Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Frightfest 2014: Top Five


No, that's not a scream of fright after a particularly horrifying film. Neither is it due to the horrible pain in my knees after four-and-a-half days of sitting in a chilly cinema. Nope, that is my reaction to attempting to come up with my top five favourite films from Frightfest. As I sat down to type, I'd managed to narrow it down to a top twelve, but that's just silly, so I'm just going to have to suck it up and make my choices.

Here we go. In no particular order:

  1. Housebound was a bit of a surprise. The story of a young woman sentenced to eight months home detention in her parent's haunted house didn't appeal on paper, but it was brilliant. Some excellent jumps, some clever plot twists, some good bits of gore and a moment that had me crying with laughter. Horror-comedy is so hard to do well, and this really nailed it. Rima Te Wiata is especially good as the over-bearing if well-meaning mother.
  2. Another great example of horror-comedy (one of my favourite sub-genres with a strong showing this year) was Life After Beth. I had high expectations, because of my love of Aubrey Plaza, and she didn't let me down, especially with her excellent zombie run. The second film to make me cry with laughter, I'm still giggling and quoting things from it days later. Can't wait to watch this in a zom-rom-com double bill with Shaun of the Dead.
  3. Next, I'd like to recommend The Samurai. This is the story of Jakob, a policeman in a small German town whose main problem is dealing with a wolf that has been bothering the local dogs, until one night he comes across a Samurai in a dress, intent on causing chaos and chopping off heads. A crazy play on fairy tales and the problems of confronting your own sexuality in a close-knit community. The male leads (Michel Dierks and Pit Bukowski) both put in brilliant performances that keep your eyes glued to the screen, for often quite unexpected reasons.
  4. Late Phases is like Dog Soldiers meets Gran Torino. A blind veteran  moves into a retirement community where everything, from the disappearance of the local dogs to the violent death of his new neighbour, has been blamed on animal attacks. But the real danger isn't lurking in the woods and our hero takes it upon himself to put an end to the deaths. Full of subtle nods to genre classics, this film reminded me of how much I love werewolf movies.
  5. Okay, so it's going to have to be done. I know this film divided the audience, but I'm backing Stage Fright because I left the theatre with a massive grin on my face, feeling that all was right with the world, and I'm still humming some of the songs. Yes, it's a musical and, yes, it's very stupid, but it knows how silly it is and goes for it with real gusto. If you love Meat Loaf (and who doesn't?) and seeing annoying Performing Arts kids getting killed (again, who doesn't?) then this is the film for you.
Man, that was really hard! Here's a quick list of the other films I loved: The Guest (really fun, Dan Stevens is gorgeous, out soon, go see it), Zombeavers (exactly as much fun as I was expecting), Dead Snow 2 ( a worthy successor to the first part), The Harvest (moving, disturbing, Samantha Morton is amazing), The Babadook (more creepy emotional journey than scary jump fest, with some astonishing performances), Open Windows (fast-paced, funny, clever and enjoyable), VHS: Viral (the best one yet). I might add The Signal to that list, but it needs another watch for me to decide if I just like it or really love it.

Overall, a great weekend in the company of the ever-loving Frightfest family. Already can't wait for next year.

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