Frightfest 2012 Review Round-up

Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, 2012, UK)

AFTER  (F) Painfully ill-conceived hey-where’d-everyone-go drama, suffocating in a fog of misplaced, morose sentimentality

AMERICAN MARY (B-/C+) Titular protagonist well sketched, but narrative slips out of focus, body mod plot never as subversive as promises

BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (A-) Warm, affectionate meta-cinematic glow dissolves into Polanskian purgatory between reality & art. Mesmerizing.

CHAINED (C+) Remorseless grimness lifted by committed performances, but thematic concerns only partly served by storyline twists

COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES (C-) Handful of decent gags keeps things just the right side of amiable, though in too many depts more than a bit ‘pony’

DEAD SUSHI (B-/C+) Perfect throwaway midnight fodder; predictably nutso, and never runs out of suitably barmy fish/rice based ideas

EUROCRIME!  (B-) Thorough, entertaining passegiata thru poliziotteschi sub-genre; great talking heads from Franco Nero, Henry Silva & Chris Mitchum

GRABBERS (B-) Hugely endearing Irish small town creature feature, delicately genre savvy & a great paean to the joys of getting pissed

HIDDEN IN THE WOODS (F) Frenetic, morally confused feral tale of two sisters; telenovela-like hysteria (& aesthetic) generates unsolicited LOLs

MANIAC  (C+/B-) Undeniably brutal, but is it a formally innovative approach to themes of voyeurism & spectatorial identification, or merely retrograde & intellectually vapid?

OUTPOST: BLACK SUN (D-) Technically adept, if chronically under-lit, but story’s a bore; flavourless characters had me rooting for the Nazis

PAURA 3D (D-) Devoid of anything approaching atmosphere/suspense; botches scares, though descent into gratuitous sadism mercifully brief

THE POSSESSION (C+) Polished studio product, no more or less. Ditches early character work for derivative, predictable hokum

[REC]³ GENESIS (B-) No idea what, if anything, defines the franchise any more, but this was great, ribald taffeta-clad fun

THE SEASONING HOUSE (C+) Uneven; best when hermetic, puce-hued fairytale-nightmare, though edges softened by Balkansploitation silliness

SINISTER  (B-/C+) Throws its net wide, pecking corn like the metaphorical blind hen, though with surprising frequency. Effective sound, Hawke classy

SLEEP TIGHT (B+/A-) Taut, suspenseful but above all deliciously blackly comic, propelled by darkly twisted Almodovarian obsession

STITCHES (B-/C+) More than a little rough around the edges technically, but on the whole an inventive, funny & gleefully gory delight

THE THOMPSONS (D-) Nice rural setting, but standalone blood-sucking mythology is wispy & forgettable, + some terrible secondary performances

TULPA (D+) Familiarly hokey neo-giallo awfulness, rendered entertaining by magnificently (Euro)criminal dialogue & performances

TOWER BLOCK (C+) Frantic LIFEBOAT-meets-Broken-Britain setup, better before moralizing & explanations. Cutaways to gunman a mis-step?

UNDER THE BED (C-) Resolutely ludicrous. Nice central fraternal axis, but needed *something* extra (ambiguity? verisimilitude? Joe Dante at the helm?)

V/H/S (C+) Gripes about ‘VHS’ aspect aside, a portmanteau of efficient – if strikingly bland – found footage stories; Skype-ological 4th chapter pick of the bunch

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