Thirteen, so they say, is unlucky for some. Not so for London’s FrightFest, which celebrates its thirteenth year with a record number of movies and the usual combo of gore, terror, and unparalleled passion for the horror genre. As such, the unlucky ones are surely those unable to attend this year’s event. How fortunate then, that THN is on hand to deliver a blow-by-blow account of the five day festival.
Stand-up favourite Ross Noble kicked off the first night with an enjoyable (if appropriately dark) introduction to the festival, and there were plenty of cast and crew on hand for the usual Q & As. But, as ever, FrightFest – perhaps the UK’s best loved film event – is all about the horror itself. So here’s our rundown of the first evening’s movies…
THE SEASONING HOUSE
Director: Paul Hyett
Cast: Rosie Day, Sean Pertwee, Kevin Howarth, Domonique Provost-Chalkley
Plot: When deaf mute Angel is sold to a brothel, she acts as housekeeper and maid. But when the mercenaries who killed her family arrive, Angel decides she has seen enough abuse and exacts some well-deserved revenge…
Horror highlights: As the directorial debut of effects maestro Hyett, the gore was always going to be decent, if surprisingly sparing. Sean Pertwee (who is slowly regenerating into the Third Doctor) is good value as always, and does a fine job on villain duties, despite the dodgy Eastern European accent. And with it’s bleached photography and inventive camera-work, THE SEASONING HOUSE looks bloody lovely.
Gory gash: A slow start to FrightFest 2012, and for the first act, actually quite dull. Though it picks up once Pertwee and his band of bastards arrive, there’s no escaping the standard beats of both torture porn and the rape revenge flick, from which THE SEASONING HOUSE ultimately derives.
Overall: Proof that the DIE HARD formula is a surefire winner and that any villain getting their comeuppance is thoroughly satisfying, THE SEASONING HOUSE is just about saved by an exciting middle act in which innocent Angel takes on some double-hard soldiers whilst trapped within the confines of her sex-trade prison. Though never as tense or claustrophobic as it needs to be (or perhaps thinks it is), THE SEASONING HOUSE is not entirely without merit, and Hyett shows potential in the director’s chair.
COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES
Director: Matthias Hoene
Cast: Alan Ford, Harry Treadaway, Rasmus Hardiker, Michelle Ryan
Plot: When East End boys Terry and Andy rob a bank to save their granddad’s retirement home, they find themselves in the middle of a zombie outbreak. It’s a race against time to head back and save dear old granddad and his elderly friends…
Horror highlights: Likable from the outset, COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES is carried by genuine laughs and charming performances. Whilst the young cast (Hardiker, Treadaway, Ryan, and the always amusing Jack Doolan) do a fine job, the film belongs to the old guard – Alan Ford, Richard Briers, Honor Blackman, and Tinkerbell off LOVEJOY – who nab all the best lines. There’s also some inventive use of living dead lore (Zombie with a metal plate in its head, anyone?) and a race between a classic Romero-style zombie and geriatric with a walking frame is a stroke of genius.
Gory Gash: The cockney geezering and rhyming slang wears a little thin after the first few laughs, and the film sags a little after the first act. Some of the more heartfelt moments have been done before and far better (SHAUN OF THE DEAD is still the benchmark).
Overall: Though essentially a one-joke movie, COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES is funny, gory, and thoroughly entertaining, making good on the promising showreel screened at last year’s event. No mean feat considering the ‘versus’ cycle was pretty much – pardon the pun – dead on its feet from the get-go. Shamelessly daft for the most part and with the smarts to keep things interesting, COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES is an early crowd pleaser for FrightFest 2012.
Director: Jon Wright
Cast: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey, Lalor Roddy
Plot: When a meteor lands off the coast of a small Irish isle, an alien water beastie starts picking off the residents one-by-one. But alcoholic Garda Ciarán finds that his favourite hobby may just be the key to their survival…
Horror highlights: Just when you thought the opening night of FrighFest couldn’t get any more fun, it does… in a big way. Huge laughs, enjoyable plotting, and a terrific cast all round (inclusing superb supporting perfomances from Lalor Roddy and former Commitment Bronagh Gallagher). Also, as the islanders discover alcohol may be the key to survival, GRABBERS offers up some of the best boozing the big screen has seen since Withnail went on holiday by mistake.
Gory gash: For genre aficionados it’s all very familiar territory, but surely that’s the point…?
Overall: Homaging NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, JAWS, and TREMORS (to name but a few), GRABBERS is a brilliant love letter to the monster movie, placing the story in a charming setting with bags of comedy potential. Funny, sweet, and with great creature action, GRABBERS comes highly recommended for genre fans.
Check out all of our FrightFest 2012 coverage here!