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Entries in Frightfest (3)

Thursday
Jan262017

GLASGOW FRIGHTFEST WARMS TO HOT OZ HORROR

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…

BLOODLANDS
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. 
WORLD PREMIERE

HOUNDS OF LOVE
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)
U.K. PREMIERE.

CAGE DIVE
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.
U.K. PREMIERE. 

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.

Monday
Aug172015

BORN AGAIN: THE BRYN TILLY INTERVIEW

A fascination for the macabre courses through the veins of Bryn Tilly. Between penning horror short stories and overseeing the popular website Cult Projections, the Sydney-based New Zealand expat has been shipping his film, the vampire-themed short Umbra, to genre festivals worldwide. The surreal work has impressed fest organisers; having wowed Australian audiences at underground showings in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane, the global rollout starts August 27 when it screens in London’s Film4 Frightfest, followed by a prestigious slot at SITGES 2015 in October.

SCREEN-SPACE sat down with the director and good friend (pictured, below) to recount his film’s journey from its no-budget origins in chilly Wellington to the horror industry mecca on Spain's sunny Catalan coast…

You are open about Umbra's past, and that this edit is a reworked, condensed version of footage shot in 93 under the title Penumbra. What brought about the resurrection?

After Penumbra was completed I shelved the film, only bringing out the VHS copy when I was drunkenly nostalgic and feeling a little tragic. There was some great imagery and genuinely atmospheric moments in the film. I began wondering if there was a way of salvaging those moments, of re-harnessing that vision. In early 2014, I invited my friend, editor Michael O’Rourke, to help bring it back to life. We judiciously cut it from half an hour down to just over five minutes, removing virtually all the dialogue and many elaborately shot scenes, yet still managed to keep the overall narrative arc. We treated the image, adding film scratches and grain, intending it to look like a lost Euro-horror from the late 70s/early 80s. My brother, Miles and I composed a new score. And I shortened the title from Penumbra (meaning “half-shadow”) to Umbra, which was perfect as it means “shadow”, but also “phantom” or “spectre”. The new film had finally captured the atmosphere and tone I had originally envisioned.

Were there key technical issues that had to be addressed when working with footage shot 22 years ago?

I had to locate the original master tape, since all I had was a steadily deteriorating VHS copy. After unearthing the U-matic master cut - yes, it was shot on three-quarter inch U-matic videotape, an almost forgotten format! - I had the footage digitized; thankfully I managed to find a service that still had a U-matic player. Although the tape appeared to be in okay condition and “baking” wasn’t required, the digitized footage did reveal weathering had occurred. Michael and I decided that the lo-fi look could work in the film’s favour, especially with the recent trend of retro-designed horror movies.

How hard was it for the happily married 40-something father of 2015 to reconnect with such darkness? Describe the experience of revisiting a vision created by a much younger version of yourself...

I’ve been a fan of dark horror and science fiction tales since I was a boy. Doctor Who’s The Ark in Space on TV in 1975 left a strong impression. Then there were the rather nihilistic and genuinely nightmarish experiences of The Omen and Alien on VHS when I was around ten or eleven, all dealing with birth/death/rebirth. When I wrote Penumbra, it was intended as a dark and macabre vampire tale. I wanted Umbra to be tenebrous, but I wanted it to be very dreamlike, surreal, invoking a kind of fever dream. Essentially the older me favoured a more subtle, expressionist approach, and it was a joy to see that Umbra reflected my truer influences as a filmmaker, even though most of my favourite vampire films now are the same ones I had when I shot Penumbra. (Pictured, above and below; scenes from Umbra)  

You open with a Poe quote that addresses the line between the present and the beyond. How does the film represent your beliefs in the afterlife and the mythology of immortality?

 I’m an atheist and a skeptic, but I’m a diehard horror romantic, especially when it comes to the supernatural. I want to believe. I love the essence of vampirism, the dual curse/gift of immortality, the sensualism and the fragility. What I especially love about the Poe quote is its ambiguity; it’s not just about the reality of life and death, it’s about the powerful fabric of dreams and nightmares.

Some imagery recalls Neil Jordan's Interview with the Vampire. You’ve mentioned Alien, The Omen, Doctor Who; what other authors/artists/filmmakers influenced you?

 Certainly Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat were big influences back in 1993. There was a cutaway in the original that showed a bookcase with Interview on it. Murnau’s creepy 1922 classic Nosferatu and Herzog’s haunting 1979 remake were inspirations. Whilst editing Umbra, the works referenced most were David Lynch’s Lost Highway and Dario Argento’s Suspiria and Inferno. I love their oneiric application, the dreamlike atmosphere and nightmare logic. Less obviously, French extremist Gaspar Noe influenced me, with his a penchant for pushing the camera into the darker corners.

It features a rich, vividly ambient soundscape. Describe the intent and intricacies of its construction...

 I had co-composed an original soundtrack for the 1993 production but I knew the new film needed new music. I wanted it to have a lush, dreamy vibe, but at the same time capture an ominous and menacing tone; reminiscent of the stuff Trent Reznor has been doing for movies. Miles and I have been collaborating on electronic music together for more than ten years. We took a brooding techno track we had already recorded and put it through a time-stretch software program, which slows the music down. We singled out the best sections, and then Michael and I layered those pieces into the film along with a few of the original sound design cues.

And Umbra's own re-emergence, it's own rebirth? What is its point-of-difference that has seen become a 2015 horror festival favourite?

 It is a narrative short with no dialogue, relying on stylised, almost iconic imagery. The pronounced ambient soundscape is an invisible character, intensifying the mood. Most significantly, the look of the film is a aesthetically lo-fi in a world saturated with High Definition. This grungy aspect enhances the nightmare edge, pulling the viewer into a mysterious yet strangely inviting place. Umbra looks and feels different than many of its contemporaries, but surreptitiously bridges the present and the past. It has a curious history, as a vampire film brought back from the dead. It has been reborn.

Umbra teaser trailer from Cult Projections on Vimeo.

Saturday
Jun282014

LONDON A HORROR HAVEN AS FRIGHTFEST BLOODS NEW PROGRAM

The 15th staging over the August long-weekend of London’s annual genre freak-out, Film4 FrightFest, promises that irresistible mix of cutting-edge horror/fantasy works and reverential retrospectives for which it has become world renowned.

Upgrading to the state-of-the-art Vue West End cinema for the 2014 season, one of Europe’s most respected film gatherings will screen 64 features from as far afield as New Zealand (Guy Pigden’s I Survived a Zombie Holocaust), Belgium (Fabrice du Welz’s Alleluia), Serbia (Milan Todorovic’s Nymph), Japan (Hitoshi Matsumoto’s R100) and Germany (Till Kleinert’s The Samurai). The first Venezualan horror film to play to an international audience, Alejandro Hidalgo’s The House at the End of Time, will highlight the Discovery Screen 1 sidebar. Australian directors feature prominently, with David Campbell’s Lemon Tree Passage, Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek 2 and Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook set to unspool.

Opening the event on August 21 will be the UK premiere of The Guest, a down’n’dirty homage to the 80’s action/horror heyday. Starring Dan Stevens as the returned serviceman who ingratiates himself into the family of a fallen comrade, US director Adam Wingard further subverts the ‘home invasion’ sub-genre that he mined so successfully in 2011’s You’re Next. Closing out the daunting 5-day screening schedule will be William Eubanks’ The Signal (pictured, right), a paranoid sci-fi psych-out starring Australian actor Brenton Thwaites alongside Laurence Fishburne.

Frightfest headlines a strong line-up of new works from the American horror film sector, many of which will be screening for UK audiences for the first time. These include Eli Roth’s highly-anticipated cannibal survival epic, The Green Inferno; the re-emergence of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer filmmaker John McNaughton with The Harvest, starring Michael Shannon and Samantha Morton; Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey in Nacho Vigalondo’s sinister cyber-thriller, Open Windows; and, Life After Beth, debut director Jeff Baena zombie-themed rom-com that was one of the must-see films of Sundance 2014 and is being touted as the breakout hit for stars Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan.

The organisers of Film4 Frightfest take pride in their reputation for sourcing resonant films with cult potential This year, films that are made for midnight-session thrills and giggles include Jordan Rubin’s undead rodent romp, Zombeavers; UK director Phil Hawkins’ meta-themed The Last Showing, starring Robert Englund as the old school projectionist who refuses to go quietly; the pitch-black succubi comedy All Cheerleaders Die, from directors Lucky McKee (The Woman) and Chris Sivertson (I Know Who Killed Me); Lowell Deans’ Wolfcop, about a cop who…becomes a…wolf; Oscar nominee Catalina Sandino Moreno in Nicolas McCarthy’s chilling demonic possession thriller, Home; and, Among the Living, described as ‘Stand by Me-meets-The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, from the French filmmaking team of Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo (Inside; Livid).

Documentaries programmed include Alexandre Phillippe’s Doc of The Dead (pictured, right), in which key creatives from the undead field (George Romero, World War Z author Max Brooks, effects guru Tom Savini and Re-animator director Stuart Gordon, to name a few) examine the genres popularity and longevity while fielding the question, ‘Would you survive a zombie apocalypse?’; Erik Sharkey’s heartfelt profile of poster-art maestro Drew Struzan, entitled Drew: The Man Behind the Poster; and, the world premiere of David Gregory’s in-depth study of a director’s career derailed by Hollywood counter-creativity, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr Moreau.

Finally, those craving a stroll down a dark memory lane will be treated to four of the most iconic genre films ever to screen at the one event. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street will be seen in remastered hi-definition; Giulio Paradisi’s 1979 star-studded psychedelic science-fiction vision, The Visitor, will perplex, bemuse and enthral; and, banned in Germany upon release and denied British certification for nearly thirty years, Jorg Buttgereit’s shocking 1988 body-horror epic, Nekromantik, will have a fully-restored screening for the edification of the truly daring horror film watcher.

The Film4 FrightFest 2014 shorts program will be announced in the weeks ahead.

Full details of all the films screening and ticket sales can be found at the Film 4 Frightfest official website.