FrightFest 2016 Day 1 Reviews

Britflicks’ Stuart Wright reports back from Day 1 at Horror Channel FrightFest 2016 with reviews of MY FATHER DIE, CELL and LET HER OUT.

MY FATHER DIE 

Director: Sean Brosnan. Cast: Joe Anderson, John Schneider, Kevin Gage, Candace Smith, Gary Stretch. USA

My Father, Die is a hard hitting southern gothic tale of a revenge gone wrong. It’s the debut feature of Sean Brosnan (son of Pierce Brosnan) and is as beautifully photographed, and shot, as it is relentlessly brutal. Joe Anderson (The Grey, The Crazies) plays Asher, a deaf/mute who is forced to watch his father, Ivan (Gary Stretch) punch his older brother to death over a young girl – Nana. Years later and Ivan is paroled for good behaviour. When Asher receives this news he heads out to avenge his dead sibling. However, like Macon Blair’s character in Blue Ruin, he is too much rage and not enough purpose – so he botches the job. Roles are reversed and the hunter becomes the hunted. Before he knows Ivan is still alive Asher reconnects with Nana (Candace Smith). Consequently, she is dragged into Ivan’s murderous game.

Stretch is brilliant and shark-like in his pursuit of Asher. He just keeps moving and if you cross him you will die. He possesses no wit or charm. His raison d’etre is striking fear in his friends and foes alike.

Brosnan’s fantastically tight script also shows terrific imagination with the supporting cast. In particular, the nice as pie Preacher who is later seen beating off to a webcam girl when Ivan calls round is a wonderfully dark cameo played by Thomas Francis Murphy. Proving in this crumbling world the chaos isn’t confined to the obvious one or two bad apples, it’s everywhere and everyone is responsible for overseeing the decline.

The mellow country folk score melds wonderfully with snatches of hardcore punk and thrash metal that punctuate angrier moments.
My Father, Die is an accomplished debut, as well as being a truly satisfying and compelling genre film.

CELL

Director: Tod Williams. Cast: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Stacy Keach, Joshua Mikel. USA.

Cell is an apocalyptic thriller by Stephen King. When a mysterious signal jams the telecoms network it turns those making calls into raging undead a la 28 Days Later. For Clay Riddell (John Cusack) this leaves him stranded at an airport trying to get back to his wife and son. With no phones his only way to find out if they survived is to go to them. Along the way he picks Tom McCourt (Samuel L Jackson) and Alice (Isabelle Fuhrman, The Orphan). Together they make their way through this brave new world and learn the rules of the phone people from their observations and other survivors they find. The problems of the mysterious signal worsen as it networks the people it’s taken over. Like Frank Darabont’s King adaptation The Mist, the more we know and understand of this phenomena the more we comprehend there’s probably no way out of it. It truly is a nightmare vision of our phones taking us over – a metaphor, and criticism, perhaps for the dum, glum faces glued to screens all over the world. The opening in the airport is spectacular. Equally, the beguiling finale puts the shear size of the problem facing Clay into perspective. In between it can sometimes feel like mini episodes of The Walking Dead.

Cell’s strength is the big idea. Conversely, the weakness is how they unpack the evolving complexities that technology has generated. Only the question what is happening is ever answered. The why is thankfully left to our imaginations.

LET HER OUT

Director: Cody Calahan. Cast: Alanna LeVierge, Nina Kiri, Adam Christie, Kate Fenton, Michael Lipka. Canada 

Director Cody Calahan (Antisocial 1 & 2) opens Let Her Out with an unwanted pregnancy and failed, but crude suicide/infanticide attempt. Flash forward 23 years and the surviving baby is bike courier Helen (Alanna LeVierge). She is hit by a car and quickly finds out the impact has knocked more than her bones out of whack. As she heals, she begins to experience surreal blackouts, sleeping walking and obtuse hallucinations haunt her waking hours – clues from her sub-conscious of where she’s been. An MRI scan finds what looks like a tumour, but is the remnants of what the doctor calls a vanishing twin. Helen elects to have it removed, but before that can happen, the dormant entity within splinters Helen’s fragile mind to such a degree she is unable to subdue newfound macabre compulsions. LeVierge expertly flits between the Jekyll and Hyde demands of a role that needs her to be innocent bystander, looking for answers one minute, and menacing transgressor the next. Hold onto your stomachs though because this tense, fast-paced psychological thriller transforms, quite literally, into full on body horror during the spectacular, skin peeling, bone crunching finale.

Let Her Out uses the emotionally violent drama of a woman losing her mind to beautifully set up a gut wrenching finale.

Stuart Wright

Originally published Britflicks

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About Stuart Wright

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