My Big Fat Frightfest, Part 2
DAY 4: Sunday 26th August
Lifechanger – European Premiere
A shapeshifting creature fights for survival by jumping from one human body to the next while pining for the lost love of its life and contemplating the reason for its existence.
Equal parts melancholic sci-fi tragedy and indie romantic drama, it goes without saying that LIFECHANGER is a strange bird. It’s the kind of film that you might never have come across outside of a genre festival.
The protagonist of this tale is also the antagonist and is played by six different actors, as we follow the creature’s murderous path to what it hopes is some form of redemption.
The movie opens with a voice-over reminiscent of BLADE RUNNER. Whether or not the presence of narration here is as superfluous as it is in the theatrical cut of Ridley Scott’s magnum opus is up for debate. It does provide us with information right from the outset, like the creature’s age, the fact that it doesn’t really know what it is or how it came to be, and most pertinently, the time it is able to exist in each personality it steals.
The unfortunate consequence of its life cycle means that every person whose identity it takes has to die in the process. This poses a distinct existential dilemma for the alien, especially as the bodies of its most recent victims are decaying at alarming rates.
As the walls of its world begin to close in, the creature becomes increasingly nostalgic about its past, causing it to question whether its amoral imperative is actually a conscious choice after all. Only when it attempts to reconnect with a lost love does the reality of its situation truly manifest.
A peculiar coming-of-age story, handled with sensitivity and a dark sense of humour. It won’t change your life as its title suggests, but it might capture your heart for the duration of its lean runtime.
LIFECHANGER is due for US release this year. UK release date TBC.
Terrified – UK Premiere
A woman confesses to her husband that she can hear voices coming from the pipes of their bathroom — voices that whisper an evil intent. He doesn’t believe her until he witnesses her gruesome death at the hands of an invisible force. The hauntings begin to reach across the entire neighbourhood, and an overwhelmed police detective decides to call on the expertise of two paranormal investigators.
When you call your movie TERRIFIED, you sure as hell better deliver on the promise. This is Argentinian director Demian Rugna’s first horror feature, and you would struggle to find one audience member at the screening who didn’t think it delivered on the creep factor.
Jesus Christ, this film is weird! Just how I like them. What makes it so nerve-jangling and derivative is its amalgamation of supernatural thrills and Cronenbergian body-horror. It delivers a sickly mix of sub-genres, amping-up the physical threat of the spirits from beyond.
As they delve deeper into the origins of the horrific manifestations they encounter, the paranormal scientists discover a gateway to another dimension, adding metaphysical elements to the plot. Thankfully, this doesn’t do the film any harm.
Another breath of fresh air was the inclusion of practical effects, used to provide the viewer with just enough of a fleeting glimpse of the unknown to conjure the kind of arresting imagery so synonymous with classics like THE THING.
All in all, TERRIFIED manages to strike the perfect balance between the spooky and the monstrous to make this a crowd-pleaser capable of transcending the festival audience to appeal to more commercial tastes.
TERRIFIED is still touring the international festival circuit and distribution has yet to be announced.
DAY 5: Monday 27th August
Wolfman’s Got Nards – European Premiere
This celebratory documentary delves into what defines a cult classic movie, as it asks fans, cast and crew of 1987’s THE MONSTER SQUAD why the coming-of-age romp has stood the test of time and if it can be deemed a cult film in its own right.
Fred Dekker’s THE MONSTER SQUAD was not the movie on everyone’s lips after its release in the summer of ‘87. Despite the studio backing and its generous budget, it lost out to another film released two weeks earlier called THE LOST BOYS. It flopped at the box office and disappeared from the consciousness of mainstream cinema audiences for a couple of decades.
However, it did manage to grow a bigger following due to its repeat screenings on TV channels like HBO, and this forms the basis for this heartwarming and inspiring documentary. Rather than being a straight up ‘making of’ it investigates what made the movie rise again against all odds and retain a special place in the hearts of everyone it touched.
Under the steady hand of Andre Gower (who played the title role of Sean in the 1987 film) we follow the journey of the original actors as they travel around the US and the world, screening THE MONSTER SQUAD and connecting with every person that fell in love with it.
The end product is a perfect blend of joyous celebration and catharsis, the latter of those feelings being conveyed through interviews with Dekker, as he muses over how devastating it was to experience the film’s initial failure, and the redemptive power of its reemergence.
Unfortunately, such is life, it’s not all smiles and high-fives. There is a notable absence of a key child actor from THE MONSTER SQUAD throughout the documentary, and when the reason is revealed, it was hard to find a dry eye in the house.
If, like me, THE MONSTER SQUAD was a quintessential teen horror/fantasy flick during your formative years, WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS will bring you plenty of joy and a fair few tears.
Release dates for WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS are yet to be confirmed.
Climax – UK Premiere
A young dance troupe throw a party to celebrate their upcoming tour. Events take a fiendish turn when it is discovered that the punch bowl has been spiked with huge amounts of LSD, sending the wide-eyed hopefuls into a volatile and paranoid rage.
Due to Arrow Film’s involvement with the UK release of Gaspar Noe’s Cannes sensation and also being the main sponsors of Frightfest 2018, it came as little surprise to Festers that CLIMAX was chosen to be this year’s closing entry. The controversial figure himself even made an appearance to introduce what Variety described as ‘FAME directed by the Marque de Sade with a Steadicam’.
We are first introduced to our vapid dancers as they rehearse in a dingy assembly hall. It has to be said that the opening sequence is a strikingly choreographed and mesmerizing piece of cinema.
After the dancers take a break, they separate into cliques and their jealous desires and fractured relationships are revealed through punching volleys of improvised dialogue. Because it’s a foreign language film, it is harder to judge individual performances of the largely inexperienced cast, but nothing stood out as particularly awkward or troublesome.
It is then that the LSD they have unknowingly consumed starts to take control of them and utter mayhem ensues. Whether the film becomes a revelatory masterpiece at this point or a pretentious piece of exploitation, I think rests upon what the viewer brings to it.
Those audience members who have had very personal experiences of being spiked or having a ‘bad trip’ in a club scenario were triggered into a claustrophobic, hallucinatory nightmare by the final two acts. The rest had an altogether different experience. There were plenty of walkouts and lots of passionate discussions about the film’s merits or lack thereof after the lights came up.
Whatever your feelings are about CLIMAX, like the rest of Noe’s back catalogue of work, you won’t be able to argue it’s an effort that challenges and offends whilst reveling in its own divisive nature.
The one abiding memory I take from the experience is hearing that Noe sat in the projection booth during the screening, demanding the sound be cranked up. A story that will no doubt be entered into the annals of Frightfest folklore.
CLIMAX is due for UK release on 21st September.