In a historic year that’s witnessed more than its share of shameless, flag-flying patriotism, an altogether edgier great British tradition celebrates its 13th anniversary in all the impeccably chilling, gore-soaked style you’d expect of such a notorious number. As a famously unhallowed digit that’s universally revered among the thousands of horror fanatics gathered here tonight, Leicester Square’s Empire Cinema is unsurprisingly thick with anticipation for the five day-long onslaught of terror that awaits.
But however lofty these expectations, nothing can prepare viewers for Paul Hyett’s harrowing and fearlessly original The Seasoning House. As shocking and warped an opening number as any horror festivalgoer could wish for, Hyett’s seismic leap from special effects guru to director is nothing short of jaw-dropping. If earlier horror titles scratched the surface of real life atrocities, this unique piece plunges headlong into the ravaged, decay-ridden realities of war and human trafficking. Having been seized by soldiers in the hellish thick of the Balkan war, deaf mute orphan Angel (Rosie Day) is one of a slew of hapless young girls who’ve been abducted and imprisoned in a brothel. But as a carer to the hapless sex slaves incarcerated there, our plucky young heroine soon begins plotting her escape, using a secret network of air vents and crawlspaces to move undetected from room to room. And when the detestable soldiers who slaughtered Angel’s parents before her very eyes stop off to make use of the local “amenities,” she’s ready to exact her revenge.
Rosie Day in 'The Seasoning House'
Fondly defining special effects makeup as “that school of incredible detail,” Hyett’s meticulous style lends itself exceptionally well to directing, with every menacing shade and haunting nuance mapped out with pinpoint precision. With little more than the dilapidated depths of RAF Uxbridge to work with, Hyett has, as if out of thin air, conjured up an intricate work of art that’s as grotesque as it is unexpectedly moving. Wrapped up in an ambient, dream-like score that frequently drowns out speech and background noise, the viewer is instantly immersed in Angel’s very personal hell. Artistically shot through varying shades of sickly yellow and stark, washed-out lighting, Hyett plays up these claustrophobic atmospherics to mesmerising effect, with no shortage of grisly carnage thrown in for good measure.
But it’s through the instinctive talents of first-time film actress Rosie Day that these atrocities are brought convincingly to life. Despite obviously being stripped of dialogue throughout, the young actress’ every move and subtle flicker of desperation speaks volumes for her suffering. As a movie that’s positively steeped in bloodshed in every gloriously gouging, crushing and bludgeoning form imaginable, The Seasoning House is sure to tickle the fancy of many a hardened gore hound. But, from the sneering mercilessness of Hyett’s sex and violence-crazed soldiers to the gut-wrenching depths of Angel’s despair, it’s these emotionally raw performances, coupled with richly atmospheric camerawork, that set a new standard in nerve-shredding psychological terror.
'Cockneys vs Zombies' Hits FrightFest
Following in the shambling footsteps of Shaun Of The Dead, Matthias Hoene’s gory and rhyming slang-littered Cockneys vs. Zombies falls distinctly short of its altogether more intelligent predecessor with a lukewarm repertoire of hackneyed (pardon the pun) gags and wafer-thin, geezer stereotypes. After getting off to a lumbering, painfully unfunny start, there’s a smattering of mildly amusing and occasionally hilarious moments, with a Zimmer frame chase scene ranking top of the movie’s most memorable highlights. Lacking the razor-sharp wit and fully-fleshed characters of more artful horror comedies, this hare-brained exercise in gory slapstick makes for easily digestible, but ultimately forgettable viewing.
In tonight’s extended stint of horror comedy, Grabbers delivers the rib-tickling goods out of a clever premise that’s both hilarious and affectionately Irish. When an alien horde who happen to be fatally allergic to alcohol crash land off the shores of Erin Island, it fast becomes apparent that invading the famously liquor-loving Emerald Isle was an ill-advised decision. Having cottoned on to the life-saving properties of their beloved booze, police officers Lisa Nolan and Ciaran O’Shea waste little time in getting tanked up to the nines in a bid to defeat their tentacled, intergalactic enemies.
Does 'Grabbers' Grab an Audience?