FrightFest 2006. The 6th Anniversary of the UK’s best annual horror festival took place between 25th and 28th August 2006 at the Odeon West End cinema. Read the review of Day Four below or click on the other links to see reviews for the other days.
Today’s line-up kicked off with the dark Spanish thriller H6: Diary of a Serial Killer, before moving swiftly through Thai spook story Ghost of Mae Nak, self-funded gothic noir UK film Puritan and the Amercian slasher mockumentary Behind the Mask. The day, and the festival closed with a packed-house UK premiere of Korean monster movie The Host.
Soulmining intro: Fully recovered from yesterday’s ordeal by cinema we all reconvened outside the OWE on Monday morning all ready for the final day of this year's festival. The day began with a short film Missed Call which was about infidelity and was another pretty decent effort.
H6: Diario de un Asesino (2006)
Soulmining There was always going to be one film over the weekend that sent me to sleep and this year that dubious pleasure fell to Martin Garrido Baron's H6: Diary Of A Serial Killer. With a plotline more akin to yesterday's 'Grim Sunday’ selection, this gruesome debut from the Spanish director opens with Antonio (Fernando Acaso) topping his girlfriend after an argument. Released from prison 15 years later he holes up in an old brothel and lures girls back to room number 6. Unfortunately for them, the only room service Antonio offers involves interrogation, rape, torture and dismemberment by chainsaw. In his warped mindset he sees his work as bringing them salvation from their sins... There's nothing startlingly original here but Baron does a competent job and doesn't shy away from displaying some quite graphic scenes. However I found the story to be too pedestrian and boring, and after the third whore was booked into room 6 my attention was beginning to wander.
Zomblee What a pleasant way to begin the day. A chainsaw-loving serial killer movie is on the Frightfest breakfast menu, and what’s more, it’s going down a treat. H6 is a highly watchable slice of serial sickness from Spain, with Fernando Acaso having recently inherited a dilapidated whorehouse where he now lives with his newly wed wife. He also likes to select morally unsound young ladies from the street and entertain them with his own brand of hospitality, i.e. fucking them like an animal while they starve for weeks on end before giving them the saw. Sick, sharp and not afraid to fill the screen with blood whilst also leaving just the right amount to the imagination, this is way above average for serial killer fare.
Rawshark With a title very similar to the definitive ‘inside the mind of a serial killer’ film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, H6: Diaro de un Asesino is a powerful and well-acted movie in its own right. The H6 of the title refers to Room 6 of Antonio’s inherited hotel, where he keeps women chained up ready for carving, in his mind at least, to purge them of their sins. Questions such as how his wife never hears a squeak from the kidnapped prostitutes, or indeed how Antonio can continually rape the girls without undoing his trousers, go unanswered, yet the film is strong enough - without ever being excessively graphic - to carry you through to its surprisingly twist-laden ending. A dark and disturbing debut from director Martin Garrido Baron.
Director Martin Garrido Baron
Cast Fernando Acaso
Maria Jose Bausa
Ramon Del Pomar
FrightFest 2006 at the Odeon West End, London
Soulmining: A large group of us ended up chatting outside in the interval and Ian was spotted doing the rounds with his camera getting some more snaps for the FrightFest website. With the Pang Brothers' new film Re-cycle turning up without any English subtitles a last minute change to the schedule had been made, with Thai chiller Ghost Of Mae Nak stepping in to take its place. I think I was probably the only person to have heard of this one, let alone seen it (twice!) but I was quite pleased as it gave me the opportunity to catch up with director Mark Duffield who I'd previously spoken with last year about the film.
Before Mark introduced the film we were treated to Deadly Tantrum, the short which had been given away on DVD in our goodie bags - thankfully this Welsh comedy/slasher was a hoot and went down very well with the audience! We also got the new teaser for Transformers and another unnecessary Hollywood remake of an Asian shocker in the form of the Pulse trailer.
Ghost of Mae Nak (2006)
Soulmining Having seen Ghost Of Mae Nak twice already I wasn't sure whether I'd go the distance with this one, but ten minutes into the film and I found myself getting sucked back in to this modern update of an old Thai legend. There was something quite refreshing about watching an Asian movie - the first of the weekend - even if it did involve one of those long haired female ghosts, but thankfully Duffield's film takes a different approach from the norm, with Mae Nak's ghost actually protecting the lead couple, identifying their commitment towards each other with her own long lost love. The film is at its strongest when dispatching with some of the unsavoury characters who are trying to take advantage of the young lovers, and there's a couple of death scenes here that are real crowd pleasers. Perhaps a little lightweight compared to the hardcore horrors that had come before, it at least offered a pleasant diversion from the masses of psychopaths and serial killers on show. You can read my original EMB review here.
Soulmining: Mark returned for a short Q&A with Paul McEvoy after the screening so I helped get the ball rolling by asking the first question. As I walked out of the cinema for the next break I spotted a familiar figure by the ticket desk - P director Paul Spurrier who I'd spent quite a bit of time with when I was out in Bangkok for the BKKIFF in February.
He told me about the work he had lined up here for the next couple of weeks and discussed the ongoing saga of P coming out on DVD (Anchor Bay have the rights for the UK release) and the latest developments with P2. As it stands at the moment the script is written but filming all hinges on it securing a financing deal, and if that happens then he hopes to begin shooting in February 2007.
Back inside we had the surprisingly tasty trailer for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and then the Puritan crowd turned up to introduce their film.
Soulmining I’ll be honest, I didn’t really get Puritan. In fact it confused the crap out of me. Nick Moran is Simon Puritan, an alcoholic journalist living in Whitechapel who gets drawn into a labyrinthine plot involving a corrupt politician (David Soul) and his wife, a horribly disfigured man who brings cryptic messages from the future, and the legacy of occult leader Aleister Crowley. Some found the intricate plotting highly rewarding while others found it obvious and unconvincing, so I guess this one is due for a love/hate affair with its audience. Putting the story’s shortcomings to one side, the film is at least good to look at with a sumptuous production design and moody atmospherics, backed by a terrific score. Whether Puritan will succeed with its aim for self-distribution remains uncertain, but as an independent British film I wish it well on its release regardless of my own opinions.
Zomblee Nick Moran stars in this British noir about a writer on hard times who is visited by a disfigured man who seems to know about his future. Apart from what I considered to be miscasting in the central role, Puritan is a reasonable attempt at modern-day yet gothic storytelling with an intriguing premise that should keep you interested all the way, even up to the final twist that most Frightfesters, much to director Hadi Haijag’s surprise, saw coming a mile off. Georgina Rylance excels in her role as mysterious Ann Bridges and David Soul is on fine form as the epitome of greed and corruption. This went down well with the punters, apart from one guy in the Q&A who felt compelled to make it known that he didn’t believe any of it for a minute. Each to their own, I suppose.
Rawshark My favourite moment from the Q&A was the women who demanded to know what ‘terrible’ American film Nick Moran had mentioned he had worked on earlier in the screentalk. It’s not often David Soul gets shouted at for interrupting an irate Frightfest fan in the search of the truth with a haughty ”Not you!”! Either that bit, or the moment when director Hadi Hajaig asked the audience if any of us had caught on to the plot’s intricacies before the final reveal and then proceeded to video record the response of a sea of waving hands. Puritan is an interesting UK gothic noir that is well performed (especially by Georgina Rylance), well directed, has a sumptuous look and includes a great score. Unfortunately, the maze-like plot features far too many ‘Way Out’ signs for those who have walked its paths before.
Director Hadi Hajaig
Cast Nick Moran
Puritan director Hadi Hajaig (with camera) and cast (L-R David Soul, Georgina Rylance and Nick Moran)
Soulmining: Alan Jones conducted the Q&A afterwards with director Hadi Hajaig (who passed his video camera to Jekyll in the front row to capture it all on film) and actors Nick Moran, Georgina Rylance and David Soul, and that was certainly a lively affair; one American lady was desperate for Nick to name the American studio movie he'd been shooting in Russia which he loathed (he wouldn't name names) and another guy decided to voice his opinion that he didn't believe the storyline which was a bit harsh and uncalled for.
David Soul was also presented with a huge card, which we'd all signed as it was his birthday, and Nick led us all in a chorus of Happy Birthday, much to his embarrassment! They then made themselves available for autographs out in the foyer for those that wanted to meet them, which was a nice touch.
I'd been planning to get a decent meal during the next break but with Paul Spurrier around that idea got sidelined in favour of a quick trip to the pub and a chat about all the latest happenings in Thai cinema. We made it back just as Troma's Poultrygeist trailer was playing, and then settled down for more of Ian's Trailer Trash - Red Sonja actually broke in the projector, but once that had been fixed we got a bit of Amin: The Rise And Fall and one of my personal favourites, Death Race 2000.
Behind The Mask (2006)
Soulmining Scott Glosserman’s film puts a clever spin on the cult of the slasher movie villain by imagining a world where these horror icons are actual real people. Shot as a documentary we join a film crew as they follow aspiring killer Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) around town as he chooses his next victims, identifies his nemesis (amusingly played against type by Robert Englund) and demystifies the whole killing process. What makes this a particular delight is when the filmmakers inevitably become complicit in his actions, at which point the whole film flips on its head and turns into a traditional stalk ‘n’ slash flick with all the requisite thrills. With its fresh approach and all-too-knowing script, Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon was a sure fire winner at FrightFest but I’m not sure whether it has breakout appeal beyond its horror-savvy audience.
Zomblee Meet Leslie Vernon, a man who dreams of owning a tagline like ‘The Night He Came Home’. In this universe, our legendary celluloid maniacs are real and are the embodiment of Leslie’s aspirations (he refers to them as Mike, Jay, and so on), so he’s set his night, selected his victims, and is happy to explain to a student TV crew just what goes into making a night of terror happen. Using Scream’s postmodern horror sensibilities, Scott Glosserman’s film runs all the way with them, cramming in loads of gags mainly targeted at horror audiences, and from what we saw here tonight, they’re loving every minute of it.
Rawshark In this current age of mockumentaries and prolific ‘reality’ shows on TV, an idea like this was simply waiting to happen and for the first hour I was really enjoying Behind The Mask. Nathan Baesel as Leslie Vernon takes a few minutes to warm to, but once you’ve taken the premise as granted, the film delights in throwing out some hilarious and astute ‘slasher convention’ observations. Add in cameo appearances from Robert Englund (again) and Zelda Rubenstein from Poltergeist, and Behind The Mask was well on its way to greatness. But then the film switches tack and descends into standard teens-in-peril slasher fare, destroying its brave and subversive opening with a tame and clichéd ending. Still good fun though.
Director Scott Glosserman
Cast Nathan Baesel
Soulmining: I managed a quick run to Subway and then it was straight back for the final film of the festival - and a welcome second showing of the Charley Says FrightFest trailer.
The Host (2006)
Soulmining With over 13 million admissions in its home country alone, Korean box office juggernaut The Host arrived on a huge wave of expectation. This big budget effects-laden monster movie set alongside the Han River features a large deadly tadpole (much less funny on screen than it sounds), which has been mutated by a dose of toxic waste. Beginning with a bravura extended attack sequence along the riverbank this is jaw-dropping stuff. Yet there are many more levels to this film and it soon shifts focus to a less frenetic family drama as Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) rallies his family members to rescue his daughter who’s trapped in the sewers. With its mixture of action and drama, plus moments of comedy – probably a little lost on Western audiences – and a sharp political undercurrent, The Host proves itself to be one of the most enjoyable and entertaining films to come out of Asia in recent years, and fully justifies the hype!
Zomblee A significant portion of London’s Korean population were in attendance for the last movie of the festival, and let’s just say that they had little reason to be disappointed because The Host does everything it intends to. A massive sea monster movie loaded with thrills but mostly laughs and cheers was an appropriate way to end this year’s FrightFest and although it’s not exactly what you’d call a life-changing experience, you may think twice before lifting a ‘no-trumpet playing’ sign (I shit you not) and bashing a sea creature’s tail with it. Check out the way the creature hangs upside down from the bridge - fucking genius.
Rawshark After 22 feature films and Lord knows how many short films, trailers and special previews, FrightFest 2006 finally came to close with the hugely enjoyable Korean creature feature The Host. Much anticipation had built up over the CGI sequences of the creature in question, and the opening 20 minutes doesn’t disappoint with a fantastic daylight monster mash on the side of the River Han. Blending family melodrama with comedy (I especially loved the ‘spit in the gutter’ during the Virus scare, and the American soldier’s English language explanation of the ‘Virus situation’) and terrific action sequences, The Host may be slightly overlong, but it’s still a whole host of fun. Expect it in UK cinemas nationwide later this year.
Director Joon-ho Bong
Cast Kang-ho Song
Du-na Baeand Ah-sung Ko
Soulmining summary: A bit of a mixed bag to round off the festival, but the day finished strongly with a double dose of Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon and The Host, both of which met with a pretty much unanimous seal of approval from the fans.
And that was FrightFest over for another year... well, not quite, as Ian, Paul & Alan had kindly extended an open invitation to a post-festival party at the Phoenix Club on Charing Cross Road. This proved the perfect way to wind down, relax, sink a few beers and chat to old and new friends from the weekend. A final thank you speech from Alan and then we were turfed out onto the streets at 3am and reluctantly said our goodbyes. A fantastic end to a fantastic festival!
FrightFesters at the post-festival party
A final thanks as always to organizers Paul McEvoy, Ian Rattray and Alan Jones for their tireless efforts, plus Amanda and her bunch of volunteers, and to all the other fans who all helped to make this the most social and enjoyable FrightFest yet. Roll on Halloween and the mooted one day event at the ICA… we’ll see you there!