The fifth and final day of FrightFest 2009 was the most exciting of the whole weekend, with so many great films to choose from showing across both screens that it proved very difficult to come up with a plan of viewing action. We decided to start the day in the Discovery Screen with Colin, the much-hyped debut from British newcomer Marc Price and were glad we did. Although we very much doubt that the movie cost just £45, a figure that’s been bandied around by the press, it was still an effective foray into low-budget horror film-making.
Colin follows an ordinary guy who happens to find himself in the midst of a zombie attack. All is going as well as could be expected until he gets bitten; turning into a zombie himself, we watch him wander aimlessly through city streets piled high with bodies, instinctively searching for human flesh and returning to familiar places. Despite the subject matter the film is more moving than scary; Price’s script is a clever and fresh take on the zombie legend and his lead actor Alastair Kirton gives an accomplished and heartbreaking performance.
Next up was The House of the Devil, from director Ti West (The Roost, Trigger Man). Set in the 1980s, the film tells the story of pretty college kid Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) whose decision to accept a babysitting job to earn some cash leads her into a nightmare of devil worship and satanism. A slow burning chiller, West has effectively captured an Eighties aesthetic and his film is a great blend of atmosphere and shocks.
Addressing the audience after the screening, West described his film as “not an homage, but a period piece”, and explained that getting the perfect ’80s look and feel was at the centre of the movie. Asked whether it is really based on a true story, as stated in the film’s opening credits, West admitted that his story contained “a giant amount of bullshit. The statistic [that a large proportion of American believed that satanic rituals took place in the 1980s] is accurate. People thinking it was happening was happening. The actual story of the girl, I made that up”
Speaking about the casting of Donahue in the central role, West stated that she was “the only person I auditioned. I wanted to make sure she was determined and into it, because I was going to put her through hell! It is a very unique film and she really got it.” And about his decision not to include loads of shocks throughout the movie, West explains that was a conscious choice. “What makes a great horror movie is a balance between horror stuff and non-horror stuff. Otherwise it’s like porn to me. I always intended it to have a lot of for-shadowing and build up.” The House of the Devil director also had a great deal to say about his troubled time working on horror sequel Cabin Fever 2, and you can read that here. [coming soon]
The third film of the day was one of the few Hollywood horrors playing at the festival, the Renee Zellweger-starring Case 39. Directed by Christian Alvart (the acclaimed Antibodies), the story – of a social worker who takes on the case of a seemingly-innocent young girl who isn’t all she appears – is fairly derivative, taking direct and obvious influences from The Omen and the like. It’s a straightforward modern chiller; easy to watch but nothing special.
The same certainly could not be said for Heartless, the long-awaited new film from Brit Philip Ridley (The Reflecting Skin). Starring Jim Sturgess as a young man afflicted by a facial birthmark who makes the terrifying realisation that demons really do walk the streets of London. Terrifying yet beautiful, this intelligent, moving and deeply affecting film is one of the best British films for some time. Read more about the film, and what the cast and crew had to say about it, by clicking here. [coming soon]
And then, sadly, it was time for the final film of FrightFest 2009; The Descent: Part 2. Neil Marshall’s original film was crowned the saviour of British horror when it was released back in 2005, so it’s not surprising that incoming director Jon Harris clearly felt some pressure when he came on to introduce his film. “I can’t tell you what a huge honour it is to have our film chosen for the closing night of FrightFest, he said. “Thank you to Neil Marshall. He was the one who dreamt it all up and we’re just dancing in his shadow.” Returning actress Shauna Macdonald, who plays lone survivor Sarah, also felt compelled to lend her support. “Everybody be kind to John,” she asked the audience. “He’s not Neil Marshall but he might be even better!” To read more from the cast and crew of The Descent: Part 2, click here. [coming soon]
Macdonald needn’t have worried, as the packed house thoroughly enjoyed Harris’s gore-fest, shrieking with delight and clapping at all the blood-soaked action. It’s a fare more balls-out horror than the original; now that first film set up the premise of hideous, mutated flesh-eating demons stalking humans in an undiscovered cave system, so Harris has the freedom to have fun with the formula. Which he does; as a group of rescuers take Sarah back underground to find her friends, so they are pelted with buckets of blood, excrement and worse – a perfect film to end the weekend.
So, that was FrightFest 2009, and the 10th anniversary weekend proved to be the best yet. The crowds who packed out the huge Empire Leicester Square were treated to premieres, cast and crew interviews, special surprises and, of course, a line up of amazing films. They’re going to have to go some way to top it next year… but, somehow, we don’t think they’ll disappoint. See you next Wednesday… oops, sorry, next August.