REVIEW: FrightFest 2019 – Day 3 (August 24th)

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Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)
After a supposed possession in a local school, four online paranormal investigators are brought into perform a sham exorcism to dispel the spirit.

But, Jack (Danilo Gentili), Fred (Leo Lins), Tulio (Murilo Cuoto) and Caroline (Dani Calabresa) are in for a night full of surprises.

If early-career Peter Jackson made Ghostbusters, it might resemble this Brazilian blast of bad-taste horror. Come the closing credits, there is nary a fluid that hasn’t splashed across the screen. You can practically taste the viscosity.

The title is something of a misdirect. While loosely linking to the legend of Bloody Mary, this is closer to the Japanese urban myth of Hanako-san, a schoolgirl tormented into committing suicide. It all makes more sense when discovering the original title translates as “Exterminators from Beyond Against the Bathroom Blonde”… But, whatever you call it, Fabrício Bittar’s movie is unabashedly aiming itself at gorehounds.

The plot is Scooby-Doo simple: four YouTube paranormal investigators risk bankruptcy following an online scandal.

When a student in a local school inadvertently summons the spirit of Bloody Mary (or whatever you want to call her), the quartet are hired by the unbelieving headmaster to perform a show exorcism. But, over the course of one night, everyone has the supernatural rubbed in their faces through multiple splatacular spooky encounters.

Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary is best consumed surrounded by mates, with pizza on the lap and lager in hand. Subtlety and restraint are thoroughly exorcised in a film that weaponises condoms, poo, pee and umbilical cords.

Enjoyment levels will depend largely on how much that sentence makes you grin: if you’re stone-faced, best to skip this one.

But the horror is well-executed, confidently balancing the gross-out and more traditional demonic fare. Humour is defiantly broad and un-PC, again likely to land best when watched in an audience. We could have done with fewer HIV jokes, but this is all too gleefully cartoonish to cause major offence.

Gentili, Cuoto and Lins also aren’t afraid to play their characters as cowards, ready to use each other as human shields when the going gets malevolent. There is also a fourth Ghost Killer, Calabresa, who suffers Ernie Hudson’s fate and is sidelined for most of the movie. We did, however, enjoy the two teachers who act as a Greek chorus, bemoaning the flaws of low-budget horror movies and the fate of extras in them.

An overlong runtime could have used a judicious exorcism itself to expel plot fat, the pace sagging in the middle act. A mooted TV-spin off should rectify this with swiftly told episodes.

Until then, order in the pizza and enjoy.

 

Death of A Vlogger

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
A documentary entitled Death of a Vlogger investigates the strange story surrounding a YouTube filmmaker, whose flat is seemingly haunted by a poltergeist.

Ironic for a film about the paranormal, Graham Hughes’ third directorial outing breathes fresh life into the mockumentary format.

Wrapped in this initially standard looking horror mock-doc is an effective chiller and a blackly comic spin on social media stardom. Graham (Graham Hughes) is a likeable YouTuber, chasing fame through weekly vlogs, typically based around prat-falling.

He hits pay dirt when capturing on camera an apparently supernatural event. Soon he and girlfriend Erin (Annabel Logan) are witness to other odd and destructive events in his flat.

Enlisting the help of Hawaiian shirt wearing YouTube psychic Steven (Paddy Kondracki), the three attempt to discover what’s going bump in the night. And put it online.

Taking his cue from Ghost Stories, Ghost Watch, and Canadian found-footage drama The Dirties (plus a dash of J-horror), writer/director Hughes displays a genuine talent for spinning atmospheric tension out of his mundane setting. YouTube footage of the hauntings uses background hallway shadows and subtly moving objects to generate nervous giggles.

More spectacular shocks also benefit from the complacency amateur footage instills in the audience (chained-up bikes have rarely been so unsettling).

But, Death of a Vlogger bullseyes in Hughes’ canny script. Slow burning, it patiently establishes Graham, his circle of friends, and the mockumentary format, before unleashing twists and turns, jolts and comedy. Online shaming and fake news are also woven into a plot that plays mind games with its audience.

Hughes can spin a decent campfire yarn and whip up unease at a moment’s notice. A prologue featuring that old favourite, something spooky in a photograph, sets the tone nicely. A possessed doll story recounted by ghost debunking journalist Alice (West) is spooky precisely because it shouldn’t be.

Naturalistic performances from all involved (including irate extras) sell the shocks and the laughs, and paper over budgetary restrictions: early on Graham notes with relief that the malevolent spirit spared the expensive flat-screen telly and laptop when trashing his living room.

Not as terrifying as that Fyre island doc, but this horror-comedy winner should scare up all the right reactions.

 

I Trapped The Devil

By Mike Jefferson
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)
It should have been Father Christmas.

If you’re going to make a single-location Christmas-set horror with an old man, ostensibly Satan, locked out of sight in a basement, you owe it to your audience to at least suggest it might be the other Old Nick.

Nevertheless, I Trapped The Devil, the first feature of writer-director Josh Lobo, has a fairly compelling premise.

It’s the festive season, and Matt (A.J. Bowen) and his girlfriend Karen (Susan Theresa Burke) turn up unexpectedly on the doorstep of his estranged brother. Steve (Scott Poydress) is not in the frame of mind for a rapprochement; in fact, he wants rid of them as quickly as possible.

You know, given the whole kidnapping situation.

When Steve entrusts them with that information, Matt and Karen are, understandably, less than happy to have been made accomplices. But whatever Steve has trapped in that room – it speaks to them in a low, hoarse male voice – emanates a tangible evil. If this is the father of lies, the adversary of all mankind, he doesn’t make a great job of covering for it.

Ben Lovett’s sharp, anxiety-inducing score helps convey Steve’s breakdown, as he grows increasingly hunched, his face teary, crinkled with a barely suppressed mania. The mysterious phone calls he receives don’t help, nor the terrifying figures in the static on his TV; pale yet distinct figures amid bursts of red, blue, and green.

Steve’s crazy-person wall, a gabled web of red string, demonic images, and missing person reports – his “logic”, such as it is – remains obscure.

There’s the suggestion that this delusion might stem from brooding over the tragic deaths of his and Matt’s parents – around Christmastime, of course – but it, like the time of year and the coloured lights decorating the living room, are merely dressing.

Similarly, the film touches on the nature of evil – man’s evil versus the devil’s – but there’s no theological debate. To have, potentially, the devil in a room and not interrogate the existence of God feels like a missed opportunity.

DP Bryce Holden saturates proceedings in an unholy red light; the camera cutting from Matt and Karen, the picture of respectability – he in plaid shirt and knitted sweater – as it tracks ominously in on the door; complete with giant makeshift crucifix.

If you’ve ever seen the Twilight Zone episode “The Howling Man”, you know how this ends – as the saying goes, you can catch the devil…

Still, that door in the basement, and its potential to creak slowly open, is a compelling source of tension. If only the film had given us more to unwrap.

Author: robertmwallis

Graduate of Royal Holloway and the London Film School. Founder of Of All The Film Sites; formerly Of All The Film Blogs (www.ofallthefilmblogs.blogspot.co.uk). Formerly Film & TV Editor of The Metropolist (www.themetropolist.com) and Official Sidekick at A Place to Hang Your Cape (www.ap2hyc.com). Co-host of the Electric Shadows podcast (http://bit.ly/29Pd7RS) and member of the Online Film Critics Society (http://www.ofcs.org).

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