Ever wondered what the trashy Italian zombie movies of the early 1980s might have looked like if they’d been made by someone with actual talent? Wonder no more as this exceptionally entertaining British zombie picture explores what it would be like if zombies were kept in a theme park on an isolated island for the amusement of the rich and jaded. I doubt if director Steve Barker would admit Bruno Mattei as an influence even if that infamous director’s HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD might have actually been an inspiration. Unashamed trashy fun and the first genuine surprise of the festival so far.
Alternate Title: JuraZic Park
And sadly we follow with the biggest disappointment so far. The central idea of someone taking the rooms in which people have been murdered in order to construct some kind of house of hell is great, but it requires a considerable degree of panache and confidence to make it work. ABATTOIR has neither, and instead throws in several extra plot ‘twists’, two screamy sweary leads who quickly get tiresome, and a denouement that’s more ridiculous than the ending of some episodes of SOUTH PARK. For people who like James Wan movies, ABATTOIR desperately wants to be one, and it fails miserably. For those who don’t like James Wan movies - it’s just like a James Wan movie.
Alternate Title: James Wannabe
The Master Cleanse
What a curious, quirky and charming film! Anjelica Huston and Oliver Platt’s intensive laxative therapy course leads to the birth of cute little bowel monsters that they claim are made up of all one’s ill-feelings. Will Johnny Galecki and Anna Friel be able to complete their purification course by killing their new offspring or not? Delightfully strange and appealingly original, this is well worth a look when it gets a release.
Alternate titles: Bowel Babies / Colon Children / Motion Monsters
The Creature Below
This year’s FrightFest really is full of surprises. I expected very little from this one and was delighted to discover that on a tiny budget we can say hello to a whole new subgenre of British suburban Lovecraft. Girl goes ultra deep sea diving and brings back an egg which she keeps in the basement of her Yorkshire semi-detached. The egg hatches to yield a tentacled thingy that loves blood. Very rough around the edges, the love for old HPL shines through - we even have characters drinking Charles Dexter Ward wine! A suitably apocalyptic and insane ending rounded off this very pleasant surprise indeed.
Alternate Title: Little Shoppe of Cephalopods
The Love Witch
Camp and colourful, and as much a tribute to Stephanie Rothman’s THE VELVET VAMPIRE as the movies of Douglas Sirk, THE LOVE WITCH is a beautifully designed and shot piece of luscious film-making. It does go on a bit, mind, and if you haven’t fully bought into the more-soapy-than-horror premise of its central character trying to find love at any cost you might find yourself looking at your watch quite a bit before the end, especially if renaissance theatre performance isn’t your thing. Gorgeous stuff, though, and that includes the lead actress, who deserves to star in a neo-giallo if there’s one going.
Alternate Title: Set A Course For...Witchcraft!
Good God someone has remade H G Lewis’ 1963 load of old rubbish BLOOD FEAST. Robert Rusler is actually great as Fuad Ramses, who forgets to take his meds and is convinced he can hear the goddess Ishtar talking to him during his night job at the local museum. By day he runs a diner on the outskirts of Paris (France. Yes France). Soon he’s hacking up the locals before inviting his wife and daughter to take part in the feast of the title. Rusler is excellent, everything else is decidedly ropey. Even the gore effects are only slightly better than the original.
Alternate Title: How can you possibly improve on BLOOD FEAST?