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FrightFest 2017 Day Two – It Stains the Sands Red, Sequence Break, Radius, 68 Kill and Leatherface

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Day One involved Chucky, Death Note and a late night! Going to have to shape up and get used to it though – FrightFest is no place for the sleepy! I’ll sleep when I’m dead – or just all day Tuesday. I’m still psyched about how nuts everyone got with Cult of Chucky yesterday, but also crazy excited for my highlight of Day Two – Leatherface.

The second day involved a heck of a lot of coffee, Vegas zombies, dramatic sci-fi mind-bending, and grindhouse exploitation-core. First up: what happens in Vegas, stalks you across the desert in Vegas…

It Stains the Sands Red

It Stains the Sands Red is written and directed by Colin Minihan (Grave Encounters, Extraterrestrial), and stars Brittany Allen (Jigsaw) and Juan Riedinger (Narcos, Grave Encounters).

Vegas party girl Molly (Allen) is high-tailing away from the strip with her boyfriend after a zombie outbreak has decimated the City of Sin. Molly’s fella is connected though and they are speeding through the Nevada desert toward an airfield where a plane is waiting to fly them to safety.

Unfortunately, after a spot of car trouble, Molly’s boyfriend gets munched by a zombie. Grabbing three bottles of water, a litre of vodka, a gram of coke, a packet of cigarettes and a tampon, Molly sets off on the thirty-mile hike to the air strip – but is relentlessly pursued by the zombie (Riedinger).

Never stopping to rest, always advancing, not affected by the heat, and unshakeable, the zombie – who Molly nicknames “Smalls” – is a handsome ex-chap in a suit that she soon realises is tailing her because she is on her period. And he can smell the blood.

Taking bumps of cocaine and hobbling through the hostile environment in high heels, Molly and Smalls soon come to a sort of understanding, and their extraordinary friendship comes in handy for Molly’s survival more than once. But, after arriving at the plane, the game changes, and the now toughened-up Molly must utilise her new found survival mode to fight her way to her estranged daughter.

Brittany Allen is wonderful in It Stains the Sands Red, adding so much depth and pain and grit to a character who could have been a throwaway caricature. Her relationship with Smalls feels earned and grudging, and Riedinger does great work as an undead Terminator who comes to have not just a taste – but a soft spot – for his prey.

When the film switches gears for the final act it does not feel out of place and Molly’s new found chutzpah is believable and deserved. The makeup and gore effects are top notch, and when zombie overload threatens to rob the creatures of their menace, It Stains the Sand Red expertly gifts them back a Romero-ian combination of deadliness and tragedy in the zombie movie of the year.

It Stains the Sands Red does not currently have a UK release date.

Sequence Break

Written and directed by Graham Skipper (Beyond the Gates), and starring Chase Williamson (John Dies at the End) and Fabianne Therese (Southbound), Sequence Break sees an arcade machine repairman get literally and figuratively dragged into a sinister video game cabinet.

As he plays, the machine Cronenberg’s him – going all slimy and fleshy and accepting his fingers into its buttons as he squeezes and massaging and squeezing the joystick until he “reaches completion” over the circuit boards.

Jizzing into a computer game, which then starts growing organic matter before sucking a woman into an oily hell on the other side of the screen, was certainly a FrightFest first; but beyond the icky sticky technology shagging sequences, the film has nothing else.

These scenes may be gross and cool, but the rest of the film is a total slog full of dialogue scenes that mean nothing and go nowhere or are written in Ernest Cline everything-is-a-reference speak from a geek fantasy manic pixie dream girl character.

Sequence Break does not currently have a UK release date.

Radius

Radius is directed by Caroline Labreche and Steeve Leonard (Lost Cause), and stars Diego Klattenhoff (Pacific Rim) and Charlotte Sullivan (Chicago Fire) as a couple who wake from a car crash to discover that everyone in the vicinity is dying from an airborne virus that is for some reason not affecting them.

Soon though, they have the startling realisation that it is not a virus – it is them, and any living thing that gets within ten feet of them instantly collapses dead in a milky eyed mess on the floor. The pair must now try and figure out who they are, what their relationship is/was, how they got this awful superpower, and how to stop it.

Labreche and Leonard’s direction is calm and composed – giving the film a very different vibe to most FrightFest fare that lulls you into calm before puncturing it with cops, hillbillies or huge revelations. Klattenhoff and Sullivan have excellent chemistry and their burgeoning relationship will keep you invested, suspicious, curious and on the edge of your seat throughout.

A Best of Fest, Radius is a smart emotional laid back flashback sci-fi mystery drama with an awesome payoff that you will not see coming and that will break your heart.

Radius does not currently have a UK release date.

68 Kill

The writer of a Live for Films favourite: Cheap Thrills – Trent Haaga – scripts and directs 68 Kill, which stars Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds), AnnaLynne McCord (Excision), Alisha Boe (Paranormal Activity 4, 13 Reasons Why) and Sheila Vand (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night).

Chip (Gubler) is a whipped wimp who excessively dotes and acquiesces to his girlfriend Liz (McCord). Unfortunately, Liza is completely boundaries-less and barmy and convinces Chip to help her nick $68,000 from her sugar daddy’s mansion. Once inside, Liza shows her true(er) colours: immediately offing the inhabitants with a wild look in her eye.

Unable to take it anymore, the beleaguered Chip makes off in Liza’s Mustang with the money and a sex slave he rescues along the way (Boe). With Liza in hot pursuit, Chip drives across state encountering an almost endless array of psychotic oddball women, after his money and willing to do anything – no matter how vile or violent – to get their hands on it.

Boe stands out as the best of a bad bunch, who gets Chip to fully embrace his just and good side, while Vand terrifies as a batty goth running a drug-fuelled prostitution ring out of her trailer who is more than willing to stand up to the equally nutso Liza. McCord is great too and it is her performance and winning over of both Chip and us that will sync you up with 68 Kill’s horrific and filthily fun aesthetic.

Horrid and hilarious, 68 Kill is a vicious and nasty foul-mouthed trawl through an underbelly full of lunatics, that is crazy cool and kind of sweet.

68 Kill does not currently have a UK release date.

Leatherface

Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury – the writer-directors of Inside and Livid – take charge of the latest installment of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, with a prequel origin story that stars Lili Taylor (The Conjuring), Stephen Dorff (Blade) and Finn Jones (Iron Fist).

The inbred cannibalistic Sawyer family – led by matriarch Verna (Taylor) – have been quite literally getting away with murder for years, but when they make the mistake of offing Texas Ranger Hartman’s (Dorff) daughter he has all of Verna’s kids taken away, renamed and thrown into a home that is part brutal psychiatric ward and part juvenile hall.

Ten years later, Verna tracks down her brood and instigates a riot that sees all the teens escape into the Texan night. Now two girls, two boys and one nurse are hiking through the backwoods hoping to return to their families, with Hartman and his deputy (Jones) in hot pursuit.

The very beginning and end of Leatherface work and deliver what is wanted and required: more revved up Chainsaw Massacre hijinx, but the rest feels almost otherwise non-related. The escaped teens relationships ring false, and the journey they take is not even what turns the boy into the monster anyway.

It’s all ultimately a bit of a disappointment and a wasted opportunity, but the ever-excellent Lili Taylor, and a bonkers Stephen Dorff keep things just afloat with plenty of snarling and scenery chewing. The teenage road trip parts’ dirty and sweaty atmosphere is good, but its passengers actions are pointless – bar an impressively sly what-the-heck twist. After this, you finally get what you want – but it is too little too late.

Leatherface is released in the US on 20th October 2017. It currently does not have a UK release date.

Day Two was a long awesome day full of surprises, strangeness and stonkers – which is exactly what FrightFest is about. Tomorrow is going to be interesting: the Prince Charles Cinema is also screening FrightFest films on both their screens this weekend, so I am popping over to the alternate FrightFest to check out a snowy thriller, Kane ‘Jason Voorhees documentary and the American remake of Inside, before going back to the main screen to witness Adam Green’s secret Hatchet sequel.

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