Penny Dread­ful

A meaty run­down of what was at FrightFest.

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents -

FrightFest week­end de­scended in a whirl­wind of movies ( 64 in to­tal!), icons, brand new tal­ent and epic hang­overs. I’m ex­hausted. As ever, FrightFest de­fines the year ahead in hor­ror so this month’s col­umn is ded­i­cated to the up­com­ing trends and tropes to look out for. Warn­ing: con­tains com­put­ers, mag­gots and male ap­pendages!

Crazy ladies

A cou­ple of years ago FrightFest got a bit of stick for the sheer vol­ume of movies with scenes of rape and abuse of women. This year the girls are get­ting their own back. The best movies of the fest were dom­i­nated by fe­males of vary­ing lev­els of crazy. In The Babadook ( my favourite hor­ror of the year), Essie Davis is a widow strug­gling to love her dif­fi­cult son after the death of her hus­band, who is vis­ited by a creepy character from one her son’s books. Then in Al­leluia, from Cal­vaire and Vinyan di­rec­tor Fabrice Du Welz, Lola Dueñas is another lonely mother, se­duced by a stranger and driven to mur­der by her ob­ses­sive love for him. It’s based on the true case of The Hon­ey­moon Killers and it’s an in­tense ex­plo­ration of mid­dle- aged pas­sion and blind ob­ses­sion. Starry Eyes, mean­while, sees a young ac­tress in LA abused by her friends, her dead- end job and fi­nally by a di­a­bol­i­cal movie pro­ducer. It’s full- on body hor­ror – mag­gotty vomit and all – though I loved it most be­cause it’s an ex­ploita­tion movie about ex­ploita­tion. In The Har­vest, from Henry: Por­trait Of A Se­rial Killer di­rec­tor John McNaughton, Sa­man­tha Mor­ton is out- and- out nuts as a mother and doc­tor car­ing for a very sick child. Here is a woman who does not like to be dis­obeyed… Fi­nally, in Life After Beth Aubrey Plaza is zomb­i­fied and goes hik­ing with an oven strapped to her back. It’s ba­si­cally Warm Bod­ies with a fe­male zomb and some ac­tual jokes.

Found Footage

Seems you can’t turn around with­out find­ing some aban­doned cam­era equip­ment or a stack of old VHS tapes ly­ing around scream­ing “play me!” This year’s shaky­cam of­fer­ings in­cluded Mir­ror, a sup­pos­edly true story about a haunted look­ing glass; Ex­ists, a Big­foot movie from Blair Witch Project di­rec­tor Ed­uardo Sánchez; and en­tirely im­prov‑ed chiller Creep star­ring Mark Du­plass. All three are worth a look. Then there’s V/ H/ S: Vi­ral. This is the third part of the V/ H/ S tril­ogy which has fea­tured seg­ments by Adam Win­gard ( You’re Next), Ti West ( House Of The Devil), and Gareth Evans ( The Raid, The Raid 2). The first two movies are patchy but de­cent. The third is dis­ap­point­ing. The fram­ing de­vice doesn’t en­tirely work ( not that it did in the first two), but worst of all, it’s just not scary. Stand­out seg­ment is Na­cho Vi­ga­londo’s ( Time­crimes) “Par­al­lel Monsters” about a guy who in­vents a por­tal to a par­al­lel uni­verse. It’s funny and in­trigu­ing but it’s sci- fi rather than hor­ror. I see no need for a V/ H/ S 4.


More from Na­cho Vi­ga­londo in Open Win­dows, the most au­da­cious film of the fes­ti­val. If you’re crav­ing some­thing grounded, plau­si­ble and sub­tle… prob­a­bly give this one a miss. Open Win­dows is pacey, brave, slip­pery, glo­ri­ous non­sense. Eli­jah Wood stars as a su­per­fan who’s won a com­pe­ti­tion to have din­ner with a fa­mous ac­tress. Neil Maskell is a cy­ber ter­ror­ist con­trol­ling Wood through his lap­top and his phone. “In­ter­net” hor­ror ( see Smi­ley, Cha­t­room etc) is dif­fi­cult to crack

since by the time you’ve made your movie tech­nol­ogy will have changed, mak­ing the film look out­dated at best or like your dad try­ing to use Twit­ter at worst. But Vi­ga­londo’s movie doesn’t have that prob­lem since it’s not based on tech­nol­ogy that ac­tu­ally ex­ists any­way. Also check out The Den, if you have a taste for com­puter based hor­ror – brings a new mean­ing to “hack and slash”.


In movies it’s long been ac­cepted that sex and hor­ror go to­gether like tor­ture and porn. In the past that’s meant ubiq­ui­tous nork shots, spu­ri­ous shower scenes and big bot­tom close- ups with lit­tle nar­ra­tive value. But per­haps the tide is turn­ing. At FrightFest this year au­di­ences were treated to an un­prece­dented num­ber of junk shots. Yep, male gen­i­talia had a true pres­ence. Most strik­ing was The Sa­mu­rai, a bold, beau­ti­ful Ger­man movie about a po­lice­man pur­su­ing a sword- wield­ing trans­ves­tite through a small town while com­ing to terms with his own sex­u­al­ity. Then there’s Among

The Liv­ing, from Julien Maury and Alexan­dre Bustillo, a film about a group of teenagers who see a tied up woman in the trunk of a car, but aren’t be­lieved by their par­ents or the po­lice. It’s great look­ing but ex­tremely frus­trat­ing and packed with genre clichés. There is how­ever, a lot of full frontal nu­dity from the main an­tag­o­nist, who is terrifying be­cause: 1 He’s very tall.

2 He’s con­stantly naked. 3 He has no hair. 4 He has no sun­tan. For more lunch­box mo­ments see also: Wolfcop, Ju­lia, Zombeavers, Truth Or Dare and V/ H/ S: Vi­ral.

Fi­nal scream

Last month orig­i­nal fi­nal girl Mar­i­lyn Burns, aka Sally Hardesty from The Texas Chain

Saw Mas­sacre, passed away. She was 65. TCM is my favourite hor­ror of all time and Sally be­came the tem­plate for ev­ery fi­nal girl since. She’s an icon of the genre and her pass­ing should be marked. There­fore ( as per a sug­ges­tion from @han­nahchap­ter1 on Twit­ter), I pro­claim 5 Au­gust as Burns’ day. On this day, in homage to the fi­nal act of TCM, fans of Mar­i­lyn Burns should let loose and scream for a solid 30 min­utes flat. It’s what she would have wanted.

Check out Starry Eyes for some old- fash­ioned body hor­ror.

Fam­ily meal­times aren’t joy­ous oc­ca­sions in The Babadook.

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