Sunday, 1 March 2015

Glasgow Frightfest 2015

This weekend just gone it’s been time once again for Lady P and me to travel north of the border in search of new terrors. I don’t usually do a writeup of Glasgow Frightfest but this time there was enough worth mentioning to fill a few column inches and hopefully provide a bit of entertainment along the way. Regular features of the Glasgow festival were present and correct, including the ghastly ticket booking system renowned for making grown men and women cry, and crushingly narrow seating in the actual cinema designed to fill you with nostalgia for the 3mm of leg room you enjoyed on your EasyJet flight up, but as usual we cheerfully ignored these for the usual benefits of watching eleven films in a packed auditorium with like-minded horror fans. 
But what of the programme, I hear you ask? I did have hopes that as a certain film has made a major splash at the box office we’d be seeing multiple horror rip offs of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. But Jess Franco is dead and Peter Strickland probably never intended to rise to *that* kind of challenge with DUKE OF BURGUNDY, and the splashing we encountered repeatedly in different movies over the weekend was of an entirely different and considerably more body functional kind. Oh yes, more than ReTitleFest, or PracticallyNo NudityFest, this year’s Glasgow Frightfest programme had a rather unhealthy obsession with urine, culminating in a film that featured not just bottles and bottles of it but a tank filled with gallons of the stuff. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The programme included a couple of shorts, including the Aickmanesque THE STOMACH about a medium who harbours the souls of the recently deceased in his gastrointestinal tract and becomes involved with seedy mobsters as a result, and a look at Paul SEASONING HOUSE Hyett’s new British movie HOWL, aka Werewolves on a Train, which looks as if it could be excellent. 
And now... the films:


        Isn't that a terrible poster? The Thursday night film to get the festival started, this was billed as ELIZA GRAVES but had undergone a last minute retitling, presumably when someone must have pointed out that Brad Anderson’s latest, based on ‘a story by Edgar Allan Poe’ - don’t tell us which then, oh useless credits - wasn’t actually about the character played by Kate Beckinsale with her usual vapidity at all. The Poe tale they don’t seem to be keen to reveal the title of is ‘The System of Dr Tarr and Professor Feather’. Jim Sturgess arrives at a remote mental hospital to discover the inmates have taken over the asylum, led by Ben Kingsley doing his best Donald Pleasance. Despite a great cast that also includes Michael Caine and Sinead Cusack, a great location and some superb production design STONEHEARST ASYLUM is gothic melodrama at its most drab and uninspired, a TV movie that suggests SESSION 9 was a fluke and that Brad Anderson is now incapable of directing anything with an ounce of suspense or atmosphere. Uneven in tone throughout, this is a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be and whatever it ends up as, it certainly isn’t horror. Boooo!


        Semi found-footage ‘shockumentary’ that uses 8mm film, photographs and tapes to tell the story of Dr Henry West’s researches into paranormal phenomena. Not bad up to a point, that point being where the demon thing turns up and they have to get a priest in. Worth it for the gas mask exorcism sequence that goes horribly wrong but not much else.


        I think I was the only one in the audience who liked this one even a little bit. Coming on like a cross between an EC comics story and something from the Pan Book of Horror, Mischa Barton goes poking into the affairs (and the storage facility) of her fiance only to unleash what appears to be a flesh-eating monster from one of the lower levels. What’s actually going on turns out to be far dafter than that. I smiled at the ending even if no-one else did.


        One of the best of the festival. An Australian zombie movie with its own rules, excellent pacing, superb characters and an original take on a well-worn theme that kept your attention. It says MAD MAX on the poster but I was reminded more of early Peter Jackson gore comedies like BAD TASTE and BRAIN DEAD.


        Fans of Katharine Isabelle smoking, weeing and pouring milk all over herself will be the main audience for this trying-a-bit-too-hardboiled noir. Katharine’s in a fugue state after witnessing something terrible, but what is it? And why does she need to roll around on bed covers in her bra so much? Christopher Lloyd and Michael Ironside both pop up in this one which will also appeal to those who enjoy over-ripe Tarantinoesque dialogue


        When you attend the European premiere of an American film that’s already undergone two title changes you know you’re not onto a winner. Step forward EXETER aka BACKMASK aka THE ASYLUM. Marcus Nispel’s exorcism in an asylum whodunnit priest twist teen movie is hilariously dreadful and quite appalling entertaining. Thank you Glasgow Frightfest audience for helping me laugh my way through this piece of rubbish to the very end.


        Estate agent Dad puts on old clown costume that turns out to the skin of an ancient demon for his son’s birthday party. Said demon eats children. Horror ensues. CLOWN isn’t bad at all, although it could have benefitted from being a bit lighter in tone and a lot lighter in photography


        Mario Bava shows everyone how to make a film properly. Full writeup when I review Arrow's forthcoming Blu-ray restoration, of which this was the world premiere.


        Belgian version of a British crime novel, this was by turns extremely grim and utterly ridiculous. I’m a big fan of the latter but the unrelentingly horrible crimes, the dismal settings and the maladjusted characters were all too much for me. And has everything been shot through one of those dark blue-grey filters or does Belgium just look like that?


        REC 4 - REC ON A BOAT is probably a more appropriate title as there isn’t an apocalypse in sight. Part 4s of movie franchises are never very good, and Spanish horror sequels set on boats aren’t that good either, are they Amando THE GHOST GALLEON de Ossorio? Taking ages to get going (I think after 45 minutes nothing much had happened) and eschewing camcorder footage for more traditional cinemascope storytelling techniques, I think all the fans of this series are going to be disappointed with this one, in which very little happens that’s new or original.  My favourite RECs are Parts 1 & 3. Some prefer parts 1 & 2. No-one is going to have part 4 as one of their favourites.


        Shaky wobbly found footage cam gives way to some frightening stuff in the only movie of the festival to properly scare me. Everyone in the world is gradually being replaced by monsters who eat you ‘from the inside out’ in this riff on BODY SNATCHERS. Terrific use of technology to provide some unbearably suspenseful scenes means Glasgow Frightfest ended on a high. This was a world premiere as the film is still awaiting a distribution deal, but I can't believe it will stay on the shelf for long.

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