Frightfest 2013 Day 1 Reviews

Film4Frightfest opened to a packed house. Comedian, star of the Police Academy series and now film director “Bobcat” Goldthwait helped get things off on the right foot with a little bit of stand up before film making brothers Jonathan and Howard Ford go up to introduce the first movie of the festival – The Dead 2: India. As this was the first time anyone had had a chance to see it, Alan Jones pointed out even Mark Kermode was in attendance to see this World Premiere.

Main screen – THE DEAD 2: INDIA
This is the Ford brothers’ sequel to their Frightfest hit of 2010. They’ve moved on from the wilds of Africa to India for their second instalment. On the outskirts of Mumbai a radio playing in the background tells of unexplained cannibalism on the African continent in the opening scenes. This ties it to the first movie and suggests the timeline is a parallel or maybe even before the first zombie adventure. The story this time revolves around an American electrical engineer, Nicholas (played to perfection by Joseph Millson) who finds himself stranded miles from anywhere when outbreak of the undead strikes. Even worse his Indian girlfriend just found out she’s carrying his child. And so his journey begins across vast wastelands and little villages to be reunited with the love of his life and the mother of his child. Meanwhile in Mumbai his girlfriend Ishani is holed up with her prudish father and bitten mother. Her father doesn’t want her to see the American again, but Nicholas won’t take no for answer – he’s heading for Mumbai. Along the way he teams up with a little kid – Javed. Their epic journey takes in most forms of motorised transport (including a paraglider). For clarifications sake the zombies are slow moving and unfortunately so is the pace of the story. In some sense it’s a little staccato. When things go badly wrong for Nicholas – like getting barged off a mountain road by a truck -The Dead 2, excuse the pun, really comes alive. Whereas in the various expositions, bombs that go off during long pieces of dialogue makes the momentum almost grind to a halt. Great SFX throughout and the production values and cinematography are very strong elements too. Shame then that the drama wasn’t compelling enough throughout. 2/5

Main screen – CURSE OF CHUCKY
Back by popular demand – according to the creator of the killer doll Don Mancini – comes the 6th in the Child’s Play series. And you know what? It’s an absolute hoot. Chucky arrives giftwrapped via FEDEX addressed to Sarah, the post-nervous breakdown, pill-popping mother of wheelchair bound hero, Nica. Not surprisingly she doesn’t think it’s funny and throws Chucky in the trash – only for him to return and kill her. In the wake of Sarah’s gruesome and mysterious suicide – Nica’s estranged sister (Barb), family and local priest arrive to lend their support. Her ten year old kid, Alice, gets to keep Chucky and then it’s on with the bodycount. The first noticeable, bad influence of the doll on the child is when she tells Barb there is no God because life’s a bitch and then you die. It’s a lovely teaser for some cracking Chucky quips that pepper this movie and the Frightfest crowd lapped them up in the spirit they were intended. For example, Alice tells Chucky she is scared during a thunderstorm. He replies: “So you fucking should be.” The deaths are great and often inventive in the pay off. The delayed decapitation of the priest certainly gained the approval of the Frightfesters judging by the whoops and cheers as his head rolled onto the backseat. The story takes itself serious enough to be a dark, scary comedy rather than full on belly laughs. There is also a clear attempt to tie the logic of the action into the very first Child’s Play. Certainly, we learn a little more about the spirit of the dead criminal Charles Lee Ray whose soul lives on through Chucky. Old friend of franchise, Jennifer Tilly, makes a surprise entrance at one point and really ties the story of the surprise FEDEX’d doll together. Fiona Dourif (Nica) warned us to stay in our seats until the final credits had finished and after what seemed like a liberal flurry of surprises during the finale they still managed to save one more to reward fans of the very first Child’s Play movie. 3.5/5

Main screen – YOU’RE NEXT
It’s taken a while for this film to make it to the cinema – Ian Rattray said he saw it in Toronto in 2011, but are happy to report that Adam Wingard’s You’re Next was worth the wait. A little like our own Ben Wheatley, Wingard is growing as a filmmaker a long side trusted talent. So graduates from 2010’s A Horrible Way to Die to You’re Next include: Screenwriter Simon Barrett, Actors Amy Seimetz, AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg, The story centres on a uber rich, dyfunctional family hosting a rare reunion at their remote country pile. Mother (Barbara Crampton – Megan from 1985’s Re-Animator) and father (Rob Moran) are a little jumpy as the house creaks into life before their brood arrives. And so they should be judging by the coldblooded killing of their neighbour that we witness in the opening moments. The words “You’re Next” wiped in blood on the patio windows while Dwight Twilley’s forgotten powerpop classic ‘Looking for the magic’ plays endlessly on repeat – a tune you constantly return to and grow to love throughout the movie. When the grown up kids turn up they’re soon simmering with sibling rivalry and parading their petty rebellions. Drake (Swanberg) vs Crispian (Bowen) is an endless fight for mum and dad’s approval and/or affection. Whereas their daughter, Aimee (Seimetz), has her Middle Eastern looking documentary filmmaking boyfriend Tariq (a cameo from director Ti West) and runt of the litter, Felix (Nicholas Tucci), arrives with his emo girl Zee (Wendy Glenn). Awkwardness bubbles over into pointless arguments around the dinner table as this horror film threatens to become just a melodrama. Fear not though because when the first crossbow arrow grabs their terrified attention it becomes a thrilling and often darkly funny home invasion story. Everyone of this pampered set are useless apart from Crispian’s spunky Australian girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vinson), who promotes herself to leader by being unusually resourceful and prepared – all is revealed later. Pretty soon she’s bringing it on like a full on action hero as the mysterious band of animal masked killers have someone to contend with. Barrett’s script takes ‘You’re Next’ way beyond the simple exploitation tropes of the home invasion sub-genre and second guesses your presumptions with some lovely twists and turns to the story. What a thrilling way to close opening night at Frightfest. 4.5/5

There are many more films to come over the next four days I hope to give you reports on the majority of them… wish me luck.

Originally published at


About Stuart Wright

Screenwriter, Podcast Host, Journalist, LFC, Horror, Leyton
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