It's that special time of year again, when London is host to one of the best horror film festivals in the world. A massive number of brand new films will be screening at the Vue Cinema Leicester Square over the next five days. You can probably manage a maximum of 25 out of all that are on offer, if you make careful toilet choices and are prepared to go without food every now and then to brave something that could turn out to be the best film of the year, or just as easily be some interminable brain-numbing found footage rubbish that will never, ever be seen again anywhere.
I usually post my top ten favourite films for each year of FrightFest, but this year, with the aid of a laptop and free WiFi, I'm going to try and say something about every film I see. I intend to wax lyrical (and at length) about the good, and perhaps even longer about the bad. Apologies beforehand if by day three I'm reduced to merely uttering 'It was good' or 'Please never again' before I plunge recklessly on into the next one, but let's see what happens shall we?
By way of extra fun, I have been formerly challenged to come up with more suitable Hammer / AIP / exploitationesque titles to replace the numerous, and often interchangeable, one word titles a lot of these films seem to have. If I can come up with even one I shall be pleased.
And so... I have my dinner suit on, a scarlet satin shirt and a black and red bow tie to bring the ensemble together. It's opening night at Film 4 FrightFest 2015, and we start with...
A tale of British (or rather, Irish) witchcraft that starts off a little bit Mario Bava BLACK SUNDAY, quickly becomes more like Norman J Warren's SATAN'S SLAVE, and then goes totally off the rails with weird transformations, voice overs to explain what's (probably) going on, and an ending that's just daft.
A couple of great lead performances and a few splendidly original and scary scenes can't overcome some cringeworthy dialogue and totally bonkers plotting. Full marks, though, for giving Uncle Monty's Centipede Talent Agency more work than the little fellows must have had in years. Director David Keating gave us WAKEWOOD and I'll admit it's better than that, which isn't really saying much. I did like the rubber centipede he flung into the audience during his introduction, though.
Alternate title: Witch Centipedes of Satan
Frightfest gets properly underway with this terrifically entertaining, micro-budget tribute to the MAD MAX rip-offs of the 1980s. It's 1997 and the apocalypse has rendered the world barren. No power means the only method of transport is the bicycle (or tricycle), and water is scarce, with villain Michael Ironside obtaining his from people. MANBORG meets THE NEW BARBARIANS in this action-packed and unexpectedly charming picture that hits all the right notes. I'd watch it again now if I could.
Alternate title: BMX Bastards
Giant wasps do not a good film make, which is a shame because the giant wasps in this are really pretty good. Sadly the rest of the film doesn't really know what it wants to be, and the result veers between a not very funny comedy to a not especially scary horror film. Lance Henriksen's in it, looking as if he's waiting for the cheque to clear. Otherwise this is Bert I Gordon for the 2010s, growth hormone and all!
Alternate title: Invasion of the Wasp Creatures