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Live for Films at FrightFest Day 2: Zombies, Alan Moore’s latest, this year’s ‘One Cut of the Dead’ and Harry Shum Jr.’s video detective

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Yoooooooooo, after a two out of three first day and the excitement and adrenaline of being back in London and back at Arrow Video FrightFest had abated a little, I was starting to feel a bit… normal? Still excited, but like low-level just kind of content to be doing what I used to do and there being people and films, lots of films and friends I hadn’t seen since the P word began. It’s nice, right?

Anyway, the Cineworld Super Screen themed the upstairs balcony for the first film of the day, ‘Brain Freeze’, blasting away at us brave few up there with frigid air that left me scurrying back to my room after for an exposure-avoiding hoodie.

Next up, I was amazed and made very happy by ‘The Show’ written by  the beloved and high-as-a-kite mad man genius Alan Moore – which, even better, I got to watch with my good friend Martyn, who I hadn’t seen a film with since, you know.

I loves me some short films, so see ya later Main Screen, I then crammed myself into the smaller downstairs Discovery Screen to find some gems from the micro movie scene in the first immaculately curated Short Film Showcase.

Then, it was more Disco Screen for ‘Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes’ which was one of the film’s on my Most Anticipated list (how did it fair, ooh the suspense), before ending my day curled up in sweet seat CC9 to watch Harry Shum Jr. track down a mysterious pirate television hack in ‘Broadcast Signal Intrusion’.

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

BRAIN FREEZE

Written and directed by Julien Knafo (‘Lucidité passagère’), ‘Brain Freeze’ is a zombie movie set on a posh golfing resort island off the coast of Quebec. The rich folks want to be able to play golf in the winter when the links would usually be under a foot of snow, so a mysterious bio-tech company concocts a spray that melts the snow and keeps the grass green and fresh.

But, when the experimental putting green de-icer gets into the island’s water it has an unexpected effect on the populus: turning their teeth and eyes green. Oh, and also giving them a taste for human flesh. Set up aside, fairly standard, but apart from its setting, ‘Brain Freeze’ has deadheads with a slightly different M.O. Like lions, when they cannot immediately catch and kill their prey, they stop to conserve their energy – meaning they go into a kind of standby mode and can be crept around if you’re quiet. 

Also, they will not attack each other, so when island security guard, Dan (Dupuis), discovers this, and that his daughter has already been bitten, he is able to muzzle her and use her as a kind of shield to ward off attacks.

Joining Dan is Andre (Bedard), a little boy who following his mum’s turning is left to fend for himself and his baby sister, the scene-stealing Annie. Annie frequently gets into amusing, yet deadly, ‘Baby’s Day Out’ style set pieces that Andre must try and save her from, and these sequences are always cleverly imagined and shot with suspense and a sense of fun.

Dan and Andre’s quest across the island to try and find a solution and an escape is a lot of fun, with plenty of attacks that showcase some great makeup and gore effects. Just when things start to flag as the initial energy gets used up, a pair of twin hit women arrive to eradicate any evidence of the biotech company’s involvement, reinvigorating things and adding another danger to keep the one and a half men and a baby on their toes.

With the message that we should eat the rich, before they eat us, and a right wing radio host who rallies against vaccinations and immigrants, proved wrong by the heroic actions of Annie’s babysitter, ‘Brain Freeze’ also has something to say – getting it’s point across in an eloquent yet exciting and enjoyable way and never feeling preachy.

A topical new spin on the zombie genre that is full of cool effects and set pieces, French-Canadian eco class war zombie movie ‘Brain Freeze’ is fresh, thrilling and right on.

 

THE SHOW

Mitch Jenkins (‘Prisoners of Paradise’) interprets and directs a script by legendary comic book writer Alan Moore (‘Watchmen’) in ‘The Show’ a barmy Brit flick that stars Tom Burke (‘Only God Forgives’) as Fletcher Davis, a mysterious man styled like a hot, adult Dennis the Menace with a big black ruffled barnet of hair, red and black striped shirt and armed with a catapult.

Fletcher has been tasked by a gangster to travel to a delightfully magical interpretation of Northampton and retrieve a gold and ruby Rosicrucian cross. On his quest Fletcher meets, befriends and gets help from a cast of loveable oddballs including a goth hospital attendant, a pair of little boy Private Detectives working out of a treehouse in black and white and providing their own noir voiceover, a satanic standup and a hitler mustached pop singer.

The script is quick, funny, witty and infused with a Blyton-esque “biscuits and pop” sensibility that tickles the ears and funny bone throughout, and the honestly incredible production design fills every scene and frame with delightful costuming choices and a million and one secrets glimpsed in adverts, signs, headlines and cereal boxes.

A feature-length hallucinatory fever dream that constantly keeps you guessing and imagining, the spell is only broken with an extended overly talky ending of Moore himself monologuing as a moon man. Having provided an enchanting story he may seem to have earned his spot, but he puts an abrupt end to the party nonetheless.

Absolutely wonderfully crackers, ‘The Show’ is a barmy private detective story that has a very British silly goose attitude, fab production design that teems with Easter eggs and is populated by wonderful weirdos. So mad and random it may also give you a contact high.

 

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE ONE

The Arrow Video FrightFest Short Film Showcases are always unmissable in my book, always immaculately curated by Shelagh Rowan-Legg – who has a great eye for the special ones, and over the years has been responsible for first exposing me to great and unforgettable fair like Brian Lonano’s burned into my brain ‘Gwilliam’ and Jill Gevargizian’s breakout ‘The Stylist’ which went on to become a feature length smash that played the digital edition of FrightFest last year.

Out of hundreds of submissions, ten played this first installment of the showcase and huge huge mega props to every single one and to every goddamn determined filmmaker who slaved over a little masterpiece in which to show us what they’ve got. I hope you all got as big a buzz seeing your stuff on the big screen as we all did getting to see them.

The Nicky Nack’ was based on a Northern urban legend, starred flipping Alun Armstrong from ‘Krull’ and was directed with skill and flair by Tom Oxenham. After a few jars in an amusingly sad pub, he stumbles home only to be tormented by a… something, that runs him in circles terrifying him and constantly whispering “nicky nack”. The stalking is scalp-tingling, Armstrong is obviously great and the portrayal of the pub and its patrons was spot on.

Director Tony Hipwell’s ‘The Standing Woman’ is like a sliver of ‘Black Mirror’, showing us a world where criminals are turned into trees to provide cleaner air and help the environment. A young couple are happy to take a pay cheque to do a corporate video on the process, until she is unjustly collared and planted. The tree makeups are very cool and clever and the excellent performances of the two leads, Anton Thompson and Yuriri Naka are simply heartbreaking. 

The funny Finnish twist on ‘The Mist’, ‘Hysteria’, was one of my favourites of the session. Directed with a great handle on comedy, horror, suspense and atmosphere by Anssi Määttä, it stars Sari Siikander, Heli Sutela as friends off out for a walk. But, when a poisonous fog rolls in out of nowhere, one is left outside while the other manages to get to the safety of their car. Very funny, with a killer twist and a shoutout for ‘Cutthroat Island’ on Blu-ray that really tickled me, this one and everyone involved are to be kept an eye on.

Excellent clean-up crew comedy ‘The Dead Collectors’ was another one of my faves, directed by Brendan Cleaves, who knows his comedy timing and framing, and starred Elliot James Langridge and Ivan Kaye as two men waiting on a sofa for the old lady upstairs to die. The reason for their presence and actions is eked out just right, with the leads exhibiting great chemistry before a very funny and clever finale and an even funnier credits coda.

Director Zara Symes’ ‘Puff’ was a break wind and you’ll miss it micro-short about a pregnant woman who can’t sleep that somehow manages to pack a laugh, a chill down the spine and a punch into like just two shots and maybe twenty seconds, tops. Very impressive.

Dana’ was a real standout. Lucía Forner Segarra’s film which stars Thais Blume as an avenging angel who after being attacked on the Spanish streets by a man turns into a violent vigilante, sourcing the files of known rapists, stalking them and offing them in increasingly nasty, humorous and satisfying ways if they try and hurt any woman ever again. Blume is just awesome in the lead role, exhibiting real star power and Segarra directs with plenty of pace, passion and panache.

Self Actualisation of the Werewolf Woman’ was a black and white cut-out animation that tells the tale of a female werewolf who one night crosses paths with a female vampire and explains her motivations and back story. Conall Pendergast’s bittersweet film is really clever and cool, with super stylish visuals and a smart script.

Director Nico van den Brink helms the Dutch short ‘The Departure’. It stars Sallie Harmsen and André Dongelmans as a pair of female friends meeting up in a bar. Nora keeps seeing the same man from her painful past everywhere she looks and van den Brink uses some clever shots to elevate a sad and beautiful short about having difficulties coping in the wake of a tragedy.

Voodoo in My Heart’ seems like an amusing short about a woman bitten by her zombie boyfriend trying and failing to get help from the emergency services, but director Elias Williams wants more than laughs, also clearing up the true origins of the zombie in a film as charming as it is informative.

The gorgeous post-apocalyptic meditative sadness of ‘Terrible Things’ was another highlight of this collection. Director Ciarán Hickey’s film starred Claire J. Loy as a woman in a hazmat suit wandering the wilderness scavenging who finds a cottage to take shelter in. After spending the night telling her story to a corpse, the true and terrifying nature of the new world is revealed the next morning in an incredible final shot.

Better the Devil You Know’ rounded out the showcase. Director Vipin Venugopal’s devilish film drops a recently deceased toff (Mark Kitto) off at the gateway to the afterlife, which is actually a bar, and leaves him to talk his way up or down versus Reza Diako playing old you-know-who. Diako is suave and menacing and there was a lovely little world-widening moment at the end.

All of them: ★★★★★. If any maker needs stars to put on anything to do with the work they exhibited at all, please feel free to just help yourself to the full five from us.

 

BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES

One of the best films of the festival, ‘Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes’ is this year’s ‘One Cut of the Dead’. Cleverly made to look filmed in one shot by first-time director Junta Yamaguchi, it is about a moody lovelorn cafe owner who discovers that a temporal rift between the TV in his flat upstairs and the telly in his shop enables you to see the future two minutes from now.

Soon, his friends are round and involved, pushing the boundaries of what they can use the ‘Time TV to do and see and dropping them all into big trouble with some local gangsters and the ‘Time and Space Bureau’.

Makota Ueda’s script is cute and smart, managing to keep an exacting handle on everything that’s happening even as it gets further and further out of control and potentially confusing. The cast are all absolutely adorable and even though when the stakes are raised you know that nothing that bad is going to happen because it’s all so good-natured, Yamaguchi keeps you absolutely glued to the screen and smiling.

The ever-escalating time-looping sci-fi, ‘Beyond the Infinite two Minutes’ is a sweet and wholesome Japanese one-shot wonder that will break your brain in the most lovely way. Make sure every telly in your house is in sync before watching it as soon as you’re able.

 

BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION

‘Glee’’s Harry Shum Jr. stars as a broken hearted tape head trying to find the source of pirate TV transmissions that may also hold the answer to his wife’s disappearance in Jacob Gentry’s (‘Synchronicity’’) paranoid conspiracy thriller ‘Broadcast Signal Intrusion’.

Chicago. 1999. James (Shum Jr.) is still damaged by his beloved vanishing into thin air a few years previously and occupies himself fixing video equipment freelance during the day and digitising old television broadcasts all night. When he stumbles across a hack during a show where someone interrupts the regularly scheduled programming with a “broadcast signal intrusion” he becomes obsessed with solving a crime both the FCC and FBI gave up on.

The BSI shows chilling imagery of someone in a distorted white rubber screaming electronically and as James discovers more incidents and becomes more personally involved people start paying attention to his nosing around and he finds himself in increasing danger.

Dreamy analogue noir that’s unsettling and addictive, ‘Broadcast Signal Intrusion’ looks gorgeous thanks to Scott Thiele’s (‘Girl on the Third Floor’) lush cinematography and feels like watching a 70s film like ‘Klute’ or ‘The Conversation’ thanks to an amazing score by Ben Lovett (‘The Wind’). Special Effects wizard Dan Martin provides not only the horrific masks but the skin-crawling intrusions themselves and is responsible for the fear we feel for what James is getting too close to for comfort.

Jacob Gentry makes every space James enters feel unsafe somehow as he takes up deeper and deeper down a murky rabbithole that often feels reminiscent of Joel Schumacher’s ‘8MM’, but a final piece of the puzzle doesn’t fit making a leap to a rushed feeling finale not sit right, as does a tagged on coda that feels obtuse when it should be a final sting in the tail.

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