This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Den of Geek, last month, attended the London FrightFest film festival to indulge in five days of genre films and social anxiety (our favourites).
You can only see so much of the line-up, due to the boring constraints of time, physics and human biology, but we saw a lot of films, a few of which we really need to tip you off about. Partly because you won’t want to miss them when they do get a general release in the UK, but also because they’re probably going to need your support.
Here are six upcoming genre films to keep an eye out for.
The Master Cleanse
Written and directed by Bobby Miller
Former app designer Paul (John Gallecki) is listless. His life has gotten away from him and he needs a little help. He signs up for a mysterious cleanse weekend at a retreat run by a self-improvement guru. When you’re doing something unfamiliar and odd, how are you supposed to know if it’s going wrong?
Right, so despite playing at FrightFest, this definitely not a horror film. There are elements of sci fi, comedy and drama, but I don’t know if you could describe it as any of those things either. It’s not really anything, which is great. It makes it difficult to predict what’s going to happen. Not only that, but it surprises with sweetness, originality and humanity.
The writing is dead strong and the film looks great. You’re likely to come away talking about the cast. John Gallecki, better known to most as Leonard off The Big Bang Theory, is really brilliant in The Master Cleanse. Paul is sweet, vulnerable and socially awkward, not a million miles from Gallecki’s sitcom character, but played with more restraint here. Elsewhere, Anna Friel is wonderfully committed while Angelica Huston steals scenes with her off kilter resort host. All the supporting players, including Kyle Galner and Oliver Platt, make a strong impression.
Our advice would be to see this film without knowing anything much more about it.
The Love Witch
Written and directed by Anna Biller
The Love Witch is the second film from writer, director, producer, editor, set designer, costume sewer and probably fifty roles more, Anna Biller.
“So you’re saying these men died… of love?”
Such is the appeal of The Love Witch. It’s about Elaine, a witch who desperately wants to find love, but her love spells and head turning beauty reduce any man capable of loving her into a simpering wreck, or worse. Will she ever find a man capable of loving her, or is she dooming herself to failure by utilising sex spells?
It’s a film that takes on witchcraft, gender politics, tea rooms and murder. Smart, sly and dead funny, Biller has again crafted a film (as she did with the terrific Viva!) that feels unique. It’s very indulgent, but that actually makes sense when you line it up next to the characters and the look. The more you indulge it the more you’re likely to get out of it.
To say The Love Witch is unique is not to say that it doesn’t bear many recognisable references; it absolutely rolls around in them. It has references to Hitchcock and Hammer horror films. Biller has disputed taking influence from the Italian horror films of the 60s and 70s, although the soundtrack features some classic Morricone tracks. Elsewhere, we found a witch ceremony evoked Sergio Martino’s All The Colours Of The Dark, but then that’s likely to be a case of that film having the same influences that Biller has drawn from.
While it certainly features elements of horror, we’d argue that it’s no horror film. You might think that going to a horror film festival and come away recommending all the non-horror films makes us contrarians. We don’t agree.
Perhaps the most striking element is the look. The Love Witch is a grand looking film. The set designs, colourful, detailed and hyper-stylised, are striking, and the loose, airy pace and precise framing are designed to allow you to take in every detail. The look creates the feel of the world (indeed, a few screenshots sell this film just as well as any trailer could), and then the characters, the dopey men with their confused masculinity and the sexually empowered women, bring it to life.
The Love Witch is a fancy of a film. It’s a tea shop cake, and here at Den of Geek we bloody love cake.
Written and directed by Mateo Gil
The title credits colour the text so as to separate the title of Realive into re and alive. It’s a brilliant sci fi drama that tells a Frankenstein inspired story set in a world reminiscent of Spike Jonze’s Her. Realive has been written and directed by Mateo Gil, who wrote Open Your Eyes, and features a strong central turn from Tom Hughes.
Structurally, it’s broken down into chapters, which expand the story and explore a different element of the experience of the reawoken. It’s quite delicately put together, with the story playing out in the future while flashback sequences to contextualise the events for the character. It allows the story to unfold naturally and for each chapter to play as more of an exploration of an idea.
For a film that isn’t strongly narratively driven, it’s surprisingly nimble on its toes. It’s the best part of two hours long but doesn’t feel it.
It’s a very warm, very affecting story. Realive is a contemplative, energising movie that really comes to life in the ‘Lovers without a time’ chapter. It’s about how it would feel to be brought back to life, and to have left your previous life behind.
This one really feels worth highlighting because the film is hampered with a title that begs to be ignored, and anyone who finds out the Doctor’s name (the sledgehammer on the nose Victor West) will likely expect a film of a much trashier tone. But you’d do well to keep an eye out for this one. Realive is a beautifully shot, thoughtful sci fi drama that’s likely to upset and inspire.
Written and directed by Rob Zombie
If you’re not already a fan of Rob Zombie’s grotty brand of horror you can go ahead and skip this one. This is Zombie at his most polarising and brutal and, most likely, you’ll already have a good idea if you’re going to enjoy it or not.
It’s about travelling carnival workers being ambushed by a band of psychopaths who force them to play a survival game for the amusement of eccentric bastards. In the game they’re stalked and forced to battle the films real characters; cartoonish nightmares with names like Sex-Head and Psycho-Head.
I’ll pitch the film as The Running Man meets Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse and develops anger management issues. It actually matches up interestingly against the The Funhouse, because that film is a long build up and not quite good enough payoff. With 31 Zombie attempts to avoid this pitfall by doing away with the set up entirely. It’s just 90 minutes of thumping brutality and mind-bending maniacal carnage.
You wouldn’t want every film to be like this. Or many films, in fact. But a one off hyper-aggressive attack worked for me (even if, at times, it felt a little repetitive). It feels like the restraint Zombie showed in the underrated Lords Of Salem caused him to bottle up a lot of violent on-screen murder. 31 is the cork exploding out of the bottle.
With its wild, bizarre villains (Death-Head, for example, is a belligerent German man in lingerie, a vest and a tutu), stunning grimy sets and thudding score, 31 is a hate campaign against the senses. It’s that score, actually, that really makes the film work; a brilliant, moody soundtrack that looms over proceedings. At times it evokes John Carpenter’s score for Halloween 3. This film, it should be noted, is Zombie’s third Halloween film (the 31 of the title a reference to the date of Halloween, when the film takes place) and, like the 1982 sequel produced by Carpenter, does not follow the story of Michael Myers. In that way, this is Zombie’s Season Of The Witch.
The cast features many of Zombie’s previous collaborators, including Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie and Meg Foster. The show is well and truly stolen by Richard Brake as the terrifying Doom-Head. “I came to get down and dirty” he informs one victim, thoroughly understating what’s about to take place. The character fails to convince both himself and the audience when gets into a screaming match with his own subconscious, arguing that “I’m not crazy, I’m in control!” He does not appear to be in control.
While most of the films in this article are here to put them on your radar, I’ve included 31 as a way of raising my hand for a film that’s likely to be dismissed. A lot of people are not going to like this film, but if you do, me too! For Zombie fans struggling to find a review from someone who likes his films, I’ve got you covered. It’s the neon mania of House Of 1000 Corpses and the brutal violence of Halloween 2 with a simple-minded approach to plotting that is new to the mix. It’s not up there with The Devil’s Rejects or Lords Of Salem, but it sits niely next to Corpses.
Written and directed by Michael Borowiec and Sam Marine
Willem (George Basil) is having trouble exposing the government cover up of extra-terrestrials. Us too, Willem. The audiences for his lectures are dwindling and his Youtube videos don’t garner any hits. His best, most loyal and only friend suggests that people are more susceptible to messages in fiction, and so Willem recruits a local waitress and makes a film about his life.
Man Underground is a dramatic comedy about relationships, paranoia and people. It is funny, sweet and emotionally draining. It’s a film that can make you grin like an idiot but can punch you in the gut. Think Safety Not Guaranteed meets Russell Casse from Independence Day. Incredibly, it was shot on borrowed equipment in just 17 days. You wouldn’t know it to look at it. It could easily pass for a much more comfortably budgeted film.
Its triumph comes entirely from its characters. They’re excellently written and wonderfully acted. Recognisable, pleasant, flawed and fully drawn out. Oh, and they’re all weird, too. Good weird, for the most part. They’re more Gonzo than the guy that lurks in the bushes by our office. We don’t want to see a film about him.
The cast are all phenomenal. The stand out performance comes from Pamela Fila, who plays warm-hearted waitress Flossie. But there really isn’t a weak link, especially among the three leads.
Man Underground is a Den of Geek film. It’s for us and all of you. We’ll be keeping an eye out for to ensure you don’t miss it when it does come out. A lot of you are really going to love it.
Found Footage 3D
Written and directed by Steven DeGennaro
This is a film about the making of the first ever 3D found footage horror film and it is also the first ever 3D found footage horror film.
Right, here’s how it’s clever. It starts out with jokes and it’s funny, but it’s a funny that’s steeped in genre knowledge so it never comes across as sniping. Then, slyly, it starts becoming an actual, spooky horror film. There’s the odd moment that’s unnerving. Then, eventually, a frightening scene. It keeps the mix going and, before you know it, you are actually watching a good found footage movie in 3D, in spite of the film itself suggesting that it’s unlikely such a thing would be possible. It also means that you don’t know if a joke or a scare is coming, which serves to heighten the effect of both.
Found Footage 3D‘s secret weapon is its script; it feels polished. We watch a lot of low budget horror films and for whatever reason, it often feels like the script isn’t quite done. This one was taken to the point where it was really ready to go. The story and the characters feel well developed.
We worry about how this film is going to get seen. It requires specific genre knowledge, perfect for a horror festival. But it needs you to be a horror fan and to have access to 3D (the 3D is great and is part of the story), and films like this often bypass the big screen. We’re struggling to conjure how it’s going to find an audience outside of the festival scene. So, if you get the chance to support this one on the big screen, it is our strong recommendation that you do so.
It’s a real crowd pleaser. We’re reluctant to describe any film as ‘a hoot’, but here we are. Found Footage 3D is a hoot.
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