So FrightFest happened at the weekend, with the good, the bad and the ugly of the horror film industry descending on the Empire Cinema in London’s Leicester Square to shock and scare thousands of gore-hounds.
My favourite film of the festival, Sleep Tight is less an out-and-out horror and more a dark, psychological thriller in the tradition of Hitchcock’s very best. Luis Tosar delivers a grandstanding performance as Cesar, a quiet doorman working at an upscale Barcelona apartment. But below that unassuming surface, Cesar is something of a monster, creeping into his most beautiful tenant’s room at night and doing… well you’ll just have to watch the movie to find out, but rest assured it’s suitably sick and twisted.
Horror anthologies tend to be a mixed bag, and V/H/S is no different, though when it’s scary, it’s bloody terrifying. The wrap-around story finds a group of unpleasant pranksters breaking into a supposedly deserted house to retrieve a VHS tape, and while there they find footage that makes up the rest of the movie. The likes of Adam Wingard, Ti West and Joe Swanberg direct, and the film features the first chiller to tell its story purely through Skype. The undoubted highlight is a very novel twist on the devil worshipping sub-genre.
I’m not even going to pretend I understood this one, though while the vague plotting is frustrating, the bizarre sound and imagery stays with you long after the credits have rolled. Hunger Games star Toby Jones plays Gilderoy, a shy and retiring sound engineer invited to Italy to work on horror flick The Equestrian Vortex. But things turn strange as soon as he arrives at the titular sound studio, with life imitating art as the horror bleeds from the screen and into his life. As Gilderoy endeavours to retain his sanity, the film too starts to lose the plot, but it all looks beautiful, and as an homage to Italian Giallo, it’s spot on.
So three serious choices, but what about something a little more light-hearted? Cockney’s vs. Zombies went down well with the FrightFest crowd, but for me Irish effort Grabbers narrowly edged the East End pensioners out. Playing like a cross between Tremors and Whisky Galore, the film stars Richard Coyle as a disillusioned Garda with a drink problem who is lazily seeing out his years in a sleepy coastal town. But when an alien invasion hits, Coyle’s character is forced to step up to the plate, no-more-so than when a scientist discovers that the aliens are allergic to humans with a high blood alcohol level. As ridiculous as it is entertaining, Grabbers is perfect midnight movie fare.
Jen and Sylvia Soska – the directors of Dead Hooker in a Trunk – return with what may have been the most talked-about film at the festival. Ginger Snaps star Katherine Isabelle plays Mary Mason, a medical student who enters the shady underground world of body modification in search of a quick buck, and soon finds it taking a terrible toll on her own psyche. Brutal, gripping and genuinely horrifying, American Mary is the kind of film that FrightFest was created for, and should be sought out at the earliest opportunity.
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