FrightFest 2022 saw the festival back up to full attendance after Covid and boasting an impressive slate of diverse horror, sci-fi, and fantasy cinema. With the festival over for another year, we look at some of the best and most memorable films to play over the five days. If there are any not mentioned that rocked your August Bank Holiday weekend, feel free to include them in the Comments section below!
BEST COMEBACK – Dario Argento, Dark Glasses
Granted, the legendary director’s latest is not vintage Argento. Despite lifting its basic premise from 1971’s The Cat o’ Nine Tails. But his first film in a decade is a return to form, and should delight those who have kept the flame burning. Ilenia Pastorelli gives a touching performance as a blinded sex worker, who must team up with a young lad when a serial killer comes for them both.
Argento sensitively handles scenes of Pastorelli’s character adjusting to her new life, borrowing a low-key visual style from Michelangelo Antonioni. Dark Glasses’ latter half shifts the suspense out into rural Italy for several wild set-pieces that remind you who is behind the camera. Not perfect, but far better than we could have hoped for.
BEST GORE– The Price We Pay
While The Price We Pay’s shift into horror undercuts some of the good suspense work in the first half, it meets the needs of those looking for stunning, practical FX carnage. A climactic scene of bodily destruction is so graphic and bizarre some gore hounds may achieve mystical transcendence watching it.
BEST “SOMETHING IN MY EYE, AND IT’S NOT A KNIFE” MOVIE – Next Exit
Of course, FrightFest is not just a matter of splatter. Some of the best movies showing were the most restrained. Mali Elfman’s Next Exit is a prime example, foregrounding character and emotion over limb loss and cranial trauma. In a world where the afterlife is proven to exist, two strangers travel across America to take part in a controversial euthanasia programme.
Katie Parker (who played the Shelley Duvall role in Doctor Sleep) is excellent as the thorny Rose, whose carapace of unfriendliness hides deep trauma. As her travel companion Teddy, fellow Mike Flanagan alum Rahul Kohli is a perfect counterpoint of off-colour humour and breezy charm. But, someone who harbours secrets of his own. Director Elfman (daughter of composer Danny) grounds the fantastical story elements in believable emotion, and a heartstring tugging climax will leave many damp of eye.
BEST “PIZZA ON THE LAP AND BEER IN HAND” MOVIE – The Lair
On the 20th anniversary of the mighty Dog Soldiers, it is perhaps disappointing that Neil Marshall’s latest is a pick n’ mix pastiche of 1980s horror (and Zulu). But, after a wobbly opening fifteen minutes, this FrightFest opener and knockabout love letter to The Thing and Aliens is solid “crashed-out in front of the telly with mates and junk food” entertainment.
BEST “GOODBYE, MY LUNCH” MOVIE – Fall
FrightFest closer Fall is a movie made for the IMAX and Superscreen in the Leicester Square Cineworld. This simple tale has two experienced climbers scaling a rickety 2000ft radio tower out in the plains of some remote US desert. As they begin their descent, the ladder collapses and they find themselves stuck. The movie cannot escape the fact they brought this all on themselves, but clever practical sets and CGI achieve a stomach-lurching sense of vertigo and suspense. Producer James Harris’ previous credits include 47 Meters Down and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (aka the most unrecognised scary movie of the past five years). He inverts the premise here but sticks to formula: two young women are dangerously out of their element, threatened by their surroundings and local wildlife.
THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY – New Religion, Piggy, Sissy
It’s the same every FrightFest. A bunch of films generate real buzz across social media and in the foyer of the Cineworld, and you missed them. So, our mission is now to check out New Religion, Sissy, and Piggy, all of which made quite a few festivalgoers’ Top 10 lists.
BEST HEAD SCRAMBLER – Something in the Dirt
Confession time. I had never seen a Benson and Moorhead film before Something in the Dirt. Now I want to watch all of them. This movie, made around Covid lockdowns, has writer-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead as Levi and John, two guys living in the same apartment block. When John spots a supernatural occurrence in Levi’s living room, the pair decide to make a fame-bringing Netflix-style documentary.
A tapestry movie of philosophy, conspiracy theory, past trauma, the occult, the supernatural, the metaphysical, modern anxieties, and age old egotism, Something in the Dirt is a lot of movie. But never becomes “a lot.” Impartial interviewees circling John and Levi’s documentary offer alternative accounts of what is going on, leaving the audience to sift through the clues for answers. Trust us, you’ll want to sift.
BEST FILM THAT WILL SOON LOOK LIKE A DOCUMENTARY – Hounded
In Tommy Boulding’s nifty shocker, landed gentry hunt council estate kids for sport. While the story is merely the latest version of The Most Dangerous Game, its class divide commentary and depictions of the sneering privileged seem particularly relevant to present day UK. Perhaps even more so than when it was being written and shot. Samantha Bond’s aristocratic matriarch talking of the poor expecting “handouts” sounds uncomfortably close to comments made by another True Blue Lady, who is days away from stepping into No.10.
The working class kids are disadvantaged burglars who do over posh houses for expensive antiques and artwork. But, as they flee across acres of private land, the film is unequivocal about who are the real thieves.
BEST “TOUGH SELL” MOVIE – The Harbinger
Andy Mitton’s The Harbinger is a COVID movie set during the first lockdown. No, don’t go. It’s really good, honest. Mitton uses monster movie and haunted house tropes, plus a generous pinch of urban myth, in his parable about modern contagion anxieties. Gabby Beans is superb as a young New Yorker who discovers reality literally becoming a nightmare.
MOVIE MOST LIKE CHUGGING A SIX-PACK OF RED BULL – H4Z4RD
Sometimes you just need a blast of energetic mayhem. Jonas Govaerts’ H4Z4RD ticks that box with its wild humour, outlandish characters, plot detours, and amped-up action. Also, it’s pretty much set entirely inside one car. Famed DJ Dimitri “Vegas” Thivaios gives a comically panicked performance as a low-level hustler nicknamed Hazard, trying to clear up the mess of a botched robbery. The obstacles he must navigate range from short-fuse bouncers to punk drug dealers, crime lords, and an escaped zoo animal. Plus auto-eroticism likely to linger longer in the mind than Titane.
THE “NEVER MEET YOUR HERO” MOVIE – Torn Hearts
Meeting your hero is always a heart-in-the-throat moment. If it goes wrong, that’s you wincing at the memory for the next five years. Okay, okay, for the rest of your life. But, even the most awkward meet-and-greet cannot compare to what an aspiring country music duo experience when encountering their idol in Brea Grant and Rachel Koller Croft’s Torn Hearts. Katey Sagal is a reclusive country music diva, who plays bizarre games with Abby Quinn and Alexxis Lemire’s wide-eyed hopefuls while promising them their big shot. Think “Misery is Whatever Happened to Baby Jane on Sunset Blvd.” With a country music soundtrack.
THE 2018 SUSPIRIA AWARD FOR SURPRISINGLY SUCCESSFUL HORROR REMAKE – Final Cut
One Cut of the Dead was a lo-fi zombie feature that made up in invention, wit, and heart what it lacked in budget. So a glossy French remake from the Oscar winning director of The Artist was always going to fail. Except it didn’t. The opening twenty minutes seemed to confirm our worst fears. But thereafter Michael Hazanavicius’ film successfully replicates the joyous community spirit of that original little movie that could.
BEST DOCUMENTARY – Orchestrator of Storms: The Fantastique World of Jean Rollin
FrightFest 2022 boasted several documentaries. The best was Dima Ballin and Kat Ellinger’s cradle-to-grave account of the life and work of Eurocult director Jean Rollin. Filled with insight and anecdotes from genre experts and Rollin’s friends and colleagues, it is a comprehensive, often moving account of the under-appreciated French filmmaker. Numerous clips from his movies illustrate why he deserves the red carpet documentary treatment.
BEST FILM – Lola
Although it contains horrifying visions of alternate realities, the best film at FrightFest 2022 was a sci-fi movie. In the early days of the second world war, two sisters invent a machine they call LOLA, which can receive radio and television transmissions from the future. Witnessing the destruction war is bringing, they realise they must get involved. Andrew Legge’s sensational debut packs in more drama and excitement than any blockbuster we’ve seen so far this year. No release date yet, but hopefully you will be able to see it in the not-too-distant future.
TOP 10 FILMS AT FRIGHTFEST 2022
- Something in the Dirt
- Orchestrator of Storms
- Torn Hearts
- Next Exit
- Incredible But True
- The Harbinger
- Who Invited Them
- Dark Glasses