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Live for Films at Film4 FrightFest 2015: Day Two – We Are Still Here, Final Girl & more


After a shaky Cherry Tree start yesterday, Film4 FrightFest pulled it back and took the roof off with a double whammy of pretty much the best thing ever – Turbo Kid – and barnstorming, garden-wrecking mutant wasp hi jinx – Stung.

Now, in full swing, and with full days worth of programming, Film4 FrightFest gets serious. Today saw me checking out Pod, The Diabolical, Hellions, We Are Still Here and Final Girl. Phew. Oh, yeahhh. Shit just got real.

Pod was in the Splice Media Discovery Screen, which I hadn’t visited before… Turns it out it’s in the basement – which I found out only after going up and down every escalator in the Vue twice. Smooth.

The screen itself was very long and thin, which was a bit weird and creepy, but I kind of liked it. Unfortunately some rude people barging past and then noisily sucking down five oranges from a plastic carrier bag (!) put a bit of a dent in my calm, and threatened to put me in a bad mood before we’d even begun. Film festival/life tip, guys: don’t be a dick.


Annnyway, Pod was good. It’s a small and careful film, that plays on your opinions of the mental states of the characters, before turning your world upside down.

Brother and sister, Lyla and Ed (Lauren Ashley Carter – The Woman; and Dean Cates – Castle), head off to the family lake house to take care of their other brother Martin (Brian Morvant – Gotham). Martin is ex-Army, has a history of mental imbalance and has left a bananas answerphone message that has concerned his siblings enough to get involved.

When they reach the family holiday home, they find that Martin has tin-foiled the whole place and claims to have locked something in the basement. For the first hour, what we think is happening, or is going to happen, swings wildly back and forth, as do our opinions of the motives and mental states of our three leads.

Brian Morvant, who plays Martin, is predominantly a stuntman, but as evidenced here, is also a great actor. Vulnerable, scary and plainly nuts, Morvan’s performance gives good crazy, and goes great lengths to crank up our concerns toward what (if anything) is locked in the basement.

Cates and Carter are good too. Cates’s Ed is a quality straight, sane man; and Lauren Ashley Carter is like a splicing of DNA from Helena Bonham Carter and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, although when it all goes to pot in the final act, her shrill hysterics wear very thin, very fast.

Considered, and seemingly taking great pleasure in messing with the audience, which I always appreciate and love, the Schrödinger’s cat in the basement is not rushed, and the whole film patiently builds for an hour towards a massive scare.

It’s sometimes a little rickety, and a few scenes run long, but Pod is a bit of a mind-scrambling trust-no-one gem, with a great cameo from Larry Fassenden (Stake Land).


I then hot-footed up an escalator and back into the warm – until the air-con kicks in – embrace of my new spiritual home: the Horror Channel screen, for The Diabolical (hope it isn’t, hahaha, kill me).


The Diabolical is one of those films that I was glad I knew absolutely nothing about going in. With THAT title, a shock and awe score, and some immediate in-your-face scares terrifying a family in a haunted house it all felt very James Wan.

Ali Larter is a single mother doing her best to raise an angry son, constantly in trouble for fighting at school, and the sweetest little girl in the world, while dealing with imminent bankruptcy and foreclosure on her mortgage.

Horrific monster guys keep appearing in the house and scaring the bejeesus out of everyone, but with no money and no where else to go, the family take it on the chin and appear to make the best of it. But when a love interest physics teacher gets wind of whats happening and begins to investigate, Diabolical takes a turn in genre, and starts concerning itself more with blowing your mind than browning your trousers.

I’m not trying to sound clever or anything, but I twigged what the central conceit was going to be pretty early on, and then had to sit frustrated waiting for the movie to catch up, which I don’t like, but I then had a surprise I was definitely not expecting sprung on me anyway, which was very rewarding.

The Diabolical is genuinely doing something completely different to the typical haunted house movie, and should be applauded for doing so, but it goes against all its own rules with a final shot that, if had actually happened, would make the rest of the film cease to be. So clever, but not clever enough.


Hellions was next, and I had heard, and was hoping for good things… But was disappointed.


Hellions is directed by Bruce McDonald, who made a favourite of mine, Pontypool, so I was very much looking forward to this. And the first thirty minutes is great. Extremely Autumnal, the set up is the most Halloween and halloween looking film I’ve seen for a while. The leading lady, Chloe Rose, is good too.

Dora is a seventeen year old girl who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant – lot of that going around this year. Needing a wallow, she eschews the Halloween night festivities to stay in, but is besieged by a gang of psychopathic trick or treaters.

After teeing up so well, once the siege starts the film shanks it into the bushes. Suddenly, for some reason, everything is shot on infrared stock (apparently), which SOUNDS cool, but is actually just pink. So very pink. Some flash and panache is great, but there didn’t seem to be any reason or need to this, and it is so all-encompassing and visually invasive that it just distances you and makes you feel like your eyes are bleeding.

The hellions themselves may have scary masks that are well designed, but they don’t ever feel like a threat – they’re still just little kids, and Dora should be punting these diminutive freaks out a window.

But that first thirty minutes is nice; there’s a shot of some alpacas; and I liked the end credits music.


We Are Still Here was another on my Must See list, so I was very happy for it to turn out to be the best film of the day. The film’s director Ted Geoghegan, and his genre star lead actress Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator), came out to introduce their movie, with Ted encouraging us all to “just have a fuckin’ blast with it”, which I certainly did.


In We Are Still here, Anne and Paul Sacchetti (Crampton and Andrew Sensenig – W.) move to a quiet house on the outskirts of a one horse town to get over the recent accidental death of their son Bobby.

Anne senses a presence in the house immediately, and thinks and hopes that the spirit of Bobby has accompanied them in the move, and that he has something to say. She invites her friend May (Lisa Marie– Sleepy Hollow) and her husband Jacob (Larry Fessenden – again) who are dippy hippies that dabble in spiritualism.

After the best seance scene in years, Jacob gets possessed and some chargrilled demons rear up – yes, there is a presence in the house, but it’s not Bobby. The house is infested with a subterranean evil and must feed on a family every thirty years. The townsfolk, led by an excellent Monte Markham’s “Dave” (the captain from Baywatch!), are all in on it and help the house claim new blood to stop it coming from them. Anne and her friends must now contend with not only a blood-hungry home, but crispy-coated devils and an angry mob.


We Are Still here IS a blast. It is massive Fulci-ish fun, with genre nods that are subtle and knowing – not distracting, excellent leads, and cool demons. Crampton and co. are all top draw and show that a horror movie house doesn’t have to be stocked with teenagers – the older generation can show us an even better time. Having a more experienced cast of grown-ups makes events even scarier, because when together adults start panicking you know you’re in trouble.

Prepare to be terrified with this old school haunted house story!
Available on EST 12th October and DVD 19th October 2015.


Finally, I legged it over to the ever-rad Prince Charles cinema for my final film: Final Girl. The lovely upstairs screen of the PCC has been commandeered as an additional Discovery Screen this year, which is fine by me, as I love it in there, and the PCC is where pre-Film4 FrightFest began many years ago – so it feels very fitting for it to get involved again.


Final Girl stars a current favourite of mine: Abigail Breslin. Hot from being amazing in Maggie, Breslin was again in star-proving form. She stars opposite Wes “future beard” Bentley (The Hunger Games) as a teen assassin tasked with taking out a wolf pack of young posh boys who are hunting girls in the forest for japes.

This could have been a very simple hunted turns hunter film, but interestingly and excitingly constantly strives for more. Training sequences between Breslin and her handler Bentley are touching and tragedy-tinged, while the actual in-the-woods-stalking is soaked in hallucinatory nightmare imagery.

The script doesn’t play by the rules either. Sometimes edging toward screwball territory, no one ever says quite what we expect and there’s a disconcerting and disarming playfulness and politeness about all of the dialogue. Coupled with a look which is distinctive – harsh, dramatic lighting always, not a single shot out of place, and happening in a time period that you cannot ever quite place; Final Girl constantly keeps your eyes and ears on their toes.

Just as in Maggie, Breslin is hypnotic and so easy to invest in as an actress. She’s tough as nails here, but there’s still a fragility about her character emphasised by her unrequited feelings for her teacher. And, of course, watching her beat the snot out of misogynistic Bullingdon Club jerks is immensely satisfying. I could watch Abigail Breslin cracking her knuckles and then cracking some heads for days, so if we could fast track a sequel, I’d really appreciate that.


And then I collapsed. Happily. Onto a series of tubes and trains. To be ready to rock for more brilliant horror celebrations all over again. HOORAY.

Saturday is, of course, another big ‘un, with Short Film Showcase 1, Bernard Rose‘s Frankenstein, Sansa-Stark-starring Another Me, Rabid Dogs, and hopefully thrash-tastic heavy metal horror movie Deathgasm. Plus, as much of the Duke Film Party II as I can squeeze in before sprinting for my last train. It’s going to be brilliant.

Catch up on our Film4 FrightFest 2015 coverage with the Day One report here, and review of creep-crawly creature feature Stung here.


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