Film4 FrightFest 2013: Reviews Round-up Part 1

by Martyn Conterio on 24/08/2013

frightfest 2013 poster

Rewind This!

Josh Johnson’s excellent documentary on the cultural impact of VHS largely sidesteps cheesy/easy nostalgia in favour of a multi-stranded approach that took in various aspects of the technology and market. Interviewing collectors, archivists and video store owners (some still do exist) Rewind This! is entertaining, informative and very well put together.

On Tender Hooks

Kate Shenton’s body suspension documentary is not one for the faint-hearted. Many horror fans will recall the practice used in Italian horror films such as The Man From Deep River (1972) and Cannibal Ferox (1981), the former is an exploitation title based on the Richard Harris flick, A Man Called Horse.

The practice of hanging from metal hooks – placed through the skin – for kicks (or sometimes spiritual/cathartic reasons) is something many will just not understand. Those of a squeamish disposition will likely be unable to stand much of the imagery. One scene featured a man bungee-jumping with hooks in his back.

On Tender Hooks (a rather amusing pun) looks at the body modification and suspension community without judgement and director Shenton – in the spirit of Nick Broomfield – places herself in the film and participates in a session. In terms of intensity, On Tender Hooks knocks seven bells out of most horror films. Whether you think it’s disgusting or intriguing, the film is a fascinating look at a subculture many will find bizarre, even frightening. Read our interview with Kate Shenton here .

Hatchet III

Films such as Hatchet III are perfect fodder for the FrightFest crowd. Gore effects are served up like courses of a meal with fans savouring every moment. The Hatchet movies have had a mixed critical response but have become confirmed cult items.

If ‘Big Bad’ Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) went out on the town with Sloth from The Goonies and the Elephant Man – Crowley would be the one going home alone. To say he’s a repulsive man-mountain of ugliness doesn’t cover it. His main activity is murdering anybody that sets foot on his patch of land. He’s a traditional slasher figure but also a ghost … he must be stopped. But how?!

BJ McDonnell jumped into the director’s chair after Adam Green bailed, although the series creator provided the script and produced what is the closing chapter in the splatter saga. Zach Galligan (Billy from Gremlins), Caroline Williams (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) and Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 & 5 and Last Boy Scout) fill out the cast. The legendary Sid Haig gets a cameo as a racist redneck.

V/H/S/ 2

After the success of mumblegore anthology V/H/S comes the inevitable sequel. V/H/S/ 2 (previously known by the cooler title S-VHS) is a little less mumblegore than its predecessor, although, director Adam Wingard gets to direct a proper segment this time and not just left to devise and deliver the wrap-around story.

A man is fitted with a bionic eye that, like a radio picking up weird frequencies, sees – yep, you guessed it already: dead people. He’s afraid of this unexpected glitch and wants rid. What unfolds is a darkly comic tale involving killer ghosts, a hot stranger, casual sex and impending doom. It’s a very well put together short.

The standout segment of V/H/S/2, however, is Gareth Huw Evans’ and Timo Tjahjanto’s Indonesian (occ)cult short, Safe Haven, in which a documentary crew investigate a dodgy religious leader and uncover more than they ever bargained for. Elsewhere, Eduardo Sanchez and Greg Hale team up for a zombie drama told via a bicycle head-cam worn by one lucky schmuck who gets bitten and Jason Eisener presented a loud and funny alien abduction drama which beat Sanchez’s inventive use of camera by tying his recording device to a little dog for a majority of the time. It’s an overused word but ‘fun’ is the best way to describe V/H/S/2.

The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill

Opening with a quote from none other than H.P. Lovecraft – “The process of delving into the black abyss is to me the keenest form of fascination” – The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill is a spinoff from Kevin Gates’ and Michael Bartlett’s previous horror outing, The Zombie Diaries.

A team of parapsychologists, amateur enthusiasts and documentary film-makers head out to rural Bedfordshire to investigate the haunting of a ruined church and its immediate environs. Guess what happens?…

Paranormal Diaries is a creepy film that aimed to be the coolest episode of Most Haunted never aired and, thankfully, bar the last ten minutes, it doesn’t go too over the top in the depiction of paranormal activity. There are the usual EMF readings, EVP (electronic voice phenomena), orbs, glimpses of shadows and a general ambience of spookiness. Of course it’s not a documentary at all and a horror film masquerading in another form, so it must deliver something at the finale and that’s where the whole show threatened to shoot itself in the foot. Still, this is an effective little chiller.

You can also read our full length reviews of The Dead 2: India , Curse of Chucky . The Fall of the House of Usher and Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror by clicking on the highlighted titles.

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