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Yesterday I watched a group of cannibals kidnap a group of student activists in The Green Inferno. I struggled through every minute of Shockwave Darkside but had my faith in Frightfest restored by watching Late Phases. After that it was time for a slice of Found Footage from the grandad of the genre Eduardo Sanchez who took a stab at the Bigfoot legend in Exists. Shortly after I was splitting my sides with laughter during Dead Snow 2 before I caught a screening of Chad Archibald‘s entertaining H2O horror The Drownsman.

So now it’s Saturday 23rd August and we’re already on Day Three of Frightfest but what never fails to surprise me is how quickly the festival passes. I spend what seems like a lifetime waiting for the festival to arrive and then it’s gone but, there’s no time for moaning as there was yet another full day of films ahead of me. So it was time to get ready and head to Vue West End in time to catch the first film of the day which was the UK Premiere of STARRY EYES.

3_01Directed by Kevin Kolsch (Absence) and Produced by Travis Stevens (Cheap Thrills), Starry Eyes follows a waitress at a dingy diner who is desperate to book her first real acting gig. So when Sarah (Alex Essoe) gets a callback after a very strange audition she is thrilled but her excitement soon fades when she realises the true cost of fame and fortune. Described as an occult tale of ambition and possession Starry Eyes also stars Noah Segan, Pat Healy, Amanda Fuller and Shane Coffey.

I loved this one. Smartly written, superbly acted and nicely directed, Starry Eyes is a film that draws your attention from the get go and takes you on a journey filled with horrific imagery and shocking scenes of gore underlined by a commentary about the more grittier side of casting in LA. The effects reminded me of last year’s Discovery film Contracted about a young girl who contracts a deadly STI from a one night stand so if you have seen that you have a basic idea of just how disturbing this film can get. But if you’re not too bothered about overly gross out moments (head bashed in with a dumbbell or a combination of maggots and body parts) then this is a film worthy of your time.

3_02After Starry Eyes it was a quick dash downstairs to the Discovery screen to attend the World Premiere of Simeon Halligan‘s thriller WHITE SETTLERS. Starring Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman), Joanne Mitchell (Before Dawn), and Lee Williams, White Settlers follows Ed (Williams) and Sarah’s (McIntosh) first night in their new home on the Scottish borders. What should have been a new beginning in the country proves to be a deadly mistake for the couple when their home is invaded by a masked group of men who have a sinister plan up their sleeves.

As a film, White Settlers is your typical home invasion thriller on the surface. However, underneath it the film borrows elements from such films as Straw Dogs and Eden Lake to deliver a film that provides just the right amount of tension to keep audiences watching without pandering to them. As for performances, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Pollyanna McIntosh delivers yet another stunning performance as the tormented wife who is desperately trying to survive against all odds. As for directing, it is clear that Halligan comes from a design background as the film looks wonderful on the screen but overall he has delivered a top notch thriller that feels very real in every sense.

3_03After a Q&A with Simeon Halligan and his producer for White Settlers it was time to return back to the FIlm4 Screen to catch a screening of John McNaughton‘s medical thriller THE HARVEST. Starring Michael Shannon and Samantha Morton, two amazing actors, The Harvest follows two medical professionals who have kept their young son at home since birth because of his illness. Their peaceful existence is soon shattered with the arrival of their new neighbour Maryann (Natasha Calis) who takes a shine to their son Andy (Charlie Tahan). As the pair grow closer a family secret involving the basement is uncovered and it’s up to Maryann to save herself.

A slow-burning thriller from the director of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, The Harvest is a solidly written film which is expertly directed by McNaughton. Featuring an epic performances from Shannon and a rather terrifying performance from Morton (whom I say gives Kathy Bates a run for her money in the crazy department), I was pleased with the outcome of the film but I must admit that it dragged a little too much for my liking. This said, I am glad that I saw it in the end.

3_04After watching its incredibly scary trailer, one of the films that I was most looking forward to watching over the course of the festival was Jennifer Kent‘s aussie thriller THE BABADOOK. Providing a chilling look into parenthood, The Babadook tells the story of Amelia (Essie Davis) and her son, Sam (Daniel Henshall). After loosing her husband in a traffic accident six years ago, Amelia is left on her own to raise her son. But when he begins to experience night terrors after reading a mysterious pop-up book called Mr Babadook, the pair are thrown into a nightmare world where fear comes knocking three times.

I have to admit that I failed to connect with this film. Maybe it’s because the film pails in comparison to its trailer or perhaps I couldn’t quite get on the emotional level based on the fact that i’m not a parent. Eitherway, there’s something about this film that I didn’t like. Sure the demented pop-up book was chilling, some of the visuals in this movie were actually scary and the performance from Davis was superb. However, I can’t help but take a dislike to this film. As director Kent does a great job to push the horror elements of the film but sadly there aren’t enough to keep my attention. Therefore, I suspect that younger audiences will leave the cinema bitterly disappointed with this film as its drama elements overpower everything else… talk about misrepresentation!

3_05Next to be shown in the Film4 screen was I Survived a Zombie Holocaust. However, being an Adam Green fan I had to give it a miss in favour of attending the World Premiere of his film DIGGING UP THE MARROW. I had previously spoken with Adam about the film during our interview with him last year (you can read that here) so when it was announced that he would be returning with Digging Up The Marrow, I wasted no time in grabbing a ticket for the film as soon as they became available.

At this moment there is very little content for Digging Up The Marrow available online and for good reason too. This film was not only entertaining but it is perhaps Green’s best film to date and as such I do not want to go into detail about the plot or talk about specific parts of the film. So if you’re looking for spoilers you’re in the wrong place. Going into this film not knowing anything is the best way to enjoy it so do yourself a favour and go in blind. That said, I am happy to say that I did enjoy it, it was scary, it did make me jump (more than once) and I can’t wait to see it again.

Following the screening there was a very entertaining and moving Q&A from Adam who spoke about his recent divorce, his feelings about the sad loss of his Holliston co-star Dave Brockie and about Digging up the Marrow in general. Once that had ended Adam gave every attending member of the audience an exclusive Digging up the Marrow poster which has already taken pride of place on my wall.

3_06After being wowed in the Discovery screen by Adam Green it was time to return to the Film4 screen to catch a late showing of the quirky zombie romantic comedy LIFE AFTER BETH. Starring Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) and Dale DeHaan (Chronicle), the film follows Zack (DeHaan) who is distraught after his girlfriend Beth (Plaza) has died as a result of a snake bite whilst hiking alone in the nearby hills. Things take a swift turn when Zack visits his late-girlfriends parents house to discover Beth is alive. Over the moon with the news and unable to fathom what happened Zack reconnects with Beth but soon discovers there is something different about her like her rotting corpse scent, short-term memory and hunger for human flesh.

Both emotional and heartwarming, Life After Beth is another credible romantic zombie comedy that is really a pleasure to watch. The script is sharply written and the performances from the cast are sound but the true star in this movie is without a doubt Aubrey Plaza as her performance utilises her comedy skills that help her to steal every scene she is in. However, this film does not come without its faults as it does move along at a snails pace at certain points. But if you’re willing to overlook this and enjoy the film for what it is then you will like Life After Beth just as much as I did.

So that concludes my recap of the third day of Film4 Frightfest. My least favourite film of the day was regrettably Jennifer Kent‘s The Babadook for the reason mentioned above. Whereas my favourite film of the day was without a doubt Adam Green‘s Digging up the Marrow closely followed by Kevin Kolsch‘s Starry Eyes.

Tags : Digging up the MarrowFilm 4Film 4 FrightfestLife After BethStarry EyesThe BabadookThe HarvestWhite Settlers
Jon Dickinson

The author Jon Dickinson

[HORROR AND SCI-FI EDITOR] Jon Dickinson graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in 2006 with a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Communication Studies with an emphasis on PR and Multimedia. Since graduating he has contributed to several publications and regularly attends some of the biggest film festivals in the UK including Film4 Frightfest.