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Arrow Video FrightFest 2020: Day 5 – mutants, stalkers, and gallic ghouls and ghosts

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Dark Stories

Day 5! THE END! NOOOOOOOO! Sooooooo, we’ve checked out short film showcases, vampires and explosions, troll-offing and ghosts, and Brazilian Jason Voorhees, and now for the fifth-day finale: mutants, stalkers and another awesome anthology.

Monday was a cut-down day with six instead of eight selectable films, as per spread between the Arrow Video Screen and the Horror Channel Screen. The Horror Channel Unlike all the previous draws, the HC screen edged ahead on the last day 2-1 as we planned to do their first two: Enhanced and Blinders, and then into the Arrow for the last (sobs) film of the festival: Dark Stories.

Check out all of our FrightFest coverage
And hey, if you like the sound of FrightFest and are just hearing about it now – too bad! It’s over! Get out of here! Nah, the August event may be over now but there is already a plan for a Halloween event – we’re light on details at the moment, but there is a hinted-at digital component to go along with the physical shenanigans at the Leicester Square Cineworld. As soon as there’s more on this, we’ll obviously let you know.

Anyhoo, Hi! I’m Alan and I’ve been Live for Films’ brave adventurer into the demonic delights of daily death and destruction for five days and somehow SURVIVED. I have now been cautioned and kicked off of the Live for Films twitter: @Live_for_Films, but if you wanna keep on keeping track of what I’m watching and what I’m feeling about it, my usual twitter is: @v_for_vienetta.

 

ENHANCED

Enhanced is an action-sci-fi programmed to blow the cobwebs away and get everyone fired up for the last day. It’s written and directed by James Mark (On The Ropes) and starring George Tchortov (Goon), Alanna Bale (Good Witch) and Chris Mark (Kill Order).

Anna (Bale) is an “Enhanced” – an individual with extraordinary powers and glowing blue eyes – and is a skilled fighter with super strength keeping her head down, living out of her van and working in a small garage. One day government spooks arrive to take her away and she narrowly escapes, going on the run with a defected agent, George (Tchortov). But the hunters aren’t what Anna should fear most. A powerful “Enhanced”, David (Mark), is hunting his fellow oddities and murdering them to take their power and add it to his own.

Enhanced wants to be X-Men meets Highlander but never reaches those heights, instead just managing Mutant X meets The One. Production value extends as far as some surprisingly decent effects and well-choreographed frequent fights, but am-drammy performances and an unengaging general blandness of familiar not-done-as-well elements make this forgettable fare.

Alanna Bale does herself proud and is worth keeping an eye out for, but overall Enhanced is genre movie landfill destined for Poundland and Sunday afternoons on a movie channel on the third page of the channel guide.

 

BLINDERS

One of my films of the festival, Blinders is sharply directed by Tyler Savage (Inheritance), from an exciting and unpredictable script by Savage and Dash Hawkins (Reed Between the Lines). The film stars Vincent Van Horn (Mustang Island), Michael Lee Joplin (#Slaughterhouse) and Christine Ko (Tigertail).

Andy (Van Horn) is a teacher who moves from Texas to Los Angeles after a bad break-up. Initially finding the new city rude and standoffish, when the immediately weird but seemingly harmless rideshare driver Roger (Joplin) is polite and also in need of friendship Andy reluctantly hangs out with him a few times.

But when Andy begins to date Sam (Ko), Roger finds himself side-lined and left on read. Seething that Andy has ditched him, Roger goes full tech-savvy Fatal Attraction: stalking Andy, breaking into and bugging his place and hacking into all his accounts and phone. With his life turned upside down, Andy attempts to make peace but it’s too late and Roger is having too much fun.

Blinders is led by three great star-making performances from Vincent Van Horn, Michael Lee Joplin and Christine Ko. The three have real chemistry, bouncing off and butting up against each other in fascinating ways and elevating their characters and a familiar situation above cliche and filling it with carefully planted and nurtured secrets that pay off in brilliant ways in a brilliant and brutal third act.

Tyler Savage and Dash Hawkins have crafted an excellent and chilling worst nightmare stalker thriller that is immaculately constructed that is equally terrifying and satisfying and a real cut above. Blinders is one of the top three films of FrightFest 2020 and should be sought out as soon as you’re able.

 

DARK STORIES

Our final selection of FrightFest 2020 was another anthology – this time from France – Dark Stories. Starring Kristanna Loken (Terminator: Rise of the Machines), Michelle Ryan (Cockneys vs Zombies) and Dominique Pinon (Delicatessen) star in a film written and directed by Guillame Lubrano (Metal Hurlant Chronicles) and François Descraques (Le Golden Show).

After putting her son to bed, Christine (Loken) finds herself tied to a chair by a large dummy who has a penchant for scary tales. Telling him tales in an effort to keep him preoccupied until sunrise, Christine’s short scare packed yarns include stories about: art gallery monsters pulling people into paintings, a jogger beset by ghosts in a park, a zombie on a mission to rescue his wife and daughter, a sleep-troubling djinn, and a Brit reporter (Ryan) investigating the alien abduction claims of a French farmer (Pinon). 

There is not a dud between all the stories, every single story is an absolute banger and the fourth is full of some of the biggest jumps and scares of the festival. Even the wraparound – often a weak link in modern anthologies, if not eschewed all-together like in Dark Place – is a winner, with Loken an engaging screen presence and the stab happy dummy suitably skin-crawling.

The effects are fantastic throughout too, with the aforementioned brunette Chuck with a beard very well handled and animated more via whip pans than CG or stop motion. It’s a really cool effect that gives unsettling life to the inanimate toy without actually physically manipulating it into motion. CG, when used, is top-notch quality with the paintings monsters being made of visible brush strokes and a UFO that Roland Emerich wouldn’t turn his nose up at. Talking of the UFO, Ryan and Pinon’s story goes deeper than most with an emotional core and haunting life-affirming-slash-denying finale delightfully left open.

A gallic hair-raiser of a horror anthology. Dark Stories is a fun and high-quality monster mash, a proper ghost train of a film to end this year’s FrightFest on, and a film that filled some supernatural and jumpscare shaped gaps in the line-up

 


And that was the end of FrightFest 2020! Already! It’s flown by so fast, worked perfectly – with zero technical issues at our end – and really hit the spot. It clearly wasn’t the same but I’m sure we weren’t the only ones that needed this right now. Massive, massive thanks to Greg, Paul, Ian and Alan for making it happen, Helen for firefighting ticketing issues like a boss as usual somehow even though the festival’s format was totally different, and also to Dr Shelagh Rowan-Legg, PhD for programming two excellent short film showcases.

And that, my friends, is that. But if you’ve missed any of the previous FrightFest coverage you can check it all out right here.

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