Film Four FrightFest - Friday

While the majority of everyone else at Wireless was swanning around Leeds Festival in their own filth and whipping bottles at each other while Fun played weakly in the background, I was busy doing some actual bloody work. And by Bloody Work I mean watching horror films at the Film4 FrightFest.

Thursday to Monday, the very best in fresh hell and shit scary movies, shown to a terrifying cross-section of maniacs at the Empire Theatre in Leicester Square. Three full screens of jump scares and tension before jump scares, and as a coward I felt it was my duty to attend.

Now, what with there being so many movies to see this weekend and my only being one man (until I crack the experiment I’ve been working on without turning myself into a half-man/half-wasp type creature), we drafted in the author Chris Welsh to pick up some slack. I watched some, he watched some, and now we present our collective findings.

Er… BOO!


The Dyatlov Pass Incident - Review by Chris Welsh

There has been a trend recently for small horror films. It goes like this: Meet the characters, find out why they want to go somewhere odd, see them travel all the way there in a self-recorded montage, then watch them slowly get to where they want to go. Only then does the story really pick up any pace.

The Dyatlov Pass Incident is like this. We meet the college students on their campus, and we're told where they're going (Russia), why they're going (to investigate a mystery that occurred years ago), and then we see them on trains, in cars, talking in a bar...all while getting snippets of backstory and set up. In essence, it feels like these movies start much earlier than they need to. When they start, there's nothing really happening, no hook, nothing to care about. Eventually – and I mean around an hour in – things start to get interesting. An underground lab is discovered, hidden in the snow, and monsters turn up. The movie has some quite clever ideas for what these monsters are and, without wishing to ruin the 'twist', I was quite impressed with the way it played out.

A few frays of plot from earlier in the story, throwaway lines, are brought together and tucked neatly away. But by that point, I'd already sat through an hour of generally unlikeable characters making plot-serving decisions, so even though it perked up, I can't really recommend it. 

Writers, in general, try harder. Don't rely on the viewers to care about your characters, MAKE us care about your characters. Cut away anything that isn't absolutely necessary in the first half an hour. Be brief. Start the film in the moment, with a spectacle, not with an interview with a school teacher.

2 out of 5

Hatchet III - Review by Chris Welsh

The film starts out with a woman shooting Victor Crowley, the bad guy from the first Hatchet, in the face with a shotgun. She walks away, thinking 'job done'. When he inevitably gets up and grabs her, she punches him square in the face-crater, gets elbow deep, which is so much of an inconvenience that he puts her back down again and falls over. He would have jumped up again if he hadn't fallen arse-first on a chainsaw, which chopped him clean in half. That's the kind of film Hatchet III is. 

The series is something of a horror cult classic, mostly down to the fun, throwback vibe that harks to and homages every classic slasher trope available. Don't expect a masterpiece, but go in with an open mind and you'll have a lot of fun.

2 1/2 out of 5

V/H/S2 - Review by Gazz Wood

Much like VHS, this is an anthology of short horror films, shot in different POV styles, and tied together with a wrap-around segment in which someone watches a bunch of mad videos. Tape 49, the framing narrative, is about a pair of private detectives hired to round up some wayward college lad. There's good money in this one, and it's a bit safer than filming some dude fondling boobs through a motel room window. The kid's presumably holed up in a creepy looking house, obviously, and so the detective crack their way in and start looking for him. What they find is a bank of old CRT televisions, all on and fuzzing snow into the room. There's pile after pile of VHS tapes littered about the place, and while the man detective (Larry) skulks about the house, the girl detective (Ayesha) gets comfortable and starts watching tapes. The first of which is...

Phase I Clinical Trials - Dir. Adam Wingard

Herman's had a nasty accident and lost one of his eyes. Rather than just patch it up and look awesome forever, he gets an experimental bionic camera eye installed. The downside is the company footing the bill want to record everything he sees for a few days for their research, but that's cool if it gets you a free camera eye! Once he gets home though, shit gets spooky. There's a terrifying little girl in his beautifully appointed cliffside bungalow (isn't that always the way?) and what appears to be the reanimated corpse of Billy Joe Armstrong. Only being able to see the ghosts, rather than hear them too, makes this very unsettling and there are some legit scares to be had that don't feel cheap and telegraphed. Plus there's boobs for no reason, just like every good horror film.

A Ride In The Park - Dir. Eduardo Sanchez & Gregg Hale

The boys from Blair Witch return with a movie about a man going for a lovely Ride In The Park with his Go Pro headset and iPod for company. He gets about 40 seconds into the journey when a mad looking girl stumbles out the woods ranting about her boyfriend being hurt. Old Bikeman rushes off to help, but spots a few shambling figures in the distance. Then he gets bitten to shit by the now zombified girl and dies in the forest. Then he reanimates... It's not especially horrifying, but the idea of seeing what a zombie sees is pretty intriguing. Usually they're just there, wandering out of the fog to frighten Ving Rhames, but here we get to see the man turn to the zombie and even pick up some zombie mates. The ending is bittersweet and unexpected, and I dug it.

Safe Haven - Dir. Gareth Edwards & Timo Tjahjanto

From the director of The Raid comes the longest contribution to VHS 2, about a group of journalists in Indonesia (of course) who are granted unprecedented access to the compound of The Father and his mad sect. Things are a little odd to begin with, but then The Father announces full on Doomsday and shit gets super wacky super fast. Controversially this is my least favourite of the shorts. It doesn't seem to know what film it's being. First it's a disquieting mood piece, then all hell breaks loose and it's more of a murder cult thing, which would have been cool on its own. But then there's scary Japanese school children and then zombies and then a spider-ghoul and then a big goat demon and and and... it's like having a 7 year old excitedly recount the details of a film they made up.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction - Dir. Jason Eisener

I really enjoyed this one for some reason. A bunch of kids are left alone in the house and start dicking around with their video camera. Playing pranks on the teenage sister and her knobhead boyfriend, making crap movies and tying the camera to their tiny dog, Tank, and having it run round getting into trouble. It's all well and good until giant grasping alien monster rise from the sea and start abducting everyone wholesale. It might that it's mostly youngish children in this one, or that the aliens look really cool and used sparingly enough to be frightening each time you see them, but Slumber Party was just a great ride to be on. 

Overall I enjoyed VHS 2. It's disturbing, unsettling, tense and doesn't resort to cheap tactics to get you scared. 

4 out of 5.

After the movie was over, director Gareth Edwards took the (tiny) stage for a short Q&A in which he revealed that his segment, "Safe Haven", was the result and his and co-director Timo Tjahjanto's desire to one up each other at every turn, which explains the batshit final few minutes. He also debuted several minutes from The Raid 2, the sequel to his brilliant martial arts epic, in which we meet Hammer Girl, who is a girl with a couple of hammers and a seriously disrespect for Tube Etiquette. 

Edwards finished shooting The Raid 2 a couple of days back, and is about to head into a solid 5 months of pre-production before it's release early next year. The plot is still unknown, but Edwards revealed that it will begin just 2 hours after the conclusion of The Raid and, rather than taking place in one day, will span several years.

Words by Gazz Wood & Chris Welsh

Chris Welsh is a writer from the UK. You can find his stuff,  mostly horror shorts and novels, by searching his name on Amazon Kindle or Smashwords. Or read his free, online comic at www.wartcomic.com

Gazz Wood is a writer from The Northern Film School at Leeds Met University. As well as writing for Wireless he can also be heard on the monthly podcast Possibly of Interest with TV Producer Howard Cohen and special guests from the world of British TV and Cinema, plus his own weekly show Gazz Wood Has A Podcast. He can also be followed on Twitter @GazzPH90