FrightFest Diary: ‘Climax’ Concludes the Festival in Uncompromising Fashion

Chris Tilly
Movies Horror
Movies Horror Sci-Fi

FrightFest — the world-famous celebration of all things horror — hits London’s Leicester Square from August 23-27. And FANDOM’s resident gore-hounds Chris Tilly and Kim Taylor-Foster will be in attendance to cover all the horrible happenings.

That includes news, pictures, trailers and reviews of the likes of The Ranger, Climax, Tigers Are Not Afraid, Ravers, Bodied, Possum, Mega Time Squad, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich and much, much more. We’ll also be presenting the FANDOM screening of Upgrade on Saturday night, with genre king Leigh Whannell in attendance.

So bookmark this page as we’ll be posting everything here, with the most recent updates at the top. And wish us luck as we dive into what Guillermo Del Toro once called “the Woodstock of gore.”

Climax Review

Gaspar Noe’s new film is a mind-bending, soul-crushing examination of life, death and the destructive power of sangria. The film begins with a group of talking heads discussing sex, drugs and the like, then performing an intense dance sequence. Meaning we get to know the characters through both their words, and their moves. Then the spiked punch they are drinking kicks in, and all hell breaks lose, the film turning into a waking nightmare of dizzying camera moves and unspeakable horrors.

As ever, Noe probes and pokes and provokes the audiences, with scenes feeling like they last too long, and the action at times impossible to make out. The result is an incredible viewing experience; an assault on the eyes and ears that plays out to a fantastic soundtrack of Daft Punk, Aphex Twin, Soft Cell, Giorgio Morodor, and The Rolling Stones. And with an ending that makes you re-evaluate all that’s come before, you’ll be thinking about Climax for days.

Possum Review

Sean Harris in Possum.

Possum is a tale of trauma. Of demons from the past haunting those in the present. And of a seriously freaky puppet that may or may not be possessed. Mission: Impossible villain Sean Harris plays Philip, a puppeteer who returns to his childhood home at much the same time as a teenager goes missing in the area. Is Philip involved? Is it the work of his sinister stepfather? And what does Possum have to do with it? Those questions are answered as the film builds towards a powerful climax, but it takes an age to get there, and oftentimes feels like a short stretched to feature-length. But what it lacks in story, Possum makes up for in atmosphere, the film genuinely unnerving, and consistently disturbing. Trust us – this one will give you nightmares.

Anna and the Apocalypse Review

Being a Christmas musical about zombies, Anna and the Apocalypse really shouldn’t work. But it does. Just. It takes 30-minutes for the reanimated to rear ugly heads, but by then we’ve witnessed three toe-tapping tunes that set the scene in economical fashion, and introduce the likeable cast of characters. Making it all-the-more heartbreaking when the zombie holocaust hits, and they start dropping dead. The songs are strong and the cast excellent, particularly Ella Hunt as the kick-ass title character. And there’s so much to love, from the graveyard dance sequence to the scene-stealing penguins to Paul Kaye not being annoying for once. And while the film ultimately outstays it’s welcome — feeling a good 15 minutes too long — it’s nevertheless a blast.

Wolfman’s Got Nards Review

Named after the iconic line from The Monster Squad — and directed by that film’s star Andre Gower — Wolfman’s Got Nards is a celebration of fandom, and the enduring appeal a cult classic. Originally released in 1987, to little fanfare and backed by a truly terrible marketing campaign, The Monster Squad initially flopped. But thanks to video and cable, the film found an audience, and now plays to packed houses all over the globe. This documentary endeavours to tell that tale, with director Fred Dekker and screenwriter Shane Black being brutally honest in their recollections, and the film taking an emotional turn when dealing with the story of actor Brent Chalem, who played Horace. But ultimately Wolfman’s Got Nards is about the fans, who brought The Monster Squad back from the dead, and who will doubtless keep it alive for evermore.

White Chamber Review

Set in a near future England where Martial Law is effect and the people are being oppressed by an unelected military council, much of White Chamber takes place in a single, featureless room. Beginning with a woman — played by The Descent star Shauna MacDonald — waking up alone in said room, a mysterious voice endeavouring to break her resolve. The woman claims to be the “admin girl” but it quickly becomes clear that she knows more than she claims about what is happening both inside and outside the box. And then the torture begins. What follows is a tense psychological thriller that’s filled with twists and turns, and has much to say about the nature and futility of modern warfare. The negative being a somewhat over-the-top performance from The Mummy actor Oded Fehr.

Upgrade Screening/Review

Upgrade kicked all kinds of ass a very special FANDOM screening on Saturday night. Writer-director Leigh Whannell — of Saw and Insidious fame — introduced the film. Then followed it up with a Q&A in which he discussed how RoboCop and The Terminator influenced the movie, and how he made it look like a blockbuster on a modest budget. Upgrade hits UK screens on Friday and we’ve got an exclusive interview with Leigh running later this week, while you can check out our 5-star review here…

Final Stop: Smartphone-Shot Film Made with 3D Sound Puts You Right In the Terrifying Action

Is there any film genre that depends more on pitch-perfect sound than horror? Consider the most iconic horror films and you’ll remember the chilling score, and sound effects. Think Psycho, think Texas Chainsaw Massacre, think The Exorcist. The list is endless. And now a horror short has been made that makes the most of binaural 3D sound capabilities. Screening at Frightfest, Final Stop is a project financed by headphone manufacturers Sennheiser and makes use of their sound equipment for a fully immersive sound experience. Watched on the big screen while wearing headphones, the soundscape created includes realistic sounds such as the buzz of a streetlight overhead, the engine and brakes of an approaching bus, a rustling newspaper in front and crackling twigs from behind – as well as other sounds to help ramp up the tension.

Directed by Roxanne Benjamin, the short film concerns a woman alone at night who attracts the attention of a hooded stalker – and features a twist ending you won’t see coming. It’s extremely effective — and is exciting for the future of cinema. You can watch Final Stop above, or click here where you’ll also find videos about the making of the film.

Jenn Wexler, director of the festival’s opening film, The Ranger (see below for our review), took part in a panel discussion following the screening, and said she’d never experienced anything quite like it.

“We’re in a room full of people and usually you hear the popcorn and the sucking but these headphones really made me feel like I was in my own space … and it was just me, as the only viewer, watching this movie,” she said. “So it’s a really cool blending of community [and] the solo viewing experience. I don’t know if I’ve ever quite felt like that when I’ve watched a movie before.”

Ravers Review

Think of the blood-drenched club scene at the start of Blade, and that gives you some idea of what to expect from Ravers. In very small part, at least. Ravers charts what happens at a squat party – aka illegal rave – when a batch of contaminated energy drinks turns revellers into murderous mutants. Becky, played by Vikings star Georgia Hirst, is a germophobic journalist trapped in the ensuing chaos attempting to get herself and her friends out alive. Species icon Natasha Henstridge appears in a small role, alongside I, Daniel Blake actor Dave Johns — somewhat bizarrely.

Though director Bernhard Pucher’s intentions were to make a “fun” action film, blending a light tone with the horror upsets the impact of the events. However, it was a good move to set it all to a pulsating techno soundtrack. Stick with the film for your rewards which come in the form of physical special effects. As the film progresses, the assembled ravers crave greater quantities of substances, and the mutations become increasingly gross with one charred party-goer particularly grotesque. A couple of eye-popping moments and a hallucinating Becky are highlights if you like to be grossed out.

PuppetMaster The Littlest Reich Review

The new Puppet Master movie — which stars Thomas Lennon and Barbara Crampton — played to a packed house at FrightFest. If you want to know what we thought, check out FANDOM’s Fantasia Festival review, courtesy of Matt Donato…

Mega Time Squad Review

There’s a unique and very specific brand of humour that comes out of New Zealand. You see it in Flight of the Conchords and the films of Taika Waititi, and Mega Time Squad shares that sensibility, being a very weird and very funny film about cloning and time travel. Anton Tennet plays “bloody dynamic” John, a low-level gangster who — while endeavouring to steal from his boss – stumbles upon an ancient time travel device. Which he uses to get him out of the tight spots in which all-too-regularly finds himself. And results in increasing numbers of Johns interacting with each other the film progresses.

As funny as it is silly, Mega Time Squad features a scene-stealing turn from What We Do in the Shadows star Jonny Brugh, while Tim van Dammen’s script — which he also directed — takes the high-concept to some very silly places, making Mega Time Squad a blast from start to finish.

Summer of 84 Review

Amid an explosion of 1980s nostalgia-fests comes Summer of 84. But though it shares elements in common with ‘80s throwback series Stranger Things, it fails to create something that successfully captures a convincing retro feel blended with something that also feels fresh. Instead, the film feels derivative and self-aware, suffering from shoehorning in regular references to the decade of lace neon gloves and crimped hair. Add in a group of stereotyped central characters without the individuality to elevate them to the likes of the It or Stand By Me boys and you’ve got a film you want to like more than you’re able. That said, with a tone that see-saws between The Goonies, The ‘Burbs and German series Dark, you’re kept guessing which way it will go before it hits you with a denouement that’s both tense and genuinely alarming.

The Ranger Review

The Ranger kicked off the festival in kick-ass style. Combining slasher with survival horror, the film pits a bunch of dopey punks against a park ranger who proves to be a psychotic stickler for safety regulations. Chloe Levine plays Chelsea, a bad girl with a good heart, who – following serious trouble in the city — flees to her uncle’s cabin in the woods. But the local park ranger — who is somehow connected to Chloe’s past — doesn’t like having idiots on his land, making grandiose statements like “While visiting my mountain, I expect you to abide by the law. The law of mother nature.”

They don’t, predictably, and what follows is a series of gruesome kills, punctuated by some seriously dark humour. Which cause violent shifts in tone that make for a somewhat schizophrenic watch. But it’s directed with style and visual flair by Jenn Wexler — making her feature film debut — and anchored by a couple of grandstanding performances from Jeremy Holm as the deranged ranger in question, and Levine as his plucky pink-haired nemesis.

Exclusive: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot Poster

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot Poster.

Feast your eyes on the brand-new FrightFest poster for The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, which screens on Sunday at the festival. The one-sheet features a first look at the film’s monster. And if you want to more about this intriguing title, here’s the official FrightFest synopsis…

Decades after ending WWII by assassinating Adolf Hitler in an undercover operation so covert it never existed, unsung American hero Calvin Barr is called upon by the secret services to save the day again. Now he must hunt down the fabled Bigfoot, carrier of a deadly plague that could destroy mankind, hidden deep in the Canadian wilderness. Last time he left behind the love of his life. This time his legend, as the ageing veteran confronts the mythological beast as well as his own mythic past. Starring Hollywood royalty Sam Elliott and Poldark star Aidan Turner.

2018 FrightFest Preview

A look ahead to the feature and short films screening at 2018 FrightFest, as well as the many guests in attendance…

2017 FrightFest Diary

To kick things off, check out last year’s diary, featuring coverage of Death Note, Cult of Chucky, Leatherface, Victor Crowley, Tragedy Girls, and much, much more…

Chris Tilly
FANDOM Managing Editor in the UK. At this point my life is a combination of 1980s horror movies, Crystal Palace football matches, and episodes of I'm Alan Partridge. The first series. When he was in the travel tavern. Not the one after.
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