Human Centipede II (Full Sequence).

Shot in black and white and with a lead character who doesn’t utter a single word during the entire movie – The Human Centipede 2 feels very different to its predecessor but is exactly the film that many incorrectly assumed that Tom Six had made with the original instalment.

Like the first movie no one can fault the casting selection. In the original film Dieter Laser was a masterful choice as the deranged scientist who envisaged the concept of a “human centipede” – yet in the second offering this has been surpassed. Laurence R Harvey – who plays the socially inept and mentally deranged Martin – portrays his character with a significant physical presence; with a toad-like appearance he elicits simultaneous pity and disgust.

Martin lives with his vile mother and works a night shift monitoring CCTV in a car park. This solitary employment allows him to indulge his obsession with the first Human Centipede movie. He watches it endlessly, documents it and even pleasures himself with sandpaper whilst watching it. Eventually Martin decides to make his own bigger and better Human Centipede with twelve people instead of just the three. Thus he sets about the logistics of his task and collecting the necessary human components.

There is some interest in Martin’s character and story – and no one could fault the acting of the limited cast. Martin’s relationship with his mother develops to a crescendo which becomes a horrendous “Psycho” image for the Saw generation. The film does leave an unanswered question in the viewer’s mind, but not one that lingers for too long.

To assess a movie like this from a point of high-brow smugness is to miss the point completely. The concept of the Human Centipede First Sequence was fairly innovative and on this basis alone should be praised and encouraged – as there is a paucity of originality in the modern genre. In this Full Sequence Tom Six spares no detail and pushes any boundary he sees fit. Although this style delivers nothing new in these days of ultra-gory horror it at least fulfills its brief – and anyone sitting down to watch a film such as this has only themselves to blame if such content bores or offends them.

The monochrome style, which serves to make the graphic gore less sensational but no less repulsive, and the curious antagonist make this a more interesting film than the previous one. Ultimately such a movie will always revolve around its very basic premise – accept this before proceeding and enjoy being grossed out for 90 minutes, otherwise don’t be shocked if you are disappointed.

Pusher (1996)

Set in Copenhagen, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher explores the world of Frank – a small time gangster who makes the occasional drug deal in order to get by.

Frank finds himself in debt to a supplier, so when a former prison associate turns up unexpectedly asking to score a large consignment of heroin at short notice, Frank sees the opportunity to make back the money he owes. To do so he sources the drugs from the gangster he owes money to – on the assurance that both debts will be covered after the sale.

Pusher is shot in a very naturalistic style, which makes it feel real and immersive. More mainstream movies set in this environment can be overly polished and stylised resulting in the grubbiness of the world becoming sanitised. The movement of the camera and the framing of the shots often make the viewer feel like they are in the room for many of the claustrophobic scenes.

The character of Frank can be vile and crude at times but he is also strangely appealing as an individual – mainly because he appears to be trying to do his best in life and make it through with the cards that he’s been dealt. Unlike many characters of the gangster underworld he does not seem to revel in violence for status or pleasure. Thus he is a character with depth; he has virtues and flaws – all of which are believable and delivered competently by the actor, Kim Bodnia.

The film is segmented into each day of a week. As the story progresses to the drug deal which will pay off Frank’s debts a very subtle, but increasingly palpable, sense of dread starts to permeate the film. There is a definite vicarious concern for Frank and despite his best laid plans we sense that his world is about to fall in.

Of course the deal goes bad and Frank finds himself without either the drugs or the money and therefore up to his neck in debt to someone more than willing to take several pounds of flesh in lieu. Thus the film descends into Frank’s personal nightmare as he embarks upon a mission against the clock to raise the cash.

It takes nearly half the running time before we see the violence we suspected Frank to be capable of; this patience is testimony to the quality of the film. The character is crafted to create empathy which in turn leads to understanding and acceptance of his motivations and actions.

As the tension builds the film becomes a fascinating view into how its main character responds to the conflict he is placed in – yet on a much more human level than more standard fare in this subgenre. The horror of this film is in the violence, despair and desperation that Frank has to endure.

Pusher is an exploration of fate, luck and circumstance – how individual acts and decisions, even those beyond our control, lead us into situations that can change our lives. The end of the film, whilst not completely ambiguous, is open ended enough to make us consider whether events that may appear to be either benign or malignant can in fact be the opposite, and even if they are – we may never know. On this basis a film about Danish gangsters becomes something that relates to all of our lives, and that is a mark of brilliant filmmaking.

British & European Horror News & Events – Episode 71

Reel Music Part VII – The New Blood.

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=140847549328945

REEL MUSIC is a club night dedicated to music from the movies. It takes place at one of central London’s premiere venues, the BLOOMSBURY BOWLING LANES. The next event happens on Friday October 28th 2011

It’s that time of year again, where the ghosts and ghouls come out to play, and on this occasion they come out to play the finest tracks from your favourite movies! Halloween is here and it’s time to put on your best horror movie inspired costume and join us for what will be London’s ULTIMATE HALLOWEEN PARTY – REEL MUSIC PART VII – THE NEW BLOOD!


FrightFest Halloween All-Nighter.

http://www.frightfest.co.uk/2011corepages/frightfestfilms2.html

At the Vue cinema in London’s West End on 29th October. Line up is:

  • Bad Meat
  • Livid
  • The Human Centipede II
  • Faces In The Crowd
  • Cold Sweat
  • The Watermen

Electric Cinema All-Nighter – The Films Of John Carpenter.

http://www.electriccinema.co.uk/comingsoon.php

Our Horror All-Nighter is dedicated to one of the true fathers of the modern horror film, legendary director John Carpenter. Since the 1970s Carpenter has unleashed onto an unsuspecting public some of the most intense, imaginative, influential and downright terrifying films in American cinema. Our epic programme will pay fitting tribute to the master of the lingering take, the spine tingling score and the ruthless, relentless exploitation of our most primal fears.

HALLOWEEN + THE FOG, followed by ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK + THEY LIVE.

Disturbia – BBC Concert Orchestra Halloween Show.

http://ticketing.southbankcentre.co.uk/find/music/classical/tickets/disturbia-60930

As an alluring alternative to mainstream Halloween entertainment, the BBC Concert Orchestra weaves scintillating tendrils of sound with an unforgettable psycho-dramatic musical tapestry.

Horrorthon Film Festival.

http://www.horrorthon.com/

27th – 31st October 2011 at the IFI cinema, Eustace St, Dublin 2

Bram Stoker International Film Festival.

http://bramstokerfilmfestival.com/

Whitby, England from 28th to 31st October. Featuring a vampire ball, feast of blood and A Vampire Tale.

Village Of The Damned.

http://villageofthedamnedfilmfest.blogspot.com/p/about.html

Now in its second year Village of the Damned is a horror film festival held in
the sleepy Scottish village of Auchmithie. Our aim is to bring horror shorts to
a new audience and create a new event within the community. The films will be
screened over 4 nights on Halloween weekend along with an exhibition of horror
themed art and craft.

Weekend Of Horrors.

4th to 6th November in Bottrop, Germany.

Ed’s Extreme Cinema: Suspiria

It is always prudent to be cautious with grandiose statements, but Suspiria is one of the greatest horror films ever made. Legendary Italian director Dario Argento utilised every aspect of his considerable talent to create the ultimate expression of terror; it is hard to define exactly why this 1977 classic is so effective, but that is part of its brilliance.

The plot is not a complex one.  Suzy (Jessica Harper) is an America ballet dancer who has travelled to a German dance academy to study her art. On the night of her arrival a powerful storm rages, and one of the students is brutally murdered.  Suzy becomes increasingly unnerved by a series of strange and mysterious events, and ultimately comes to suspect that the academy is run by a coven of murderous witches.

The setting allows a disconcerting sensation to germinate. The academy is a great gothic building, with large, highly decorated, rooms and seemingly endless corridors. When the storms begin outside, they lash and howl like something from mythology.

As one would expect from an Argento film, the Goblin soundtrack accents everything that is occurring on screen – but the score and sound effects for Suspiria are second-to-none. The instruments are combined with screams and growls; the pounding rhythms and repetitive melodies are mesmeric and hypnotising. The resultant aural effect is disturbing in its own right.

The cinematography combines artistry and innovation in a manner rarely seen in the genre. Lights in strange hues saturate the shots – occasionally bright red, deep green or cool blue; the physical source of this illumination is irrelevant and never addressed. This lighting is successful in catalysing the otherworldly sensation experienced by the viewer and has no other purpose. Such is the skill with which Argento presents his art we are not required to suspend disbelief for it to be effective – the technique simply works.

Suspiria is consentient with a lot of Giallo films. Firstly, a sense of mystery is central to the story – Suzy doesn’t understand what is happening and the film is structured around her trying to find out. Secondly, where kills take place they are frightening and violent – but also stylised and artistic. The opening death is one of the genres finest – for its build up, viciousness, imagination and presentation. It is a brutal slaying, but beautifully done – typically Giallo.

The film consistently builds its sense of dread. The evil lurks just around the corner, creeps about at night and tries to get in through the door. Argento creates a mood that sneaks into the mind and make one shift uncomfortably in the seat. This atmosphere is punctuated with highly efficient moments of visual horror and violence which ensures that the intrigue is matched by well structured pacing. This includes maggots raining from the ceiling and a cutthroat razor earning its name.

If filmmaking is an art form, and it surely is, then Suspiria is a masterpiece. There is not a single frame of film in which Argento has not tightly orchestrated the sound, dialogue, gesture and lighting to create an atmosphere of distress and unease. The result is that Suspiria evokes the same raw sense of fear as waking from a childhood nightmare.

It is true that Dario Argento eventually lost his way in his later career, but realistically nobody could maintain the level of achievement he set with Suspiria. The film is undoubtedly a classic, not just within the horror genre, but of cinema in general. Whether it is to study original and artistic filmmaking, or just to be genuinely scared and entertained – all lovers of film should experience Suspiria.

Funny Games (1997)

When the music in the opening scene of 1997’s Funny Games suddenly changes from opera to heavy metal, without deviating from the scene of a family driving to their rural holiday home, we know that the juxtaposition is foreshadowing events to come.

Michael Haneke’s film was remade 10 years after its release, but unnecessarily so – as this original work is unsettling, powerful and brilliantly constructed.

A couple and their young son arrive at their destination: a large house by a lake, to be immediately met by a pair of strange young men. From the outset a wave of dread pervades the film which is escalated as the passive-aggressive nature of the two antagonists becomes increasingly sinister.

Initially the men rely on taking advantage of the family’s unease and reluctance to appear rude, but this quickly gives way to violence and ultimately the unwanted guests hold them captive. Even at this stage, the villains justify their actions and blame the family for the fate that has befallen them.

One of the subtexts of this film appears to be that the family represent social norms and the intruders the breaking down of society’s rules. The film is genuinely terrifying and this comes from the knowledge that we all live by laws and rules, some official, some almost unspoken – but when aggressive individuals decide that these do not apply to them, we are all vulnerable. As the director, Michael Haneke, states: “All the rules that keep society functioning mean nothing to them. Against characters like that, you don’t stand a chance”.

Funny Games has an exceptionally transgressive tone to it, but there is no graphic violence portrayed on the screen. Instead everything is implied – the focus is on the reaction of the characters to events unfolding and the emotional impact of the trauma being experienced. For example; the father is forced to choose between the degradation of his wife or his son experiencing pain; tight shots of faces show us little detail of the outcome but the effect is harrowing.

The director uses this work to explore the theme of violence in film and does so by not showing us any – but forces the viewer to examine their role as voyeur to the horror experienced by the family. Anyone in any doubt of this should consider the lingering shot of blood dripping down a flickering TV screen.

Haneke employs interesting techniques to achieve his aims; firstly the antagonists occasionally address the viewer directly. Whilst initially this has a distracting effect, it does ultimately inflict a sense of collusion on the audience. Secondly, there is a very unorthodox technique used whereby a character rewinds the film after a killing takes place rendering the murder fiction within the fiction. The viewer therefore has to consider their feelings towards the death as it occurred, and then their reaction to it being erased.

However Haneke does not moralise. His aims with this film are noble and he succeeds because he does not offer a conclusion to his exploration of the theme –that is left to the individual. For my part, I hold firm that vicariously experiencing disturbing or frightening scenarios within the safe confines of fictional cinema is liberating and exciting; but I appreciated Funny Games for the opportunity to examine this whilst watching a highly effective example of horror cinema. I do concede that as horror fans we are watching because we sometimes want the worst to happen, and on that basis we are collaborators with the nastiest evils the human mind can conjure.

Do not think that Funny Games is pure art-house though, because it is not. It can easily be enjoyed with popcorn and a beer as taught thriller with strong horror elements. Indeed, if the visceral power of extreme cinema is something you wish to experience but without any of the intense and often gratuitous visuals, this would be a good starting point.

To accentuate this, in a scene in which a close-up could have shown an extremely vile image, a wide shot is favoured showing no details. In doing so the reality of what is being shown hits like a punch to the gut as we are forced to peer into the shot to realise what has taken place. This is then amplified as this view is held, and within it we experience every wave of the characters highly emotional response. It is hard to imagine such a scene being shot tenderly, but Haneke achieved it.

Funny Games is a film in which our unease is sculpted with every scene. The threat that it portrays is a real one, and on that basis the fear it generates is tangible in our daily lives. It eschews visual disgust in favour of creating an empathic reaction to horrendous scenarios inflicted upon characters that we can emotionally invest in. It is intelligent, thought provoking and artistic – but above all it is entertaining, exciting and, in an unconventional sense perhaps, truly horrific.

 

British & European Horror News – Episode 69.

FrightFest announce three Halloween all-nighters and the annual Glasgow event:

http://www.frightfest.co.uk/2011corepages/frightfestnewspage.html

Classic Horror Campaign’s latest double bill:

http://www.classichorrorcampaign.com/events/

Survive the zombie horde! 2.8 Hours Later:

http://www.2.8hourslater.com/

Inbred

A fantastic experience of violence and pitch black humour, Inbred is distinctly British and distinctly Alex Chandon. It has been ten years since Chandon directed Cradle Of Fear, and the nightmarish quality of that 2001 cult favourite has been retained in Inbred and fortified with a more consistent cast and superior production values.

The director’s latest offering to the horror genre pitches a group of troubled teens and their youth workers against a freak show ensemble of murderous villagers in rural Yorkshire. A trip to the local pub on their first night introduces the locals and sounds the warning that all might not be well – and are those really pork scratchings? From here fortune swiftly plummets for the unfortunate gang as they are exposed to bizarre and sadistic local customs which would make the inhabitants of “Summer Isle” seem welcoming.

The acting in Inbred is solid throughout, and the cast had clearly been selected to give the correct feel for a film which is designed to function as an effective horror movie (which it does) whilst not asking its audience to take it too seriously. Jo Hartley and James Doherty as the group leaders perform particularly well together: he the overly liberal youth worker trying to relate to the kids but failing miserably, and she the harder-nosed realist who coaxes tentative friendships from them. Their dynamic aided the younger actor’s interactions and provided humour and characters which were easy to identify with.

It was interesting to see a quintessentially American horror subgenre (out-of-towners entering the isolated domain of murderous hillbillies; see Wrong Turn et al) transposed into the English countryside. It was done well and took the correct tone to avoid the potential pitfalls: principally the scale of the landscape and likely proximity to civilisation, which could have been problematic. The humour allowed the viewer to suspend disbelief further than in a straight piece, but it was never allowed to become a slapstick farce – the balance was well struck.

As with Cradle Of Fear the physical effects were extremely well executed. True horror aficionados love practical effects, and with a plethora of gore including slit throats and blown-up heads, genre fans will find themselves roaring with approval once the action gets started. If CGI was used, it was done so sparingly and effectively.

Inbred does not simply provide the set-up and then unleash horrors upon its victims; instead a surreal community and its unique brand of underground entertainment is fleshed out before the carnage begins. If you’ve ever been to a tiny, isolated, village and wondered “what do they do for fun here?” – Inbred takes that thought and then brutally murders it in front of a cheering crowd by way of an answer.

Gratifyingly, directorial courage was not lost at the conclusion of Inbred. The violent attrition between the opposite sides of the rural divide was bloody and fun. The ending satisfyingly concluded the film in the tone it deserved – you wouldn’t expect all the protagonists walking off into the sunset together, but neither are we ambushed with an Eden Lake style buzz kill. Again the tone and balance were well crafted.

Sometimes the success and failure of a movie is not entirely down to the filmmakers, but the audience too. Watching Inbred for an in-depth exposition on rural life in modern Yorkshire would be a bit like watching Carry On Doctor for an insight into the workings of the NHS in the 1960’s. With grass roots horror at its black heart and a sick sense of humour, Inbred entertains from start to finish and will put an evil smile on your face. Hopefully Alex Chandon won’t leave horror fans waiting another decade before returning to the director’s chair.

FrightFest 2011

FrightFest 2011 appeared to have one of its strongest line-ups for years, and after five days of intensive horror viewing in the country’s largest cinema I can confirm that it did not disappoint.

Despite the handicap of having Leicester Square being dug up for refurbishment ahead of the London Olympics in 2012, which meant horror fans could not flood out into the famous London landmark to socialise between screenings, FrightFest 2011 still had its trademark atmosphere created by the organisers and genre fans who love the festival so much.

Even the weather, which was typically British, could not dampen the spirits of the 1000-plus horror fans who gathered in the heart of London to see the best of brand new horror cinema at The Empire, Leicester Square.

DAY ONE.

Unlike all the following days, Day One of FrightFest doesn’t start until the evening. As we gathered in the massive Empire Screen One to take our seats the buzz and excitement was palpable. Eventually the house lights dimmed to a rapturous applause and we were treated to a “welcome to FrightFest” short-film based on Escape From New York, which was the first of many homage’s over the weekend to the works of John Carpenter. After this had got everyone in the mood the festival organisers, lead by the inimitable Alan Jones, took to the stage briefly to welcome us all to 5 days of horror, and introduced the opening film of FrightFest 2011.

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (UK Premier) was a solid enough opening to this year’s festival. A typically strong performance from Guy Pearce and also from the child lead (Bailee Madison) combined well with exceptional creature effects to make an atmospheric offering. Although it was co-written and produced by the legendary Guillermo Del Torro it contained the hallmark of the great filmakers style, but lacked the uniqueness of his directorial pieces. None-the-less director Troy Nixey did a good job of reimagining the 1973 original; and was perhaps judged by higher standards due to del Torro’s involvement.

Next up was the UK Premier of Final Destination 5 – 3D. Being in 3D and the fifth movie in an extremely homogenised franchise (I don’t have to run through the plot, do I?) – I wasn’t expecting much from this film. How wrong I was!

As predicted the plot had not so much been recycled, rather completely reused, from previous entries to the series; but this was thoroughly enjoyable, brainless, fun. Perhaps it helped being surrounded by the fantastic FrightFest crowd who cheered every kill like a score at a sporting event – but I enjoyed every minute of Final Destination 5 – 3D. This was the movie 3D was made for; usually surplus to requirements the 3D here was well done and creatively used. It was even subtle in places, adding depth of field and interesting reflections.

The opening “disaster scene” was amazing to behold, and the imaginative deaths – the trade mark of this series – did not disappoint. This is a perfect film to switch your brain off for a bit, have a couple of beers, and just enjoy the bloody carnage!

Day One closed disappointingly to the poorly conceived anthology The Theatre Bizarre (European Premier). Having read the synopsis I was looking forward to this one, but the lack of cohesion and loose editing on the overly-long and not particularly engaging stories saw me literally fall asleep at one point – although that could have been more to do with a combination of rum and the post-midnight timing! The directors stated that they did not confer when scripting their individual stories for the anthology – and it showed.

As the lights of London flashed by through my taxi window after Day One, I considered the irony that the one film I wasn’t bothered about on Opening Night was my pick of the day. Sometimes being a horror addict is all about switching off and having fun – tonight was a perfect case in point.

DAY TWO

Having not got into bed until 3am, Day Two of FrightFest 2011 started sedately! After a great veggie breakfast, the only decent thing to do in order to prepare for a big day of movie action was to get into one of the many pubs on Leicester Square for a few rums. Once properly lubricated, we joined the FrightFest faithful for the UK Premier of Urban Explorers.

Set beautifully within the claustrophobic catacombs under Berlin Urban Explorers starts promisingly enough following a group of young adults who get their kicks investigating the hidden areas of the urban environment. Hooking up with a guide they found via the internet, they travel deep into the tunnels in search of a wartime Nazi bunker. So far, so good. Sadly after the initial set-up, this film became rather standard fare once the explorers start getting picked off by a murderous German living underground. Not without its merits, and the villain was interesting – but some of the characters were a little one dimensional and behaved in an unrealistic manner. Had the director made better use of the setting and delivered more empathetic characters, this film might have elevated itself beyond the average offering it became.

A quick stop for refreshments, and we’re straight into the World Premier of Crisitan Solimeno’s The Glass Man. Starring FrightFest favourite Andy Nyman and also Neve Campell sporting a just passable English accent; The Glass Man shows us the despair of Martin Pyrite (Nyman) who has lost his job and has spiralled into debt, the shame of which leads him to keep the desperate situation from his wife (Campbell). Just as the situation starts to completely unravel, a menacing stranger arrives who appears to offer salvation, if Martin will do his bidding for just one night.

The acting throughout was excellent, especially Nyman’s performance, but whilst the film started strongly it dissipated once it became clear that the movie was employing a trope which is starting to become clichéd now. I won’t spoil what it was, as there is a lot to be enjoyed with this movie – but I for one was left feeling a little empty at how events unfolded.

Is this the year of horror comedy done well? If the preview screening of Tucker & Dale vs Evil is anything to go by, it certainly could be. The titular Tucker and Dale are two hillbilly types who only have desires on renovating their cabin in the woods. When vacationing college kids arrive misunderstandings lead to a rapidly rising body count. Hilarious and gory in equal measure, this one was thoroughly enjoyable and went down a storm with the FrightFest crowd.

DAY THREE

Day Three of FrightFest 2011 began with a morning preview screening of Troll Hunter. This Norwegian film has been gathering a decent following around the film festival circuit and prior to FrightFest it was certainly one of my “must see” movies on this year’s schedule. I was not disappointed. Fantastic in both senses of the word, Troll Hunter was impressively made and every bit as entertaining as you would hope from a film with a title like that! The CGI trolls were convincing and imaginative, the acting was solid and the humour was sprinkled throughout the script with an effectively light touch. A great start to the day.

Despite the allure of the pub doors having long since opened and the desire to pig-out at the nearby Maoz Falafel restaurant, we decided that no serious horror fan could miss the 30 year follow-up to The Wicker Man, presented by director Robin Hardy himself at this European Premier of The Wicker Tree. Well, we could have and we should have.

As the aged Mr Hardy graced the FrightFest stage and introduced the cast of The Wicker Tree, one could feel the warmth of the assembled crowd towards him. The Wicker Man is one of the greatest films of all time and a reference point for all serious students of horror cinema. I was not going to delude myself; I knew that there would be little point in comparing Hardy’s latest film to his 1973 classic – I resolved to watch it for what it was, in isolation, and not in comparison to its legacy. Even on that basis, The Wicker Tree was a terrible disappointment.

An evangelist, who is also a famous singer, travels as a missionary to preach Christianity on a Scottish island. Clichéd and riddled with holes, the plot – such as it was – trundled along getting further bogged down by performances that were either instantly forgettable or unbelievable in their delivery of the sub-par script. On the closing credits, we retired quickly to a local bar as I’d have felt embarrassment watching Robin Hardy talk about his film we’d just witnessed. I chose to remember him for his excellent previous achievements.

After lunch we returned to The Empire for a preview screening of Fright Night 3D – a reimagining of the 80’s vampire classic. I had my reservations about this one, the original is a film I remember fondly from my childhood, and I’m no fan of 3D. Although it did nothing to change my opinion of 3D cinema, Fright Night 3D was well paced and competently delivered. It chose not to get too laboured with the issue proving the existence of vampires, and got straight down to the action. David Tennant’s was amongst the strong performances that had all but the ardent opponents of remakes thoroughly entertained and ironically, for me at least, it breathed a bit of new life into the tired vampire genre.

The evening spot on Day Three was taken by the UK Premier of Lucky McKee’s The Woman. Notorious after an offended individual at Sundance had to be removed (such was his upset at the movie), it was clear the FrightFest audience was up for this one – even Mr McKee conceded that the Sundance punter had “made the movie’s trailer for him!”

The Woman is the kind of sensational, high quality, boundary-pushing filmmaking that makes thousands attend FrightFest every year. This film was moving, intelligent, insightful and, yes, brutal. It is not, however, a movie designed to shock or repulse. Co-written by the author Jack Ketchum and director Lucky McKee The Woman delves deeply in the nature of abuse and abusive personalities, how this affects others and society. It deals with the hubris of those who think their version of civility and existence is the one true way and what happens when they seek to enforce their world view on others. This movie could be seen as a metaphor for the attitudes such as those behind British Colonialism and also the current American foreign policy. It is also a story of personal empowerment, and how power can be used, abused or denied. The Woman tells the story of a father who encounters a feral woman whilst out hunting. He captures her and imprisons her in order to “civilise” her; a task in which he involves the whole family.

Lucky McKee manages to avoid the potential pitfalls that lesser talents might have fallen into with such a premise and also coaxes brilliant performances out of his cast, not least the mesmeric Pollyanna McIntosh as “The Woman”. Ms McIntosh’s portrayal of untamed femininity was so powerful it was almost unnerving to see her on stage for the post screening Q&A session, during which she divulged that she spent several days living wild to prepare for the part.

After such an intense movie experience we called it a night (after the obligatory trip to the bar) in preparation for Day Four of FrightFest 2011.

DAY FOUR

Day Four started well, and early, with a preview screening of Xavier Gens’ new work The Divide. What began as a rather standard example of survivors in a post-apocalyptic setting elevated itself rapidly via some interesting character development; culminating in a tense, claustrophobic and violent payoff.

We ducked out for Andy Nyman’s Quiz From Hell, I’m sure Mr Nyman was as entertaining as ever – but we needed some liquid refreshment and there is no way we’d have been able to outscore the more knowledgeable FrightFest horror die-hards. We made sure we were back for this year’s International Short Film Showcase – after the high standard in 2010 I was really looking forward to this. It’s a dozen or so short films from up-and-coming directors, and whilst the standard wasn’t as high this year, there were still some real gems on display. For sheer over-the-top comedy gore, my pick of this year’s entries was Brutal Relax from Spain, directed by Adrian Cardona. Where other than FrightFest will you see a sea monster get beaten to death with a dead baby!?

The afternoon spot was filled by the UK Premier of Ti West’s The Inkeepers – this turned out to be another fantastic movie. Having first captivated the audience with the interaction between well developed and likeable characters, West begins the slow-burn of a haunted hotel story which leads to a fulfilling conclusion. I really enjoyed West’s previous offering House Of The Devil, but some people found the ending to be unworthy of the build up, I disagree – but I’d urge such people to give him a second chance with The Inkeepers; he directs with a competent hand and crafts the story in mesmerising fashion. I was particularly impressed with his sterling demonstration of how to create a proper jump scare (as opposed to a cheap smash-cut) – I actually left my seat, and enjoyed it because I hadn’t been cheated.

The 9pm evening spot was taken by the much-hyped UK Premier of Kill List, which followed the exploits of two hitman carrying out their work. It was a reasonable effort which quickly descended into a farce of ambiguity. It is a fine line to tread when trying to inject a story with plot points from the leftfield, and if you don’t feed the audience some point of reference earlier in the piece – it will fail, as it did for me with Kill List. Still, the acting was strong, and it wasn’t without its merits, it just fell well short of its hype due to a poorly constructed final act.

DAY FIVE

The final day of FrightFest, and therefore tinged with sadness, expectation and no small degree of tiredness!

First up on the main screen was the UK Premier of the zombie-comedy Deadheads. This really didn’t work, but I’m no fan of the “told from the zombie perspective” sub genre so it was perhaps wasted on me. Two zombie friends go off in search of a girl whom one of them is in love with. Yes, really!

All hail Alex Chandon for coming to the rescue with the World Premier of Inbred. Seemingly with a bigger budget than his previous films and with a great cast, Inbred follows the story of a group of teens and their youth workers who end up staying in an isolated village in rural Yorkshire. Sadly (for them) the locals are all sadistic cannibals! Served up with Alex Chandon’s trademark blend of dark humour and explicit gore, Inbred entertained from the start and refused to compromise to the very end. Distinctly British, and distinctly Alex Chandon, Inbred is the kind of film that beats at the black heart of FrightFest and it was a distinct pleasure to see it on the giant Empire screen with over a thousand cheering horror fans.

With the alcohol and blood sugar levels dropping, we grabbed some dinner and drinks before rushing back to catch the closing movie of FrightFest 2011 – the UK Premier of A Lonely Place to Die. With beautiful cinematography, a stunning location, excellent acting (particularly from Melissa George) and a sensational premise: climbers find a young girl buried in an underground cell in remote wilderness – it was hard to understand how the original promise was allowed to slip away. Eventually too many suspensions of disbelief were asked, and a plot which got sillier by the minute resulted in a missed opportunity to build on a good start and create an excellent film.

As ever FrightFest provided five wonderful days of horror cinema, spanning the entire genre from tense supernatural thrillers to in-your-face gore films. The organisers provided something for everyone, and such was the quantity and quality of the films on display it really didn’t matter if a particular title wasn’t to individual tastes as something else exciting was always around the corner.

Frightfest is more than just the films though; it is the people who attend that make it something special. Everyone is friendly and wanting to chat about what they have seen; the organisers mix with the fans, and the actors and directors are always milling about between screenings. Long may it continue, and see you in 2012!

The Unofficial HORROR ADDICTS.net FrightFest Awards 2011

Best Film

The Woman.

Best Director

Ti West, for The Inkeepers.

Best Screenplay

Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee for The Woman.

Best Actress

Pollyanna McIntosh for The Woman.

Best Actor

Andy Nyman for The Glass Man.

Best Kill

Gymnast in Final Destination 5 – 3D.

Scariest Moment

Male ghost in torchlight, in The Inkeepers.

Funniest Moment

Chainsaw and wasps nest in Tucker & Dale vs Evil.

Goriest Moment

Shot in the head, Inbred.

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

As films about fusing one person’s mouth to another person’s anus go, this is a pretty good one! The most shocking aspect of this film is that it is not particularly gory or graphic, and it is the better for it.

In the initial stages of watching The Human Centipede I was preparing myself for a huge disappointment. The two female leads were initially terribly grating and irritating. Being generous, let’s assume that they were well acted to be this way. However as the film progresses the characters develop from vacuous party girls to capable individuals (well one of them, anyway) and we find ourselves rooting for them and caring about their plight.

I don’t think it is giving too much away to divulge that The Human Centipede is a film about three people (two female friends and one unrelated man) who are abducted by a deeply disturbed scientist who aims to create a living “human centipede” by attaching each of the abductees to each other, mouth to anus, thus creating a completely linked digestive system. Given this synopsis, the audience would think that they are in for a gore-fest of gratuitous nastiness; but they are not.

Shortly after we are properly acquainted with the female leads, who are looking for assistance after their car breaks down, they arrive at the house of the antagonist. Here the casting director should be praised as Dieter Laser, who played the mad scientist Dr. Heiter, is every inch the archetype. He is a bizarre looking man, skeletal with an almost demonic face, and his portrayal of deranged evil was superb. Instantly we know that this man is dangerous and we acutely sense that the girls are under imminent threat.

The character of Heiter is more complex than perhaps is expected. In less subtle films he would be a charmer, luring people under a false sense of security and then bludgeoning them. Not so in A Human Centipede, he is cold and unlikable. Despite his objective to abduct the girls he cannot control angry psychotic outbursts – eventually he manages to drug them, describing the details of Rohypnol as he does so.

With the emphasis on the “centipede” itself in the promotion of this movie, it is a pleasant surprise to find a reasonable section of the films second act given over to a taut, well constructed “cat and mouse” sequence within Heiters extensive home. These scenes were thrillingly tense, and a sense of empathy for the hunted girl was well crafted. A nice touch was added where an ultimatum is given to give herself up or face greater suffering when she is inevitably caught. The viewer cannot help but wonder “what would I do?”

The director should be applauded for only giving the audience a couple of brief “cringe moments” during the construction sequence of The Human Centipede. The horror comes not from much that we witness during this scene, but from what we graphically know is happening. Previously, Dr Heiter had demonstrated via a presentation to his captives exactly what he was going to do to them – using scientific language and un-emotive line diagrams. Hence, when the procedure is undertaken little is seen but we know every unpleasant detail that is happening.

We get a greater insight into Dr Heiters madness as he uses general anaesthetic during the procedure – he is not a sadist, he is genuinely focused on creating what he perceives to be his masterpiece. When watching Heiter go about his work, it is hard not to think of animal vivisection, Nazi experiments and the Japanese Unit 731. This kind of thing goes on, and the people doing it consider themselves justified. This is the true horror that the film hints at.

It is truly chilling watching Dr Heiter training his creation once it is complete. A Japanese guy is “the front” and of course the only one of the tri-part centipede who can speak, yet only in Japanese. This creates a bizarre interaction between the doctor and his “creature”. The captive is of course filled with rage and hatred for his captor, but is utterly at his mercy. He soon learns.

Naturally, the scientist wants his creation to thrive and feeds it well from a bowl on the floor. The viewer is one step ahead at this point and, with the front part feeding, the film does address the inevitable result. As with the surgical scenes this is done briefly and with no gratuitous mess, however it does contain one of the most genuine apologies ever seen in film! The scene is disturbing not for the act occurring, but for Heiter cheering encouragement.

Eventually local police undertake a missing persons search and we are given a ray of hope for our beleaguered captives. I will not expand on whether this hope is in vain or not, but again the film has the viewer urging the victims on and builds tension in a capable manner. The final scene of the film was powerfully done, and invites us to put ourselves in the shoes of who we see on screen.

The Human Centipede is not a brilliant film, but it is a good one. Certainly it was vastly superior to the experience I was expecting and significantly less graphic. If you can handle the concept of what occurs, there is nothing in the film that will particularly trouble you. Given the central premise, this was never going to be classic cinema – but if you are intrigued enough to give it a go you are likely to find it a better film than you might imagine. Someone has clearly come up with a gruesome yet imaginative idea and built a film around it – surprisingly they didn’t do too bad a job.

British & European Horror News – Episode 66.

Classic Horror Campaign

Classic horror double bill, 4th September 2011:

http://www.classichorrorcampaign.com/events/

British Horror Film Festival

Dates announced and film submissions called for:

http://www.thefilmfestivalguild.com/#/british-horror/4545392165

Lund Internation Fantastic Film Festival

VIP festival passes announced:

http://www.fff.se/en/artiklar/2011/08/viphelkorten-slappta/

and first films revealed:

http://www.fff.se/en/artiklar/2011/08/nu-slapper-vi-de-forsta-titlarna/

Brad Pitt Films World War Z in Glasgow, Scotland

http://www.metro.co.uk/film/872387-brad-pitt-zombie-movie-world-war-z-starts-filming-in-glasgow

Unreleased Poster For “INBRED” – World Premier at Frightfest 2011.

The World Premier of British horror director ALEX CHANDON’s new movie INBRED will be taking place at the famous London Empire Theatre during this months Frightfest 2011. The screening is taking place at 18:30 on August 29th 2011, and has so far sold more seats than any other film.

Ahead of this, Alex has sent us an as-yet unreleased poster for HORROR ADDICTS to see before anyone else. Enjoy!

HORROR ADDICTS will be attending the Premier, and will let you know if INBRED is as good as it looks!

Salo (or The 120 Days Of Sodom)

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo (or The 120 Days Of Sodom) from 1975 is a truly transgressive work. Even by today’s standard it is both shocking and controversial. For the avoidance of doubt, Pasonlini is unflinching in his portrayal of the writings of the Marquis de Sade transposed into the fascist Italy of 1944. Thus, Salo is not for the easily offended; if you are hesitant about viewing it, you may wish to follow your instinct.

Without doubt an auteur, and driven by a sense of fairness resulting from the poverty he had witnessed, Pasolini’s left-leaning sympathies dominated many of his works; and here, in Salo, we endure a vision of the extreme rightwing and its desire to dominate and persecute. Pasolini was murdered before the first theatrical release of Salo, and well-founded speculation suggests a political motivation for his death.

Salo opens to aristocratic Italian fascists selecting a handful of young men and women by a process of examining their naked bodies and assessing their family lineage. These youths are then absconded to a large country house, decorated in the art deco style. Here the rules of their captivity are explained. It is stated that they are “weak chained creatures, destined for our [the fascist’s] pleasures”. In an interesting juxtaposition, the captives are never chained in any manner; they are prisoners of the fascist institution and as such escape is impossible, so it is never mentioned and binding them is unnecessary. The futility of their plight hangs heavily over this film from the onset, and it is impossible to avoid the comparison to anyone living under a repressive regime.

What then follows is an orgy of indulgence for the fascist’s sadistic perversions. Be very clear, this is a commentary about fascist ideology – not political Nazism. There are no swastikas, no iron eagles, no goose stepping, no mention of Hitler’s Nazi party is ever made. Whilst Salo could be described as exploitation cinema, it is not anything like the glut of Nazi exploitation flicks that formed their own sub-genre in the 1970’s, which were misogynist and purely designed to titillate.

Indeed, despite graphic nudity of both genders featuring in nearly every scene, Salo is never once arousing. Pasolini appears to have been meticulous in ensuring that the film’s theme – the inhumanity of fascism – is never lost behind cheap thrills of that nature. Presumably it is this reason why many censors around the world (such as the British Board of Film Classification), have eventually passed Salo uncut.

After the initial set-up, Salo is divided into three chapters: “The Circle Of Manias”, “The Circle Of Shit” and “The Circle of Blood”. In each Circle a female Fascist, dressed in formal wear holds court next to a piano. The scene is that of any pre-war ball room, where a lady might entertain polite company with a story or song. Here, however, each story is delivered with a rapturous smile as the respective lady of each Circle recalls their own sexual abuse, usually as a child. The remaining fascists are mingled with the captives, and as the tale arouses them in the manner it is intended, they willingly and easily give in to their perversions – each of which stem from a desire to degrade, defile and humiliate.

During the “Circle Of Manias” the captives are stripped and forced to act like dogs – begging for food and eating scraps without using their hands. One girl is fed food with nails in it and forced to chew. A male is viciously whipped – his tormentor stating with glee “I rejoice when I see others degraded!” At dinner, a servant is raped.

The “Circle Of Shit” is one of the more difficult cinematic experiences. Pasolini conducts the subject matter in a manner which, in any lesser hands, would have been puerile and exploitative, but here it was psychologically disturbing.
Again, a female fascist tells a lurid tale with an unfittingly pleasant
delivery; this one is strongly coprophilic in nature. During the performance, a sobbing captive is punished by a male fascist making a delivery on the floor, one in keeping with the theme of the tale; he offers her a spoon and forces her to eat. Pasolini demonstrates his genius here with a camera shot that focuses
sharply on an adjacent table which causes the girl in the scene to be just out of focus, so that the viewer cannot see the full details of her consumption. Once lulled into a false sense of security, the audience is exposed to a crystal-clear head shot of the poor girl – mouth open and crying.

Later a same sex wedding takes place between a male captive and captor – the former resplendent in a full wedding gown. In 1975, this would have been taboo and the attitude to homosexuality is the only aspect of this film that has a diminished impact on the modern viewer. None-the-less, the wedding dinner – attended by all – is comprised entirely of faeces, devoured with enthusiasm by the fascists; and the modern viewer is returned to the same state of disgust as their movie-going cousins of 36 years ago.

Until this point, Pasolini has assaulted the sensibilities with every available tool except violence. This is redressed in the third and final chapter: “The Circle Of Blood”. After some more cross-dressing and sodomy, a tale of torture and abuse is told – with the same charismatic contrast to the subject matter as the previous circles. The plot is developed during this, as the captives are marked according to their compliance.

Eventually the fascists give in to their most base desires, and an orgy of torture is meted out in a courtyard, overlooked by the captor’s rooms. A rampage of violence, which includes sexual burning, tongue slicing, scalping, branding and a particularly nasty eye gouging, is enough to disturb the most hardened viewer – but the most perturbing aspect is the enjoyment, even sexual pleasure, that the captors, who are non-participatory observers, gain from watching. They spectate from seats behind large windows, suggesting that even though the events are of their bidding and done for their enjoyment they may still justify their humanity by remaining somehow separated from the torture and killing. Pasolini inflicts this sense of voyeurism on the viewer (after all, we are watching it too) by having the fascists view the killing through binoculars, and the shots are framed with the outline of the lenses – moving from detail to detail with a deliberate relish.

By the end of the film the use of costume creates ambiguity as to who are the guards, who are the fascists and who are the victims. Maybe this speaks of the compliance and complicit nature of mass apathy or inaction. People may not agree with an immoral agenda, and may not be an active part of it themselves, but still they do nothing to stop it – especially if it is not victimising them personally. Perhaps Pasolini feels they are then as culpable as the fascists; and questions whether they too could become victims themselves?

Is Salo a “horror film” in the conventional sense? No, not really. However, it deals with humankind’s ability to degrade, torture and exterminate its own kind. It shows us that through a few barely tangible ideological or ego-based theories, we are capable of detaching ourselves from any form of empathy or consideration for others if it suits us to. On this basis Salo, more than most, is truly worthy of a place in the horror genre.

Them (Ils)

Within my remit for Horror Addicts, I take pride in bringing you the best of European and Extreme cinema – and so far I’ve tried to combine the two in every film. This time, I’m dropping the Extreme Cinema tag and will be showcasing a French film which disturbs not from pushing the boundaries of violence, taste and decency, but from building ultra-taut suspense and terror.

“Them” (or “Ils” as it is called in its native tongue) is a tense chiller directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud. It is set in semi-rural Romania, where the protagonists Clementine and Lucas have relocated – she is teaching French in the local school and he is a writer. Presumably due to the favorable exchange rate between France and Romania, the couple have acquired a large old house in extensive grounds – and it is here that their horror is to take place.

“Them” is essentially a “home invasion” movie, but unlike other recent offerings in this sub-genre it is not a tale of thugs holding the innocent captive and torturing them. Instead, it is about the terror of being hunted and the fear of helplessness. It has a pounding sense of violation, and the shattering of sanctuary.

To make a film with the aspiration to truly scare takes a great deal of skill, and this prowess is successfully evident in “Them”. The viewer senses they are in the hands of craftsman from the beginning. The film opens to show a sequence which lets the viewer know what they are to be afraid of, and then takes a slow-burn approach to build the characters, the prey, layer by layer until we care sufficiently about what then happens to them. However, this isn’t laborious – too much characterization can be dull but here the pacing is timed perfectly.

Just as the viewers become acquainted with the couple, Clementine awakes to hear a strange noise outside their home. Lucas goes to investigate, and from here the film seeps into the nervous system with long, drawn out, suspense sequences where the protagonists are assailed in their vast home by unseen intruders.

A nightmarish atmosphere is created by the “cat and mouse” game which plays-out through attics, corridors and dusty, disused rooms. The highest praise is worthy of the directors for refusing to use cheap jump scares – not once is the audience conned by a phoney smash-cut. Instead a minimalist score of humming and repetitive bass notes combines with the eerie noises made by the attackers. We feel the fear of the hunted as they run and hide – desperately trying to stay unseen; but the things in their house are coming and they want the couple to know it! There are many of them and we are never quite sure what they are.

“Them” employs a lot of set pieces common to such movies: the scary phone call and the electricity getting cut,  amongst others; but it does them so well and combines them with tricks of its own that it does not lessen the impact of the film.

The empty house provides a terrifying setting for events to unfold; even this factor is escalated with the rising tension as the pursuit spills into the grounds and through woodland, ultimately ending up in labyrinthine catacombs. The directors have a firm grip on base human fears such as claustrophobia, fear of the dark and the terror of being hunted; they conduct these with devastating precision.

The ending of the “Them” needed to be worthy of the tension built through the flawlessly short running time, and it honored the previous 70 minutes by not only being traumatic and harrowing but also by producing an image that verged on the artistic – one of those celluloid moments where the viewer is transcended from the fiction and feels the character as if they were really there. Purely as a visual it is on a par with the final shot of Leather Face in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.

“Them” doesn’t cheat the viewer, and neither does it patronize with silly scares. It masterfully sculpts fear and inflicts dread with finely honed precision. Hitchcock would have been proud to make this film.

Haute Tension (AKA Switchblade Romance, AKA High Tension)

Despite having an imaginative death scene involving a head stuck in a banister meeting an item of heavy furniture, and also a graphic throat slitting – Haute Tension is comparatively light on the gore and violence that is now expected from more recent offerings in the new wave of French extreme cinema. To avoid being misleading, the aforementioned scenes and others do provide plenty to cringe at but they do not form the staple of this fine example of modern European horror film-making.

Haute Tension is a tense psychological stalker movie that uses intrigue and suspense to draw the viewer in and then assaults the senses with brutal killings. There is more to the film than this though, and the plot development which ultimately defines the movie is satisfying and well worked into the story telling. Haute Tension is very definitely a film that is ruined by spoilers, so for those who have yet to see the film this review will be light on details.

The film begins with Marie traveling to stay at her college friend Alexia’s family farm house. As night falls a sadistic killer enters the home and brutally slays its inhabitants apart from the two girls. With Alexia bound in the murderers van, Marie secretes herself on board and the three hit the road. From here the story powers forward with twists and turns towards a fantastic conclusion.

Haute Tension delivers because it doesn’t neglect any aspect of what a good horror movie should contain. It is filled with the atmosphere of dread so excellently honed in the best of the 1970’s slasher movies. There is tension generated by protagonists being stalked – having to hide and keep silent because their lives depend on it. We see the brutality the villain is capable of and the methodical way he goes about it, causing us to fear him more. Yet there are clues throughout the film that on first viewing we do not pay too much attention to, but none-the-less contribute to a subliminal sense that all is not as it seems. Repeated viewing of this film yields an even greater understanding and appreciation of how finely woven the tale really is.

The character of Marie is complex, and it is a shame that to avoid spoilers this review will not delve into those complexities – although I invite discussion in the comments section. Further to this however, she is quite unlike any other female character from the “slasher” genre and with precious little room for originality in horror this was appreciated. A pole apart from the plastic scream queens of Hollywood, Marie alone provides enough interest to keep watching. Add this to the excellent pacing of the film, and you have a horror movie which engages the viewer from start to finish.

Fans of the genre will love Haute Tension for all the reasons outlined above, but it is also an excellent starting point for those new to extreme cinema or for people who simply do not want the difficult experience of A Serbian Film or Martyrs. Haute Tension is not heavy-going like these films, it is horrific in places but not in a manner that will disturb or upset (unless the viewer is particularly sensitive).

Haute Tension is tense, exciting, shocking and intelligent – it is a “must see” for any aficionado of modern horror cinema and is highly recommended for anyone with a penchant for great films with a darker edge to them.

Episode 63: British & European Horror Events

Film4 Frightfest 2011, full schedule announced:

https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/london-frightfest-2011-full-schedule-announced/

www.frightfest.co.uk

Alex Chandon and “Inbred”:

http://www.alexchandon.com

http://www.inbredmovie.com

Leeds International Film Festival:

http://www.leedsfilm.com/news/

Grossmann Fantastic Film and Wine Festival:

http://en.grossmann.si/news

Horrorthon Evening With Clive Barker:

http://www.horrorthon.com

Ed’s Extreme Cinema: Frontier(s)

Frontiers opens to give us a vision of France set in the immediate future amidst rioting and chaos in the build up to, and subsequent election of, an extreme right-wing political party. The story begins to focus on a group of young adults who get split up in the turmoil of the urban landscape. Following a gun fight with the police in which one of their number is shot, they decide to reconvene in the countryside. That’s all you need to know about the build up to Frontiers, it provides an atmospheric backdrop, but ultimately the crux of the film is about the group landing themselves as captives to a family of fascist cannibals!

Of course, the group fleeing the city are variously imprisoned on the family’s estate which consist of an abattoir, disused mine and various farm buildings. One by one they meet their demise until the final showdown.

Frontiers gradually introduces a cast of antagonists within a hierarchical family of Nazi’s with a predilection for human flesh. This point is never pushed too far, the family view their victims as nothing more than the swine they also keep –they are not slavering savages, and the understatement and normality of the cannibalism serves to make it all the more deranged.

It would be unduly critical to worry too much about Frontiers being a French New Wave rip-off of Texas Chainsaw Massacre – it doesn’t matter particularly because it is done very well. Perhaps calling it an homage is more appropriate as it’s not a carbon copy, it just has very similar elements to the 70’s classic. It stands alone just fine and lack of innovation does not necessarily make a film poor – indeed this is a good, solid horror film. Frontiers is well acted and plays out within a depressingly bleak farm complex of filthy outhouses and abattoirs. Empathy with the victims is competently achieved and, vitally for a film like this, it is hard not to wish the worst kind of vengeance on the tormentors.

Most importantly however, Frontiers delivers on the gore and violence. Let’s not be coy, anyone wilfully deciding to watch a film about people being held captive by cannibal fascists is going to be let down by timidity on the directors behalf! Xavier Gens does not disappoint, the violence is graphic and visceral but it happens for a reason and to progress the film, rather than being a collection of set-pieces. Despite featuring people being steamed alive and obliterated with circular saws, everything feels very proportionate within the scenario the viewer is immersed in. We have violence to cringe at and violence to cheer – it’s very satisfying and does not become overwhelming.

What elevates Frontiers above other films of this ilk is the pace in which it races to its conclusion. Once the sprint for the finish begins, this film really lets rip and assaults the senses not just visually but in the tension and excitement it generates. Hope, despair, elation, vengeance, anger, fear – the audience is immersed in all of this amidst a setting of mud, blood and violence.

Does the story end well for our main protagonist? The film is not left hanging open, and it does have a sense of completion, but despite reaching safety of a sort – it is not clear if the survivor truly has found salvation. What price security over freedom?

London FrightFest 2011 – Full Schedule Announced!

BREAKING NEWS:

The full film schedule for this years Film4 FrightFest – to take place at the prestigious Empire Cinema in London’s Leicester Sqaure – has been announced; and it’s every bit as varied and interesting this year as British horror fans have come to expect.

Here’s the lowdown on what’s happening this August:

PROGRAMME – SCREEN 1

THURSDAY 25 AUGUST 2011
18:30  DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (UK Premiere)
100 mins   Director Troy Nixey   Australia 2011

21:15  FINAL DESTINATION 5 3D  (UK Premiere)
95 mins   Director: Steven Quale   USA 2011

23:30  THE THEATRE BIZARRE  (European Premiere)
108 mins   Directors: Richard Stanley, Tom Savini, Douglas Buck, Karim Hussain, Buddy Giovinazzo, Jeremy Kasten, David Gregory   USA/France 2011

FRIDAY 26 AUGUST 2011
10:40  ROGUE RIVER  (UK Premiere)
90 mins   Director: Jourdan McClure   USA 2010

12:45  THE HOLDING (World Premiere)
90 mins   Director: Susan Jacobson   UK 2011

15:05 The Total Film Interview
Larry Fessenden in conversation with Jamie Graham
 
 
American Horror: A Panel Discussion
 
With Ti West, Lucky McKee, Adam Green, Joe Lynch and Andrew van den Houten to discuss the US horror scene.

17:00  URBAN EXPLORERS  (UK Premiere)
88 mins   Director: Andy Fetscher   Germany 2011

19:05  THE GLASS MAN  (World Premiere)
120 mins   Director: Cristian Solimeno   UK 2011

21:55  TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL  (London Preview)
86 mins   Director: Eli Craig   USA 2010

23:55  VILE  (World Premiere)
88 mins   Director: Taylor Sheridan   USA 2011

SATURDAY 27 AUGUST 2011
11:00  TROLL HUNTER  (Preview)
99 mins   Director: Andre Ovredal   Norway 2010

13:15  THE WICKER TREE  (European Premiere)
90 mins   Director: Robin Hardy  UK 2011

15:35  PANIC BUTTON (World Premiere)
95 mins   Director: Chris Crow   UK 2011

18:00  FRIGHT NIGHT 3D  (Preview)
120 mins   Director: Chris Gillespie   USA 2011

21:00  THE WOMAN  (UK Premiere)
100 mins   Director: Lucky McKee   USA 2011

23:30  CHILLERAMA  (European Premiere)
115 mins   Directors: Adam Rifkin, Tim Sullivan, Adam Green, Joe Lynch   USA 2011

SUNDAY 28 AUGUST 2011
10:30  THE DIVIDE  (Preview)
110 mins   Director: Xavier Gens   USA 2011

13:00  THE HORROR CHANNEL PRESENTS THE SHORT FILM SHOWCASE

+ ANDY NYMAN’S QUIZ FROM HELL 2

16:00  THE INNKEEPERS  (UK Premiere)
102 mins   Director: Ti West   USA 2011

18:35  SAINT  (UK Premiere)
85 mins   Director: Dick Maas   The Netherlands – 2010

20:50  KILL LIST (UK Premiere) – SPONSORED BY TOTAL FILM
90 mins   Director: Ben Wheatley   UK 2011

23:30  DETENTION  (UK Premiere)
93 mins  Director: Joseph Kahn   USA 2011

MONDAY 29 AUGUST 2011
10:45  GUINEA PIGS  (World Premiere)
90 mins   Director: Ian Clark   UK 2011

13:10  DEADHEADS  (UK Premiere)
90 mins   Directors: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce   USA 2011

15:30  SENNENTUNTSCHI: CURSE OF THE ALPS (UK Premiere)
110 mins   Director: Michael Steiner   Switzerland 2010

18:30  INBRED  (World Premiere)
95 mins   Director: Alex Chandon   UK 2011

21:00  A LONELY PLACE TO DIE  (UK Premiere)
98 mins   Director: Julian Gilbey   UK 2011

PROGRAMME – DISCOVERY SCREEN

FRIDAY 26 AUGUST 2011
10:35  THE MAN WHO SAW FRANKENSTEIN CRY  (UK Premiere)
75 mins   Director: Angel Agudo   Spain 2010

12:30  A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE  (Preview)
95 mins  Director: Adam Wingard   USA 2010

15:00  MIDNIGHT SON (UK premiere)
95 mins Director: Scott Leberecht  USA 2011

17:15  RABIES  (Preview)
90 mins   Directors: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado   Israel 2010

19:30  BLOOD RUNS COLD  (UK Premiere)
80 mins   Director: Sonny Laguna   Sweden 2011

21:30  KIDNAPPED  (London Preview)
85 mins   Director: Miguel Angel Vivas   Spain 2011

23:30  STORMHOUSE  (London Preview)
88 mins   Director: Dan Turner   UK 2011

SATURDAY 27 AUGUST 2011
10:30 THE DEAD (Special Event)
90 mins   Directors: Howard J. Ford & Jon Ford   UK 2010

13:00  ATROCIOUS  (UK Premiere)
75 mins   Director: Fernando Barreda Luna   Spain 2010

15:30  MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE  (European Premiere)
80 mins   Director: Emily Hagins   USA 2011

18:00  THE CALLER  (London Preview)
88 mins   Director: Matthew Parkhill   USA 2011

21:05  THE DEVIL’S BUSINESS  (World Premiere)
75 mins   Director: Sean Hogan    UK 2011

23:00  A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE

SUNDAY 28 AUGUST 2011
11:15  KIDNAPPED

13:15  RABIES

16:15  BLOOD RUNS COLD

18:45  MIDNIGHT SON

21:15  THE MAN WHO SAW FRANKENSTEIN CRY

MONDAY 29 AUGUST 2011
11:00  THE CALLER

13:00  THE DEVIL’S BUSINESS

15:45  ATROCIOUS

18:35  MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE

Tickets go on sale tomorrow (2nd July 2011), checkout the FrightFest website for more details – but Horror Addicts will keep you up-to-date with all the information from the biggest event in UK horror.

 
 

Martyrs

Martyrs is like one of those chandeliers made of human bones. It’s grizzly and horrifying yet strangely beautiful. It is also a film that engages the viewer because just when you think you have it pigeon-holed, it changes tack and leads you in a new direction.

Martyrs takes us on a journey that starts with a young girl (Lucie) escaping from a disused abattoir where she has clearly been the victim of prolonged torture. She leaves behind others in her bid to flee her personal hell. Eventually she is taken in at a children’s home where she befriends another girl there called Anna. Some time in the future, as young women, Anna attempts to help Lucie who has tracked down accomplices to her previous tormentors. From here Anna experiences the suffering of Lucies past, and uncovers a new nightmare of her own. The film builds to a conclusion that you won’t see coming and will leave you to speculate as to its meaning long after the film has finished.

On first viewing one never knows what is going to happen next, this in itself is unsettling and exciting – two key elements to any horror film; but Martyrs is hard to classify. It is not really a horror film, but is certainly horrific throughout and genuinely scary in parts. It is also an effective drama and a nerve shredding thriller. It mixes perfectly-executed intrigue with uncomfortable violence. The feelings we share for the protagonists plight, and the motivations that put her there, are quite unlike in any other genre movie. All this is done in a manner which makes the film a thing of beauty, it is exquisite yet brutal.

I have to admit, I did get confused with the movie at roughly the half way point – and, as often the best films do, it definitely benefits from repeat viewings. Perhaps something was lost in the language barrier, but equally the film is one of those treats in an age of Hollywood dumbing-down that does not spell out every last detail, some aspects of the film are not as literal as they first appear. There are certainly head-scratching moments, but none of this detracts from the overall power and accomplishment of this excellent piece of film making.

There is a current trend to use the awful phrase “torture porn”. This is often utilised by those who did not like or appreciate a particular film. I suspect that the intention of such a term is to be condescending without giving justification, but if it means gratuitous violence for the sheer enjoyment of it, please be assured that this term does not apply to Martyrs.

Martyrs does have many challenging scenes, as a film it is an assault on the nervous system and the mind – but it does not employ cheap tricks and buckets of gore. Where some films might show you hacked limbs, Martyrs makes you cringe at the dull thud of a punch to a defenceless face. We feel the resignation of someone forced to endure unrelenting attacks, knowing that there will be no mercy from their tormentors. Just at the point at which the film invokes the viewer to consider their motivation for watching the suffering on screen, it delivers with a payoff that was as unexpected as it was a rewarding cinematic experience.

I am fully aware that it is slightly pretentious to call a film “challenging” as I did previously, but the experience that Martyrs gives is indeed a challenge in every way. It forces us to endure vicariously with Anna’s suffering, it challenges individual beliefs and it forces us to think for ourselves about how the film ends. Pascal Laugier, the writer and director, could have wrapped everything up for us with a little bow but he would have been letting us down if he had done so. The ending of Martyrs is what elevates it to being one of my favourite ever films.

It is to be expected that some people not familiar with this style of film-making will find a movie such as Martyrs too much to cope with. It is human nature, therefore, to want to attack the very thing that has made them feel this way. If they can belittle it they do not have to confront what it has stirred inside them. It is for this reason some may wish to patronise Martyrs for having a depth beyond a “plot by numbers” approach. Why can’t a film such as this carry a message? Why can’t it provoke thoughts and conjecture in excess of the basic movie experience? Just because a film has offended or upset in the build up to its conclusion does not mean it is unable to leave valid questions in the mind of the audience, indeed it is more likely to have done so. Fans of extreme cinema will know that to appreciate the payoff, they must endure the ride to the end. Martyrs beats you up until it leaves you raw and receptive to its final scenes.

Martyrs is one of those films that if you allow yourself to enter the world the director has created, and let him tell you a story, you will be thinking about it for months and years to come. Those who cannot see past its cruelty, and the reasons for it, will unfortunately see only that. It is a gem of extreme film-making and I strongly urge you to experience it for yourself.

Cradle Of Fear

The first thing you need to know about Alex Chandon’s 2001 low-budget horror is that it has many imperfections – however like any treasured possession these can, and should, be overlooked. What lies beneath the odd shortcoming is a dark and twisted tale guaranteed to churn the stomach and shred the nerves. Let’s get the negatives out of the way and forgotten about from the start…

The acting is good in places but a bit wooden in others, however it is never terrible and certainly never bad enough to spoil a scene and take the viewer out of their immersion in the film. The texture of the film takes a bit of getting used to; the way it is shot looks from time to time like a cheap commercial – as do a few of the sets. Finally there is one piece of very ill-advised CGI that never fails to raise a smile, such is its cheapness. However none of these issues matter and the film has a sense that it is aware of its failings and doesn’t care. It knows where its strengths lie and sticks to those. With that out of the way, on with the important stuff:

Cradle Of Fear oozes with enthusiasm for horror. It is clearly made by people who love the genre and are not afraid to push the boundaries; in fact there is an obvious relish for doing so. The film consists of four separate vignettes which are tied together by a central story line concerning an incarcerated serial killer and cannibal, called Kemper, and his desire for vengeance on those involved with his murder trial and subsequent imprisonment. He does so using the rites of black magic from his cell in a lunatic asylum and the service of his supernaturally murderous son, known as The Man, played by Dani Filth of goth-metal band Cradle Of Filth.

As soon as the movie opens to graphically depict a disemboweled girl on a bed, the viewer is left in no doubt as to what they are about to let themselves in for. Herein lies Cradle Of Fears strongest card and why it is to be adored by lovers of true horror film-making: the special make-up effects are sensational. It is an irony that the film proves beyond a doubt why physical effects are scary and CGI effects are not. This is an ultra-gory film and is very violent, however it is also held together by a solid narrative and storyline with pacing delivered in a manner which is likely to engage those not usually predisposed to enjoying excessive gore.

The aforementioned gutless young lady provides the starting point of the first of the quartets of terror that Cradle Of Fear inflicts on its audience. Starring British B-Movie scream queen favorite Emily Booth as a beautiful goth out on a drug fueled night of clubbing, it quickly descends into terror involving demon rape, vile and genuinely frightening hallucinations and a conclusion that literally turns the stomach.

Next, two girls are introduced who intend to break into an elderly mans house and steal the money he keeps in a tin. Lessons are learned about the nature of greed, and how far some people are prepared to go for money. Bloody, violent lessons – naturally.

The next tale begins with a husband a wife snorting cocaine whilst speeding through the streets of London in an open-top sports car. When they run over and kill a tramp, they are relived that the car is not damaged and continue on their way home. After a bout of amputee sex (the husband is missing a leg) is ended prematurely by impotence, the distraught man goes about finding a corrupt doctor and brand new limb.

Finally Richard, an IT worker is introduced, who is obsessed with violent websites, and eventually stumbles on a difficult to access members-only site called The Sick Room. Here webcams can be viewed showing abducted individuals. The user can pay to select the criteria and level of abuse which is then enacted on the person onscreen. This becomes so compulsive, Richard loses his job, possessions and house until he decides to track down the operators of the website for some firsthand action.

The story of Kemper is entwined throughout these stories and the evil gothic presence of The Man is present in each. The film then proceeds towards its ending with more blood and guts until the screen is dripping red and few acts of violence imaginable have not been depicted.

The realism of the special make-up effects is what will turn horror addicts on and repulse all others in equal measure. During the course of the movie we see, amongst many other atrocities, disembowelment, razors slashed across a face, a broken bottle smashed into an eye socket and a leg hacked off. What separates this from run-of-the-mill physical horror is the skill with which it is executed. So brilliantly is each effect constructed the camera can linger for a long time, possibly too long, until the viewer is squirming in their seat and in some cases averting their gaze. This sense of realism is not avoided by the director either, if a limb is being severed with nothing but a knife – it takes a long time and is a messy job, with extra effort being required to get through the tough bone. Make no mistake, this film is horrific and where other films fail because the gore is too over-the-top to the point of humor – Cradle Of Fear manages to keep the mood repulsive and sinister.

The physical effects are not the only strength of this low budget shocker though. The whole atmosphere of the film is dark, gothic and ominous. Alex Chandon does not lose sight of the main plot point which is that Kemper is a baby murdering cannibal who uses black magic and the assistance of his demonic son (who is suitably clad in industrial goth fashion) to exact revenge on those he feels have wronged him. Large parts of the film feel like a very bad acid trip or a nightmare that only the most deranged of minds would be capable of conceiving. This leads to a very effective fluctuation between the heightened tension of fear and the powerful revulsion to the grotesque imagery.

If the viewer is able to overlook the obvious failings of Cradle Of Fear, and appreciate it for what it is, and for refusing to pretend to be something it is not, then the horror fan will be richly rewarded. More than most, this feels like a film for horror fans made by horror fans and it does not care if film-snobs and mainstream audiences hate it. It is a film with an uncompromising attitude, viewers with a similar nature will find it rewarding.

Written exclusively for Horror Addicts, and will subsequently appear on the author’s website:

www.transgressivecinema.com

Episode 61: “British & European Horror” – Show Notes.

Here are links to all the people, places and events mentioned in the British & European Horror section of Episode 61 of Horror Addicts.

Emily Booth:

www.emilybooth.co.uk

www.horrorchannel.co.uk

Shock Horror Magazine:

www.shockhorrormagazine.com

Bram Stoker Horror Film Festival:

www.bramstokerfilmfestival.com

Village Of The Damned:

www.villageofthedamnedfilmfest.blogspot.com

Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival:

www.strasbourgfestival.com

Grossmann Fantastic Film & Wine Festival:

www.en.grossmann.si

Fancine Fantastic Film Festival:

www.fancine.org

Robert Englund to star in UK project Strippers vs Werewolves (via IMDb):

http://www.imdb.com/news/ni10626210/

British & European Horror News 19th May: Show Notes.

Here are links to the items mentioned in the British and European Horror News, on the 19th May 2011 episode of the Horror Addicts Podcast.

Film4 Fright Fest:

www.frightfest.co.uk

Grimm Up North:

www.grimmfest.com

MotelX – Lisbon International Horror Film Festival:

www.motelx.org

Weekend Of Horrors:

www.weekendofhorrors.com

Cryptshow Festival:

www.cryptshow.com

Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival:

www.nifff.ch

Zombiefest 2011:

www.terror4fun.com/zombie_fest11_pre.html

Dublin Zombie Walk:

www.dublinzombiewalk.com

Birmingham Zombie Walk:

www.birminghamzombies.com

Mum & Dad

Mum & Dad is an independent British horror film set amongst the austere backdrop of London’s Heathrow Airport and the constant drone of jet engines. The area is bleak and characterized by fences topped with razor wire and depressing homogenized rows of terraced houses which have depleted as the airport grew up around them. Each abode is the same as the next – but one of them hides a pair of serial killers: Mum and Dad.

Lena is a polish girl who works as a cleaner at the airport. She shares a shift with Birdie, who despite being light-fingered and a gossip, seems likable enough. Birdie introduces Lena to Elbie, her “adopted brother” who is a mute and also works at the airport. At the end of one shift Birdie orchestrates a situation whereby Lena misses the last bus, and insists that Lena comes with her so that her Dad can give her a ride home. Of course this never comes to pass, and after arriving at Birdies house, Lena is bludgeoned and drugged – awakening some time later to the start of a hellish surreal nightmare that she may never survive.

At this early stage in the film’s progression, the viewer could be forgiven for thinking that the plot is setting up a scenario seen regularly in copy-cat films since the success of movies such as Saw and Hostel. Whilst Mum & Dad does not shy away from extremely sadistic and nasty violence, it is not a gore film and instead relies upon creating a horrifically bizarre environment which is ruled over by the most deranged of minds. The fear comes from our empathy with Lena, and our vicarious terror is ratcheted up with every scene in this terrible scenario.

This empathy comes from Lena being a brilliantly written and acted character. For all the budget constraints involved with British independent film-making, it usually excels at the fundamentals – such as writing, acting and characterization. Lena is smart but still bound by realistic human character traits. She does what the viewer would do in many situations, or at least she does not do anything distractingly unbelievable – it’s a nice change from the idiots some mainstream horror would usually have us cheer for, or indeed the heroines who suddenly become almost superhuman when under threat.

Lena is awoken from her drug-induced stupor by terrified howls of pain coming from the adjacent room – several loud thuds later and the screaming stops. The door bursts open and an over-weight man with glasses and mole-like features enters, he is wearing underpants and a vest, clutching a hammer and is covered in blood. A moment later and a tall, thin, well-presented woman with angular features enters through a second door. All three stare at each other intently, until the woman strides over to Lena and states “I’m Mum. He’s Dad. You live with us now!”

It is made abundantly clear that Mum and Dad are serial killers – but very different to each other in their psychopathic tendencies. Dad is a violent sexual predator who likes to murder in fits of rage, whereas Mum is a true sadist who likes to torture with finesse for the physical delight it brings her. Dad enjoys to hack and bludgeon, Mum favors the use of spikes and knives – they are both homicidal lunatics.

Lunatics they are beyond doubt, but within the fortress of their own home they have created a world where their manner of living is completely normal. They acquire “children” and this is why Lena finds herself captive. Her “adopted” brother and sister (Birdie and Elbie) have become totally immersed in this culture and accept it as a standard existence. In one scene the rest of his family patiently wait for Dad to finish pleasuring himself into a hacked off chunk of human flesh before they introduce him to Lena; once he is done, Dad tells her that “family is everything”.

Family breakfast’s see dismembered body-parts brought out for disposal whilst people eat toast. Pornographic movies play on the TV and Dad inappropriately kisses and gropes Birdie (who reciprocates) before settling down with the morning paper. Every aspect of this film superimposes the normal with the deranged, and this unhinged atmosphere is the signature of the movie. This is aided by the stand-out aspect of the production – Perry Benson’s performance as Dad. Benson is a stalwart British actor and carries the film with both his appearance and the portrayal of his character. His hateful, twisted and completely unbalanced delivery is terrifying to behold.

The writer and director of Mum & Dad (Steven Sheil) describes it as “a fucked-up-family film”. Succinct as this summary is, it doesn’t even begin to do justice to the horror of this movie. Lena is completely at the mercy of a matriarch and patriarch whose lunacy now controls her entire existence, if she fits in and does not cause a problem she is told that she will be fine – if not there will be Dad to answer to. “Fine”, of course, in this instance is relative!

The unsettling torment of Lena’s predicament is sharply focused in the knife-edge balance of her captor’s insanity. Using the language of a normal parental unit, the actions of Mum and Dad are starkly juxtaposed. Calling Lena “her angel, sent from heaven” mum inserts spikes through her skin and lacerates her with a scalpel – all the while telling her to keep Mum happy so as not to upset Dad.

Playing it smart and trying to stay on the good side of Mum and Dad until a suitable chance of escape or rescue presents itself, Lena incurs the increasingly bitter resentment of Birdie who dreads the inevitable result of not being Mum and Dad’s favorite anymore. Lena now has to fear her new parents as well as some particularly twisted sibling rivalry as the tension reaches stratospheric levels towards the film’s conclusion.

Mum & Dad was made under Film London’s “Microwave” project, where the budget is capped at a maximum of £100,000. This is a miniscule amount of money on which to shoot a feature and it is to the credit of all involved that what was produced looks and feels like it was shot on ten-times that budget. Moreover, the result was a gripping and terrifying film that exemplifies all that is good about British independent horror cinema. If you want a well crafted horror film that is brilliantly acted, full of threat and tension, claustrophobic, violent and completely deranged – Mum & Dad comes highly recommended.

This article is written exclusively for Horror Addicts, but will appear subsequently on the authors website:

WWW.TRANSGRESSIVECINEMA.COM

A Serbian Film (Srpski Film)

It was with an oppressive yet thrilling sense of dread that I anticipated watching A Serbian Film. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a film where I have gone into the experience with so many other people’s thoughts, feelings and opinions already in my consciousness, even from those who hadn’t actually seen the film. It’s fair to say that that my feelings of anxiety at what I was about to see were greater than anything actually experienced in the film. That said, it was certainly up there with the nastiest films I’ve watched in a fair while.

A Serbian Film is a very good movie, and given that it is a debut from an independent film maker high praise is due. It won’t happen because of the subject matter, but there can be few movies from relatively inexperienced directors that are this accomplished. I understood the main character (Milos) and strongly sensed his commitment to his family and his desire to be a provider. He knew that he was getting in over his head from the start, but greater was his need to offer his family security; and this is the main plot thrust for the film: Milos has entered into a contract to make an adult film for a life changing sum of money, and life changing it certainly turns out to be.

The set pieces were brilliantly shot, and very unsettling. A lot of this was down to the quality of acting and direction that made me care about Milos and his situation. Srdjan Spasojevic, the director of the film, also scored highly by making me think I was seeing things that I didn’t during the more “boundary pushing” scenes. Often it was the concept of what was occurring on screen that repulsed, rather than any specific image. The now infamous “newborn” scene was a case in point. We didn’t see anything beyond a suggested action, which was vile, but we weren’t privy to the physical details of it.

A lot has been said about the motivation behind making this movie, and its metaphor to the atrocities that occurred in Serbia. It is enough to be told that there is an allegory in the film, it doesn’t have to be obvious. Someone has created art, and stated its motivation. It’s misguided to feel that we need to “get it” further, else all films with that intent will become tediously literal and pedestrian. There were several key pieces of dialogue that did present the metaphor and that was adequate without being intrusive. Further to that, the loss of innocence was a theme that was pervasive throughout; from conversations with Milos’ young son about arousal to the more brutal scenes of deprivation and abuse. Speaking of which…

There is a scene involving a machete and a chained woman which can’t be topped for sheer in-your-face horror, it was the ultimate gore scene.  You could see what was going to happen and it did, viscerally and unflinchingly. As with most things in this film, there is always a little cherry on top – and here a comment is made about enjoying rigamortis and Milos needs to be “disengaged” from the victim by two men (I’ll leave that to your imagination!). It completed the scene, added an extra element of disgust and was also darkly humorous. I’ll avoid any further spoilers, although with all that has been discussed within the horror community I suspect it is too late for that. Suffice to say that the director builds to the horror slowly, but once it arrives there is image after image of unrelenting sadism, gore and violence – every single one with a horrific sexual overtone. We descend with Milos into the absolute depths of depravity and we are not allowed respite until we have completed the experience.

Accompanying these scenes was an extremely effective use of music and sound. Some might find the soundtrack intrusive, but given the intensity of the visual images it added a great deal and needed to be prominent to avoid being lost behind the degeneracy occurring onscreen. Some of the low frequency signal generator noises really heightened the sense of intimidation and fear, they resonated and churned in the gut. It was reminiscent of Gaspar Noe’s Irréversible in this regard, although this is where the comparisons end, as A Serbian Film makes Irréversible look like something from Disney in every other way.

Even though I really liked the film, for want of a better verb, it was the victim of the hype and hysteria surrounding it. Maybe I’ve been desensitized, but I was expecting this to mess me up, and it really didn’t – ultimately it was just another film. I’ve mulled over some of the scenes since watching it, but not much more so than any other well made movie, and the films images haven’t been mentally replayed as part of some kind of brain scarring. I had heard I might want to “unsee” it, but I found it not to be the case as the film was ultimately a worthwhile experience.

Some horror journalists have reviewed this film and advised their readership not to see it, that it would be too much for them, and that they only think they want to watch it. If you are reading this blog, you won’t be patronized in this way. You are a horror fan and you understand that this film has a visual power that will shock you. Be prepared for some unsettling images, but I recommend this film to you if extreme cinema is your thing. Of course, if you found Twilight heavy going (or even watched it) you might want to stay away from this one.

In conclusion, it was stylish but with substance; viscerally violent and depraved but with justification. The horror, and the nature of the horror, is some of the most extreme you’ll ever see but this is built up to with a delicate touch. It is a really good film from a director I’ll be interested in following. It will deeply upset many, but for most of the modern genre audience, and that’s you, as nasty as it is it will not deliver on its notoriety, which is a shame because there is more to the film than simply trying to endure its horror. More importantly though, A Serbian Film represents the rarest of treats to the horror fan: a film that we are actually nervous about watching – and for some scenes at least, you are wise to be worried.

This article and others like it can also be read at:

www.TRANSGRESSIVECINEMA.com

Inside (A l’interieur)

Inside is one of the most brutal and harrowing horror thrillers ever produced. It is a film of such intensity that after first viewing I was physically exhausted and mentally drained. Even after repeat viewings this fabulous example of the French New Wave of extreme cinema is still one of my favorite ever films.

Swapping between shots of a car crash taking place and in utero (uterus) footage of the impact on an unborn fetus, the basis of Inside is established in its opening sequence. The heavily pregnant Sarah, played by Alysson Paradis, survives the accident but her husband is killed. Right from the very beginning it is clear that that the visual horror during the film is going to be powerful – the blood and wounds sustained by both Sarah and her husband are graphic and realistic, the screen is drenched in blood and the film has barely started.

The story jumps to four months later, it is Christmas Eve and Sarah’s baby, having survived the crash, is due to be induced on Christmas Day. Sarah leaves the hospital having had a scan, and after making arrangements with her boss (who she is clearly very close to) to pick her up in the morning she returns to her impressive home in the Paris suburbs. From here the film quickly becomes sinister and then descends into a relentless bloody horror. Before discussing the latter horror, the former chilling build-up is an often over looked aspect of this film and, relatively brief as it is, it contains what could be considered to be one of horrors most chilling moments.

It is understandable that the epic pace and deranged brutality of the second half of Inside is the most discussed aspect of this work, but the scenes where the female intruder (known only in the credits as La Femme) arrives at Sarah’s home and ultimately enters it are masterpieces of almost Hitchcockian terror. They are chilling – and the sense of doom that the goddess of French alternative cinema, Beatrice Dalle, brings to the character of La Femme is as disturbing as any of the violent horrors seen later in the piece.

When the doorbell rings, Sarah is cautious and does not open it. The female voice on the other side of the door requests the use of her phone, claiming her car has broken down. Sarah refuses, and lies that her husband is asleep and she doesn’t want to disturb him. The voice at the door corrects her “your husband is not asleep, he’s dead”. Panic sets in and Sarah calls the police. The dark figure of a woman appears at the rear windows, staring in – motionless. Sarah flashes off photo after photo, highlighting the figure in white light and capturing her face. The police arrive and search the grounds, they give the all clear and agree to check in on Sarah later in the evening.

Sarah sleeps restlessly in her couch, and in a moment of sheer terror that elicited raised hairs on crawling skin, the white face of La Femme fades in and out of the darkened doorway behind her. She is in the house! This sequence, as mentioned previously, should be regarded as one of the genres finest. It was thrillingly understated – reminiscent of The Shape appearing from the shadows in Halloween and was more terrifying than the girl coming out of the television in The Ring. The sense of dread that it creates is palpable, and it proved that the viewer is in the hands of film-makers who can terrorize with a light touch as well as a heavy hand.

Sarah retires to her bed, unaware of the intruder in her home – and her next waking moment is La Femme plunging scissors into her pregnant naval, recoiling in shock and pain she has her face viciously slashed. Lest we forget the opening car crash scenes, we are reminded that the gore and violence in this movie will be graphic and lingering – the viewer is not going to be spared, if this cinematic ride is chosen it will have to be lived through. Sarah scrambles into her bathroom, locking herself in. The film from this point is an almost unbroken sequence of violence, mutilation and viscous murders.

Dalle delivers a typically powerful performance. Her body movements and mannerisms reinforce the maniacal evil that her character represents. She’s almost like a demon emitting hate, or a robot incapable of any kind of deviation from her terrible intent. La Femme is clearly mad, Dalle demonstrates that with fits of stamping and fist banging. Not only is she mad, but she’s frustrated and irate – almost indignant at Sarah’s attempts to protect herself.

La Femme fully intends to get at Sarah, but she’s locked in the bathroom. A bloody and exciting “cat and mouse” game is played out – the threat is unending, but during the course of the evening La Femme is interrupted by various characters that she either needs to try to get rid of without attracting attention or, if that is unsuccessful, brutally murder.

The fear La Femme elicits is greater than the sum of all the franchise “Slashers” put together – Freddy and Jason wouldn’t stand a chance. As brilliant as the direction and visual effects used in this film are – it would be significantly poorer if Dalle had not been cast as the antagonist. Dalle is enigmatic in that her allure is difficult to define, but she always brings a powerful presence to the screen and here she channels it as pure deranged evil that is beautiful and repulsive in equal measures.

Inside is another example of the often overlooked importance of a powerful score in genre films. Here it is perfectly arranged and used in an extremely effective manner to bolster fear and tension. It is not surprising to note that the Music Editor for this production also worked on Haute Tension.

Before the film’s final, blood drenched scene – which is hard not watch open-mouthed, if indeed one can stomach it – we are exposed to hands being stabbed to walls, eyes burst with spikes, groins repeatedly stabbed with knives and heads blown in half. These and other transgressive treats are burnt into our consciousness by directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury during the 80 minutes that it takes for Inside to play out.

Despite all of the truly ferocious violence experienced during this film, there is still a sense that our worst fear for what La Femme wants to do to Sarah will not happen – or that if it does it will not be shown in detail. Perhaps this is because it is too despicable to contemplate, challenging every instinct of what it is to be human.  Inside needs to be experienced to fully understand its power, and the finale should be embarked upon without too much being spoiled in the way of details.

As the end credits roll, the true impact of the sum of this films parts are felt. Few films have left me breathless and worn out from the physical effects of stress and adrenalin, but Inside did. It temporarily degenerates the mind, but as this subsides the thrill of the film can be properly enjoyed and appreciated.

This movie doesn’t leave you for a long time; a part of one’s brain will forever be tattooed with the violence and insanity of La Femme. Allow yourself to be immersed in this film, watch it in the dark, and see if it doesn’t just do the same to you.

This article and others can also be read at:

www.TRANSGRESSIVECINEMA.com