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FrightFest Day One – The Lair, The Visitor from the Future and Scare Package 2: Rad Chad’s Revenge

It doesn’t seem like a blood-drenched minute since we were last at Frightfest. But like Christmas for gorehounds, August Bank Holiday and Arrow Video Frightfest were here once more. 

Knighted “the Woodstock of gore” by Guillermo del Toronto, FrightFest is now in its twenty-third year and the lineup of fear-filled flicks and collection of star guests from behind and in front of the camera shows no sign of abating. 

The opening film this year was the new Neil Marshall joint, The Lair, followed by The Visitor from the Future and Scare Package 2: Rad Chad’s Revenge. Read on for reviews of all three and check back later for more reviews from days 2 to 5 of the festival.

Check out all of our FrightFest coverage

THE LAIR

Neil Marshall banged out two of the best British modern horror films in a row in the early aughts with Dog Soldiers and The Descent. He next leaned harder into action for Doomsday and Centurion which, while not reaching the level of his earlier work, were both still a lot of thrilling and gory fun. Unfortunately, he then accepted what turned out to be the poisoned chalice of the Hellboy remake. Studio interference and being shut out of the edit can only excuse how this one turned out so far, and when the only other point of comparison are two solid gold stunners from Guillermo del Toro a messy, dull, confused mess of an HB looks that much worse still.

Stints helming eps of Thrones and Black Sails showed Marshall still had the chops though, which made his next film The Reckoning such an enormous disappointment. None of what made Marshall so special in the first place showed through and the whole thing was cheap, overblown, aggravating and just felt like a vanity project for Marshall’s star and partner Charlotte Kirk.

Kirk again stars and co-writes Neil Marshall’s latest film, The Lair. Sinclair, an RAF pilot, is shot down over Afghanistan and seeks shelter in a disused bunker literally held together by warning signs. Inside she finds creatures that are the result of Russian experiments gone wrong that are still alive and still very lethal. Sinclair and a ragtag group of American soldiers must now delve into the nest and wipe out the monsters before they rip them to pieces.

Hope and goodwill quickly evaporate as The Lair unspools. With performances that appear to be the first time anybody has read their lines aloud, comedy accents and ridiculous levels of earnestness and slo-mo, The Lair often feels like a parody of an action-horror film. Charmless, cheap-looking and as clunky as a 90s computer game cutscene, we are going to be waiting a bit longer still for the Marshall renaissance.

The Lair currently has a USA release date of the 28th of October

THE VISITOR FROM THE FUTURE

Hilarious French sci-fi The Visitor from the Future (Le visiteur du futur) is written and directed by François Descraques and stars Arnaud Ducret, Florent Dorin and Enya Baroux.

A hysterically funny cold open sets the tone for this one instantly featuring our hero ‘Le Visiteur’ (Dorin) furiously travelling back and forth in time to try and learn the skills and information to stop the meltdown of a nuclear power plant. The gags and timing are all perfectly executed, the tone is just the right balance of intelligent and ridiculous, and our lead is instantly loveable.

Le Visiteur is part of a group of steam slash cyberpunk rebels from a desolate future that are trying to stop the opening of the power plant which is the catalyst for the forthcoming dystopia. To do so they enlist the help of a young eco warrior, Alice (Baroux), to show her father (Ducret) what will happen if he signs off on the plant in a bid to not only change the rigid rich capitalist’s mind – but also the future. All the while the gang are pursued by a trio of bumbling time cops who say they want to protect the space-time continuum – but are really just tasked with retaining the status quo for the rich and powerful of the future.

Full of cracking visual effects, stunning set design, laugh-out-loud comedy set pieces and even zombies(!), The Visitor from the Future is also surprisingly heartfelt. This Gallic ray of sunshine is fantastique futuristic fun and one to be added to your Letterboxd and kept an eye out for immediately.

There is currently only a date for the French release of The Visitor from the Future on the 7th of September

 

SCARE PACKAGE II: RAD CHAD’S REVENGE

Anthology comedy-horror Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge features four stories directed by Alexandra Barreto (Lady Hater), Anthony Cousins (Every Time We Meet for Ice Cream Your Whole Fucking Face Explodes), Jed Shepherd (writer of Host and Dashcam) and Rachele Wiggins (Deadhouse Dark), held together by a wacky wraparound directed by Aaron B. Koontz (The Pale Door).

For those not familiar with the Scare Package-verse, the first film was an anthology of tales told by horror film video shop owner ‘Rad Chad’ (Jeremy King – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) that ended SPOILER ALERT in his demise. Much like Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge, the title might clue you in to the fact that Chad is very much alive and out for retribution.

Taking his inspiration from the Saw franchise, Chad abducts the guests from his funeral and forces them through a series of more-silly-than-sadistic games, all the while regaling them with tales of terror, Dr. Terror style. The tales vary in quality, as to be expected, with Barreto’s ‘Welcome to the 90s’ — a final girl deconstruction, with a fantastic VHS-thetic, that’s also very funny — an early highlight.

The wraparound is, or feels, long enough to be its own feature and, again, segments and skits differ wildly in standards and mileage can be dependent on how intoxicated you may be too. But the sheer unwavering commitment to the bit is admirable. 

While the jokes and Saw challenges hit as much as they miss, Graham Skipper as Dwight is always a treat throughout. Going above and beyond to get a laugh and clearly an incredible sport, a lot of the fact that Scare Package II manages to just about hold itself together can be attributed to Skipper’s charm and making sure no matter how hard he improvs that the story beats and exposition points are still hit is just pure talent.

There is currently no release date for Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge

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