The eleventh annual Glasgow Frightfest is just around the corner and to help navigate the 13 features (including three debuts features, nine UK premiers, a European premier, and a world premier ) I’ve put together a handy guide to all the films. With Frightfest due to fulfil its usual bill of top-notch cutting-edge horror from around the world, you’re going to want to know what to keep an eye out for.
The Forest has been receiving a good bit of hype in recent months and seems well-tipped to be one of 2016’s most popular horror releases. Although a feature debut from Jason Zada, The Forest isn’t his first foray into horror, 2011’s ground-breaking interactive short Take This Lollipop along with a writing credit on Bobby Roe’s The Houses October Built, prove Zada’s been flirting with the genre for a while now.
Nick Acosta, who co-produced and partly wrote series three of NBC’s exquisite Hannibal, is on script duties with newcomer Sarah Cornwell and Ben Ketai, who’s slated to write the upcoming sequel to Bryan Bertino’s 2008 home-invasion horror The Strangers. Amongst others, prolific names like David S. Goyer and Lawrence Bender are on the list of producers. Considering that the Japanese government don’t grant filmmakers access to the real forest, it will be interesting to see how well The Forest manages to capture the essence of such an atmospheric locale. Kevin Phipps, art director on films like The Fifth Element, Sleepy Hollow, and V for Vendetta, has taken up role of production designer which is pretty cool considering he worked on Resident Evil: Retribution which, like it or love it, has some great visual ideas.
The film itself follows the journey of a young woman who ventures deep into the Aokigahara forest whilst looking for her sister and comes face-to-face with a supernatural threat. The so-called Suicide Forest is a dream location for a horror film; Zada’s project along with Gus Van Sant’s 2015 feature Sea of Trees starring Mathew McConaughey, proves that there’s a going interest in the west regarding Japan’s haunted wood.
Jesse Thomas Cooke’s filmography has already flaunted a serious appreciation for B-Movie concepts, developing from home-made cannibal thriller Scarce, through creature feature wrestling mash-up Monster Brawl, to 2013’s disgusting monster origin story Septic Man. Cooke’s latest film The Hexecutioners follows two women who work for a euthanasia company as they accidentally summon demonic wraiths and fight for their lives whilst on a job. Writer Tony Burgess is an experienced horror writer, working with Bruce McDonald on impressive zombie flick Pontypool before teaming up with Cooke for his heartfelt exploitation ode to The Toxic Avenger: Septic Man. Septic Man is a pretty weird mix of things, held together by sincerity and shock, whilst Pontypool is great ideas and great characters, so my hopes are high.
Appearances from cult actors like Art Hindle and Lance Henriksen in Monster Brawl, along with Julian Richings mysterious turn in Septic Man, prove Cooke has a lovable penchant for genre regulars. The Hexecutioners is no exception, showing off a few familiar faces like Boyd Banks (Jason X, Dawn of the Dead), Barry Flatman (The Dead Zone, Saw III), and Walter Borden, who we last saw in Bruce LaBruce’s Gerontophilia stealing the show with an abundance of charm.
The second directorial debut at Frightfest 2016, comes in the form of Sonny Mallhi’s supernatural thriller Anguish. Mallhi is himself a prolific producer of horror and thrillers, serving as executive producer on The Strangers, Shutter (2008), Oldboy (2013), whilst writing and exec producing obsessive friend thrillers The Roommate and Crush. Anguish is Mallhi’s third script and looks set to be a solid piece of urban supernatural, hotly tipped to be the next It Follows.
The story follows a girl who, after moving to a new town, starts to exhibit behaviours akin to multiple personality disorder, behaviours that may prove to be the product of possession. It’s a fairly bog-standard narrative, but hopefully Mallhi’s experience with High School horror, will keep the character side of this strong and the scares involving.
The last time we saw director John Suits at Frightfest, it was with his cerebral graphic novel adaptation The Scribbler, a strange, inconsistent, but refreshing sci-fi story about multiple personality disorder. Suits also wrote and produced 2012’s Inception-style thriller Extracted, and served as producer on Bad Milo and E.L. Katz’ hilarious feature debut Cheap Thrills.
Pandemic looks set to be one of the most energetic features at the year’s Frightfest, tackling the ever-popular viral apocalypse from first person perspective. It’s not the first time it’s been done, but the hype for feature-length POV action extravaganza Hardcore Henry has obviously made its mark on the horror genre. Which is great because the sheer mad energy of that one wee trailer is ridiculous and could be the remedy to a saturated sub- genre. On writing duties is Dustin T. Benson whose work on Pandemic will be his debut credit.
The Mind’s Eye
In 2013 writer/director Joe Begos took his cult Indy project Almost Human to Toronto International Film Festival where it garnered attention for its plucky amateur charm, superb practical effects, and genre serenading. It’s been three years since Begos’ homemade debut and we’re pretty excited to see where he goes next. Where Almost Human was an amalgam 0f 60’s and 70’s alien invasion narratives with a John Carpenter edge, The Mind’s Eye seems set to pull on similar retro Cronenberg influences.
The cast proves how much Begos’ profile has been raised by three years of Almost Human plugging. Lauren Ashley Carter (Pod, Jug Face), Jeremy Gardner (The Battery, Spring), Noah Segan (Tales of Halloween, Starry Eyes, Dead Girl), and cult icon Larry Fessenden make welcome additions to the returning cast members of Almost Human. Rising talent Steve Moore will compose the soundtrack, after successful turns in The Guest and Cub.
Tyler MacIntyre’s third feature looks set to be the silliest film at Frightfest 2016 and we can’t wait. Patchwork is the tale of a group of women who, whilst out partying, are kidnapped and reassembled into one Frankenstein monster, which then begins hunting its demented creator. It looks to be an Indy adaptation of Frankenstein mixed with exploitation and rape-revenge elements.
The film could also serve as a kind of camp catharsis for body horror films like Tusk and The Human Centipede. The People Who Touch Your Food writer Chris Lee Hill is on co-writing duties with MacIntyre, who hasn’t directed a feature-length film since2007. Mars Feehery takes up post as production designer, which should be pretty interesting considering the set work he did for Rodney Ascher’s colourful night-terror documentary The Nightmare.
It sounds like a blast and if taken in the right direction could be one of the most pleasingly retro horror ventures this year.
Roar Uthaug’s Norwegian disaster film The Wave, has already made a substantial impact in its homeland, but its involvement at Glasgow Frightfest may surprise. However, Uthaug’s 2006 debut film Cold Prey is a merciless journey into slasher territory which spawned two sequels and ear-marked Uthaug someone with a taste for grim realism and survival stories. So don’t expect The Wave to be squeaky clean and soppy.
Ragnarok scribe John Kare Raake is co-writer alongside Harald Rosenlow Eeg (1,000 Times Good Night, Uro), whilst a cast of superb Danish and Norwegian talent look set to make this a great showcase for Norwegian cinema on the global stage. Hopefully The Wave will show off Uthaug’s particular brand of mucky survivalism, and garner him some serious support for the proposed Tomb Raider film he’s set to direct.
Undoubtedly the cherry of Frightfest 2016, Southbound has already screened at Toronto film festival last year to enthusiastic critics and fulfilled genre obsessives. The latest addition to the contemporary trend of anthology horror films really seems to be ticking the boxes for people and supplying a fresh, genuinely terrifying series of short films all set around a road trip.
Interestingly, the filmmakers involved are a relatively fresh-faced bunch which has us hoping all four of Southbound’s segments will be fresh and terrifying. Roxanne Benjamin, V/H/S trilogy and The Devil’s Candy producer, weighs in for her debut writing/directing credit whilst The Signal director David Bruckner pops up for his first anthology appearance since V/H/S’s Amatuer Night. Anyone who especially enjoyed Bruckner’s tale of pervert jocks being decimated by an insidious feminine being will be glad to hear a feature-length version called Siren is in post-production right now. Patrick Horvath, helmer of comedy horror Die-ner (Get It?) has already proved he’s got an awareness of the genre and an ability to be genuinely funny, Die-ner’s crappy title almost single-handedly puts you off investigating a film that’s actually pretty sharp, concise, and well-scripted, so hopefully Horvath will ditch dodgy japes in favour of more solid scares for Southbound. Last, but in no way least, is Radio Silence the working name for filmmakers Matt Bettinelli Olpin, Justin Martinez, Tyler Gillett, and Chad Villella. The last time these guys worked together as a writer/director unit was 10/31/98, one of the most impressive entries the V/H/S trilogy frankly ever hosted. Hopefully their second group venture will be as innovative and packed with haunting imagery.
SPL2: A Time For Consequences
A surprising addition to the Frightfest line-up for many, Pou Soi Cheang’s sequel to Wilson Yip’s 2005 thriller SPL: Killzone, is a welcome break in the stream of dark films due to screen this weekend. Previous years have included Asian cinema, but compared to 2014’s Killers, SPL2 seems like a far cry from the sort of thing Frightfest audiences will be chomping at the bit for.
However, SPL2 does seem set to outdo its first instalment. Wilson Yip’s first entry has issues figuring out exactly what it wants to be, its cast of action stars like Simon Yam and Donnie Yen seem to point in the direction of action, but the pace of the film never reaches the highlights of Yip’s Ip Man. 11 years later and we’re finally getting a sequel that appears to be more thematic than anything, with original stars Jing Wu and Simon Yam returning as new characters in an entirely new story.
Director Cheang’s work on Accident and Dog Bite Dog prove he has the eye for shooting fights and the brains for some really nifty death scenes, but both those films were a jumbled mix of action, mystery, and thriller, never quite achieving full success at any. Horace Ma who actualised some really superb stuff on French-Chinese giallo thriller Red Nights will serve as production designer, which hopefully means the film will have some eye-catching visuals.
The Other Side of the Door
There’s nothing more interesting than watching a director’s development over the course of a few films, and out of all the directors at Frightfest 2016, Johannes Roberts is probably that guy. The English filmmaker started out making super-low budget nasties like Hellbreeder only to score a Tom Savini performance in his vampire vixens film Forest of the Damned. Five years after that, in 2010, Roberts wrote and directed The Expelled (AKA F) a tight little exercise in NED horror which saw David Schofield hunted through a high school by some pretty terrifying hoodlums. The film was produced by The Other Side of The Door co-writer and Forest of the Damned 2 director Ernest Riera. Noel Clarke vehicle Storage 24 was the last thing he did before his joint Indian/UK venture The Other Side of the Door, which receives its European premier at Frightfest.
The film looks set to be Roberts’ most bankable feature yet, a cross-continental supernatural horror story about a young couple attempting to reach their recently deceased son via ancient magic. Considering that French New Wave Extreme auteur Alexandre Aja is on the list of producers, I can’t see this being a particularly easy-going film, especially when its tackling Pet Cemetery issues of child death.
Composer Joseph Bishara lends his veritable talents, adding Roberts latest to an impressive CV of contemporary horror films like Insidious, The Conjuring, Tales of Halloween, and the additional Gorgeous Vortex segment of V/H/S: Viral. Maxime Alexandre, Aja’s cinematographer on Switchblade Romance and The Hills Have Eyes, lends her particularly gritty aesthetic to Roberts Indian folk tale horror. Special Effects maestro Dan Martin is a great name to see appear on The Other Side of the Door, since it hopefully means there will be minimal CGI involvement. Martin’s work on The Human Centipede 2, Little Deaths, A Field in England, and ABCs of Death 2 is a love song for the seedy stomach-churning origins of practical gore, his role as special make-up and creature effects designer puts the film’s threat in good stead.
Can Evrenol has already made a solid name for himself through his short films (all of which can be seen at his website), so much so that there’s a palatable buzz around Frightfest’s third and final debut directing gig.
Baskin looks set to be an explosive debut, its story centring around a group of cops who stumble across black mass in an abandoned building and begin a descent into Hell. The trailer looks like Lords of Salem crossed with DiBlasi’s Last Shift, it looks tense, colourful, weird, and horrible. Apart from Evrenol, the film is written by relative newbies Ogulcan Eren Akay, Cem Ozuduru, Ercin Sadikoglu. Cinematographer Alp Korfali has Baskin as only the second credit on their CV, and that extends to much of the talent on Baskin, it’s a film showcasing an awful lot of people and if that’s not a reason to get excited, I don’t really know what is.
Kevin and Michael Goetz’ adaptation of Pascal Laugier’s nerve-shredding, hyper-nihilistic venture Martyrs was always going to be a bitter pill for die-hard fans. Considering that Laugier’s lauded debut was one of the truly nasty horror films of the last decade, an American remake seems destined to soften the edges. However, there are plenty of things about the Martyrs remake to get excited about.
For instance, the Goetz brothers’ road-movie debut Scenic Route is a masterclass in things going from bad to downright awful. The story of two old friends who grow increasingly aggressive after their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, its uncomfortable and eventually OTT, the sort of thing that’s pretty much required for dealing with a story like Martyrs. On writing duties is Mark L. Smith, the man behind Vacancy, Joe Dantes’ The Hole, and The Revenant! Hopefully Smith understands why Martyrs works and won’t bother tacking on surplus explanations. Alan Roderick Jones, who was on art dep duties for Star Wars A New Hope and production design on Grace Jones horror Vamp, will be reinterpreting the industrial modernism of Laugier’s sets.
The Devil’s Candy
Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones is arguably the best horror to come out of Australia since Wolf Creek, so naturally, we wait with baited breath to see what the sinister filmmaker has in store for us next. The Loved Ones was a surprise hit, garnering cult status after its initial release, the story of a young man tortured by his would-be prom date and her obsessive incestuous father, was one that had us all squirming for a hundred different reasons. On the other hand, The Loved Ones is a film that’s punctuated by caustic camp, a brand of garish comedy that makes you feel dirty for laughing.
Written and directed by Byrne, The Devil’s Candy tells the story of a young family who move into a huge new house in rural Texas, only to find the son of the previous owners trying to enter their family. It sounds like there’s capacity for some super-awkwardness. One of the most interesting credits on Byrne’s latest is Thomas S. Hammock, production designer on, amongst others, Adam Wingard’s You’re Next and The Guest,V/H/S 2, and Wingard’s upcoming Death Note adaptation.