FrightFest is probably my favourite film festival and it’s definitely five days in August that I now look forward to every year. This is in part down to the excellent organisation, the incredible atmosphere and the fellow film fans you get to spend the August Bank Holiday with but mostly it’s because the festival affords you the opportunity to sit in a cinema for five days and watch a lot of films that you’ve not seen before.
Achieving what, for me, was a slightly disappointing total of 21 films out of a possible 27, although I had seen 3 already, I got the opportunity to see a number of films on that giant Empire screen (my view of which can be seen to the left) that will most likely rarely again get the chance to play in a cinema in the UK. This is one of the joys of FrightFest and the discovery of something new and the opportunity to see it projected make the experience all the more special.
So without further ado, here the best films I saw at FrightFest 2011.
1) The Woman
The Woman is not only the best film I saw at FrightFest but it is also one of the best films I have seen this year. A bold and fascinating film, Lucky McKee’s The Woman has been plagued by controversy since a screening at Sundance went a little off the rails and after seeing the film it is easy to see why it could have provoked such impassioned responses. The Woman is a difficult film but it is also a powerful and vital film. You can read my full review here but suffice to say this film is pretty special.
Joseph Kahn’s return to feature filmmaking after the critically derided Torque is a film that left me a little speechless following its midnight screening at FrightFest. Technically masterful, despite breaking almost every filmmaking rule, Detention is hyper kinetic filmmaking on a level not really seen before. With seemingly endless pop culture references and a plot that involves time travel, a slasher and the end of the world, Joseph Kahn has made a film that is rich and fascinating but also gloriously fun. Read my full review of Detention here.
3) The Glass Man
FrightFest favourite Andy Nyman was likely to receive a warm welcome from FrightFest attendees for his latest starring role but he did not need to trade on any kind of favouritism as his performance in The Glass Man is truly extraordinary and utterly compelling. An enthralling and taut psychological thriller with more than a hint of social commentary, The Glass Man represents the kind of smaller film that gets a big opportunity at FrightFest. Read my full review of The Glass Man here.
4) The Innkeepers
The Innkeepers is a film that I had a large amount of trepidation about putting on this list as despite really liking it I was not at all won over by the ‘horror’ elements in the film. Focusing on two employees of the supposedly haunted Yankee Pedlar Hotel, Ti West really succeeds in convincing with the naturalistic dialogue but fails to provide any real shocks or scares. Aside from the amusing and engaging script, lead Sara Paxton is the film’s greatest asset, turning in a really winning performance, swinging between being a bundle of nervous energy and a moping teen with ease and charm. I was really charmed by The Innkeepers but those looking for something scary may be a little underwhelmed.
Horror anthologies are a tricky proposition and the phrase mixed bag was heard many times over FrightFest when referring to either Chillerama or the opening night anthology The Theatre Bizarre. Chillerama consists of three main segments, Wadzilla, The Diary of Anne Frankenstein and I Was A Teenage Werebear and a linking segment entitled Zom B Movie. Directed by Adam Rifkin, Adam Green, Tim Sullivan and Joe Lynch respectively, these short films are a hell of a lot of fun and if those titles appeal to your personal sensibilities then the films almost certainly will too. Green’s The Diary of Anne Frankenstein is the real star of the bunch but the rest of the ‘mixed bag’ are mostly enjoyable and entertaining, with extra points being awarded to Lynch for his Deathecation mini-short and its great Pink Flamingos gag.