Arrow Video Frightfest 2019 Round Up- Day Four

ENGLISH PREMIERE –  THE FURIES      Stalk and Slash   Survival  Thriller

Director: Tony D’Aquino. With: Airlie Dodds, Linda Ngo, Taylor Ferguson, Ebony Vagulans. Australia 2019. 82 mins.

Kidnapped epileptic high schooler Kayla wakes up in a black coffin in the middle of a remote eucalyptus forest. With vague memories of a cruel operation to replace one of her eyes with a camera, she is thrown in at the deep end of a spectacularly vicious pool of final girls and garishly garbed psycho killers. Can she stay alive long enough to learn the callous rules of this most murderous game and escape?

D’Aquino’s brutal battle royale hackathon is a mega-violent blast from start to finish. It has all the necessary components of being a slasher fanboys wet nightmare and then some.

The plot is succinct and nasty with clever tweaks to an already established format that keeps it fresh and all pedals to the metal pacy.

The costume design of the various nutjob killers is as inspirational as it is bonkers. Some of their signature outfits are completely terrifying while others are truly disgusting in their realisation.  Although not entirely original they are impeccably executed and at times The Furies feels like a glossy showreel for Halloween fancy dress ideas.

The gore is mostly practical with kills that make the recently popular Terrifier look like a classroom art project. Seriously, there are some deaths in this flick that will have even the most cynical gorehound punching the air.

The narrative is relatively airtight, however, the film rattles along at such a rate that you won’t be able to wipe the blood out of your eyes long enough to analyse any plot holes. Nor will you care if this sort of mindless slaughter is your thing. This is exactly the flick that people who hate on the VVitch and other slow-burn horrors are talking about when they say those sort of movies are not true horror.

The acting, both physical and dialogue centric is more than adequate for this sort of thing and leading final girl  Airlie Dodds (Neighbours, Killing Ground), who plays Kayla, manages to look catwalk cool no matter what bodily fluid she is drenched in.

Character decisions are gloriously spurious and escape plans suitably flimsy but thankfully the inexplicable tripping is kept to a minimum. A nice line in allegiance swinging keeps things spicy with the pitfalls of altruism and the keystones of friendship providing a broad emotional backdrop.

The Furies is well shot by Garry Richards who gives the film a classy sheen. Mercifully, he keeps the pov shakycam to the barest minimum, leaving it to the effects work to induce nausea. One establishing shot, in particular, is a masterful lesson in economic scene-setting.

This quality shocker is another fine entry in the fiery Australian exploitation revival. Made with passion and care The Furies proves that Low denominator flicks can be cinematic and exhilarating rather than derivative and patronising.

Signature Entertainment presents The Furies on Digital HD 16th September 2019

WORLD PREMIERE –  SPIRAL      Social Commentary   Horror   Thriller

Director: Kurtis David Harder. With: Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Lochlyn Munro, Ari Cohen, Chandra West. Canada 2019. 90 mins

It’s 1995, and city couple Malik and Aaron move to the suburbs with their teenage daughter Kayla in search of a quieter pace of life. What they find instead is a living nightmare of escalating bigotry and clues to a nest of secrets that must be unravelled if they are to survive.

Spiral opens with a flashback to a gay hate crime that seems to set out the agenda for the film. However, by the end of Kurtis David Harder’s fiercely intelligent flick, it’s crystal clear that it is not just an impassioned rally cry for equality, but a complex broadside to a society that exploits the very weaknesses it creates.

The levels of prejudice the same-sex couple experience in their new town is carefully ramped up. From the initial assumption that Aaron’s black partner Malik is his hired gardener, to inflammatory graffiti and beyond, this steady trickle of hostility forms the spine of the film. Yet be aware, this movie is way smarter than you and the twists to come are not piloted by the same rusty mechanics of the current horror meta.

Impeccably acted by a cast that resolutely believes in the material and expressively shot by Bradley Stuckel, a lensman that obviously understands the cohesion between composition and theme, Spiral is constantly engaging.

As  Spiral accelerates towards its final, beautifully judged, reel hallucinations and jump scares take up the reins for the breathless home straight. To say any more would be unfair as the element of unpredictability is thrilling and emphatic.

The film will inevitably be compared to Get Out, and to be fair one strangely redundant scene sails very close to the winds of plagiarism. Yet, if anything, Spiral is less preachy and more successful in the delivery of its message, thanks to a more ethically spinous, and arguably darker, central premise.

With a clever editing strategy and a tight, zingy script we are never sure what is real and what is psychosis, yet this doesn’t muddy the waters of the acerbic narrative. A better comparison to the films of Jordan Peele is the way Spiral plays with sexual stereotyping, making it the centre of the entire proceedings one minute and an inconsequential aside the next. It’s a clever concept that revels in its own irony.

As a genre piece, Spiral works more as an engaging mystery than balls flapping in the wind horror film, but that’s not to say it is not without unsettling moments. For every branch scratch at the window cliche, there are nullifying moments of originality that spook the viewer. Particularly effective are the startling bursts of sudden personal space invading that pepper the film. To deprioritise the film’s horror elements is not detrimental, more complimentary of the fluid articulation of its hyper-relevant tenet.

And as for the current global plague of intolerance? Well, if as Spiral states – “People don’t change. They just get better at hiding it..”- then it is also safe to say that this generation of filmmakers is getting better at exposing it.

The world needs more courageous films like Spiral, and if horror is the chosen conduit to empower then that can only be good news for genre fans.

 

WORLD PREMIERE –  STALKED      Action    Suspense   Thriller

Director: Director: Justin Edgar. With: Rebecca Rogers, Nathalie Buscombe, Laurence Saunders. UK 2019. 82 mins.

Ex-soldier Sam is kidnapped, leaving her baby unattended at home, and imprisoned in a disused military facility. She soon realises that she is being hunted by a psychopath in a quantum stealth suit. Can she escape before he kills her and will you manage to stay awake?

Trashing an ultra-low-budget movie is like kicking a newborn puppy in the teeth. However, this is one cinematic mongrel that deserves every single one of its gnashers pulverised. It is genuinely astonishing that anyone believes they have anything approaching an actual film here.

This staggeringly low-concept “thriller” made me want to gouge my eyes out with rusty ophthalmic spoons in the face of its unbroken ineptitude.

The location looks no more like a military facility than your local DIY store warehouse. The tension consists almost entirely of the lead character creeping around the picking aisles with a bit of metal raised up in her hand. Occasionally, she is mildly harassed by someone wearing a padded sleeping bag, in scenes of “combat”, that makes Captain Kirk’s fight with the Gorn warrior look like The Raid.

The universally unlikable Sam stumbles upon a couple of other pointless characters, who hang about just long enough to log their entries for the worst acting performance of all time. There are some shockingly shoddy effects work to enjoy, including the shittest explosion ever. The most hilarious attempt at suspense building comes when Sam hides under a desk, in a small room sleeping bag man knows she is in, while he stands directly in front of it. She is apparently more invisible than he is, in his crappy quantum sleeping bag thing.

The ending is as trite as it is baffling. Executed with all the grace and panache of a truffle pig, it is supposed to be edgy and normalising but is in fact, stupefyingly embarrassing.

New filmmakers should be nurtured and encouraged not clobbered by self-important critics. Common rebuttals to unkind sideswipes are that at least they have got off their arses and made a film, and could you do better? Well firstly, Stalked is more of a string of badly cobbled together half-arsed scenes than an actual movie, and secondly yes I could. And so could you. And so could your neighbours’ cat. And so, quite possibly, could its anus.

If this horrible little flick even looks like it might enter your life in any way shape or form, then instantly throw your self in the nearest boiling acid bath rather than suffer its infernal torture.  If you seek it out yourself then you performing an act of self-harm comparable to ordering a cold vomit sandwich from Uber Eats.

 

UK PREMIERE –  READY OR NOT         Horror   Mystery  Survival Thriller

Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett. With: Samara Weaving, Andie MacDowell, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody. USA 2019. 91 mins

Grace(Samara Weaving) has just married into the outrageously rich Le Domus family after a whirlwind 18-month bonerthon. Her new husband, Daniel, explains that her first act as his wife must be to take part in a seemingly harmless family tradition. And so begins a game of Hide and Seek that will escalate into all-out warfare.

This dazzling thriller from the Radio Silence team is a masterclass in comic timing, character development and quicksilver script writing. It manages to be horrifying, tense and utterly hilarious by turns, never once losing its focus or direction. Rollicking along at an astonishing pace, there is no dead air, or excess fat, to be found during its lethally entertaining run time.

Much of the film’s effortless humour is mined from the running jokes that flow through it. The coked-up sister, that is a total menace to all with her flaky marksmanship, is a stroke of genius. The antiquity of the weapons in-play ads volatility to the chaos and the self-awareness of the decadently deranged family is perfectly pitched.

But don’t be fooled by the wit of the writing, this is no campy horror-comedy. When the violence does kick in it takes no prisoners. What  Ready or Not does particularly well is to attain a cohesive balance between slapstick and the shocking, a precarious juggling act that no horror flick before it has fulfilled so comprehensively. The gore is lovingly depicted, revelling in the inventive ways it finds to fill up the family sacrificial goat pit.

The actors have the time of there lives with their pithy one-liners and manic meltdowns, and every one of them brings something to the riotous party. However, Samara Weaving knocks it clean out of the park, with a central turn of such kooky charm and cool charisma it will be career-defining.

Ready or Not is best enjoyed with a packed house, on the biggest screen you can find. It might just be the most purely entertaining film of the year.

Ready or Not comes to UK cinemas on 27th of September 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

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