Monday, 5 September 2011

Fright Fest 2011 review

Fright Fest 2011

Every August bank holiday thousands of gore hounds ascend upon London’s Leicester Square for the UK’s premiere horror and fantasy film festival. Playing host to over forty movies, many of them being either world or UK premieres, this is truly the weekend that cinephiles the world over should all have marked down on their calendar. Opening on the Thursday night with the UK premiere of the Guilermo Del Toro produced Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark and closing on bank holiday Monday with the hotly anticipated survival shocker A Lonely Place To Die along with first showings of Fright Night 3D, Ti West’s The Inkeepers and Brit horror flick Kill List, Fright Fest 2011 would be the biggest Fright Fest yet! I headed down to Leicester Square for the opening night and here is my pick of the good, the bad and the damn right nasty from the weekend!

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (****): Written and produced by Guilermo Del Toro, this has been a labour of love for the big man as it has taken him years to get the movie made but it will finally see a release this October. Don’t Be Afraid is a remake of a 1973 TV movie of the same name, a TV movie that most people will never have heard of which is always a good thing when it comes to movie remakes. The story goes a little like this - a young girl (Baille Maddison) is sent to live with her father (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes) and discovers strange creatures in her new home who want to claim her as one of their own. Troy Nixey’s remake enters classic haunted house territory and it has a great old school horror vibe to it that I really love, also the good news is that is has Del Toro’s finger prints all over it and I found myself at several points having flashbacks to Pans Labyrinth. The big scares here come courtesy of the evil fairy creatures that are creepy as hell (expecting anything less from Del Toro?) these things are damn right nasty, hell they are the worst tiny terrors on the big screen since those pesky Critters!!!

Final Destination 5 (***): You know exactly what you are getting when you go se a Final Destination movie, the formula has not changed since the first movie which was released eleven years ago now and to be honest that is not such a bad thing! With the 3D gimmick also now commonplace with the franchise, the movies have the same feel as taking a trip to Thorpe Park and going on your favourite ride – a rollercoaster ride of death from start to finish Final Destination 5 surprisingly rises above the other sequels in the series and it is no exaggeration to say this is the best entry since the original, for me the reason behind this stems from it not taking itself too seriously and the comedy has been heavily ramped up and to great affect. Oh any best news of all – Tony Todd is back for his usual cameo which is always a highlight of these movies! 

The Theatre Bizarre (*): Theatre Bizarre follows in the footsteps of a long line of classic horror anthology movies, this sub genre is a big favourite of mine with the anthology’s from both Hammer and Amicus back in the 60’s and early 70’s being amongst my favourites, so naturally I had high hopes for this movie, I mean seven horror greats coming together for a collection of seven macabre shorts – what could be better? God I wish I had set my expectations lower! The stories on offer here range from horribly average to damn right garbage, the running time is also around an hour too long and had this been cut down to four stories then it may have had a better flow to it. Richard Stanley’s Mother Of Toads gets the movie off to a decent start with a very predictable but still creative story with a very Lovecraftian flavour to it. Next up is the morbid love story I Love You which is definitely the pick of the bunch. Tom Savini’s Wet Dreams is an amateurish effort from a horror maestro who should know better. The Accident is a very poignant story but seems very out of place here in this ultra gory collection. Vision Stains and Sweets round out the collection and I guess the worst was left to last as this double header is absolute dross! It is unlikely that Theatre Bizarre will ever see a theatrical release, still avoid at all costs! 

Tucker And Dale VS Evil (****): Tucker and Dale is the story of two hapless hillbillies who head out into the woods to fix up their new vacation home only to come up against a group of college kids who are under the impression that the duo are of the Wrong Turn redneck ilk and are going to kill them off one by one – alas hilarious major misunderstandings abound and a blood bath ensues! Tucker and Dale is a comedic twist on movies such as Texas Chainsaw and Wrong Turn, It truly is a laugh out loud flick from start to finish and at the same time offers up plenty of inventive death scenes and nail biting moments. Alan Tudyk (Firefly) and Tyler Labine (Reaper) are first class as the title characters, both of these actors excel in these types of comedic roles and the chemistry between the duo here is first rate. Tucker And Dale will not see a widespread theatrical release here in the UK but will hit DVD AND Blu Ray at the end of September and I cannot recommend it highly enough, yes it is silly but I’ll go on record and say this is the comedy event of 2011!

Troll Hunter (****): As would be expected Troll Hunter went down a treat with the Fright Fest faithful, you can read my full review on the movie by scrolling the AOTA archives.

The Wicker Tree (***): Based on Robin Hardy’s novel Cowboys For Christ, this is a sequel/reimagining to his classic 1973 movie The Wicker Man. The Wicker Tree is a highly engaging movie that will keep you entertained throughout, my only complaint with Hardy’s new entry into the series is that the horror aspect is almost non existent until the final twenty minutes with the first seventy played mainly for laughs. Still this is definitely one to check out when it gets a DVD release in the first half of 2012.

Fright Night 3D (***): A big budget Disney remake of a classic 1985 vampire movie with Colin Farell in the lead role as the sexy vampire next door? You gotta be fucking kidding me right???!!! That was my initial reaction to the news that Fright Night would be remade for 2011, one of my favourite 80’s horror movies this was bound to be shite! Right? Actually wrong as 2011’s Fright Night 3D is actually one of the best vampire movies to hit the big screen in quite some time, the 3D may be pointless but the classic story in still intact (well with a few tweaks) and the casting is very good with Farrell being excellent as Jerry and Anton Yelchin, Toni Collete and David Tennant all fantastic in their roles. As far as the cast goes, the major downfall for was Chris Mintz-Plasse in the role of Evil as Stephen Geoffreys was the highlight of the 1985 original when he portrayed the role. Look out for cameo from original Jerry – Chris Sarandon, this had the fright fest faithful up on their feet cheering at the premiere!

The Inkeepers (**): Ti West is a Fright Fest favourite so there was never any doubt that he would not return with his latest offering Inkeepers, A slacker-horror centered on the last two employees at a haunted hotel that's going out of business. Now I like Ti West and I did want to like The Inkeepers but for me it just felt like it had something missing, I cannot say too much without giving the movie away but come the final frame I felt slightly cheated over what I had seen in the past ninety minutes. Sara Paxton is fantastic in the lead role of slacker Claire and without her this may have fell totally on its arse but she is likeable enough of a character to keep you gripped at her ghost hunting exploits. I may be being a little harsh here as The Inkeepers was one of the biggest hits with fans at this year’s festival but for me it felt a little flat but hey there is always a chance I’ll give it a second chance!

Visit news on the upcoming Halloween allnighter and next February’s Fright Fest Glasgow.

By Anthony Bohan

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