The new location of FrightFest, in Shepherd's Bush's Vue Cinema, was marked with some novel horror films. 'My Father Die' (director Sean Brosnan) starts with a grainy black and white flashback of two brothers growing up in swampy Booniesville. As the elder sibling (Chester) starts to make out with his girlfriend, the younger (Asher) watches out for any intruders. The boys' father arrives and after biting a chunk out of Chester's face proceeds to beat him to death in front of Asher. Fast forward two decades to the adult Asher, now mute after this trauma, living in the beautifully-shot swamp (blood red sunsets reflected in the lake) shooting alligators before returning home to take care of his now elderly and bed bound mother, in a 'Deliverance'-style shack, with his murderous father safely in jail.
His mother orders Asher around with shrieks of 'Skin that 'gator before he rots! And take out the trash!' This less-than-idyllic home life is shattered even further by the news his father has been released from jail - and is now on the loose.
Asher however has plans for hunting down his father and retribution, which include disguising himself by putting on Chester's wolfskin cap matched with natty red sunglasses. This outfit causes some entertainment for the local hicks, who not unjustifiably demand when he arrives, lupine cap making him scarily surreal: 'This some sorta sex thang? You're the big bad wolf and you want me t' be Little Red Ridin' Hood?'
Joe Anderson (the Brit from 'The Crazies') plays Asher as one of the best performances in this pumped up revenge thriller. There are occasional voiceovers from Anderson about how all fathers teach their sons to be independent and therefore to replace their parent, and Brosnan seemed determined to add another layer to the film, although it was uncertain where the symbolic paintings of death and justice had relevance to the storyline itself.
'Pet' stars Dominic Monaghan as a geeky loner Seth who works in an animal sanctuary and one day walks into a pretty former classmate Holly (Ksenia Solo). After she diplomatically turns him down, and his attempts at stalking her on Facebook fail miserably, Seth decides to inject her with animal tranquilliser, and put her in an underground cage. Here he plans to treat her like one of his rescued animals, keeping her 'safe' in her cage, until she is 'cured' and gives in to his demented demands. Weird as it is to see the former cute Hobbit play a disturbing stalker, Monaghan turns in a solid performance as a small but terrifying psycho (although with a less than convincing American accent).
'Beyond the Gates' was a lovable lo-budget horror-com featuring a haunted VHS board game which brings destruction to those foolish enough to play it, with an icily perfect cameo from FrightFest stalwart Barbara Crampton.
'Broken' (Dir Shaun Robert Smith, UK) at first seems to be a 'Misery' clone but turns out to be very different. Live-in carer Evie ('Martyrs'' Morjana Alaoui) is looking after John (Mel Raido) who after an accident uses a wheelchair. He plans to end his own life, asking a friend Douggie to being him a gun to do so; then later decides to throw a 'failed suicide party'. While caring for John in the bath, commode and bed and dealing with his mood swings - and seldom has the grislier side of disability been portrayed so accurately and non-dramatically in horror - Evie is victimised by the horrific Douggie. Getting flashbacks to her abusive childhood, she decides at some point during the wild party that she's had enough.
'Johnny Frank Garret's Last Word' (dir Simon Rumley, US) is based on a true story of a Texan man condemned for murder and rape, despite pleading his innocence. After his death in 1992, when those involved with the case start dying in mysterious circumstances, an ex juror decides to see if he can stop these unexpected deaths with a post-humorous pardon.
British director Rumley spoke after the film, describing how he met the mother and sisters of the real-life Garret, and how the relatives to his surprise, despite being told it was a horror and not a documentary, said they liked the film. Rumley also mentioned he told the make up artists to do anything they liked with the actors during one flashback scene to add to the demented surreal effects.
'Egomaniac' is semi-based on a true story, of a striving young director called Catherine Sweeney who needs to make money to create her first film a zombie comedy. She is surrounded by unhelpful producers who insist she adds a 'talking dog' to her gory script to add to its selling appeal, and beset by talentless actors and self doubt. Despite this, Catherine fights to get her vision from the script to the screen. This includes raising money by working (humiliatingly) as a waitress in a Hawaiian restaurant, wearing a theme outfit, singing Happy Birthday and playing the ukulele.
But when even these heroic efforts at self funding fail, it's time for more drastic measures. After Egomaniac lurched from creepy comedy to a genuinely disturbing ending, director Kate Shenton proved to be an entertaining host in the Q&A afterwards, answering questions with wit and humour, and some judicious use of sock puppets.
'Crow' is a UK eco-horror from director Wyndham Price, centring around a tribe of wood dwellers whose lives are threatened when a money-crazed wide boy developer called Tucker decides to hack down their forest to build a new house. The wood dwellers, who have adopted the crow as their spirit leader (played with aplomb by the ever-regal Terence Stamp), decide to fight back. Tucker unwisely decides to take a late night walk in the woods to survey his new kingdom, slashing needlessly at the undergrowth as he goes...and you can tell things are not going to go to plan.
'Found Footage 3D' (dir Steven DeGennaro) features a ramshackle film crew who can't stand found footage movies but are determined to shoot the best ever version of this. The wannabe director and his ex Amy will play the warring couple (both on and off camera, the crew worry) as they set off film to the cabin in the woods.
But apparently this cabin actually is haunted, according to the locals, which the director optimistically hopes will improve the ambience. The sound op has enough and storms off after various strange goings-on, while poor Amy puts on a brave face for the camera. This original, self-referential comedy suddenly lurches into straight into horror in the second half - and got the biggest scream of fright of the entire festival.