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Arrow Video FrightFest 2018: Day 5 – Open 24 Hours, Crystal Eyes, Frankenstein’s Creature, One Cut of the Dead and Climax

“Oh no. OH NO. NOOOOOOOOO.” That’s not dialogue from a FrightFest film – that’s the first thought I had last Bank Holiday Monday morning when I woke up and realised that Arrow Video FrightFest 2018 was going to be over in sixteen hours.

“Ooh, but hang on,” I thought to myself for the purpose of this introduction, FF may be coming to a close for another year – but I still have another five potentially amazing films to watch first! I had Open 24 Hours, Crystal Eyes, Frankenstein’s Creature, The Golem and Climax all scheduled and was super stoked for Crystal Eyes and Climax already, and curious to check out 24 Hours, Frankenstein and Golem.

BUT. Twist. The Brilliant Baroness of the FrightFest Box Office and Helper of Press Who Would Like to See Something They Don’t Have a Ticket For, Helen, had managed to snag me a seat for the film that would surely have won the FrightFest Audience Award, if that was a thing: One Cut of the Dead. It’s SMASHED box office records at home in Japan and over here managed to sell out three separate screenings, so sorry Golem – you’re out – I have to see what the fuss is about for myself.

Back to a regularly scheduled programming, and sharp and scary serial killer laying siege to a supermarket shocker Open 24 Hours kicked off the day in style.

Mary (Leatherface’s Vanessa Grasse) is on parole after setting her serial killer boyfriend on fire and is trying to rebuild her life. Starting with working the 10-6 shift at a gas station. The manager seems nice, and co-worker Bobby (Freddy vs. Jason’s Brendan Fletcher) keeps thoughtfully dropping by to check on her, but she is having extremely vivid visions of her ex – The Rain Ripper – which may or may not be real…

Grasse and Fletcher have a great chemistry and get you very invested in their characters so as soon as stuff starts heading South you are genuinely worried for them. Mary’s parole officer (Tom Doogan) is a loveable grumpy bastard too, providing a ship-steadying gravitas. Writer-director Padraig Reynolds’s script is tight and his direction is crisp. He also gets plenty of extra production value from Holly Amber Church’s spot-on score, and David Matthews’ at times Cundy-esque cinematography.

Next, I legged it round to the Prince Charles Cinema for Crystal Eyes – a neo giallo created by two Argento uber nerds that I was dying to see.

After saving Alan Jones from an excited guide dog, the lights went down – and so did my jaw. Crystal Eyes is incredible looking. Writing and directing duo Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano have created a sumptuous and gorgeous giallo that Dario would be proud to call his own.

Supermodel Alexis Carpenter dies in a fiery catwalk accident and one year later a black-gloved killer with a straight razor starts bumping off all the up-and-comers who are aiming to take her place.

Dressed to thrill and kill, I adored CRYSTAL EYES. Every moment and detail of this Argentine giallo about a murderer in a mannequin mask slashing their way through the world of high fashion is absolutely exquisite. There is no way you would know this was not made and released in the early 80s if you just stumbled upon it knowing nothing. The hair, make-up and costumes are perfect, the sets are wonderfully designed and full of visually arresting artistic quirks, and the music is brilliant.

This is the best modern giallo I have ever seen and I hope that Endelman and Montejano haven’t gotten it all out of their system with this one as I want more, more, more.

Crystal Eyes is out now on Apple TV and Amazon.

Check out all of our FrightFest coverage

My cinematic high was not to last however. Nothing else in the time slot had piqued my interest so I took a punt on Frankenstein’s Creature as it sounded interesting.

Shot on the 200th anniversary of the release of the original book – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus – Frankenstein’s Creature was supposedly made like an adaptation of the text would have been done at the time.

An extremely dedicated performance by James Swanton as the creature is captured in one shot in a dripping crypt with occasional sound effects and shots of snowy tundra and a cabin overlaid. However, instead of being a spellbinding trance movie, the film is a test in how patient and polite you are willing to be while your time is wasted by a dull experiment with no entertainment value that Mary Shelley is sure to have been bored stiff by.

One Cut of the Dead was next on the block and totally saved the day.

A rag tag cast and crew are making a shonky zombie film, and for one forty minute shot, we see the story play out as their crappy zombie film is accidentally ambushed by REAL zombies who the director happily flings towards his cast so he can get better footage and some real action.

It’s a bit messy and sweet, but not as funny as you thought it would be, and then suddenly ends after forty minutes – the credits even roll! Huh. However, One Cut of the Dead is just getting started. Flashing back a couple of weeks we are introduced to the cast and crew and see how they knowingly or not became part of the film. THEN, THEN the film becomes something truly wonderfully special.

The “film” plays again, but this time we are a level removed and seeing what is going on behind the scenes as the director battles with drunk actors, malfunctioning effects and clunky improv. Everything that seemed crappy or like a mistake the first time is revealed to be due to some kind of off-screen shenanigans and you sit completely enraptured by a film that transcends funny to become genius, and a beautiful ode to can-do spirit, teamwork and pulling off making a film together.

Believe the hype: Japanese one take zombie horror comedy ONE CUT OF THE DEAD is hilarious and amazing! Total feel good gold.

Climax was the film to bring the festival to a… close, and I couldn’t have asked for better.

Gaspar Noe’s (Enter the Void) latest is a film that demands to be seen as big and loud as possible and the Cineworld Super Screen was a perfect setting for it. The screen is massive anyway and *whispers* apparently, the director himself had snuck into the projection room to crank it up even louder.

Sofia Boutella (The Mummy) is one of a group of dancers sent off to rehearse in a snowbound building in the middle of nowhere. After an astounding ten minute opening sequence that sees the whole gang dancing their socks and everything else off to an extended cut of Cerrone’s Supernature which is probably the flipping coolest scene in a film this year, someone spikes the celebratory sangria and – as the dancing continues and the DJ keeps dropping banger after banger – everyone starts to go a bit mad.

Some truly disturbing stuff goes down as the troupe turns on each other while still busting out to Daft Punk, Aphex Twin and Giorgio Moroder. It’s not as bloody as you might think/fear/hope, but children don’t fare well and many uncrossable lines are stylishly and carelessly moonwalked across.

Murder on the dancefloor: CLIMAX is a bass, pulse and floor pounding disorienting inescapable nightmare that is a breathtaking showcase of modern dance and a horrific descent into savage sangria-fuelled primal madness. Unconditionally insane and amazing, it’s an absolute must-witness.

And with that banging explosion of pure cinema leaving us exiting the screen shell-shocked and elated, Arrow Video FrightFest was dusted for the year. I’m biased, but Arrow Video absolutely smashed their first year as headline sponsors with a stonking goodie bag, inter-film idents that were fun, varied and never got old, and some great daily deals on their stall in the foyer.

FrightFest founding fathers Alan, Ian, Greg and Paul gave the UK horror community another wonderful holiday full of community spirit, fun times, and fab films; and Helen and the FrightFest helpers worked their socks off holding everything together and making it run like a well oiled with human blood machine.

It was an absolute pleasure to attend again, and big thanks to Phil for his support and editing; everyone that interacted with the @Live_for_Films twitter account (you can follow me here) while I was on there; and whomever has been reading (and hopefully enjoying!) these round-ups too. There’s still my Chloe Levine/The Ranger interview to come, so keep an eye out for that, catch up on any days you’ve missed here, and take it easy.

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