Dr. Lauren McIntyre (right) is a horror obsessive, natural Goth and cat wrangler who will ramble on incessantly about death if you let her. You can say hi to her on Twitter @noddinggoth
Darren Gaskell (left) is a horror obsessive and “enthusiastic” karaoke performer who is unable to think of a creative social media handle. He will ramble on incessantly about the film Miracle Mile if you let him. You can say hi to him on Twitter @darren_gaskell (see what I mean about the social media handle?)
Dr. Lauren and Darren travelled to Glasgow for this year’s FrightFest and in between film screenings and alcoholic beverages they took time out to record their thoughts on the movies at this year’s fest.
After easing into the festival with a couple of films on the Thursday, Dr. Lauren and Darren face a full slate of titles on FrightFest Friday, beginning with a case of demonic possession and ending in Clancy Brown’s mortuary. In this second part, Darren gets annoyed by a turtle, Dr. Lauren remembers an astonishingly violent moment from an Argentinian short film and both of them are blown away by a debut…
*** THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS – DARREN RUINS THE END OF “THE HOLE” (2001) FOR STARTERS – AND IT’S A BIT SWEARIER THAN PART ONE ***
THE CLEANSING HOUR
FrightFest said: “Best friends and millennial entrepreneurs Max and Drew run a popular webcast that streams live exorcisms. Of course they are all staged with terrific special effects but today, fate has a big twist in store. The actress hired to fake being possessed actually does become possessed by a real demon. Worse, the victim is Drew’s real girlfriend, Lane. Together the dumbstruck duo must work against the show clock to figure out the demon’s sinister motive, while the devilish succubus exposes the trio’s dark secrets before a rapidly growing global audience.”
Darren: First off….he says, looking at his phone because he can’t remember the schedule because he’s getting old…The Cleansing Hour, about a fake exorcism show which gets taken over by a real possession and mayhem ensues.
Dr. Lauren: I really liked this film, it was really fun. I thought all the leads in it did pretty well. It perhaps went on for slightly too long but that pretty much my only criticism.
Darren: It ramps up at the end and when you think it’s gone as far as it can go, then it goes some more, then it goes some more. By the end…well, it’s the most batshit crazy ending. You’ll have to watch it because it goes completely off the scale.
Dr. Lauren: It’s difficult to say too much without giving too many spoilers. I hope this gets to the streaming platforms where it can reach a wider audience. I think it’d be quite a good popcorn movie.
Darren: It is. Someone said to me that there’s too many ideas here and I kind of agree, they’re fighting for space. It’s as if someone finally got the cash to make a movie and thought they’d put everything they were thinking of into it. It’s a little overstuffed with ideas but that’s not a bad thing.
Dr. Lauren: No. It did remind me a lot of a short film called Deus Irae, I think it might have been Argentinian. I remember watching it at Celluloid years ago.
Darren: I remember that, it was a long time ago.
Dr. Lauren: It was made as a short with the idea of turning it into a feature with the aid of crowdfunding or whatever but I don’t think it ever panned out. The Cleansing Hour is kind of a fun and slightly more comedic version of Deus Irae.
Darren: I remember the violence in Deus Irea being horrible.
Dr. Lauren: It was pretty grim. There was a priest who punched off a girl’s mandible.
Darren (after a pause to wince about the mandible thing): Deus Irae is worth seeking out. Brilliant but tough going.
Dr. Lauren: The Cleansing Hour is more fun if you did happen to catch Deus Irae.
Darren: Let’s mention Cubicle, the short which played before The Cleansing Hour.
Dr. Lauren: Oh yeah! I loved that!
Darren: A really good micro short about someone that’s in, well, a cubicle. In some toilets.
Dr. Lauren: Yeah, they’re taking a pregnancy test and as a woman who’s not interested in having children at all it really spoke to me. I thought it was amazing.
Darren: It was the one bit of the festival which was targeted directly at you.
Dr. Lauren: It’s like somebody wrote a film just for me.
[pause for Darren and Dr. Lauren to burst out laughing]
Darren: It’s quite tense. The director [Chloë Wicks] was there and she said they shot it in one day with few resources and no money but they’ve done a really, really good job. Very effective.
Dr. Lauren: I’d be interested to see what she does next.
[The next bit has been edited out because it’s just two people trying to remember the name of the director and failing – anyway, the director of Cubicle is Chloë Wicks. Remember that name, folks, Chloë Wicks. Hello to you, Chloë, we really enjoyed your short film]
IN THE QUARRY
FrightFest said: “Excited to introduce her new boyfriend Bruno to her best friends, Alicia organizes a sun-drenched barbecue and swimming party at an abandoned quarry near her hometown they used to frequent as children. At first, it’s all good times, but as the day progresses, secrets are revealed, macho bravado and jealousy appears and bonds are broken. And soon an act of brutality unleashes everyone’s true natures.”
Darren: So, on to Argentinian [for some reason Darren thought a lot of things were Argentinian that day] ….no, Uruguayan, slow-burn thriller In The Quarry.
Dr. Lauren: I thought there were some good ideas here and I wouldn’t say that I didn’t like the film but the pacing was off and it was a little bit too slow for the amount of payoff at the end. They could have trimmed down the “getting to know the characters” sequences. I’m glad that we did get to know them but it felt laboured.
Darren: It’s almost an hour before anything of any real consequence happens. There’s a few angry looks and a bit of pushing before that but it only really kicks off around an hour in. And it’s an eighty-minute movie.
Dr. Lauren: It felt a lot longer than that.
Darren: If you like slow burners it might float your boat. I’m with you, it was too laboured in the build-up.
Dr. Lauren: There were a few really tense moments and a couple of quite gory parts. Two or three times the audience gasped…
Darren: Which is usually the sign of a good film but the end just fizzled out. The end is more realistic than you’d expect and that’s fine as far as it goes but after all of that you might want something more. It just stopped dead and my feeling was “Is that it?”.
Dr. Lauren: I was disappointed by Chekhov’s Turtle. I was expecting bigger things from it.
Darren: Check it out just for Chekhov’s Turtle. They bang on about this fucking turtle. I wanted the turtle to do something really substantial or grim, like bite someone’s fingers off. It doesn’t. If you like turtles, fair enough. It doesn’t do an awful lot apart from crawl about a bit and then fuck off into the water.
Dr. Lauren: Also, if the story had panned out slightly differently, the idea of what one character was going to tell the police was absolute bollocks. Forensics would have had something to say.
Darren: Yeah, I don’t know if you remember that film The Hole with Keira Knightley in it?
Darren: At the end where Thora Birch has got this story about what went off and how everyone else is dead. The first time some policeman heard that, they would have said “That’s fucking bullshit, that is. That’s not what happened”. Okay, now I’ve slagged The Hole off…
Dr. Lauren: I would say check out In The Quarry but it’s very slow.
BLACK MASS (short)
Darren: Also, I can’t talk about this one but the short Black Mass screened before In The Quarry. I’m an associate producer on Black Mass so I can’t lean on you for a specific review and I’m going to keep my gob shut.
Dr. Lauren: I’ve been interested to see this for quite a while as you’ve been sharing stuff about it and we know Mitch Bain who did the music on the film. It is quite short, it did everything it needed to do, I thought the creature was good. I really, really liked the creature effects…
Dr. Lauren: The one thing I’ll say – this is constructive criticism…
Dr. Lauren: ….is the characters do that thing where they’re calling each other by their first names and it’s not necessarily how people speak to each other. It’s just a pet peeve of mine and I really notice it.
Darren: That’s fine.
Dr. Lauren: But definitely check it out.
FrightFest said: “For marine biology student Siobhan, it was supposed to be a research excursion with a trawler crew fishing the West Irish seas. But when they hit an unseen object and become marooned, a mysterious parasite infects their water supply. Soon the oozing force infiltrates the entire vessel and turns Siobhan’s journey into a claustrophobic fight for survival.”
Darren: A parasite gets aboard a fishing boat and there’s this marine biologist…is she a marine biologist?
Dr. Lauren: She’s a doctoral student. She’s looking at marine animal behaviour patterns so I don’t know whether she’s a marine biologist or an ecologist. I don’t think it’s explained fully.
Darren: You’re the proper scientist here so I’ll defer to your description.
Dr. Lauren: I thought that her supervisor was a bit of a prick.
Darren: He was. This isn’t much of a spoiler but at the start he tells her to stop being antisocial.
Dr. Lauren: He says he’s going to fail her on her thesis if she’s not more sociable.
Darren: That can’t be right. He can’t do that.
Dr. Lauren: Your supervisor can’t fail your thesis as far as I’m aware.
Darren: There you go, Sea Fever. Check your facts about thesis supervision. Anyway, it was a solid piece of sci-fi. I liked that it didn’t go down the people screaming and monsters running about route.
Dr. Lauren: It was quite tense. There’s a nice claustrophobic feel as well because for a lot of the film everyone’s confined to the boat.
Darren: Because it’s going for a more low-key approach, again it kind of fizzles out towards the end. It presents various moral dilemmas in the last third and then addresses them a little but doesn’t really explain them.
Dr. Lauren: Liked the creature though. Weird, bioluminescent, Lovecraftian shenanigans. I thought it looked ace.
Darren: Yes, the creature work is really good and there are satistfyingly icky and gloopy effects. Oh, and exploding eyes.
Dr. Lauren: I don’t think I’d go massively out of my way to see it again but I’m glad that I’ve seen it.
Darren: It’s the sort of thing that I’d give another watch if it turned up on TV.
Darren: One thing I do want to mention is that whole thing about redheads being bad luck on boats. Personally, I was a bit miffed at that. My hair is less red these days but I’m still basically a ginge and I’ve been on loads on boats without cursing any of their voyages. Well, apart from that one time but that’s beside the point.
A GHOST WAITS
FrightFest said: “Jack’s job is to fix up the house. Spectral agent Muriel’s eternal task is to haunt it. They should be enemies, but they become fascinated by one another and eventually smitten, leading them to question everything about their work, lives, and decisions. But as pressure mounts for them to fulfil their duties, something’s got to give for them to have the time together they both so desperately want.”
Darren: So, after Sea Fever, it was my sweaty eyes* moment for Friday. A Ghost Waits. A guy goes into a house to clear it out because the previous tenants have been scared away and it’s up to him to get things ready for the next tenants. Strange things happen and he confronts the ghost who’s in there and….
Dr. Lauren: I love this film so much. My clear favourite of the weekend so far by a country mile. I absolutely loved it. It was so funny and sharp and different. It looked beautiful and even though it was clearly low-budget they’d done so much with what they had. I thought it was brilliant.
Darren: I totally agree. It’s my favourite film of the year so far.
Dr. Lauren: Wow. Bold.
Darren: Last week I said Portrait Of A Lady On Fire was going to be the best film I saw this year. Shows you what I know about movies. One week later I’ve got a different favourite film of the year.
Dr. Lauren: I’d say it’s the best so far for me.
Darren: Sorry to Portrait Of A Lady On Fire. It’s still good and I’d recommend you see it but you need to see A Ghost Waits before that.
Dr. Lauren: It’s so good and there’s a few bits of improv in there which are just lovely.
Darren: There’s a scene in a bathroom which is extremely funny.
Dr. Lauren: The central performance by MacLeod Andrews – he’s so good. It’s really sweet, I had all the fuzzy feelings when I came out of the screening.
Darren: Natalie Walker, as the ghost, is brilliant.
Dr. Lauren: Yes, she is.
Darren: And there’s some really amusing stuff about all the bureaucracy connected to how you haunt a place.
Dr. Lauren: Ghost bureaucracy. It’s my new favourite thing in a film.
Darren: Absolutely. There should be more ghost bureaucracy. Also, it’s kind of weird to say a horror film is lovely, but it was.
Dr. Lauren: It was sweet but not in an overly saccharine, preachy, false way.
Darren: It was honestly done.
Dr. Lauren: Very heartwarming.
Darren: And get ready if you see it because you’re going to get hit in the feels right at the end.
Dr. Lauren: Right in the feels.
Darren: Can’t wait to see it again.
Dr. Lauren: I want to own it.
Darren: We’re hoping to grab hold of the director.
Dr. Lauren: Yeah, I want to tell him how much I enjoyed it. He seemed like a very lovely man. He was very overcome with emotion.
Darren: I think he was staggered by the response.
Dr. Lauren: Because this is the World Premiere so we’re the first people in the world to see it which is a huge privilege.
Darren: I’ve managed to get through talking about A Ghost Waits without breaking down and having to start again.
NOTE: Darren did catch up with Adam Stovall on Saturday evening and went on for AGES about how amazing he thought A Ghost Waits is. Sorry, Adam.
THE MORTUARY COLLECTION
FrightFest said: “Sam inquires about a ‘Help Wanted’ sign outside a funeral home and in her interview with owner Montgomery Dark, four gruesomely disturbing stories are told. Moving chronologically from the 1950s to the 80s, a housewife finds a mysterious presence in her bathroom, a college boy gets a taste of his own fraternizing medicine, a husband makes tough decisions about his wife and babysitters are murdered by a homicidal maniac.”
Darren: Ryan Spindell’s anthology movie. He’s made various shorts and bookended them with a story about a girl going to get a job in a creepy mortuary run by Clancy Brown, who’s great.
Lauren: He is great.
Darren: We’d previously seen The Babysitter Murders which is part of this anthology.
Dr. Lauren: Which I think fitted into this film really well. It didn’t feel like a previous piece of work that had been crammed in there.
Darren: I think if you hadn’t known it was a previous short you wouldn’t have spotted it. I liked it, it did everything pretty well. As with anthology movies, there are ones you’re going to like more than others. Consistently they were pretty good although I’m not as sure about the really short one at the start. I mean, it was okay but didn’t really add a massive amount apart from building you up for the longer stories.
Dr. Lauren: I think it looked beautiful as well. The sets, cinematography, everything about it just looked beautiful. The colour palette was gorgeous. It reminded me a bit of an Alton Towers ride where they’re trying to get really immersive at the queue on the way in. All the music and the sets gave me Alton Towers haunted house feels.
Darren: They’d made the sets slightly hyper-real.
Dr. Lauren: I kind of want to work there. It looked great.
Darren: Pretty good way to end the day. Possibly slightly too long for the last film of the day but that’s to do with scheduling, not the film itself.
Dr. Lauren: I’d agree. I was absolutely shattered so I’d like to see it again when I’m not quite as tired.
Darren: My fatigue might have clouded my judgement just a little. I still enjoyed it a lot though and to be honest anything that played after A Ghost Waits was always going to come off worse. It was a good film and Ryan Spindell seems like a really nice guy.
EXTRA – NICHOLAS VINCE
Dr. Lauren: We should also mention quickly that we got a sneak preview of Nicholas Vince’s latest endeavours.
Darren: Yes, he showed us a trailer for his show I Am Monsters and mentioned his latest collection of short stories which is out soon.
Dr. Lauren: That’s Nicholas Vince who played Chatterer in Hellraiser, also Kinski in Nightbreed…?
Darren: He is Kinski in Nightbreed. He is also one of the nicest guys on the planet.
Lauren: The nicest man in horror. He’s lovely.
You should go to nicholasvince.com to find out more.
And that’s it for the Friday. In the final part, there are unforeseen technical issues, Darren realises he can’t speak Spanish at all and Dr. Lauren grabs a photo with Joe Begos. And there’s an alternate realm in someone’s arse. You’d be a fool to miss it.
*see Part 1 for the full glossary description of “sweaty eyes”.