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Arrow Video FrightFest Day 5: The Wretched, the Rabid remake and The Banana Splits Movie

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So, here we were again already: the last day of Arrow Video FrightFest. Disappearing in a flash as always, but again, AS ALWAYS, full-to-bursting with fantastic fear-filled feature films that made us laugh, jump and shudder.

Day Five was nearly perfect selections wise and featured the Soska sisters’ Rabid remake, which with them running around being cool and charming and drop-dead down-to-earth lovely with everyone that they encountered for the entire event felt like what we had been building to for the whole festival.

Apart from Rabid, we chose to see Deadcon, The Wretched, The Banana Splits Movie and A Good Woman is Hard to Find.

Check out our Arrow Video FrightFest coverage
 

DEADCON

From the writer of Ma (Scotty Landes) and director Caryn Waechter (the upcoming Hungry for Love), Deadcon stars Lauren Elizabeth (Dark Tales) as AKA Ashley, a YouTube vlogger with an enormous tweenage following. Ashley is doing panels at an influencer convention and after being rude to the receptionist gets put up in a haunted room.

The previous occupant killed himself in a pact for getting users on his 80s proto-social media platform and now his vengeful spirit wants a host like Ashley who can help it get more “followers”. As Ashley is haunted and then possessed, the ghost also takes pleasure in terrorising her fellow “internet star” friends.

Elizabeth is great as Ashley, the hard-to-hate influencer who has recognised the vapidity of what she is doing and just wants out but also wants to fulfil her obligations first – even if that means dealing with fans who just see her as a photo opportunity for likes and a spook trashing her room and trying to get in her head.

The rest of the crew of Gram-ers and Snap-ers are an assortment of the worst kind of social media famous people and it is honestly very pleasurable watching them get put through hell. But Deadcon eschews a body count for sustained scares and haunts, building its cult-y chills up to a creepy climax over easy splatter.

Landes script feels of the moment without feeling patronising or (too) alarmist while Waechter creates his film with a variety of views from different kinds of cameras, mediums and platforms overlays that provide constantly interesting visuals but also forces us to see the world through these characters eyes – as a constant opportunity for shares and likes and requests to hit subscribe. The keen-eyed will also be rewarded in these sections as the killer also has an often visible online presence in the rapidly scrolling by comments.

Deadcon is Paranormal Activity at a vlogger convention and provides a fresh take on the ghost story in the influencer arena that is intelligent and restrained and full of attention to detail.

Deadcon does not currently have a UK release date.

 

THE WRETCHED

The writer-director brothers behind Deadheads (Brett and Drew Pierce) return to FrightFest with their latest feature: The Wretched, which stars John-Paul Howard (Hell or High Water) and Piper Curda (I Didn’t Do It).

Broken-armed Ben (Howard) is sent to spend the Summer with his Dad working at the marina after falling out of a window trying to nick his neighbours prescription drugs. Here he meets and falls for cool-girl Mallory (Curda), and also realises that his next-door neighbour may be a hag from the woods who is killing and eating children.

The Pierce’s script and direction juggles a lot of elements including the budding teen romance slash coming of age bits as well as the horror and quite a few different important characters. Its all done with a slick and easy style that creates a genuine-feeling Summer teen experience AND a creepy and chilling monster movie.

The hag is truly horrible and playing for keeps and Ben and Mallory stake-out the suspicious neighbours’ house and try and halt the evil while — of course — none of the adults believe them. It feels very much like a folk horror Fright Night and the Pierce’s have made a slick and scary film with great creature effects where even the smallest elements all pay off at the extremely satisfying end.

The Wretched does not currently have a UK release date.

 

THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE

Directed by Danishka Esterhazy (Level 16) and written by Jed Elinoff, who has a background in spooky kids shows like Scooby-Doo and R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, The Banana Spits movie stars Dani Kind (Wynonna Earp), Finlay Wojtak-Hissong (The Kindness of Strangers), Romeo Carere (Pyewacket) and Naledi Majola (Trackers) and big deal voice actor Eric Bauza as the voice of all the Splits.

It is little lonely Harley’s (Wojtag-Hissong) birthday and his mum, Beth (Kind), is taking him, his golden-hearted burnout big brother Austin (Carere) and her shitty husband to a taping of The Banana Splits TV show. Don’t worry, it is acknowledged that this is weird as no-one knows or likes that show anymore, but it is huggable Harley’s favourite nonetheless.

At the taping, the family are shown to their seats by Paige (Majola), who also promises to introduce Harley and co. the Splits after as a birthday treat. We soon discover that the Splits are not dudes in suits in this universe they are Five Nights at Freddy’s style animatronic robots who are starting to develop a mind of their own. And when the Splits discover that their show is getting cancelled they override their programming and run amok and try to murder everybody.

Elinoff’s experience with family scares is evident and getting to also add cool gory kills too is something he has obviously enjoyed writing into this Hanna Barbera horror. Director Esterhazy actually manages to make the Splits scary and intimidating, playing up their size and strength with low angles and sinister zooms soundtracked by an ominous version of the famous tra-la-la theme song.

The likeable leads are really well done with Harley never being annoying, Austin and Paige’s teaming up to fight the Splits is cool and cute and Kind’s Beth does not hold back from kicking furry robot ass when her kid’s in danger AND getting to deal with her piece of work partner.

The rest of the cast are irresistibly hate-able victims-to-be who are such knowing stereotypes

 that you expect the Oompa-Loompas to sing and dance every time one of them dies, and these gruesome murders courtesy of the Splits all manage to be gory and funny at the same time accompanied by a deadpan killer one-liner in a goofy voice from Bauza.

Delivering exactly what you want from a Banana Splits horror movie, The Banana Splits Movie is a gleeful childhood ruiner that had the FrightFest live studio audience laughing and whooping. Don’t write this one off.

The Banana Splits Movie does not currently have a UK release date.

 

RABID

Rabid

“The Twisted Twins” (Jen and Sylvia Soska) return to FrighFest to follow their breakout breakthrough hit, American Mary, with a remake of fellow Canadian David Cronenberg’s Rabid that stars Laura Vandervoort (Jigsaw), Ted Atherton (Hollywoodland), Hanneke Talbot (Star Trek: Discovery) and Stephen McHattie (Pontypool).

Rose (Vandervoort) is a low confidence fashion designer who has fallen into doing alterations for her boss Gunther and taking horrid gossip on the chin. One day she gets into a dreadful moped accident and wakes up with horrifying facial injuries.

Her doctor, Keloid (Hatherton), recommends her for advanced experimental stem cell treatment at the hands of a Dr. Burroughs (Atherton) and this goes well, with Rose looking miraculously beautiful, but also having developed a taste for violent sexual encounters and blood, aaaaand those she has come into contact with getting a particularly aggressive strain of super rabies.

If you couldn’t tell from the doctors’ names, Rabid is full of nods to both Cronenberg’s original and his other films too. These easter eggs are sometimes slightly overdone — the Dead Ringers medical getups seem too much — but they do always feel good-natured and respectful. The Soska’s are paying tribute but they also totally do their own thing and their interpretation of Rabid feels completely like a Twisted Twins film and not a cash grab rejuvenation of an older horror property.

Rabid never feels sacrilegious, is actually doing something wholly original extremely well and uses the original as an acknowledged starting off point and not something to soullessly and slavishly adhere too. It’s how remakes should be.

The make-up effects are so gross slash well done that they got the Soska’s temporarily banned from Twitter and there are monstrous elements and monsters that I won’t spoil that are horrible, heartbreaking and brilliantly realised on a small budget.

The standout element for me and the most unique aspect of this version is the fashion. After recovering Rose is born again and full of inspiration, banging out some designs and outfits that are gorgeous and breathtaking. All of the outfits in the fashion shows are very much haute couture not pret-a-porter and the stunning production design is also evident in the sets and “regular” costuming.

Cronenberg wears couture in Jen and Sylvia Soska’s remake of Rabid, high fashion body horror that is also their finest film so far.

Rabid is available to pre-order on disc now with an October 7th UK release date.

 

A GOOD WOMAN IS HARD TO FIND

 

Abner Pastoll really impressed a few FrightFests ago with his Barbara Crampton-starring thriller Road Games, and returns for the 2019 event with his new film  — starring Sarah Bolger (The Spiderwick Chronicles) — A Good Woman is Hard to Find.

Sarah is a struggling single mum who is counting the pennies following the murder of her husband. The police refuse to investigate, jobsworths make her life as uncomfortable as possible, social services are sniffing around and the system is doing everything it can to hinder her when she is at her most vulnerable and in need of her help.

Things get even worse when a drug dealer steals a rival gangs gear and hides it in her home, intimidating her into reluctantly proving him with a place to lay low-cum-stash house. One night she takes matters into her own hands, and must now add trying to dispose of a body and stay out of a gang of criminals clutches to her woes.

Bolger is absolutely fantastic and it is painful watching what she has to go through and the lengths to which she must stretch to have any hope of survival. Fiercely protective, heartbroken and extremely practical Sarah is a very prescient product of austerity in an impossible situation.

Pastoll’s film is a relentlessly bleak slice of downbeat despair and apart from Sarah every character is infuriatingly hateable in this occasionally violent kitchen-sink crime drama that will not be everyone’s particular cup of (bitter) tea.

A Good Woman is Hard to Find does not currently have a UK release date.

 

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