It’s the annual Glasgow Film Festival which has been going on since the 18th February and in it’s run up to the final weekend the annual two day mini festival of fear from the Frightfest team hits the superb art deco surroundings of the Glasgow film theatre, promising genre fans two days packed with a total of eleven films (12 if you managed to get to the previous nights screening of ELIZA GRAVES) and as it might not be as big as their London based August bank holiday weekend extravaganza, this is still a great chance to catch some horror cinema on the big screen, and ones which most likely won’t reach the cinema. Here’s the first of two day by day run downs of the film that I managed to catch in between eating Scottish breakfasts and macaroni pie, and drinking Tennent’s lager (seriously after this weekend I will need to go on a diet)
THE ATTICUS INSTITUTE (Dir- Chris Sparling, USA, 2015)
First film to open the festival is this mockumentary horror, the directorial debut of Chris Sparling, who wrote the superb BURIED. It recounts the story of experiments that where dealing with patients with supposed psychic powers. Yet one patient in particularly displays more than just the ability to move objects and her apparent power, lends an interest by the US military who take over with full control of the lab and the experiments, not realising that there new find which they want to exploit for combat purposes has more of a demonic element to her ability’s.
Consisting of talking head interviews from the present combined with archived footage, THE ATTICUS INSTITUTE is a surprisingly solid supernatural horror, that works well with using the mockumentary format, you could argue that it might have been done better without this style, and should have gone for a more straightforward narrative approach, yet I feel it works well and is beneficial for the films story. Particularly the use of retro grade film and video, visually designed to look degraded is well done and despite a few lapses into silliness, and some daft but brief lines, that got a few chuckles from the crowd, this is an entertaining and decent horror that doesn’t sound promising on paper but ends up being surprisingly good.
THE HOARDER (Dir- Matt Winn, USA, 2015)
A world premiere in Glasgow for Matt Winn’s THE HOARDER, which follows Mischa Barton as Ella, who along with her friend Molly (THE INBETWEENERS Emily Atack), are going along to Ella’s banker boyfriend’s storage unit, as she is convinced he is cheating on her. Unfortunately they uncover something far worse and along with a group of other misfit individuals, who all seem to be hiding something, they have to try and fight for survival and escape from the storage facility or become permanent residents there forever. Entertaining for the majority of its running time, the film is let down by clunky dialogue, some stupid character actions, and some annoying characters.
Particularly a couple who are dividing their stuff between each other as they have just been divorced, who spend most of their on-screen time shouting and bitching at each other, making you want them to become the first people to be bumped off, quickly. As mentioned before its well made and holds your attention, but it’s not long before you know who the killer in the storage facility is and the film soon starts to descend into cliché. It still made me think that there should be a storage facility horror film made featuring the cast out of one of my favourite guilty pleasure watches on TV, STORAGE HUNTERS which could be made by the SyFy channel and feature sharks or some kind of hybrid monster. That would be fun.
WYRMWOOD (Dir- Kiah Roache-Turner, AUS, 2014)
It’s down under for the next feature for a funny, bloody zombie apocalypse movie. When a zombie outbreak suddenly takes over, and his family fall victim to it, a car mechanic, Barry (Jay Gallagher), is naturally devastated and torn apart. Yet he has one thing left and that’s to save his sister who has been kidnapped by some sinister government goons, and who see her as being as someone special. Along the way he meets up with Benny (Leon Burchill) and they have to traverse the Aussie bushland and the ravenous hoard of zombies along the way. What sounds on paper as a clichéd story, is given energetic life thanks to the direction and the humour throughout.
Neatly and confidently crossing from comedy to tragedy, WYRMWOOD also delivers on the gore and carnage front. I especially liked the neat idea of having the central characters discover that zombie blood is combustible and can be used for fuel, and the characters main car, and outfits also are a nice reference to MAD MAX 2. My only slight annoyance came at the use of the slow motion effect, which started to get a slight bit over done in parts, but it’s only a little let down, in a film that is entertaining, fast paced and goes against the usual zombie lore to add a unique spin to make it its own film and add new blood to the overcrowded undead genre.
88 (Dir- April Mullen, USA, 2014)
Grindhouse-esque elements are brought to the screen, in the next film, along with a psychological subplot involving fugue state of mind, a rare disorder where people can have reversible amnesia of personality. This happens to our central character in 88, Gwen (Katharine Isabelle, who finds herself at a roadside diner with no idea of why or how she got there. Gwen though has a split personality and its through flashback scenes from past and present that she is also under the name of Flamingo, a possible would be assassin. Switching between these states leads both Gwen to seek out the person responsible for her lover’s death, the fingers pointing most likely to sleazy crime boss Cyrus (Christopher Lloyd).
The first part of 88 is well made, intriguing and keeps the audience guessing through the backwards and forward trajectory of the central character figuring out what’s going on, using a nicely broken up narrative. Yet it starts to lose its pace in the second part and what starts off interesting ends up becoming almost a below average pastiche of grindhouse style and starts to slip into cliché gun fights where main characters somehow get through shoot outs unscathed, and towards the end the twist in the tale becomes pretty obvious. It has promise but it runs out towards the end and ends up being entertaining but nothing really remarkable. Still there are two good performances from the always beautiful Isabelle who works well from switching between the innocent, over her head Gwen, to the cocky, violent tempered Flamingo, and Christopher Lloyd is also good, playing against type as the crime lord, Cyrus. On top of this it’s also good to see Michael Ironside turning up in a supporting role.
THE AYSLUM (aka BACKMASK) (Dir- Marcus Nispel, USA, 2015)
Admittedly I was not expecting much from this film, and since it was directed by Nispel, who was behind the not so brilliant TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and FRIDAY 13TH remakes, then expectations where low. But it turned out to be a very entertaining film to end the first day on, where a group of dumb teenagers unwittingly unleash an evil spirit in an abandoned asylum after a night of partying. Bad dialogue and over the top deaths are the order of the day, in what ends up being a fun and daft demonic possession horror.
Admittedly it loses a slight bit of pace in the middle and the final reveal is a bit absurdly put together, though aside from these minor points this turns out to be decent fun, and had the audience loving it, and making it hard not to like. If anything it’s the perfect film to end the day on, and the perfect film for a Friday night and would make a great beer and pizza movie, just leave your brain at the door and enjoy the ride. It also featured a great line of dialogue where two characters find a severed finger on the floor and one of them says “Look its pointing at something,” which if I’m not mistaken most severed fingers usually end up pointing at something once they’ve been taken from there owner.
That’s the first day over and day two report will be coming up soon.