FILM4 FRIGHTFEST runs from 21st – 25th August at Vue West End, London. Visit the festival's official site for more information.
London's premiere horror festival launches its 2014 edition tomorrow in a new home: The VUE West End. It looks set to be the biggest ever, with 64 features scheduled over its four-and-a-half-day schedule and guests to include comics legend Alan Moore (who wrote the anthology Show Pieces which premieres at the festival), and Freddy Krueger actor Robert Englund who will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
The entire programme has been published online and in the nicely illustrated booklet which you can grab from the cinema, but for those who are rookies to the festival or perhaps have only a few bucks to spare for a handful of tickets, Smoke has a list below of some of the highlights we will be checking out to help guide you. Most of these have been garnering attention from festivals and screenings elsewhere, but for some other films, it will be a case of going in cold based on whispers on the grapevine, an intriguing-sounding concept, or maybe just the pedigree of the creative team and cast involved.
Adam Wingard's The Guest opens this year’s Film4 FrightFest and stars Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) and Maika Monroe (The Bling Ring, It Follows). It is billed as "a brilliant homage to 1980s action flicks", with a plot that features a grieving family menaced by the arrival into their home of a former comrade of their dead soldier son. He initially starts winning them over with his charm, but is he who he claims to be? Apart from positive reports from friends who have seen this film, the draw for me is director Wingard; who impressed me with his taut, funny and generally slick home invasion thriller You're Next not so long ago and has a track record in the genre with V/H/S and A Horrible Way to Die amongst others. He is teamed again here with fellow horror alumni writer Simon Barrett (You’re Next, A Horrible Way To Die).
Reports from festivals have built up a head of steam behind this film. Jennifer Kent's debut, which played at Sundance, is centred on a single mother plagued by the violent death of her husband, who has to battle with her son's fear of a monster lurking in the house. But the fable-like Babadook might not be a childhood fear at all, as both mother and son are dragged down by sleeplessness, aggressive behaviour and terror into the darkness where the real monsters might be lurking. The trailer is impressive, and showcases the eerie 'Mister Babadook' illustrated book that seems to be a key element of the plot. A smart, expertly-built psychological/ supernatural thrill ride seems to be in the offing.
COHERENCE & THE DUKE MITCHELL PARTY
Most positive reviews of this 'sci-fi dinner party thriller' (as Filmspotting SVU amusingly pegged it) from director James Ward Byrkit, have avoided key plot details, but a mind bending and frightening series of events are rumoured to take place when a group of friends suffer a power outage one night during a dinner party as a comet passes near Earth. Only one house on the street still has the lights on…but what unfolds when they knock on the door is apparently inconceivably bizarre and will provide fuel for water cooler conversations for some time to come. Nicholas Brendon from Buffy the Vampire Slayer stars.
Film club The Duke Mitchell are presenting this film at Frightfest this year, and following it up with a party in the Discovery Screen cinema that will take in directors and actors choosing their favourite moments in horror, rare trailers, shorts and freebies.
Comics wizard Alan Moore wrote the script for this interconnected trilogy of films, which marks his first work written specifically for the screen. Created with his close friend and internationally acclaimed photographer Mitch Jenkins (who directed the films), this is a chance to see Moore try his hand at feature films following years of expressed (often very eloquently expressed) anger at displeasing adaptations of his existing comics work (V for Vendetta, League of Extraordiany Gentlemen) by major studios.
In terms of plot: the tale ‘Act of Faith’ finds a young woman looking for the next step in sexual excitement and unfortunately finding it. ‘Jimmy’s End’ tails a serial philanderer down a dark alley into a very unusual club where the top-billed attraction is The Bare Brides and their Danse Macabre. Final tale ‘His Heavy Heart’ reveals the horrifying price paid for his adultery. Alan Moore himself will be in appearance at this world premiere event- a rare occurrence. Expert plenty of surrealism, references to great works literature and of magick, and a few chills.
Director John McNaughton is famed for his Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. That, and the fact that he is teamed with the always-commanding Michael Shannon (so intense in Take Shelter), is sure to make his new film about parental protectiveness gone mad - The Harvest - a draw at this year's Frighfest. An unhinged performance from the always-reliable Samantha Morton is promised too in what sounds like a character-led, amped-up version of Misery. There has been good buzz about this film from festivals it has played.
Gerard Johnston's New Zealand thriller sounds like a gore-drenched hoot. Frightfest often showcases great horror-comedies which can provide a nice diversion from the stabbings and hauntings in other screens (though the funnier films of course tend to contain their own fair share of the same).
In Housebound, Kylie Bucknell is forced to return to the house she grew up in when a court places her on home detention. But this means being stuck with mother Miriam - who's convinced that the house is haunted. Kylie scoffs at her fears, but as more and more bumps in the night start unnerving her, she is forced to face up to the possibility that the house is in fact possessed by a hostile spirit who's not particularly keen on her return. Splattery mayhem is on the menu according to the synopsis, as well as a local flavour to the humour. Again, great buzz from festival and preview reviews abroad.
It is also well worth your time checking out Anton Bitel's Guardian piece for an excellent guide to the more offbeat fare that this year Frightfest has on offer, should you wish to avoid those titles that might fit into the more predictable genre boxes (murders by numbers, depravity on demand, revenge reversal routines, you get the picture).