· I probably was aware of the dry humour in the dialogue “We Are Still Here” because of an audience; I might have taken initially it at face value otherwise
· Seeing some glowing reviews of films on the other screens, I wondered if I might be missing out by sticking to FrightFest’s main screens; then again, the films I have seen on the alternative screens have all been lacklustre in previous years, “The Sand” being second best and “Willow Creek” coming out top
HELLIONS is, like “Cherry Tree”, a tale of a young girl stricken with a demonmic pregnancy. But this time, “Pontypool” director Bruce McDonald tends more towards the abstract with reality slipping out of control as a bunch of trick’or’treaters terrorise the poor girl. Aside from some tonal missteps - do we need weary, defiant punchline every time an antagonist gets killed? Do we need stirring defiant rock tunes every time a protagonist turns into a Final Girl? And, despite the reductive promotional material with her in angelic wings brandishing a shotgun, did she ever really need to turn into a Final Girl since the film aims for other targets? - this is beautifully filmed and slips increasingly into ambiguity. It also goes some way to making kids chants creepy again (until they fit as part of the rocking soundtrack).
LANDMINE GOES CLICK is variation on that rape/revenge thing that Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring” modelled, except this time it’s the boyfriend of the victim that wreaks vengeance after being unable to save his girlfriend from a predatory native once he believes himself incapacitated when stepping on a landmine. But how he gets on the landmine is just one of the subplots that seem to play out male anxieties on women’s bodies - yes, it’s the male on the landmine but the woman is already reduced to “bitch” and “whore” as soon as her infidelity is revealed and male pride is wounded. That the ostensibly good guy executes his revenge for his girlfriend by utilising the female bodies of the antagonist’s families only adds to the sense that the women as real people matter less than male passion plays of power. The audience laughed along when the tables were turned and the protagonist used the antagonist’s own words and methods against him, but they also laughed when the Russian roulette reached its conclusion and it seems director Levan Bakhia was looking more for a “beware if you stare into the abyss” morality tale. It seems some of the audience thought they were watching a different film.
THE DIABOLICAL can’t do anything without the soundtrack going BAM!!! This soon BAM!!! gets BAM!!! tedious. It comes across initially as a James Wan-inspired jump-scare vehicle and although the audience may roll its eyes as soon as a paranormal investigators appear, it may be equally amused when they immediately run off. Apparitions appear in a family house and no one will believe them. Then the film becomes more interesting when the film suddenly changes genre just as you have dozed off and the stuff that initially appears filler instead features as part of the puzzle. Although possessed with a most aggravating and obvious soundtrack where everything is cued (and when it goes silent, you know there is a jump-scare just coming up), this shift in tone makes “The Diabolical” far more interesting than it initially appears. It suffers from a too-tidy ending, though: in the Q&A afterwards, director Alistair Legrand flippantly remarked that he wanted a happy ending, sort of, but this just stymies the real sense of tragedy and darkness that the film heads towards.
JERUZALEM uses a Google glasses perspective but it still follows the usual subjective footage formula: attractive American twenytsomethings go to Jerusalem and, after much bonding, chasing sex and partying, the gates of hell open. Of course, it plays into that American isolationist fear of other places, but directors Doran and Yoaz Paz want to celebrate the city and offer a more realistic version too. In the Q&A after the screening they spoke of their non-religious outlook, that the apocalypse seems to come from the many faiths that exist alongside eachother in Jerusalem, and it’s true that the dark angel zombies of the film offer something a little different. While it offers nothing especially new, the local flavour is appealing and they have obviously learnt a thing or too from “Cloverfield” too. It culminates in an unforgettable vision, the kind of thing that justifies that subjective-camera to me – even though the action often breaks up the technology and is incomprehensible when things get hairy.
WE ARE STIKLL HERE’s director Ted Geogheghan spoke of this being like Lucio Fulci meets MR James, and also John Carpenter’s “The Fog” was thrown in. Yes. A grieving couple buys a house to start over again and find themselves in the thick of a haunting and a local sacrificial lot. The Seventies-early Eighties feel is excellently rendered, the action is no-nonsense without suffering from ADD and it is the first entry on here to properly use silences as a tool (instead of just telegraphing jump-scares). Geogheghan also spoke of how most contemporary horror films centre on young folk and yes, it is nice to see adults take the foreground for once. Excellently performed, funny (that genre-expected exposition dialogue went down like comedy with the FrightFest crowd) and a genuine treat.
No, I didn’t want to see James Wan’s “Demonic” on the main screen because I felt I had already seen that thing a million times and he doesn’t quite put his name to the horror that I like, even if this was directed by Will Cannon. So I went to see Isaac Gabaeff’s “The Sand” instead. Obviously low budget and second league stuff, but as a undemanding creature-feature that centres more on a bunch of Spring Breakers working out how to deal with a monster under the beach, it took time to flesh out characters that could have been obnoxiously 2D, had enough fun and humour and situations to make this a fun if undemanding experience.