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Live for Films at FrightFest Day 1: Reviewing the new Neill Blomkamp, Jamie Patterson’s ‘The Kindred’ and creature feature ‘Crabs!’

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Heyyyyyyy, it’s been a while, but this year – after an online sojour thanks to the pandemic –  Arrow Video FrightFest is back and back at the Cineworld in London’s glitzy and glamorous (lol) West End to boot.

Five days of the freshest frighteners lay in store over the August Bank Holiday weekend and after travelling down to Bristol to hit up my old London stomping ground I was eager to catch up and get stuck in.

You try to avoid spoilers in the run-up to seeing something like the new Neill Blomkamp joint, but it’s been obvious the aura emanating from across the pond regarding ‘Demonic’ has not been particularly positive. But Blomkamp is Blomkamp is Blomkamp and his new sci-fi horror unspooling on one of Leicester Square’s biggest and best screens was always still going to be something to get excited about.

Next up was a thriller starring some of my favourite people: Pierce Brosnan Bond’s Moneypenny, Samantha Bond; the star of the better of the 90s big-screen Robin Hood’s (fight me), Patrick Bergin; and even the “Old Bear” and guardian of the wall himself, James Cosmo.

Now, usually I have to bail on the last film to be able to get the train home, BUT NOT THIS YEAR. This year I was all hotel’d up and ready to stay as late as they kept showing me stuff, and the creature feature ‘Crabs!’ was to be my first dose of late-night FrightFest.

Check out the reviews of all of the above below, and keep an eye on Live for Films for further reviews of everything the UK’s biggest and best genre film festival has to offer.

Check out all of our FrightFest coverage

DEMONIC

Written and directed by Neill Blomkamp (‘District 9’), ‘Demonic’ stars Carly Pope (‘Elysium’), Chris William Martin (‘Chaos Theory’) and Michael J. Rogers (‘Beyond the Black Rainbow’).

After her mum, Angela (Nathalie Boltt – ‘Riverdale’), burned down an old folks home and poisoned a local church group, Carly (Pope) cut all ties with her and has been trying to just live her life for the last twenty years while being plagued by horrible nightmares. But, now, a cutting edge medical facility contacts her to say that they have Angela in their care in a coma and that they developed the imaging technology to port Carly into her mind to talk to her and find out if she’s OK and why she did what she did, if that’s alright?

Following her first session in her mum’s mind, Carly discovers that her mum went on her homicidal rampage due to being possessed and now the demon is coming for her. With her bougie friend Sam (Kandyse McClure – ‘Battlestar Galactica’) and paranoid survivalist bud Martin (Martin) to back her up, Carly must use the simulation to free herself and her mum from the demon’s grasp before it is too late.

‘Demonic’ is Blomkamp more restrained and chill. Made during the pandemic with his Oats Studios crew and inspired by ‘Paranormal Activity’, his writing and direction is slow and steady and suspiciously basic for the man who made ‘District 9’… When we enter the simulation, Blomkamp starts to play his hand. This is VR like it’s not been portrayed on film before. 

Inside the computer’s visualisation of Carly’s mum’s memories the “graphics” are gleefully a bit janky with strange outlines and movement. Things are not quite where they should be and glitching effects and bugs make it feel like the programme is always just about to crash. Blomkamp really leans into all this to disconcert and scare and has the technical know-how and chops to make it stick.

Then, though the start is more akin to films like ‘Empathy Inc.’ and Come True’ than ‘Chappie’ or ‘Elysium’, the third act takes a joyous handbrake turn into full on genre fare — uh, Vatican funded Black Ops exorcists SEAL team, anyone? — and he really lets loose.

Some demon body jumping stuff isn’t as fun as when we deal with the demon in the simulation, an action scene we arrive to after it’s over would have been great to actually see and there’s an unneeded or warranted coda that’s unfortunately cheesy not twisty, but overall ‘Demonic’ is great fun.

With likeable characters, crazy cool visuals, creepy prickling barely audible rear speakers sound design, juicy reveals and a barnstorming finale in an abandoned TB sanatorium, ‘Demonic’ is a lo-fi high tech simulation possession horror that at times is like being trapped inside a broken PlayStation.

 

THE KINDRED

Directed by Jamie Patterson (‘Tucked’), from a script written by Christian J. Hearn (‘Fractured’), ‘The Kindred’ stars a brilliant cast of, deep breath, April Pearson (‘Skins’), Blake Harrison (‘The Inbetweeners’), Robbie Gee (‘Snatch’), Steve Oram (‘Sightseers’), James Dreyfus (‘Notting Hill’), Samantha Bond (‘GoldenEye’), Patrick Bergin (‘Sleeping With the Enemy’) AND James Cosmo (‘Game of Thrones’). Phew.

After seeing her dad kill himself and then getting in an accident in a, by the way, huge and scary and brilliant bravura opening, Helen (Pearson) awakens from a coma one year later. Her husband, Greg (Harrison), tells her she’s had the baby and she’s fine, but, unfortunately, due to medical and baby bills, he’s had to flog their house and now they need to move back into the very same flat that her dad just flung himself from the balcony of.

With money tight, Greg leaves Helen and baby to go and rack up some overtime, but while alone in the flat Helen is terrorised by the spirits of little girls who bang on the doors, appear out of nowhere and generally scare the bejesus out of her (and us) on the regular. These jump scares are 00’s J-horror style and will have you leaping from your seat every damn time and cursing director Jamie Patterson for getting you again and again. Patterson has a really great sense of space and a knack for filling his frame with foreboding danger areas that you always feel some ghost kid could leap from.

Taking the initiative and not wanting to look bonkers and lose her new baby to the already circling child services, Helen calls in a paranormal investigator (Oram). Sort of revisiting his incredible ‘A Dark Song’ role, Oram is again wonderful as a down to earth expert in the spooky, charming and funny, which makes the chilling news he delivers even more worrying. The spirits won’t vamoose until they receive closure, which means collaring their killer.

Helen’s investigation is a rollercoaster procedural, interviewing and asking for help from an impressive ensemble cast, highlights of which are the very loveable and empathic Cosmo as her dead dad’s old mate Frank and Robbie Gee as a down-to-earth copper. 

The breadth of the cast and their sometimes under utilisation or appearances in just the one or two scenes with no one else make the film sometimes seem a little piecemeal, and one in particular – featuring Patrick Bergin’s priest feels out of place narratively and included solely for production value. But you do what you can and get as much value on the screen as possible to get bums on seats for an indie British movie, and I will not moan about seeing my favourite Moneypenny, Samantha Bond, “You always were a cunning linguist, James”, on the big screen with a gun.

‘The Kindred’ would not work without a great central performance to pull us through and keep us invested and interested and April Pearson is excellent. Pained, but persistent and pushing for the truth no matter how hurtful it may be to ensure the safety of a newborn she already barely knows, Pearson is extremely emotive and we as an audience, thanks to her, always know where we are, where we’re going and why. She also manages connections and chemistry with that massive number of fellow actors – no mean feat.

British serial killer horror thriller ‘The Kindred’’ is a twisty mystery with a cracking cast and some absolutely enormous jump scares.

 

CRABS!

Written, produced, directed and edited by first-timer Pierce Berolzheimer, Crabs! Stars Jessica Morris (‘Evil Bong 666’), Dylan Riley Snider (‘Better Call Saul’) and Robert Craighead (‘2 Lava 2 Lantula!’).

Runoff from a nuclear power plant causes the local crab population of a small coastal town to turn bad and want to munch on the citizenry and eviscerate them with their clacking claws. All that can stop them is a teenage boy in a wheelchair, Philip (Riley Snider); and his cop brother, Hunter (Bryce Durfee – ‘Toxic Shark’); his science teacher, Ms. Menrath (Morris); the chill sheriff (Craighead); and the girl he’s secretly in love with, Maddie (Allie Jennings – ‘En Route’). Oh, and Radu (Chase Padgett – ‘Adventure to Fitness’), sigh. We have to talk about Radu.

All of the effects, a mix of smile-inducingly ropey CG and dudes in suits, are so much fun and the first fifteen minutes set ‘Crabs!’ on course for stupid awesome midnight movie perfection. The script is funny, but a little… off too, in this really wild way where you never know what a character is going to say, but it wasn’t that. The delivery is great too, with a lot of very game actors keeping straight faces and throwing in some on purpose stiltedness so you know that although they’re not corpsing, they know and we’re all in on the joke.

The fun all abruptly stops with the introduction of Radu. Radu is a transfer student of eastern european descent and ‘Crabs!’ and Padgett think that is the funniest thing in the world. With a borderline racist comedy accent and speech pattern, Radu is the butt of every joke, and everything he says and does is just so insulting you can feel your face freeze and eyes widen in sheer awe and repulsion that it is 2021 and this is actually happening. Stuff like this wasn’t cool in ‘Sixteen Candles’ and it sure as shit isn’t cool now.

Elsewhere, a kaiju fight in the third act and an amazing set up for a sequel are fun, but fucking Radu absolutely flatlines ‘Crabs!’.

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