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FrightFest 2011 Post Mortem

Posted by: Matthew Turner 02/09/2011 @ 12:22
Subject: Film

Films seen so far this year: 322
Films seen in the last three weeks: The Dead, Urban Explorers, The Glass Man, Tucker & Dale Vs Evil (again), TrollHunter (again), The Wicker Tree, Panic Button, The Woman, Chillerama, The Innkeepers, Saint, Kill List, Detention, A Walk In The Woods, Deadheads,
Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps, Inbred, 3D Sex & Zen: Extreme Ecstasy, The Silence, The Retreat, Snowtown


FrightFest 2011 Post-Mortem
Like many of my fellow inhabitees of the Empire Leicester Square over the last few days, I am currently suffering from post-FrightFest comedown. FrightFest has come and gone once again and now it's SEPTEMBER, for God's sake. On the plus side, the line-up at FrightFest this year was extremely strong, with many citing it as the best for years. I'm inclined to agree – it certainly had variety this year, whereas last year I remember complaining that there wasn't a single comedy in the whole line-up.

It is fair to say though that the best thing about FrightFest is the general atmosphere – everyone's incredibly friendly and always excited to talk about which films they've loved, which films they're looking forward to, which films they've hated and so on. You don't really get that at the LFF. There's more to it in FrightFest though – because you're essentially in the same room with the same people for five days in a row, there's much more of a sense of community. Hell, one lovely FrightFester even baked brownies.

There were other highlights too, such as clips from various upcoming horror projects and a series of specially filmed shorts that were tributes to John Carpenter movies. Has he seen them? I'd like to think that he has. At any rate, Ben Wheatley's tribute to Assault on Precinct 13 (only with zombies), starring a) the stars of Kill List and b) the FrightFest team in cameo roles deserves to end up on the Kill List DVD, as it was excellent.

In addition to the eight films I'd already seen, I saw a total of seventeen films during the festival, although that includes three (TrollHunter, Tucker & Dale and Kill List) that I saw again specifically because I wanted to see them with the FrightFest audience. It's a mark of the quality of this year's line-up that there was only one film out of that seventeen that I flat-out hated (The Theatre Bizarre) and only a couple more (e.g. Deadheads) that were disappointing in some way. Well, there is the small matter of Robin Hardy's ill-advised retread of The Wicker Man (The Wicker Tree), but the less said about that the better.

Other unexpected highlights – for me - included: the surprise appearance of Scott Bakula in the audience (he's not in a film – we worked out he's in Saul Rubinek's upcoming play – Rubinek was with him – and they'd come to see Andy Nyman in The Glass Man) and the on-stage appearance of Dutch director Dick Maas for Saint. When Maas said that Saint was the first of his films to play on a big screen in the UK I wanted to shout “No it isn't! I saw Amsterdamned at the Ipswich Film Theatre in 1988!”, but on reflection, I'm glad I didn't. Anyway, that's probably enough FrightFest based rambling, so here's my FrightFest top 5.

FrightFest Top Five:
1. The Innkeepers (from director of House of the Devil – check out the great poster. Also, hurry up and pick this up, UK distributors!)
2. Kill List
3. Tucker & Dale Vs Evil
4. Detention (the film Kaboom should have been)
5. Panic Button (something of a guilty pleasure, but I really enjoyed it)

Special mentions to: Final Destination 5, The Woman, A Night in the Woods, Sennentuntschi (again, check out the great poster) and Inbred.

Trailerwatch: The Sitter (Red Band)
I'm not sure how I feel about The Sitter. On the one hand, as much as I love David Gordon Green's recent foul-mouthed comedies (Pineapple Express, Your Highness), I'd kind of like him to keep his hand in with the beautifully shot, genuinely original indie dramas (George Washington, All the Real Girls) he was making beforehand. I also really loved Undertow, which everybody seems to have forgotten about.

I'm also kind of going off Jonah Hill after the Cyrus and Get Him to the Greek – he's one of those actors that's terrific in wisecracking support roles but doesn't quite work as a likeable leading man. That said, the specially shot intro to the Red Band trailer (translation: Not Safe For Work) is pretty amusing, with a scarily slimmed-down Jonah Hill swearing and answering inappropriate questions with a sofa full of young kids. The film itself is apparently inspired by (rather than a direct remake of) the 1987 comedy Adventures in Babysitting and frankly they have missed a trick by not casting Elisabeth Shue in a cameo role. Or maybe they have and she's just not in the cast list.

Anyway, Jonah Hill plays an on-suspension college student who takes a job as a baby-sitter and has a wild and crazy night when he takes the kids to what he thinks is going to be a drunken hook-up and ends up getting chased by drug dealers, one of whom is played by Sam Rockwell. The trailer does look quite promising and I like some of Hill's line deliveries (“I came for the mother-fucking keys to my mother-fucking mini-van and THAT'S what's up!”), plus Rockwell is always good value. Interesting to note that Hill doesn't appear to have a wisecracking (or stoner) best friend in the film – a James Franco to his Seth Rogen, so to speak. Anyway, it doesn't open here till 27th January, which means there's a slim chance it'll play the London Film Festival, but I wouldn't count on it.

Top 10 Films On Release This Week (as recommended by me):
Compared to last week's eight new entries, this week seems like something of a slow-down, with only three new films making it into the top ten. They are: Ben Wheatley's brilliant hitman horror Kill List, French drama The Hedgehog (sadly not actually about a hedgehog but still very good) and the remake of Fright Night, starring My Good Friends Anton Yelchin and Christopher Mintze-Plasse. It's also worth noting that the previous number one on that list (The Interrupters) is still showing in second run venues – it's at Riverside Studios later this week in London, for example – so keep an eye out for it, as it's one of the best films of the year.

We have several new interviews this week too, including: an exclusive interview with Weekender (and Skins) star Jack O'Connell; semi-exclusive interviews with Ben Wheatley and actors Neil Maskell and MyAnna Buring for Kill List; and an exclusive interview with my aforementioned Good Friends Anton Yelchin and Christopher Mintz-Plasse for Fright Night.

Elsewhere you can still read our exclusive interview with John Michael McDonagh (writer-director of The Guard); an exclusive interview with Jason “Muscles” Momoa, star of Conan the Barbarian; a semi-exclusive interview with the four stars of The Inbetweeners; an exclusive interview with Bob Ingersoll, one of the chimp-handlers featured in Project Nim; press conference interviews with the stars and director of Cowboys & Aliens and our semi-exclusive interview with the lovely Audrey Tautou, star of Beautiful Lies.

Come back next week for an exclusive interview with TrollHunter director Andre Ovredal and a semi-exclusive interview with Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, stars of next week's Warrior.

1. Kill List
2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
3. Project Nim
4. One Day
5. Final Destination 5
6. Captain America: The First Avenger
7. Arrietty
8. The Inbetweeners Movie
9. The Hedgehog
10. Fright Night

DVD of the Week: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (out now, RRP £9.99)
This week's DVD of the Week is The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, which is still my second favourite film of the year after True Grit. Note that the DVD restores the full title that was shortened for the theatrical release. Written and directed by Luc Besson, the film is based on the French comic books by Jacques Tardi and stars Louise Bourgoin as novelist Adele Blanc-Sec, an Indiana Jones-style adventuress who travels the world in search of thrilling material for her books.

Set in 1911, the film opens with Adele stealing a physician's mummy in Egypt and escaping from under the nose of her arch-nemesis Dieuleveult (Mathieu Amalric), after which she returns to Paris, where she's hoping her mad scientist friend Esperandieu (Jacky Nercessian) can unlock the mummy's secrets and cure her catatonic younger sister (Laure de Clermont). However, Esperandieu's practise experiments have resulted in the resurrection of a hatchling pterodactyl, which is now terrorising the streets of 1911 Paris.

Rising star Louise Bourgoin is wonderful as Adele, creating a hugely appealing, gloriously independent, no-nonsense character who's feisty, fearless and seemingly unflappable, not to mention drop-dead gorgeous and effortlessly sexy (the shot of her smoking in the bath will stay with you a long time if you are a gentleman of a certain age). In addition, the special effects are excellent (particularly on the utterly delightful mummies) and the witty script crackles with the sort of idiosyncratic, catchphrase-laden dialogue (“Minute, papillon!”) that will make you wish you spoke French.

In short, this is utterly delightful from start to finish, thanks to a witty script, gorgeous production design, enjoyably pacey direction and a wonderful performance from Louise Bourgoin. Highly recommended and one of the best films of the year.

Extras include: an excellent 26 minute Making Of, featuring interviews with Besson, Tardi and Bourgoin; separate interviews with Besson (two different ones) and Louise Bourgoin;  a four minute featurette (“In the Studio”) about Bourgoin recording a singing track; and the trailer. Shame there are no deleted scenes or commentary though. You can of course also read our own exclusive interviews with Besson and Bourgoin.


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