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Film Four FrightFest 2014: Monday 25 August 2014

Alleluia

After four days of monsters, terrifying horror, comedy scares, and gallon upon gallon of blood and guts, it’s time for the fifth and final day of FrightFest 2014 – and what a ride it’s been! So, for the last time (for this year anyway) it’s time to grab some popcorn, take our seats and sit back for more movie mayhem.

Alleluia

Loosely based on the real life story of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez (also known as The Honeymoon Killers), Belgian director Fabrice du Welz brings us this stunning and disturbing look at loneliness, desire, manipulation and murder.

Presented in four acts Alleluia follows the story of Gloria and Michel. When single-parent morgue-worker Gloria (Lola Duenas) reluctantly decides to meet internet-dating match Michel (Laurent Lucas) she instantly falls under the charm of the handsome conman as he slowly seduces her over dinner. Sleeping with him that night and falling for his pleas for cash the next morning, Gloria becomes increasingly upset when he does not return her calls and when she goes searching for him she finds him working his charm on some ladies in a local bar. Approaching him, Gloria convinces Michel to let her join him on his quest to make women fall under his spell as long as she can be his. It’s not long though before Gloria’s jealousy explodes into murderous rage and threatens to derail the couple’s plans.

Duenas is truly stunning as the fanatical Gloria, effortlessly transforming from a shy, lonely figure to a desperate, murderous banshee. The intensity of her performance is spectacular and as Gloria becomes more and more unhinged and her fury explodes upon the women that her partner is attempting to seduce, she is genuinely threatening on screen. Lucas, too, impresses as the predatory conman who comes to realise that he has bitten off way more than he can chew in the rotten relationship of co-dependency he finds himself in, and performs the power-play between himself and the psychotic Gloria in magnificent style.

A sombre depressiveness pervades throughout Alleluia that crawls under the skin and slowly festers, and under the assured direction of Du Waltz the film switches from intense drama to horrific moments of brutality in wonderfully unforeseen ways. A perfect example of this is when a vicious attack gives way to a musical number and culminates with the protagonist calmly sawing the leg off of the victim as they dismember the corpse. This ‘anything can happen’ nature of the screenplay could stop a movie dead in less skilled hands than that of Du Waltz, but here it is handled in a way that ensures the audience is never removed from the moment and indeed it only goes to help them feel Gloria’s descent into unhinged madness.

Alleluia can be a hard watch at times. It is utterly grim and unflinching in its violence and portrayal of sexual desire, yet with its two outstanding leads, a fantastic supporting cast, and perfectly weighted direction, it makes for totally compelling viewing.

Nymph

Nymph Movie Milan Todorovic

Publicising itself as a creature feature movie, this Serbian flick from director Milan Todorovic is actually much more of a slasher. And not a particularly good one either. While holidaying in Montenegro, Kelly and Lucy pay a visit to Lucy’s ex-boyfriend Alex, and the trio, together with tag-along macho-hunk Boban, visit the mysterious ex-Nazi prison island of Mamula. There they find a deadly creature in the water that was thought to only be real in myth, and a gnarly old sailor who seems determined to get the friends.

Overly reliant on stupidly good looking people and the titillation of the flesh on show, there’s very little to offer in Nymph. The characters are weak to the point that you really don’t care, the script is clunky, boring, poorly handled and full of filler, and the scares are all but non-existent. However the biggest issue with the film is that while it sells itself so strongly as a monster movie, it in fact spends a large portion of its running time as a tired slasher flick, as the mysterious old man chases the group around the place in an almost laughably ineffective manner.

Should Todorovic have had the conviction to make this the monster tale it purports to be, Nymph may have been worth watching. As it stands though, it is very silly, and to be honest, very dull indeed.

V/H/S: Viral

VHS: ViralAmerican found footage anthology series V/H/S returns with a new bunch of tales and directors for its third instalment. This time around (as the film’s title might suggest) we are treated to several twisted stories mostly revolving around the pursuit of fame in our modern times. With segments from directors Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Marcel Sarmiento and Nacho Vigalondo, anyone who has seen either of the previous two V/H/S movies will know the sort of thing to expect, and much like its predecessors, this is a very hit and miss affair.

The wrap-around segment falls very much in the ‘miss’ category. This tale of a police chase, an ice cream van and a kidnapped girl is a total mess that makes little to zero sense and whose ending is even more stupid and confusing. Luckily the first segment proper is a much better affair as we view some found footage about Dante The Great, a struggling magician who suddenly makes it big with his almost supernatural magical act thanks to a cape that comes into his possession. While not perfect, it is well executed and has some good laughs.

The remaining segments continue on with similarly varying success. ‘Vicious Circles’ is uninteresting and quickly leaves the memory, while ‘Bonestorm’ fairs well as it follows some skateboarders being documented when they run into a Mexican cult of the undead and have to fight their way out, brought to life with some pretty cool first-person gaming-style footage captured by the boarders’ head-mounted cameras. It’s ‘Parallel Monsters’ from Vigalondo that is the standout piece this time around though. Wonderfully inventive from the Spanish filmmaker, it tells the tale of a scientist who finds a way of making a gateway to other dimensions. When opening this gateway he finds an exact duplicate of himself on the other side looking back at him, but when they decide to explore each other’s realities they discover they are not as similar as they first thought. Both clever and darkly humorous, it’s a shame the other segments never match up to ‘Parallel Monsters’, because if they did, this would be one hell of a fun movie. As it stands though, V/H/S: Viral just isn’t that successful as whole.

The Signal

The Signal FrightFest

With the distinction of being the closing movie of FrightFest 2014, this indie sci-fi thriller has already been gaining a lot of buzz around the festival circuit. From director William Eubank it follows the story of two MIT wunderkinds – friends Nic (Brenton Thwaites), who struggles on crutches due to the early stages of MS, and Jonah (Beau Knapp). As they drive across country to help Nic’s girlfriend, Hayley (Olivia Cooke), move to her new School in California, they decide to take a detour to an apparently abandoned shack in the desert in an effort to track down a mysterious hacker know as Nomad. In a Blair Witch Project-esque found footage scene, Nic and Jonah start to explore the shack, only to hear Hayley screaming for help – and then all hell breaks loose. When Nic comes around, he finds himself in an underground facility where he is interrogated by the mysterious Dr. Wallace Damon (Laurence Fishburne). What happened at the shack? Where the hell is he, where are his friends, and what is it that this doctor wants?

With his usual air of quiet authority, Fishburne shines as the chillingly calm doctor as he patiently goes about questioning Nic. Projecting real threat, while seemingly wanting to help, and Thwaites too puts in a sterling showing as Nic, playing both the physical and emotional problems of the character very well. What works so much in The Signal’s favour, though, is the way Eubank takes his time with the narrative of the film. For a good portion of the front end of the movie we get to travel with the trio through some wonderfully shot country, getting to know these characters and exploring their relationships with one another. It brings heart to the film and this measured approach only goes to make the viewer more invested in the plight of the leads when their world is turned upside down and they have to attempt to make sense of what is going on. Production design, too, plays a large part of why the film succeeds, the magnificent desert mountains of the outside world wonderfully clashing with the stark whiteness of the sterile, menacing facility underneath it to lend a feeling of unease, while the underplayed special and visual effects are believably executed and allow the audience to buy into a lot of what goes on.

Genre fans are bound to delight in The Signal, and so should general film-goers, if they get the chance to see it. While some may find the unexplained nature surrounding a lot of what happens throughout the narrative somewhat of an annoyance, with a lack of any real details to explain some of the events unfolding on screen, it is this willingness to leave holes for the audience to fill for themselves that is also a major plus for this sci-fi treat. Like all good storytelling, it leaves its audience unsure of what may happen next and in that regard it is very successful.

JASON HICKS

 

Also playing: Xmoor, Altergeist, Lemon Tree Passage, Truth Or Dare, The Remaining, Deadly Virtues, Blood Moon, Extraterrestrial.


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