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Best Of Frightfest 2017

Kane Hodder - Jennifer Tilly

Usually, when I do a Best Of wrap-up after Frightfest, the list encompasses five must-see movies that I haven’t stopped thinking about since the festival ended. This year, the quality was so incredibly high across the board (there were just a couple of outright stinkers, if that) I’ve expanded it to, er, nine.

Frightfest is always a safe bet, and over several years of attendance, one becomes accustomed to picking the best films out of the packed lineup (Attack Of The Adult Babies, for example, was never going to be part of my festival experience).

Even so, 2017 was a real standout. These are my picks for the movies that showed at this year’s festival and will be (hopefully) coming your way soon enough. Look out for them. You won’t be disappointed.

Cult Of Chucky finger

Cult Of Chucky
The killer doll’s previous outing, Curse Of Chucky, blew the roof off Frightfest a few years back, out of absolutely nowhere, so anticipation for the newest installment was pretty high. Thankfully, in spite of a few quibbles here and there (narrative inconsistencies, why didn’t Andy have a bigger part) Cult is, for the most part, a total blast. Loaded with the franchise’s typical brand of crude humour, suitably rough kills and another knockout performance from Fiona Dourif as the unstoppable Final Girl, Cult Of Chucky shows that sometimes a series really can go to seven installments and still feel fresh.

If you’re one of those so-called fans bragging about pirating the movie on Twitter, stop that right now. We won’t get any more of these if you continue to steal them. Besides, it’s hitting Netflix shortly anyway (or it’s already on there if you’re reading this a few weeks from now) so there’s really no excuse.

See it: On Blu-ray, DVD and Netflix from Oct 3, 2017

Lowlife BearLowlife
Lowlife played the very last day of Frightfest, which just goes to show how great it really is – even the very best movies won’t hit as hard on an exhausted audience who have been subsisting on popcorn and street noodles for five days straight. This brilliant, unique little low-budget crime thriller/comedy, from director Ryan Prows, unites a cast of unknowns, all of whom are operating at the top of their game here, for an intense, bloody and frequently very, very funny trip through the seedier, darker side of Los Angeles. It’s a brilliantly-conceived, well-paced and remarkably good-looking movie, considering its humble origins and miniscule budget, but the cast sell it so hard it might as well be a high-brow Oscar contender.
If you’re not screaming for an El Monstruo spinoff once the credits roll, then you truly have no heart.

See it: No release info as of yet, sadly. Look out for it on the festival circuit

Brittany Allen and Juan Riedinger in It Stains The Sands RedIt Stains The Sands Red
Zombie movies are so incredibly played out at this stage, and I’ve never been the biggest fan of them in general, so It Stains The Sands Red was an even bigger surprise than expected. Charting one woman’s trek through the unforgiving Vegas desert with a zom in not-so-hot pursuit, Colin Minahan’s movie, which serves primarily as a showcase for star Brittany Allen who, as the only person onscreen (at least, the only human) for much of its run-time, carries the entire weight of it on her shoulders. She also, quite literally, drags it along on her shoulders at one point. Aside from boasting the best, and most disgusting, tampon joke I’ve ever seen in a movie, Minahan is also brave enough to showcase a real-life struggle (making your final tampon last) for women with minimal fuss or any bullshit pandering.

The cameo from Pool Party Massacre writer-director Drew Marvick as a lumbering zombie is the cherry on top or the blood on the…orifice.

See it: On DVD from September 26, 2017

Tragedy Girls 1Tragedy Girls
The word “feminist” has taken on such a life of its own in recent years that many filmmakers hasten to use it as a descriptor of their work. Not so director Tyler MacIntyre who, when I interviewed him at Frightfest, proudly faced down the loaded “do you consider this a feminist movie?” question with a simple proclamation: feminism is about equality so, yes, this is absolutely a feminist film. He’s right, of course, as Tragedy Girls (which he also co-wrote) sees soon-to-be-megastars Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp star as fame-hungry high schoolers/wannabe serial killers with a taste for gore and super-cool coordinated outfits. Equal parts hilariously funny, brilliantly bloody and strangely true to life (when it comes to its depiction of teenagers), MacIntyre’s movie is, rightly, being heralded as one of the best horror movies of the year. It’s groundbreaking in its decision to present flawed female characters as they are without any real effort made to correct their behaviour – and to make us root for them in the process.

Also check out Kevin Durand and Josh Hutcherson playing second fiddle and having a great time doing so.

See it: In theaters(!) from October 20, 2017

Olivia DeJonge and Levi Miller in Better Watch OutBetter Watch Out
If Tragedy Girls marks the beginning of a new wave of slasher movies (and hopefully it does, since it’s definitely been a while), then Better Watch Out tramples all over the newly-rebooted Christmas horror sub-genre to outdo even the likes of Krampus and A Christmas Horror Story (both excellent). The problem with this wonderfully nasty little movie is that it’s impossible to discuss without spoiling its many devilish delights. To say anything would risk ruining it, but suffice to say this will wrong-foot even the most ardent horror fan at every turn. Its genius lies in its simplicity, and in our ability to believe we can always guess what’s going to happen next. Put simply, you need to see it. Immediately, if not sooner.

The movie was previously called Safe Neighbourhood and that title gets a one-line reference here that perfectly encapsulates the bourgeois privilege at the rotten heart of it.

See it: In theaters(!) from October 6, 2017. The UK and Ireland are getting it too (for once) from December 8, 2017. Just in time for the festive season

Kane Hodder babyTo Hell And Back: The Kane Hodder Story
Even as someone who cries at dumb stuff, like when Jay walks Mitch down the aisle on Modern Family, I never expected to blub at Frightfest of all places. And yet, I wept into my sleeve for much of To Hell And Back: The Kane Hodder Story. This powerful, emotional and hugely inspiring documentary tells the story of Jason Voorhees/Victor Crowley/serious actor in his own right Hodder’s rise from victim of schoolyard bullying to the stunt gone wrong that changed his life and everything in between. Along the way, every Horror Icon you can think of pops up to wax lyrical about how much they love Hodder. This isn’t just a documentary for horror fans, of course, but naturally those with an interest in the darker side of cinema will find plenty to enjoy.

The guys behind it are currently working on a documentary charting horror hero Adam Green’s journey to get his TV sitcom Holliston made in the wake of insurmountable odds and, frankly, it can’t come soon enough.

See it: No release info as of yet, sadly. Look out for it on the festival circuit

Victor Crowley gurnVictor Crowley
Speaking of Adam Green and Victor Crowley, the man himself shocked the world earlier this year by debuting a fourth Hatchet movie that nobody even realised was being made. As much as that surprise drove fan enthusiasm for the movie, it also gave it a hell of a lot of expectations to live up to. Happily, Victor Crowley does not disappoint. In fact, in keeping with the trajectory of the series thus far, it’s even better than the previous installment. Disgustingly gory, hilariously funny and packed with so many nods it demands an instant re-watch, this will instantly steal the hearts of fans. The only question is where will the big guy go next? Will he finally leave the swamp? We’ll have to wait for #5 to find out.

Impractical Jokers star Q (or Brian Quinn, to his mother) does a great job in his first feature role, bringing in elements of his Staten Island charm and (I think) a pretty bad-ass Wu Tang Clan nod. He also wears one of his signature loud shirts, so enjoy that, nerds.

See it: Green is currently touring the movie around the country, you can check out dates here

Samara Weaving nail gun MayhemMayhem
Adam Green’s hetero life-mate Joe Lynch returned to Frightfest this year alongside his pal, the two debuting a brand-new Road To Frightfest short in the process (watch it here, it’s brilliant), with his latest movie Mayhem in tow. Starring Samara Weaving and Steven Yeun as an odd couple storming through his office building to get to the big boss at the top, while every employee contained within freaks out thanks to a virus which takes away the sufferer’s inhibitions, the movie is an absolute blast from start to finish, a funny, fast and furious tour de force that showcases Lynch’s strengths as a visual artist as well as his two leads’ talents for bringing laughs, carnage and a wonderful, easy rapport that erupts into voracious romance at the worst possible moment.

Lynch’s eye for detail even extends to the band tee Weaving’s character wears under her work clothes. A small, but spot-on inclusion that will have every alt chick who’s ever held down an office job nodding in agreement.

See it. In select theaters(!) and on VOD and Digital from November 10, 2017. On Shudder in 2018 (yay)

Chase Williamson in Sequence BreakSequence Break
As much as Graham Skipper’s knockout debut resembles Videodrome, and will draw most curious viewers as a result, it also establishes the actor-turned writer-director as one to watch in his own right. The gross, gooey and surprisingly emotional story of a programmer (played by the brilliant Chase Williamson) who falls victim to a haunted arcade game right when he’s getting involved with his dream girl is one of the best horror releases of the year, not to mention one of the most original ideas we’ve seen in quite some time. Skipper clearly has an eye for gruesome SFX and some of the horrifying imagery here will stay with you long after the credits have rolled, but at its heart Sequence Break is a really lovely, character-driven rom-com. With a haunted arcade game.

Williamson also stars in Victor Crowley, where he plays a completely different character just as brilliantly.

See it: No release info as of yet, sadly. Look out for it on the festival circuit

 

 

 

 

 

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Written by Joey Keogh
Slasher fanatic Joey Keogh has been writing since she could hold a pen, and watching horror movies even longer. Aside from making a little home for herself at Wicked Horror, Joey also writes for Birth.Movies.Death, The List, and Vague Visages among others. Her actual home boasts Halloween decorations all year round. Hello to Jason Isaacs.
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