Glasgow Frightfest has become the highlight of the Glasgow Film Festival. The two day feast of new horror from all over the world sells out quicker than any other event and has a loyal fan base as diverse as they are passionate.
The 2011 line up consisted of many exclusives that gore hounds have been dying to see and bravo to Alan jones and his team for assembling such a wide range of picks.
Frightfest has become a must attend event of my yearly calendar and the atmosphere and camaraderie never disappoints. I was however very sad to have missed the first two films of the fest this year due to Italian horror soundtrack legends Goblin playing just down the road. A pretty shit hot reason to miss a couple of movies to be sure but, honestly who the hell scheduled that one!?
As a result i didn't get to see British portmanteau piece Little Deaths which i'm assured features a monster cock (or was it a cock monster?) and Korean director Ji-woon Kim's I Saw The Devil. Especially irked to have missed out on that one as the buzz around it is of Oldboy proportions and everyone who saw it said it was fantastic. Kim also directed A Tale of Two Sisters and A Bittersweet Life so the guy does not do crap, but this sounds like it could be his masterpiece.
Anyway, no point in crying over spilled milk as it'll turn to tear-cheese and get sold off at extortionate prices. Here's what i actually DID see:
Machete Maidens Unleashed
Mark Hartley continues the documentary as rockumentary approach he used in Ozploitation doc Not Quite Hollywood (AKA the greatest film about films ever made).
Here he focuses on the Filipino film industry of the 1970s where it was incredibly cheap to make a quick exploitation film and a swift buck. In the great tradition of naughty boys everywhere, these guys got to make the films they did because NO ONE WAS LOOKING.
Again we are treated to an exhilaratingly edited barrage of clips from trash of the highest order interspersed with anecdotes and insights from the crazy bastards that made them and the poor sods that starred in them, with a little historical context thrown in.
It's hard not to compare Machete Maidens with NQH and the average fanboy won't come away with nearly as extensive a must-see list of hidden gems as they did with the earlier film (Firecracker clearly has to be sought out, though).
Instead of divvying the films up by genre, this time events are recounted chronologically, giving the story a more rounded feel so those that found NQH too bitty may find Machete Maidens Unleashed a more satisfying experience. It's still an excellent look at a bygone era of bizarre filmmaking and an extended tribute to Weng Weng, the 3 foot star of James Bond pastiche For Y'ur Height Only is always welcome. The talking heads are brilliant value with Joe Dante, Eddie Romero, Colleen Camp, Sid Haig (who i'm pretty sure is spotted "blacked up" at one point) and Roger Corman popping up to either look embarrassed or gleefully reminisce. John Landis hasn't made a decent feature in a looooooooong time, but he's one of the best talking heads (and swearers) in the business so it's always good to see his big beardy speccy coupon on screen.
Remember Flat Eric? The coolest moment in Levi ad history since they ran out of 50's hits to do laundry to? Well his creator, Quentin Dupieux (AKA Mr Oizo), has finally made a full length feature so strap yourself in. Rubber is about a car tyre rolling about the desert of it's own accord making people's heads explode with it's "mind".
What an amazingly crazy idea for a film, eh? Sounds whacky in a "so bad it's good" way huh, irony lovers? Well guess what, it's a whole lot crazier than that. And smarter. And smart arse. And arse smarter.
An opening monologue from the small town sheriff (Stephen Spinella giving the comedy performance of the decade) delivered direct to camera announcing that "this film is an homage to the 'no reason'", while very funny, does set off alarm bells that this particular killer tyre movie might have ideas above it's station. It does. And that's the point. After the tyre (credited as Robert, so let's assume he's male) springs to life and takes his first Bambi-like rolls across the sand on his way to harnessing his murderous telekinetic powers, we are then introduced to a group of on-lookers who stand behind a rope with binoculars commenting on the action as it unfolds.
If you're proud of yourself for working out that this Greek chorus represents the audience then good for you; you're officially smart enough for Rubber to take the piss out of you. This is a film that deconstructs films that deconstruct films. It claims to be a film about nothing and turns out to be about everything that film has become and while that may sound like hard work, Dupieux ensures that not a moment goes by where you are not entertained or surprised.
So many rugs are pulled out from under you while watching Rubber you may well get carpet burn. If the cliche that everyone enjoys "walking, reading and films" is true then everyone should see Rubber, for it is a film for people who enjoy films. And i mean ALL people, not just horror fans. And Robert deserves an oscar.
Territories (to be released in the UK as Checkpoint)
French Canadian production Territories is about as far from playful as it gets. Five friends are pulled over by a pair of check point patrol officers and what starts as officious bully boy intimidation soon gets sinister and violent when it becomes clear these officers are not what they appear and the group are then locked in tiny cages and interrogated as enemies of the state.
This is horror with a point and for the most part it's a point well made by debuting writer / director, Olivier Abbou. The acting is good across the board but the stand outs are the antagonists who give two of the strongest performances in recent horror. These are real human monsters as terrifying as they are believable and the mid section really let's you get under their skin.
Then everything goes a bit pear shaped with a third act shift that doesn't so much change direction as ignore all the good work that's gone before by focusing on a flawed private investigator searching for the missing travellers. This goes nowhere and it's hard to work out why Abbou chose to end his story this way. If he's trying to say we're doomed because the paranoid aggressors of the world are strong and determined while those who fight for freedom are too nostalgic and drug dependant to be effective then he fails and hurts a strong first hour. If he's just trying to pad out the running time to feature length (without the investigator section it would run at about 50 minutes) then he should have settled for a short film instead.
Stylishly filmed and genuinely disturbing in parts, Territories is a good straight terror tale set in the real world, but it could have been an excellent one.
Jon Knautz is a horror fan through and through and what he lacks in budgets and originality the writer / director makes up for with enthusiasm. The Shrine is probably his straightest film yet, but it's still lots of fun. Though it isn't exactly Rosemary's Baby, Knautz understands that a Satanist cult movie has to be done relatively seriously, even when rubbery monsters are involved.
Borrowing from The Wicker Man, Blood on Satan's Claw, Black Sunday and many others, the story follows three young journalists (including Aaron Ashmore, Smallville fans!) looking into a missing persons case in Poland that may involve ritual sacrifice. After a flabby first half that could best be described as dull but plucky, things take a turn for the bonkers and it's all the better for it. It's here that Knautz unleashes his knack for monster action that informed his debut horror comedy Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer and there was a collective sigh of relief in the audience when the fun broke out.
While the performances aren't great, everyone keeps an admirably straight face throughout and even in the slower parts Knautz is able to create a creepy atmosphere that shows he's definitely a filmmaker worth keeping an eye on no matter what direction he takes.
Retrospective on Don't Look Now
Don't Look Now or the Horror Film Even Wankers Like (not to be confused with The Exorcist, The Horror Film Even Normal People Like because as you'll know, wankers don't think The Exorcist is scary - the wankers!) gets a wee retrospective documentary from Optimum Releasing to be included on an upcoming anniversary DVD. Highlights include Danny Boyle being credited as "Don't Look Now Fan" and Donald Sutherland's quite remarkable facial expressions while recounting how the famous sex scene was filmed. As Paul Simon would say: still crazy after all these years.
Zombie Musical (short)
Zombie Musical is a short from the makers of the Scottish undead actioner, Outpost. It's about a zombie outbreak and it's a musical. A very impressive opening dance sequence done in a single take certainly bodes well for the currently shooting Outpost 2. Despite the genius idea of using an abandoned school as a hide out (why in the history of zombies has no one thought of this?!) this spirited little number is marred by lifeless performances and some atrocious lip syncing.
Mother's Day was the sole remake of Frightfest, so we should all count our blessings. Director Darren Lynn Bousman is the man behind Saws II, III and IV making him possibly the only filmmaker in history to direct a trilogy WITHIN a franchise and while the nu-metal music video style he brought to the Saws did more harm than good there's no denying that the man has vision.
Thankfully he leaves most of his quirky editing and over the top lighting at the door with Mother's Day, an old fashioned home invasion thriller.
A trio of bank robbing brothers (let's call them Scowly, Stupid and Rapey) take a party full of guests hostage in their old childhood home after a heist goes tits up. The boys' mother soon arrives in the form of psycho par excellence Rebecca De Mornay(!!!) to take control of the situation and impose her own brand of punishment and tough love on all and sundry.
While it's good to see Bousman hold back on the visual ticks that have become his trademark, he's ill served by a dreadful script that he takes WAY too seriously. There's a lot of human drama in Mother's Day. A lot. There's some good actors in here (including Aaron Ashmore's identical twin Shawn, X-Men fans!) but the soap opera of bereaved parents, cheating husbands and long harboured resentments forces most of them into a corner sobbing.
When the horror breaks out, which it does in spectacular bursts of cruelty, you start to wonder who the film is aimed at. It's too mean-spirited for the main stream thriller crowd and too navel gazing and emo for the hardcore horror fans who can handle a little face burning, ear boiling and incest. And the worst of it is, there's very little fun to had here at all.
However, De Mornay is absolutely fantastic and the real saving grace with her Mother ranking as one of the greatest female characters in horror history. She's psychotic but controlled, sadistic yet sympathetic and pulls off an amazing trick getting to the nub of her character's incestuous leanings by being maternal and seductive at the same time. It's just a shame that despite the title she doesn't seem to be the main character. In fact if anyone can tell me who the main character of Mother's Day is supposed to be i'll buy you a Coke.
Not the best of flicks then, but it does offer the opportunity to see one of Hollywood's greatest maniacs back doing what she does best and as a bonus if watched back to back with The Shrine you can work out the difference between Shawn Ashmore and Aaron Ashmore. FYI it's that Aaron is just a bit more weasel-featured. But both would still get it.
Hobo With A Shotgun
Hobo With A Shotgun. Need i go on? This truly is does-what-it-says-on-the-tin entertainment. The story of a homeless man played by a never more grizzly Rutger Hauer cleaning up the streets of all the pimps, bullies and rapists with the aid of his trusty pump action friend. If you suspect you won't like it then, trust me, you will hate it. If you think you'll enjoy the tasteless carnage on offer, there's a good chance you may want to marry this movie.
Jason Eisener makes his feature debut here and he delivers in spades, taking his home province of Nova Scotia and turning it into hell on earth. Coming off like the bastard lovechild of John Waters and Gregg Araki, there's no doubt that Eisner is going for the extreme and quite frankly the violence, cruelty and madness on display makes Crank look like Cop and a Half.
Everything is turned up to eleven from the dialogue and performances to the soundtrack and camera work and Hobo puts all the other productions from the Grindhouse project to shame. Planet Terror, Death Proof and Machete are all pretty mad in their own way but do they feature a bus full of kids getting torched by flame throwers? Or a stripper dancing joyously under a geyser of blood in broad daylight? Get back to school, Tarantino and Rodriguez! Just don't take the bus, guys.
Hobo is extremely witty too with brilliant sight gags and one liners strewn throughout. The tone is somewhat like an X-rated live action version of The Simpsons at it's best. Eisener is clearly a talent to watch and his short film Treevenge is nothing short of legendary. If he continues with this kind of uncompromising bat shit mentalness then exploitation fans the world over have found a new hero. At the very least, they have a new classic to impose on normal people.