The 13th edition of Film4 FRIGHTFEST just wrapped up, but what it left is lots of movies and good memories. The biggest and scariest edition ever, with three screens hosting horrific flicks at the Empire Cinema, this FrightFest the 13th marked a definitive change. If until now people knew about the existence of FrightFest, after this year everybody will know about FrightFest, and no-one will be able to think of horror without mentioning it.

On Thursday night the festival kicked off with The Seasoning House, a British film by special effects master Paul Hyett. Being the opening movie implies more pressure, but The Seasoning House proved to be an intense and raw portrait of life and death in the Balkans after the civil war.
Rosie Day is Angel, a deaf and mute kid taken to the eponymous house together with other girls after her parents are killed by the soldiers. Here the girls are forced by the ruthless Viktor (Kevin Howarth) to prostitute, but while taking care of cleaning and drugging her hapless and horribly abused friends, Angel also tries to find her way out of that hell.
Horror at its most etymological meaning, The Seasoning House does not hold any punches as we assist at gruesome violence perpetrated with evil ignorance by despicable men. Girls are treated as meat to be butchered, and only a deaf and mute girl looking for revenge can get in the way. Extraordinary special and visual effects, of course, add value to this already intense movie that totally deserved the opening slot at the festival.

The other highlight of the first day was the British horror-comedy Cockneys vs Zombies. Last year director Matthias Hoene delighted the FrighFest crowd with a clip from the movie, but for this edition the movie was ready to be presented. A funny and gory zombie story set in East London where a group of clumsy bank robbers and old folks living in a retirement home get involved in a fight with menacing zombies who crave flesh and threaten to take over the whole city. A witty script by Frightfest regular James Moran and gory visual effects make CvsZ not the usual zombie flick, but the specific location and slang make it hard to fully enjoy it for someone not familiar with the East London reality. The veteran Alan Ford steals every scene where he is involved, but the whole ensemble of young and old actors is the real strength of a movie. There had been a cast of only young and good-looking heroes it would have been otherwise plain boring.

The second day saw the presence of Dario Argento himself on the main screen stage. A stuttering knowledge of English did not help the fluency of the interview, but Argento is always Argento, and you cannot do anything, but stare at him in awe thinking about all the things he’s done (between 1970 and 1987) and all the innovative ideas he brought to the horror genre. Ready to release his latest Dracula 3D, Argento tried to convince the crowd it was the movie he wanted to make and that he was inspired by an extraordinary screening in 3D of Dial M for Murder, but the truth is that the trailer and his recent efforts do not help his cause. We’ll see.

Chilean movie Hidden in the Woods by young director Patricio Valladares was one of the disappointing film of FrightFest. Well done and with gory effects crafted with detailed and morbid precision, Hidden in the Woods lacks a more intriguing script and dialogues, and a professional guide for actors who try their best to appear believable. The soap-operish flavor of the twists, the over the top acting and a saturated photography made it look like Hobo with a Shotgun, but without the ironic touch and flashy, psychedelic violence.

Rec 3: Genesis was the movie everyone was expecting on Friday night. Director Paco Plaza and protagonist Leticia Dolera attended the festival explaining the reasons behind this third chapter and why it looks so different from the others. Clara and Koldo are getting married, but their big day and tacky party is ruined by an invasion of zombies that force them to fight for their survival. Paco Plaza keeps the POV style for the first 20 minutes – in a very clever way as usual – and then switches to “normal” to better tell his story and to scare us with a different kind of fear. No more hand held camera, no more claustrophobic buildings, no more dark atmospheres, but big open spaces that feel more constricted, darker and more claustrophobic than ever. Leticia Dolera said she got inspiration from Kill Bill’s bride, and like Uma Thurman’s character Clara is indeed a strong woman who would kill anything and anyone that gets in her way. And wielding a chainsaw does help. A fun ride among fast and slow zombies, Sponge John, cinema verité and possessed friends and relatives that ask for decapitation. A wedding video you will not forget.

REC3: Genesis does not really add anything to the REC saga – at the same time reporter Ángela Vidal is fighting with cameraman Pablo inside the building in Rambla de Catalunya 34 – but it is a blood-soaked and horrific episode that deserves to be acknowledged as an excellent chapter of a yet unfinished saga. The religious twist is something a bit hard to process, but the stunning visual effects and the romantic – yet bitter – ending make the fourth episode worth waiting for.


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