course horror fans and the public gets what the public wants. Similarly to 2012’s Detention, there’s a deeper context to it if you look for it, but if not, it’s also an entertaining horror in its own right. There’s gory death scenes, violent revenge is enacted by zombie women who suck the blood from some dickhead jocks. It’s the best of both worlds!

All Cheerleaders Die will be released in the UK on DVD on 13 October 2014, or if you were lucky enough to get tickets to FrightFest 2014 you can catch it on the big screen there tomorrow (22 August)!