Our third day at FrightFest kicked off with a screening of Hierro, an atmospheric Spanish chiller that promised to be in the same vein as Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth and Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Orphanage. Although it didn’t quite match the might of those two movies, Hierro proved to be an interesting film; although it did divide the FrightFest audience.
Directed by Gabe Ibenez, who has previously worked as a film animator, Hierro tells the story of Maria (Elena Anaya), a single mother who heads off on holiday with her young son Diego (Kaiet Rodriguez) only for him to disappear. When she discovers that another young boy has gone missing on the island of El Hierro, Maria begins to think that something is very wrong and embarks on a fraught and dangerous mission to find her son. Contemplative, introspective and visually arresting, Hierro lacks the pace and intensity of some of its FrightFest contemporaries, but proves to be a haunting and – mostly – successful psychological thriller.
Then, after another hilarious instalment in the American Werewolf spoof starring directors Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2) and Adam Green (Hatchet) – who once again joined John Landis in the audience – we were treated to a special sneak peek of George A Romero’s upcoming movie Survival of the Dead. Introduced by the great man himself, the 2-minute segment promised the same mix of comedy and horror we’ve come to expect from the zombie master.
It was then time for Giallo, the latest film Italian horror legend Dario Argento. FrightFest organiser Alan Jones, himself a big fan and friend of Argento, introduced the film, warning that it might not be quite what we’ve come to expect from the man who made classics Suspiria (currently being – brace yourselves – remade), Inferno and Tenebre. And indeed it wasn’t; for starters, it’s the first film he’s made that wasn’t from his own script (although it was written especially for him), and the first of his movies which saw the audience laughing most of the way through.
When Linda (Emanuelle Seigner) believes her beautiful sister Celine (Elsa Pataky) may have been kidnapped, she goes to Inspector Enzo Avolfi (Adrien Brody) for help. Avolfi knows that Celine may be facing her ultimate nightmare, as she’s been taken by notorious serial killer Yellow (Byron Deidra) whose sadistic blood-lust make him a real monster. It’s a race against time to find Celine, a task made more difficult for Avolfi as he fights his own personal demons.
Argento fans have expressed their disappointment that the film-maker should make such a terrible film; indeed, the clunky acting, melodramatic dialogue and general air of silliness – not least in the character of Yellow, who resembles a psycopathic Sylvester Stallone, complete with Rocky headband, and comes across as a laughing stock rather than a malevolent force to be reckoned with. But there are clues that this humour is intended; the film’s title refers directly to the genre of Italian horror popularized by Argento in the 1970s, and look a bit closer at Yellow himself (the fact that an actor’s name is an anagram should help you out). As it plays out like a particularly skewed episode of Sunset Beach, there is a sense that Giallo is either a complete travesty or a work of horror-comedy genius. If you come prepared for the latter, you’ll thoroughly enjoy it as it’s a scream from start to finish.
Our final film of the day was one we were particularly looking forward to, Michael Dougherty’s Halloween anthology Trick ‘r Treat. And we weren’t disappointed; composed of four separate but intertwining stories, the film is an absolute romp, paying homage to classic horror as it breathes an inventive breath of fresh air into the genre. Sadly, though, this may have been the only big screen outing for the film, as Dougherty takes to the stage to explain that Warner Bros have sat on this film for two years, and it will now be going straight to DVD. So do yourself a favour and get yours when it comes out on October 26th.