We spent most of the fourth day of FrightFest ’09 in the Discovery Screen, where there was a host of intriguing film fare on offer. And we weren’t the only ones to take advantage of this year’s new double-screen choices, as American Werewolf director John Landis also took his seat in the smaller screen. And first up was Salvage, the excellent ultra-real chiller from British writer/director Lawrence Gough.
Shot for just £250,000 on hand-held digital cameras, using all natural light, Salvage tells the terrifying tale of a Liverpool cul-de-sac suddenly put under military quarantine. As the residents slowly learn the horrific truth, and find themselves under attack from a mystery assailant, desperate mother Beth (Neve McIntosh) fights to get to her daughter Jodie (Linzey Cocker). The documentary-style aesthetic helps make this nerve-shredding tale a truly frightening piece of film-making, and it’s one of the highlights of the festival.
Next up was the intriguing Pontypool, from Canadian director Bruce McDonald. Set entirely within the small confines of a local radio station set up in a church basement in a small Ontario town, what starts as a normal day for DJ Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) turns into a nightmare of unbelievable proportions. As reports start coming in of people speaking strangely and turning violent, Mazzy and his producer Sydney (Lisa Houle) slowly realise that something is very, very wrong – and their only chance of survival may be to stay inside.
There’s hardly any action seen on screen; all of the events are described rather than seen, heard via telephone communications and news wires. Yet it’s a creepy experience none-the-less, Tony Burgess’s excellent script and two outstanding performances from McHattie and Houle conveying the horror of the situation as effectively as any visuals. And a sequel is already in the works, looking at events outside the radio station.
I Think We’re Alone Now is perhaps the most surprising film screening at the festival; it’s not a horror or thriller like it’s contemporaries, but it’s certainly makes for a disturbing viewing experience. This documentary from Sean Donnelly looks at Americans Jeff and Kelley, who both claim to be deeply in love with ’80s popstar Tiffany. As the camera reveals both to have genuine social problems – Jeff has Aspergers, while Kelley is a hermaphrodite – so we enter a world of skewed reality and dangerous obsession. Revealing, jaw-dropping and utterly fascinating, Donnelly’s film sheds light on a secret pocket of human life.
Our final film of the day took us back to the main screen, for the World Premiere of Adam Gierasch’s (Autopsy) remake of the 1988 movie Night of the Demons. The director himself was in attendance; that he explained that the only way he would do the remake was if “I could get demon anal [sex] in it” probably tells you all you need to know about the film. It tells of a group of teens who turn up for a Halloween party at a deserted mansion and end up fighting demons hell-bent on taking over the world. Part soft-core porn, part gory slasher, it’s the stuff that 17-year-old boys dreams are made of – although anyone else may have seen it all before.
Interestingly, it casts Terminator 2‘s Edward Furlong as a down-on-his luck drug dealer, and Gierasch acknowledged the irony, given the actor’s much-publicized private life. “I know you may not feel that [his performance] was a stretch,” the director laughed. “He had to dig deep to find that part of him.” And the film also stars American Pie’s Shannon Elizabeth, who Gierasch describes as “very quiet. She did her job. She was a professional actress. Although she did buy us all necklaces that were glow in the dark breasts with light up nipples.” Indeed.