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5 Films To Watch At Frightfest 2017

5 Films To Watch At Frightfest 2017

Premium chiller film festival FrightFest runs this Thursday to Monday and here are five highlights to look forward to. If you’re a gorehound who can’t make it to London’s Leicester Square these chosen titles will be getting some sort of release in the coming months.


KILLING GROUND

Starring: Harriet Dyer, Tiarnie Coupland, Aaron Pedersen, Aaron Glenane
Director: Damien Power

A couple on a camping trip go through a terrifying ordeal at the hands of two psychopathic locals after stumbling across an abandoned tent and traumatised toddler… Australian micro-budget in the vein of ‘Wolf Creek’, with brutally-realistic, sadistic violence. These cat-and-mouse horror-thrillers are normally very linear, but ‘Killing Ground’ employs a jarring time-scrambling narrative that covers different victims’ stories along with the killers’, and the uncertainty, critics say, adds to its unsettled tension.


BETTER WATCH OUT

Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Ex Oxenbould, Virginia Madsen, Patrick Warburton
Director: Chris Peckover

On a quiet suburban street over Christmas, a babysitter (DeJonge, ‘The Visit’) must defend a twelve-year-old boy (Miller, ‘Pan’) from intruders, only to discover it’s far from a normal home invasion… Virginia Madsen (‘Candyman’) and Patrick Warburton (‘Family Guy’) have small roles in this American-set Australian production. Described as ‘Home Alone’ meets ‘Funny Games’, the sadistic horror-comedy has scored uniformly strong reviews so far. The script, by a former writer on Mad TV, subverts babysitter-in-peril cliches and is unpredictable as you try and settle on what kind of film it is, although some have grumbled the central twist involves a bit too much suspension of disbelief.


LEATHERFACE

Starring: Sam Strike, Lili Taylor, Stephen Dorff, Vanessa Grasse, James Bloor
Directors: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury

In the 1950s, four psychopathic teenagers escape from a mental hospital, kidnapping a nurse in their escape, and find themselves pursued by a vengeful Texas ranger (Dorff). Which of the four will become Leatherface is a mystery. Lily Taylor (‘The Conjuring’) plays the mom… The Texas Chainsaw franchise is in a mess, with a reboot (2003) followed by a prequel (2006), then another reboot (2013), now another prequel. Why? Well the rights keep being sold on. Tellingly, the character of Leatherface has now had five different names – Bubba, Junior, Thomas, Jedidiah and…this one. The main problem with a Leatherface origin story is that it was done two movies ago. At least this version takes a different approach, removing the ‘group of teens who will become victims’ subplot completely, for a Rob Zombie ‘Devil’s Rejects’ family-road trip/’Halloween’ prequel angle. Zombie’s killer-as-a-youth character study was awful, because the approach requires particularly skilled writing, and these sequelised horror-icon franchises don’t typically attract top screenwriting talent. Nonetheless, making ‘Leatherface’ an R-rated road movie, with a “who-is-it” at the center, means the structure ought to be more interesting than recent efforts. The French directors made the well-received ‘Inside’ in 2007, but have since followed it with two mediocre efforts.


DEATH NOTE

Starring: Nat Wolff, Margaret Qualley, Keith Stanfield, Willem Dafoe
Director: Adam Wingard

Supernatural horror-thriller based on the popular manga series. Light Turner (Wolff, ‘Paper Towns’), a bright student, stumbles across a mystical notebook that has the power to kill any person whose name he writes in it – overseen by its malevolent creator Ryuk (Dafoe), a demonic god of death. Light decides to launch a secret vigilante crusade to rid the streets of criminals, allying with his attractive classmate Mia (Qualley, ‘The Nice Guys’). Soon he finds himself pursued by a skilled detective (Stanfield, ‘Get Out’) known only by the alias L, who’s determined to end his reign of terror and who fears the intoxication Light has with his new godlike serial killing ability… The budget for this Netflix-produced movie is reportedly a high $40-50 million. Director Adam Wingard made the excellent ‘The Guest’ and ‘You’re Next’, and certainly doesn’t shy from a challenge having also made 2016 sequel ‘Blair Witch’. Hollywood has struggled to successfully adapt Japanese mangas given how culturally specific, lengthy and visually intense they are and, as with ‘Dragonball Evolution’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell’, there have been accusations of whitewashing, before the inevitable cries of story dilution. As you can see from the clip above, Dafoe’s verbal delivery is a masterclass, and Ryuk’s physical realisation looks amazing too. Fans aren’t so happy with the rest of the cast, but as a complete newcomer this looks worth a watch. Wingard will attend this FrightFest World Premiere.


TRAGEDY GIRLS

Starring: Alexandra Shipp, Brianna Hildebrand, Josh Hutcherson, Craig Robinson
Director: Tyler MacIntyre

High school seniors McKayla (Shipp, Storm in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’) and Sadie (Hildebrand, Teenage Warhead in ‘Deadpool’) are obsessed with their social media presence as authorities on crime. Their interest in murder is more than just academic though as they are the hands-on type. Trapping a serial killer to foster a mutually beneficial partnership, they see their profile rise, along with the brutal slayings in their small town. Can their sociopathic friendship stand the strain of national stardom? Will their captive maniac play along? And who will be the prom queen?… Josh Hutcherson (‘Hunger Games’) and Craig Robinson (‘This Is the End’) co-star. Nominated for the Audience Award at SXSW 2017, and sporting a 93% (from 14 reviews) on Rotten Tomatoes, this is aiming to be the freshest, funniest and most frightening slasher send-up since ‘Scream’. It’s also the closing film of the festival.


Other potential standouts include: woman vs single zombie ordeal IT STAINS THE SANDS RED, strangers trapped together mystery THE BAR, ghostly body-hunt EXHUME, Belko Experiment redos GAME OF DEATH and MAYHEM, Brit soldiers vs the supernatural BOOTS ON THE GROUND, Jason Flemyng’s Dog Soldiers-style directorial debut EAT LOCALS and Cannes-lauded actioner THE VILLAINESS.

Star Q&As provide some of the most memorable moments (the best was luvvie Robert Englund a few years back). This year the world premiere of CULT OF CHUCKY is attended by director Don Mancini, stars Jennifer Tilly, Fiona Dourif and the doll himself. While director Adam Green returns to FrightFest with an unseen version of HATCHET.

The full list of films is available here.

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3 Comments »

  • The Host said
    The Host

    I got the chance to see MAYHEM and TRAGEDY GIRLS. Both really solid genre flicks.

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  • gd smith said

    There’s some interesting stuff here and then there’s Leatherface. TCM is a great one off horror movie and TCM2 is a good splatter comedy, but after that and despite some surprising strong actors in 3 and 4 they’ve just bad. The basic problem with franchises and reboots is that they sort of end up making the monsters cuddly. Every time there’s this big song and dance about how this time they’re bringing the horror back or that it’s going to be a startling reinvention. And the results are virtually always Bland Witch or Texas Chainstore or Monday the Umpteenth. And OK in some cases they’re entertaining, but the best Horror movies in recent years have all been original projects. Even when they’re not that original they’re often still better than the things they’re designed to cash in on. Life is much better than Diddly Squat’s Alien Ovenmitt.

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    • Sheridan Passell said
      Sheridan Passell

      I should really have put The Villainess instead of Leatherface but it’s just not horror so bumped it down.

      I enjoyed ‘Life’. I respect that Hollywood really commited to the B-chiller concept in all departments, from A-grade stars to fx.

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