FrightFest 2011

PrintE-mail Written by Katherine McLaughlin

You know that feeling of dread you get when you go to see a horror film in the know, wondering what other idiots will be in the screen and probably ruin your viewing experience, well that feeling was totally void throughout my experience at FrightFest. The audience are there to watch the films and they actually make the experience better.  Clapping at cameos, delighting in devouring monsters, laughing at gruesome gore and gasping in all the right places, this is definitely the place you should watch a horror movie at.  When the villains get their comeuppance or the annoying victim finally meets their grisly end and gets applauded by the audience you can’t help but join in.  People travel from all over just to view these films at FrightFest and the directors want their approval, if you get a good response here you know you have done your job properly.

With over thirty films showing and many of those being previews or premieres there was a strong air of excitement; lots of cast members and directors milling about in the foyer and even a few random stars making an appearance to get their fill of horror films. My aim was to view as many of the smaller films as I could, I was looking for films with original ideas that were executed well.


The Glass Man

The world premiere of Christian Solimeno’s debut feature film, starring Andy Nyman, James Cosmo and Neve Campbell opened with an introduction from the Director and the leading man.  Even Jane Goldman and husband Jonathan Ross turned up to watch the finished product.  As if all this wasn’t exciting enough, as I wandered into the cinema foyer I was greeted by Scott Bakula’s wonderful face.  He was happily signing autographs and having his photo taken with fans and it must have taken him at least thirty minutes to make his way into the screen.  As I took my seat I shared my glee with my seat buddies, “Did you know Scott Bakula is here?” I loudly exclaimed!  The lovely lady sitting next to me whispered, “Yes, he is sitting behind us.”  I turned scarlet and sunk down into my seat, too embarrassed to turn around and look, oh boy!

Solimeno has created an excellent psychological thriller that comments on the current economic climate and delves into the intricacies of the mind of a man pushed to the edge. Andy Nyman excels in his role as Martin Pyrite, and gives his most powerful performance to date. Nyman portrays a man who is a loving husband to his wife (Neve Campbell), but who is trying his hardest to hide the loss of his job and complete financial turmoil from her. He is visited by a debt collector called Pecco (James Cosmo) who offers him a way out of his dire circumstances.  Driven by desperation Martin accepts his offer and the viewer follows the events that lead him into a downward spiral of devastation. There are moments of humour injected to lighten the ever building tension and some great conversational pieces between Nyman and Cosmo that will have you laughing out loud. Nyman’s take on a man who has lost everything is captivating and twinned with the mounting tension built up by the director makes for palpable and unsettling viewing.

Released in the UK early next year

Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil

A witty and entertaining take on the hillbilly horror movie genre that manages to deliver on the gruesome kills.  Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) have finally saved up enough money to invest in a holiday home in the woody wilderness. Unfortunately a group of insufferable teens camping in the forest mistake them for in-bred killers and a bloody mess ensues.  Tudyk and Labine work well together and the characters they play are likeable, funny and have a brotherly bond that gives them some substance.  It is different to the Scary Movie spoofs as it is dealing with one particular genre of horror movie and isn’t simply trying to fill ninety minutes with as many jokes as possible. The overall story shifts along at a fast pace and the kills are inventive, amusing and gory. There is some chainsaw chasing involving bees, a splattering wood chipper incident and a death by dreadful DIY. Laugh out loud funny with endearing lead characters; the best comedy horror I have seen in a long time.

Released in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD on 26th September

Troll Hunter

This film is of the found footage variety that luckily offers something completely different and visually exciting to the usual offerings.  This is the second feature film from Norwegian director Andre Ovredal, his first being released over ten years ago, and he has certainly found his footing in this surprising and unique monster movie.  There are rules when it comes to hunting trolls which is a solid base for creating some cult following – films about vampires, werewolves and gremlins – they all have quotable rules for survival.  Trolls are averse to light, strong beams of light will deter and even destroy them and the smell of the blood of a Christian is potent, they can smell it from afar.  There are a few variations of trolls and they live in tribes divided between the mountains and forests.  Each troll is beautifully realised and imaginative in appearance.  Otto Jespersen plays the weary and wise Troll Hunter and his performance is utterly endearing; he is sick of not getting any credit or good benefits from his secret trade so allows some student filmmakers to film his routine.  An entertaining voyage into the mythological Norwegian world of Trolls.

Out in the UK now

The Innkeepers

A couple of slackers who work in a haunted hotel go about their daily routine with some ghostly and chilling encounters. Ti West was inspired to make this film after his stay in a Connecticut hotel whilst filming The House of the Devil; in a Q&A after the film he said that strange occurrences and a ghostly presence were felt in the hotel throughout his stay and there was no denying it.  He has based the two hotel workers on their real life counterparts and it shows. Luke (Pat Healy) and Claire (Sara Paxton) are wry and lazy in their work ethic, but when it comes to the paranormal they portray a strong passion for it. Luke is a strawberry candy cable chewing, witty, porn loving guy with a good heart and Claire is his clever and curious work colleague. Ti West develops his characters so you actually care when they face dangerous situations. He has utilised three different chapters and an epilogue in this slow burner to present a creepy set of circumstances that will have you jumping out of your seat.

No UK release date at time of going to press

Kill List

Violent, clever, atmospheric, unpredictable and properly messed up; Director Ben Wheatly’s second feature film builds tension with precision and the performances are all magnificent.  The less you know about this film, the better, just go and watch it.

Out in the UK now

Special Mentions

Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps

The first Swiss horror movie did not disappoint; based on an alpine legend about three men living in a desolate cabin who when starved of female attention create a woman-like doll out of household objects.  When they wake up in the morning with some serious absinthe induced hangovers their doll has come to life. French actress, Roxanne Mesquida takes on the role of the sex slave or Sennentuntschi, and does a very good job at being sweet, anguished and badass throughout the film. The local cop who takes pity on her is played so convincingly by Nicholas Ofczarek and it is this relationship that creates intrigue and suspense, allowing a certain amount of empathy to be felt for the position she is in.  The setting is beautiful and the imagery is dark which creates a strong contrasting vista for the viewer, and also one that is rarely viewed in this format.  The direction is strong for the most part, Michael Steiner keeps the viewer guessing throughout, but the big reveal at the end could have been handled better as it got a bit messy and confusing.

No UK release date at time of going to press

The Woman

Director Lucky McKee delivers an interesting and thought provoking take on American suburbia and the evil that may be lurking behind closed doors.  A tale about a man who finds a primitive woman living in the woods and brings her back to his family home , locks her in the cellar and attempts to civilize and domesticate her.

Chris Cleeker (Sean Bridgers) is the patriarch who runs his family like a sadistic army major and rules it with fear. He abuses his wife (Angela Bettis) and eldest daughter (Lauren Ashley Carter) in the privacy of his own home whilst carrying on a career as a lawyer in the public eye.  Sean Bridgers performance is outstanding, he delivers passive aggressive evil and violent outbursts with a persuasive swagger.

McKee tackles issues of gender inequality and the role of women to varying degrees of success.  The violence against women shown in this film is not just simply inserted for the sake of it and moves the story along albeit brutally. I applaud McKee for deciding to cover this difficult subject matter, violence and outdated attitudes to women are still rife and it does bring these issues to light, but overall I didn’t feel it reached the heights of a great film. There were some great performances, but the way some scenes were delivered fell short of great cinematography and felt more like music video cool.

For example, we are first introduced to “the woman” with some slow motion and speed up effects which are used along with some loud music to fully familiarize you with her powerful stance. This stylized filming is injected throughout and just felt out of place and almost immature. Dealing with such a serious subject, these musical interludes almost overshadow the strength of the family story of pain and abuse.

Released in the UK on 30th September

Panic Button

A cautionary tale about the amount of data we share on the internet and how it can be tracked and used against you.  Four strangers win a competition on the social networking site for an all expenses paid trip to New York.  Little do they know that on boarding a private jet for an exciting and relaxing holiday they will instead face a terrifying ordeal.

It’s low budget horror that plays with some interesting and relevant ideas to do with social networking.  Delivering on some decent acting along with a claustrophobic plane ride makes this tense viewing.  Intriguing Saw like psychological thriller that moves along at a fast pace.

No UK release date at time of going to press

And the rest

Fright Night 3D

This loose remake of the 1985 classic takes the original concept of “what would you do if a vampire lived next door to you” and delivers an enjoyable enough watch that unfortunately lacks the wit and excitement of Tom Holland’s original comedy horror.  Colin Farrell plays Jerry the vampire who lives next door to Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) a teenager who is given the role of saving the girl (Imogen Poots), the world and his mother (Toni Collette).  David Tennant delivers his version of Peter Vincent with all his usual zeal, he plays an unlikeable, sex obsessed Las Vegas showman with a hidden past and really has some fun with the role.  The 3D slightly marred the experience, as I couldn’t see much of the background as it was so dark and murky at points, I seriously had to strain my eyes to get some sense of what was going on at times.  Fast paced fun that uses special effects, prosthetics and some good one-liners make this a decent enough vampire flick.

The Holding

Cassie Naylor (Kierston Wareing) is struggling to run her farm along with her two daughters after the disappearance of her husband. Faced with financial problems and a couple of stereotypical inbred like neighbours trying to take over her farm she makes the decision to welcome a Scottish stranger into her household to help with the chores. Turns out this chap has some psychotic tendencies and all is not as it appears to be.  A generic British thriller directed by Susan Jacobson that delivers mostly predictable viewing and an obligatory rape scene.  Lifted by a strong central performance from Vincent Regan as a man with some serious issues.

Out in the UK now

Midnight Son

A low budget romantic vampire flick directed by Scott Leberecht, visual arts director for Spawn and Sleepy Hollow.  Jacob is forced to work the night shift as a security guard due to a skin disease that makes him averse to light. The leading man, Zak Kilberg, is lovely to look at and nails the evolving role of Jacob from shy to assured with conviction.  This is a slow burner full of quiet moments and a pace that only quickens in the last bloody act. Some of the visuals and effects are great, but the film never really takes the vampire genre anywhere original.  Just as a side note, the people sitting either side of me at this screening both fell asleep.

Urban Explorers

A Creep/Hostel style horror directed by Andy Fetscher who looked suitably forlorn by the fact that the wrong copy had been sent to the festival.  Unfortunately the version shown at the festival was without subtitles and I think some of the back story and reasoning for the villain’s actions were lost in translation and it ended up feeling like a replica of the previously mentioned torture horrors.  Great location shooting in the underground tunnels in Berlin gave it an interesting visual edge. As with many of the other films showing at the festival, the director was available for a Q&A at the end of the film and he recounted a story of the time he got shot protecting the booze for the cast and crew.


I was looking forward to some Drive-in B-movie horror in this anthology directed by Adam Rifkin, Tim Sullivan, Adam Green and Joe Lynch. Unfortunately what was delivered here was an immature and misguided attempt at homage that has been done better elsewhere.  With shorts showing at the drive-in titled Wadzilla, I Was a Teenage Werebear, The Diary of Anne Frankenstein and Zom-B-Movie I was well aware bad taste would be on offer but it lacked any sense of fun or wit.

No UK release date at time of going to press


An original take on the Zombie genre, a light-hearted look at the life of a zombie as he takes a road trip to rekindle a romance and solve the mystery of his death. He is accompanied by a wisecracking loudmouth and a zombie with lesser intelligence called Cheese who acts as the muscle on their mission. It manages to be entertaining enough with the budget it has been given, but the acting, soundtrack and script were obviously overlooked in favour of some special effects and makeup. The slapstick style keyboard music started grating pretty quickly and the dialogue was pretty juvenile. They used the one original idea they had about Zombies having different levels of intelligence and didn’t do anything else original with it.

No UK release date at time of going to press

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