Frightfest 2013 Day 4 Reviews

Main screen – MISSIONARY
Missionary is a psychological thriller in the same vein as Fatal Attraction. However, the bunny boiler isn’t some sexy co-worker, he’s a Mormon preaching the word of God door to door. Katherine Kingsmen and her son Kesley are estranged from dad – Ian Kingsmen. Work pressures mean Ian hasn’t time to practice football with his son so Katherine does her best to play the dual roles of mum and dad. Cue the arrival of Kevin Brock and Alan Whitehall, on bicycles wearing the trademark short sleeved white shirts and ties. Kevin takes over the practice and by the end of session has bonded with both mum and son. Another chance meeting provides the catalyst for lust to take over. Soon he is lying to the church and she is behaving like a naughty schoolgirl so they can be together. She’s a gorgeous yummy mummy and he’s a fit young thing ten years her junior – what could possibly be wrong with that set up. Nothing much until she gets her marriage gets back on track – she tells Kevin it has to stop. But Kevin is in love and refuses to hear it – he just needs to prove that she needs him more than Ian – and when he starts claiming she must be his celestial wife into his warped reasoning you know it won’t end well. It’s a slow burner of a film, but that’s used to good effect as Katherine’s few regretful moments in the hay with Kevin gradually turn into a relentless, God fuelled sense of entitlement to her and her son – on earth and in heaven. So when you get to the fraught finale it’s almost like Kevin can’t lose. 4/5

Discovery Screen 1 – PAINLESS
American born Juan Carlos Medina returns to his Spanish roots for his feature film debut. Painless centres around a small Catalonian village in the 1930s whose leaders panic when they discover a group of children who inexplicably do not feel pain. On the brink of the Spanish Civil War they are locked in a local asylum to be rehabilitated. Flash-forward to the present and an overworked neurosurgeon (David) crashes his car when he falls asleep at the wheel. Scans uncover an illness that requires a bone marrow transplant. This in turn leads to a harrowing search for his biological parents who can be donors. However, that simple quest will eventually unearth the awful truth about the neglect of those poor children and guilt about cruelty used on Catalonian’s during General Franco’s fascist regime. The scenes in the past run forward to the sixties and collide head on with David’s revelations about his own life. Guillermo Del Toro used allegory to explore the horrors of the civil war in Pan’s Labyrinth. Medina’s Painless is much more of a straight-forward metaphor for the secrets, lies and the collective guilty consciences that Spain still carries through the people alive to this day whose work sustained fascism through violent means. And he does this without ever being sensational or preachy. Instead he lets David’s tender and emotional story unravel to reveal big themes that can be considered and debated over well after the film finishes alongside a very personal journey you can truly empathise with. 4.5/5

Main Screen – IN FEAR
In Fear is a confident, nihilistic British horror film that takes it’s lead from the likes of Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher. Instead of the scorched lands of the One Star State you get rural Ireland’s labyrinth of remote highways and forest by-ways. Twenty-something Tom celebrates his and Lucy’s two-week anniversary with a stop off at a posh hotel the night before they meet friends at a music festival. A slight fracas with locals in a remote village pub sets them on edge as they head off in search of their evening’s luxury – only as they get closer, the more they get lost. As night draws in it’s clear they’re no nearer finding the hotel than they were during the day. The increasing tension of the situation stretches their burgeoning relationship to breaking point. Round and round in circles they go. The more Tom follows the roadsigns the more he ends up back where he started until an accident and an empty fuel gauge up the ante. From here on in the imminent danger for the pair of lovers becomes more tangible as the terror lurking in the rain-sodden shadows comes out into the open to toy with them. Not everything is explained, the set ups from the village pub don’t really pay off in any fulfilling way, but the Groundhog Day fear of Tom and Lucy unable to get back to civilisation is done brilliantly and has you on edge for long periods. 3/5

Discovery Screen 2 – CONTRACTED
Eric England’s (Madison County, 2011) Contracted is a simple tale of a sexually confused 20-something (Samantha) who, in the absence of her lesbian lover, Nikki, has a drunk one night with a stranger called BJ. Itches, rashes and bleeding are early signs of a sexually transmitted disease, but by day two it’s clearly much worse than any STD her doctor could diagnose. She’s soon no longer presentable for work. And as relationships with her friends and mother (the second appearance of Caroline Williams on the Frightfest bill after her blood drenched performance as an investigative blogger in Hatchet III) fall apart, Sam’s irrational response becomes more selfish, violent and ultimately deadly. Will she survive the relentless viral attack on her body? Will the police find the elusive BJ? These questions will claw away at you until the climax of the movie. 3/5

Main screen – THE DARK TOURIST
A ‘grief tourist’ according to the opening credits is one who travels with the intent to visit scenes of a tragedy or disaster. Enter Michael Cudlitz (Running Scared) as Jim Tahna the average joe working the dreaded night shift on the security gate of a chemical plant. You’re immediately plunged into his mindset by the film noir-style voiceover. A trope they stick with throughout the movie. He tolerates his job and he’s about to go on vacation to a small Californian town, anonymous in all respects except that it’s rooted in the life of a 1960’s serial killer. There he meets Betsy (Melanie Griffith), a widowed waitress in a local diner. He lies to her with his own tale of a loved one lost too young and so a flawed, yet hopeful, connection between two lost souls begins. Only it stops abruptly and awkwardly as Jim Tahna’s mind gets muddled as he lets in the ghost of the serial killer he is obsessing over – played by Pruitt Taylor Vince (Wild at Heart, Constantine). It starts as creepy visions at venues of his horrific crimes and progresses to full on dark muse perched on Tahna’s shoulder. Soon the driving force behind this morbid hobby is revealed and a rapid descent into evil madness and a narcissism based on a life spent being the victim surfaces. UK director, Suri Krishnamma (known for lighter films and TV) shows brilliant understanding of the psychological thriller format. The pacing is careful and only serves to create real intrigue. The treatment of grim violence echoes Simon Rumley’s Red, White and Blue at times – high impact, but not exploitative. There’s a real sizzling twist which ups the stakes at just the right moment and clarifies his motives, but for the purposes of the review it shall remain a mystery. 4.5/5

Main screen – THE CONSPIRACY
The Conspiracy is the story of two cynical filmmakers – Aaron Poole (Aaron) and James Gilbert (Jim) who have chosen a paranoid, street shouting conspiracy nut job – Terrence G for their latest project. Such is the real feel of the opening 10 minutes or so it almost feels like a genuine documentary. Their investigation hits a dead end when their subject vanishes without a trace. Gaining access to his abandoned apartment they gather up what remains of his news paper clippings and printouts. They piece it together and bingo Aaron is infected by the same desire that made them point a camera at Terrence G in the first place – turning their documentary into a hunt for the truth rather than who are these truth seekers. Structure-wise the story is akin to Wicker Man or Kill List. Whereby the more they search and find out, the more they are walking into the arms of their own fate. Certainly once all roads lead to The Tarsus Club – a shadowy organisation of globalists, politicos and capitalists – their lives will never be the same. Poole and Gilbert are excellent as the innocent enthusiasts meddling in things they just can’t hope to comprehend. Because much of the movie is a documentary in the making – and therefore found footage – writer/director Christopher Macbride manages to make the viewing comfortable rather than the headache inducing jerkycam. His genius innovation is the camera in the tie pin. Apart from low lighting, which only added to the horror, it allowed him to use Aaron behind Jim and vice versa to help us follow the action at almost at eye level for most of really scary moments. When the two film makers realise what is going on, it’s already too late. 3.5/5

Main screen – THE LAST DAYS
What would you do when a mysterious, agoraphobia inciting killer virus envelops the world and has you trapped in your place of work? Welcome David and Alex Pastor’s follow up to 2009’s Carriers. Set in Barcelona, this dystopian future drama follows office drone, Marc, as he teams up with cold hearted Human Resources Manager, Enrique, who wanted to fire him, to travel through the city’s sewers to find Marc’s girlfriend and get to the hospital where Enrique’s father is being cared for. When they reach Marc’s apartment, she isn’t there, but evidence she leaves behind more than spurs him on to find her. The obstacles they encounter come from the chaos and disorder that breaks out following the pandemic, coupled with the confinement of never being able to go outside – although you can stand by an open door or window which is a little confusing when trying to understand the dangers of this dystopian near future. It’s a little like The Warriors, as in there are threats around every corner, but there’s no real fluidity to the mission – they just keep on going regardless. More should have been done to make the search seem more hopeless and fruitless a la The Road. All in all it’s an entertaining movie in patches, but stretches it’s own logic about the pandemic to push the story forward and the denouement is just too optimistic to be part of the same film. 2/5

Discovery Screen 1 – ANTISOCIAL
On Antisocial’s university campus everyone uses Redroom – a fictional equivalent of Facebook. It is where everyone’s lives are on show. Five college friends get together to celebrate New Year. Meanwhile there’s an unexplained outbreak of violence in the streets. News says lock your doors until further updates. Those in the NYE party go one stage further and secure the house from the inside – boarding up doors and windows. It’s not the last idea this film takes directly from Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead set up. As the evening draws on paranoia about what to do, what is the infection and who is infected see the group turn on each other. The idea of possession by social media is a strong one and when the infected begin to see strange things it’s properly spooky. However, poor acting and shonky dialogue take you right out of the film. There’s a high: “Are you okay?” count. And it felt like a cheat to explain the entire problem in one long video posted online for the surviving students to watch. And why is broadband still working if the world is falling apart? The double cheat was then to present the cure via the same method. Antisocial is a new spin on the zombie breakout and an interesting commentary on first world consumption of each others personal lives. It subverts the notion – what if social media possessed us more than the usual strong compulsion to always be online. Adding, what if there was a sinister plan to make us use it even more and that the computer virus they created took on a life of its own a la Demon Seed, but instead of a one on one fight everyone connected is susceptible. A clever if not flawed film. 2/5

Originally published at


About Stuart Wright

Screenwriter, Podcast Host, Journalist, LFC, Horror, Leyton
This entry was posted in Britflicks, Frightfest Coverage. Bookmark the permalink.

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