Read more FrightFest 2011 Review: The Woman

by Ben Bussey

Within a suprisingly short distance of one another exist what would appear to be two polar opposites of human life. The Cleek family live an affluent and comfortable existence in their beautiful ranch home, whilst in the woods nearby a feral woman (McIntosh) exists day-by-day as a scavenger. Out hunting one morning, family patriach Chris Cleek (Bridgers) finds the woman in his sights and decides to take her home. He captures her, chains her up in the fruit cellar, and informs his family that it is their duty to teach this woman how to be civilised. Whether Chris Cleek is in any position to demonstrate the real nature of a civilised human being is, of course, another matter entirely.    At the time of its announcement, I felt very conflicted about The Woman. On the one hand it was a collaboration between Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee, and involved Angela Bettis: this was a cause for great personal excitement, given that I regard Ketchum far and away the greatest horror novelist of our time – indeed, one of the great American writers full stop – and that McKee and Bettis’s May is one of my absolute favourite films of this century. On the other hand, this is ostensibly a follow-up to Offspring, Andrew van den Houten’s somewhat lacklustre screen adaption of what is easily Ketchum’s weakest novel. The idea of McKee and Ketchum working together on a story about wild cannibal people did not sit well, given that both artists seem at their best when dealing with very real human concerns in a realistic context. Happily (well, perhaps that isn’t the word I should be using), The Woman is certainly not just a cannibal movie. Nor should it really be regarded a sequel to van den Houten’s film; aside from the presence of Pollyanna McIntosh in the same role, this is very much a stand-alone film requiring no prior knowledge of Ketchum’s Off Season/Offspring universe (which is presumably why the title was shortened from Offspring: The Woman as originally planned). With distinct echoes of McKee and Ketchum’s respective masterworks, the aforementioned May and The Girl Next Door, this is an intensely atmospheric, intelligent, character-based tale of abuse, intimidation and inhumanity. Read the rest of this review here.
 

FrightFest 2011 Review: The Divide

by Stephanie Scaife

If like me you have a penchant for post-apocalyptic narratives that are unrelentingly bleak and mercilessly grim, then The Divide is definitely the film for you. Xavier Gens made his name as part of the new wave of French horror filmmakers with his flawed but endearingly bonkers Frontier(s) which soon led to the inevitable call from Hollywood, culminating in the rather dreadful videogame adaptation of Hitman. This was a disappointing turn of events from such a promising young director, however unsurprisingly reports have been flying around stating that the film was extensively fiddled with and re-shot by Fox, who reportedly thought Gens’s cut was too violent. So, with The Divide he has returned to filmmaking on a much smaller scale which has enabled him complete creative control, including shooting chronologically and allowing the cash extensive opportunity to improvise. Unsurprisingly this is also a return to form.

The premise is fairly simple; New York is nuked and a group of survivors find themselves holed up in the basement of their apartment building that also doubles as a fallout bunker, created by their paranoid 9/11 survivor maintenance man, Mickey (Michael Biehn). The survivors consist of half-brothers Josh (Milo Ventimiglia) and Adrien (Ashton Holmes) their wild card friend Bobby (Michael Eklund), Eva (Lauren German) and Sam (Iván González) a young couple whose relationship is on the rocks, Marilyn (Rosanna Arquette) and her young daughter Wendy (Abbey Thickson), and the world weary Delvin (Courtney B. Vance).

 Early on in the film outsiders in HAZMAT suits break into the basement and quickly prove themselves to be pretty far removed from the rescue committee that the survivors had been hoping for, instead welding the basement door closed, permanently trapping the survivors inside. This is when their resolve starts to slip; they realise that no help is on the way, their supplies are dwindling, and the radiation poisoning is starting to set in. What little trust they have in each other soon begins to vanish as they discover that Mickey has been holding out on them and keeping a massive stash of supplies hidden, creating bubbling tension that erupts in violence and  torture. Read the rest of my review here.

FrightFest 2011 Review: Kill List

by Ben Bussey

Contract killer Jay (Maskell) hasn’t worked in months. He lives comfortably with his wife (Buring) and their son, but the debts are starting to pile up, not to mention the marital tensions. Anxious to avoid taking on a job after a bad experience on his last one, Jay resists any offers until the problems at home reach breaking point. Seeing no alternative, he accepts an offer from his best friend and business partner Gal (Smiley). The client is enigmatic; the contract is for three deaths. But it soon transpires that this is not the sort of job Jay and Gal are used to, which threatens to push them way beyond their comfort zone and into some very dark and dangerous places indeed, both figuratively and literally.

Kill List premiered on Sunday 28th August at FrightFest; i.e. almost 48 hours before this review came online. During the festival I’ve been doing my best to get reviews of the most notable films up as soon as possible, but in this instance I’ve held back just a little, and there’s a reason for this. When writing up a film within hours of seeing it, there’s always the danger of rushing out a gut reaction that isn’t necessarily the most level-headed response, and I think if I’d rushed this one out straight away that’s what you’d be reading now. See, here’s the thing; the problem I’ve had with Kill List isn’t so much to do with the film itself as the way it was sold to us at FrightFest. As the weekend’s sole Total Film-sponsored screening it was clearly marked out as a festival highlight, and given a gushing introduction from Total Film’s Jamie Graham, promising something which would rock us to the core. However, by the time the end credits rolled, I for one was distinctly underwhelmed. This gave way to annoyance. I’ve already gone and expressed that annoyance on Twitter, and I gather (in turn) I’ve rather annoyed director Ben Wheatley in doing so. I hardly think that should weigh too heavily on Wheatley’s mind right now, however, given the huge amount of praise the film is gathering elsewhere. Many are declaring Kill List not only the best film of FrightFest 2011, but also the best British film of recent years. Read the rest of this review here.

FrightFest 2011: Steph’s Report (Part 1)

by Stephanie Scaife

Traditionally the August bank holiday weekend is synonymous with the last hurrah of summer, people insist on BBQing come rain or shine and enjoy the three day weekend relaxing and hoping for sunshine. For me however it means one thing… FrightFest, the UK’s best known and largest genre film festival. 

I’ve been coming to FrightFest since 2003 when it was still housed at the much loved but (at the time) rather dingy repertory cinema The Prince Charles, just off of London’s Leicester Square, a 300 seat cinema that dipped in the middle and didn’t have air conditioning. Despite the rather humble and inauspicious beginnings FrightFest has continued to grow in size and popularity into a festival which now spans across five days, is housed in the 1300 seat Screen 1 of The Empire cinema and attracts a host of international filmmakers and genre fans.

FrightFest is always a mixed bag, I’ve seen films that have completely blown me away (Let the Right One In, Red, White and Blue) and films that are so diabolically bad they’ve left me longing for those 90 minutes of my life that I’d just lost back (House of the Dead, The Tortured) but from experience I’ve found it’s best to keep your expectations low and your caffeine intake high because there are always a few surprises and almost certainly never a dull moment. Read the rest of my FrightFest write up here.

FrightFest 2011: Full Line-up Announced

Main Screen

Thursday 25th August 2011

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark
Final Destination 5 - 3D
The Theatre Bizarre 

Friday 26th August 2011
Rogue River
The Holding
Total Film Interview with Larry Fessenden
Urban Explorers
The Glass Man
Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil
Vile

Saturday 27th August 2011

Troll Hunter
The Wicker Tree
Panic Button
Fright Night - 3D
The Woman
Chillerama + Bad Moon Rising

Sunday 28th August 2011

The Divide
Short Film Showcase + Andy Nyman Quiz
The Innkeepers
Saint
Kill List+ Shifter - 6 Min.
Detention

Monday 29th August 2011

Guinea Pigs
Deadheads
Sennentuntschi
Inbred
A Lonely Place To Die

Discovery Screen

Friday 26th August 2011

The Man Who Saw Frankenstein Cry
A Horrible Way To Die
Midnight Son
Rabies
Blood Runs Cold
Kidnapped
Stormhouse

Saturday 27th August 2011

The Dead - Live DVD Commentary
Atrocious
My Sucky Teen Romance
The Caller
The Devil’s Business
A Horrible Way To Die

Sunday 28th August 2011

Kidnapped
Rabies
Blood Runs Cold
Midnight Son
The Man Who Saw Frankenstein Cry

Monday 29th August 2011

The Caller
The Devil’s Business
Atrocious
My Sucky Teen Romance

I’m super excited for FrightFest this year - got my weekend pass this morning! I think I’m most looking forward to The Innkeepers, Kill List, Fright Night, Midnight Son and The Divide. Anyone else going?