Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Zone Horror Frightfest 2006

The Zone Horror Frightfest is coming...

I've seen some of my favourite films of the decade (century, millennium, whatever) at past Frightfests. One Hour Photo and Oldboy stand out in particular, but they've also treated us to early screenings of Haute Tension/Switchblade Romance, Cypher, Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary and Hellboy - as well as a special Shaun of the Dead preview event that had entire cinema mouths-agape, begging for more.

And that isn't to mention the heaps of less well known - sometimes less well made - certificate-busting gorefests perfectly attuned to a hardcore audience of splatter buffs. Nor is it to mention the slighter smaller heaps of less well known - sometimes less well made - spine-tickling, tense and creepy frighteners.

The special thing about Frightfest is that, despite being limited by genre, and only ever showing films of key interest to a horror genre fanbase, the quality is easily as high, if not higher, than other, more generalised film festivals. This, I suspect, is because the films are programmed with more love, more insight, and frankly, less ego than elsewhere. Or maybe just having to know one genre inside out means you can do a proper job and not spread yourself too thinly.

The 2006 fest is set for the August Bank Holiday weekend, Friday 25th to Monday 28th, with a special "prologue" screening of Severance on Thursday 24th. As this date approaches film ick will take a closer look at several of the films on the programme, but to begin with, her comes just a quick overview, pointing out the films that appear to be - as for as I know so far - this year's potential highlights.

Number-one dead-cert winner seems to be Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. Often discussed as a companion piece to The Devil's Backbone, this is another fabulous, wonderfully inventive parable, already clocking up countless possible from a wave-making screening at Cannes.

Del Toro has never let us down so far (okay - Mimic is flawed, but that doesn't make it bad) and this apparent rival for Tideland, playing on the Friday night of Frightfest, may even be his best film yet. This is one film you can expect a lot more news about in the weeks leading up to the festival.

Grimm Love has already been mentioned on film ick, only then it was called Rohtenburg. Inspired by the Armin Meiwes 'consensual cannibalism' scandal, this film has got talking point written all over it. King Kong's Thomas Kretschmann gives a notoriously amped-up central performance. I'm officially intrigued, if already just a little grossed out. The film screens on Sunday 27th August.

Chris Sivertson was one of Lucky McKee's post production cohorts on May. The last time one of those chaps made a movie of his own, we got Brick, so fingers crossed for another film even half as good. The Lost is adapted by Sivertson from the Jack Ketchum novel - you might recall Ketchum's Red being touted as a film for McKee, so there's obviously a lot of love for the man's books in that circle. There are parts for Dee Wallace Stone, Lucky McKee's Dad and Erin Brown (if I have to tell you who she is, trust me, you don't care who she is), with the key, central role going to Marc Senter.

The Lost has brought forward comparisons to Taxi Driver, Natural Born Killers and Badlands. I might prefer to evoke Clean, Shaven and River's Edge. You can play the comparison game yourself on Sunday 27th August, and if you fancy it, take my bet that Sivertson will be on the roster of directors for Masters of Horror season 3.

And finally from the fest this year, but certainly not feebly, comes The Host from Bong Joon-Ho, director of Memories of Murder and Barking Dogs Never Bite. Another Cannes smash, The Host combines a lovely big Weta Digital monster with pitch black social comedy. A genre blending satire from Korea? With FX from the Gollum people? Sounds like a license to print money, today's film fashions being what they are. It also, thankfully, looks to be genuinely brilliant.

Weekend passes are on sale now, with tickets for individual films up for grabs from August 1st. In the meantime, I'll be taking a closer look at these films, and many more from the full programme, in between our usual film ick business.

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