Wednesday, September 30

FrightFest 2012 Report: Day 2 – Friday 24 August by Faye Coulman

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It’s barely 10am, but already The Empire is abuzz with anticipation for an unmissable exclusive in the shape of Clive Barker’s newly-restored Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut. Since the 1990 original saw a lukewarm reception among fans and critics alike, there’s been many a rumour of missing scenes and misplaced movie reels. Unspooled for the first time in over two decades, this prized footage is finally brought to light in an intensive restoration project helmed by visionary director Russell Cherrington.

Painstakingly restored and spliced into the 1990 feature, this fully-fleshed beast of a movie is the most complete form of Nightbreed ever witnessed, weighing in at a whopping 153 minutes. Condemned to a strange nocturnal underworld by the name of Midian, ill-fated mortal Aaron Boone joins the ranks of the living dead after his own violent demise is engineered by a mad psychiatrist hell-bent on uncovering the secrets of immortality. Nothing short of a Barker fanatic’s fantasy made flesh, this super-sized slab of otherworldly horror is positively awash with ’80s-flavoured nostalgia. The outdated prosthetics and hairdos may have aged badly, but for classic horror obsessives, these shamelessly hammy elements only add nostalgic weight to Nightbreed’s uniquely quirky cinematic charm. Spanning an attention-testing two and a half hours filled with no small amount of rather uneventful and drawn-out action sequences, this epic piece would doubtless benefit from some selective trimming in places. As an ongoing work-in-progress, it’s also unsurprisingly littered with fuzzy, deteriorated footage but, for all Nightbreed’s flaws, its visual wealth of supernatural horrors far outweighs these relatively minor cosmetic gripes. With these unique visuals rivalled only by such demented personalities as wise-cracking demon Narcisse (Hugh Ross) the movie delivers all the slow-burning menace and deranged thrills that seemed so sorely absent from the original cut.

'Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut'

From one richly historic highlight to the next, there’s still greater excitement with the arrival of Italy’s premier master of horror, Dario Argento. With a stellar career spanning such cult classics as The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Suspiria and Inferno, it comes as no surprise that this very afternoon he’s been crowned Total Film magazine’s Total Icon. Underpinned by the launch of newly-revamped best-seller ‘Dario Argento: The Man, The Myth, The Magic’, the horror legend’s influential body of work forms the focus of his in-depth Q&A with Total Film scribe Jamie Graham.

Despite being liberally doused in gore from every imaginable angle, there’s little evidence of new blood at work in Chilean shocker Hidden In The Woods. Following the primitive, well-beaten path of backwoods exploitation fodder, newcomer director Patricio Valladares offers up a gratuitous gore fest that’s every bit as brutal and unsubtle as a hammer blow to the face. Inspired by a sensational tabloid tale of two sisters subjected to revolting sexual abuse at the hands of their murderous, drug-dealing father, this uncompromisingly raw outing revels in a veritable orgy of sex, violence and death. In a desperate bid to escape him, the girls finally report his abusive actions, only for the arresting officers to be unceremoniously chain-sawed apart by their monstrous tormentor who’s later jailed before he’s able to reveal the location of his stash to a murderous drug lord by the name of Costello. Assuming sisters Anny and Ana will know where to find it, Costello’s henchmen set off in pursuit of the fleeing girls but soon discover that, this time around, they’ve quite literally bitten off more than they can chew.

'Hidden in the Woods'

Penned around a threadbare plot and basic, uninspiring dialogue, there’s little substance behind this shameless exercise in no-holds-barred shock. As a movie centred on issues of female exploitation, viewers may easily draw sketchy parallels with Thursday thriller, The Seasoning House. But where the latter tastefully panned away from gratuitous sex and nudity, Hidden In The Woods openly revels in a multitude of rape scenes whose lingering and lecherous shots push the boundaries of taste to breaking point. With overwhelmingly sickening scenes of abuse and bloody violence tied into suitably vile and detestable villains, Hidden In The Woods ticks every box in the exploitation stakes. But with Valladare numbering the latest in a long line of directors who’ve followed this bloody but boringly unoriginal trend, there’s nothing here that hasn’t already been revisited time and time again.

Tipped to transform the faddish face of mockumentary horror, six-piece anthology V/H/S comes courtesy of an edgy collective of directors handpicked by Bloody Disgusting head honcho and producer Brad Miska. Numbering the fast-rising likes of Ti West, Adam Wingard and Joe Swanberg, each unflinchingly dark instalment makes for a thick and fast assault on the senses that screenwriter Simon Barrett defines as “the found footage movie for people who hate found footage.” Fuelled by a shared contempt for the genre’s sequel-ridden commercial explosion, this underground picture tears into the trend with bloodthirsty aplomb and razor-sharp intelligence to create a fiercely original work of imagination. Bound up in a wraparound plotline in which a gang of criminal lowlifes pillage a deserted house in search of a rare VHS tape, the hard-hitting shorts contained within run a varied gamut from blood-steeped exploitation to chilling, genre-defying greatness. Among the finest features of this voyeuristic mindf**k of a movie, David Bruckner’s Amateur Night sees a Saturday night pick-up take an ingeniously sinister, supernatural turn, while Adam Wingard’s Skype-style chiller (The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger) totally redefines the found footage genre with a real-time immediacy and close-up voyeurism that’s nothing short of inspired. Clocking in at around two hours, V/H/S is by no means free from filler, but as a movie that’s also peppered with moments of cinematic brilliance, it’s essential viewing for cult movie fans seeking a much-needed antidote to predictable mainstream horror.

V/H/S Has Bite

In the grand tradition of multiple sequels, [Rec]3 Genesis falls drastically short of the franchise’s former glory with a tame and trashy departure that few would have expected from a series so renowned for edgy, genre-defying filmmaking. Plunging headlong into precisely the streamlined commercial territory that the 2007 original famously eschewed, this splatter-laden exercise in horror comedy makes for amusing but ultimately rather mindless viewing. When a lavish wedding reception takes an unexpected and terrifying turn, newlyweds Clara and Koldo find themselves embroiled in a deadly battle for survival against an ever-growing horde of undead wedding guests. From chainsaws and suits of armour to hilariously ingenious use of a handheld mixer, the comic book-flavoured slapstick featured here is served with a generous side of adrenalin-fuelled carnage. But, while the sum of its many severed and blood-splattered parts comprises the perfect recipe for a sure-fire crowd-pleaser, the raw menace of the original has been watered down beyond recognition.

Spawned out of an evident fondness for ’80s slasher flicks, Stitches’ altogether more artful intermingling of splatter and red nose-sporting tomfoolery makes for a hugely original horror comedy that’s refreshingly impossible to pin down. With the source of this uniqueness revolving around the quick-witted talents of acclaimed comedian Ross Noble, director Conor McMahon’s hilarious piece kicks off with the accidental death of jaded children’s entertainer Richard ‘Stitches’ Grindle. Weary of working the local children’s party circuit, Stitches meets an exceptionally gruesome demise after a party gag goes horribly awry. But, unbeknownst to the bratty children who tormented him that fateful evening, Stitches just can’t rest easy and, after being resurrected by a black magic clown cult, sets out to exact his own very personal brand of big-shoed vengeance.

Ross Noble in 'Stitches'

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