As anyone who attempts to make music knows, it usually takes far longer than you anticipated when it comes to recording. A life drama, procrastination, trying to work out what works and what doesn't, these things take time and interfere with getting the thing completed. Well, I have completed my first solo album on which I actually play stuff. I am sure my love of soundtracks and lo-fi production are self-evident if you should take a listen. The running themes, it turns out, are that of a latchkey kid milling about the house and watching B-movies on TV whilst birds tweet outside and also some sci-fi rocket-launching. You get the idea.
It also features a cover version of The Police's "So Lonely", which is in no way my favourite track of theirs but just one I found myself humming around the place and thought I might have a go at. I think I can date The Police as my first favourite band - along with Adam and the Ants - when, one Christmas, my Dad decided that what needed was "Zenyatta Mondatta". It remains a favoured album and I've been listening to it since I was, oh, twelve.
It comes with a booklet containing photographs and lyrics.
I am, as ever, in great debt to James Eastwood whose opinions and help in recording key parts of the album (his recording set-up is far more sophisticated than my own) meant I actually did this thing.
It's a free download, so help yourself. I hope you enjoy it.
figure “post-mortem” is the kind of thing that horror bloggers write.
I am not so sure that I am hard to please. “The Dead 2 India” works for me,
despite its flaws being more obvious than its predecessor. Hell, I even dug the
“Slumber Party Alien Abduction” episode from “V/H/S 2”, which was probably my
guiltiest pleasure of the festival. But on the other hand, the random logic and
smugness of “The Hypnotist” and “Odd Thomas” just made me picky and petty. If
it was the dominance of rape that marred last year’s selection, this year is
was simply tiresome illogical character-cam… but even then “The Conspiracy”
tried to do something new and, even more, “Willow Creek” showed how that
aesthetic should be done.
in the end, it was a better collection of films than I anticipated because there
was nothing I was really, really jazzed up to see. Last year I was really eager
for “Maniac” and “Berbarian Sound Studio” (both of which were magnificent). But
I got plenty of surprises and happily have a handful of favourites.
no particular order:
·Big Bad Wolves
…And worthy mentions:
·100 Bloody Acres
·No One Lives
I changed my mind about “You’re Next”. I
had heated discussions with my friend who didn’t take to “Cheap Thrills”. I
bitched about “The Hypnotist” and its logic. I thought the audience this year
was even more fun than last year and admired how full-on and appreciative we
all were throughout the long weekend.
Here is a list of my favourite things from the films I saw:
‘monster’ designs in “Frankenstein’s Army”.
·That tent-based long,
long take in “Willow Creek”.
quality of performances throughout, even in exploitation fare such as “100
Bloody Acres”, but especially “Haunter”, “Willow Creek”, “Cheap Thrills” and “In
in “V/H/S 2: A Ride in the Park”
·That birth scene in “V/H/S
2: Safe Haven”
creeped me most: aliens in “V/H/S 2” episode “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”
because it seemed resembled much as I feared when I was a kid (even though it
probably isn’t especially good). Also:
pleasure: “V/H/S 2” episode “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”
scared me the most: the noises of “Willow Creek”
scared me the most runner –up: the empty Irish lanes of “In Fear”
bothered me the most: “Dark Tourist” and “Big Bad Wolves”
monsters: “R.I.P.D2” and “Banshee Chapter”
image of a man wearing a red bullhead (“The Conspiracy”).
hotel (“In Fear”).
avalanche in “The Dyatolov Pass Incident”
monsters of “Frankenstein’s Army”.
opening of “Big Bad Wolves”
Actually, I am not sure a “Favourite
Visuals” list is going very far, because there were so many good, individual moments
to enjoy. But those are five favourites anyhow. I mean, “V/H/S 2: Safe Haved”
was probably chock full of vivid
unsettling images in its short running time than any two or three of the other
films thrown together. But there was so much to chose from… the finger moment
from “Cheap Thrills”, Chucky inanimate and then the first time Chucky speaks,
the wandering dead of “The Dead 2: India”, that
moment in “No One Lives” when the killer infiltrates the gang’s hideout and
pops out from where he’s been hiding, the first telekinesis assault in “Dark
Touch”… and, yes, even the avalanche scene from “The Dyatlov Pass Incident”. I
think we were spoilt.
On the last stretch now, but still
much to go. There have been ominous mentions that the big screen, with its
capacity of holding 1330 Frightfesters, is to be closed down; even though the
showrunners aren’t saying too much it would seem it is going to split into two separate
screens (at time of writing, official announcement by the Empire is pending).
Already I am thinking that Frightfest would be a slightly lesser experience for
loss of the big theatre… but that’s just the pessimist in me.
Touch” has a fine grey Irish atmosphere in which its young
protagonist, maltreated and confused, discovers and explores her psychic
powers. At first her telekinetic powers are uncontrollable and she reads the
phenomenon around her as the house having a rage, but once she is taken in by
another family who try to draw her out of herself, Niamh soon works out what
she’s about and learns to focus her powers against the abuse and inanity of
adults.Marina Da Van’s film starts well
enough and there are a number of decent set pieces when Niamh’s power lets
loose, but the film struggles as it goes on: some of the adult behaviour seems
a bit daft and certainly there was unintentional humour causing audience
laughter; at other times, certain things do not quite seem clear enough. This
means that the birthday doll party scene ends up as unconvincing and
unintentionally funny because surely the adults would have had more sensitivity
than to let Niamh go to a doll party (after she experienced her infant
sibling’s death) and perhaps it is not quite vivid enough that she casts some
psychic influence over the other kids (otherwise their mutilation of the dolls
is ridiculous). Similarly, the finale is agreeably downbeat and striking some
resonance with the kids emulating the inanities and casual control of their
parents, but it also feels as if some footage making the sequence fully
coherent has been left on the cutting room floor. Full of promise, it
nevertheless ends up unsatisfying and feeling somewhat incomplete.
On the other hand, lair
Erickson’s “Banshee Chapter” – 3-D!
– has very little to offer at all except a bunch of tiresome clichés. It has
some found-footage/character-cam aesthetic, which means we reach the ridiculous
situation where found-footage is in 3-D. This gives way to the director’s camera,
but Erickson films with the same swirling and swinging camera as a
character-cam, so the entire film feels like “found footage”. It’s a mess. The
premise is that the American government experimented on people with
mind-altering drugs; Internet journalist Anne Roland investigates (and is badly
played by Katia Winter). Ted Levine steals the show as a burnt-out ex-beatnik dopehead
but to little avail. The Frightfest programme states that this is “Based on
real documents, actual test subject testimony and uncovered secrets about
testing run by the CIA”, but if true their main achievement was in summoning
post-“Ringu” spooks. Despite the “true story” angle, this is of very little
interest, tired and trivial.
THOMAS” is one of those oh-so-cute supernatural-superhero wish-fullfillment
tales that have characters with first names like “Odd” and “Stormy”. Eponymous
Odd Thomas is a young man with the ability to do whatever the hell the script
needs him to do: he sees dead people and spends his time avenging their deaths
(wait, how many would he need to save in small town USA?); but he also sees
wraith-like death creatures that are never quite called demons, even though
devil worshiping turns up elsewhere; and then there is a guy who apparently
wants to be a serial killer even though he is actually plotting to be a mass
murderer (the script throws this all together). And then Odd Thomas can see
dead people except for when he is being haunted himself… er? The film can barely go five seconds without a special-effect of
some kind. It seems to be some teen-orientated adventure but with jokes about
Ed Gein’s belts made of nipples and a mall massacre: that weird, particularly
American mixing between the daft and the genuinely disturbing without an inch
of self-awareness leaves the whole thing a bit clueless and unfocused and a
hodgepodge of horror junk that just leaves it as a pile of various crap thrown
against the wall. “Odd Thomas” has found far more favour with others than from
myself, because diverting as it may possibly be, it just seems to me to be more
mainstream filmmakers waving various horror tropes and attributes at the
audience and ending up incoherent instead of genuinely and gleeful chaotic. There
is little sense it actually knows what it is doing except chucking a bunch of
stuff onscreen. It is based on the novel
by Dean R Koontz and directed by Stephen Sommers, and you can take those as
Jorge Michel Grau’s “We Are What We Are/Somos lo que hay”(2010) was the very first film I ever saw at
Frightfest, years back. It was the only film I saw at Frightfest that year
(because they banned “A Serbian Film” at the last minute) and I thought it was
minor classic. Bill Sage’s American re-interpretation is moody, slick and
getting much praise, but it is elegant and stylised where Grau’s original is
dirty and desperate. The original is about a broken underclass beyond repair,
it’s about starvation and struggle where Sage’s remake is mostly about ritual
and bullying patriarchy. Sage doesn’t really get into the nasty stuff and the
very ritual that ought to show without qualm the exact gristle of the family’s
cannibalism is all off-stage, so that we get a sympathetic backstory about the
ceremony but not its truth. On its own terms it is a fine variation slice of American Gothic, but it is a far less
nourishing and angry affair.
Keshales and Navot Papushado introduced their “Big Bad Wolves” as a kind of revenge upon their parents who
brought them up on Grimm’s fairy tales wherein the monsters are euphemisms and
allegories for paedophiles. “Big Bad Wolves” succeeds on that level and many
others: as a shocker, as a mystery (did he do it?), as black comedy and as a
scathing indictment of torture and men who want to be, in various ways, big bad
wolves. After a deceptively elegiac opening, inclining towards fairy-tale, the
brutality sets in: the police are beating up the prime suspect in the case of a
missing little girl but they aren’t careful and cause the investigation to tank
when their ‘interrogation’ is. Meanwhile, the girl’s father has his own plans
to make the prime suspect confess. All the clues are there but you may not notice
them the first time round for the film moves between black-humoured farce,
social commentary, very real horror and stark violence that you may not quite
see its greater game.A brilliantly
scripted and cruelly played condemnation of man’s inclination to violence as a
recourse and resource.
And so, "Big Bad Wolves" is the very last film to be screened at the Empire's major screen. Festival organiser says he cannot reveal too much but looks forward to something different and better. And why not? I for one will miss the gigantic auditorium.
But I will still be back next year for Frightfest.
By day 4, the real world is but a
dim memory. At this point in the festival, all I am is a creature that moves
from film to film with often very brief sojourns into the sunny centre of
London for subsistence. Upon reflection, I am finding “You’re Next” a much
better and more playful film; “100 Bloody Acres” and “Cheap Thrills” are my
favourites so far with “No One Lives” and the cult episode from “VHS2” close
behind for sheer entertainment (actually, I really dig the whole
aliens-invade-sleepover “VHS2” episode without necessarily thinking it is
especially good). What next?
is a dull and clichéd tale of a fanatic seducing his way into a family with
idea of turning it into THE perfect family. The spin on this one is that he is
a Mormon, but it’s not a film of any insight with this particular angle. Yes,
we all remember “The Stepfather” and this kind of film only goes to show how
witty that film was and remains. Some mostly decent performances give way to unintentional
humour and underwhelming climax, the kind you know will have the antagonist
yelling about family – and so it
does. This ends up a bore and not the “Godspoitation” flick the Frightfest
Jeremy Lovering’s “In Fear”, however, really does work up
quite an atmosphere of unease, turning Irish country lanes into an inescapable
maze of, well, fear. That the film manages to wring every ounce of tension from
what is just a couple going round in circles in a car is quite a feat, helped
no end by two fine performances by Alice Englert and Iain de Caestecker. For
the most part, the whole thing is increasingly unnerving with the slightest of
premises, and certainly knowing that Lovering held back the script from the
cast during filming so that they did not know what was going to happen gives
the enterprise an interesting edge. Eventually, it becomes more a think piece,
not just a scare show, and the otherwise underwhelming title does take on a
little more resonance, as in what would
you do when in fear? Even if it nudges towards the existential, the highly
authentic ambience of increasing isolation and terror is likely to remain long
after the film is done.
Suri Krishnamma’s “Dark Tourist” is the kind of film that
exists in its own little corner, digging deep into places that few horror films
go. It may well compete with “Henry: portrait of a serial killer” as the
quintessential study of the serial killer phenomenon, exploring both the
reality and the mythology surrounding them. Michael Cudlitz gives the performance of Frightfest amongst a
pleasingly wealth of good performance appearing at the festival: he is security
guard Tim Tahna who likes to spend his holidays visiting places that were
important in the lives of serial killers. The film slowly builds up its shocks
but it also pushes for genuine insight and perhaps resolves itself as a horrified
cry against the horrors and damage we can do to one another. “Dark Tourist”
does go to places where most other films couldn’t even imagine and as both
social commentary and disturbing character study, it is exceptional.
I did have a slightly
funny experience with “The Conspiracy”
because I misinterpreted something that director Christopher MacBride said when
introducing it onstage and thought it wasa genuine documentary about people in the conspiracy theory community.
It took me a little while to realise that I was, yes, watching a fiction,
although I did feel that something about it was a little off. This is a fake
documentary/character-cam horror but the angle at which it enters the genre –
paranoia rather than slasher or supernatural, for example – does make it stand
out. The conspiracy content is fascinating.
Eventually, inevitably, the whole character-cam doesn’t really add up as it ends
up being part fake-documentary, half horror vignette. But the sequence where
they go undercover does provide a
memorable descent into horror much in the manner of a “VHS” short. If it is a
film of two halves that never quite gel, “The Conspiracy” at least does try to
reach into different areas of horror and doesn’t let the character-cam Isabotage
its intent (but yes, it doesn’t quite answer who is editing this? when it comes to the apparent “found footage”
segment). A solid and slightly unusual, if flawed, experiment.
The above image is one of the most memorable I took away from Frightfest - it's gorgeous - and I wouldn't have usually posted it here for fear it might be a spoiler, but as you can see from above, it is being used for film promotion, so...
Last Days” by Alex and David Pastor is an apocalyptic feature,
but not in a “The Dead 2: India” kind of way. The premise is that mankind experiences
a sudden fear of going outside, which leaves them cooped up and underground and
falling apart. One man decides to find meaning in this deteriorating world by
resolving to make it across Barcelona to find his girlfriend. It is true that
perhaps on paper this sounds less than thrilling, but it feels to me more akin
to those 1970s post-apocalyptic films such as “The Quiet Earth”, “A Boy and his
Dog”, “The Omega Man”, etc. and led more by concept than action. It has number
of memorable action set-pieces, but it spends as much time on the mundane world
of work that the characters come from and the dawning of a new age. The
directors did send a message to Frightfest that the ending would totally divide
people, but indeed it was one that made a pleasant change from the norm and
headed towards something with hope and promise rather than endless horror.
Friends had mentioned
that I should see Bobcat Goldthwait’s “Willow
Creek” and indeed, even though it was a “found footage” film – which already
flagged it as potentially another shaky-cam bore – it was also a Sasquatch
film. And that interested me because a simple monster flick seemed like a great
idea. Also, Bobcat had opened the festival and was very appealing, I had really
liked “The World’s Greatest Dad” and I was most curious. “Willow Creek” was
meant to be screened in one of the small theatres in the cinema and they had to
shift it to a bigger screen due to popular demand. Well let me state from the start
that I loved “Willow Creek”. A genuinely endearing couple travel to the
eponymous Bigfoot land, out in the wilds of America, to try and have their
Sasquatch moment, filming themselves all the while. And indeed, this film is how to film a found footage premise. It
looks filmed in-camera (there are only 60+ cuts) and the sound is all diagetic,
so you don’t wonder who has been watching and editing and scoring the footage –
or why?! It is half exploration and gentle satire of the tourist culture and
business of Bigfoot and contains a long sequence that proved one of my absolute
favourite sequences of the festival: a long take that surely outdoes even “The
Blair Witch Project” and takes its time to deeply reach into your most primal
fears. Indeed, a woman in the audience did scream and I found myself seriously
unnerved (it also occurs to me that no one laughed that she screamed because we
were all so engrossed ans poked by the moment too). Another audience member was
overhead saying that it was “so bad it’s good”, but I thought it had excellent
and engaging performances by Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson – I cared! – and ended
up being intelligent and probing and genuinely scary. I thought it was great.