FrightFest Diary: Reviews of ‘Tragedy Girls’ and ‘The Terror of Hallow’s Eve’

Chris Tilly
Movies Horror
Movies Horror

FrightFest – the world-renowned celebration of all things horror – takes place in London’s Leicester Square from August 24-28. And FANDOM’s resident gore-hounds will be attending to cover all the big titles, from Cult of Chucky and Death Note to Leatherface and Victor Crowley.

We’re collecting all our coverage together on this page, where we’ll be featuring long reviews, short reviews, pictures, trailers, Tweets, and any news we gather over the course of the long weekend. With the most recent update at the top of the page. So wish us luck as we journey into the dark heart of cinema.

Tragedy Girls Review

FrightFest concluded in spectacular fashion with the UK premiere of one of the best horror movies of the year – Tragedy Girls. Playing like Scream for the selfie generation, the film stars X-Men alumni Alexandra Shipp (Storm) and Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic Teenage Warhead) as a pair of fame-hungry teens whose twin passions are Instagram and murder.

Proceedings kick off with them kidnapping a serial killer (Kevin Durand, on hilariously malevolent form) to learn the tricks of the trade. Then embarking on a murderous spree of their own, one that involves ex-boyfriends and head cheerleaders, and puts their social media presence through the roof.

The high school satire is reminiscent of Clueless, Heathers, Jawbreaker and Election, the twists and turns come thick and fast, the kills are suitably violent and gory, and Shipp and Hildebrand make a delightfully deranged dynamic duo.

All of which made Tragedy Girls the perfect way to end what’s been a brilliant film festival. Thanks to Paul, Alan, Ian and Greg for putting on the bloodiest show on earth, the filmmakers who brought their movies, and the volunteers who worked so hard to make FrightFest 2017 such a success.

The Terror of Hallow’s Eve Review

Make-up effects legend Todd Tucker directs this love letter to horror which features a whole host of fun moments. Set in 1981, the story concerns Tim, a bullied 15-year-old who retreats from the world by sketching creatures and making model monsters.

On October 30th, he finds ‘The Book of Halloween’ in his attic, reads the words therein, and summons ‘The Trickster’ who unleashes a powerful supernatural force on his enemies. Tim’s home turns into a house of horrors, and each of his bullies is attacked by their passions or fears, be they spiders, food, sex, or puppets.

The make-up and effects are solid – as you’d expect with Tucker involved. But Caleb Thomas makes a somewhat whiny and annoying Tim, meaning that you might just be rooting for the villain rather than the hero in this one.

To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story Review

“I think it’s accurate to say that I’ve murdered more people on film than anyone in history.” So says Kane Hodder at the start of this documentary about his life, and as the man who has played both Jason Voorhees and Victor Crowley – and appeared in scores more horror movies – it’s hard to argue.

But To Hell and Back is far from a celebratory Hollywood biopic. Instead, it focusses on the many struggles Kane has faced in his life, from being badly bullied as a kid, to being pretty much burned alive when a fire stunt went wrong, the effects of which can still be seen all over his body.

Hodder is engaging and self-depreciating when telling of his own horrors, while the likes of Robert Englund, Sean Cunningham, Adam Green and Bruce Campbell chip in with stories stories about villainous icon, the latter calling Kane “the ultimate badass.”

The result is fine documentary that takes you on an emotional and inspirational journey, making To Hell and Back one of the festival’s very best.

Imitation Girl Review

FrightFest is filled with horror films, but every now and then, the organisers programme a movie that doesn’t revolve around blood, guts and gore. Imitation Girl is just such a film – a sci-fi drama that finds beauty in the simple things.

It starts out like a softer version of Under the Skin, with an alien landing on earth, and taking the form of the first person she sees – a girl on the cover of a lad’s mag. We then follow her journey as she endeavours to survive on the planet, eventually being take in by a family of Iranian immigrants who show this stranger kindness and love.

Those scenes are juxtaposed with another story – that of the human whose shape she has taken – an adult film star regretting the decisions she has made and trying to get her life back on track. Both tales are beautifully realised, paving the way for the human and her alien doppelganger to meet in scenes that both surprise and beguile.

Lauren Ashley Carter is terrific in those dual roles, while writer-director Natasha Kermani oversees this exploration of life on earth with great assurance, the result a sensitive and through-provoking little film that deals with the biggest of themes.

Double Date Review

Double Date is a low-budget comedy horror that fails to fully nail both the comedy and the horror. But it’s fun in a mean-spirited kind of way, and does feature flashes of brilliance.

Danny Morgan – the film’s writer – plays a loser-in-love desperate to be rid of his virginity by the times he turns 30. His obnoxious friend – played by Michael Socha – assists in this quest, and it seems he’ll finall get his end away when the pair meet flirtatious sisters Kitty and Lulu. What they don’t know is that the beautiful siblings are actually serial killers, carrying out a grisly master plan, and resulting in a seriously bloody climax.

Kelly Wenham and Georgia Groom are wonderful as the girls in question, making their characters likeable in spite of those terrible deeds. The boys aren’t their equal, being not nearly as funny as the script thinks they. There is one stand-out sequence however – a lengthy fight between Socha and Wenham that’s very nearly worth the price of admission.

Dead Shack Review

Thanks to a solid story, sharp dialogue, likeable characters and some terrific performances, Dead Shack is pretty much the most fun we’ve had at FrightFest thus far.

A joyously dysfunctional family head to a cabin in the woods, bickering all the way there. Once there family tensions result in them splitting up, with the kids quickly realising that there’s something wrong with the neighbour. Who seems to be luring men to her house, then doing something terrible to them that we won’t spoil here.

They go to their now stoned AND drunk Dad for help, and what follows is a hugely entertaining comedy horror that’s filled with twists and turns. And while Dead Shack could do with a bit more explanation regarding the exact nature of the evil, it’s nevertheless a blast, boasting a great performance from Dumb and Dumber star Lauren Holly as the villain, and one of the finest comedic turns of the year from Donavon Stinson as that lovably goofy Dad.

It’s basically the perfect ‘midnight movie’ – one that marks director Peter Ricq out as a helmer to watch.

Game of Death Review

Game of Death is a fun concept that features some spectacular kills, but it feels long at just 70-minutes, and ultimately outstays its welcome.

Proceedings commence with a montage of some pretty dislikable kids drinking, masturbating, having sex, and generally behaving badly. They then find an electronic board game from the 1980s and decide to play it. Big mistake. This ‘Game of Death’ takes then blood, then a counter starts counting down. Their job, to kill 24 people, or be killed themselves when the counter hits zero.

They don’t take the game seriously at first, but then their heads start exploding, and its all too real. Which is fun to begin with, the film featuring the best bursting bonces since Scanners.

But when they hit the road, it all becomes a bit dull and predictable, the film fine when bloody death is occurring, less so when it tries to get deep and philosophical.

Attack of the Adult Babies Review

There’s been a batch of comedy horrors on show at FrightFest 2017, and you’d be hard pressed to find any as blatantly signposted as the asininely titled Attack of the Adult Babies.

You’ll also have trouble finding another film like it on the bill. Or anywhere, for that matter.

When a family’s home is invaded and three of their number (mum and the two teens) are sent to retrieve top secret documents from a remote country pile, they find more than they bargained for.

It’s the Salò-esque location for a group of wealthy, high-powered men to meet and engage in baby-fantasy perversions. But there’s even more to it than this. They’re part of a sinister politically motivated plan that’s in very bad taste.

Just when you think it couldn’t get any weirder or sink any lower, former soap star-turned-director Dominic Brunt ups the game. Reminiscent of early Peter Jackson films Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles, Russ Meyer and John Waters influences are also evident.

Revelling in some deliberately ropey production values and extreme gross-out comedy-horror, it’s an acquired taste. A fabulously gory Claymation sequence is a highlight.

Eat Locals Review

Britain has a heritage when it comes to comedy-horror, which it’s built on in recent years with varying degrees of success. Picking out the winners and losers in a list that includes Shaun of the Dead, Severance, Sightseers, The Cottage, Cockneys Vs Zombies and Lesbian Vampire Killers is a pretty straightforward task.

Jason Flemyng’s Eat Locals is the latest, blending slapstick and one-liners with a vampire narrative. However, it’s more like Lesbian Vampire Killers than Flemyng would care to admit – i.e. it’s not that good.

It’s an enticing premise. A group of vampires gathers for its regular fifty-year meeting to discuss operations. But when one, Vanessa (Eve Myles), brings a lad called Sebastian (Billy Cook) into the mix and a team of Special Forces vampire hunters shows up, things go south. And with one of them on his own classified mission, things are about to get more complicated.

Also starring Daredevil’s Charlie Cox, plus MacKenzie Crook, Dexter Fletcher, Ruth Jones and Freema Agyeman, it isn’t short on star power. In fact, its cast is the best thing about it, with Cook doing his best Taron Egerton-in-Kingsman impression.

There’s a frustrating amount of potential here, dashed because the film is ultimately unnecessary and kinda tedious.

Victor Crowley Review

Writer-director Adam Green returned to FrightFest with a Hatchet movie that he pretty much made in secret. Victor Crowley is the fourth film in the horror franchise, but until last week, only those who worked on the movie knew that it existed.

Set 10 years after the events of the original films – in which the titular Mr. Crowly killed a whole bunch of people – a film crew accidentally resurrect the serial killer, at much the same time that Andrew, who survived the first three flicks, returns to the scene of the crime to promote his new book.

The characters are all pretty obnoxious, the acting is frequently questionable, and a few too many of the jokes fall flat. But the kills are enjoyably unpleasant, and Kane Hodder dominates the screen as Victor, the ‘Bayou Butcher’ who is fast becoming a horror icon.

King Cohen Review

King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen is a glorious celebration of a genuine movie maverick. Larry Cohen directed the likes of Black Caesar, The Stuff, It’s Alive, and Q The Winged Serpent. And in this hilarious documentary, JJ Abrams, John Landis, Joe Dante and Martin Scorsese all sing his praises.

But Larry Cohen is the star of the Larry Cohen story. A former stand-up comic, Cohen is a champion raconteur, unafraid to tell the truth about the nonsense that goes on behind-the-scenes. So there are amazing stories about shooting guerilla-style on the streets of New York, and convincing actors like Fred Williamson and Yaphet Kotto to risk their lives for the sake of his art.

Cohen variously called the master of the premise, the greatest daredevil Hollywood has ever seen, and a man who lives on the border of bad taste. Descriptions which are all true, and help to make King Cohen a consistently entertaining and illuminating biopic.

Dhogs Review

Kim’s review of Andrés Goteira’s debut feature, an experimental shocker that looks at examples of animalistic human behaviour follows. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Every once in a while, amid the also-rans and the crowd-pleasers, comes a film that really stands out. And among Frightfest’s 2017 offerings emerges this gem.

The official synopsis for Dhogs gives nothing away. So we won’t spoil it here. Suffice to say that a horrific crime takes place that the film takes its time to set up and then unravel.

It essentially follows a brutal assault plot using novel techniques to tell its story. Director Andrés Goteira is also keen to draw attention both to its artifice and the theme of voyeurism throughout. The audience is as crucial in this film as any of the characters or events.

Lynchian at times, there’s also more than a touch of Lars Von Trier about this – particularly Dogville. Scorsese, noir and the good old Western are all clear influences, too and yet it’s highly original at the same time.

Although it sets foot inside gimmick territory, it’s an inventive and compelling horror that keeps you guessing right up to its final twist.

Kane Hodder Chat

Chris spoke to man-mountain Kane Hodder – the horror legend who has played both Jason Voorhees AND Victor Crowley. We talked about what makes a great movie villain, how he managed to shoot a new Hatchet movie without anyone knowing, and his coin and stamp collection. Video to follow.

The Road to FrightFest

FF stalwarts Joe Lynch – who has Mayhem at the festival, and Adam Green – who has Victor Crowley – mad a short about their efforts to get to London. And it’s beautiful.

Leatherface Review

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel takes a while to get going, but when the film hits its stride, it’s pretty great. Chris’s review…

Voice From the Stone Review

Adapted for the screen from the novel by Silvio Raffo, Voice From the Stone is a dour ghost story with gothic overtones.

The story, set in the 1950s, revolves around a British nanny’s experience at the remote Tuscan stately abode of a widower named Klaus (Marton Csokas). His son, Jakob (Edward Dring), has refused to speak since the death of his concert pianist mother seven months ago.

As nanny Verena digs deeper into Jakob’s condition and gets closer to the boy’s father, chilling secrets are revealed. Not least the fact that Jakob appears to listen to his mother’s voice speaking to him through the stone walls.

A portrait of grief, Voice From the Stone looks beautiful – all misty landscapes and period clothes and décor. But it relies heavily on standard gothic horror tropes, and just when you think it’s going to subvert them, it lets you down.

Stuffy characters you couldn’t care less about are also a problem. Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke does her best to bring a touch of realness to nanny Verena even if the film makes her pretty unlikable for most of it.

We’re enticed with the sniff of a twist at the end, which turns out to be anything but, rendering Voice From the Stone annoying, boring and pointless.

Day 1 Round-Up

If you can’t make it to FrightFest, the good folk at The Horror Channel are posting daily round-up videos so you can see what’s going down. Day 1 features the folk behind vampire flick Redwood, and Cult of Chucky.

Cult of Chucky Review

Cult of Chucky writer-director Don Mancini and stars Jennifer Tilly and Fiona Dourif kicked off FrightFest by introducing the world premiere of their movie. Which Kim has seen, thoroughly enjoyed, and reviewed…

FANDOM Presents Death Note

Chris introduced a very special screening of Death Note on opening night, with audiences getting to see the film on the huge IMAX screen a day before it launches on Netflix. And director Adam Wingard sent a video message in which he welcomed everyone to the festival, and stated that the movie was made to be seen in that size rather than on TV screens. Scroll down for Kim’s review.

Chucky Shoes

Chris interviewed Chucky creator Don Mancini to discuss the festival’s opening night movie, Cult of Chucky. We can’t publish the resulting Q&A until the film’s October 23 release. But we can show you the kick-ass shoes he was wearing for our chat…

Looks like Chucky’s already at the fest…

And Jennifer Tilly’s enjoying herself…

Death Note Review

Death Note launches on Netflix August 25, but the night before, the film is premiering at a FANDOM-sponsored screening at FrightFest. And this is what Kim thought of the flick…

FrightFest Quiz

The night before the festival started proper, FrightFest organised a horror quiz to get everyone in the mood. The quiz-masters included Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) Andy Nyman (Severance), Graham Skipper (The Mind’s Eye) and Dominic Brunt (Before Dawn). And while the questions were fiendishly difficult, FANDOM’s team – which featured director Sean Hogan, producers Travis Stevens and Giles Edwards, and super-geek Dan Auty – was victorious. Here’s us looking the worse for wear following the win.

Chris Tilly
FANDOM Managing Editor in the UK. At this point my life is a combination of 1980s horror movies, Crystal Palace football matches, and episodes of I'm Alan Partridge. The first series. When he was in the travel tavern. Not the one after.
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