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15 Best Films I Saw At FrightFest

10th – EMELIE
Starring: Sarah Bolger, Chris Beetem, Susan Pourfar
Director: Michael Thelin

After their regular babysitter can’t make it, the Thompson family agree to let her friend Anna supervise their three kids for the first time as they head out for an anniversary meal. Except Anna is dead and it’s the disturbed Emelie who’s taken her place. Once in charge of the under 12s, she starts encouraging bad behaviour, and subjecting them to inappropriate situations, from leaving out the family gun, to making them watch their parents’ sex tape. Soon her motivation and intent are revealed through a haunting backstory… This is a particularly sinister and uncomfortable thriller, packed with dark ideas that almost cross the line. Its non-Hollywood roots mean anything could happen and the sheer vulnerability of the kids is very effective. The acting is excellent all round, from Sarah Bolger’s (‘Spiderwick Chronicles’) broken, menacing portrayal to the naturalistic performances from the three kids. Ultimately the closing scenes go too ‘Home Alone’ and lack the fearlessness of the build-up. Keep an eye out for the best ‘hamster in distress’ shot of the year.

Starring: Neville Archambault, PJ McCabe, Brianne Moncrief, Sarah Baldwin
Director: Victor Zarcoff

Soon after an expectant newlywed couple move into their new rental they run into serious marital problems. But far more concerning is their revolting, monosyllabic landlord who has been spying and perving on them using tiny cameras hidden around the property. And just what is he doing in the locked basement?… The premise is great, a really creepy idea preying on a modern fear (that’s even more unsettling for a female audience), and based on the poster and trailer glimpses, you’d think have a very eerie guy cast as the “Slumlord”. However seeing him shuffle around and grunting on film isn’t as effective as it could have been, in the final analysis he’s not frightening enough. Instead the movie is overtaken by the subplot of the husband (physically reminiscent of Mark Zuckerberg) cheating on his pregnant wife. That subplot is well acted, nuanced and shot, but it’s not what we came to see and its resolution is abrupt. Combine this with the violence being tame or off-screen and you feel they should have had the balls to go the full horror route. They could have nudged the Slumlord character into being one of the horror greats.

8th – SHUT IN
Starring: Beth Riesgraf, Jack Kesy, Rory Culkin, Martin Starr
Director: Adam Schindler
Top 10 Best Films Of Frightfest 2015

Anna and her brother had a special bond, but her agoraphobia is so crippling that she can’t even leave the house on the day of his funeral. When a trio of opportunistic criminals break in expecting her to be away, she is still unable to force herself out. So begins a game of cat and mouse… This is a story that’s hard to discuss without spoiling. Suffice to say what at first seems like a traditional home invader thriller takes a left turn and goes into much more psychologically muddy and interesting waters. Sympathies flip back and forth as more is revealed. The twists and solid performances make this an intriguing watch.

Starring: Miranda Raison, Lorna Nickson Brown, Sam Keeley, Daniella Kertesz
Directors: Gez Medinger, Robin Schmidt

Five young people wake up dead. Washed up by the tide they scramble to an abandoned beach house, soon realising that the perpetual night and blasts of pain suggest this is some version of limbo. Between in-fighting and attacks by a demonic shadow creature, they recall the collapse of the nightclub that brought them here – and begin seeing hope of a second chance in the cabin’s two mysterious paintings… This has an intriguing, eerie concept and location. The screenplay is full of good ideas including their mirror appearance, the mosiac house layout, and the interesting balance of having four female characters to one male. It all collapses right at the end by making the concept of how to escape too grand, too ambitious, to the point where they can’t even show it, meaning it finishes with a shrug. But the first 80 minutes are great.

Starring: Dustin Milligan, Frank Grillo, Maria Bello, Cody Horn
Director: Will Canon

A detective (Grillo) is called to a decrepit, abandoned Louisiana home to investigate the gruesome massacre of a group of amateur ghost-hunters. The only survivor found, and only suspect, is too shaken to talk until the unit’s psychologist (Bello) shows up. With the right questions it all starts coming back… Produced by James Wan, based on his story, this is from the director of decent frat thriller ‘Brotherhood’. It combines found footage, interrogation video, news cameras and classic cinematography. It heavily rips off ‘The Usual Suspects’ plot structure, but actually it’s that approach which makes it ten times more effective than if the same story had been told in a linear way. Grillo and Bello are seasoned pros and they do well, especially handling a handful of silly lines that would have clunked with lesser talent. The last five minutes are meh, it called for a bigger finish.

Starring: Yael Grobglas, Yon Tumarkin, Danielle Jadelyn
Directors: Doron Paz, Yoav Paz

Shot entirely from smart glasses (aka the camera on Google Glass), this follow two American women who take a backpacking holiday to Jerusalem. But after visiting the religious sites, enjoying the street life and befriending local men, a biblical prophecy comes to pass and a gateway to hell opens up under the city, forcing them to try and find a way out of the quarantined city walls before the demonic winged zombies seal their fate… The monsters aren’t anything special and once they’ve appeared the film doesn’t know how to get rid of them. But the first-person perspective and the directors’ intimate knowledge of Jerusalem gives the movie a great sense of place – the location is the star (they were only allowed to film on location because they told authorities they were making a documentary). The camera-in-glasses shooting style can often seem like an odd Google product ad, but the functions of Google Glass actually serve the story very well, such as bringing up Facebook profiles and personal photos for new characters she encounters, a great shorthand. The performances are all committed (especially local fruitcake “King David”, who’s terrific) and the group of survivors on the run have an interesting and authentic-feeling mix.

Starring: Xavier Samuel, Carrie-Anne Moss, Danny Huston, Tony Todd
Director: Bernard Rose

A modern updating of Mary Shelley’s novel set in L.A., told from the monster’s point of view. Dr.Frankenstein (Huston) and his female partner (Moss) create life for the first time in Adam (Samuel), a perfect human, entirely bio-engineered and 3D printed. But as this prototype starts to encounter serious physical deterioration, an attempt to euthanise him fails and he breaks free of the facility to roam the streets, a child-like mind in a body of great strength. Along the way he is taken under the wing of a blind homeless man (Todd). He accidentally hurts those he loves, kills those that anger him, and soon will return to the facility for payback… From the veteran director of ‘Candyman’ and ‘Paperhouse’, this is actually a faithful adaptation, updating nearly all the beats from the novel. Seeing how those are put into a modern context is entertaining and cleverly done. L.A. makes a great setting, whether it’s the changing attitude as he transitions from beautiful to ugly or the overly aggressive cops who can make any situation deadly. Since organs are already being 3D printed in real life, the premise is particularly timely. Xavier Samuel (‘The Loved Ones’, ‘Twilight’) is a revelation as the monster, near mute but accompanied by his own eloquent voiceover. It doesn’t visualise him being super-strong very well, and can feel a little low budget in the facility, but overall this is a sophisticated, adult horror with something to say.

3rd Place >

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  • dnwilliams said

    Really want to see TURBO KID.

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  • gd smith said

    I like We Are Still Here. Good Soundtrack, some nice effects and my childhood crush Barbra Compton looking good in a Helen Mirren sort of way. Also Lucio Fulci didn’t have loads of bad points. He made awesome movies, Manhattan Baby, New York Ripper, The Beyond, House by the Cemetery all had bags of style, great cinematography, gore o plenty and great set pieces. He was up there with Bava, James Whale, John Carpenter and William Friedkin as far as I’m concerned. Also James Wan owes a very obvious debt. RIP Wes Craven and Roddy Piper.

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  • Onion said

    First of all, thanks for checking all of this out for us, and even getting some off-screen blood on yourself in the process, which I’m sure wasn’t as amusing as the on-screen kind.
    Well some of the movies sound like another 90 minutes of sleep would have been more worth your while, some seem very intriguing. Your reviews – or previews – certainly make me curious to find out about all of them.
    Some Kind of Hate strongly reminds me of the mother of all teenage ghost horror, the Wishing Stairs / Voice / Memento Mori trilogy from – where else – Japan. It’s usually an all girls affair, so let’s see how this really quite awkward male character pulls it off.
    I only knew Sarah Bolger from the Tudors ages ago and had to look up even that, but I remembered her striking doll’s face straight away and I’m looking forward to seeing her as a bad girl.
    Demonic seems like a mashup of so many movies of that kind you’ve seen before, from Grave Encounters to Sinister, you name it. It’ll be a pleasant surprise if there really will be any truly new ring to it.
    And Jeruzalem gives you those totally archaic monsters, so ancient and solemn it’s already refreshing.
    There is some seriously mature cheese around in my opinion as well and I usually need someone to persuade me into watching before I can savour it – but with a knitting lady by my side I’ll give even Deathgasm a chance!

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    • Sheridan Passell said
      Sheridan Passell

      Thanks for the feedback Onion, hope you’re well wherever you are, let’s say Germany. Yes Sarah Bolger is great in that role, although she should not babysit again and she is upstaged by a hamster. Fair warning, I liked Demonic more than pretty much anyone else, but I’m ok with that. It’s not fantastic or essential but more competent than it’s given credit for. I can’t imagine you wouldn’t enjoy Deathgasm, but it definitely puts laughs ahead of any frights, it’s Evil Dead 2 for metalheads. The things I enjoyed most about Jeruzalem were the sense of place and the way it utilised Google Glass, it’s no classic but has enough original elements going on to recommend.

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