FILM 4 FRIGHTFEST 10
Annual horror movie festival
Empire Leicester Square, London
Imagine you arrive at London’s most prestigious West End cinema to find it has been invaded by hordes of horror movie fans from both sides of the Atlantic, planning to occupy the place for the best part of five days.
You take your seat in the vast main auditorium for a midnight double from two of the genre’s funkiest post-modern directors: Werewolves Stole My Screenplay and Night Of The Film School Zombies. The witching hour arrives and the auditorium lights dim.
But before the screen flickers into life, you become aware of an eerie glow emanating from the seat beside you. Your heart pounds as slowly, nervously, you turn you head towards the source of the light. And in that instant, you find yourself confronted with your worst nightmare.
The man sitting next to you is browsing the web on his iPhone. And what’s more, he has a ponytail…
Film4’s FrightFest has just celebrated its tenth anniversary at the Empire Leicester Square, with a programme including more than two dozen UK and world premières covering every style of horror from psychological and paranormal to demonic and good old fashioned gore-by-the-gallon.
Since the horror genre is also a traditional source of treats for those with fetish and BDSM tastes, I accepted an invitation from Joseph Bishara, a friend from LA who specialises in music for horror movies, to join him at the Empire to check out some of the latest offerings.
I met Joseph at his hotel nearby, and before we even reached the cinema, we’d bumped into two of his pals from across the pond. These affable characters were Adam Green and Joe Lynch, two top directors in the genre who have become celebrity attractions at recent FrightFests.
This year their physical presence was complemented on screen by a series of brilliant trailer-length shorts they’d made spoofing scenes from An American Werewolf In London. The shorts celebrated FrightFest’s double world première coupling the fully restored, remastered version of American Werewolf itself with Beware The Moon, Paul Davis’s documentary about the John Landis classic.
Icing on the cake was the presence at the festival of Landis himself, watching the movies, pressing fan flesh, and generally having fun.
The social side of this event should not be underrated. Like fetish people, horror movie enthusiasts have a strong sense of community based on their shared obsession. And like fetish people — whose tastes may also seem a bit scary to outsiders — a nicer bunch of people you could not wish to meet.
But it’s not just the punters — many of whom have paid £140 for a five-day pass to all the screenings — who enjoy the connection here with like-minded souls. The festival’s attending celebrities — directors, actors, writers and producers — seem just as excited to be part of this unique gathering, and most are refreshingly approachable.
However, one area where FrightFest is definitely not comparable with the fetish scene is in the relatively small number of female devotees it draws.
Yes, I know horror is primarily a guy thing. But when I consider all the fetish girls whose love of horror movies is evident from their MySpace and Facebook profiles, I can’t help thinking FrightFest could have a much larger female audience if it worked more on attracting them. A reputation for hot girls both on and off-screen could only increase the appeal of this event.
Sadly I only had time at this, my very first FrightFest, to sample a few of the many movies on offer. So I’m glad to be able to report that the one involving most of the Americans I was hanging out with was very much up to scratch, both in horror terms and in fetish treat terms.
World-premièred at FrightFest, Night Of The Demons is a remake of the 1988 cult classic by husband and wife team Adam Gierasch (director) and Jace Anderson (writer).
Avoiding the tawdry teenocidal tendencies of much Halloween-themed horror, the new Demons offers good characterisation, witty dialogue and a clever dénouement, plus Torture Garden-standard costumes and special effects that are quite literally diabolical.
Night Of The Demons offers good characterisation, witty dialogue and a clever dénouement, plus Torture Garden-standard costumes
At the Q&A afterwards, director Gierasch revealed that he agreed to make the film only as long as he could include “demon anal” in it. Check it out yourselves to see if he had his way, so to speak.
Overt fetish and BDSM references including a bound ’n’ ballgagged buxom blonde crop up in The Hills Run Red. The influence of slasher classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre is readily acknowledged by director Dave Parker, whose movie also turned out to be the first of several at FrightFest with film-makers as central characters.
Here, film student Tyler is obsessed with solving the mystery behind a supposedly infamous slasher movie from which nothing more than one grainy trailer has ever surfaced, and whose enigmatic director has disappeared.
The director’s daughter Alexa, played by Australian singer turned Hollywood actress Sophie Monk, seems intent on helping Tyler find her father — when she’s not tied up elsewhere, that is. But is any horror movie blonde ever exactly what she seems? This one certainly isn’t.
Author Clive Barker is respected by many people who would not consider themselves horror enthusiasts per se. Barker’s fertile imagination and accomplished literary style long ago established him as a master of horror with mainstream appeal, and the man who gave us such characters as the Cenobites and Pinhead now returns to the big screen with Dread.
Directed by Anthony DiBlasi, Dread follows the fortunes of three college students who join forces to make a Kinsey-style documentary about fear. But one of them has a rather more extreme view than the others about how the topic should be investigated.
The story builds atmospherically to a climax involving the incarceration of one of the characters in a cell-like room, and though the subsequent ordeal she is forced to endure is not overtly pervy, its style will certainly have resonance for kinksters who enjoy predicament scenarios.
Award for the festival’s best looking onscreen dungeon probably belongs to Italian director Federico Zampaglione’s debut movie Shadow. A young soldier fresh from service in Iraq goes on a mountain biking adventure in Europe. But he is kidnapped and, with two other men, strapped to bondage tables in a dank cellar whose purpose soon becomes very clear.
Its owner, the cadaverous Mortis (played with authentic, Nosferatu-like creepiness by Nuot Arquint) uses the cellar’s equipment to inflict on his victims various extreme tortures which appear motiveless until the final minutes of the movie offer us an explanation.
With a décor mixing Gestapo interrogation cell chic with the gothic gloom of Bloody Pit Of Horrors, Shadow’s dungeon just cries out for a sequel with Mortis replaced by a cruel dominatrix and his three male prisoners transformed into cute damsels in distress.
Ironically I was unable to attend the UK première that by all accounts boasted the best fetish and BDSM content of the festival — Millenium: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Fortunately my friend, the horror movie journalist Claudia Andrei, did catch it, and she has been kind enough to review it for us here — see the panel above right.
Finally, a film which I would recommend to anyone — horror fan or not — looking for something completely original, beautifully executed, elegant, intelligent and thoroughly intriguing to the very last frame.
Triangle, directed by Britain’s Christopher Smith (of Creep and Severance fame), tells the story of Jess (Melissa George) who joins friends for a yachting trip off the Florida coast. Out of nowhere, a fierce storm appears and the boat capsizes, but the pals are rescued by a passing cruise liner that also appears as if from nowhere.
Stranger yet, the ship at first seems to be completely deserted, until a traumatic event makes it clear that there is at least one additional person on board. It would be spoiling the movie even to hint at who it is, but let’s just say that déjà-vu has a part to play in the unfurling of the story.
I’m not suggesting you should see Triangle for any kink content — even though it is ultimately about punishment, a theme familiar to us pervs. See it because it’s a genre-busting gem that deserves mainstream box-office success.
Triangle is a completely original, beautifully executed, elegant, intelligent and thoroughly intriguing movie