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Arrow Video FrightFest Day 4: Slashers, imaginary friends, Ready or Not and Monica Bellucci

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The fourth day of Arrow Video FrightFest was upon us already and we were glad to be in bright and early from the very beginning to not miss a film or a thing. With such an abundance of films on offer, choosing what you’re going to see can sometimes be agonising – but what a problem to have: being spoilt with horrific riches.

Out of everything on offer we went with The Furies, Stalked, Daniel Isn’t Real, Ready or Not and Nekrotronic

Check out our Arrow Video FrightFest coverage

THE FURIES

Written and directed by first-timer Tony D’aquino (TV show Two Twisted), The Furies stars Airlie Dodds (Neighbours) as Kayla, a young epileptic who is kidnapped off the street one night and wakes up in a box in the middle of nowhere.

She soon discovers there are other women in the same predicament – “Beautys” – and that they must all try and survive against a team of “Beasts”, hulking masked killers with weapons intent on hunting them down and killing them.

Dodds is great as Kayla, making the transition from soggy doughnut to tough as nails feel earned and natural while still retaining an eminent likeability and fragility when it comes to her friends.

The whole thing takes place in the bright Aussie sun which makes for a nice change, and D’aquino wisely changes up the settings a few times to keep the look fresh and visually interesting.

Reframing the slasher as a sport is also a cool and original idea and feels fully satisfyingly realised with a nice big juicy secret complication… D’aquino really is doing something different with The Furies, trashing tropes and expectations from the first chase scene where the victim trips over and things unfold very differently to how we’re used to.

But The Furies keeps all the good stuff too. All the maniacs are well designed iconic looking killers with their own masks, weapons and outfits, and the film is full of big kills that are heightened to Hatchet levels. A face is slowly sliced off with an axe, an eye dug out with a spoon and heads are split in half and it is all done with physical effects and all awesome.

Broad daylight slashers vs. final girls battle royale The Furies has its cake and eats it too. It gleefully takes what it wants from the slasher and does its own thing, flipping the script and keeping us on our toes, but still delivering all the hulking killers and nasty offings you could hope for too.

The Furies is released on DVD and digital in the UK on the 16th of September.

 

STALKED

Written and directed by Justin Edgar (The Marker), Stalked stars Rebecca Rogers (the voice of Amelia Croft in Shadow of the Tomb Raider) as Sam, a former Royal Marine Commando who pops out to get her five-month-old baby’s medicine and is bundled into the back of a van. She wakes up in a warehouse and is menaced by a man in an experimental invisibility suit. Sam must now try and get out alive in time to get home to save her baby.

Rogers works extremely hard to sell the concept and is clearly a talented actor who can handle action. Her scenes where she is, in essence, pretending to fight herself are committed and convincing. Unfortunately Stalked gives her a stiff to the point of seemingly AI-generated script full of robotic dialogue, unnatural info dumps and vital plot and motivation information delivered way after you gave up trying to figure out the what and why.

The stalker is not threatening at all and his voice is disguised so much that you can only understand half of what he is saying. He frequently just leaves Sam during an attack or next to an easy but for some reason not used escape route, and his lair — which is supposed to be high-tech military-industrial weapons manufacturing plant — is a dirty garage that would do you a cheap MOT.

Stalked is an interesting idea that is overstretched and underwritten, but there was clearly energy and effort put into this production and Rogers will be a star.

Stalked does not currently have a UK release date.

 

DANIEL ISN’T REAL

Based on a novel by Brian DeLeeuw (Curvature) and adapted for the screen by himself and director Adam Egypt Mortimer (Some Kind of Hate), and stars Miles Robbins (Halloween 2018) and Patrick Schwarzenegger (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse).

Luke was a lonely young boy with constantly quarrelling parents and when he witnesses a coffee shop shooting deals with everything by conjuring up an imaginary friend Daniel. At first, everything is cool beans: Daniel helps Luke out and the pair have great imaginative adventures. But Daniel starts getting a bit weird, encouraging Luke to do naughty things that culminate in the pair nearly killing Luke’s mum with pills whisked into a smoothie. Daniel is conceptually banished into Luke’s grandma’s dollhouse and locked away.

Years later, Luke’s therapist encourages him to open up and after a few Fight Club flashes Daniel is back out. These early scenes are tremendous fun with Patrick Schwarzenegger deliciously devilish as Daniel, regal and charismatic and helping sweet and innocent Luke cheat on tests and chat up women. But soon he is up to his old tricks, his darkness begins to seep out again and Luke’s pretend playmate becomes a real threat.

The third act is a banger and opens up the cosmic horror gates and looks incredible with some truly horrid looking creatures and a mesmerising spinning Hellmouth rabbit hole.

Mortimer handles tonal shifts like a pro and there is not a moment where you will not be fully on board, glued to the screen wanting to know what Daniel is and how far he will go.

Daniel Isn’t Real is a demonic and hallucinatory imaginary friend nightmare with moments of pure Barker and body horror and fantastic leads that you will willingly follow into the abyss.

Daniel Isn’t Real will be released in the UK by Arrow Video.

 

READY OR NOT

Samara Weaving — the highlight of The Babysitter and Mayhem — appears alongside Andie blimmin’ MacDowell (I never in a million years thought we’d see her at FrightFest) in Ready or Not, which is directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who previously crafted segments for horror anthologies V/H/S and Southbound.

Grace (Weaving) has just married Alex (Mark O’Brien – Arrival) and thus into the insanely wealthy and powerful Le Domas board game dynasty. Their wedding night is interrupted by Grace having to pick a game at random to play with her new family as a kind of initiation.

Unfortunately, Grace selects Hide and Seek which in the Le Domas family is played a little more lethally than usual. Grace must survive until dawn to win while the whole of the family arm themselves and try to kill her.

Weaving is aces – the perfect blend of tough and sardonic with plenty of “Are you fucking kidding me?” – and there are some nasty kills and interesting hints at the nefarious dealings that have landed the family their fortune that pay off spectacularly.

Tense and unpredictable with a dark and brilliant manic sense of humour and full of bonkers side characters, Ready or Not is mostly very exciting but there are some stretches where the stalking, hunting and chasing in the film starts to feel like something you have seen many times before.

A barnstorming hardcore hide and seek crowd-pleaser Ready or Not is a huge amount of fun. Samara Weaving kicks all the ass, there’s heaps of laughs and surprises and it features an insane and amazing ending that is my joint-favourite of the year so far. 

Ready or Not is released in the UK on the 27th of September.

 

NEKROTRONIC

Legendary cinematic siren Monica Bellucci (Spectre) leads the line in this Aussie sci-fi comedy horror written and directed by Wyrmwood’s Kiah Roache-Turner and also starring Ben O’Toole (Hacksaw Ridge), Caroline Ford (Carnival Row), Tess Haubrich (The Wolverine) and Epine ‘Bob’ Savea (Hibiscus & Ruthless).

Orphan Howard (O’Toole) has grown up to be a raw sewage truck driver and spends his days driving around getting stoned with his co-worker and mate Rangi (Savea). Rangi is playing a mobile game that’s like Pokemon Go for ghosts and demons when he picks up something weird from Howard.

TURNS OUT Howard comes from a long line of nekromancers and has the power to battle the actually for real ghosts and demons and his real mum is Finnegan (Bellucci) a former nekromancer who has turned to the dark side and is using the game to unleash demons and take over the world.

That is A LOT but is actually not the half of it. I have never seen a film this expository and it feels like you have had three series of TV jammed into you before things even really get going. Then as soon as you think things are set and we’re going to mission a new plot point of piece of tech is introduced, explained and demonstrated. This overwhelming and confusing world-building is exhausting but even with all of it you never feel like you know what needs to be done and how.

The supernatural effects are so cool that they nearly cover the fact that Belluci doesn’t ever seem to have been on set with any of the other cast and although the whole thing is a messy idea soup there are some big laughs – mostly courtesy of the film’s MVP Epine Savea who has to come to terms with becoming a ghost in hilarious fashion.

Nekrotronic does not currently have a UK release date.

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