Frightfest Glasgow has grown over the years not only in size to two full days but also in scope. The best thing about the line-ups that organisers Jones, McEvoy, Rattray and co offer is they recognise a lot of horror fans don’t have an exclusive interest in pure horror and the audience don’t feel like they’re being talked down to by an endless barrage of slashers (though obviously slasher marathons are an exquisite treat).
Of the eleven films showing I had only passing knowledge of the opening and closing features of the weekend. The first was a Hollywood history documentary, the last an Indonesian fightathon in a tower block and the nine films in between ended up fitting this eclecticism to a tee.
What better way to start a marathon cinema session than a doc about the man modern cinema owes a packet? Corman’s World (****) tells the story of Roger Corman’s long, influential career on the fringes as he discovered and broke some of the biggest names in Hollywood history via a galaxy’s worth of beautiful B trash. Jack Nicholson, Pam Grier, Robert De Niro, Joe Dante, Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese and more pitch up to sing the utterly charming old schlockmeister’s praises.
Alex Stapleton’s style is pacy with big laughs strewn throughout and while it’s not quite as thrilling a roller coaster as Machete Maidens Unleashed which covered some of the same ground last year this is far more probing and heartfelt without being too sentimental. Stapleton does catch that truly startling moment however that all documentarians hope to capture in interviews from one of the starrier contributors and it’s a sobering, distressing and touching sight.
Tape 407 (*1/2) has an impressive shot at being the worst found footage movie ever filmed let alone released. If you list off the most tiresome and irritating habits the controversial sub genre has to offer you’d basically write this film’s treatment. A potentially fun idea with the survivors of a plane crash being hunted down by a mostly unseen superstrong predator and there’s a few giggles to be had from the wildly bad dialogue and acting which hits the script’s level, but 95% of the time it’s a turgid repetitive mess with constant running and screaming from a cast with the most annoying collective voice since Grease 2.
It gets a dirtily won cheeky wee half star for an insultingly cheap scare late on with a laughably rendered sub video game CGI beasty charging at the camera which annoyingly actually made me jump. It’s humiliating but I’ve got to play fair.
The China brothers’ Aussie set Crawl (***) mixes the climax of Blood Simple with the really tense hotel door scene from No Country For Old Men and stretches them to feature length, so the British duo aren’t shying from comparisons to other moviemaking siblings.
Super stripped back and played solely for suspense, the almost-story of a waitress getting the stalk and chase treatment from a demented Croatian hitman proves efficiently entertaining enough, but nowhere near as gripping as it thinks it is and a little character of its own wouldn’t have gone amiss.
The Day (****) seems on the surface to be a drab depressing post-apoc navel gazer but is secretly a razor sharp fun post-apoc ass-kicker with an attractive, talented gen-x cast (welcome back Shannyn Sossamon! and hello again Shawn Ashmore for the third Frightfest in a row! we simply MUST keep meeting like this) battling cannibalistic tribes and their killing-machine offspring. Previously assistant director on many a fight heavy genre flick, Douglas Aarniokoski paints a handsomely colourless rainy wasteland and fills it with action as exciting as it is vicious and a story as engrossing as it is merciless.
Only occasionally feeling as silly as it is, it’s a strong ensemble show on all sides of production but The Last Exorcism’s Ashley Bell steals it in a physically tough and psychologically complex turn solidifying her as one the finest young actresses out there.
Nearing the midnight hour with horror-fried eyes is surely the ideal condition to take in something titled War of the Dead (*), but Finnish director Marko Makilaakso’s WW2 soldiers versus zombies misfire is an uninspired no fun zone that tests the patience when it should be eliciting foolish cheers. The kind of film that banks on the viewer being bastarding drunk but forgets that even the hopelessly smashed need to be engaged, the performances and camera work are watchable enough but they can’t cover how achingly cheap and unthrilling this “action” “horror” hybrid is. If you ever wondered what DS Carver from The Bill’s American accent sounds like then it’s advisable to wait ‘til the dvd turns up in Poundland. It shouldn’t take long.