Arrow Video Frightfest 2018 Round Up – Day Two

The UK’s finest fright film festival is in full swing and I’m at the frontline for The People’s Movies to share news of the very latest in cutting-edge horror entertainment.

Get ready for more juicy genre delights as we take on everything from disfigured cleaning ladies to blood-crazed swine in DAY TWO.

THE CLEANING LADY –  WORLD PREMIERE –  Psychological horror

Director: Jon Knautz. With: Alexis Kendra, Stelio Savante, Rachel Alig, Elizabeth Sandy, JoAnne McGrath. USA 2018. 90 mins

Self-confessed love addict Alice turns her disfigured cleaning lady Shelley into a pity project with gruesome consequences for those around her.

The shocking opening sequence of The Cleaning Lady sets a tone of wanton exploitation but the film evolves into a well-balanced study of the pitfalls of altruism.

Co-writer Alexis Kendra’s portrayal of Alice forms the empathetic beating heart of this erudite and economic horror flick. Cleverly colour coded in yellow and blue she is not the stereotypical depiction of a homewrecking bitch we are accustomed to meeting in an infidelity melodrama. She is all too painfully aware of her destructive traits and this allows the film to broaden its thematic agenda and flesh out the gruelling violence. Rachel Alig realises the highly traumatised Shelley with admirable restraint as she becomes an extension of Alice’s conscience offering a devastating degree of self-help.

Many of the films incidents and keynote propositions have a real-life basis. This gives the picture an organic honesty that translates well to the screen and makes it much more than just an extended parable for the adultery date site brigade.

Role reversal, men as users, self-improvement, social awkwardness and the defensive frailties of kindness all have their moment in the dramatic spotlight. As well as begging the all-important question, just how bad can work in a fertilizer plant really be?

Kendra told Britflicks.com podcast that her first horror film experience was Pascal Laugier’s landmark horror hand grenade Martyrs, so as you might expect when things get nasty they go the distance. As you would also expect, The Cleaning Lady passes The Bechdel Test with flying colours and finds much mileage in a plethora of feminist issues.

This is a very well structured film that uses flashbacks to mortifying effect with a satisfying ending that’s intimated rather than telegraphed.

 

A YOUNG MAN WITH HIGH POTENTIAL –  UK PREMIERE – Psychological thriller

Director: Linus de Paoli. With: Adam Ild Rohweder, Paulina Galazka, Amanda Plummer, Pit Bukowski, Vania Bajdarova. Germany 2018. 85 mins.

Piet maybe a brilliant and promising student but he is strangled by crippling social anxiety and low self-esteem. His only carnal partner has been the internet and when he becomes close to paper writing partner Klara the dark incel inside him awakens.

For those that don’t know incel is shorthand for  “involuntarily celibate” a term that dates back to 1993 and refers to the inability of an individual to find a romantic sexual mate in the face of social awkwardness, physical unattractiveness or mental illness. Characterised by misogyny, self-hatred and the labelling of attractive women as shallow this online subculture is generally regarded as one of the most toxic communities on the Web.

These concepts form the twisted nucleus of Linus de Paoli’s pristine psychological thriller. Minimalistic and disarmingly icy this ultra-modern, and occasionally graphic, shocker could easily be perceived as the origin story of an angry and dangerous incel.

A large portion of the film’s success hinges on Adam Ild Rohweder’s portrayal of Piet in what deserves to be a breakout role. His ability to refract the vulnerable elements of a human being that views themselves as “unfuckable” in order to generate empathy is astounding.

In depicting the horrific events that transpire with such unflinching intimacy the movie initiates a culture of voyeurism that leaves us making decisions along with the protagonist. Indeed, much of the emotional power of the picture comes from the guilty conclusion that for crucial stretches of the narrative we find ourselves rooting for this morally fractured young man.

The script is deliberately sterile in its precision, designed to complement the sparse setting and reflect the emotional clinicality of the main characters. In turn, the camera work is cohesive in its economy, detachment and objectivity.

Featuring intelligent dissections of the ethics of accountability, digital traceability and the exacerbation of alienation there is much to think about after the credits finally appear.

With the global rise of alt-right ideologies in a society where #MeToo is a vital movement many of the themes in this remarkably mature and brave film are more relevant than ever before.

 

PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH –  EURO PREMIERE – Splatter comedy

Directors: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund. With: Thomas Lennon, Michael Paré, Nelson Franklin, Barbara Crampton, Udo Kier. USA 2018. 84 mins.

Recently divorced comic nerd Edgar attends a sinister convention with his new love interest Ashley in order to sell a potentially valuable puppet. Little does he know it is part of a soon to be awakened raging Nazi death squad that will unleash bloody havoc on the unsuspecting guests.

This profane franchise reboot is shameless in its mission to disgust and indeed entertain. The script from the ascendant S. Craig Zahler, director of Bone Thomawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99 and the upcoming Dragged Across Concrete, is a masterclass in the old adage that if you make sure you offend everybody then you end up offending no one.

The holocaust humour is relentlessly crass and whilst nobody going into a killer puppet flick is expecting Schindler’s List it does become a tad eye-rolling at times. Played relatively straight the dialogue carries the laconic DNA of Zahler’s other projects that lends an air of trash proud class to the proceedings.

The acting is surprisingly solid with Babara Crampton adding cult kudos and Udo Kier stopping by briefly to cash a paycheck with style.

Both repellent and whimsical the alarming gore set-pieces are spectacularly realised by a talent-rich effects team showing a similar aptitude for grotesque carnage as the early Peter Jackson. The inventively brutal offings are made all the more hilarious by the static nature of the victims and some of them really do raise or lower the bar in on-screen murder depending on how broken your moral compass is.

Throwing in some perfectly gratuitous nudity, acidic one-liners and a raft of throwaway stereotypes for cannon fodder staves off any dullness.

Watch out for the early relationship arc of Edgar and Ashley. Depicted without even the lazy foreplay of a montage it is the next level in knowing genius.

If you like your marionette massacres drenched in final solution funnies then this future midnight movie classic is the seditious good time you are looking for.

CRYSTAL EYES – EUROPEAN PREMIERE –  Neo-Giallo horror

Directors: Ezequiel Endelman, Leandro Montejano. With: Silvia Montanari, Anahí Politi, Erika Boveri, Claudio Armesto, Valeria Giorcelli. Argentina 2017. 82 mins.

It’s 1984 and coked up super-bitch model Alexis Carpenter is fatally scorched in a champagne-induced runway inferno. One year later and the Giallo gloves are well and truly on as a vicious murderer stalks those involved in a commemorative photo-shoot.

On its most elemental level Crystal Eyes is the cinematic equivalent of a joyous game of Giallo bingo. Checking off the essential tropes such as shattered stained glass, blindness, masks, psychoanalytic trauma close up stabbings and many, many more is an utter blast on the way to an incorrigibly witty full house.

However, beneath this glossy deep red veneer lies a labour of love that embodies everything good in independent horror cinema.

The set conception is a thing of wonder with the lack of financial clout circumnavigated by ridiculously hard work and determined resourcefulness. As co-director Ezequiel Endelman put it to me “we balanced the lack of money by working our souls off” spending two months on the design for the fashion editors office alone.

The soundtrack is primarily the expected synth based affair yet there are lush orchestral flourishes and odd disco interludes as, mirroring the movie as a whole, it revels in its own derivative excess. On top of this, there is a show-stopping sequence where Argentinian singing star Diana Maria belts out the specially written title song from a black and white TV set bathed in blue neon.

Gore is, of course, a fundamental element of the Giallo movie and Crystal Eyes does not disappoint in its well-stocked homicide department. Yet, there is a knowing levity to the bloodletting in both the ineptitude of the victims and the randomness of murder weapons.

One double death, in particular, is executed with a playfully cine-literate style that elevates it beyond mere imitation.

The essential mystery element is well concealed without being deceitful and the climax suitably bonkers, even for a film that comes across like The Neon Demon on ketamine.

This infectiously trashy homage to all things Giallo could easily have ended up as a luridly brave low budget attempt. However, through sheer enthusiasm, boundless imagination and contagious creativity, it defies the odds to forge its own wonderfully entertaining and weirdly credible identity.

There is so much more to enjoy in this chaotically charismatic curio but it is one to for genre fans to discover and absorb for themselves so to reveal much more would be doing it a disservice. Suffice to say it is easily one of the most engaging horror flicks of the year so far.

 

SEEDS – EUROPEAN PREMIERE –  Horror thriller

Director: Owen Long. With: Trevor Long, Andrea Chen, Garr Long, Kevin Breznahan, Chris McGarry. USA 2018. 90 mins.

After some moth-based sex play goes badly south Marcus Milton decamps to his electrically unsound family home on the New England coast. His brother is having marital problems and leaves his offspring Lily and Spencer under the supervision of their dangerously unhinged uncle. It soon becomes apparent that a malevolent presence is on the prowl in the house but where is it emanating from and who is its prey?

There is nothing simple about this slow slide into madness. The viewer is charged with doing all the heavy lifting to remove the rubble from the surface of this overly ambiguous indie picture. Although the film is well shot with great performances and a superbly intrusive sound design, there is little joy to be had in engaging with its subversive agenda.

The relentless off kilterness becomes wearing, especially when the film is so insistent on dwelling on skin crawling awkwardness in the form of inappropriate sexual deviancy.

Andrea Chen who plays Lily is exceptional in a very challenging role and handles the teenage mood swings and low self-esteem vulnerability of her character with natural aplomb. Trevor Long does nothing wrong as creepy uncle Marcus, but without any tangible backstory, he is unable to generate much sympathy and, due to the repellent subject matter, even less in the way of audience empathy.

There is no way this movie could be accused of being badly made, indeed there are some astute metaphors and evocatively surreal imagery peppering the dour narrative. The literal concept of rewiring is very sly and the blending of creature effects with the architecture of household features is effective.

This kind of movie has to have both a relatively palpable agenda and an edifying payoff worthy of the intellectual slog and on this occasion, many will find frustration in lieu of enlightenment.

 

BOAR – UK PREMIERE –  Killer swine Ozploitation

Director: Chris Sun. With: Chris Haywood, Bill Moseley, Steve Bisley, John Jarratt, Simone Buchanan. Australia 2018. 96 mins.

A rural Australian town becomes the literal stomping ground of a gigantic blood crazed boar. Can the plucky locals band together with a visiting family to halt its vicious rampage?

Director Chris Sun delivers a full throttle monster pig picture that succeeds in the crucial areas of b-movie madness and also manages to achieve a surprisingly solid narrative along the way. The cast is judicially assembled, populating the movie with identifiable characters we can root for.

Man Mountain Nathan Jones steals the show as the intimidating yet loveable Bernie, serving as the focal point for much of the action and the humour in the zingy script. There is even a witty meta reference to his role in Charlie’s Farm.

The all-important creature effects are fabulous with a thankfully scant reliance on CGI, preferring instead to utilise earthily visceral practical means. The beast appears muscular and powerful and you can almost smell the foul odour of this grotesque swine. POV shots enhance the killer set pieces and intensify the peril. Boar makes overtures towards the Jaws blueprint of drip-fed creature revealing but is not afraid to place its rogue brute front and centre.

The gore is a juicy mixture of grue and wince-inducing sound design that escalates with each attack, complemented by some savage aftermath shots.

The gorgeous scenery is expansively captured and the night segments refuse to hide behind the murky darkness leaving the whole thing looking far more aesthetically pleasing than you might expect.

Breezily vicious and intimately dramatic you should definitely make this your next speedboat sized killer pig flick.

 

 

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