FrightFest 2020

Arrow Video FrightFest: The Digital Edition

In a world that has been beyond strange this year, it is a comfort to see the return of FrightFest; embracing social distance with The Digital Edition. I had hoped to make this year my first visit to FrightFest, but…pandemic.

If you’ve got a spare £60 then you can buy a FrightFest pass. It’s a pretty good price considering what you get for your money. The hermanos aren’t going the whole hog (sorry, Matt, but “the whole tofu” just didn’t sound right), but we will be dipping our collective toe into the FrightFest water, getting (very affordable) single tickets and bringing you our thoughts on the delicacies we sample.

So, what’s in this FrightFest?

There are some really great looking titles at this year’s festival covering everything from a slasher set in a water park (Aquaslash) to Nazi flying sharks (Sky Sharks)…yes, you read correctly. Nazi flying sharks.

Nazis. Horror has a history featuring films about Nazis—Dead Snow, Blood Creek, etc. the video nasties contained more than a few titles like Gestapo’s Last Orgy, SS Experiment Camp, and Love Camp 7 which featured or focused on Nazis and the Third Reich.

I’m conflicted when it comes to horror films focusing on the Nazi regime. I’ve never felt compelled to seek out any of the video nasty titles I’ve mentioned and my general feeling is that the video nasties should be watched by people with an interest in horror because it’s an important period in the genre’s history.

Recently, there was criticism leveled at the Hunted TV series, featuring Al Pacino, earlier this year for the human chess match sequence. The general thrust of the negative reaction was that it trivialised the actual, real-world horror that went on in the concentration camps. The Auschwitz Memorial in Poland tweeted that this invention was “dangerous foolishness & caricature” which “welcomes future deniers”. The show’s creator, David Weil, responded by saying that they wanted to show the “sadism and violence that the Nazis perpetrated against the Jews and other victims” but not to “depict those specific, real acts of trauma”.

The idea that inventing horrors committed by the Nazis might fuel denial of the atrocities they actually carried out is a very compelling argument and there is a real discomfort in being entertained by a film that draws on the Nazi regime. However, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I thought Overlord wasn’t a really good film which is an inventive body horror/war film set in WW2.

I don’t have an answer to any of this. On the podcast, when Nick and I were looking at The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, we had a really interesting discussion on this topic. It’s a thorny issue and morally it’s grey.

In this year’s FrightFest we have two films: Sky Sharks which provoked a response from Matt including the phrase: “you’ll never get that time back” and Skull: The Mask (which, as far as I can tell, bears no relation to the Jim Carrey vehicle from the 90s).

Skull: The Mask sees Nazis experimenting with an artefact which is linked to the executioner of a pre-Colombian God. This experiment fails and the mask reappears in (I believe) modern day Sao Paulo.

Both films do tempt me, Sky Sharks because it seems have the potential of being the ultimate so-bad-it’s-good, and Skull: The Mask has the potential of actually being a decent, bloody, horror.

We’re going to try and take a look at some of the films on offer at this year’s FrightFest, so here are some of the titles that have caught our eyes:

Av the Hunt

A Turkish film from director Emre Akay, Av the Hunt is billed as a “gruesomely realistic chiller” dealing with another difficult issue, namely honour killings. Av the Hunt promises tension and “a strong feminist message”.

There’s No Such Thing as Vampires

We’ve recently recorded an episode of the podcast about the Fright Night remake so seeing Fright Night referenced in the description to TNSTAV (as no one’s calling it) got our interest. As did the phrase “turbo-charged terror thunders into a breakneck chase”. Could make for an interesting supernatural chase.

Triggered

“Nine friends, all harbouring a dark secret, go camping in the woods. After a wild night of partying, they wake up with Suicide Vests strapped onto their chests. All have varying times on their countdown clocks. At first they decide to work together, find out how to disarm the bombs and look for help. But then they discover they can 'take' one another's time by killing each other. Let the Battle Royale begin…”

This feels familiar territory. Battle Royale, Saw, Escape Room, The Hunt—hopefully Alastair Orr brings something fresh to this subgenre (it’s one that I feel is frequently visited, but seldom with new ideas—there’s potential in this subgenre, but we’re not seeing it fulfilled).

Aquaslash

“Thrills, chills, spills and screwball comedy meet splashy shocks and gory dismemberment in a chlorine and blood drenched murder mystery”

There’s a chance that this is good. I’m not saying it’s likely, but there is always the possibility that something like this will be good: teenagers at a water park celebrating their graduation in, and I quote, “all their unleashed libido glory” and are offed by a “black-gloved murderer”. So…giallo in a water park?

I repeat, there is a chance that Aquaslash will be good.

Two Heads Creek

“After the death of their adoptive Polish mother, a timid butcher and his drama queen twin sister leave post Brexit UK and take an adventure into the Australian outback in search of their biological mother. But the seemingly tolerant townsfolk of the sleepy Two Heads Creek backwater are hiding a sinister, meaty secret and the pair must reconcile their sibling differences in a fight for their lives.”

Two Heads Creek sounds like it has the potential to be a really interesting film—I’m a bit of a sucker for towns that seem A.O.K, but are actually nicht gut (yes, you’re right, Troll 2 is the ultimate example of this).

Away from the narrative films there are also some documentaries which catch the eye:

Hail to the Deadites

Grrovy! Anything about The Evil Dead is going to interest us. Big fans of anything Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell.

The Horror Crowd

A doc covering a wide-range of topics about the people who make horror including Women in Horror, Race Relations, Being the Weird Kid, Film Festivals, and the Dark Side means that this film could make for a fascinating insight, but my fear would be that the broad scope could result in something covering subjects which could easily warrant a documentary of their own.

All in all, this digital edition of FrightFest looks really good, there's a wide variety of films (not to mention the short films, panels, quiz on offer).

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