FrightFest 2008 took place between the 21st and 25th August 2008 at the Odeon West End cinema in Leicester Square. Read the review of Day Two below or click on the other links to see reviews for the other days.
Zomblee: Due to my status as festival lightweight I once again missed today's first movie, but nothing was going to stop me from catching Let the Right One In. It's hard to believe there's only another day to go after this. Is it just me or is this getting more and more fun each year?
From Within (2008)
Steven West An unusually mature and sombre American teen horror film in which a wave of bizarre suicides rock a small town and may or may not be linked to an alleged Satanist apparently hounded to death years earlier. Rare directorial effort for well regarded cinematographer Phedon Papamichael effectively employs Bible Belt America as a backdrop for random violence, mistrust, prejudice and persecution while generating a pervasive sense of menace that sustains itself to the (grim) end.
The downbeat, slow-burning mood of many classic 70’s American horrors clearly influenced Papamichael’s bleak chiller, though it falls back on a few conventional jump-scares and its overall impact is weakened by interchangeable characters and bland performances.
Director Phedon Papamichael
Let the Right One In (2008)
David Hall Another Swedish vampire film – after last years entertaining Frostbite – this has an altogether different feel, infusing its darkly original take on the vampire myth with the kind of rites of passage lyricism reminiscent of Lasse Halstrom’s classic My Life as a Dog.
The delicately handled story revolves around Oskar, a relentlessly bullied boy living in a depressed local town who develops an intense friendship with the girl next door Eli. This would be a real heartbreaker even if it weren’t for the fact that these young outsiders have something between them that will always keep them apart. Eli is not just a different girl from all the rest, but one with a very dark secret.
Simply the most arresting powerful and emotional satisfying film of the fest, Let the Right One In is also – arguably – the most effective reworking of the vampire mythos since Near Dark. This chilly yet warm and tender tale was my favorite of the festival.
Director Tomas Alfredson
Cast Kåre Hedebrant
The Broken (2008)
David Hall After Cashback, director Sean Ellis proves again that he is a highly competent visual stylist – unfortunately like that stylish concoction he’s let down badly again by a self penned script that is more undernourished than the models from his first film and dialogue that resembles first draft material.
Following Lena Headey’s radiologist Gina through a potentially terrifying journey in which she is first confronted by a doppelganger, then survives a car wreck only to be haunted by schizophrenic paranoid visions, involving her family, Ellis’ film will be familiar to anyone who has viewed the many different versions of the body snatchers myth.
There are several effective moments and the director uses the creepy reflections and surfaces of mirrors to useful effect, but the pacing is catatonic, the characters thinly sketched and the dénouement underwhelming. There are enough glimpses of the interesting filmmaker Ellis may well become but next time he might want work to work from someone else’s material. A disappointment.
Director Sean Ellis
Cast Lena Headey
Zomblee Or: don't trust those paramedics driving a suspicious looking ambulance on a derelict road. Why? Because they don't want to help your injured friend. Rather, they want to take to you to a local ex-hospital now being used as an experiemental base for a crazed doctor, hell bent on keeping his cancer-ridden wife alive. Of course, he needs the internal organs of good looking youngsters to sustain her. Therefore he's more than happy, with the help of his small, efficient team of healthcare professionals, to give the impression to the youngsters that this is just a routine hospital, albeit not a very busy one. As they split up, it becomes somewhat obvious that little about this hospital is normal.
Much better than expected, Autopsy is a fairly effective little shocker from Adam Gierasch, writer of Tobe Hooper's The Toolbox Murders remake, as well as the truly deplorable Spiders (2000). He's come a long way from that first effort, thankfully. The isolated setting of the abandoned hospital is excellent, and there's plenty of humour poking through. The cast of youngsters are unremarkable though - weakly written, we don't really care what happens to them, but at least T-1000 Robert Patrick gives an entertaining turn as the dastardly doctor. Look out also for original Aliens bad ass bitch Jenette Goldstein, perfectly cast as Nurse Marian.
Director Adam Gierasch
Cast Jessica Lowndes
David Hall Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs arrived at Fright Fest on an astonishing wave of hype, unprecedented in the festival's history. A potent combination of psychological, metaphysical and extreme physical horror, Martyrs forms part of an unofficial intense trio of recent French horrors – along with Frontières and the magnificent À l'intérieur – that have cemented the country’s current reputation for button pushing viscera.
Ostensibly a straightforward revenge film in which a young woman (Mylène Jampanoï) tracks down the people who abused her and were responsible for hiding her captive as a young girl, Laugier’s film swiftly mutates into an extremely graphic exploration of human torture. The latter section is essentially a cinematic endurance test, one which a couple of fright festers felt was too much to take.
Martyrs is a film of undeniable skill and serious internet, although for me it remained an impressive if unmoving experience, a film for the head if not the heart. As a gruesome cinematic endurance test it deserves plaudits, and the directors heart is clearly in the right pace – it just didn’t deliver the transcendence for me that so many had promised it would. It may take another viewing to fully appreciate but to be honest I'm in no hurry to see the film again.
Director Pascal Laugier
Cast Morjana Alaoui
Jack Brooks Monster Slayer (2007)
Steven West Likeable plumber Trevor Matthews has anger management issues (he once broke a bottle over his head because he couldn’t figure out how to open it) that come in handy when he’s forced to deal with a demonically possessed science professor (Robert Englund) in this engaging origin story for a fresh cinematic hero.
A charming homage to 80’s creature features, with old-school animatronics, bladder FX, transformation scenes and Evil Dead-esque demons. Englund is a hoot in a change-of-pace slapstick role as the belching, vomiting prof and David Fox steals it as the elderly hardware store owner who warns ominously “That place is cursed…”. In the title role, Matthews, channelling Bruce Campbell, has laidback charisma to spare.
Director Jon Knautz
Cast Trevor Matthews
James A. Woods
Zomblee summary: A nice healthy mix of movies today. Nothing shockingly bad, but we definitely had something special with the masterful, beautiful Let the Right One In, an experience I'm sure most of us would happily sit through again in an instant.
Autopsy was a cool festival flick which isn't going to change your life, while Martyrs did almost everything expected of it. There was a curious feeling after that screening, as if the audience had been collectively bashed around the head with a big stick called Derek - I for one had to go home and get some shut-eye before I formulated any kind of opinion.