It's that most wonderful time of the year, quite appropriately described by some as 'Christmas For Horror Fans'. Oh yes, Frightfest is with us and here I am with my notes on the films that are showing on the programme for this year. Once again we're at the Empire, Leicester Square with its enormous IMAX screen that doesn't honestly display some of these low-budget low-resolution-shot movies to their best advantage.
Tonight we kicked off with an introduction from Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, followed by perhaps the best 'Turn Your Bloody Phone Off' short ever as the Frightfest team gave us 'Shushpiria'. It was a spoof of genius, and I hope we get to see it at least once more before the festival is over. Then it was on with the first film:
Frightfest openers have a bit of a reputation for quite often being not very good (CHERRY TREE, THE DEAD 2: INDIA, etc). THE RANGER is...all right, but it helps add weight to my continuing theory that the first film of the festival is there in case you're late and you don't miss anything actually good. Not that THE RANGER is that bad, but it takes a terribly long time to get going, during which we have to endure the antics of a group of annoying punk youngsters before the title character turns up to start bumping them off to everyone's relief. There's a swing into comedy (at least I hope it was intended as such) and then it all ends up turning rather silly. Punk characters can be drawn and developed well in horror - RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and GREEN ROOM being prime examples - & I'd advise you to watch either of those again rather than this
Summer of 84
The team behind TURBO KID and the DEMONITRON and NINJA ELIMINATOR shorts do something a bit different. A bit like a STAND BY ME actually set in the 1980s, or perhaps STRANGER THINGS with a harder edge, SUMMER OF 84 is tale of a quartet of fifteen year old boys trying to prove that a local policeman might be a serial killer. It's a film that spends way too much time dawdling with '80s teenaged boy stuff' that feels like the boring bits of Joe Dante's EXPLORERS drawn out even further, before finally giving us a final act that does turn satisfyingly disturbing, although ironically it may be a bit much for those who have been enjoying what has gone before.
Mega Time Squad
This one takes the central idea of the wonderful Nacho Vigalondo movie TIMECRIMES, but done as a raucous New Zealand comedy, MEGA TIME SQUAD was an unexpected late night delight and far and away my favourite of the three films shown this evening. Our hero has to return money he stole, defeat the local gang boss he works for, avoid being consumed by a Chinese demon, and deal with the four or five copies of himself that are wandering around after his misuse of an ancient time-travelling bracelet. Lots of gags and lots of swearing in this utterly charming film that rounded off the night perfectly.