‘Bad Samaritan’ is an intense thriller with some great names attached, particularly David Tennant and Robert Sheehan. Sheehan stars as struggling photographer Sean Falco who, along with his friend Derek (Carlito Olivero), burgle houses to make some extra money. However, one night they break into the house belonging to rich businessman Cale Erendreich (Tennant), and Sean discovers a woman being held captive. Tennant is, of course, brilliant playing a complete psychopath after already having proven himself to be an iconic villain in ‘Jessica Jones’. Whilst it’s unusual hearing him talk with an American accent in this, it definitely adds to the sense that there’s something off with his character, so I really liked that decision. Both Sheehan and Olivero are also great as characters you can sympathise with and root for despite being burglars, which makes it all the more intense as Sean battles all the challenges Cale throws at him as he tries to destroy his life.
‘Upgrade’ is the second time directing for actor/screenwriter Leigh Whannel, who is best known for writing and starring in horror franchises ‘Saw’ and ‘Insdious’. This is a sci-fi horror set in the future, where protagonist Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) feels uncomfortable with every aspect of his life being controlled by machines. However, after a horrible accident, he becomes paralysed and is given the chance to be able to move again with an experimental implant known as Stem. Whannel claims ‘Robocop’ was an influence on the story and it’s easy to see how. There’s also an homage to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ through the voice of Stem which sounds exactly like HAL’s, but even with inspiration from these films, it doesn’t compromise on originality; and that’s a hard thing to pull off on a topic done as often as AI in science fiction movies. There’s a twist that I didn’t quite see coming, and the ending isn’t necessarily your typical Hollywood one where the hero wins. And of course, I can’t go without mentioning the unique, robotic camerawork and choreography used for the fight scenes which are amazing to watch.
Based on a novel by Ryu Murakami, ‘Piercing’ is about a man called Reed (Christopher Abbott) who has recently become a father but can’t quite get the need to murder out of his head. In an attempt to avoid hurting his wife and child, he checks into a hotel and hires a prostitute and meticulously plans her murder. However, nothing goes to plan as it turns out the woman he hires, Jackie (Mis Wasikowska) is just as crazy as he is. It’s a minimalistic story but the chemistry between these two characters as they play a game of cat-and-mouse is enough to make it interesting along with the 70s style and is rather charming in its own weird way. The music is also worth mentioning, as it’s memorable and is also very 70s style.
This zombie musical is something that really easily could have been terrible, but luckily it was a hit thanks to its catchy songs, good choreography and mostly unknown but incredibly talented stars. Set during Christmas in a Scottish town, Anna and her friends have to fight their way back to their family as a zombie apocalypse ensues. There’s plenty of laughs in the film, but also packs an emotional punch that will leave you feeling as dead inside as those zombies (that is a compliment, believe it or not), and it manages to do this without messing up the overall tone. The entire cast have amazing voices and Ella Hunt and Malcom Cumming in particular complement each other’s vocals beautifully. I can’t wait for it to officially be released now so I can go watch it a hundred times.
‘Open 24 Hours’ is a slasher horror about Mary (played by Frightfest favourite Vanessa Grasse) who is trying to get her life back together after a dark past involving her ex-boyfriend and manages to get a job at a 24/7 gas station. The film manages to achieve a really nice aesthetic because of its setting on a dark, rainy night, but that’s all it did for me. It showed potential and has some good practical effects with the murders, but it doesn’t quite deliver. Overall, I found it a bit boring, but enjoyed Brendan Fletcher’s performance as Bobby and would have liked to have had him as an even more prominent character in the movie.
The idea for ‘A Field Guide to Evil’ was an interesting one, as it’s a feature-length anthology of short films from around the world about various myths and folktales. Unfortunately, despite a promising title sequence that had me excited for what was to come, the majority of the short films were incredibly boring with the exception of the ones from Turkey, India and Hungary. It seemed to go on forever, and it didn’t feel like I got any reward for my patience with it. This is the only film from the festival I really wouldn’t recommend to anyone and is the only one I saw people walk out of.
‘The Dark’ is about an undead teenage girl who unexpectedly connects with a kidnapped blind boy. Mina (Nadia Alexander) is angry and vicious compared to the scared, timid Alex (Toby Nichols), and parts of their personalities begin to switch as they spend more time together. The relationship between the characters becomes incredibly sweet despite the underlying pain they both feel, and there’s a bittersweet ending for both. Alexander and Nichols both give great performances which is what makes the film work so well since they’re the heart of it. It’s their characters that are the focus rather than the story, although there’s plenty of interesting pieces of backstory to make you think about it after it’s over without giving too much away, therefore leaving it to the imagination.
‘Climax’ is Gaspar Noé’s latest film and has a big ensemble of characters, as it centres around a group of dancers practising for a competition – however, everything goes to hell when someone spikes the punch and the film descends into a nightmarish drug trip. It’s a simple but intriguing concept as it provides the perfect setting for a film mostly contained in one place. It is, however, a mostly improvised script and it shows as the characters talk for far too long, at which point you’re praying for something to finally go down. For an hour and a half movie it felt way longer than it actually was because of how long it took to get to the action, but that’s not surprising considering Noé is usually experimental with film structure. For that reason, I don’t think I could watch it again, but the dancing was certainly enjoyable and hypnotic and there were parts of it I enjoyed. This was definitely an interesting end the festival, and it will certainly go on the divide opinion among critics.