Day two of the Glasgow Frightfest which will include a killer demonic clown, classic giallo, Nordic noir-esque serial killers, the final sequel to the REC franchise and a weird body snatchers esque horror. 6 films to watch in the next 14 hours, who will survive and what will be left.
CLOWN (Dir- Jon Watts, USA, 2014)
Kicking things off early at 11am, is a new film, which has the Eli Roth presents approval mark stamped on it, which takes everyone’s favourite children’s entertainer and, as Ricky Gervais so precisely put it in one of his Karl Pilkington pod cast’s, the ultimate anti comedian that is the clown and turns it into a nightmarish cursed themed horror. When the clown they have booked for his son’s birthday party cannot make it, father and real estate agent Kent (Andy Powers) manages to find a clown suit in one of the houses he is currently renovating for future sale. Donning the suit and entertaining his son and his friends, Kent then suddenly has difficulty in getting the suit off, much difficulty, to the point it starts to take over his body. When he further looks into the history of the costume he finds out that it is cursed and takes over its host forcing them to kill and eat 5 children to appease its demonic needs.
Managing to fuse both comedy and a sense of tragedy CLOWN is a very good take and update of the normal human being taken over by the curse and turned into a monster. There are some funny moments throughout, both dark and otherwise, particularly in the early part of the film where Kent can’t remove his clown suit and has to go to work trying his best to disguise the ludicrous costume in front of some builders. It also doesn’t shy away from the gore and in having some kids become victims to the demonic child eating clown. On top of that there is a great fictional demonic history of the clown explained, that brought to mind films such as RARE EXPORTS or SAINT where the classic children’s legend has an added twisted, darker past. Overall CLOWN is nothing new, but is an effective, entertaining and darkly comic horror and on top of that it was also good to see Peter Stomare in a supporting role and on great scenery chewing form as well.
BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (Dir- Mario Bava, ITA, 1964)
Next up is a chance to see some classic early Giallo, thanks to the legend that is Mario Bava, and his superb BLOOD AND BLACK LACE. The simple story of a black jacketed and gloved killer murdering a group of female models, this film sets the template for giallo, with some superb stylish cinematography and set design, staged and choreographed murders and eventual reveal of the killer, that became staples of this Italian sub genre. Admittedly tamer in terms of on screen violence, compared to some of the later films by highly recognised directors like Argento, BLOOD AND BLACK LACE is still a superb and well made thriller and this new presentation by Arrow, was a beautiful and lovingly presented restoration of this classic film that looked amazing to watch on the big screen and will certainly be much needed purchase on its eventual release on Blu ray.
THE WOODS MOVIE (Dir- Russ Gomm, UK, 2015)
It’s into documentary mode in the next feature, and one that focuses on the creation of one of the most successful low budget horror films ever made, and a film that helped or influenced the infamous found footage genre. Russ Gomm’s documentary looks at the creation of the film via talking head interviews with its directors and producers, and archive behind the scenes footage that looks at the long process of the creation of a low budget film to eventually being taken up by studios and becoming a worldwide phenomenon. What starts off as interesting eventually I found became pretty boring and dragged considerably.
It’s only in the q and a that you realise that this is a documentary that is designed or rather will find favour with the die hard fans of the Blair Witch Project, as the director Gomm, is a big fan of the film since first seeing it back in 1999. Which is fine but for anyone else it becomes a bit of a boring exercise where endless behind the scenes footage takes up the majority of the running time. What would have been better would be to look into the actors who took part in the film and what there up to now (though Gomm did state that some of the actors and crew involved didn’t want to be a part of it) and maybe even showing the alternative endings, looking at the sequel which was a flop and possibly looking into the Blair Witch and its influence on the found footage genre as a whole as it wasn’t till 2009 that the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY film came out and a whole slew of found footage films followed suit, which certainly owe a huge debt to the Blair Witch.
3/10 (6/10 for Blair Witch fans)
THE TREATMENT (Dir- Hans Herbots, BEL, 2014)
One of the films screened today that is not straight up horror but rather a mystery thriller, THE TREATMENT still is darker and possibly more extreme than some of the films we have already seen in the past two days, and it’s a credit to the director Hans Herbots that he handles the distressing and disturbing elements of the film well and never crosses over into the realms of the exploitative. The film follows Nick Cafmeyer, a detective who is currently investigating a recent case of a family who have been attacked and chained up in their house and mentally and physically tortured. With the nine year old son of the family gone missing, Nick heads up a massive search and with another family possibly set to be the next target it’s a race against time and a relentless manhunt that starts to effect the detective personally as his past trauma involved his own brother being abducted when he was a kid, and to make matters worse the only suspect in the case who was set free after questioning lives nearby and takes nasty delight in teasing and harassing Nick.
Despite the heavy and often disturbing subject matter, this is an entertaining and well made thriller that keeps you hooked throughout to its initial conclusion. Initially based on a novel by British author Mo Hader, this has worked well in its transition to a European based setting and initially this will be marketed towards fans of Nordic Noir, and as there is some truth in the comparison to that, yet this stands up as a more grittier and nastier thriller, though as mentioned before Herbots doesn’t end up in sensationalising or turning the subjects such as child murder, abuse, abduction and torture into exploitation though he does push the buttons and the limits on what can be shown on screen, which in his Q and A after the film, he stated was handled with the utmost sensitivity and guidance throughout. It was great to hear how Herbots was generally surprised that his film has been selected for many horror festivals, but he acknowledges that he likes the appreciation and the intelligence of the horror crowd and there reception to his film. Already picked up for possibly release in May THE TREATMENT is a tough and slightly nihilistic thriller but one worth catching.
REC 4: APOCALYPSE (Dir- Jaume Balaguero, SPAIN, 2014)
I have already seen this final film in the REC series. As it was screening here, initially I was going to give it a miss but thought, might as well catch this on the big screen (with better subtitles) as I’ve seen the other three at the cinema, and this is supposedly the final sequel, though by the end you might think otherwise. Picking up after REC2, the story centres on the TV reporter from the first two films, Angela (Manuela Velasco) who along with a group of SWAT team grunts who where last to be in the infected apartment block, and an elderly confused old women who apparently was the only survivor of the wedding from REC 3, awaken to find themselves on a ship, quarantined from the mainland with a team of scientists, wanting to experiment with the infected vaccine, and a group of military grunts there mainly to become infected human fodder. Naturally, closed quarantined ship away from the main land, infected monkeys in a laboratory, with plenty of people to be exposed to the virus/parasite equals gory mayhem. And while REC 4 does deliver the goods in the carnage and action department, there seems to be a slight sense of déjà vu, and slight longing for the series to return back to the intensity of the first two films.
Admittedly when seeing the first film 7 years ago, I was stunned and loved the shock and surprise element that the film delivered and came out of the cinema thinking I have seen one of the best and most intense horror films that came out that year. Go forward after an impressive REC 2, and an alright and entertaining part 3, this final sequel, while being a fast paced and action packed 90 minutes, seems to have lost some of the first two films impact and intensity, and while the action is well orchestrated and the gore is as usual, flying across the screen, these scenes still seem to succumb to cliché and predictability, and rather having the shocks and scares of the first two, this is abandoned for gore and action, and worst of all use of CGI blood. It also seems to neglect the mythology and possession element introduced in part 2, which seems a bit of a cheat, as drawing or developing this aspect would have added an interesting element to the sequel. Whilst being at least an entertaining action horror, many fans of the series will probably find this disappointing, and by the end of the film might find this final sequel a let down to what has been a superb series of films. I still liked the possessed infected crazed monkeys getting diced up by a motor boat propeller though, that was an inventive scene of carnage.
THERE ARE MONSTERS (Dir- Jay Dahl, CANADA, 2014)
The final film of the two days and whilst kicking off with a fantastic opening scene, which had a terrific jump scare to get the crowd alive, THERE ARE MONSTERS, starts off well but seems to suffer from some flaws and some shaky, very shaky found footage-esque camerawork. The story has a group of college students out on a road trip, making a mini documentary to go towards there course learning experience. They soon start to notice strange things happening to people, strangers standing with their backs towards them, a kid’s lunchbox that has something definitely not edible inside it and weird occurrences in a local supermarket. It soon dawns that there is an apparent takeover of humans, in a BODY SNATCHER esque way, but is it cause by aliens or is it something to do with a hadron collider experiment going tits up in Switzerland. Whilst not really answering directly the reasons for the takeover that goes on, might frustrate some, it works and adds to the unease that the THERE ARE MONSTERS creates. Admittedly I enjoyed the early part of the film which had some effective and creepy scenes, which add to the level of paranoia that takes over the latter part. Yet the film suffers from a shaky camera effect that becomes more and more prevalent in the final part of the film, that almost had me trying to think whether I was watching a found footage film here or straight forward narrative film, and while the garish effect of when these ‘monsters’ attack, of having their face morph into a large horrible teeth barring smile, something similar to Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun video, is an effective image, it starts to lose this effect after a while and becomes slightly comical.
The film starts to lessen its momentum built up in the first part, in the final part and whilst it retains some of the unease of the early scenes, it soon starts to end in confusion and unnecessary drawn out sequences such as a lengthy scene in a darkened cellar, only lit by mobile phone camera flashes. THERE ARE MONSTERS first port of reference is certainly going to be INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, as it has the same sense of paranoia and terror of the everyday being taken over by an unstoppable, unseen force, and whilst it’s not on par with those films, and suffers from unstable camera work and uneven final part there is much to appreciate throughout and enough to make me want to see it again, as by the end of this film I will admit tiredness started to creep in.
Well that was two days, and eleven films watched, and surprisingly it’s been a good line up, with most of the films not being terrible and some being very good or even being better than expected. It’s a great little two day festival and a great precursor for the August event, which hopefully UK Horror Scene will no doubt be covering this year. A great little two day packed event that if you have not been too yet, I would highly recommend attending.