It’s that time again.
The sleepy queue has been duly survived, the festival passes have been purchased, and the free film viewed. This year it was James Wan’s paranormal investigator thriller The Conjuring, due out in UK cinemas in August. The movie has had good reviews stateside but I have to say that while it has all the shock moments we might expect from the director of Insidious I didn’t think it was quite as good as that film, or his previous efforts Saw and Dead Silence. Anyway, now all that’s left for us to do is peruse the recently-released programme, and wait.
For Frightfest 2013.
This will be the third year running that Mrs Probert and I will have attended this festival in its entirety, and once again I’m experiencing that sense of gleeful anticipation. There will be films that sound great and will be, films that sound awful and will be, and films that will confound audience expectations and leave us all with a sense of delighted surprise or appalled disappointment. In other words, it’s a bit like popping a film you don’t know much about into the DVD player and crossing your fingers, only over five days in a 1,200 seater cinema and with 24 odd films to squeeze in if you’ve got the stamina (and a comfy chair).
The Thursday night opener always consists of three films and in years past it’s been one of the highlights of the festival. Three years ago we kicked off with a remake (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark) which deserved its lukewarm reception. This was followed by the crowd-pleasing 3D antics of Final Destination 5, followed by the delicious quirkiness of Severin Films’ The Theatre Bizarre. Last year it was British horror pics The Seasoning House (grim and gruelling and only just now getting a UK DVD release) and Cockneys Vs Zombies (a film that was far better than it had any right to be and has secured itself a place on my list of feelgood horror films). The evening was finished off with the good-natured let’s get pissed and fight aliens knockabout Irish fun of Grabbers.
This year the festival begins with The Dead II: India. Not having seen The Dead I have no idea what to expect from this but I understand it’s a zombie film set in the country of the title. It’s directed by the Ford brothers, Howard and Jon, who also made The Dead and if nothing else the sight of zombies in Rajasthan should be a novel way of getting things going. Next up is Curse of Chucky, featuring every horror fan’s favourite Brad Dourif-voiced children’s doll. This will mark the sixth in the franchise, and I understand from the makers that it’s a return to the series’ darker roots. Tom Holland’s Child’s Play was a lot of fun and to be honest I can’t say I’ve ever found this series to be particularly dark or scary. Couple that with the fact that it’s apparently meant to follow on from Child’s Play 3 (easily the worst of the series for me) and ignore the events of Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky (which were both fun, with the latter featuring a performance as herself of such utter self-loathing by Jennifer Tilly that it reached almost Steve Coogan-esque proportions) means I’ll be approaching it with very much an attitude of ‘wait and see’.
The final film on the Thursday night will be Adam Wingard’s You’re Next. Wingard was responsible for the horrible wraparound for last year’s V/H/S, which featured camerawork so shaky I wondered if he’d shot it while sitting on a very wobbly washing machine set on a permanent spin cycle. He redeemed himself immensely, however, with his witty, quirky little segment for The ABCs of Death, ‘Q for Quack’. The trailer suggests that You’re Next is a home invasion horror with a twist and I have high hopes for it.
Another film I’m looking forward to is The Dyatlov Pass Incident. Based on a true story (aren’t they all these days?) Renny Harlin’s film details what might have happened to a group of nine Russian hikers who died in the Urals, their bodies found in the snow, their tents ripped open from the inside. Although he’s been much maligned I’ve always had time for Harlin as a director. I was even there when his first film, Prison, premiered back in 1988, and Nightmare On Elm Street Part 4 is a lot of fun as well, not to mention his demented shark epic Deep Blue Sea.
V/H/S 2 promises to be a lot better than its predecessor (it could hardly be much worse) [Editor: Oh come on, John, it wasn’t that bad.]. The trailer looks good and I always have to see every horror anthology at least once.
I’ll be trying to get to one of the smaller screens to catch For Elisa late at night on the Sunday, after a screening of – of all things – Corruption in honour of Peter Cushing. It’s a Spanish horror apparently in the tradition of classics like Narciso Ibanez Serrador’s The House That Screamed (1969) and Claudio Guerin’s The Bell of Hell (1973), both of which are highly recommended if you can find them.
We’re also promised sequels, in the form of Hatchet III and I Spit On Your Grave 2, and Stephen Sommers-directed big budget mayhem in the form of Odd Thomas, from the novel by Dean Koontz. Zombie Nazis is a sub-genre that refuses to lie down and die despite the fact that no one seems to be able to do it terribly well. Probably the best example is Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow from a couple of years ago. This time we will be ‘treated’ to Frankenstein’s Army (a great title – I’m keeping hopeful fingers crossed that the film will actually turn out to be as deliriously crazy as the pre-publicity material claims) and Outpost III: The Rise of Spetsnaz, which I’ll probably miss after Outpost II last year turned out to definitely be the film I should have popped out for lunch during.
All these and more will be reported back on in due course, dear reader. Watch this space.
JOHN LLEWELLYN PROBERT
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