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 One below or click on the other links to see reviews for other days.
So here we are, it's Friday 27th August and Frightfest 2004 is about to commence, starting tonight with three films, Oldboy (to be introduced by director Chan-wook Park), Switchblade Romance (introduced by director Alexander Aja and star Cecile de France) and Tobe Hooper's long-awaited remake of Toolbox Murders.
We grab our weekend-pass goodie bag, which is surprisingly ace, three t-shirts (AvP, Doom3 and Battle Royale 2), a Wes Craven DVD box set, a blue thingy from Momentum (we eventually work out that it’s an emergency mobile phone charger) and assorted other freebies. We head upstairs to find our seats (W18 and 19). The lights darken… Frightfest begins.
Rawshark Chan-wook Park takes to the stage to introduce his film. “Thanks for coming” he tells us through his interpreter. “If there’s anyone here who came to see Hellboy, please leave now.” Park exits the stage to huge applause, and we settle down to watch what is to be one of the films of the festival.
Oldboy is the tale of a man who is imprisoned for 15 years without explanation. When he is finally released he is given some money, a mobile phone and 5 days to find his kidnapper and find out why he was incarcerated.
Chan-Wook Park's film is a gritty classic, and deserving of its critical applause (Tarantino lavished praise upon the film at Cannes). With gorgeous photography and perfect casting, the story continually skips one beat ahead of you, dancing merrily taking you with it. The editing is fantastic, the screenplay well crafted, and standout scenes include a one-take corridor fight and a gruesome tooth pull scene. It is also very funny.
Hopefully the BBFC will pass this film uncut, even though there are upsetting scenes (the octopus-eating scene in particular), but if you like your cinema strong you can do no better than seeing this Korean classic.
Jim And a classic this is. The Asian cinema market has always had a reputation of being unflinching in it's approach to violence and this movie's no exception (the live octopus eating scene alone very nearly made me choke!) The standout sequence however is the corridor fight where our main protagonist goes back to the scene of his previous imprisonment and goes ballistic on his former jailers - all of them - at the same time. The fight is long and brutal (the best I've seen since They Live) and miraculously it was all filmed in one continuous shot. Amazing stuff.
Pull out all the stops to see this film as soon as you can, you certainly won't regret it.
Director Chan-Wook Park
Cast Min-Sik Choi Ji-Tae Yu
Release Date There is currently no UK cinema release scheduled, but you can buy the Region 3 DVD at www.cdwow.com
Switchblade Romance (Haute Tension)
Rawshark Director Alexander Aja and star Cecile De France come to the stage to introduce us to Switchblade Romance (the huge French hit under the name Haute Tension).
The film starts off well, it looks great, and we know we’re in dark territory when we see a guy receiving a blow-job in an old truck, even more so when the full story is revealed. Marie (de France) and Alex (Maiwenn Le Besco) are travelling through the country to stay with Alex’s family. They arrive safely, but as they all drop off to sleep, the guy appears in his ‘Belleville Rendezvous’ truck for a killing spree and suddenly it’s “oh, shit” time. Switchblade is taut, tight and very well filmed. Every frame sets the dark mood, and the soundtrack is suitably jumpy. Then comes the TWIST (a recurring theme for Frightfest this year) and unfortunately things turn slightly silly in the last reel. Basically, a stalk’n’slash flick, but one that is extremely well made and has the courage to go all the way.
The film-makers are currently working on the remake of The Hills Have eyes.
Jim I had high hopes for Switchblade Romance and for the most part I wasn't disappointed. The movie is gripping, the acting thoroughly convincing and the gore hits the spot, but I think the whole movie is let down by an unpredictable and largely unbelieveable twist that, at the end of the day, just wasn't necessary. Without it, this baby could have scored 4.5 or maybe even 5 stars, but with it I doubt the flick will hold up to many repeated viewings and as such I can't recommend it as much as I wish I could.
Director Alexander Aja
Cast Cecile De France Phillipe Nahon
Release Date There is currently no UK cinema release scheduled.
Rawshark Final film of the night was the hugely anticipated Tobe Hooper’s Toolbox Murders, a remake of the 1978 exploitation ‘classic’. The film is really good until the last 85 minutes.
This one divided opinion as it almost seems like a spoof, but one that is just a little too straight to carry it off. The lead girl (Angela Bettis from May) is great, but the film itself is full of clichés and a boring (almost unexplained) baddie. I mean what’s with the ‘Egyptian’ symbols, and the secret room? There are a few jumpy moments and some good deaths (one guy is sawn in half, the guy who looks like Jack White has his head sliced off) but at the end it’s a little like ‘What happened at the end?’ ‘Ah, who cares.’ One of the few films not to have a twist.
Jim When Rawshark said it 'divided opinions', he hit the nail on the head. I thoroughly enjoyed Toolbox Murders and sang it's praises all the next day, much to my colleague's amazement. In fact, I think it took him another day until he realised I wasn't joking!
Yes it's cheesy, corny, tacky and predictable, but aren't nearly all of those 80s horror movies we remember so fondly? In the same way that Switchblade Romance was an impressive homage to the low-budget survival horror of the 70s, this flick owes a lot to the glossy studio productions of the 80s and if that's your thing then you won't be disappointed.
Take the end sequence when the killer inevitably gets knocked down for the first time, what does the heroine do then? Why, ignore his 'body' and check to see if everyone else is alright, of course. But when she turns around *shock* the body has gone! Cheer or groan you decide - personally I loved it and was just so relieved that the twist Rawshark had been winding me up was going to happen didn't after all. Oh, and I also find Angela Bettis very attractive, but I'm sure that hasn't influenced my appraisal of the film too much.
Director Tobe Hooper
Cast Angela Bettis
Release Date There is currently no UK cinema release scheduled, but the uncut Dutch DVD is readily available on eBay.
A great opening night for Frightfest then – one genuine classic with Oldboy, Switchblade Romance reminding us that the French are currently churning out well-crafted extreme films lately, and one film that brings up the old debate; will Tobe Hooper ever make as good a film as Texas Chainsaw Massacre ever again? The Frightfesters leave happy, looking forward to tomorrow with such films as The Tesseract, Romasanta and one of the first UK screenings of Hellboy with director Guillermo del Toro and cast in tow.