Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I have to say... the more I read about London's FrightFest, the more impressed I am with their selection. They seemed to have had a great year and we have a spy, Major Calm, who attended and wants to run down 20 films he saw with you good people. I love these little collections of mini-reviews. They always give a good idea of the tone of a festival and fill you in on tons of different movies. Of the flicks he lists, I've seen BLACK SHEEP (great), THE SIGNAL (even greater), 1408 (fun), TEETH (really bizarre, but in a good way), MANDY LANE (good), THE DEVIL DARED ME TO (ridiculous, but again... in a good way), SEED (fucking horrible) and SPIRAL (didn't care for it). There are tons more I'm dying to see. Here's the Major with the good word!
Hi guys Just thought I'd share some brief and, I hope, informative reviews of the movies I saw at Frightfest in London over the weekend. Frightfest, which is arguably the best genre festival in the world, is organized by four guys (Alan Jones, Ian Rattray, Greg Day and the very personable Paul McEvoy) who are really into the kind of movies they show, actively encouraging discussion after each movie (in most cases with the moviemakers present) and mixing with the crowd outside the theater between movies. The whole atmosphere rubs off on the moviemakers themselves, many of whom stick around with the audience to enjoy the whole festival. This makes for a great, chilled-out atmosphere. As one person put it "Attending Frightfest is the movie-going equivalent of going to a gig." Only one that lasts five days with bands that hang out with the crowd between sets. The reviews are slightly stream-of-consciousness in execution (owing to the large number of them) so apologies for the quality of writing. Please feel free to spread them over multiple posts if you use them. If you do, please call me Major Calm. Black Sheep The festival kicked off to a great start with Jonathan King's New Zealand horror comedy Black Sheep, a hilarious parody of the genetic mutation sub genre. Henry (Nathan Meister), traumatized by the death of his father whilst herding sheep, now suffers from an irrational fear of the wooly critters. At the suggestion of his therapist, he returns home to face his issues, only to discover that his pompous brother is up to something sinister in the farm's secret laboratory. Channeling early Peter Jackson via An American Werewolf in London, the movie quickly spirals into a fast-paced battle between Henry and his allies (the scene stealing Danielle Mason and Tammy Davis) and his demented brother's ever expanding band of weresheep. Yes, you read that right, weresheep! (One of the highlights of the movie is a riff on the transformation sequence in American Werewolf). Needless to say every sheep joke is covered (no level of taste is too low) and, as with any film of this type, some hit more squarely than others. But, on the whole, it's a really entertaining ride and the audience loved it. Technically the movie is efficient rather than outstanding. The film looks good generally but sometimes the visuals border on being a little flat. Likewise the editing is, at points, a little jarring. But the effects are gorily effective fun, while the fact that the film is a little rough around the edges technically adds to the charm and, perhaps unwittingly, pays homage to the style of the movies that it apes. Black Water Three Australians decide to go on a backwater boat trip whilst on holiday in the outback, only to find themselves trapped in a tree with a particularly cunning crocodile waiting patiently for them below. This is that unusual horror movie that actually takes the time to get to know the characters (a beautifully realized credit sequence which has one of the characters flicking through digital photos of their holiday springs to mind as an additional touch that adds an extra level depth to their characters). It is equally unusual in that the characters actually react the way that people would when faced with impossible circumstances. These are not your stock movie leads that instantly become screaming croc-fodder but fully realized intelligent people weighing up their options, only losing their grip on sanity as these same options get struck off one by one. And then there's the croc. It' been a long time since I've seen a 'monster' movie (I use the term a little loosely) where the 'monster' projects so much character whilst having so little screen time. This croc is one evil, hungry bastard and very soon the film becomes more a battle of wits than you might first expect. It is also unrelentingly bleak. Things do not necessarily follow the conventions of the genre and there are more than a few surprises to jolt the audience. Technically the film is deliberately lo-fi in appearance which adds significantly to the film's atmosphere. The deceptively effective sound design deserves a special mention. The acting is also uniformly excellent. These guys feel like real people, making their situation all the more tense as the audience can completely relate to them. I have to say I really liked this movie. My two fellow travelers (and it seems most of the audience) were not so keen as they felt it was a little too slow for their tastes. If I had one criticism to level at the movie it would be only that we've seen a fair few films in this genre in recent years, such as Open Water and Adrift, which makes it feel a little second-hand by association. Oh, and one or two fewer lingering shots of the surrounding environment wouldn't have gone amiss. The Signal A mysterious signal is beamed to the Tarkovsky-esque titled Terminus, a generic western city, and drives otherwise normal people to kill each other indiscriminately. Against this backdrop unfolds the story of a woman torn between her idyllic lover and her abusive husband, leading the audience in very unexpected directions. Told in three 'transmissions' (chapters to you and me) this American indie shifts from flat-out horrific violence via broad comedy to heavily satirical drama. What struck me immediately was the subtlety of the shifts in tone from section to section, which helped maintain an utterly credible cohesion to the film overall. Soon after I left the movie I discovered that three different directors had filmed one 'transmission' each. Clearly each had interpreted the script in their own style allowing the actors, who are all excellent, to showcase the full range of their abilities. This is a highly original movie whose ever-shifting tone lends it an unease which is brutally effective. We are never sure which way a character will react to a situation because, like the society of Terminus, all the conventional rules are stripped away before our eyes. Ultimately the film is a biting satire about the way in which modern forms of communication, whether TV, computers or cell phones, are shaping our perception of the world around us and the way people interact with each other. It is a point well made in the age of myspace and facebook and, credit to the intelligence of the script, never feels overly didactic. Make no mistake, it is very funny for much of its runtime but it is also remorselessly brutal in parts and will leave a lasting, unsettling impression on the viewer for some time to come. 1408 Already the highest grossing Stephen King adaptation ever in the US, this faintly silly film stars John Cusack as a writer of guides to haunted hotels who is lured to stay in room 1408 at the mysterious Dolphin Hotel in New York. The hotel's manager - played by a surprisingly fitting Samuel L. Jackson - tries valiantly to dissuade him but, undeterred, Cusack beds down for the night. Or not, as the room has other plans for him which it sets in motion almost as soon as the door shuts behind him. Visually it is quite impressive and the first 45 minutes of set-up are actually pretty effective but, once Cusack gets into the room, it all becomes a little daft and melodramatic, with Cusack (normally an actor I really like) skirting dangerously close to self-parody at times. That said, the movie is never less than fun to sit through but, given the potentially heavy subject matter that emerges towards the end, it could have been much more powerful than the shallow, Disney-esque fun-ride that it ultimately is. Teeth Replacing the originally scheduled P2 was the dark (and I do mean dark) comedy Teeth. Jess Weixler is Dawn, an abstinent teenage girl who discovers that she suffers from the rather unfortunate genetic abnormality known as Vagina Dentata (that's razor sharp teeth in her vagina to you and me). This proves even more unfortunate for the boy who pushes his luck a little too far, resulting in the first of many severed penises to come. Oh, and did I mention the hateful adoptive brother who believes she is saving herself for him? This is one seriously unusual film which is unlikely to start a penis-severing sub-genre any time soon, but, once you get over the pitch black subject matter, it reveals itself to be quite enjoyable as both a slyly amusing satire on religious fundamentalists and a very left-of-field take on both coming of age and female avenger movies. Technically it's nothing to write home about and is a little languid in its pacing to say the least. The performances, however, are a different matter. John Hensley deserves credit as Dawn's brother Brad, a far cry from his role in the TV drama Nip/Tuck, but it is Jess Weixler's movie through and through in a performance that deservedly won her a best actress award at Sundance this year. I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of her in the future. Hopefully in movies with a few fewer shots of diced genitalia. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane In Jonathan Levine's slasher movie, Mandy Lane is the sweet, virginal girl that all the guys at the model agency high school want to hook up with. With that objective in mind, a group of the popular kids invite her for a weekend of partying at one of their parents' farms. But apparently they are not the only ones who are interested in Mandy as, one by one, they are picked off by a seriously unpleasant killer. The whole style of the movie is deliberately retro, from the de-saturated, slightly over-exposed visuals to the perfectly chosen music and, at first, All The Boys presents itself as a highly stylized and effective homage to the slasher movies of yesteryear - lots of pretty, highly-sexed high schoolers being murdered in a variety of horrifically matter-of-fact ways in a remote location. Along the way though, it becomes something more sophisticated. If you can see through the spraying blood, you'll find a subtle commentary on the disaffection of modern youth and high school politics, loaded with razor sharp dialogue, which packs a hefty final punch. It is a truly bold horror movie that not only touches upon the tragedy at Columbine but also revels in revealing the identity of its killer at the halfway mark of the narrative. Technically the movie is very slick and the performances, most notably Amber Heard as the titular character, are all very good. Who would have thought the freshest stalk-and-slash movie in years would be that which most rigorously adheres to that genre's conventions and style? Cold Prey (Fritt Vilt) Five friends go snowboarding and find themselves seeking refuge in a deserted ski resort, only to come face to face with a killer who is much better equipped to deal with the freezing conditions than they are. This Norwegian slasher movie knows its genre and doesn't try to break the mold. Instead, director Roar Uthaug concentrates on getting all the conventional elements pitch perfect to deliver what may be the best film in the genre for at least a decade. In what may be a first for a slasher movie, every character is likeable enough for the audience to find something to empathize with. The comic best friend with a crush on the heroine is deeply vulnerable without being pathetic; the handsome boyfriend is also a nice guy; the female best friend is sexy without being sluttish; while the tough heroine is just sassy and resourceful enough to be believable without becoming superhuman. When the killer strikes you really care about the victims as they are people you have come to know and relate to. The location is treated with the same respect. You get a real sense of the geography of the building and its surroundings, and Uthaug makes great use of the many hurdles that his sub-zero setting throws in the way of the heroine and her friends to ramp the excitement to the highest level. The movie also looks and sounds amazing. I have never seen a film shot on Super 16mm look so great - frankly, few 35mm films look this good. Simply put, this movie is fucking awesome and was my clear favorite of the festival. As one of my fellow travelers put it "Cold Prey is probably the most perfect slasher movie ever made". I wouldn't disagree and, judging by the energy of the audience leaving the theater, neither would they. Joshua The American indie Joshua is a pretty dark but extremely well observed movie about a child prodigy who, fearing rejection after the birth of his baby sister, decides to shake up the cozy family unit. What makes this particularly unusual is the way the movie is treated, playing out more as an art-house drama than the expected route of slick chiller. In keeping with this approach, there are no easy answers in the movie. The actions and motivations of both Joshua and his parents (played by Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga) are complex and never fully explained. For the most part the slow burn of the narrative allows the disruption and eventual disintegration of the family to build at a believable pace, only threatening to slip into the absurd when Farmiga skates too close to the line between hysteria and wild overacting. Joshua himself - Jacob Kogan in a subtle performance well beyond his years - is a terrifying creation who would make any prospective parents think twice. My only real criticism is that the movie is a good 20 minutes too long. Whilst I appreciated the pace at which Joshua's schemes unfold, it would have done no harm to shorthand the process a little. On the whole though, it's a clever, unique blend of family drama and psychological horror. Storm Warning An Australian city-dwelling couple become stranded on an island during a fishing trip and stumble across a farmhouse. Breaking in to find a phone, they accidentally stumble across a barn full of weed, just in time for the unsavory owners to return home. This is hardly an original premise and, quite frankly, isn't done in a particularly original way. Designer-dirty Chainsaw Massacre-style locals.check. Grubby habitat complete with rusty tools and porn strewn everywhere which only a movie art director could create.check. Evil hick dad and his two loony sons with contrasting levels of intelligence.check. Middle-age lawyer with his sassy foreign trophy wife.check. Attempted rape and suitable revenge.check. Yep, all the clichés are present and correct. Against all odds, however, it is actually very entertaining. In large part this is due to the inventive kills. To reveal more would be a shame as, for fans of this genre, these would justify the ticket price alone. I guess it's credit to the director, Jamie Blanks (of Urban Legend fame), that the film works so well - the audience were cheering at several points (rather worryingly in some cases) - but it must be said that the grotty styling of the movie is getting as old as the clichés it dresses up. Why do all horror movie rednecks have to be so unrealistically filthy? Wouldn't they be much creepier if they were a little more believable? For my money, recommended. From the point of view of my fellow travelers, not so much. Wrong Turn 2 Because I just can't get enough of over art-directed redneck rampages. I present the direct-to-DVD Wrong Turn 2. Only this time I get to add the cliché of toxic waste causing hideous genetic mutations. Henry Rollins is Dale Murphy, an ex-special forces vet (of course) who is hosting a reality TV show called Ultimate Survivalist in which six contestants must compete in an environment supposedly set up to simulate the aftermath of Armageddon (because nothing says "nuclear fallout" like lush green woodland). The six, mind-numbingly irritating contestants and their TV crew spend several minutes spouting ridiculously inane lines of dialogue, shedding their clothes and having sex, before the hillbilly mutant carnage begins. And these are several minutes too many as far as I'm concerned. Why even bother trying to shoe-horn a plot into a movie that so clearly doesn't have one? Once the needless and ridiculous set-up is out of the way, the film actually becomes a lot more entertaining, largely owing to the presence of Rollins who brings a much-needed sense of knowing humor to an otherwise straight-faced cast. In fact, the more the movie devolves into complete gory lunacy, the more fun it becomes; culminating in what I can only imagine is an intentional homage to the dinner scene in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film's excitable director, Joe Lynch, was practically bursting with enthusiasm for his own 'video nasty' and a large chunk of the audience - those who like to see lots of entrails being spilled in a variety of creative ways - would probably concur. More discerning viewers - those who prefer their movies with a plot - would probably be better off avoiding it unless they are in the mood for some mindless splatter. The Devil Dared Me To A crazy New Zealand comedy by local comedy troupe Back of the Y, The Devil Dared Me To tells the story of Randy, the latest in a family of stuntmen, determined to follow in his legendary father's footsteps. His plans are thwarted, however, by the arrogant Dick Johansonson, a vile opportunist rival, who uses Randy to accelerate his own career. Best described as screwball comedy, this is a movie with few boundaries. Bad taste humor abounds as we race from one surreal sight gag to another (the highlight of which must surely be the multiple amputee - you'll know what I mean when you see it). It's also a witty parody of the Hollywood 'underdog' movie, liberally lampooning the likes of Rocky and its ilk. As with all movies of its kind, it's a fairly hit-and-miss affair that some will enjoy more than others, but it's all done with such a level of enthusiasm and moves along at such a cracking pace that it's incredibly difficult not to like. Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door In 1950s small town America, a young boy befriends the girl next door - sent to live with her aunt when her parents are killed - setting off a chain of events that lead to her systematic abuse and torture at the hands of her aunt and a group local boys. I can categorically say that this is the first film I have ever nearly walked out of, not because it was so bad but because it is so hard to watch. There were moments where I honestly felt sick to my stomach as the boys' actions became so harsh that it became almost unbearable. Make no mistake, this movie is not for the faint of heart and the fact that the source book is based on a true story makes it all the harder to take. That said, it's actually not a very good film. Whilst some of the performances are very powerful (notably Blanche Baker as the aunt and Blythe Auffarth as the girl), others (particularly Daniel Manche as the hero David) are just not strong enough to carry the movie. The ending, which desperately needs to provide an audience catharsis, is ludicrously anticlimactic and rushed, as though the filmmakers had run out of money and had to edit ten pages of script into two minutes of film. Additionally the whole style of the movie feels a bit like a made-for-TV after-school special, which, whether intentional or otherwise, cheapens the impact of the story. It is utterly horrifying that things like this can happen in the world and on that level you are unlikely ever to see a more disturbing piece of cinema. It's just a shame that the subject matter wasn't honored with a better film. If it had, the effect would have been completely devastating. Botched After a botched robbery, a thief is sent to Russia to steal a bejeweled cross as penance, only to find himself and a group of hostages trapped on a disused floor of an office block, pursued by a lunatic killer. Don't be fooled into thinking that the presence of Stephen Dorff makes Botched a bad movie. He's actually pretty good and I found myself wondering why he's not cast in bigger movies more often. No, it's everything else that makes this a bad movie. And when I say bad, I mean absolutely fucking god-awful. Where do I begin? How about the actors? A bunch of 2nd rank English actors pretending to be comedy Russians running around like they're in a stage farce. Or maybe the location? The most generic, boring, obvious studio set ever committed to celluloid. Or maybe the music? Imagine a Russian version of a Benny Hill track played endlessly for 90 minutes. Or the way it is shot? Flat as a fucking pancake. Or the killer? A bloody, overacting Barbarian in full armor wielding an axe as he skips (yes, skips) through the corridors. Or the script? Let's not even go there. To give the director, Kit Ryan, his due it is a mighty impressive achievement that he has managed to gather the money together, get all the talent involved and commit his vision to screen. He surely is a charmer off-screen but, I'm sorry to report that his own comparisons with the likes of Raimi's Evil Dead 2 and Jeunet and Caro's Delicatessen are as misguided as the film itself. The movie plays out as though it is the product of an unholy union between Satan and the lesser members of the Carry-On team managing throughout to be neither funny nor thrilling. As an afterthought, Ryan might also want to consider a change of title. The current moniker just makes the critics' jobs far too easy. That said, all prospective audiences could consider it a warning. The film is a misfire of truly awesome proportions. Seed I skipped Uwe Boll's Postal as, quite frankly, it looked pretty awful and I was still trying to wash my brain clean after the abysmal Botched. But, my curiosity ignited by the festival brochure's claim that Seed would "push the boundaries of cinematic violence to unprecedented levels, [also proving] Uwe Boll [to be] a director of great visual style and deft assurance", I just couldn't resist attending the second Boll movie of the day. And to a degree, I would agree with the brochure on both counts. The film follows the exploits of Max Seed, a serial killer sentenced to death. When the 2nd attempt to fry him fails, the warden and his associates decide to bury him alive. Unfortunately for them, they make a pretty bad job of it and it's not long before a muddy and seriously pissed-off Seed is wreaking bloody vengeance. Up to this point, Seed is a deftly-told and stylishly-shot story, proving Boll to be a surprisingly mature director. Of particular note is the look, painting the first hour or so of the movie in limited pools of light against a predominantly dark canvas. Likewise, the violence in the early part of the film - with the exception of a credit sequence full of PETA-donated animal-cruelty footage - is brutal yet surprisingly restrained. Unfortunately Boll just can't help himself and manages to undo all his good work by resorting to a gratuitously protracted sequence of sickening violence involving an old lady being hammered to death, which is completely out of context with the rest of the film and seems included solely to achieve some notoriety. Doubly unfortunate is that this heralds an immediate downturn in the film as a whole, resulting in a denouement which is as unsatisfying as it is bleak. And it's pretty damn bleak. By no means awful, Seed is admirably nihilistic and, at least for its first half, actually fairly good. Too bad about the rest of it. As an additional note, in the following Q&A I found Boll himself to be a very articulate and intelligent man who clearly has a great passion for making movies. I never thought I'd say it, but I actually look forward to seeing what he does next. If he can get over the childish need to shock he may actually deliver something special one day soon. Waz A British movie in which a jaded New York cop and his rookie partner investigate a series of murders linked by the fact that each of the victims has the letters w-a-z carved into their body. To reveal more of the plot would be unfair as, once you get over Stellan Skarsgard's curious Swedish-American accent, Waz becomes an engaging and intelligent spin on the serial killer genre with more than a few surprises up its sleeve. Filmed partly in Belfast (doubling for New York) and New York itself, the director, Tom Shankland, has been forced to be creative with his use of locations and it pays off in a big way, lending the movie a very fresh and realistically downbeat look. On the acting front, Skarsgard and the Australian Melissa George are very good as the cops, but the screen belongs to Selma Blair and the British Ashley Walters as a victim and gang member respectively. The only weak link is Paul Kaye, who mumbles his way through several important speeches, making the plot much harder to follow than it need be. This is a shame as Clive Bradley's script is unusually sharp, exploring the balance between altruism and the survival instinct within us all. The film looks fantastic, too. Shooting entirely in HD, the filmmakers actually rewrote large parts of the movie to accommodate the format's strengths in low light which, coupled with the organic hand-held camera style, adds to the movie's gritty realism. It's not a perfect film but it's pretty damn good and was one of my favorites of the festival. Be warned though, there are some very disturbing scenes which may not be for the easily offended. The Zombie Diaries Three video diaries document the outbreak of a virus that turns everyday folk into zombies. Another British movie but, I'm sorry to say, a far less successful one. When The Blair Witch Project was released back in 1999 it was a genuinely fresh and inventive use of digital video to mask the budget of the film within the context of the script. Eight years later and the conceit is as hackneyed as the zombie genre, so I suppose on that level at least, the two are a perfect match. You have to admire the drive of the directors, Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates, who struggled with the help of friends and a small crew to shoot the movie at weekends over a period of several months. Unfortunately this is exactly what the movie feels like, never really escaping a prevailing air of amateurism. Having said that, it's not by any means a total disaster. The way the three video diaries eventually interconnect is quite smart and effectively chilling and there are a few nice shocks but, ultimately, the film is just a little boring and brings nothing new to the party. KM31 Speaking of bringing nothing new to the party... Based on the local legend of The Crying Woman, Rigoberto Castaneda's KM31 tells the story of a young woman left in a coma following a serious accident, and her twin sister who tries to get to the bottom of what caused the accident. This Mexican ghost movie has already been a huge success in its native country - which is slightly puzzling given that it has to be one of the most derivative ghost stories ever made, covering just about every modern cliché in an already over-worn genre. Aren't people getting bored of the long, dark-haired female ghost? Or perhaps the ghostly young boy with the dark eyes? Or even the crazy old mystic woman who lives in a small cottage in the forest? Or the bend in the road where ghosts suddenly appear to cause accidents? The list is almost endless, to the point that I found myself more amused by trying to spot the clichés than by watching this interminably dull movie. It's very competently shot and is, at times, very pretty to look at, but every now and then some overly stylized visuals leap out at you which feel completely out of context with the rest of the film. I'm sure others will like this movie more than I did. One of my fellow travelers certainly did. I guess that if this is your kind of movie you'll find a lot to like. It's just that for me, personally, the whole J-Horror thing has been done to death (forgive the pun) in its own continent already. Spiral At last years Frightfest Adam Green showed his retro slasher debut Hatchet. A year later he's back with Spiral, a psychological thriller co-directed by and starring Hatchet's Joel David Moore, which couldn't be further away in style from the earlier movie. Where Hatchet was full-on rock'n'roll, Spiral is pure jazz all the way. Essentially a three-hander, it follows Mason (Moore), a timid and disturbed young artist who works for his best friend (Zachary Levi in a career-making performance) as an insurance telesales operator. Gradually the solitary Mason strikes up a relationship with Amber (Amber Tamblyn) who works in the same building, and it is not long before he's painting portraits of her in various states of undress. To reveal any more about the plot would be a crime as the beauty of the film is how it carefully reveals more about Mason's life, culminating in an awesomely satisfying pay-off. This fantastic movie, allegedly made for a quarter of Hatchet's already tiny budget, is an unusual love story about the kind of real people you hardly ever see in these sorts of movies. All the relationships are dealt with in a subtle and believable manner, further enhanced by the naturalistic, unfussy camerawork and slow-burning jazz score. Whilst Hatchet was Green's calling card for Hollywood, the Hitchcockian Spiral is the movie that proves that he might just have what it takes to be a truly great filmmaker. Day Watch The sequel to the Russian blockbuster Night Watch, Timur Bekmambekov's Day Watch is equally crazy and inventive. The plot, far too complicated to outline in full, continues the story of Anton, a member of the Night Watch, and his efforts to maintain the strained co-existence between the Light and Dark Others who roam amongst us. Where it differs from Night Watch is that Bekmambekov actually sees fit to allow the audience a small breather every now and then between the many loud, bombastic action sequences, which makes the film a much more palatable experience. And you're really going to want to take a deep breath as you're in for a pretty wild ride; from cars racing along the sides of buildings to the yo-yo rubber disco ball that levels an entire city. The visuals are never less than astonishing and are worth the watch alone. The real surprise is that he also weaves in a gentle romantic comedy subplot brought about by two of the principal characters swapping bodies. In all honesty, it's not going to be challenging any Oscar hopefuls any time soon, but it is all great off-the-wall Russian fun. The Orphanage The final film of the festival, Juan Antonio Bayona's The Orphanage, is also a close contender for the best (for me Cold Prey just edges it out, but it's a close-run thing and my fellow travelers were split between the two). Laura returns to the orphanage she attended as a child, with her husband and young son in tow, to open a home for handicapped children. Before long, however, her adopted son Simon is making brand new imaginary friends. Then he disappears and strange things begin to happen in the house. It has been a long time since I've seen a movie that has made me jump this much. Repeatedly the audience let out a collective gasp of shock followed by nervous laughter. The film builds tension to an almost unbearable point where the viewer is hanging on every single sound. It is also a beautiful and very sad exploration of guilt and grief which will haunt you long after you leave the theater. Worthy of praise is Belen Rueda in her first leading role as Laura. Her character's progression from calm to desperation to, ultimately, acceptance is never so forced that it feels unrealistic. Come Oscar time I'd be surprised if The Orphanage didn't feature prominently in the Foreign Film section where Guillermo del Toro's (the film's producer) Pan's Labyrinth shone last year. A note to the makers of KM31: this is how you do a proper ghost movie. In addition to the movies there were a few previews of upcoming genre releases and a selection of short films, the most prominent of which were previews of Neil Marshall's Doomsday and Paul Andrew Williams The Cottage, and Mike Williamson's excellent short film In the Wall. The Doomsday footage was actually the uncut trailer that the San Diego Comic Con refused to show. Honestly I thought it looked a little too derivative of Mad Max 2 and Escape From New York for my tastes but the rest of the audience seemed to like it. The Cottage actually looked like a really good slice of comedy horror, likely to be compared to Shaun of the Dead and Severance. Definitely one to watch out for. In the Wall is just an exceptionally well executed Edgar Allen Poe-style short story which deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. Anyway, that was my Frightfest 2007 experience. A great, well-programmed selection of movies, the majority of which were good to excellent. Can't wait for next year. Until next time. Major Calm