This is all to do with the Main Screen films.
It was FrightFest 2012 that seemed defined by a lot of rape, from the opening film ‘The Seasoning House’ onwards, earning it an apparent nickname “RapeFest”. I remember the time we got to Jennifer Lynch’s ‘Chained’ on the last day (it’s good), I was thinking “If I have to see another woman dragged screaming across the floor…”
But 2019 seemed to me to have come a long, long way, a corrective. All the time, there were female-centred films where the fact they were capable and resilient didn’t seem to come with overcompensation or that macho kick-ass one-liner attitude; there was no compromise to their vulnerability. In a run of films with exemplary performances, even those that didn’t require so much were given nuance and far more than they needed by the female leads: I’m thinking of Kaya Scodelario in ‘Crawl’, and Samara Eaving in ‘Ready or Not’, and Hayley Griffth in ‘Satanic Panic’. There was less exploitational nudity and, in fact, probably equal male nudity. I overheard a woman laughing that she had “seen enough penii this festival.” Was this truly what equality in the genre looked like? It was refreshing because it offered several tough-nut female protagonists without all that macho-posturing and one-liners. I mean, you’re always going to have that, but I didn’t find myself rolling my eyes due to it much this festival. Well, aside from ‘Nekrotronic’. I mean, you couldn’t take ‘Bullets for Justice’ seriously and even that was balanced with male nudity and a homoerotic fascination with one guy’s arse. There just seemed added texture with all this attention to women as people. Even a majority of the male roles seemed to come from a place of enlightenment: for example, I was even taken with Alex Essoe in ‘Drone’ denying a typical jock role it’s usual asshole spin.
FrightFest Favourites 2019:
- Come to Daddy
- Daniel Isn’t Real
- The Black String
- The Drone
- Why Don’t You Just Die!
Yep, those ones that were mostly ambiguous and using horror tropes to investigate damaged psychology are certainly my preference. And ‘The Drone’ because it was so much fun to watch with a genre-savvy audience. A drone flying around a house being all sinister proved hilarious. 'Come to Daddy' because it feinted this way and that and was highly entertaining when perhaps you thought you had it pegged. 'Why Don't You Just Die!' was my preference for all the "rollercoasters" on offer.
There were so many good performances that we were spoilt.
- Dora Madison (‘Bliss’)
- Frank Muniz (‘The Black String’)
- Sarah Bolger (‘A Good Woman is Hard to Find’)
- Elijah Wood (‘Come to Daddy’)
- Stephen McHattie (‘Come to Daddy’)
- Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (‘Spiral’)
- Sasha Lane (‘Daniel Isn’t Real’)
But that wasn’t all. Caitlin Stasey & Thora Birch & Macon Blair in ‘Kindred Spirits’. Samara Weaving ‘Ready or Not’ just getting down to it without being a superwoman. Hayley Griffith totally selling her fuzzy-bunny pizza girl as Rebecca Romjin thoroughly delighted in her ‘Dynasty’-style witch in ‘Satanic Panic’. Richard Brake in ‘Feedback’. Alexsandr Kuznetsov and Vitaly Khaev in ‘Why Don’t You Just Die!’. Hell, the ensemble cast of ‘Ready or Not’ and ‘Tales from the Lodge’ were a joy to see working together. Much to choose from.
‘Crawl’ reminded me that jump-scares could be good. My friend delighted in the fact that the men behind him kept jumping and bashing the back of his chair.
‘Dark Encounter’ at least reminded me that strange lights coming into the house from outside are scary.
I really wasn’t expecting ‘Bliss’, ‘The Drone’ or ‘Satanic Panic’ to be as enjoyable as they were.
Best parody/pastiche: ‘The Drone’.
Best WTF: obscene possessed foetus in ‘Ghost Killers vs Bloody Mary’.
Best trippiness: ‘Bliss’ and ‘Daniel Isn’t Real’.
Best fight: opening tussle in ‘Why Don’t You Just Die!’
Best fight and kill: Elijah Wood finds his assailant on the toilet and has to desperately fight for his life in ‘Come to Daddy’.
Best horror debate: the complexities of sex with the possessed in 'Ghost Killers vs Bloody Mary'.
Most coveted location: The coastal home in ‘Come to Daddy’.
Best downer: ‘Spiral’
Best props: the painting in ‘Bliss’ and the crossbow in ‘Ready or Not’.
It was good this year. See you next time around.