Every year FrightFest offers up the best of the rest in genre-heavy filmmaking, boasting everything from cheapo creature features to the latest in cutting-edge zombie-based action, and 2016 was no exception.
Korean disaster flicks, claustrophobic single-location thrillers and Italian superhero epics: this year boasted one of the best line-ups in yonks. Here’s a few of the highlights:
Ben Parker’s low-rent debut finds a no-nonsense American black-ops team crammed into a tiny submarine with none other than its sweet-natured Swedish captain for company for pretty much its entire run-time. No gaudy explosions or silly monster masks, just straight-up old-school tension, built around four loud, brash (and sometimes violent) personalities that couldn’t be more different if they tried.
What follows is a super clever, ultra edgy thriller that might not be quite as obviously crowd-pleasing as its fellow FrightFest cohorts, but easily emerges as one of the most polished efforts of the weekend.
The Love Witch
The most talked-about ticket of the festival was almost definitely Anna Biller’s 60s nostalgia trip though. The aptly titled The Love Witch found vintage-style hottie Samantha Robinson turning up the charm as a travelling enchantress, ensnaring a series of men through some carefully designed romance potions.
Although set completely in modern day, Biller’s insanely detailed pulpy, technicolour style is really what shines through here, developing a light and funny twist on the occult mysteries of the 60s that really makes a star of its stand-out lead.
Classic horror fans take note, Biller is an exciting talent indeed.
They Call Me Jeeg Robot
Already a runaway hit in its native Italy, sweeping up every award and box-office receipt in sight, Gabriele Mainetti’s weird and wonderful superhero drama hooks into a very arresting central concept: what if Clark Kent wasn’t an alien, but instead a porn-addicted petty thief?
Despite being pulled together with the smallest amount of financial backing possible (think of Iron Man’s budget, then think how much the cameraman got paid, then half it) They Call Me Jeeg Robot boasts Hollywood-level effects, awards-worthy performances and a fiercely dynamic and original sense of storytelling that rivals even the biggest giants in its genre.
Not exactly kid-friendly, but easily a whole-lot more involving and unusual than the standard superhero fare.
Train To Busan
Yet still the biggest crowd-pleasing delight of the weekend was the closing night premiere of Korean zombie epic Train to Busan, a different breed of outbreak movie that never once slows down.
The concept is simple: zombies on a high-speed train. But it’s the way Sang-ho Yeon brings it all together that makes all the difference, using the undead not as antagonists but obstacles. This isn’t a Dawn of the Dead style shooter, it’s a disaster movie where the eclectic bunch of survivors are simply trying to escape.
Funny, explosive and equal parts crushingly sad, Train to Busan is a total triumph of blockbuster filmmaking. Even if you’re not a zombie fan, it’s a must-see.