This past bank holiday weekend saw horror return to London’s famous Leicester Square as Film4 Frightfest, arguably the most popular horror festival in the UK, took over the VUE West End between 21st and 25th August for five days of blood, screams and terror.
The line up last year was impressive and included films such as You’re Next, No One Lives, Cheap Thrills, The Borderlands, Willow Creek, Banshee Chapter, We Are What We Are and Big Bad Wolves. Guests attending the festival included Don Mancini (Curse of Chucky), Wendy Glenn (You’re Next), Adam Green (Hatchet), Dominic Brunt (Before Dawn), and Gareth Evans (The Raid), Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado (Big Bad Wolves).
This year saw many festival changes and the most obvious one is the change of venue as Frightfest was hosted by the Vue West End. In addition, instead of having one main screen there were three this year which were each sponsored by Arrow Films, The Horror Channel and Film4. This gave the festival a more intimate setting despite all three screens being practically sold out.
Alan Jones, Ian Rattray, Paul Mcevoy and Greg Day, known to us frightfesters as the Four Horsemen of Frightfest had put together on a strong lineup for this years. As for me, my festival pass was for the Film4 screen so with a few minutes before showtime I couldn’t wait to take my seat. The entire screen was buzzing with excitement and it was around this moment that Andy Nyman (Severance) took to the stage to officially open the festival. He was met with the famously loud frightfest cheer.
Opening the festival was the UK Premiere of Adam Wingard’s THE GUEST. Written by Simon Barrett (Youre Next) and starring Maika Monroe (The Bling Ring), Ethan Embry (Cheap Thrills) and a devilishly handsome Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey), The Guest is the story about a grieving family who have recently lost their son in the Afghanistan war. When a mysterious man by the name of David (Stevens) turns up at their door and informs them that he has been asked to visit at the request of their son, they welcome him into their home. However, when a series of mysterious deaths occur their daughter Anna (Monroe) begins to suspect David is not all what he seems.
I loved this film and so did everyone else around me. Not only was it just as good as last year’s Youre Next but it shows that Wingard and Barrett make an excellent team together as they received a stellar applause when they returned to the screen to take part in a Q&A. Questions were asked about the soundtrack, the effects and the casting. As for me, I did ask a question about the use of practical effects but I am gutted that I never took the chance to ask the guys directly for Dan Stevens’ number (Gosling finally has competition for mancrush of the century). Nonetheless, The Guest is fantastic and it made for a perfect opening to the festival and I strongly urge you to check it out.
Up next was the second UK Premiere of the evening with Frank Miller’s and Robert Rodriguez’s SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR. Starring returning cast members Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Rosario Dawson, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For also stars Eva Green, Josh Brolin and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In this sequel, three more stories are woven together in this visually striking film. Dwight McCarthy (Brolin) is summoned by his ex-lover Ava Lord (Green) to help her escape an abusive husband. On accepting her plight Dwight soon discovers Ava’s intentions are much more sinister than they first appeared setting into motion a devastating chain of events that will be felt through all of Sin City.
I must admit that I was not overly thrilled by Sin City back in 2005. Yes, there is no denying how visually stunning both films are but I am not that much of a fan of Film Noir and as a result it never fully connected with me. Sadly, the sequel is very much the same and in my honest opinion I was bored and the use of 3D was unnecessary. This said, the film did get a pleasant reaction from the crowd and it did have its moments but sadly these were very few and far between. So if you’re a fan of the first you will no doubt love the sequel, as for me once was certainly enough.
Bringing the evening to a close was the third and final UK Premiere of the night which was Jordan Rubin‘s ZOMBEAVERS. Described as American Pie meets Cabin Fever, Zombeavers stars Lexi Atkins, Rachel Melvin and Cortney Palm as a group of college kids who decide to go to an isolated cabin by the lake for a weekend of fun and debauchery. Shortly after their arrival they find themselves fighting back against a swarm of deadly zombie beavers that have taken up residency in the nearby lake. Queue plenty of laughs, some very out there moments and some shocking beaver animatronics.
The crowd loved this film and there was never a quiet moment as someone somewhere in the screen would always be laughing or sniggering. I myself enjoyed the film but found that it kept repeating the same joke time and time again. As disappointing it was for me as a whole, Zombeavers made for the perfect midnight movie with just the right amount of fun, gore, and silliness. If you’re stuck for what to watch late night on a Friday or Saturday night after a few drinks then you won’t go wrong with this film.
The film of the day was without a doubt Adam Wingard‘s The Guest. Not only was it superbly written by Simon Barrett and packed with twists and turns but its soundtrack supports Wingard’s flawless direction. Some may call be biased but I couldn’t find a single fault with the finished product. Be sure to catch it when it is released in cinemas across the UK on 5th September.