Film4 FrightFest 2014 is almost upon us. Over the course of five days at the tail end of August (21st – 25th), the venerable Alan Jones and the gang present a wide-ranging selection of horror movies. It’s hard not to be won over by the atmosphere – the joie-de-gore – and the fun to be had mingling with like-minded folk, who are all there to worship at the altar of genre cinema.
With an epic 64 films screenings – including world premieres, UK premieres and classics (such as Jörg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik) – Film4 FrightFest is a place where legendary favourites vie with new talents for your attention. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by what is on offer. So, let STARBURST guide you through this year’s merry carnival of corpses as we pick out a selection of movies you definitely need to check out.
Of course everybody is hella excited for Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For (which has been moved to opening night!) and closing night’s V/H/S: Viral, but ever since A Horrible Way to Die wowed me back in 2011, I’ve noted the rise of American director Adam Wingard with increased expectations. Last year he rocked up with his hilariously grisly home invasion slasher, You’re Next, which went down a storm. In 2014 he has been awarded the festival’s highest honour: opening the show. The Guest, a psychological thriller, stars Dan Stevens and Leland Orser (who should be known as Leland Awesome, in my book) and comes with a screenplay written once more, with feeling by Simon Barrett. Expect this year’s festival to start with a real cracker.
The Den is Zachary Donahue’s innovative spin on found-footage and is told entirely through webcams/laptop computers. Uni graduate Elizabeth Benton (Melanie Papalia) wins a research grant allowing research into a thesis on online relationships and how people use the Internet to connect with others. Of course, it all turns into a WAV of mutilation. Leaving your Windows open can invite all kinds of freaks in. (I couldn’t think of any Mac jokes. Sorry.) Interestingly, Nacho Vigalondo’s Open Windows uses the same narrative ‘gimmick’; telling a horror story entirely through webcams, but putting a celebrity-obsession-gone-wrong spin on things. Starring is Elijah Wood and ex-porn star Sasha Grey.
There are two titles in the short films programme that warrant a special mention: Jill Gevargizian’s amusing Call Girl, starring cult figures Laurence R. Harvey and Tristan Risk, and She, directed by Chelsey Burdon and Mark Vessey. Curse of Chucky’s Fiona Dourif (daughter of Brad Dourif) headlines a film described by FrightFest co-director, Paul McEvoy, as ‘stomach-churning’. That would be correct. She is a glorious feminist horror that will leave you dazed and sickened. Yay!
Moving swiftly on. A trio of FrightFest’s favourite sons: Adam Green, Lucky McKee and Eli Roth all return this year with their latest pictures. Green will show off his new meta-horror, Digging Up the Marrow, and fans will finally get to see Lucky McKee’s brilliantly mad All Cheerleaders Die – think an X-rated episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno is a homage to the notoriously icky Italian cannibal movies of the 1980s. The special effects work is top notch and the blood and viscera quota will have the crowd whooping with joy. Roth has delivered the gory goods.
Bursting on to the scene with their French Extreme entry, Inside, and following it up with one of the best horror films in recent times – Livid – Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s Among the Living makes a welcome appearance at the festival and has been described in the festival programme as a ‘deft combo of Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’. Sold!
If eccentric and experimental flicks are your jam, well, you must check out The Samurai. Till Kleinert’s odd and playfully hirsute movie uses horror genre tropes (werewolves and slasher movies) in unique fashion. It’s pretty rad that a film like this can make the cut. Another arty horror experience to be had at FrightFest 2014 is actually titled ‘Another’. There appears to be a select bunch of horror pictures, at the moment, that are very interested in offering intensely visual experiences wrapped in schizoid nightmares. Shot on a very low budget, Jason Bognacki’s psycho-horror is a trippy reverie and will no doubt look excellent on the big screen. It might not be the biggest draw on the block, for sure, but one of the major joys of any festival is discovering the gems. My advice is always this: Check out the Discovery Screens.
Antipodean horror is represented by Wolf Creek 2 (John Jarratt returns as the dastardly serial killer Mick Taylor), Jennifer Kent’s much-hyped The Babadook and New Zealand’s Housebound. Also worth checking out from around the globe: Chilean ghost story, The House at the End of Time, a Serbian film in the form of Milan Todorovic’s Nymph, and Alleluia, the new feature by Fabrice Du Welz, who you may recall helmed the demented cult favourite, Calvaire (2004).
On to the documentaries. Doc of the Dead is a wacky and insightful look at the rise of zombies in our 21st century, apocalypse soonish culture. When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, zombies were a cult phenomenon and now they’ve got their own prime time television show, The Walking Dead, and even Brad Pitt is starring in blockbusters based on the bestselling novel, World War Z, by Max Brooks. We’re through the looking glass here, people.
Fans will get a kick out of Alexandre Phillipe’s whirlwind history lesson, which not only focuses on movies, but takes a look at everything from Zombie Walks to online businesses that flog weapons, zombie dummies and filters that turn your pee into water – just in case the zombie apocalypse does finally happen! It’s a strange world we live in. Perhaps the most intriguing documentary screening at the festival is Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Dr. Moreau. Directed by David Gregory, the doc is an investigation into the disastrous attempt by Richard Stanley to make a new adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. We all know that Stanley was removed from the film and John Frankenheimer turned in an absolute dog that sank at the box office and became a laughing stock. Expect this one to be fascinating.
FILM4 FRIGHTFEST runs from 21st – 25th August at Vue West End, London. Visit the festival's official site for more information.