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The United Kingdom’s leading horror showcase, FrightFest kicks off its three-tiered 2017 season with the traditional Glasgow screening schedule from February 23. The chilly climes of the Scottish port city may not seem the natural setting for a trio of films hailing from Australia (currently experiencing the hottest East Coast summer conditions on record), but Frightfest organisers have long supported Oz genre; in 2016, the Yuletide splatterfest Red Christmas premiered as part of the London leg. This year, organisers have upped the ante with two U.K. premieres and a world first that remains shrouded in intrigue…

Dir: Steven Kastrissios. Cast: Gëzim Rudi, Emiljano Palali and Suela Bako. (82 mins; pictured, above).
Mystery surrounds this sophomore effort from Steven Kastrissios, the young director who garnered a committed cult following for his brutal, revenge-themed debut, The Horseman (2008). The specifics of the project remain closely guarded; a month out from the FrightFest world premiere, a lean website and Facebook page offer few details and no trailer has dropped. With thanks to the director’s production shingle, Kastle Films, SCREEN-SPACE got a peek at a moody, atmospheric teaser that suggests a beautifully shot siege narrative. Web coverage hints at a plot involving a rural family facing off against the forces and followers of a vengeful witch, known in Balkan folklore as the Shtriga. The FrightFest site elegantly posits it as, “A surreal, remarkable and highly unusual voyage through the fantasy lens of whispered local mythologies.” The Australian/Albanian co-production wrapped a month-long shoot in October 2014, before the director and his co-producer Dritan Arbana undertook the lengthy submissions process to secure Screen Australia completion funding. Once cashed-up, Kastrissios was able to collaborate with the likes of iconic Aussie sound men Les Fiddess (The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers, 2002) and Phil Judd (The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of The Desert, 1994), who delivered the final audio mix in July 2016 (pictured, right; l-r Fiddess, Judd and Kastrissios). The director will attend the Glasgow world premiere ahead of a highly anticipated Albanian debut in April; Australian audiences will have to wait until August. 

Dir: Ben Young. Cast: Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, Stephen Curry, Susie Porter and Damien de Montemas. (108 mins; distributed by Label Distribution)
One of the most buzzed-about genre titles on the international festival circuit, under-the-radar Perth-based writer Ben Young has mounted an impressively shocking abduction thriller, a work that Screen International called, “a compelling dissection of primal desires for control, validation and survival.” Drawing comparisons to Justin Kurzel’s Snowtown and David Michod’s Animal Kingdom in its portrayal of the immoral underbelly of suburban Australian life, Young’s 80s-set narrative involves married psychopaths Emma Booth and Stephen Curry (a million miles from his ‘lovable everyman’ persona in The Castle, 1997, and The Cup, 2011) and the cunning mind games they find themselves involved in when they abduct local schoolgirl Ashleigh Cummings. Since its World Premiere at the Venice Film Festival last September, it has racked up acclaim and honours at Busan, Mumbai, Brussels, Kolkatta and Brisbane’s prestigious Asia-Pacific film festivals. (Website)

Dir: Gerald Rascionato. Cast: Joel Hogan, Josh Potthoff, Magan Peta Hill and Suzanne Dervish-Ali (80 mins; distributed by Odin’s Eye Entertainment)
The ‘found footage’ genre takes to the ocean in Gerald Rascionato’s feature debut, a mockumentary-style, man-vs-nature thriller that Fangoria called, “one of the best found footage films of the year.” In his impressive debut, the Brisbane-based filmmaker plunges a boatful of partying, adventuresome twenty-somethings into the briny deep when their cage diving charter boat is upended by a freak wave. Very quickly, the ocean’s alpha predator susses out the fleshy buffet that awaits. The film had its World Premiere at the prestigious SITGES Festival, where it wowed the notoriously hard-to-please Midnight X-Treme crowd. Some serious press coverage may come from advocates opposed to the chumming of water to attract sharks on diving tours; one theory currently rattling the cage divers is that the combined presence of humans and free food is, perhaps understandably, not a great idea.

FRIGHTFEST Glasgow 2017 takes place at the Glasgow Film Theatre, 12 Rose St. Glasgow from February 23-25. Session times and ticket information can be found at the event’s official website here.

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