After easing into proceedings with a rather hit and miss triple bill the previous night, it’s time to hit this year’s Film Four FrightFest head on. With six films showing on the main screens and another twelve being screened across the Discovery screens there is plenty of horror and genre filled delights to choose from too!
Shockwave Darkside 3D
If you were to read the official synopsis of British low budget flick Shockwave Darkside 3D, it certainly sounds like a promising sci-fi action tale – nano-plague has ravaged Earth’s water supply, a last Great War, The Unlight enemy, dark side of the moon, only thirty-six hours of oxygen left etc etc. In reality what you actually get is ninety or so minutes of shoddy ‘plot’, terrible acting, characters that no one cares about, bargain basement costumes, computer game style first person shooter camera work, a terrible score and 3D so bad it has to be seen to be believed (or preferably not). It’s really not surprising then that more than a few people were unable to sit through to the end of the screening of this utter dud. Avoid.
Spanish director Adrian Garcia Bogliano makes his English language debut with this cracking tale of werewolves and a backwater retirement community. When the gruff, wise cracking, blind war veteran, Ambrose McKinley, brilliantly played by Nick Damici, moves into his new home at Crescent Bay, he quickly learns firsthand that the seemingly idyllic community is under siege from a plague of deadly attacks from what the police believe are wild animals. As he realises the truth of what is behind these murderous sprees he decides he will be ready for the next wave of attacks. That is not all he has to contend with, however, as part of the community seem less than impressed with his abrasive attitude.
Where Late Phases works so well is its premise. Very much like werewolf movie, Silver Bullet, it is both a horror and survival film, with a fair amount of screen time given over to Ambrose, as the old man prepares himself with steely determination for his confrontation with the beast at their next meeting. There is plenty of humour to be had along the way as Ambrose upsets everyone around him with his cranky demeanour, but at the centre of it all there is much heart to his character, and Demici does a very fine job portraying a man at odds with his past. Another massive plus for this film is the decision to go with practical FX. Executed by FX maestro Robert Kurtzman, the werewolf transformations in particular are superbly done and while the final creatures are not entirely successful, they are certainly an interesting spin on a werewolf design.
With so many approaches to the werewolf film already having been covered throughout the years, it’s refreshing to find one that comes in at a new angle, which is filled with heart and perhaps most importantly, doesn’t fill the screen full of CGI nonsense.
The Green Inferno
When a university student (a wonderfully strong performance by Lorenza Izzo) joins a group of activists on a trip to Peru to help put a stop to unscrupulous government backed foresters destroying the ancient jungle lands of the tribal locals, she soon finds herself in a living nightmare when half of the idealistic gang are killed when their plane crashes into the jungle, the very indigenous people they are trying to help come looking for the survivors and… well, you get the idea.
While Eli Roth’s fourth directorial outing certainly gives more than just a passing nod to infamous Italian cannibal films such as Cannibal Holocaust, there’s thankfully more on offer than a modern rip-off. Taking his time to build up to the inevitable bloodbath, Roth slowly ramps up the tension, giving us time to get to know and sympathise with the activists, despite their obvious naivety regarding their quest, so that by the time all hell breaks loose during the spectacularly staged plane crash and the subsequent capture by the natives, we genuinely feel for the helpless group. The tribal members are given character too, painted as more than simple one-dimensional monsters by the time the cannibal frenzy is unleashed – and unleash it they do. It goes without saying with this being a Roth film, the scenes of cannibalism are unflinchingly brutal. The camera never shies away from the unfolding massacre as the caged victims are dispatched, butchered and eaten one-by-one in visceral detail. It all makes for very, very grim, but well-realised viewing.
One question though: why oh why do you have to take the inexplicable route of adding in moments of stupidly juvenile humour in a film like this, Mr Roth? ‘Jokes’ such as explosive diarrhoea and pot-induced cannibal munchies come very close to spoiling everything about this film. Please, please don’t do it again.
Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead
Director Tommy Wirkola ramps up the gory splatter-filled fun for his follow up to 2009’s Nazi zombie horror comedy Dead Snow. When Martin (Vegar Hoel), the sole survivor of the events in the Norwegian mountains, wakes up in hospital after crashing his car while fighting SS officer Herzog, he finds that not only has he been blamed for the murder of his friends, but that Herzog has attached his own severed arm to him. With the help of The Zombie Squad and his newly found powers to raise the dead, Martin goes about trying to find out the reason for Herzog’s deadly rampage and a way to stop him once and for all.
Right from the off it’s obvious that Wirkola has dialled the humour up to eleven for this sequel, and it’s so much the better for it. It’s outrageous, yes, and while a lot of the laughs come from great physical comedy and massively over-the-top ‘oh no he didn’t’ moments of gore as townsfolk are despatched in various inventive ways, it’s all infused with great wit. Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer and Ingrid Haas in particular play brilliantly on the zombie movie geek persona as the goofball trio of The Zombie Squad, while Kristoffer Joner puts in a fantastically subtle turn as a used and abused zombie sidekick and the hapless local police team find themselves increasingly out of their depth.
With a bigger production, better makeup, great camera work and plenty of outlandish blood-drenched chaos on-screen, fans of the first movie and first time viewers alike will flip for this brilliantly done sequel, and rightly so. Just don’t expect to come out from watching it and being able to ever listen to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in the same way again!
The Last Showing
Horror legend, Robert Englund plays Stuart Lloyd, a veteran projectionist who is fired from his job in a UK multiplex, due to the upgrade to digital projection systems, and forced to work serving popcorn and drinks instead. Deciding to take revenge, Lloyd comes up with a plan that finds late night cinema goers Martin and Allie trapped inside the cinema and starring in a film of his making.
Let’s not beat about the bush here – The Last Showing is terrible. The plot is terrible, the direction is terrible and the acting is terrible. While the filmmakers no doubt think the plot is awfully clever, it really isn’t. The convoluted plan of Englund’s character is stupidly unbelievable to the point of being annoying and any message about the demise of 35mm projection cinema is handled with zero subtlety. The characters of Martin and Allie are utterly vapid too and this is one of the main reasons this fails so much as a horror film. Will they live or will they die – you simply just don’t care. Add this to a total absence of scares and you’re left with a film that has very little to offer. Any saving graces come from the fleeting moments of evil glee in Englund’s performance, but they are few and far between and are all but extinguished by his awful attempt at an English accent.
This world premiere screening of The Last Showing may well be the first and last time that this many people see this film on a big screen. Look out for it in a DVD bargain bin near you soon.
Also playing: Housebound, Honeymoon, Preservation, Julia, The Forgotten, The Canal, Wolfcop, Wolf Creek 2, Wrong Turn 6, R100, Exists, The Den, The Drownsman.
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