Frightfest 2004 - the 5th Anniversary of London's annual horror festival took place from 27th-31st August at the Prince Charles cinema. Read the review of Day Two below or click on the other links to see reviews for other days.
Day Two arrives and most of us get up early enough to catch a rare big-screen showing of Dario Argento's classic murder / mystery Deep Red. Also lined up for today is Oxide Pang's version of Alex Garland's second novel The Tesseract and Spanish period-set werewolf movie Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt.
American thriller The I Inside with Ryan Phillipe and Sarah Polley makes an appearance next before the most-anticipated Hellboy with an appearance from Guillermo Del Toro and the main cast, including Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman. Cult-classic in the making Monster Man ends the night with a midnight screening. Argento - start the fans please...
Deep Red (Profundo Rosso)
Rawshark I’m going to have to come clean and admit that I had never seen Deep Red before, so it was a real treat to view it for the first time on a big screen. This film was one of the highlights of the festival for the early-morning cinema-goers who were treated to a genuine classic on the big screen. An immensely satisfying murder mystery, this is one of Argento’s more accessible films, and ranks up there with his best alongside Suspiria.
David Hemmings is enjoyable (dubbed and subtitled) as music teacher Marc Daly and there are many funny moments, most noteworthy being the journalist’s car and it’s collapsing seats. There are also plenty of genuinely creepy moments, including the scraping of the plaster wall in the house, and the animated doll attack. The music from Goblin is fantastically frenetic and the gore is good too, with lots of head squashing and teeth smashing. There’s also a twist that doesn’t really make sense, before another twist that does. Genius.
Deep Red was shown to co-incide with Alan Jones' latest book Profundo Argento, a huge glossy hardback book chronicling the life and fims of Dario Argento. The book is available from www.fabpress.com.
Jim Um, I overslept, so didn't make this one...
Director Dario Argento
Cast David Hemmings Daria Nicolodi Gabriele Lavia
Release Date Deep Red was released in 1975.
The Seed of Chucky trailer and preview
Director Don Mancini then takes to the stage (with Shaun of the Dead editor Chris Dickins) to present a humorous introduction to a preview of Seed of Chucky. The trailer looks good fun (there is one great moment involving Britney Spears and a car crash) in a ‘movie-within-a-movie’ kind of way and features John Waters as a sleazy stalker as well as the usual cast. We then get to see a 4-minute preview as Jennifer Tilly (playing herself) first encounters the evil Tiffany doll (voiced by Jennifer Tilly). The scene showing Chucky masturbating got the biggest laugh.
Seed of Chucky is released in the USA on November 10, although no UK release is currently scheduled.
Rawshark So The Tesseract then. This one split opinion like no other (with possible exception of Toolbox), but personally I liked it. Yes, it is slow in parts, but overall the whole is visually stunning. Ignore the opening ‘not-very-good’ Matrix bullet effects and the film soon settles into it’s overlapping structure (taken from Garland’s book) that intermingle the stories of a drug runner, a young Thai bellboy, an English psychologist and a female assassin.
Alexander Rendel is great as the young Wit, but some of the other roles feel a little miscast, especially Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as the nervous drug runner. Still, the story is captivating enough and the film is suitably dark and claustrophobic. The editing throughout is very well stylised and the final scene is explosively impressive in a subtle way. It’s probably not going to be a mainstream favourite, but if you like your drama dark and thrilling (sprinkled with humour and philosophical ponderings) you should like this.
Made by Oxide Pang, one of the Pang brothers who made The Eye and The Eye 2 (screened later at this fest).
Jim Although The Tesseract is quite striking visually, it’s far too much of a pick ‘n’ mix movie too really impress. The overlapping story narrative is done remarkably well and without any confusion and young Alexander Rendel is amazing as Wit as Rawshark said, but the film does feel all style-over-substance. Give me a good old fashioned psycho-killer story anyday.
Many pass-holders stood outside and complained about the inclusion of this movie in the line-up since it’s not very frightening, but Alan and Paul argued something about variety being the spice of life. They have a point too, as does Rawshark, so perhaps the problem's me - maybe I'm too shallow for philosophical ponderings.
Director Oxide Pang
Cast Jonathan Rhys-Meyers Saskia Reeves Alexander Rendel
Country Thailand / UK / Japan
Release Date There is currently no release date for The Tesseract in the UK.
Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt
Rawshark There was a treat before this film, as both director Paco Plaza and (to rapturous applause) producer Brian Yuzna personally introduced this new offering from the Fantastic Factory, a period-set werewolf movie. Excited, we Frightfesters anticipated lots of monsters and gore. It’s not really what we get, but instead we have gorgeous cinematography, pleasing eye-candy in the shape of Elsa Pataky, and a decent performance from Julian Sands (no, really!).
There are a few shock moments (wait until you see how Sands makes a bird fly like a butterfly), some decent gore, and a transformation scene (wolf to man in the pouring rain) that brings back all those gloopy memories of Yuzna’s Society. It feels a little long at times, but it’s certainly a looker, and a worthy comparison (although it’s not really the same) to The Brotherhood of the Wolf.
After the film there was a Q+A with Plaza and Yuzna who answered questions about the true story that inspired the film and revealed their slight annoyance of endless comparisons to Brotherhood.
Jim Not my cup of tea, although I do live with a very girlie-girl, so the words ‘period drama’ always fill me with dread. Pataky gives a strong, possibly career-defining, performance as the unscrupulous wench who steals her sister’s man, only to discover he gets a bit hairy when the moon is full - the man in question being Julian Sands, who manages not to ruin a film for a change.
All very good visually, but a little too much exposition and not enough action for a good wolf flick. I got the impression that Paco Plaza knows this too – the obvious comparison to The Brotherhood of the Wolf seemed to piss him off in the Q+A session, it being the better flick and all…
Director Paco Plaza
Cast Elsa Pataky Julian Sands David Gant
Release Date Romasanta was released on DVD in the UK on the 27th August.
The I Inside
Rawshark I missed the opening two minutes to The I Inside (I was watching Kelly Holmes race home to Gold in the Olympics 1500m on the big screen in Leicester Square), but I didn’t miss much, and soon settled to watch the first American big-budget ‘B-Movie’ unfold.
Although it almost teeters on an overdose of silliness, it largely succeeds thanks to a cryptic (and fairly well-crafted) screenplay and a strong performance from Ryan Phillipe as Simon Cable, an amnesic who wakes in hospital after a car-crash in different time zones. Yes, you’ll guess the ending as it’s repeatedly spelled out to us that this film is a ‘Puzzle’ (TWISTS ahead..!) but we do feel for Phillipe’s character, especially during the first twenty minutes when things are very strange indeed.
We get humour (from the bed-ridden heart patient) and gore (one vicious stabbing scene) but towards the end our sympathy for Simon starts to wane as the true course of events begin to take their natural path. Pretty good then; if you like your mystery/thrillers sugar-coated in American teen-sheen, then this should float your boat.
Jim Playing out like a contemporary Jacob's Ladder but set in a hospital as opposed to Vietnam, The I Inside is more of a date movie thriller than a Frightfest chiller but a worthy inclusion in the line-up all the same. You can't fault the acting - Phillippe impresses, Polley is gorgeous and Piper Perabo does really well with her dual roles - the cinematography is class and the script is tight too. In fact, the only thing wrong with this film is the fact that the twist (Goddamnit - another twist!) is signposted from the second reel in.
Oh - and an old mutual acquaintance of mine, one Steven Graham, plays the hospital orderly. The little scouser bastard still owes me money...
Director Roland Suso Richter
Cast Ryan Phillipe Sarah Polley Stephen Rea Piper Perabo
Release Date The I Inside currently has no UK release date.
Rawshark Hellboy is sold out. Even the return ticket queue is sold out, and for good reason. Hellboy is about to receive one of it's first UK screenings, and the director and stars are in town to promote the film. Whoop.. whoop, bring on the film boys…
It begins well with a nice opening (the baby Hellboy in the army photo is a delight) which puts us in the mood for another X-Men (although with more of a Gothic feel), but ultimately Hellboy never quite matches Wolverine’s efforts. It comes close as the film is buoyant with dark energy and fantastically OTT costume and production design, and Perlman literally IS Hellboy, but unfortunately the script is not quite up to scratch.
Rupert Evans has a largely redundant role except for being the audience's eyes into this strange world, and Selma Blair is underused as fire-starter Liz Sherman. Some scenes are memorable – Hellboy and the kid on the rooftop spying on Liz, the first fight with the demon – and there is a lot of humour and sardonically enjoyable one-liners (“Didn’t even buy me a drink”). The clockwork masked Nazi (swordsman extraordinaire) is the best villain by far though, and unfortunately when he dies, there are still some ‘sub-villains’ with tentacles to kill off, who are simply nowhere near as frightening or indeed, intimidating.
A sprightly and interesting Q+A follows, and some idiot asks Selma Blair about that kiss in Cruel Intentions. Yeah, don’t think she’s bored of answering that one yet..
Jim I tell you, I'm a total sucker for these kind of big-budget action romps (I even like Men in Black II) and so I had high hopes for Hellboy. In many ways, I thought it did really well - it's nice to see a film that is this big but doesn't fully take itself too seriously - but sadly the script just doesn't make as much use of the wonderful characters as it perhaps should. The look is bold and the action and effects are breathtaking, but it's all a bit thin and popcorny for many a film critics taste I'm sure.
Still, we're comparing Hellboy to the dizzying heights of the Spiderman and X-Men franchises and they've had a couple of movies each to get it right. Hellboy compares favourably to the first X-Men flick, so maybe the future for the big red monkey is rosey. I'll sure as hell be buying the directors cut DVD when that finally gets a stateside release, I can tell you.
Director Guillermo Del Toro
Cast Ron Perlman John Hurt Selma Blair Rupert Evans
Release Date Hellboy was released in the UK on the 2nd September.
Rawshark Monster Man is delayed slightly due to the overwhelming demand for Hellboy autographs, but it is totally worth the wait, and a great crowd-pleasing end to a long day.
Saturday’s closer is the perfect raucous road trip ride, a cross between Jeepers Creepers, Duel, The Hitcher and the best of the Farrelly Brothers comedy output. Three things are asked of late-night B-movie fun-fests – laughs, gore and nudity. Monster Man provides two of these in bucket loads. Unfortunately no nudity, but we do get Aimee Brooks in a short miniskirt and black bra which is more than acceptable.
Endlessly funny (pissing in the monster truck, sipping from the septic tank), Monster Man never forgets to combine the comedy with scares. There is a genuinely creepy killer (aptly title FuckFace) and delightful gore effects (the excellent walking, talking torso-less body and a great head splat).
The two leads, Eric Jungmaan and Justin Urich, work well together in the way Shaun and Ed spark off each other in Shaun of the Dead, and manage to keep things from veering too far into the realms of silly stupid. A huge success – apparently parts 2 and 3 are already in production.
Jim I was admittedly very drunk by the time Monster Man rolled on to the big screen, but I have to say I enjoyed this film immensely. It's the only film I've actually rushed out and bought after the Frightfest and take my word for it, the Dutch release has way cooler packaging than the cover Tartan Video plan to use next month.
Anyway, comedy horror buddy road movies always work for proper red blooded guys like me, and Monster Man is probably one of the best I've ever seen. The combination of geeky velcro boy and that fella who looks like a poor man's Jack Black is brilliant. Yes the movie's awash with teen flick cliches, but there are enough novel surprises in there to tickle your ribs right to the end credits. Let's hope the sequel's are as fresh, and include scenes where hot chicks quote Yoda while taking their clothes off.
Director Michael Davis
Cast Eric Jungmaan Aimee Brooks Justin Urich
Release Date Monster Man is released in UK cinemas (by Tartan Films) on March 11th 2005.
Another good day then, with opener Deep Red giving the uninitiated a real treat and the option of a morning off for others. The Tesseract was well-received by some, and although not quite a Frightfest genre flick, it was a worthy inclusion for a film that may not again be seen on the big-screen. Romasanta and The I Inside passed by pleasantly enough before the all-star turn-out for Hellboy sent the Frightfest crown into a frenzy. Backed up by a decent movie too. But it was Monster Man that really proved an unexpected hit, now destined for cult-classic status (probably). Remember, you saw it here first.
Kudos to organisers Alan Jones, Paul McEvoy and Ian Rattray - two days in and not a completely duff film screened yet. And with Day Three featuring such films as Michael Winterbottom's future-set Code 46, Thai horror/comedy hit Buppah Rahtree and Ginger Snaps Back, things were only looking better.