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Failed Critics Podcast: Using 10% of our brain’s capacity

run for your wifeThe King is dead retired, long live the King, King and Queen!

With the James-era officially ending with our previous podcast, we begin anew with two new release reviews. We did consider making you wait nine years for us to get back together, inspired by Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, but we just couldn’t wait that long to tell you about it. We also found time to review Luc Besson’s latest sci-fi thriller Lucy – and we didn’t need to reach 100% brain capacity in order to do it either.

The team also find time to talk about a selection of films shown at last weekend’s FrightFest (including The Den, All Cheerleaders Die and Doc of the Dead), Icelandic penis museum documentary The Final Member, utterly terrible Disney movie Condorman and the, er, dire Danny Dyer movie Run For Your Wife.

Join us next week for more reviews and less Danny Dyer chat (probably?)

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Frightfest 2014 Preview Part 1: Change and sleepy queues

FrightfestBy Mike Shawcross (@shawky1969)

Frightfest, now in its 15th year will go through its most radical change yet; moving from the Empire to the Vue in Leicester Square has meant more change than just a venue! At the Empire; Frightfest has been able to grow, not just in ticket sales but also in size by offering many more films by having multiple screens. These were called the Discovery Screens and last year they even managed to have three of them.  While the Empire boasts an impressive 1300 plus seats in screen 1; this was the home to the main programme for the festival. The Vue’s biggest screen is 413 seats; this alone would not accommodate the weekend passes and herein lies the biggest challenge for the festivals organisers.

Their answer was to show the main programme over three screens; giving each screen its own sponsor name and rotating the films at staggered times in a day and evening session. Screen 5 (413) is the Film 4 screen; 6 (264) is the Arrow screen and 7 (411) is the Horror screen.  Then there are two discovery screens which will play a film in this same period; if you want to watch a discovery film you will only miss your screen’s film in that time slot.  Unlike the previous years the discovery films will only play once; this means that some planning is actually required to give you the optimum set of films you would want to see in the discovery and main screen.  Within my group of friends we ended up debating this for a good few hours; a good way to pass the time in the sleepy queue. We were leaning towards the Horror screen, when under further discussion we came round to the Film 4 screen. Once at the till and needing 3 isle seats we actually ended up back in the Horror screen!

Talking of the sleepy queue, this has become as famous as the festival itself, usually starting on the Friday; this year the first person was in the queue at midnight on the Thursday! At the end of the day people camp out for tickets or for a place at the front of a stage all the time, so I don’t really see it being that ridiculous. However passersby enquiring what we are queuing for had a slightly different view to me! Over the last 2 years I’ve joined the queue around 6.30 am on the Saturday; being in the same place both years about 100 people from the front. This year after a couple of films, a hearty meal and some late night coffee we joined at 2am; about 40th in the line. With chairs, no rain and a good sense of humour it’s actually a great night!

The Vue cleared the longest sleepy Q in record time, just over an hour, however it soon fell apart. The online booking system crashed in spectacular fashion and frustration and anger was vented at both the Frightfest organisers and the Vue cinema on social media. While not really the fault of Alan, Ian and Paul they were involved in organising the recovery of the booking system with Vue. Lessons will be learned from this year’s event, there will be hick ups and issues, there always are. Both the London and Glasgow film festivals suffer online problems every year; the internet is good, it’s just not that good!

On the Friday at 2pm the films are announced and this year I have to admit the line up is rather strong; opening the festival is the British film The Guest, starring Dan Stevens. The closing film is the Brenton Thwaites (Oculus), Lawrence Fishburne-starring sci-fi thriller The Signal.  These two films will play in all three screens at the same time!

Two more films play on the Thursday evening after The Guest. Housebound from New Zealand, directed by Gerard Johnstone and billed along the lines of if you liked The Loved Ones this is for you. I really enjoyed The Loved Ones. Ending the first night is the crazy sounding Zombeavers, directed by Jordan Rubin at a brief 80 minutes I can see this being fun late night movie, hopefully!

Friday; the main screen’s day films are Shockwave Darkside 3D, Green Inferno and Late PhasesShockwave Darkside is directed by Jay Weisman in his first feature and from the producers of The Banshee Chapter which wasn’t too bad. Personally I will be looking at a discovery film for this one. Green Inferno is Eli Roth’s first film as Director in 6 years, some may argue that’s not a bad thing, I don’t mind his films, though hearing feedback on Inferno I’ll be trying for a discovery film! There seem to be a few werewolf films in the line up and here’s the first one; Late Phases directed by Adrian Garcia Bogliano (Cold Sweat/Here comes the Devil). Neither of these I have seen, boasting a decent cast I would not be too unhappy if I ended up in this; though the discovery films look better.

The opening two discovery screen films are Honeymoon (D1) and Wolf Creek 2 (D2), I saw Wolf Creek 2 at the Glasgow Frightfest and can see why they’ve brought it down to the main event; it’s great fun. Honeymoon stars Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) and Harry Treadaway and my choice for this slot. Directed by Leigh Janiak in her first feature, the film has gained some critical acclaim while playing the festival circuit.

Next in the discovery screens are Preservation directed by actor Christopher Denham in his 2nd full feature; his first was Home Movie which I haven’t seen. Hunting trip goes wrong, they become the hunted by local hunters with extra relationship issues thrown in as well; sounds a well worn path. Though with Wrong Turn 6; really? This is in Discovery 2 I might end up back in Inferno here. Having seen all 5 and wondering how they got 4 and 5 even made I’ll be steering clear of this one.

The last two discovery films are Julia directed by Matthew A. Brown, his first feature film. Starring Ashley C. Williams from The Human Centipede, this is one I do fancy with its neon-noir label and what looks like a brutal revenge thriller. While R100 sounds like a typical off the scale Asian film, which is a draw to me as I’m a big fan of Asian cinema.

The evening session on Friday boasts Dead Snow 2, The Last Showing and a T.B.C. film. Dead Snow 2; Directed by Tommy Wirkola (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) and by all accounts better than the original sounds a blast, with Russian zombies fighting Nazi zombies, but it plays against 2 films I’d really like to see in the Discovery screens (oh the decisions!).  Robert Englund has a film at the festival (well two actually as Elm Street 1 is playing), in The Last Showing directed by Phil Hawkins; sounds like a found footage with a difference. A UK production also starring Keith Allen this would be a draw if Englund is on the guest list.

Over in the discovery screen The Forgotton is a UK film directed by Oliver Frampton and from the producers of the Boederlands comes this tensely plotted, gritty urban supernatural horror.  In discovery 2 Exists is showing. Another found footage film, which will not be high on my agenda. (Not a fan of FF films) From the director of The Blair Witch Project; Eduardo Sanchez comes a “in the woods” survival film against a fearsome female creature, sounds far too much shaky cam for me!

Then in the Discovery screens are The Canal and The Den. The Canal is an Irish film from director Ivan Kavanagh and stars Rupert Evans (Hellboy) and Steve Oram (Sightseers), along the lines of Don’t Look Now and Suspiria this ghost story is dark and disturbing. A midnight hit at the Tribeca festival it may be worth a visit. The Den directed by Zachary Donohue is his first feature. A modern day Rear Window using the computer as the window; sounds an interesting idea, but one I might catch another time.

Finally comes 2 discovery films that will draw a lot of attention. WolfCop and The Drownsman and I’m torn which one to see; as well as them being up against Dead Snow 2! Wolf Cop sounds the mad sort of film which Frightfest late night viewers will lap up. With strong sales at cannes, WolfCop has already secured a sequel; I can see this being one hot ticket on Friday night! While The Drownsman also looks a pretty strong film; directed by Chad Archibald (Kill / Neverlost) neither I have seen. But I like the idea of this film; as Madison (Michelle Mylett) has hydrophobia her friends try to break her fear but only unleash The Drownsman!

The rest of the line up will appear in part 2.

Frightfest Glasgow 2014: A Review

 

Wolf Creek 2
Wolf Creek 2

By Mike Shawcross (@shawky1969)

Having been a regular visitor to the London Frightfest for the last 8 years I eventually dragged myself up to Scotland to see what the Glasgow event was like. Needless to say I’ll be going back next year, I had a great time. While not as intense as the August event I liked the more intimate feel of this smaller gathering. A fair few familiar faces littered the audience and I also had a chance to meet some social media friends for the first time, just like the Failed Critics’ one and only James Diamond [I didn’t pay him to phrase it like that – James].

Ti West in conversation was an extra event on the Thursday night. With West’s new film The Sacrament playing over the weekend I guess it made good sense to host it something like this. Being a fan of House of the Devil and The Innkeepers I was looking forward to both the event and the new film. Even with his small filmography West delivered a solid 90 minutes of interesting and insightful stories of his short career. The people he worked with, like Larry Fessenden and Eli Roth, and how he secured his cast for his films; mostly through friends and chance meetings. In the Q&A he provided strong positive answers and was very willing to share his experiences. I do hope that this conversation gets aired on the internet if you like West’s work then it was an interesting 90 minutes from a director with a promising future ahead of him.

Killers (Dir:The Mo Brothers) – Day 2 Closing Film.

To know this was a replacement for The Raid 2 is a bitter pill to swallow; however it was described to me as something similar to I saw the Devil, while actually not in the same class as I Saw the Devil, it’s not that far away.

An established serial killer from Japan baits an Indonesian reporter into committing murder, the two men from a strange bond as both their lives start to unravel until they both meet in a gripping climax. This was my favourite film of the 2 days, only just though. The production, the acting, the score are all very good; it builds a steady tension towards the excellent final scenes of the film. As much as I enjoyed it, I suspect I would have enjoyed the Raid 2 more. (4.5/5)

The Sacrament (Dir: Ti West) – Day 1

A mock-documentary heavily influenced by the Jonestown incident in the 70’s. Possibly more disturbing than most films on show over the 2 days, this is a chilling story of what could and obviously has taken place before. A community run by one man, known as Father (played rather brilliantly by Gene Jones) and his hold over his followers.

The cast is excellent and West is clever enough to use actors who have experience with operating camera equipment.  I guess listening to West the evening before had set me up for this film and I really did enjoy it. (4.5/5)

Proxy (Dir: Zack Parker) – Day 1

This was excellent, from the cast, the script and to the constantly changing narrative. Parker kept me on my toes throughout the film. Every time I thought I had a handle on where the film was going it would spin it off in another direction. An uneasy watch at times, but none the less a gripping one; I’m interested in watching the film again, I wonder if Parker has littered the film full of clues as some scenes left me wondering what really was going on. With its Hitchcockian feel this is well worth checking out. (4/5)

The Afflicted (Dir: Derek Lee & Clif Prowse) – Day 1

My surprise film of the 2 days, while the overall concept hadn’t gripped me and the fact it was another found footage film left me quite cold, the style is starting to wear thin for me. Yet Lee and Prowse proved me wrong, they work wonders. A great opening had me hooked, the twist is great and then from there it’s a brilliantly handled horror film. My advice though is don’t watch the trailers, just see it! This is all I’m going to say about it…. (4/5)

Wolf Creek 2 (Dir: Greg Mclean) – Day 1

Mick Taylor (Jarratt) returns to our screens after nearly 10 years, while not a massive fan of the original because it lacks any humour, it’s still a good piece of serial killer horror.

The sequel now with added humour is a much bigger, better film, evident in the opening 10 minutes alone. Jarratt has much more fun with Mick helped by a much better script, though he’s still as brutal, he just seems like he’s really enjoying himself! Mick Taylor might just make it into that honoured group of on-screen killers, if he gets another strong outing like this one. I only hope I don’t have to wait another 10 years to see him again. (4/5)

Video Nasties – Draconian Days (Dir: Jake West) – Day 2

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape from 2010, gets a sequel or rather Jake West continues the history of film censorship in the UK. With an insight into James Ferman; director of the BBFC as the UK became the most censored country in the Western world.  Hungerford and the murder of James Bulger were associated with Rambo and Childs Play. With These accusations only cemented Ferman’s believe that the public needed to be protected from video nasites. A solid and interesting documentary and well worth seeing (4/5)

Mindscape (Dir:Jorge Dorado) – Day 2

A solid mystery thriller but a strange choice for the line up. While not a horror or even a dark thriller, this might have been more at home in the main festival line up. However I did enjoy the film, a very good cast, with a decent script and enough mystery to keep me intrigued till nearly the end, where it does become a little obvious. The score and the production were very good, with some nice cinematography throughout the film. (3.5/5)

The Scribbler (Dir:John Suits) – Day 2

A comic adaptation, from a comic I’d never heard of; penned by Daniel Schaffer who also wrote the screenplay. Really not sure what I thought of this, a film of moments; some missed opportunities and the curse of the origin story. The look of the film and its concept are great, but nothing I can really get into without spoiling it. The cast are all fine, and Dillahunt gives the best performance. Overall they are let down by a screenplay which never really builds any tension and just stumbles into the final act. Should have been better – but worth a look (3/5)

Almost Human (Dir:Joe Begos) – Day 2

Nearly a very good low budget sci-fi horror where the poster actually oversells the film. The cast were ok, generally it had some decent ideas while heavily borrowed from other alien films through the years. Its opening was pretty good it just all fell flat for me due to the very bad script, it really needed some humour. By the time the film found its feet and gave me something to laugh at I had given up. Again there were quite a few people who did enjoy it, just not me. (2/5)

Torment (Dir:Jordan Banks) – Day 2

I really struggled to like this film, a home invasion film where there was nothing new on show or with a decent twist to freshen up this well worn familiar plot line. The cast were underused and to be honest didn’t look that interested anyway, the longer it went on the less interested I became with it. Like found footage this concept is a little over used now and really needs something a bit different to make them stand out.(1.5/5)

Savaged (Dir: Michael S. Ojeda) – Day 1 Opening Film

I guess you could say it was the Crow meets I spit on your grave, which in concept sounds pretty cool; and done well would have been bloody cool. Well it was entertaining, but it entertained for the wrong reasons, the bad script and the poor delivery by the 2nd rate actors had the audience laughing at it rather than with it, was enough to condemn this to the worst film of the 2 days.    (1/5)