Film Four FrightFest - Sunday

Enter ye the Sunday of fear! 

I've been having a right old time at the Film4 FrightFest this weekend. Seen some movies I never would have looked at otherwise, and I've enjoyed damn near all of them. Check out the coverage of Friday and Saturday, plus my review of Chuck Steel: Raging Balls of Steel Justice and the author Chris Welsh's interview with Paranormal Diaries director Kevin Gates

Today I attended the 666 Short Cuts to Hell Competition, where new directors from all about the world were challenged to come up with a horror short within a rigid set of 6 based rules:

6 x 30 Seconds in Duration (so 3 minutes)
6 Scripted Lines
6 Cast/Crew Members
£666 Budget

The judges, including Human Centipede Director Tom Six, received 157 entries and managed to wittle them down to... six. 

Six Degress of (Limb) Seperation - Dir Mike Iriarte

An homage to horror legend Lucio Fulci, Joe the electrician has a psychadelic time of it being chased/chasing a ghostly ghoul girl. This was my least favourite because it seemed like an unintelligible mess, but perhaps I'm just not familiar enough with the source.

6 Seconds to Die - Dir Rick James (bitch)

A girl and her sister go wandering in the woods (which is always a safe bet) when the little one goes missing. The bigger one spots a creepy looking chap and gives chase to a knackered old barn. The guy's neck gushes open and then the girl explodes for no reason at all. Nonsense.

6 Shooter - Dir David Wayman

A group of hammy acting friends have a mad night on the absinthe which culminates in random gore when the absinthe worm, which is a thing, decides he's had enough. Some of the effects here are good, but narrative is confused and the dialogue is 6th Form play bad.

6th Sense - Dir Alice Moet

Starring Paddy from Emmerdale, this is one of the better entries. A young girl with telekinetic powers is studied by scientists throughout her life and subjected to all manner of cruel experiments. Finally, when she's had enough, she starts exploding people. The VFX are surprisingly good, especially on the scene pictured above. Acting varies, but you can't have it all.

Six Feet Under - Dir Joe & Lloyd Stas

A young girl in the 80's readies herself for a big date, while a young lad does the same. Except he's her ex. And also he's dead. The juxtaposition of her putting on her make-up and him spitting out his own teeth is well played, and the anti-climactic ending works very well. This still managed to feel over long at 3 minutes, like they were stretching the premise to a bit, but overall it was good.

AND THE WINNER, who received a cheque from the Horror Channel's Emily Booth in the amount of £6,666, is...

6 Feet Under - Dir Weronika Tofilska

A lonely young morgue beautician finds herself romanced and woo'd by the corpse on her table. A tender love scene ensues as the recently deceased seduces the object of his affections. Except not, because she's imagining the whole thing and has been humping a dead man. Very sweet, very funny, very self-aware and very well made. Definitely the best of the bunch, absolutely deserved to win. Well done. 

You can buy the Shortcuts to Hell anthology, which includes the above films plus 20 more runners up, for £5.99 on iTunes and BlinkBox

Moving on! I also managed to catch the UK premier of a movie called The Conspiracy, by American director Christopher MacBride.

Aaron and Jim are making a documentary about conspiracy theories, focusing on mega-phone wielding public irritant Terrance. They follow him around as he stands behind a board full of newspaper clippings yelling at pedestrians in New York. The movie takes a sinister turn when Terrance suddenly disappears and his apartment is ransacked. Jim and Aaron scoop up all the clippings they can find and head out, but Aaron starts to get a bit... keen.

He reorganises everything on his own wall in as exact a way as he can remember from the footage with Terrance. Jim considers the movie done, but Aaron won't let it go. He digs deeper and deeper into what Terrance was investigating and eventually comes across the mysterious Tarsus Club, a group which puts together a yearly gathering for the most influential people in the world. It's shady, secretive, and all that other good stuff. 

The film makers soon find that they are being followed by a black SUV (the world's most conspicuous inconspicuous vehicle) and Aaron's apartment is also ransacked. It's all chugging along quite nicely, but you get the feeling that whatever this is leading to might turn out to be exactly what you thought it was from the start. 

The SUV is the first straw. If MacBride wanted us to wonder whether it was all true or whether Aaron was just becoming delusional, he should've chosen a less obviously government looking vehicle. A Mini Clubman, for example. Then we could've have decided amongst ourselves who we thought was right. Is it Jim, who doesn't believe in any of this conspiracy nonsense really, or is it the mildly unhinged Aaron? The black SUV rolls over that choice and pretty much confirms for you that Aaron is right. 

The characters themselves are barely made of anything. There's not enough time to get to know either Jim or Aaron before things start to turn, so when Aaron becomes a paranoid obsessive it's difficult to be shocked or surprised by it. He might always have been like that. We don't know. We only just met the guy. 

Jim is the sensible one, as demonstrated by his wife and child; the living embodiment of a man with his shit together. Take those away though and he's just a man with a haircut. He has no substance other than being Aaron's mate. These two are like a couple of chaps you meet at a party or something, who tell you their names but moments later you've forgotten which is which. 

The documentary style of the movie helps a little with fleshing them out, but after Terrance disappears the focus is turned so heavily on Aaron that I hope the guy who played Jim enjoyed his two weeks off. The third act does a good job of ramping up the anxiety and tension as the boys infiltrate a Tarsus Club meeting, and seeing everything from their POV as they are separated is a nice touch. Aaron spots Jim walking off behind the house, and then we cut to Jim's camera to see where he's going. It feels interactive. 

The end doesn't really pay off, and the sense of confusion that MacBride is hoping you'll feel about what "really happened" just isn't there. It's obvious what really happened. There's no mystery left. 

The Conspiracy is a fine movie, but there was plenty it could have done to be great. 

2.5 out of 5

Words by Gazz Wood

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