The UK’s finest fright film festival has come to an end and I’ve been at the frontline for The People’s Movies to bring fans more news of cutting-edge genre entertainment.
From a virulent Sasquatch to giant candy cane zombie squishing…here is the madness that was DAY FOUR.
THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT– EUROPEAN PREMIERE – Fantasy adventure drama
Director: Robert D. Krzykowski With: Aidan Turner, Sam Elliott, Sean Bridgers. USA 2018. 98mins
Calvin Barr is a kindly, naturally gifted American war veteran with a Hitler slaying past. His twilight years are dominated by quiet self-reproach and personal melancholy until the F.B.I makes a house call. Barr reluctantly agrees to embark on a dangerous mission to dispatch a different kind of monster that threatens to sabotage the entire human race.
Although this highly original alternate history movie sports one of the most exploitative titles of recent times it is decidedly more arthouse than grindhouse. Indeed, it evokes comparison with Always era Spielberg and early Hal Ashby – though less mawkish and more baroque respectively.
Aidan Turner (Poldark), who plays the young Calvin in this dual time-line flick, was initially attracted by the striking title and then became captivated by the stunning script. It is highly likely that this will mirror the audiences experience very closely.
The movie takes itself painfully seriously and therein lies a large part of its charm, but it is not without wit amongst the pathos. There is a subtle jocularity peppering the script and the odd sprinkle of visual humour. Look out for the hands of a Nazi watch, one of the many devices the film uses to playfully analyse the concept of time.
Sam Elliot, as present-day Calvin, rolls back the Roadhouse years to deliver a staggering performance of placid majesty. He effortlessly controls the tone and gait of the picture exemplified by the best movie monologue since Robert Shaw went shark hunting. Not to mention a nice line in Sasquatch shit based frivolity. Elliot should not be overly surprised if he finds himself clutching a golden statuette come awards season.
Confident in pace and structure it’s a richly textured film both in terms of cinematic execution and thematic depth. A profoundly touching modern fable that warmly embraces human decency, dignity in the cold face of personal sacrifice and the bittersweet roots of mythicality.
TERRIFIED – UK PREMIERE – Paranormal horror
Director: Demián Rugna With: Ariel Chavarría, Maximiliano Ghione, Norberto Gonzalo. Argentina 2017. 90mins
Desperate Walter is having some seriously high-end night terrors in his Argentinian suburb with a gangly streak of nightmare fuel emerging from under his bed. But this unholy creature is just the start of a ghastly manifestation that will show his neighbourhood, and those that come to investigate it, the real meaning of fear.
This spirited entry in the fast-growing South American horror canon is inventive in its shocking set pieces and disconcertingly casual in its paranormal violence. The everyday setting is an effective playground for these blood-hungry spooks from a parallel dimension, with refreshingly diverse and believable victims. The slow pace allows the tension to fully gestate generating a plethora of lethal jump scares that will threaten the spotless integrity of your underwear.
With its title card reveal screech (thanks for nothing Insidious), pounding score and startling effects work, Terrified makes no bones about its desire to give your fright receptors a jolly good hoofing in the ball sacks. It mostly succeeds in its single-mindedly nefarious mission but there are also some interesting concepts orbiting the peripherals that elevate it above mere cliched scaremongering. Such as the viral nature of fear and the physical embodiment of evil through differing visual perspectives. The idea that these spooky phenomena indulge in a kind of symbiosis with humans, drawing blood like metaphysical leeches, is also original and cogent.
If you are looking for a well made, frequently scary and occasionally gory paranormal movie then keep an eye out for this Argentinian gem when it drops on the excellent Shudder streaming service.
BODIED – UK PREMIERE – Comedy rap-battle drama
Director: Joseph Kahn. With: Calum Worthy, Jackie Long, Rory Uphold, Jonathan Park, Walter Perez. USA 2017. 120 mins.
Adam Merkin is researching his Berkley graduate thesis on the complex linguistic adaptability of the N-word. Through this, he becomes obsessed with the dank warehouses and rat infested bear pits of the rap battle scene and in turn, forms a connection with the charismatic MC Behn Grymm. Then one fateful night he has a chance encounter in a parking lot that sets him on an emotion crushing collision course with the jet black underworld of the battle rap leagues.
Bodied is the term used on the rap battle scene for when you have been embarrassingly roasted to a frazzled crisp by a fellow opponent. Be assured, this incredibly intense masterpiece of pure energy and verve will do the same to your mind.
The rap battles themselves are a hail of lyrical machine gun fire to the senses, accentuated by visual and aural flourishes that take the breath away. So articulately cutting and sustained is the almost constant verbal savagery that when the film ends, and trust me you will not want it to, you will find the peal of healthy conversation weirdly jarring.
Written by people closely involved in the scene the relentlessly vile exchanges cook the core of the picture until you can smell the hot sweat of authentic credibility. As they accelerate in ferocity, with many ethical red-lines wiped forever from the playing field of humanity, you will cringe in utter mortifying horror just as many times as you will punch the air with empathy.
Structured in the same vein as a superhero origin story, Bodied has won audience awards at hoards of prestigious festivals, the surest barometer for sheer entertainment there is.
This stunning field guide to cultural appropriation will force you to gaze into the bleak abyss of unchecked artistic brutality and compel you to examine your own moral limits pertaining to personal expression. At the same time, the toe-curlingly blunt and often disgusting verbal sparring with hate speech unveils a shrewd philosophy on how to de-weaponise it against the global rise of the alt-right.
See this film with an audience if you can and soak up the deliriously cathartic vibe. Without a doubt, the funniest, most vital and most entertaining flick of the year, this box-fresh bolt gun to the head of white privilege will make you fall hopelessly in love with movies all over again.
ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE – ENGLISH PREMIERE – Zombie musical
Director: John McPhail. With: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Mark Benton, Paul Kaye. UK 2017. 107 mins.
After beheading a zombie snowman Anna and her best friend John must sing and dance their way through the devolution of society to reach their loved ones and possible survival.
This niche coming of age flick is potentially prone to stumbling around like the old school zombies it features, struggling to locate its target audience. The tone swings wildly between dangerously twee show tunes and full-on splatter while the spicy language threatens to undermine its inherent charm. It is so desperate to gain the cult status label that it often compromises its feel-good agenda.
However, having said all that, it manages to hold the attention and ambush your affections through the sheer infectiousness of its disgustingly talented young cast. Ella Hunt is the pick of the bunch as the titular Anna in a sassy performance that clearly points to stellar things. Paul Kaye keeps the grown-up end of the cast afloat with a remarkably weird performance as the headmaster. At times he appears to be channelling a psychopathic Fagin through the conduit of the principal from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
The singing is on point and the songs themselves are catchy and lyrically sound, although there is at least one too many clogging up the narrative. The dance choreography is refreshingly simple with sly trinkets of witty visual humour and an amiable naturalness.
Some of the character development is impossibly trite, but this is a musical after all and otherwise, it is structurally sturdy if a tad overlong.
It is a hard film to advocate as the reaction to its unusual mixture of genres will be almost entirely personal. It’s just as easy to see this flick becoming a perennial Christmas darling for many people as it is to see it derided as a despised bastardisation by many others.
Only a wider release will tell if it will grow into an adored sensation or not, but I suspect it will top quite a few best of year lists. In the meantime, this is a brave and committed flick that deserves to be applauded for its modernity and sense of fun.
Give it a go because there is a high chance it will put a grin on your face, and who doesn’t need that these days, and may just wheedle its way into your heart forever.