Monday, 1 March 2010

Glasgow Frightfest 2010 - Day Two - Five Films

Glasgow Frightfest 2010, Day Two, Sat 27th Feb - Glasgow Film Theatre

**No spoilers here, just a brief review of each film.**

I didn't bother with day one as it was only 3 films; one of which I've seen and 2 of which I couldn't care less about. By all accounts all 3 were crap and the most eventful part of the night was a drunken fight that broke out during the final film Stag Night, how appropriate.

Anyway on to day two; we kicked off about 2pm with a welcome from Alan Jones and a round of Trailer Trash. Hilariously bad movies of yesteryear included -

70's Hong Kong actioner and Lazenby/Bond cash-in Stoner

70's aussie exploitation thriller Outback

and 80's sci-fi insanity The Time Guardian

Then we're into the first film of the day..........

Lizard In A Woman's Skin (1971)

Early Giallo from euro-trash goremeister Lucio Fulci and one of his best films in my humble opinion. Here we are being treated to a preview of the most complete cut of the film (soon to be released on DVD) containing all elements brought together from the previous versions in an attempt to make up for the failure that was the Shriek Show DVD release.

Carol Hammond (Florinda Bolkan) suffers from vivid and disturbing dreams involving sex, murder and debauchery. One particularly vibrant dream involves a sapphic encounter with her hedonistic party girl neighbour, Julia Durer (Anita Strindberg), ending in Julia's death. The next day, when Julia is in fact found dead with Carol's coat and knife on the scene, Carol is immediatley the prime suspect. Her husband, Frank (Jean Sorel), and her father (Leo Genn), set out to prove her innocence, but with even Carol wondering if she did in fact kill Julia, answers are clearly not going to come easily. Adding further confusion to the mix are a couple of hippies who seem intent on doing away with Carol, her mysterious step-daughter Joan (Ely Galleani), and the canny whistling Inspector Corvin (Stanley Baker), who suspects that there is more to this mystery than meets the eye.

Fulci shows restraint in this psychedelic tale of murder, obsession and creepy hippies and it really does work for him here as this becomes almost the flipside to Argento's over-stylised, black-gloved Gialli - it's patchy 70's combos of dialogue, action and fast zooms only adding to it's charm. I hadn't seen this one in over a decade, certainly never in a wonderful festival atmosphere like this in which every line of unintentionally hilarious dialogue elicits roars of laughter from the audience..........

- "Round up every redhead, make sure not one gets through."
- "Lucky we're not in Ireland."

- "That neighbor of yours that makes all the noise, what's happened to her?"
- "She was murdered."
- "I'm not surpised."

- "Nobody else saw two hippies!"

After the lead actress (taking some time to relax in a voluntary mental institute) stumbles into a nightmarish room containing vivisected but still seemingly alive dogs, flayed, hanging from the walls, the doctor tells our shell-shocked heroine.....
- "I'm terribly sorry, that door should have been locked."

The superb dream sequences set to Ennio Morricone's trippy score (his only collaboration with Fulci) looked stunning on the big screen as do the leading ladies Bolkan and Strindberg, faces made for film. Frankly I would have been happy sitting through five gialli in a row but hey the next film on the list is a critically acclaimed homage to these classics of cult cinema, Alan Jones has just told us how much he enjoyed it, sounds great right?...........

Amer (2009)

Belgian made homage to the Giallo genre, introduced by co-directors Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani.

Plot synopsis from IMDB - Three key moments, all of them sensual, define Ana's life. Her carnal search sways between reality and colored fantasies becoming more and more oppressive. A black laced hand prevents her from screaming. The wind lifts her dress and caresses her thighs. A razor blade brushes her skin, where will this chaotic and carnivorous journey leave her?

If you think that synopsis is hazy you should try watching the damn thing. Rule #1 of film festival survival; get an aisle seat. I foolishly got up after the first film and promptly lost my prime spot to a big hairy biker bloke and his tatted-up missus. Boy did I regret it. Essentially trapped into my corner seat I was forced to endure this excruciatingly interminable exercise in student wankerism. I'm sure it was only 90 mins or the like but it felt like bloody years!

Don't get me wrong, it's no exaggeration to say that every single frame of this film is a lovingly crafted homage to the classic Gialli, a genre which I dearly love by the way. Every shot is beautiful, technically brilliant, the same goes for the soundtrack. But it essentially feels like a short film that just won't end or an overly pretentious Renualt Clio advert that refuses to get to the sales pitch. Amongst all the relentless homaging they seem to have forgotten the most obvious element of the thriller genre - a bloody story! Yes, yes; it's an existential, dreamlike fantasy/nightmare of twisted repressed desire but does it absolutely have to be so tedious? And that opinion is coming from a die-hard fan of Tarkovsky and Béla Tarr! The first 30 mins is a little girl's POV as she creeps around a big house, doors slam, close-ups of eyes at keyholes, mouths, feet stomping, in fact it started to feel a bit like Stomp were in the house! I would have left the theatre before the end of the first act to seek out some food as it is I was fated to sit through act two in which said little girl is now a teen and goes a walk with her mother, bumps into some bikers - that's another 30 mins right there. And into the final act - girl now a woman returns to the creepy house she grew up in and is terrorised all too briefly by a black-gloved serial killer [please I beg you, kill that pouting gap toothed bitch now]. Cue some close up face slashing and an attempt at flossing with a straight razor aaaand we're spent.

I've no doubt that film critics/students will love this one and dissect it for years to come. I decided to leave the theatre before the Q&A with the directors began for fear I might actually go down and dissect one of them physically. Apparently the title translates as Bitter, how very succinct. Nice poster, shame about the movie.

After some food and a round of slag the Belgian (directors, that is) we headed back with the firm belief that things couldn't get any worse............

Wrong again it seems, although to be fair, this particular little bit of awfulness only lasted about 20 mins. Jake West, he of Evil Aliens and Razor Blade Smile fame(?) comes on all cowboy boots and twitchy leg (looking suspiciously like an aging rocker) and proceeds to try and sell us on the tale that had it not been for studio interference his latest film Doghouse would have been some kind of grand statement about the battle of the sexes in the new millenium. As proof of this he introduces 12 mins of never-before-seen deleted scenes that essentially add up to 12 mins of cut Danny Dyer lads-mag style 'witty' one-liners and an alternate ending in which the lads get their arses out. Yeah that's told em!

Thank god it's time for what (we hope) will be the highlight of the event........

[Rec] 2 (2009)


70 mins after the events of [Rec] a SWAT team and a medical officer are sent into the zombie-virus ridden warren of a Spanish building to see what became of it's residents and the rescuers trapped inside.

Loved the first one so already sceptical about a sequel. Turns out I had nothing to worry about as what this one may have lost in originality it more than makes up for with sheer fun. The cameras recording the action this time are split between a group of teens' camcorder and those attached to the helmets of the SWAT team making for an Aliens type firstperson horror setup, the creatures can now crawl along the ceilings xenomorph-style as well, nice. Add in a scarred-up shotgunning priest on a mission from God [and the Vatican], a few annoying teens as satisfying zombie fodder (one of them a particularly poor shot!), some inventive gore and a few belly laugh moments for the audience and you can forgive most of the derivative elements from The Exorcist, etc, especially given it's short running time of 80 mins - this one certainly doesn't outstay it's welcome. Only slight groan moment from me was in the resurrection of the nightvision camera and it's reason for being 'useful'. Also didn't hurt that the lead SWAT guy looked like a Spanish Vic Mackey.

All in all definitely the most crowd-pleasing movie of the event. Some fans of the first movie may not appreciate the mutation that the story takes in this one but I liked it and was pleasantly surprised by it, can't wait to see where it leads in [Rec] 3.

After having our faith restored by this movie we were in a somewhat better mood to receive our next special guest; Neil Marshall (director of Doomsday, Dog Soldiers, Descent, etc) and actress Axelle Carolyn, promoting their new film Centurion, the first 5 mins of which we get to see. Click on image below to enlarge. Photo courtesy of Satan's Puppet/Space Duck.


Given that a full couple of mins of this seemed to be the credits sequence we weren't expecting much but as the film fades in on Michael Fassbender running half-naked, hands tied, through the snow the film flashes us back and we are treated to a nice little Roman massacre scene. The first line of the movie bravely [given this is a Glasgow screening] being a Roman soldier bemoaning that Scotland is the arsehole of the world soon leads to a scene of carnage the first victim of which is a urinating sentinel atop the ramparts that takes a spear to his balls ['hehe right in the peas' as the spectator on my left put it] followed by various decapitations.

Which takes us through to.....................

Splice (2009)


Directed by Vincenzo Natali (director of Cube, Cypher, Nothing, etc) and starring Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody.

Rebellious geneticists Elsa and Clive defy legal and ethical boundaries and forge ahead with a dangerous experiment: splicing together human and multiple types of animal DNA to create a new organism. Named "Dren", the creature rapidly develops from a deformed infant into a beautiful but possibly dangerous chimera, which forges a dangerous bond with both of it's creators.

Seemingly marketed as a type of genetic Frankenstein movie, this is a very odd film indeed or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it becomes such as it progresses. Throughout the first and second act it's almost a parable of new parenthood, there are laughs to be had as well as some Cronenbergian gross out moments as Polley and Brody get to grips with the new life they've brought into the world. Helped by some remarkable and at times subtle CG the creature itself is quite vivid. As it grows however and apparently hits puberty the creepy factor starts to increase. The creature now played by stunning french actress/model Delphine Chanéac is to some extent sexually alluring but this isn't Natasha Henstridge in Species folks, this chick has a tale, an amphibian shaped head and, for want of a better term, T-Rex lizard legs! Natali is reported as saying that "this film has no moral boundaries", wasn't sure what he meant until Brody's big scene with the creature during the film's final act. Lucky Natali didn't show up to introduce this one (as he was meant to) because it's unlikely he would have expected the audience's reaction to this intendedly 'dramatic and shocking' scene which was outright laughter! Another violent scene at the very end of the end of the film between the creature and Polley didn't elicit laughter but a kind of groan of disgust from the audience. The final act then veers off on a very strange tangent that left me feeling somewhat mystified, uncomfortable and elated that I'd just witnessed such an insane movie. Doubt I'd want to revisit this one but to some extent I did enjoy it.


As things wind down we're treated to some more free t-shirts, dvds, posters and man-bags while they get ready to show us the final film of the night, the wonderfully titled..........

Harpoon: Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre (2009)


Introduced by two of the films actors; Miranda Hennessy (click on the image below to enlarge, photo courtesy of Satan's Puppet/Space Duck) and Terence Anderson. Featuring Gunnar Hansen this is billed as Iceland's first exploitation flick.


Take a trip to the Icelandic fjords and meet slasher horror's new genre; the fishbillies! If there's one thing these broke whalers hate more than not being able to work due to the new restrictions on whaling it's the Greenpeace ("I call them Greenpiss!") loving tourists that want to come and watch the cute whales frolic in the surf. Gunnar Hansen is the captain of the ill-fated whale watching vessel and the tourists/victims include an assortment of backpackers from the US, Germany, Korea, France and Scandinavia. Gunnar doesn't last long, impaled in an accident caused by the drunk frenchie, leaving the rest of the hapless lot to bump into the fishbillies vessel and get the murderball rolling.

This one is just splatterfest fun from start to finish, a handful of nice one-liners.....

Miranda Hennessy - "I've come to realise, well, I mean, I think, I really like you, I, I have feelings for you."
Terence Anderson - "I'm gay."

....and a shitload of messy deaths. It feels like an homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in many respects; the retarded character, the tourist boat in place of the bus, the fishbillies boat in place of the house. Also thoroughly entertaining are the cardboard cutout victims - most of them supremely selfish (apart from Anderson) and in the case of the put-upon Korean servant girl possibly more amoral than the murderous nazi fishbillies themselves!

Nice way to end the festival I thought, I'll be back for more next year!

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