FrightFest: Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema

This is not a warts and all, spill the guts documentary but more thoughtful series of interviews with Frightfesters, guests, directors and ‘The’ Directors. Nevertheless, you do get an idea of what makes the men behind this tick.

It naturally starts at the beginning at the Scala and how Alan, Ian, Paul and Greg came together through their respective interests in film and horror. There’s the difficulty with locations as for a while the festival was something of a peripatetic entity - this writer didn’t mind Shepherds Bush - which didn’t help matters or tensions. The tensions. They are honest here; that sometimes things went on such a downward spiral that there’s was seemingly no way to pull up. They did and that says something about the character and dynamic of what appear to be very different people.

It’s quite a conventional documentary compared to what we are served up these days. But its thorough in particular about the commercial side and that the model has changed with those pressures ever pressing harder for more, offering less. It is troubling that many of the films will only ever be seen on a cinema screen at festivals.

However, what is clear from the documentary, almost overstating in fact, is that this is a fan orientated festival and they remain the core reason for its existence. As they say which festival director will invite the audience out to the pub later?

4 stars

A Young Man of High Potential

This gleaming, cold straight-lined thriller touches on a number of areas pertinent to today’s society. The pervasiveness of the internet, its tech and the isolating effect it can have. However, these are only brushed on in a film about Piet (Adam Ild Rohweder) a very shy computer genius working on a programme. His social life solely exists of a friend and a woman on a cam.

He’s approached by Klara (Paulina Galazka) who has read one of his papers and wants to work with him. At first reluctant he eventually agrees and they start to get to know each other and get comfortable. Piet is confused but is generally sociable until after the work is completed she invites him to her place for dinner. There’re a few drinks, things happen, misinterpreted and words are said.

Trying to get things back to where they were Klara visits Piet only for things to go dreadfully wrong. What follows is grotesque and ultra-creepy in the extreme. Not to mention downright weird. It’s visually cold and calculated which suits the action and the mood of the piece.

But for all the millennial age discussion in Linus De Paoli’s film there is no moral ambiguity about the actions taken. The situation may have arisen by accident but what follows is calculated and precise.

3 stars

St Agatha

Despite the expertise of SAW director Darren Lynn Bousman behind the camera St Agatha is on the whole a tedious tale. Set in 1957, pregnant woman Mary (Sabrina Kern) is on the run and finds herself in a soup kitchen and slipped a card saying that there is a place that will take care of her. It’s a convent where things start out fine only to learn that there are certain ways to do things.

Mary starts to become suspicious when there are noises in the ceiling and blood on the floor outside the room Mary shares with other pregnant women. Anything out of line is ruthlessly punished by Mother Superior (Carolyn Hennesy) or one of her subordinates, ruthlessly. Slowly the story unfolds - Mary’s in flashbacks – and we learn what is really going on.

Mary (and we) are put through the mangle as she is battered mentally and physically. It’s brutal stuff with but there’s an element of repetition that dawdles the narrative and takes the edge of it, padding almost. It certainly has its moments of gore and high tension though it doesn’t take too long to work out what Mother Superior is up to.

2 stars