Frightfest 2016 was a year for discovering new favourites, rather than drooling over big-name titles. After The Woods was removed from the line-up, the biggest draw was probably 31, which is odd considering previous years have seen the likes of You’re Next storm the boards.
Far from being a weekend full of random duds, though, this was actually one of the (deceptively) strongest line-ups yet, loaded with must-watch, soon-to-be-hit indies and first-time efforts that spell big things for the genre in general, and those at the helm in particular.
The following are my five, must-see picks from this year’s festival:
Rob Zombie’s latest showcases a filmmaker at the very top of his game, who has learned from past mistakes but refuses to compromise who he is. 31 is a triumph. It not only proves Zombie is one of the most exciting directors working in horror today, with his own, unique style, but that he has a knack for creating Icons with a capital ‘i’. Doom-Head is unforgettably vicious, cool and authentically horrible and will easily stand alongside Captain Spaulding and Otis Driftwood as the reason why even Zombie’s most vocal haters can’t quite write him off. But, more than that, this is just a bloody good horror movie.
Found Footage 3D
Sniffy reviews for Blair Witch might have fans concerned for the future of found footage, but Found Footage 3D proves there’s life in the old sub-genre yet. A hilarious, frequently scary and brilliantly-conceived meta horror-comedy, it makes the strongest argument yet for why found footage is still a thing almost twenty years since the best use of it was released. Steven DeGennaro’s debut feature is currently doing the festival circuit, but where it’s really going to kill is on home video. This is a watch-it-with-your-friends movie if ever there was one, but catching it with a crowd is even better. Give it a theatrical, damn it.
The Devil’s Candy
This has been a terrific year for horror, but The Devil’s Candy is in a class of its own. Sean Byrne’s follow-up to his gruesome The Loved Ones has been doing the rounds for a while, so you’ve no doubt seen the already-iconic image of star Ethan Embry spray-painting, shirtless, in a gas mask. If that doesn’t give you pause, even more reason to discover this exceptional movie for yourself. Aside from being terrifying, unsettling, and devastating all at once, The Devil’s Candy is one of the smartest and most unique genre offerings this year. Up there with The Witch and Green Room. Prepare to fall in love.
Beyond The Gates
Much of our adult lives are spent trying to replicate that scared shitless feeling we had as kids watching movies like Halloween, Texas Chain Saw, etc. for the first time. Beyond The Gates isn’t quite going to jog those memories, but it promotes a different kind of nostalgia, perhaps best exemplified by Stranger Things. Except this is better because it’s 100% for horror fans. Jackson Stewart’s debut is a funny, sweet, and consistently thrilling adventure horror movie that will soon find its way into your regular rotation. Like being wrapped in a warm blanket of childhood memories and then drenched in blood.
Night Of Something Strange
How many times has an awesome poster promoted a less-than-decent horror movie? Not so with Jonathan Straiton’s Night Of Something Strange, which boasts some fantastically insane artwork that only hints at the zany, blood-soaked carnage contained within. This flick is one of a kind, and worth seeing for the practical effects alone, but thankfully it also employs a wickedly horrifying premise that is exploited to its full potential and stuffed with plenty of laughs, frights and delights. And a metal-head sort-of-zombie villain with a penchant for bodily fluids. What more could you possibly want?
If you missed any of our coverage from this year’s festival, you can check out all things Frightfest 2016 right here.