Frightfest 2015: Day 1 Review

Frightfest 2015: Day 1 – THURSDAY 27 August

Britflicks’ Stuart Wright reports back from Day 1 at FrightFest with reviews of CHERRY TREETURBO KID and STUNG.

CHERRY TREE

Director: David Keating. Cast: Anna Walton, Naomi Battrick, Sam Hazeldine, Patrick Gibson, Minnie Phipps. Ireland 2015. 90 mins.

This Irish chiller feels like it came straight from the pages of a Dennis Wheatley novel like ‘Devil Rides Out’ or more specifically ‘To The Devil A Daughter’. Faith is a 15 year old virgin who is bullied at school. Worse still her father is dying from Leukemia. We are reliably informed through text during the opening credits that she lives in a part of town that once played host to a witches coven that imploded when the leader tried to dupe Satan. Enter Sissy – the raven haired Anna Walton –  as a replacement games teacher – replacing the previous one she seemingly had a hand in murdering. She immediately singles out Faith. Elevates her to the hockey team and seamlessly pops up in other aspects of her life. Life is on the up for Faith until her dad takes a turn for the much worse and gets rushed to hospital.

Sissy invites Faith to her grand home – the place of the Cherry Tree and demonstrates her magical powers to take a life and bring it back from the dead with blood, cherries and very creepy, very real centipedes. Faith is then offered a Faustian pact. Get pregnant and Sissy will cure her father. The ceremony to rid him of his illness reveals – like ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘Kill List’ – that the entire supporting cast you’ve watched to date are involved with the coven – including the bullies and friends of her dad.. From this point writer Brendan McCarthy’s story closes in on you. Where once Sissy’s evil plan was hidden, now it’s about Faith’s accelerated pregnancy and what sinister plans Sissy for the bay. A traditional, overbearing horror soundtrack pounds and throngs to signal the upping of the ante as Faith resists Sissy and becomes a worthy opponent. The director, David Keating, proves himself to be very adept at the set pieces. Special effects are largely traditional and the film benefits greatly from this authentic feel. Especially given the presence of live centipedes. However, the finale, having been signposted by the introductory text at the start of the film, is inevitable and unsurprising. Nevertheless it was a solid, charming start to Frightfest 2015.

TURBO KID

Directors: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell. Cast: Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Michael Ironside, Edwin Wright, Aaron Jeffery. Canada/New Zealand 2015. 95 mins.

Every now and then a film is built for Frightfest and Frightfest is built for it. Born out of a short film idea that was entered into the first ABC’s Of Death competition, but lost out to Lee Hardcastle’s T is For Toilet, TURBO KID is that film. If ‘Fury Road’ rebooted the Mad Max franchise in 2015 then TURBO KID blows the dust off the Road Warrior copy cats that populated video stores in the 80s with lurid artwork that bore little resemblance to the film inside. With Turbo Kid that cinematic promise is delivered – in spades.  It’s easy to get carried away with this film – so I will.

In TURBO KID’s dystopian, post-apocalyptic future, water is in short supply and Michael Ironside, as the eye patch wearing Zeus rules a forbidden place where the only form of transport you’ll see is the bicycle. Scavenging and surviving on his BMX and sporting red skateboard elbow pads and helmet is The Kid – played by Munro Chambers. His long curly locks and pretty boy face make him the double of Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell in his pomp.

But this  solitary existence doesn’t  last. Enter the unblinking, happy smile of Apple (Laurence Leboeuf). Reticent at first to accept her into his life he tries to lose her. Inevitably, they’re awkward partnership blossoms into a relationship that will surprisingly melt your heart – made all the more remarkable when you’ll feel this way despite knowing Apple is a robot. Leboeuf’s performance is akin to a candy coated, ADHD version of Fassbender’s David in ‘Prometheus’.

Lines of dialogue are as measured as they’re memorable. For example when Apple enters The Kid’s lair and sees his toys and comics for the first time she exclaims: “It’s like a museum of cool here.” Or where The Kid throws the gauntlet down to Zeus for the first time he says: “Prepare to taste the turbo charge of justice… in the face.” Limbs are regularly ripped off. Bodies explode. Bad guys are tough, yet hapless, but our heroes are forever fighting for their lives. Ironside plays it straight while simultaneously sending himself up by chewing up the scenery with his bombastic performance as the pantomime villain. The soundtrack plays a vital part in the enjoyment. It fuses power ballads with an electronic score that pulses like Cliff Martinez’s music for ‘Drive’ on happy pills.

TURBO KID is proudly nostalgic, dramatically sentimental and topped off with wonderfully anarchic ultra-violent comic gore that will send you out of the theatre with a shit eating grin on your face. Cynics need not apply.

STUNG

Director: Benni Diez. Cast: Matt O’Leary, Jessica Cook, Lance Henriksen, Clifton Collins Jr., Cecilia Pillado. Germany 2015. 85 mins.

Caterers – Paul (Matt O’Leary) and his boss Julie (Jessica Cook) are attending to a private garden party at a stately home. It’s way off the beaten track and they assume satisfying the eccentricities of their employers are their only worry. However, it soon blossoms into a schlocky creature feature and any interplay between characters becomes secondary to the giant wasps.

STUNG is shot in Germany, and as everyone is speaking English, it seems like they’re trying to play it as USA. However, from the moment the classic Citreon H Van bursts onto screen in the opening moments you’d be hard pressed to think the location was anywhere but continental Europe. It’s jarring, but ultimately not very important for this love letter to seventies B movie classics like 1978’s ‘The Swarm’. Consequently, it’s camp and gooey rather than terrifyingly real and foreboding. There’s a romcom thread played off between O’Leary and Cook. Try as he might, Clifton Collins Jr digs deep to bring something interesting to his weird character, but his use as plot device is his only worth to the Stung story. Whereas genre stalwart Lance Henriksen knows it’s all quite silly and dials in his performance by the looks of things. STUNG is scattergun and crazy when the wasps first attack and lay siege to the survivors. It’s a standard game of cat and mouse until there’s just Paul and Julie versus the giant wasps. For all the spectacle of SFX and gore it just plain boring and unoriginal for large chunks.

Stuart Wright

Originally published Britflicks

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About Stuart Wright

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