By Mike Shawcross (@shawky1969)
Saturday usually boasts a strong line up and this year, it’s got some decent looking films and even a Party! Films in the main programme during the day include All Cheerleaders Die, Starry Eyes and Dead Within.
All Cheerleaders Die is from the director Lucky McKee (The Woman) and Chris Siverston (The Lost). An All the Boys Love Mandy Lane and The Craft mash up, it sounds quite a bit of fun and one I’m disappointed to be missing; though it has a DVD release in September. Starry Eyes is a film from directors Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer and starring relative newcomer Alex Essose. A story of selling your soul for your dreams, as a desperate actress will do anything for her major break in Hollywood. Yet another one that sounds worth a watch. The Harvest starring Michael Shannon, Peter Fonda and Samantha Morton and directed by John McNaughton sounds a very strong film indeed. Boasting a solid cast and a something in the basement premise this really does sound worth seeing. I may have to rethink my Discovery Screen choice for this one.
In the discovery screen and playing against The Harvest for me is Dead Within; from director Ben Wagner. A couple struggle to stay alive in a remote cabin in the woods after surviving a pandemic; not only fighting the dangers from outside they soon have to fight their own paranoia from within. Not high on my watch list; over in the other Discovery screen is Bad Milo, a film I was up for seeing but may change my mind! Directed by Jacob Vaughan and starring Ken Marino (We’re the Millers) about a bloodthirsty creature living in the lower intestine of Duncan (Marino) and emerging from his rectum to eat anyone that is annoying Duncan. Sounds bizarre and ridiculous and just the sort of Discovery film that will generate a lot of buzz! I think I may watch The Harvest.
Next in the Discovery Screens are White Settlers and The Short Films (Part 1). Over the years I’ve come to enjoy the short film showcase usually sponsored by the Horror Channel; some have been exceptional, but this year it is tucked away in the Discovery screen and I will be giving it a miss. White Settlers directed by Simeon Halligan (Splintered) and starring Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman) set in the Scottish Borders as a young couple move into a remote farmhouse and are terrorized by a group of masked intruders. Sounds a typical house invasion film, but I’m hoping for something different. I know Simeon; he runs the Grimm Fest film festival in Manchester so I’ll be supporting this film anyway.
Mitch Jenkins directs an Alan Moore penned film; Show Pieces in the Discovery screen 1. A trilogy of stories written directly for the screen by Moore and which sounds fun; I like anthology films, and I do like most of Moore’s adaptations so I’ll be seeing this one.
Saturday evening’s main films are Life After Beth, directed by Jeff Baena in his debut feature and with a stunning cast; Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C Reilly, Anna Kendrick and Molly Shannon. A zombie rom-com with a twist it sounds a blast and I will be not be missing this one. The Babadook is one which has already gained quite a bit of buzz on twitter this year, and a film I’m looking forward to seeing. Directed by Jennifer Kent in her first film and starring Essie Davis (The Matrix sequels), Daniel Henshall (Snowtown) and Noah Wiseman. The story of a widow looking after her son while his fear grows that there is a monster in the house, she starts to feel a sinister presence around her.
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For needs no introduction or build-up; this is the biggest film at the festival this year. The original Sin City was a festival favourite and I’m sure the sequel will play very well; but it’s actually a film I’ll be missing. It opens nationwide a week later plus it’s playing in the midnight slot for the Horror screen so I’m off to a Frightfest party instead. (NB – This has now moved to the opening night)
In the evening discovery screen 1 we have a TBC, Digging up the Marrow and Creep. Digging up the Marrow is a film of two halves. Literally. Opening as a documentary exploring Monster Art it then becomes a horror film as the documentary makers investigate a so called “real” monster. Sounds quite appealing and I do like Adam Greens films, but against The Babadook it has no chance. Creep directed by and starring Patrick Brice alongside Mark Duplass in this improvised film. Taken from a 10 page outline, Duplass and Brice make it up as they go along. I’ll be at the party!
In the Discovery Screen 2 there is The Mirror, a UK production from director Edward Boase and starring Jemma Dallender (I Spit On Your Grave). Based on a so called true story of a haunted mirror reported by the Daily Mail and Huffington Post, I think I’ll be waiting for the DVD.
The following two events in the discovery screen are from the Duke Mitchell film club. Coherence directed by James Ward Byrkit is showing first followed by a Film Party in the final showing of the day. Both events should be worth a visit, though I’ll be attending the Party over the film.
The Sunday line up in the main screen looks very good and I’m only straying into the Discovery Screen for House at the End of Time in the evening session. Discovery screen 2 is showing some retro films for the day, they include The Visitor from 1979 and directed by Giulio Paradisi. A Nightmare on Elm Street, Robert Englund is in attendance at the festival. Nekromantik from 1988 directed by Jorg Buttgereit and The Shining from 1980, directed by Stanley Kubrick. The final film of the day is a new film; Another from director Jason Bognacki. Sounding like a giallo/hammer hybrid I think I’ll stay in the main screen.
Open Windows directed by Nacho Vigalondo and starring Elijah Wood, Neil Maskell and Sasha Grey; who all have had previous films play at the festival before, comes this new cyber horror film. One I wasn’t interested in until I read the synopsis. Worth a look. In the Discovery screen 1 there is Expedition; while it sounds good, I’m not sure I want to watch a dinosaur found footage film.
Faults starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing prequel) and directed by Riley Stearns, his first feature looks an interesting look into the effects that a cult can have on people and their families; really looking forward to this one. In Discovery Screen 1 there is the documentary Drew: The Man Behind the Poster, a look at the life and art of Drew Struzan, it does sound a decent documentary and one I’ll pick up on DVD.
Among the Living from the directors of Livid and Inside; Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo and starring Beatrice Dalle comes this coming of age horror film. I am looking forward to this one. Playing alongside this is Doc of the Dead, another documentary about surviving a zombie apocalypse; I’m not really a zombie fan so I’ll stay in the main screen.
The Samurai, a German film and one I really know nothing about. I was hoping to jump into the discovery screen but they don’t really interest me. The Shining, and Lost Soul. So I’ll stick with The Samurai – it might surprise me. Lost Soul is another documentary and doesn’t really draw me in, though it gets good feedback, but may be another I’ll pick up on DVD.
The House at the End of Time, is a debut film written and directed by Alejandro Hidalgo. The first horror film from Venezuela to be shown internationally, this sounds a promising feature; a much better option than Stage Fright in the main screen or Another. Stage Fright, directed by Jerome Sable and starring Minnie Driver and Meatloaf is a musical, a mix of Friday the 13th and Glee, and while that sounds a strange mash-up, it’s not one that’s caught my imagination.
The final film of the day is Home. There is nothing playing against this film. From the director of The Pact, Nicolas McCarthy, Home stars Catalina Sandino Moreno in a story of demonic horror. I prefer the new title of At the Devil’s Door. Sounds a good end to Sunday.
The final day is a mix of main screen, discovery films and tiredness and of course the after festival drinks at the Phoenix Club.
Alleluia, directed by Fabrice du Welz and starring Lola Duenas and Laurent Lucas. The 2nd film in the Ardennes trilogy, the first film being Calvaire. Worth a watch if the first one arrives in time from Amazon! In the discovery 1 there is Altergiest from director Tedi Sarafian, writer of Terminator 3, which put me off a little. This horror/sci-fi thriller is Sarafian’s directional debut and is based on true events, which put me off again. Deadly Virtues from director Ate De Jong, sounds a run of the mill home invasion film, though my 2nd option if I’ve not seen Calvaire before the festival.
Nymph has me in 2 minds; a killer Siren, a Nazi concentration camp and featuring Franco Nero (Django) this doesn’t sounds too bad. Directed by Milan Todorovic and starring Kristina Klebe, I might change my mind. At the moment my plan is to see Lemon Tree Passage in Discovery 1. An Australian urban legend and directed by David Campbell. We’ve been here before with a group of non-believers wanting to disprove the legend, and of course things are never what they seem. Blood Moon from Jeremy Wooding, who directed The Magnificent Eleven (which was alright!) comes this werewolf western starring Shaun Dooley.
Xmoor directed by Luke Hyams and starring Melia Kreiling and Nick Blood comes this UK creature feature. One I’ll be avoiding. The Jessica Cameron Truth or Dare which she co-wrote, directed and stars in alongside Ryan Kiser and Heather Dorff, is my draw in Discovery 1. The film has had a fantastic run on the festival circuit and one I’m looking forward to seeing. Extraterrestrial sounds excellent, from director Nacho Vigalondo, who gave us Timecrimes (which was also excellent) comes this sci-fi romantic comedy. This is one I’m gutted to be missing.
VHS Viral, the 3rd outing in the VHS franchise and one I’m really looking forward to watching, after really enjoying VHS 2 and not really liking most of VHS 1, this one boasts a decent line up of directors including Nacho Vigalondo, Gregg Bishop and Marcel Sarmiento; could be a highlight of the festival. The Remaining plays in Discovery 1, directed by Casey La Scala is a religious-slanted horror film. Playing on the biblical end of the world scenario it’s one I’ll be avoiding. In Discovery screen 2 the 2nd part of the Shorts will be shown, with one short, The Tour starring Jessica Cameron and Heather Dorff, a real coup for Frightfest’s own Damon Rickard in his first short.
The final film of the festival is The Signal, starring Breton Thwaites (Oculus), Olivia Cooke and Laurence Fishburne. Directed and co-written by William Eubank this sounds an interesting film to end on and one I’m looking forward too.
Following the final film will be drinks in the Phoenix bar, where Mike Shawcross will be attending to celebrate and dissect what has been and gone over the previous 5 days – and of course have a well-earned pint or two!
FrightFest will be running from 21-25 August 2014. You can keep up to date with Mike’s reactions here, on our Twitter page (@FailedCritics) or by following him at @Shawky1969