My personal highlights of the Film4 FrightFest horror festival continued on Day Two starting with a Q&A session with this year’s Total Film Icon, the Italian horror director/writer Dario Argento. As a huge fan of some of his giallo films, I was really excited to hear what the legend had to say having never had the opportunity to see him in person before, and what resulted was an unintentionally funny interview that occasionally threw out a few hidden gems. Argento admitted that he has had nothing to do with the recent Suspiria remake, which is currently still in production, not even being approached for his own thoughts. His response to the whole thing was absolutely genius though, ‘I don’t think it’s so easy to do something better – I say OK try!’. Rounding off with a particularly interesting anecdote involving his Dracula 3D star Rutger Hauer going missing (all I will say is it involved finding him hours later in a bush with a girl…), Argento was definitely one of the highlights of the day. My only gripe would have been that the language barrier did make things a little difficult during the interview and perhaps having an Italian translator on stage with him might have given him the linguistic freedom to answer questions the way he really wanted to. That said, it was fantastic that FrightFest were able to get him over this year and give fans the opportunity to meet him, after last years Icon John Carpenter’s no-show.
First film of the day for us was horror anthology V/H/S which I’d been particularly looking forward to but felt let down with once it had finished. The film follows a group of guys who have been hired by a third-party to break into an old house and find a rare and collectible VHS tape. Except that once there, they find a hell of a lot of other tapes which contain a whole host of found footage… In some parts the film works really well and in others it just doesn’t live up to the promise it holds. The ‘slasher’ segment in particular, Tuesday the 17th (directed by Glenn McQuaid), doesn’t sit quite right alongside the other ‘tapes’ and would probably work best as a DVD extra, being the weakest of the five stories in a film that nearly outstayed its welcome with a running time of just under two hours. I like slasher films but this story had the opportunity to be fresh and inventive, instead proving to be boring and predictable (same goes for Ti West’s story Second Honeymoon). That said, the final two segments, The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger (by Joe Swanberg and Simon Barrett) and 10/31/98 (by collective Radio Silence), are absolute crackers and would make excellent short films in their own rights, both managing to provide the real scares of the film with minimal effort. In short, a feature worth checking out but one that could have been a great deal more with a little extra thought.
Second film of the night came in the form of REC 3: Genesis, the third installment in the popular Spanish REC franchise. As a huge fan of the first two films I was somewhat dubious as to where this film would take the series, with its non-apologetic inclusion of humour, but I need not have worried. Without a doubt one of the most fun screenings of the entire festival, alongside Brit flick Cockneys VS Zombies, REC 3 manged to walk that difficult line in film and deliver both real scares and laughs. A very self-aware film without being pretentious about it (take note fellow filmmakers), director Paco Plaza skillfully managed to put his own unique spin on the franchise’s core elements and still made it fit in perfectly with the series’ own universe. Whilst the fourth feature isn’t directed by Plaza himself, it sets up some interesting narrative ideas that make the next feature which make me rather excited.
Outside of the films shown during the day, two surprise gems of the festival came in the form of one short and a trailer. First up was stop motion animator Lee Hardcastle’s short The Raid… With Cats, a terrific claymation condensing the film down to a few minutes and replacing all cast with… cats. Absolutely delightful, if you’ve not seen it, I’ve included a link below, but all I can say is it was beautiful watching the artistry of stop motion on the big screen! Secondly, we were treated to the World Premier of the ABC’s of Death trailer, an upcoming horror anthology film featuring the multiple talents of a whole heap of worldwide filmmakers, which looks nothing short of wickedly brilliant!